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SportsIs this the Raptors’ endgame?

23:31  05 may  2019
23:31  05 may  2019 Source:   msn.com

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Share All sharing options for: Is this the Raptors ’ endgame ? Something I think about every time the Toronto Raptors are at some crossroads is that Masai Ujiri, the famed front office maestro, almost tore this team apart when he first arrived in the North.

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Is this the Raptors’ endgame?© Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Down 2-1 to a rising power, with Kawhi Leonard’s decision looming, the future looks stormy in Toronto.

Something I think about every time the Toronto Raptors are at some crossroads is that Masai Ujiri, the famed front office maestro, almost tore this team apart when he first arrived in the North. He traded away Andrea Bargnani for a pick and Rudy Gay for spare parts, and in that moment, it would have been easy to imagine Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas, and even DeMar DeRozan hitting the market. But the Gay trade sparked an internal reformation under Dwane Casey, and the Raptors became quite good quite fast. Ujiri, a smart man, saw that stability could lead Toronto to heights seen only in Vince Carter’s heyday.

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This copy is for your personal non-commercial use only. To order presentation-ready copies of Toronto Star content for distribution to colleagues, clients or The Raptors didn’t run much of a play. Instead, they watched Leonard attempt to create one. They essentially stood around as the board man

Разместить твит. Embed this Video. Raptors aren’t losing to Philly tho.

And so they did.

What’s fascinating is where the Raptors find themselves now. Ujiri has essentially broken up the core he inherited and built upon. Only Lowry remains: DeRozan was traded for a rental superstar in Kawhi Leonard, and Valanciunas was traded for Marc Gasol, the 7-foot version of Lowry. We all considered the Kawhi trade Ujiri’s big attempt to put the Raptors over the top, and it is that. But if everything were to go wrong — as it would appear to be on track to go as we head into a critical Game 4 against the Sixers on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC) — this could also signify a rebuild.

This is awful fatalistic for a Game 4, but Kawhi has been so demure about his plans and the rumors have been so strong that he intends to move to Los Angeles next season that it’s easy to fear the worst. The Sixers absolutely demoralized the Raptors in Game 3 — frankly, Philadelphia looked as much like the future of the NBA as any team since the early Warriors. That spells trouble now and tomorrow for the Raptors, who do have a younger star in Pascal Siakam but have otherwise relied upon older veterans like Lowry, Gasol, and Serge Ibaka.

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Something I think about every time the Toronto Raptors are at some crossroads is that Masai Ujiri, the famed front office maestro, almost tore this team apart when he first arrived in the North. He traded away Andrea Bargnani for a pick and Rudy Gay for spare parts, and in that moment, it would …

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If the Raptors lose this game, they will very likely lose the series. If the Raptors lose the series, chances are they will lose Kawhi Leonard. If the Raptors lose Kawhi Leonard ... what then? Build around Siakam? Follow the Sixers’ blueprint? Rebuild on the fly like the Clippers and, well, the recent Raptors?

There’s part of me that is excited to see how Ujiri manages this if all goes wrong. There’s a bigger part saddened about what’s lost when a team this good for this long doesn’t achieve its goals — even a single NBA Finals trip, let alone a title — and how history often erases mere excellence. Something similar is at play with the Rockets, though given the shaky future of the Warriors’ core and the long-term commitment of James Harden and Chris Paul, there’s no immediate fear of ultimate loss the way there is with Toronto.

Kawhi has been brutally good in these playoffs, but the rest of the Raptors (outside of Siakam) are unreliable. This only empowers the fatalist fear of the future: Toronto looks so bad with Kawhi on the bench that imagining life without him come July 1 is horrifying. Siakam, the salvation, is doubtful for Game 4 with a leg injury. This could be it.

Ujiri and the Raptors have surprised us at crossroads before, though, and made the most of bleak situations. Perhaps that’s where hope can be found: the Raptors have been in much uglier places yet thrived. Even when all looks lost, silver linings are hiding in plain sight.

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