DeRozan to make his Toronto return in February - Canadanewsmedia
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DeRozan to make his Toronto return in February

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Toronto Raptors fans are going to have to wait awhile for the emotional return of favourite son DeMar DeRozan.

DeRozan and the San Antonio Spurs make their only visit of the season to Scotiabank Arena on Feb. 22, weeks after Toronto plays in San Antonio on Jan. 3. It’ll mark the first time DeRozan faces his former club since being traded to the Spurs along with Jakob Poeltl for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.

The other notable return — being that of current NBA coach of the year Dwane Casey — comes Nov. 14 when the Detroit Pistons play in Toronto. Casey was fired after seven seasons with Raptors and was named head coach of the Pistons in the off-season.

Read more:

Raptors facing tough test in opening week of NBA season

Back-to-backs are down across the league — teams average 13.3 per team, down from 14.4 last season and 19.3 in 2014-15; 22 of the 30 teams will have fewer back-to-backs this season than last and it will be the second straight year where no team will have to play four games in five nights.

Stretching it out even further, the instance of teams having to play five games in seven days is down to less than one per team from 1.2 last year and no team will have to play eight games in 12 days for the first time ever. That 8-in-12 may not sound like a grind but it is if you have to do it.

The Raptors will play 12 back-to-backs — down from 14 last season. They will appear on ESPN eight times in the United States and on TNT seven. The 15 U.S. national broadcasts are the most for the franchise since the heyday of Vince Carter in 2001-02.

The local broadcast schedule is still to be determined.

Other Raptors highlights:

• LeBron James and the Lakers pay their only visit to Toronto on March 14; the Raptors are in Los Angeles to play James on Nov. 4;

• The defending champion Golden State Warriors are in Toronto on Nov. 19;

• Toronto plays six straight home games around the league’s February all-star break, the longest homestand of the season. The Spurs visit in the first game after the break;

• The Raptors have two west-coast swings, four games in November and four in December — and four is the longest road trip of the year;

• The annual Nelson Mandela Game on Dec. 5 will be against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Game times are all over the map. Weekday games start at 7 p.m., 7:30 p.m. or 8 p.m., Saturday home games are at 3 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. and Sundays start at noon, 3 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 6 p.m. or 7:30 p.m.

The Raptors have Christmas Day off but play Dec. 26 in Miami and will host Utah on New Year’s Day 2019.

Doug Smith is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @smithraps

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Flames acquire Kerby Rychel for Hunter Shinkaruk in swap of AHL forwards

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CALGARY—The Calgary Flames have acquired forward Kerby Rychel from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for left-wing Hunter Shinkaruk.

Rychel, born in Torrance, Calif., and raised in Tecumseh, Ont., was drafted by Columbus in the first round (19th overall) in the 2013 NHL Draft.

The 23-year-old had 18 goals and 24 assists last season in 71 American Hockey League games split between Toronto Marlies and the Laval Rocket. He had a goal and an assist in four games with the Canadiens.

Rychel has three goals and 11 assists in 41 career NHL games with Columbus and Montreal.

Shinkaruk had 17 goals and 15 assists in 63 games with the AHL’s Stockton Heat last season.

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Report: Raptors to hire former Spurs assistant video coordinator

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According to sources, and a report from The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Toronto Raptors are planning on hiring Jeremy Castleberry, former assistant video coordinator (not assistant to the video coordinator) for the San Antonio Spurs, as their newest player development coach.

It does not take a genius to connect the dots here, but let’s do it anyway.

The Spurs run a solid professional basketball franchise with a team culture that is seen as the aspirational standard across the NBA. They hire the now 27-year-old Castleberry as their assistant video coordinator in 2013 after he’s finished playing ball at San Diego State. This, as it happens, is the same school at which noted NBA All-Star Kawhi Leonard also played his college ball. Prior to that, if you care to go back that far, Leonard and Castleberry even played basketball together in high school. Kawhi’s NBA career began in the 2011-12 season, just a bit before Castleberry joined the team. The two have been together ever since (as ESPN implies here).

Leonard, as you may have heard, has since been traded, and is in fact now a Toronto Raptor (hoo boy). He has one year left on his contract and the Raptors would very much like him to re-sign and remain in Toronto. Since Leonard agitated to have himself traded out of San Antonio, and the Raptors just hired a staffer from San Antonio, it stands to reason — even without reports coming in as such — that the two men, Kawhi and Castleberry, are in fact friends. Why else would Toronto bring in the former assistant video coordinator for the Spurs if not to try to make the situation for Leonard just that much more comfortable? (My point is, Gregg Popovich isn’t walking through that door anytime soon.)

Unlike, say, that time the Raptors signed Chris Bosh’s friend Jarrett Jack to an out-sized contract in a desperate attempt to keep the former All-Star in town, there is no down side here for the Raptors. As we’ve already established, anyone working for the Spurs is likely a decent enough hire — they’re the aspirational standard, remember — and anyone who is friendly with Kawhi only improves the chances he’d like to stick around in Toronto. On top of that, unlike handing out a $20 million contract, this hire is a decision easily undone in the event Leonard does indeed decide to leave Toronto (which to my mind is only growing increasingly unlikely).

There you have it, it’s a win-win-win for the Raptors. Welcome to Toronto, Jeremy Castleberry. You have already become the most significant player development coaching hire since…

I must admit, I’ve lost the line here and can’t even think of a proper comparison to make. Let’s leave this dot unconnected for now.

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Raptors hire Jeremy Castleberry from Spurs

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The Toronto Raptors are making moves to make Kawhi Leonard’s transition to the team a comfortable one.

According to a report from Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Raptors have hired former San Antonio Spurs video coordinator Jeremy Castleberry as a player development coach.

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Castleberry may be a familiar name, even if he’s still early on in his coaching development. Not only did Castleberry go to San Diego State University where he was a walk-on and a teammate of Leonard, the pair also played together in high school and are childhood friends. Castleberry is also said to have been Leonard’s late-night, early-morning, and offseason workout partnerRamona Shelburne of ESPN calls him one of Leonard’s “closest confidantes” and has been called Leonard’s “best friend” during the player’s dramatic 2017-18 with the Spurs, during which Castleberry was on the staff. A sociology graduate at SDSU, Castleberry has worked as an intern coach and video coordinator with the Spurs since 2013.

Obviously, this move seems aimed at appeasing Leonard and showing him how willing the franchise is to make him happy in Toronto. An earlier Raptors Republic report pegged Leonard’s friend Xavier Thames as being in the city right as he was acquired, and while there’s been no movement on that front, it wouldn’t be entirely a surprise if Thames lands an Exhibit 10 deal or be around the organization (or Raptors 905) in some capacity. The Raptors are leaving no doubt that their intention is to retain Leonard beyond this season, and small concessions like this – if it can even be viewed as that, as Castleberry is likely also very good at his job (which explains why he was still with the Spurs while Leonard was away) – are a good way to show him early on that they can be a long-term home.




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