Adding Marc Gasol is just the start for Raptors
|Toronto Star 08 Feb 2019 at 16:22|
His team had won a couple of tough road games to begin a three-game trip, there was an off-day scheduled for the players, and the coach might have availed himself of all the Big Apple has to offer for the entire day.
After Thursday’s trade with Memphis, Marc Gasol might step right into the Raptors’ starting lineup on Saturday night in New York. (Andy Lyons / Getty Images file photo)
There was some figuring to do, some decisions to weigh and plans to be made, and a large part of the day would be spent thinking rather than doing whatever it is Nurse does to goof off and escape.
He’s been presented with a new toy by team president Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster in the person of Marc Gasol, the veteran big man obtained from the Memphis Grizzlies in Thursday’s blockbuster deal.
It is now up to Nurse and his staff to figure out precisely how to use him, and time is of the essence with only 26 games left in the NBA season.
Does Gasol start over, or alongside, Serge Ibaka? If it’s alongside, how could Nurse rationalize taking Pascal Siakam out of the starting lineup?
Do Gasol and Ibaka start depending on matchups, much the same way Jonas Valanciunas — traded to Memphis — and Ibaka did in the first month of the regular season?
How would Gasol, a starter basically his entire career, take to coming off the bench?
How would Ibaka, enjoying a true renaissance season, take to losing a job he’s shone in?
Tough day for Nurse, whose immediate reaction was basically, “Give me some time to think about it.”
“I really don’t know what I’m going to do until I see him play and see what it looks like, and see what some combinations look like and make a decision,” Nurse told reporters in Atlanta on Thursday night after the Raptors had beaten the Hawks. “He’s used to starting, Serge is used to starting. I think Serge has earned (it) and played his butt off this year.
“I can’t call it at this point at all. I think it’ll take some time to figure it out.”
Nurse isn’t going to have an awful lot of time, though.
Gasol arrived in Toronto late Thursday night and was to go through his routine physical before joining the Raptors in New York for their game Saturday night.
In a perfect scenario, Gasol would make his debut against the Knicks and Nurse could at least start to see what he’s got. But Gasol can’t play until Valanciunas, C.J. Miles and Delon Wright join the Grizzlies and go through their medicals. Maybe that’s Saturday, maybe it takes a day longer.
When Gasol does play, he’ll give Nurse at least an option at centre in the starting lineup. It’s inconceivable that he would send Siakam to the bench after the way he’s played as a starter all season, and an Ibaka-Gasol frontcourt might be veteran and savvy but also ponderously slow.
No, the only decision to be made with the starting unit is whether the 34-year-old Gasol gets the odd start in matchups against traditional-style centres. Anything else makes no sense at all.
The Raptors are poised to fill one of their three roster vacancies with Malcolm Miller, the forward who was on a two-way deal last year and spent time with the G League Raptors 905 this season after recovering from a summer shoulder injury.
Miller will be signed to a 10-day deal on Saturday and join the Raptors in New York. The six-foot-seven Miller spent 15 games with the Raptors last season and started four. He’s an intriguing prospect, even at almost 26 years old, but not seen as a vital rotation piece on a very good team this year.
For those spots — they have three to fill in the next 13 days — the Raptors will wait to see which NBA veterans end up becoming free agents, after being waived or engineering contract buyouts with their current teams.
It’s impossible to predict who might eventually get to that spot and with games against New York, Brooklyn and Washington before a nine-day all-star break, Webster and Ujiri are in no rush to do anything.