Five things to know before Raptors take Cavaliers in season opener
Toronto Raptors' Kyle Lowry, right, drives to the basket against Cleveland Cavaliers' J.R. Smith during the second half in Game 2 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Wednesday, May 3, 2017, in Cleveland. The Cavaliers won 125-103. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, October 12, 2018 11:35AM EDT
TORONTO -- The Toronto Raptors host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday in the season opener for both teams. Major off-season moves have drastically changed the looks of the two clubs, with LeBron James leaving the Cavs for the Los Angeles Lakers and Toronto trading perennial all-star DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard in a multi-player deal.
But there's more to the Raptors than just the addition of Leonard, the 2014 NBA Finals MVP. Here are five other stories to look out for as the re-tooled Raptors kick off the 2018-19 season.
JV ON THE BENCH -- There's the real possibility that Jonas Valanciunas will be starting games on the bench, at least to start the season. Valanciunas has been rock-solid at centre for the Raptors the past six seasons, averaging 12.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game last campaign, but new head coach Nick Nurse wants to look at Serge Ibaka at centre. Instead of flipping Valanciunas to power forward, he and Ibaka may take turns on the bench.
ROTATING THE COACHES -- Nick Nurse plans to rotate his three front-of-the-bench assistant coaches between offence and defence in a 10-game rotation. "One of them will be working with the defensive side of the ball, one of them will be working with the offensive side of the ball and one of them will be doing what we call 'special teams' -- timeout plays, out-of-bounds plays, etc. -- and about 10 games in they're all going to rotate," said Nurse during the pre-season.
SIAKAM'S READY -- Pascal Siakam was an integral part of Toronto's dominant "Bench Mob" reserve unit last season, putting up 7.3 points and 4.5 rebounds in an average of 20.7 minutes per game. But many are expecting the six-foot-nine, 24-year-old Siakam to distinguish himself this season. "Pascal's been great. I think (Pascal playing centre) could happen. It could happen," said Nurse on Monday.
MILES GETS LEAN -- C.J. Miles was one of Toronto's big off-season signings in the summer of 2017 but he struggled with his fitness to start last season after his daughter was born in late November and then he had dental surgery in December that kept him out of three games. The 31-year-old guard-forward dropped 15 pounds before training camp this year, reducing his body fat percentage from 14 to eight. "I went into the summer and fixed what I needed to fix and I came back ready. I'm ready, I'm in shape, training camp has been great for me," Miles said on Sept. 27 at Raptors training camp in Burnaby, B.C.
NORTH SIDE CREW -- Toronto has disposed of the Raptors Dance Pak this season, replacing the long-time all-female cheerleading squad. Instead, stoppages in play will feature the North Side Crew, a troupe where 11 of the 25 dancers are men.