The winning streak is over.
After matching a franchise-best with a 10th consecutive victory on Thursday, Raptors 905 came up just short against the Siuox Falls Skyforce on Saturday, losing 108-107 in overtime. They’re no longer unbeatable, but they are just two one-point losses from a 13-0 stretch following a 4-9 start. In other words, Raptors 905 accomplished their goal of putting the league on notice at the G League Showcase in Mississauga last week.
Now firmly in the playoff hunt and not too far off the Atlantic Division lead, the 905 have accomplished plenty in the last few weeks. Consider their performance at the Showcase a crescendo of sorts, then, for both the team on the floor and the organization off of it.
Kennedy Meeks honoured
The 905’s starting center received the nod on the All-G League Showcase Second Team for his performance over the week. Meeks was untouchable on the boards in his Thursday matchup opposite Golden State Warriors assignment player Damion Jones, then followed it up with a strong showing against Miami Heat assignment player A.J. Hammons on Saturday. Over the course of two games, Meeks scored 35 points and hauled in 27 rebounds while also dishing three assists and blocking two shots.
For the season, the rookie out of UNC is averaging 12.3 points and 9.5 rebounds. The latter ranks seventh in the G League, despite the fact that Meeks averages under 30 minutes per-game in a tandem center rotation with Shevon Thompson.
Lorenzo Brown keeps doing the double-header
Lorenzo Brown became the first player to play in four G League/NBA doubleheaders in a career this week, passing Jordon Farmar for the all-time lead. Brown played a combined 51 minutes Thursday, dominating for the 905 before assisting the Toronto Raptors in their emphatic victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. On Saturday, Brown had his minutes with the 905 capped – he didn’t appear in the fourth quarter or overtime – as he was once again needed with the Raptors, playing five minutes against the Golden State Warriors.
All told, Brown played 87 minutes over four games in three days, scoring 38 points with nine rebounds, 27 assists, and was a plus-40. Malcolm Miller also pulled off the double-header on Saturday, giving the Raptors nine of the 21 instances in G League history where players have pulled off the double-dip.
Second court a big hit
The biggest change from the 2017 Showcase at Hershey Centre was the introduction of a second court. With the G League now being home to 26 teams, the event has to expand to accompany all of them, and the 905 were able to shrink the event from five days to four while still accommodating two games for each team by adding a second court at Mississauga SportZone.
The second court proved fun. With a more intimate setting, it felt like one gym was something like an AAU event while the other was something closer to a smaller-scale Summer League. With executives and scouts from all 30 NBA teams in the city, there was no shortage of space to rub elbows, find some quiet, or get an up-close look at the next potential two-way or 10-day signee.
“I think in a lot of ways you don’t have to ask me,” G League president Malcolm Turner said. “Both gyms were abuzz with the feedback that the two-court model was just terrific. All of our teams and GMs and scouts and basketball operations personnel were just thrilled with the concept and most importantly with the execution. We’re really proud of the effort. We’ve got a terrific partner with Raptors 905 and Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment and the Hershey Centre. We’re thrilled.”
Speaker Series a success
The weekend also included a series of panels on Friday night, dubbed Showcasing Success. The first was a women’s leadership forum featuring 905 assistant coach Nicki Gross, followed by a panel including Turner, and finally a sit-down between Raptors vice president of basketball operations Teresa Resch and Bethan Donpahin and Ann Rodrgiuez.
“I think the point was, when MLSE said we want to do this leadership forum and Teresa picked up the mantle, I just said what better opportunity than having all these people here to hear from all of these different stories,” said John Wiggins, Raptors 905 director of team operations. “Why would we not take advantage of it? It’s about providing these unique experiences and opportunities to everybody. Here we have this great opportunity for everyone to hear from all these wonderful leaders and these successful stories. It’s huge. I think this is what separates us from what everybody else was doing.”
The weekend also included a Canada Basketball coaches clinic featuring 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse, among other events.
A powerhouse of women at the @Raptors905 #ShowcasingSuccess forum! @taresch Shelley Wilkes Pres. @LakelandMagic Ann Rodriguez SVP, League Operations @WNBA, #NickiGross #lindseyharding #allisonfeaster
Honoured to be representing @leanincanada. #MLSE #LikeAGirl #leadership #leanin pic.twitter.com/FUoDfcsIoK
— Despina Zanganas (@iamdespina) January 13, 2018
Will Showcase return in 2019?
With the success of consecutive Showcase events in Mississauga, the question that naturally comes up is whether it will return for a third year in 2019. The league is still evaluating the changing size and scope of the event as it pushes closer to the 30-30 model they hope to achieve in the next few years. Las Vegas has been rumoured as a potential destination, for example. Wherever the event ends up in 2019, the two Showcases that Raptors 905 just put on will stand as the template for everyone to work from.
“There’s no doubt about it. I think both in terms of the format and the two-court model, but also just the standard and level of execution that everyone has been able to enjoy this week, you know, certainly sets the model for wherever the future of Showcase is,” Turner said. “And by the way, you may see our third edition in Mississauga. That’s certainly not out of the question with a willing venue and a willing partner. We’re open and entertaining all options, for sure. But there’s no doubt about it, we have clearly established and set our model for at least this next generation of Showcase going forward over the next few years.
For their part, Raptors 905 are happy to have partnered with the league for a successful event again this year, showcasing not only the organization but the city as a whole in the process.
“It’s really an exciting challenge that MLSE and the Raptors enjoy,” 905 general manager Dan Tolzman said. “It’s one of those things that getting the basketball world kind of all eyes on Toronto, because with the Showcase bringing all the NBA personnel in town and also having Cleveland in town with the Raps, Warriors in town with the Raps, it’s one of those things where it’s really cool for the timing to just really put in as much effort as we can to put on a good show. It’s an event that we get to host and another way to show how great of a city Toronto is and then how much basketball is important up here.”