Those fine folks at Raptors media relations sure know their clientele.
The 7:30 a.m. ET announcement of the Yuta Watanabe contract conversion was a bit of a wakeup call for us but you know it was timed in large part for our friends over in Japan, who are intently interested in Yuta.
And good for them because it’s big basketball news over there and you can be assured they will be scrambling to get their big features written on him right now. Hope they make deadline.
Anyway, the deal was hardly surprising, Watanabe’s been pretty good all year and certainly looks like an NBA keeper.
I don’t have the specifics on the deal – I think my front office pals in Tampa might still be having breakfast – but you can bet that it’s for the rest of this season with at least some light guarantee for next season. Blake’s got it at $ 375K and that makes complete sense and seems fair.
It would make no sense for the Raptors to do this now if they didn’t give themselves a legit chance at working with Watanabe for a bit of the summer – he’ll have Olympic obligations, of course – and at a full-length training camp next fall.
What I do know is that Nick Nurse often raves about Watanabe’s work ethic, his basketball smarts and, as we’ve seen over the last few games, he’s got a few more offensive chops than you might have thought.
He really is an intriguing player, still raw and young at just 26 years old. Lots of room to grow and improve and extend his game but he’s got the willingness to do it and that’s first giant step that needs to be taken.
And while there’s still tons of time left in this season, I think you can see the makings of an interesting backup group already forming.
Malachi Flynn, Watanabe, Chris Boucher and Khem Birch certainly seems solid, although they could use some more shooting in that group, I think. Toss, perhaps, Paul Watson and Freddie Gillespie into the mix and it’s kind of like next year’s bench group is take care of.
There’s some recency bias with a couple of those guys but if they are settled into backup roles next season, there’s no reason to think they won’t all be able to contribute at some point in a long, real season.
It’s wise, I think, that one thing Bobby and Masai are doing is getting a few of the minor details out of the way now so that when the summer hits, the secondary stuff is resolved.
Then they can deal with Kyle Lowry and finding a centre somehow – trade in to cap space, trade someone else, sign someone outright – and also determining if Gary Trent Jr. is a skilled enough defender and decision maker to be a starter on a good team or should he be the guy who gets all the shots coming off the bench.
But that’s for then, Watanabe is for now and as a guy and a story and a player, it’s logical and good that he’s going to be sticking around.
I know our media buddy Takeshi in Japan will be working hard right now but I also bet he’s pretty proud writing the story.
I’m pretty sure yesterday’s was one of the smallest Ye Olde Mailbags we’ve had in a very long time.
And we don’t want that to happen next weekend, do we?
So get started today, if you will. There’s a Saturday afternoon game this week that’s going to take some prime question answering time away from me so if you wanted to click on firstname.lastname@example.org today and ask away, that’d be nice.
So Spurs fire Jose Mourinho this morning and a bunch of global powerhouse clubs plan to break away from their domestic leagues to form some Super League that will drain hundreds of millions of dollars from the pipeline and surely lead to the ruination of several franchises.
Really glad I don’t cover big time soccer ‘cause the last 24 hours would have been dreadful.
I don’t know how it’ll all shake out – and I’m kind of surprised Mourinho didn’t have more extended success at Tottenham – but I do know it’s going to be a mess to cover and report on and I’m glad I’m not doing it.
The Raptors don’t practice today, I can probably get the off-day column out of the way by noon or so and it’d be a nice afternoon to either play golf or at least hit balls.
That really was a historic night last night with the Montreal angle to the Raptors-Thunder game and I sure hope kids in that province were glued to game seeing what they want to be.
Your turn next, Vancouver.
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