Battle raging for Raptors' two-way roster spot with a week to go in pre-season
Melbourne United's Tohi Smith-Milner, left, looks for the shot as Toronto Raptors' Deng Adel and teammate Eric Moreland, right, defend during second half exhibition basketball action in Toronto on Friday, October 5, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
TORONTO -- As the buzzer sounded to ended the fourth quarter of Sunday's open scrimmage, Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse decided he hadn't seen enough.
And so he went deep down his benches for a bonus quarter.
Barely a week until NBA teams must declare their regular-season rosters, the extra period was a chance for players like Canadian Chris Boucher and Deng Adel, who was a revelation in Friday's pre-season win over Melbourne United, to catch Nurse's favourable eye.
"The biggest battle that's probably raging is the two-way spot," Nurse said. "We've got Jordan Loyd at one of the two-way spots, and the other one is still up for grabs. I would imagine it's Chris and Eric's (Moreland) battle that they're playing right now. Deng Adel has made a big step forward here. He's got himself in the picture."
Introduced a year ago, teams are allowed to carry two additional players under two-way contracts, allowing them to play for both the NBA team, and its G League affiliate -- in Toronto's case Raptors 905.
Adel shot an impressive 5-for-5 on Friday night for 13 points in 12 minutes, earning praise from Nurse. But the wiry small forward, who's of South Sudanese-Australian descent, said it's "very tough" for the young newcomers to establish themselves.
"Everybody knows who they are," he said. "For me, coming out of college (Louisville), you come into a brand new system and nobody really knows you, nobody knows what you really do well. You've kind of just got to figure out how you can help the team. Most teams have a lot of different positions and I think for me it's just being able to play different positions and be versatile, and I think that's the role I can bring to this team."
The 22-year-old, who went undrafted but had impressive Summer League showing with the Houston Rockets, has soaked up all the help he can get from the Raptors veterans.
"They're very welcoming, they're always talking to me, especially during training camp," Adel said. "When I mess up or whatever, they're always talking to me. They have great patience. They're helpful with the young guys, they've been through that."
The veterans did plenty of talking at Sunday's open practice at Ryerson's Mattamy Athletic Centre. Kyle Lowry, who played in a T-shirt and sweat pants, barked directions at his teammates. Nurse watched most of the scrimmage from the gym's upper level. The notable absences were Norm Powell, who suffered a contusion to his thigh in Friday's game, and OG Anunoby, who is still away for personal reasons.
With just two pre-season games to go, Nurse is pleased to see the chemistry improving.
"I like the progression, it's really a tremendous group of guys that's work extremely hard and listen very well," he said. "You can just see the offensive chemistry, it's obviously easier to see, but I think you can see some defensive chemistry building, if you watch just from Game 1 to where we are now, you can see a little bit more locked in, focused, better communication, not as many mistakes, a little more finishing the possessions off, etc.
"We've just got to keep building on that."
The Raptors host the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday at Montreal's Bell Centre, then cap the pre-season in New Orleans on Thursday.
They host the Cleveland Cavaliers to open the regular season on Oct. 17.