Raptors' roster set for opening night; exercise options on three players

By The Canadian Press
October 23, 2016 - 9:00am

TORONTO — Fred VanVleet's mom was still awake at 2 a.m. when he called her to let her know the good news, that he'd made the Raptors' 15-man roster.

She'd been up nervously awaiting word as well.

The point guard earned the one spot available, as the Raptors solidified their roster for Wednesday's season opener against the visiting Detroit Pistons.  

He delivered the good news early Friday morning after the team arrived home from its final pre-season game in Washington. He never went to sleep afterward, spending the hours communicating with family. 

"I'm trying to stay in the moment, and I'm humble for the opportunity," he said Sunday. "You work your whole life up until this point, and then you realize it's just the beginning and you've got so much more to go."

Toronto also exercised its team options on Bruno Caboclo, Lucas Nogueira and Delon Wright on Sunday, extending their deals through the 2017-18 season.

Canadian Brady Heslip, plus Drew Crawford, Jarrod Uthoff, E.J. Singler and Yanick Moreira were all placed on waivers on Saturday.

The Raptors will also be without Jared Sullinger when they open the season. The big forward was set to have surgery on Monday — he will have a screw inserted into the fifth metatarsal in his left foot, to alleviate symptomatic stress reactions.

VanVleet, meanwhile, who led the Wichita State Shockers to four consecutive appearances at the NCAA championship tournament, said it was a nervous final few days as a half a dozen players waited to hear their fate.

"The closer it got to the Washington game, the worse my nerves got," he said.

Coach Dwane Casey said VanVleet is insurance at point guard. With guard Wright out after shoulder surgery, if "something unfortunately happened to Cory (Joseph) or Kyle (Lowry), you need that second point guard."

Casey also said VanVleet's "steely toughness" set him apart. 

"We told Fred, 'This is not a license to come in and relax. You come in every day and put pressure on Kyle and Cory, I want you to try to take their minutes, and make them better, it's going to make you better, it's going to make our team better,'" Casey said. "That's what he does.

"He does not back down whatsoever from Kyle or Cory, he doesn't let them relax, there's no 'buddy ball' in scrimmages."

VanVleet said Lowry beat up on him "pretty bad" on the first day of camp.

"I think I fouled him about 20 times, but I kept coming and that's all you've got to do, never back down," he said.

The six-foot guard credited both Joseph and Lowry for helping show him the ropes, but said Lowry, in particular, had taken the 22-year-old under his wing.

"He's been helping me a lot more than I ever thought he would or has to," VanVleet said. "He doesn't have to take me under his wing like he has, but he's been great."

The Raptors exercised the fourth-year team options on the rookie scale contracts of Caboclo and Nogueira, meanwhile, and the third-year team option for Wright.

Caboclo was selected by the Raptors with the 20th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. The six-foot-nine, 218-pound Brazilian forward split last season between Toronto and Raptors 905 in the NBA D-League.

The seven-foot, 241-pound Nogueira, who was acquired from Atlanta in the 2014 off-season, saw action at centre with the Raptors and Raptors 905 last season. Nogueira sat out Sunday's practice with a sprained left ankle. It's not yet known whether he'll be ready to play Wednesday.

The six-foot-five Wright, who was selected by Toronto with the 20th overall pick in the 2015 draft, also split time with the Raptors and their D League team last season.

In accordance with the NBA's collective bargaining agreement, the Raptors had until Oct. 31 to exercise their option on all three players. Per team policy, financial terms of the deals were not disclosed.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

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