Archive for November, 2006

Thoughts on Andrea, Jose, Sam and Coach

Nice win for the Raps tonight. It has been good to see the steady progress that has come with Bargnani and Graham, which has been directly associated with their increased playing time. As Andrea said, you can’t compare 8 minutes with 33 minutes.

One of the things that has been great to see is how Bargnani is not settling for the outside jumper. It was brought up in tonight’s game by Swirsk and Coach and they were dead on. Bargnani has started taking it hard to the rack and while he has been missing and sometimes getting blocked, you have to love the fact that he isn’t afraid to go into what can be a dangerous area.

Everybody knows how much I can’t stand Leo Rautins. So watching the game tonight with Coach just re-emphasized that point. Coach picked out a few good things tonight, like how Graham would pass up the three, dribble and take a few steps and then drain the 2. Along with some banging, that’s his game. He doesn’t need to be launching 3s all night. It was also good when Swirsk started going overboard with his praise of Bargnani, as Coach brought him back to Earth by saying, “Yeah, let’s put him in the hall of fame.” Chuck was quick to backtrack, but it’s nice to see that while everybody is excited with the play of Bargnani, Coach is able to keep everything in perspective, even saying, “Don’t expect him to play like this every night.” Nice work Coach.

Jose Calderon. How many times has he blown by somebody for a left-handed layup this year? Coach alluded to it, a lot of people in the league don’t give him credit for his quickness. Given, he’s no TJ when it comes to speed, but that’s often a good thing. You hardly ever see him out of control and his field goal percentage this year is out of this world. I still can’t believe how easy he is making that play look.

Now on to Sam Mitchell. Okay Sam, we have been hard on you and rightfully so. But let’s give credit where credit is due. The real change in this game came when the Raps started going to the zone, creating all kinds of problems for the Hornets without Peja in their lineup. While the Raps sometimes looked a bit slow footed in the zone (how that is possible, I still don’t understand), it was a good strategy and Sam deserves some credit. Still not out of the water though Sam, it will take a lot more than this to climb out of the hole you have dug for yourself.

Nice game, that was a nice change, not having to watch a lead disappear. Next!

What SHOULD happen?

Okay, so let’s forget that SOMEBODY in the Raptors organization should have realized that they had to points ripped from them by the scorers in Atlanta (it wouldn’t have tied the game, but it would have played a role in the game). Let’s forget that any of the Raptors on the bench could have picked up the miscue (D-Mart…put that burger down and watch the game). What is the NBA going to do about it? As Colangelo said, he’s 99% sure nothing will be done.

So really, what can the NBA do? How hard is it to score a game? In school, the kid who reeks at basketball always gets to be the scorekeeper, it’s a simple job and makes the kid feel important. Same thing here…except here it IS important.

My favourite part in the whole situation is that the Hawks brass isn’t going to say anything until the NBA completes its “investigation” (read: intern reviews tape, confirms screw-up, tells commish, commish apologizes and vows for it to never happen again). Atlanta, don’t worry, they’re not going to take the win away. Just say it was an unfortunate event, that you will ensure you review the importance of scoring with the staff and that you will double check that all equipment is in proper working form.

The NBA’s hands are really tied on this. There is nothing they can do other than make a simple apology statement and move on. So wait for it…if Stern even has the guts to come out and just apologize…maybe he’ll hop on a jet and hide in China, instead saying that he’s promoting the game in a developing basketball market…yeah, just like you did in Vancouver, right? Thanks for bailing on that city, Dave.

Fred Jones Update

Just reading through different articles and came across a good one by Mark Keast in the Sun. Regarding Jones’ sub-par performance against his former team, the Pacers, here is what Jones’ had to say when asked how he played (as quoted in the Toronto Sun):

Not well,” he said. “I’m not knocking down shots. I get to the right spots in the right situation, but I’m just not knocking them down. I don’t think I’ve taken a step back. I haven’t consistently been making them.”

Wow, understatement of the year. 3-11 and 7 points. What those stats don’t show is how many backboards Jones almost broke throwing up bricks and boulders. Somewhere Zan Tabak was saying, “Jeez, even I didn’t use to miss like that.”

Just to reiterate, the Raptors have MoPete working with a shooting coach.

Raptors.com and ShopRogers.com - YIKES!

Okay, so I’m on Raptors.com for hours at a time and one would think that this is just because I am a Raps fan, which I am. But it is also because as much as I hate to say it, the site is a mess. Please tell me I’m not the only one who can’t find a thing on there. Going on that site is like the night you lost your virginity. You know there’s stuff there that you’re interested, you know where you want to go, but you’re not really sure what to press or what will happen when you go somewhere you haven’t before. I spend so much time just staring at the screen, looking for something simple . Guys, please clean it up a bit!

Only worse than Raptors.com is ShopRogers.com. If you’re trying to order RaptorsTV online, good luck. Book the afternoon off work and make sure you have a drink with you. Seriously, just for kicks (because, you probably have RaptorsTV already, right?) go on there and see how long it takes you to get it all sorted. There is stuff everywhere. They probably have the cure for cancer woven into the site and don’t even know it. My frustration ended with me just picking up the phone and going through what has to be the most ridiculously voiced automated systems ever. Anyway, RaptorsTV is now a pleasure to have…especially after watching the Michigan game tonight…now THAT was good basketball. Lead changes, hard fouls, nice passes. Good stuff.

The many faces of the Raptors

The past few games have shown just how this team is trying to pull things together. A win against the Cavs, a loss to the Hawks (well, maybe if the scorers learned how to operate the board, it would be a different story) and ALMOST blowing a 26 point lead against the Pacers. You can expect a team with tons of new players to take some time to gel and there are going to be ups and downs, so here is what you’re going to see a lot of for a while.

What everybody has to like is that Sam is playing Bargnani, although it appears this is happening because of Colangelo’s view that if you’re going to lose, lose playing your #1 rookie. Makes sense. Bargnani has shown some promise and while his offensive game is coming along, his defense is too. Listen, this guy is never going to be a big-time defender, that’s not what he’s here to do. But the fact that he is actually standing up to bigger guys (well, thicker guys) shows what he is made of. Highlight against the Pacers? Bargnani’s “watch how I can travel twice on the same play” finger roll. Nice.

Lately, there have been a lot of people coming to Sam’s aid, saying that in the end, it comes down to the players not making crucial mistakes at crucial times and there is definitely that side of the argument. But what must also be remembered is that when you are coming to key points in the game (for example, the last 10 seconds), EVERYBODY on the floor should know their role and what is going to take place. Racing down the court and jacking a 3 instead of taking a time out and setting up is a) player stupidity and b) lack of coaching. It should be drilled into everybody’s head: “Guys, when we get the rebound, get over half and call timeout.” Simple. Anyway, the whole Sam conversation is getting stale, so I’ll move on.

MoPete is back in the gym working with a shooting coach. WHA??? A shooting coach? The guy is cashmoney for years and has a “slow” start (let’s be honest, it probably has a lot to do with his injury) and all of a sudden he needs a shooting coach? Really? I’m not one to talk about slaps in the face, but this could be the second clear slap to MoPete in the past few weeks. A shooting coach…you’ve got to be kidding. In the same way that a coach doesn’t just go bad overnight and require firing, players don’t just go bad overnight and never regain their stroke. Give it time, get healthy and it will be back. It’s like a swing in baseball…once you start to overthink it and overtrain it, you make it a million times worse.

Raptors Coverage - More Likes and Dislikes

Okay, if there is one thing that Toronto as a city can claim, it’s that there is a ton of media. In print, you’re looking at the National Post, The Globe and Mail (yeah, they’re national papers, but let’s be honest, they’re centred on Toronto), The Sun, The Star, the free dailies. On the air, there’s the FAN590, on TV, Sportsnet, TSN, The Score, RaptorsTV. Needless to say, there is lots of coverage (there should be more focused on the Raptors, but that’s a whole other issue).
Seeing that I immerse myself in so much Raptors coverage, there are some people who I dig reading/listening to/watching and others who leave me looking for a bottle of grandpa’s homemade cough medicine if you know what I’m sayin’. So let’s break down some likes and dislikes.

    Likes

Eric Smith. There probably isn’t a guy who understands the game and all of its inner workings more than Eric Smith. From being realistic about trades and transactions to understanding what it will take for teams or individuals to succeed, Smith is usually dead on. Listen to him on the call in, he’ll listen to whatever you have to say and will give you a well thought out answer (try getting that from Bob McCown…yikes) instead of just trying to drive his opinion down your throat. Smith gets the inside scoop from around the league and is NEVER one to get caught up in the hype associated with a new player, coach, GM, theory, etc. Seriously Raps fans, we are truly lucky to have this guy around. There’s a reason this guy is working so many basketball media outlets.

Dave Feschuk. Here is a guy who will make you think about different Raps issues that you probably haven’t thought of before. Whether it’s talking about the Raps needing an assistant to work with the young guys like Bargnani, questioning Rasho’s speed on the Raps or being frank about losing and winning streaks, Feschuk is legit. You also have to appreciate that he seems to have a good relationship with Sam, even though he doesn’t candy coat anything.

Coach and Swirsk. Okay, they both have tendencies that can get terribly annoying (Salami and Cheese?), but they both have a passion for the game that this country needs. These guys also have a lot of good technical knowledge, which provides tons of insight for the everday viewer (or listener). If you want to see how a game should be broken down, watch Coach during the Final Four.

Steve Buffery - The Sun is strong on sports, Steve usually backs it up. Good statistical analysis and understanding of the game, but I honestly don’t read enough of his stuff to really give the credit he probably deserves.

    Dislikes

Doug Smith. If there was ever a reporter who is ready to predict doom for the Raps one minute and glory the next, here you go. There should be a drinking game for each time Doug talks about the Raps slipping into a “familiar abyss” or something like that. There also seems to be a tendency to jump on a guy when he goes through a bit of a rough spell (um..MoPete anyone?).

Chris Young. Okay, Chris is borderline. He should probably be on the neutral list and he doesn’t seem to cover as much basketball as before, now he seems to be all focused on JABS (just another blog on sports), which isn’t a bad blog at all. Sometimes one gets the feeling that instead of just analyzing the game and providing insight, he’s trying to be too cool. Trust me.

Paul Jones. Sorry Paul, you’re SO wrong on so many occasions, it almost hurts. Listening to Eric Smith and Paul Jones is almost painful the two are so opposite. Even when Eric brings a solid argument, Paul just will not back down from a viewpoint that is clearly wrong. Good on Eric not to just put down the headphones and walk out on some nights. And on a personal note, there’s something about his voice on radio that just doesn’t work for me.

Leo Rautins. Good lord. What more can I say. Read my last entry and you’ll see where I’m coming from.

Finish up the road trip tonight…anybody on the Sam over/under?

Sam and Leo on a boat outta town

Okay, two miserable losses and heading into Golden State tonight. In my opinion, a winnable game. I don’t think the Warriors can run with the Raptors, but that isn’t going to be the focal point tonight. Once again, it is going to come down to the Raptors team defence. Which leads me to ask, WHY IN GOD’S NAME IS SAM BENCHING MOPETE? Given, Mo’s offensive output has never been earth shattering, but he is going to give you 15-20 points every night and will defend the opponent’s best player. If you think MoPete’s here to light up the scoreboard, you’re out to lunch. Let’s take MoPete’s game on Sunday. 18 points, 1 assist, 1 steal, 3 rebounds. Add that to some good defense and that’s a solid night. Okay, so maybe Sam was thinking about MoPete’s terrible Friday performance, BUT WAIT! MoPete on Friday: 18 points, 6 rebounds, 1steal, 1 block. Sounds like another solid night. Trust me, if you go back to the games before that, you’ll see more solid numbers, sometimes in less minutes (check out his numbers against Philly in 19 minutes…11 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals). Keep in mind that he’s replacing MoPete with Fred Jones. Nothing against Fred, but D isnt’ his strength and he’s averaging his highest point total in his career this year at just over 11.

I used to give Sam the benefit of the doubt, thinking that he didn’t have a lot of tools to work with. I used to think that when the Raps would come out of a timeout, their inability to effectively run a play was due to poor players and tough D from their opponent, but with this latest move (taking MoPete out of the starting lineup), Sam has finally lost it. So here we go, let’s set the over/under on Sam remaining coach of the Raptors. Here are some factors that are going to come into play:

1) He’s not Colangelo’s guy. New GM’s always like to bring in their own guy, no matter what the sport.
2) He has ZERO track record. Colangelo can’t even look back and say, “Well, he succeeded in the past, he’ll come around”
3) He’s getting out-coached. Nuff said.
4) Bryan won’t let this get out of control

Here’s the over under. There are 8 games left in the month. If the Raps have a bad rest of the month (if they come back under .500), Lang says Sam will be gone, so he’s taking the under (under 8.5, so in 8 games or less). I pretty much agree, but just to make it interesting, I say “over”. If they go under .500 for the rest of the month, Sam will get one more home game and if they lose that, Colangelo will cut him loose (so I’m saying 9 games or more). The odds should be tougher for Lang since he has less games to work with, but with Sam’s performance, he’s actually getting a good handicap on this. Honestly.

Let’s hope they can pull it together tonight.

Vince Carter laughs at the idea of coming back to Toronto

Vince Carter shook his head and laughed when he was told of a report from Canada that he would consider returning to Toronto after the season.

Well, it looks like Vince Carter caught wind of Marty York’s recent article claiming Vince’s interest in returning to Toronto and laughingly shrugged it off. But hey, he’s shrugged off dunking before, so make of it what you will.

Can’t Stop AI…but how about Leo?

Impressive win by the Raps last night. Let’s be honest, nobody wants to see Bosh start getting confident from the 3-point line, because that may result in him hoisting up ill-advised shots when he should really be getting inside. But that 3 last night was definitely a rabbit pulled out of a hat. As good as that play was, what happened at the other end of the court? Knowing that Philly was going to have to come down the court and get off a quick shot, the Raps pretty much let the Sixers walk down and get an amazingly clean look at a 3. I swear, I thought that was going to drop and cue the mass exodus from the ACC. We’ve seen it before. If the Raptors are going to go anywhere this season, the D in key situations such as that can’t slip. And Bosh, what’s up with the whole mugging for the crowd after your 3? As much as we love your talent, nobody in the world thinks you are a bad ass, so leave that garbage to the thugs (or as Jack would say, “Get that garbage outta here”).

Something I liked seeing last night: Graham trying to nail the dunk of the year by going right at one of the Sixers defenders (sorry, I can’t remember who it was). Edge of my seat, getting ready to scream, it looked like it was going to be sick. As long as Joey is attacking defenders like that (and with his frame, he should be), that is going to open a lot of opportunities for him. He had a nice night.

Okay, AI got his points last night, like the Raps said, you can’t stop him, so just make it difficult for him. On the other hand, is there any way we can stop Leo Rautins? How did Basketball Canada ever put this guy in charge? So many inane comments and I swear if I hear “Long shot, long rebound” again, I’m going to snap. Oh yes, dear Leo, we ALL know you went to Syracuse. Give it a rest. That was a long time ago. Leo’s analysis is so simple, if not wrong a lot of the time. Given, he has been in the game for years, but that is why he is even more annoying. He should know the game inside out and be able to convey it to the viewers. For Leo, everything’s black and white. If the Raps put up a quick shot and it doesn’t go in, he complains about the quick shot and not using the clock. If the shot goes in, it’s a great look, the Raps realizing the open shot via running the court. Come on Leo, we’re not idiots.

All in all, a good night.

Can Vinsanity come back to Toronto?

Here is article that was written last week by Marty York for the Metro:

Vince Carter, a former malcontent with the Raptors, is privately thinking about seeking a return to Toronto next year.

I’m serious.

“Vince has talked to his agent about the idea,” one of Carter’s closest friends tells me. “He wonders if he could patch things up with the Raptors. He even wants the idea floated to the Raptors privately.

“Listen, you have to understand that Vince was unhappy with the old management, but he respects (new general manager) Bryan Colangelo and he’s always loved Toronto and its fans.” And there’s no doubt, the friend said, that Carter will exercise his option with the Nets to become a free agent after this season. “Vince owns a mansion in Orlando, so he’s thinking about the Magic,” the friend said. “But Toronto appeals to him, too.”

Aside from the glaring fact that the Metro is a tabloid newspaper that can be found strewn all over Toronto subway floors by mid-afternoon, Marty York is hardly renowned as an acclaimed sports writer or basketball maven. And I’m sure there are those out there who know Marty and will come to his defense, but I assure you I’m aware of his qualifications and his reputation for breaking sports stories before everyone else. However, I’d like to contend that there is a journalistic responsibility to fully covering a story as opposed to throwing things against the wall and seeing what eventually sticks.

But heck, let’s run with this anyways, because people in Toronto love to hate on Vince Carter. December 15th has been marked as the biggest basketball game in Toronto this year when the Raptors host the Nets for the first time this season. Raptors fans are looking for payback from last year’s match when Vince dropped a nearly impossible 3-pointer to seal the win for his time, essentially slapping every Toronto fan in the face as he celebrated mid-court.

Vince is like the high school sweetheart you married, divorced, and subsequently labelled the bane of your existence. He’s the villain everyone looks for in a story, the person you direct all your pent-up frustrations about work, family, and friends against without remorse. So what would life be like if Air Carter landed back in Toronto?

You remember how uncomfortable it felt when news broke that Antonio Davis got traded back to the Raptors? Multiply that by about a billion.

But fret not, for Vince Carter will NEVER be able to don another Raptors uniform again. Whether he cites his issues were due to coaching, the GM, or even his supporting cast, the fact of the matter is that the Raptors brass are still the same people he screwed. And after painting his picture across Toronto and hand feeding him grapes, you can be sure they’ll never open their doors to him again.

And most importantly, he’s lost his legions of fans. Fans that shelled out hard-earned money to watch him play like a forest sloth, wore his name on their backs and on their children’s backs, and pledged allegiance to the game of basketball in Canada. These are the people that haven’t forgotten, and are quite willing to support the salaries of the blue and white instead.

Bryan Colangelo has done an admirable job at bringing the basketball buzz back to the city. Optimism runs high for the first time in years, and the fans are filling the seats again. Vince Carter’s welcome wagon has long departed, and Toronto is now proving that Raptors basketball has moved on without him.

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