Archive for January, 2007

Caught up…

Yep, it was bound to happen. You can’t play comeback basketball for that long and not expect it to catch up with you. When you do it against bad teams, you can come back. When you do it against the Pacers, nope.

It wasn’t all bad. Leading at the half, the Raptors were playing a decent game. They weren’t clicking on all cylinders, but they were doing just enough. Thumbs up to Jose who was distributing the ball well (even if some people weren’t finishing properly…um Joey, that missed dunk was gross dude…I mean, while I loved Keon Clark, that dunk reminded me of when he’d miss and the bloody thing would fly out to mid-court).

There was one thing that became glaringly apparent tonight: Calderon isn’t going to be able to surprise many teams anymore. People have caught on that he’s legit, so while he had another good night tonight, he clearly has a serious problem dealing with a double team. When he was double-teamed tonight, errant passes were almost automatic (6 turnovers). He was panicking as soon as the double team came, which is going to happen when you’re still young and developing in the league, but it almost looked like he had never seen it before…anywhere. This is one point where TJ has the advantage on Jose, as whenever he sees a double-team coming, he’s quick enough to dribble out of it and dish on a mismatch.

Can anybody explain to me why Fred Jones got almost as much playing time as MoPete? What, just because he was back in Indy, he had to get floor time? He has been brutal. Remember, this is the guy who Sam originally knocked MoPete out of the starting lineup for. I know what you’ll say, that he had 7 points to Mo’s 2 and that he was 5-5 from the line, but he was getting burned on D and Mo has been solid lately (not so great tonight), he deserved better. than that.

I was talking with a guy at work the other day and we were saying how out of nowhere, all of a sudden AP has been faking the outside shot and then dunking on people. It’s like he just discovered he can do it. His two dunks tonight were big time, especially the second one over Murphy (Murph, you cut the hair and lost your power…what up Samson?). That’s the kind of power basketball you have to play. When he starts doing that, defenders have to give him respect on being able to shoot or totally posterize them.

In a game like this, when it’s clear down the stretch that you’re not coming back (throw those comebacks lately out the window), why not get Pape Sow some more PT? Sam threw him on at the end for about a minute and a half. Either get him some time in games like this or put him back in the D-League. Pape Sow has talent. Given, he’s raw, REALLY raw, but he has talent, he just needs playing time. It does him no good to sit at the end of the bench every night, getting the same amount of time as Hump.

A final note. How long has Leo had that ridiculous earring? I asked Lang and he said for a while. I can’t believe I didn’t notice that until tonight’s post game! That’s hilarious! Just when I thought he couldn’t get any lower in my opinion, he pulls out a shovel and digs. Oh yes, awesome post-game interview with Mike Dunleavy. Leo says, “I’m sure you’ve been asked a million times by now about the trade…” and then he asks him the million and first time ABOUT THE TRADE. Nice work Leo. Thanks.

Celtics preview

Yikes, I don’t think I ever remember the Celtics being this bad this far into a season. I mean, they blew an 18 point lead over the Hawks the other night, losing by 6. Ouch. They are 2-10 in January and have lost 9 straight going into the game against the Raptors. If fans in Boston weren’t green before, they certainly are now. They’re 5 minutes away from calling Dee Brown out of retirement (remeber how quickly that guy got fat? I’m talking Chris Childs/Shawn Kemp style!).

Honestly, I’m not really sure why they are playing this poorly. They’re right around the middle of the league in scoring and defence. Their field goal % isn’t great, but it’s not far off Toronto’s. Oh…wait…got it. They turn the ball over like nobody’s business. Almost in the 17 times per game range. THAT has to be part of the reason why they’re not doing well. They also tend to foul a lot, sending opposing teams to the line over 24 times per game. Also, NOT GOOD. You put those two things together and it’s a recipe for defeat.

They also have dead weight like Olowokandi hanging around, Ratliff’s gone for the season, Wally Szczerbiak still doesn’t know what kind of player he wants to be…okay, there are a few reasons why they are bad.

Let’s just hope the Raptors decide not to let Rajon Rondo have another night against them.

Beating the Nooch

After I selected the title for this post, I realized that it actually sounded somewhat profane. Beating the Nooch. Anyway, what’s the “Nooch”? That’s how I have started referring to New Orleans Oklahoma City Hornets. NOOCH. I think it has a certain ring to it. Like, “Dude, we’re going to the Nooch game tonight. Do you want to down a sixer each of Steam Whistle and wear the boxes on our heads to the game?” So there you go, feel free to use it, just give us some credit.

So back to the game. Let’s start with Calderon and what appears to be his daily block party. Out of nowhere, another block, this time on Bobby Jackson. Did you see Jackson’s face when Jose was waving his arms to pump up the crowd? I thought Jackson was going to start an “altercation” as the TV guys like to say. It’s not like Jose is Josh Smith, who will come out of nowhere and use his Strandman (yeah Lang, that one’s for you) arms and incredible vertical to block from behind. Lookout league, pretty soon Jose is going to start doing the Dikembe finger wag.

So in back to back games against teams the Raptors should have handled quite easily (taking into consideration actual talent, injuries and recent schedule), they have had to rally the troops and pull of comebacks. I’ll be pretty clear about this one, the Raptors had no business winning last night. None. A miraculous comeback and some key players missing for the Nooch settled that game last night. Sam said that in the end, the win still looks beautiful to him. Great. Thanks Sam. The Raptors almost got embarrassed on home court and played miserably against inferior teams and you’re cool. If the Raptors hadn’t fouled themselves into requiring a zone defense to be implemented against the Hornets the other night, it could have easily been two ugly losses on home court to inferior teams. There is definitely work to be done.

That being said, I don’t want to be a killjoy. These are the games that winners win. Like Bosh said, last year, no way do they come back from 15 down with 7 left. Not a chance. It would have been Hoffa time. This year, the Raptors have more fight in them and actually have some talent to help the fight in the right direction. Calderon is taking advantage of teams off the dribble and going up strong, which is good to see. Although I hate to see it, Bosh’s 3 from the top was big. That’s clutch shooting, but I’ve said it a million times before, the more he hits that, the more it’s going to enter his game and that will get ugly.

A pet peeve: poor free throw shooting. There’s no excuse for it. You’re pro basketball players. You’ve been taking that same shot your whole life. The line hasn’t moved. There’s no excuse for shooting less than 80% as an individual, 85% as a team. So last night’s 67% was disgusting (Bosh attributed to most of this…but at least he sunk the ones down the stretch). Those are the things that lose you close games. On the other hand, the Raptors have been doing a fairly good job at holding on to the ball and that always helps you win. Six turnovers last night compared to 13 for the Nooch.

By the way, “Chris Bosh is a MAN.”

How NBA players view this year’s rookies

I found an interesting piece on Sports Illustrated.com that has players in the NBA ranking which rookie will have the biggest impact on their team and also which rookie will have the best career in the NBA. While I am biased, I think Bargnani got the short end of the stick on this one (and maybe even Garbajosa to a certain extent).

It appears that when you come from overseas and you’re playing in Toronto, that’s a double-whammy as far as NBA players are concerned. Could that be a lack of respect for the international game or is it their honest evaluation of rookie talent? Who knows. But I sure hope it isn’t because of the double whammy, because last time I checked, the NBA players didn’t do so well against international competition.

Let me know what you think. Click here to check it out. I think it’s bogus.

Can a Hornet with no stinger still be called a Hornet?

The Hornets are up next and they just lost to the Sixers, which is tough to do. The Sixers scored over 100 points. The Sixers shot 50% from 3. Kyle “Don’t Call Me Ashton” Korver dropped 25 points on them. Not a good night for the Hornets. The only reason it ended up this close was because Philly showed why they’re Philly and started handing the ball over non-stop, which led to a rally.

So, they SHOULD be a little angry when they face the Raptors tomorrow night. Right? Well, who knows. No Chris Paul (no idea when he’s back), no Stojakovic (good Lord, have you seen his wife? Aleka Kamila…Google that), no nothing. The frontcourt of Chandler, West and Mason is nothing to be feared and that’s where the Raptors should be attacking all night (especially since West will only be playing his 4th game back from a shoulder injury…bang inside on that shoulder all night).

This is not a game where TJ should try to return, instead opting to rest the ankle. If the Raptors can’t beat the Hornets in the state they are in without TJ, there will be a lot of questions to answer.

Anyway, strategy…go big, play inside and get the Hornets in foul trouble. Shouldn’t be that tough. If Chandler decides to show up and have a block party, go with the small/speed lineup, but I think going big works here.

lates

Roach on the Court!

Okay, it’s not like it was that hard to predict Morrison was going to have a tough game, he does that all of the time. One game awesome, next game miserable. As Lang and I were saying, it wasn’t his poor shooting that caught us off guard (shooters shoot, even when they’re not feeling it), it was the fact that he was all over the court. He looked like a roach when the light comes on. He can’t play D, that was no secret. He was exposed more times than Tara Reid, but I’m still saying the kid can play, he just had a rough night and that’s going to happen when you’re a rookie in the NBA.

So here’s a question: the schedule comes out way before the season starts. If you’re a Raptors executive, you’re checking out how the season looks and trying to grow interest in your team, wouldn’t you look at games against the Bobcats as games where you can lower your ticket price for the upper bowl? I know, they did drop prices by 20% for the game, but only after they realized nobody was going to show, so they sent out emails to Raptor Insiders. Too late. Just over 13,000 to see a young and promising team. Two of the best rookies in the league, two young clubs on the rise (well, one for sure…although the Bobcats were hot coming in), I’ll just call that a missed opportunity. It’s the same thing we say about the preseason. Discount the seats! There is always the argument that season ticket holders will be upset because they don’t want seats discounted, but I don’t think that argument holds water if you discount the upper bowl for “low profile” games. Even the Jays do it.

Good to see some Snap Crackle and Pape last night. Of course, the night was ruined when in the post game interview, Norma Wick asked Pape how it felt to score the basket that got the fans pizza. Thanks Norma, more brilliant journalism from our favourite reporter. Of course, Pape just rambled on about working hard and all that, completely ignoring the question. Somewhere, Mamdou N’diaye was looking for a high five on that one (say it with me…”Me and you, your sister and your Mamadou”…my apologies to Outkast).

One other note on the “game”. How does anybody get blocked…no, not blocked, that’s too nice of a word for what it was. How does anybody get rejected/stuffed/embarrassed going up by Jose? I love Jose as much as anybody else, but if he tattoos Spalding on your forehead, you’ve got issues. Then he embarrasses you at the other end setting up an aly-oop to Bosh. It’s like a final kick in the crotch.

Fear the ‘Stache

Regular readers know that while I was okay with the Bargnani pick, back on draft day, my first pick would have been Adam Morrison. Probably because I had actually had a chance to see him play on a regular occasion compared to Bargnani (whom I had never seen other than a few clips). Needless to say, both rookies have had good first seasons in the NBA with completely different games.

The difference between the two rookies is that Bargnani has tended to be a little more consistent than Morrison, with Morrison being more hot and cold than Mos Def (really, what was up with that second album? Note to readers, pick up Tru3 Magic…it’s no Black on Both Sides, but it’s decent).

Morrison is averaging 13.7 points, but he is as likely to go 1-15 (as he did against the Lakers at the end of 2006) as he is to drop 30 on you (as he did against the Pacers right after the dreadful Lakers game). This kid is the poster boy for inconsistency, which is pretty much what you expect from a rookie. The thing is though, when he’s on, he’s good stuff. He had a nice night on Friday in a win against the Hawks, going 9-18 for 19 points. Let’s hope he remains consistently inconsistent and flops Monday night.

What’s that smell? Oh, it’s the Utah game.

The Jazz really tried to hand this game to the Raptors, they tried with 15 turnovers, but the Raptors handed 12 of those back. There were 8 lead changes, but that didn’t matter either as the Raptors couldn’t hold the final one. The Raptors couldn’t even stop Jarron Collins from going to the line 3 times in just over 7 minutes of floor time (which, of course, resulted in 6 points). Mehmet Okur only had 3 rebounds, but he dropped a heavy 27 on the Raps. The only thing the Jazz didn’t do was put Hoffa in the game, which 17,384 salivating Raptor fans were praying for (more on Hoffa later).

The giveaways down the stretch killed the Raptors, including an absolutely brutal MoPete pass, but to be honest, giveaways kill you at any time during the game because they add up. They’re just more magnified at the end of the game. I can’t help but feel like a broken record, but if you get out-rebounded in games against teams like Utah, it’s going to come back to bite you in the ass.

Anyway, let’s have some fun and look at Hoffa’s stats this year. Quick, who knows what his career points average is? If you said 2.8, you’re right. If you said anything above three, you’re the most generous person in the world. Now, second quick question: What is his average this season? 2. Yep, in 5 games played. Okay, that’s enough. It’s not that much fun kicking a man when he’s down, but then again, he has been down since he left BYU. This guy needs kneepads and mittens he’s been down so long. He’s going to take humankind back a few thousand years and have us all crawling again he’s been down so long. The only thing he has accomplished in the past few years is gettin more tattoos.

Why the Raptors Shouldn’t Trade MoPete

Okay, so we’ve had the vote on here for a while now and it looks like most of you guys are on my side on this one. The Raptors need to keep MoPete. For anybody who saw the game last night, MoPete off the bench was lights out scoring like he can and playing solid D.

Now it would be easy for anybody to get on the MoPete bandwagon, but honestly, even more than his being a veteran presence, a solid perimeter defender and a threat from 3-point range, who would the Raptors really get in a MoPete trade? It would have to be a package deal, but outside of MoPete, who is Colangelo really willing to part ways with right now?

Let’s keep in mind that Colangelo is a smart guy and isn’t going to make a deal just to make a deal. There is always a chance you could see MoPete back in a Raptor uniform next year. Players like MoPete are the ones that you never completely value until they are gone (Chauncey Billups anyone? Okay, he was only here for a cup of coffee, but tell me Denver and Minnesota aren’t kicking themselves now). The one thing that you have to value in a guy like MoPete is class. Through all of the rumour talks and being inexplicably moved to the bench at the start of the season (and I say inexplicably because he was moved there in favour of Fred Jones), MoPete has been a class act. Sure, he was upset, but who wouldn’t be. The important thing is that he has just dealt with it and worked on his game and now he’s lethal off the bench. Do I think he should stlil be a starter? Yes. But as many guys in the NBA say, it’s not who starts the games, it’s who finishes.

Raps vs. Sixers

Today was almost a textbook dismantling of a hapless team. If you eliminate the fact that the Raptors fell behind early in this one (by 8…which led me to wonder why I was hiding in a board room only to witness disaster), this game, even moreso than the Mavs game, showed how the Raptors are progressing.

After falling behind early, the Raptors could have fallen into that whole “emotional loss” mode, where after losing a big game the night before, you come out and play with your head down, still thinking about it. It certainly looked like that was going to happen.

The key was the third quarter. The Raptors came out like a team that actually had a game plan and stepped on the Sixers necks, outscoring them 32-14 in the 3rd. Once Bosh and Ford started attacking and Joey started showing that he might just like this “mixing it up on the inside” stuff, the Raptors started pulling away. It’s nice to see Joey going to the line four times in a row in the 3rd quarter. It shows he has some endurance and can play with the big boys. Now if he could only do it consistently…

So as we’ve mentioned here before, when you face a team like the Sixers, a team that no longer has AI, released Webber and has a coach who nobody listens to anymore (Cheeks), you have to make it an easy win. Eric Smith was right today, the Sixers don’t have that bad of a lineup and shouldn’t be where their record indicates, but here’s the thing. It’s starting to get psychological there. Everybody knows about Philly fans and they can’t be helping. Just over 12,000 at today’s game…ON A HOLIDAY!

See, the bonus about putting away teams like the Sixers is that you can rest a guy like Bosh for the entire fourth quarter, which is fantastic, especially since Sam has been driving him into the ground. It always helps to have a little extra time off.

Next.

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