Archive for March, 2007


Well, let’s first start by saying that apparently I provided some bogus information when I said that Jose and AP were going to play. As of yesterday, that was the info I had. Once I heard this morning that they weren’t going to play, I had a bad, bad feeling about tonight’s game.

When you give up 35 in the first quarter and fall behind by 17 against one of the best defenses in the league (as we outlined the other day), it’s going to be tough to come back, no matter how smooth of a scoring machine you have.

I actually managed to see the game, as a snowstorm in Montreal gave me the ability to use this excuse for leaving Brampton tomorrow instead of tonight: “Hey babe, the snow could be bad tonight around Montreal, maybe we should just play it safe and head out tomorrow morning.” Thought process: Let’s go tomorrow morning so I can watch the Raptors…God knows I’ve been driving in snow forever, not worried about that!

A funny point from tonight’s post-game interview with Sam was when he was asked about the Raptors being outrebounded again. After he was asked the question, he did a series of shoulder shrugs and then said that they talk about the same thing every night. End of answer. Probably one of the better ones he has given in a post-game. What else is there to say when Bosh is a manimal (remember that?) on the boards with 19 and the rest of the team has 14. He outrebounded the rest of the team. Now that just isn’t right.

I have defended Morris Peterson for a while and he is my favourite Raptor, so sometimes it is tough to stay complete unbiased, but my God, when you play over 16 minutes, turn the ball over twice and go 1-3 (and don’t stop anybody on D), then you’re making your own bed. This was a big game for him, this could have been a statement maker. Well, he made a statement alright. Brutal. He knew he was going to get minutes tonight, knew he was going to start and he came out dead flat. When you’re this far down the bench, you just can’t afford to have nights like this. You can’t be outscored by Slokar when that dude played less than 2 minutes.

While Bosh had good numbers, especially on the boards, he once again fell into that trap of shooting the jumper instead of taking it strong. When you have a defence like Houston’s, you can’t just settle for jumpers, because if you don’t make them, they are going to sit back and let you keep taking them, knowing that eventually you are going to be forced to try something else. By that point, they will be able to close the lane on you and if they have a lead, it’s game over. Chris has to start wanting to make a statement early. See if you can crown Yao. Dunk on Battier. Don’t pull a Vince and just sit outside taking jumpers until it’s too late.

Jack Armstrong touched on a great point after the game, how Yao knows where his game is and he doesn’t stray from it. He gets down in the post and no matter how hard you bang him, he just keeps floating back. It’s a great point. Yao knows he has that turnaround jumper if he needs it, but if he gets both feet in the paint on you, it’s all but over. You can’t stop him when he gets both feet in the paint down low. He’s 7′6 - 310 and has a soft touch. He can drop that little dump shot (and I call it that because it’s not really a hook, it’s like he’s just throwing laundry into a basket) on you all night and if he does, it will be a long night.

We’ve had that poll running for a bit now, asking who the Raptors can’t have out of the lineup and it is fairly close, but I think maybe AP is more important than we think. When he has been out, the Raps have looked sluggish on offense and sometimes even a bit lost. At this point, I don’t mind him missing a few games so that he’s healthy down the stretch and into the playoffs. But it will be key to get some guys to step up while he’s out.

Having to watch Rafer go off for 23 and 9 made me sick to my stomach. If he had pulled off a double-double, I would have been staring at the bottom of a bottle right now.

Alright, the Raptors need to finish off the Knicks on Sunday. I will be able to watch that one while in Montreal, but as for the Magic game and Nuggets, I’ll have to see if the local pub will put the Raptors on. Arrrrgh!

Raptors vs. Rockets Preview

For some reason, I never really give the Rockets the credit they deserve. They are 40-25, have two legitimate stars (T-Mac and Yao), have good supporting guys (Battier, Howard), but I still don’t give them a lot of credit. Why is that?

Maybe it’s because even with those players, they’re still 23rd in the league in scoring (note: but they give up the second fewest in the league). It could be that I expect them to be this explosive team with so many weapons, but they just don’t play that way. They have guys who can score, but they will shut you down on D and on the boards. It’s no secret about the Raptors rebounding problems.

The Rockets are a disciplined team, so they aren’t going to get suckered into a lot of poor fouls. They foul almost as infrequently as the Raptors do. They also do a decent job of holding onto the ball.

So what to do? Can the Raptors rely on TJ to attack early again and try to get the Rockets to force the ball, looking for some scores on every trip down the court? I think the key will be to try to use as much speed as possible, which could be a little tough with AP and Jose both working on ankle injuries (reports say they are both expected to play tomorrow), but it is something they are going to have to try to do. Yao can’t run and as talented as Battier is, he tends to trip over his own feet a lot. T-Mac won’t get back on D if it means hustling.

The Rockets are coming off a nice win against the Clip, so they will have some added confidence going against the Raptors. It all makes for an interesting game.

Now on to something else. I was checking out the Rockets site and came across this RIDICULOUS Yao Ming song, done to the tune of “Wild Thing”. You know those moments where you feel embarrassed for somebody else? Yeah, this is one of them.

Click here and then click on the photo that has Yao sitting at the drum kit. Enjoy.

18 and Life…

Sorry for the Skid Row reference, but after TJ dropped 18s on both sides of the stat sheet, it pretty much sucked the life out of the Knicks hoping to make a chase for the Atlantic.

So while watching the game, you would have thought that TJ was doing some dynamic stuff out there, that he was pulling off an assorted of amazing plays, that he was using all of the creative juices he had…but um…was it just me or did anyone else notice the Raptors were running a high pick and roll over and over and over? Hey, I’m all for it. If a team (like the Knicks) show they can’t defend it, then just keep running it. It’s sort of like in football, if a team can’t stop the run up the middle, then keep running it up the middle and when they overcompensate, then you can go to something else.

But good on TJ (and Sam) for noticing that, even though you would have had to have been blind not to. TJ was creating good looks for Garbo, Andrea and Bosh because that pick and roll was lethal. The great thing about it is that when you have a PG as quick as Ford, if you get hooked on the pick and nobody shifts, you’re going to be in a world of trouble, especially if the team has good outside shooting as the Raptors do.

Once again, I like the fact that TJ is taking it to the rack when he sees the mismatch, but more importantly, he is taking the open jumper when it is there. He isn’t forcing the jumper, he’s just taking it if they give it to him. That makes him that much more dangerous.

Did anyone notice how many times guys slipped on the court last night? The Knicks were falling all over the place and a couple of Raptors slipped too. I’ve heard before that usually around this time, when the weather fluctuates a lot, the court will sometimes get some moisture on it. Not sure about that whole scenario, but it did seem odd that so many guys were wiping out.

Tough on Jose’s ankle last night. No matter how well TJ is playing, the Raptors are more dangerous with two starting point guards available. It didn’t look that serious, so I can’t see him missing a lot of games. Tell me you didn’t cringe when you saw AP go down. The way he way slamming the court, I thought he had torn something, but after seeing the replay, I figured he might be out for a game or two. Under no circumstance did I ever expect to see him come back out of the tunnel and play. Nice work by the ACC crew to play the Rocky theme when AP made his return, pretty funny.

So back to the x’s and o’s. The Knicks had some serious problems on defense last night. I mean, SERIOUS. If you want to see two guys who have no clue what to do on defense, check out the tape from last night and watch Curry and Marbury. As good as Marbury was on offense, he was a gaping hole on D. Slow feet, ran into picks, head swiveling…not good. And it was almost comical watching Curry trying to defend Bargnani. He couldn’t move with Il Mago. Not even close. It looked like Curry was wearing ski boots on the court. If anybody remembers the Kids in the Hall Skit, he looked like M. Piedlourd (Mr. Heavyfoot).

Have I mentioned at all how much I hate Leo? Just wanted to reiterate. So many reasons last night, I won’t drag you through all of them. Just can’t stand him. Okay, I have to point out one thing from last night. TJ was driving to the basket and threw a hard pass to Rasho, who bobbled it and it went the other way for 2. Leo kept saying that he thought the pass wasn’t intended for Rasho, that is was going to Garbo in the corner. Um…no it wasn’t. It was meant for Rasho, it was a no-look, it was a bad pass because a) two Knicks were there and b) it was too hard, especially for Rasho. Even after the replay showed Leo was wrong, he still stood by it.

One more Leo bit from last night. He kept talking about this little move that Garbo made before hitting a three. He said Garbo made a little shift that sent the Knick defender into the corner, then he spotted up and hit the 3. Not so. Garbo received the pass and the Knick defender ran to the corner trying to defend a pass into the spot formerly known as MoPete’s office. The Knick defender (sorry, can’t remember who) thought he was going to get help up top. Garbo saw the open look, set his feet and took the shot. There was no fake, no little shimmy, nothing. Leo just made it up, trying to create some insight. I seriously can’t stand this guy.

Alright, it will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow night. I won’t be able to watch the game, will have to listen on radio (heading back home for a bit), but let’s hope Yao has some of the shooting woes that have occasionally plagued him.

Raps vs. Knicks Preview

Let’s just hope Quentin Richardson is still out with his back injury, because last time the Raptors faced the Knicks, he killed on the boards with 16 rebounds. 16! That’s a good night for the whole Raptors team! Well, not quite, but if somebody on the Knicks has a night like that, it is going to pose some serious roadblocks to winning. But with Richardson out and David Lee out (sprained ankle, originally day to day, but now they say it’s more serious and he will be out 3-4 weeks), there is a good chance for the Raptors to jump all over the Knicks by attacking early (again) and owning the boards. Is that a lot to ask? Well, the attacking part isn’t and with two big men out for the Knicks, the Raptors should be able to beat them on the boards. Let’s also remember that Crawford is out too, so there’s another piece missing for the Knicks.

The Knicks are young, but they do have some veterans. Problem is, the vets they have aren’t exactly the kinds of guys you want your young players to learn from. Marbury and Francis are not leaders, never have been. The media are trying to make a big deal out of Isiah’s contract extension and the “resurgence” of the Knicks, but honestly, they’re still playing .460 ball and in their last 3, they scraped by Atlanta, lost to the Sonics and had a lucky 3 go at the buzzer to beat the Wizards. Okay, wins are wins, but let’s not make them into the Spurs all of a sudden. Are they getting better? Yes, but let’s just keep our heads screwed on properly. Let’s not awards anyone big contract extensions just yet…oh, wait, sorry, that has already been taken care of. The only reason the Knicks are making some ground is because the Nets are just as bad.

I’ll be at a pub watching tonight…hopefully I won’t miss any interesting commentary. Maybe I can delay going to the pub…hmm…

Can We Get a Little Love for TJ?

TJ did pretty much what we figured he was going to do last night, attack and attack early. The Bucks D broke down in a minute and they were never able to recover. What wasn’t getting much coverage last night was that TJ was also being an absolute pest on D, grabbing 3 steals and forcing a lot of other quick passes. Down the stretch, he started to go a little bit into TJ mode, overdribbling and ending up tripping over his own feet, but a credit to him, he got back on D and the next time down the court, made a smart decision. I would still like to see the turnover/steal ratio improve (he had 4 turnovers last night), but I like that he is being aggressive on the ball, remembering that being a PG doesn’t only mean playing one end of the floor.

Can we also get some love for MoPete? Once again, Mo shows that when he’s on the floor, it’s always 100% no matter what the score and his D is like a wet blanket. He just gets on you and you can’t get him off. The foul he picked up in the 4th was bogus and while the guys didn’t say anything about the T, I thought the T he picked up was a little bogus too. I’m all for keeping decorum in the game, but a guy does a little jump and you T him up? Come on.

What I also loved about last night was TJ sticking up for Bosh after Bogut’s flagrant near the end of the game. If Bonner was here, it would have been ON, but I’ll take TJ stepping up and getting a little lippy. TJ plays his best when he has a little bit of swagger going last night and the fact that he went up to Bogut (who would have dropped him if he felt like it) says a lot. We also got a good shot of Garbo high-fiving TJ when he got back to the bench. Nice job by Sam to get TJ the hell out of there after that, that was good coaching.

Time to buy a lottery ticket, the Raptors actually outrebounded a team, but I’m not going to give the Raps a ton of credit on that, because the Bucks were simply disinterested last night. Actually, if you saw Charlie V out there (and if you blinked, you missed it), he pretty much summed up their effort last night. If I were a Bucks fan, I would be pretty pissed off. That looked like the last time the Raps played the Bucks, just reversed.

I stated earlier that I don’t hate anybody in the game…I’m starting to find a strong distaste for Ruben Patterson. The guy thinks he’s a prime time player and while he has talent, come on, you average about 11 points (over your career) and for a thick guy, you play soft. All talk. All talk.

Now come the big games (and who in the world thought we would be saying that about the Knicks?). I don’t think the Knicks match up well against the Raptors. True, they are young and athletic, but that’s kind of the point. I don’t think they have the same poise the Raptors do and they definitely do not have the leadership. If it comes down to a crunch game, I’m going to go with the Raptors and (gulp) can’t believe I am going to say this, but if I have to rely on a coaching decision in the stretch, I’m going to take Sam over Isiah (who recently got extended…guy’s team is playing under .500 and he gets extended…wow). Should be interesting.

Preview - Raps vs. Bucks

Watch out TJ haters, because if you’re not a fan of Mr. Ford, you’re not going to like what you will see tonight. Last time the Raps played the Bucs, it was embarrassing. Bogut was made to look like a superhero and the Raptors had no offensive strategy for breaking down a zone. Like usual, they couldn’t rebound, but how about we just mention when they do rebound instead of saying how they don’t all of the time? It is essentially getting to that point.

So everybody knows, if you have to break down a zone, then you have to penetrate. Sitting outside taking jumpers all night isn’t going to work, especially if your team can’t rebound. So look for TJ to be driving a lot tonight. Let’s just hope that along with the drives come the looks to dish (as he did yesterday) and not the forced shots. That was the great thing about yesterday. When the shot was there, he stopped and popped, when it wasn’t, he dished. When the lane was there, he blew by people. That’s his game.

This could also be a game where you see Jose be effective (as if he usually isn’t), simply because he still beats defenses off the dribble. Going to the left, he still has that quick first step, although I would really like to see him stop laying out on the floor so many times after a basket. I thought at first he was going down so much because he was out of control, but he’s not. He’s completely in control. Given, he gets banged up, but everybody does. Keep your balance and run back on D. I’m just worried that he’s going to do his sprawling routine and end up spraining an ankle or hurting his back again. That wouldn’t be good news.

So speaking of zones. Does anyone think the Raptors should start using one a bit more to try to help out with their rebounding? Would that actually work? Personally, I think they just have to work on putting bodies on bodies, but anything could help with these guys. They don’t need a special coach or anything to learn how to box out, it’s something they have been doing since they started playing basketball (or at least it’s something they have heard of since they started playing basketball). They just need to get down to basics when it comes to rebounding. Get your position, get tough, stick out that caboose and get your hands up.

But if I see Redd lighting it up tonight, then I had better see MoPete getting some playing time tonight. One of the true low points of this season has been the way MoPete has been treated on occasion. Nice 8:00 start tonight…get the kid fed, washed and in bed before game time!

This Rebounding Situation is Getting Ugly

Even though the Raptors fought down the stretch and kept coming back to keep it close, this was one of those games that they really didn’t deserve to win. The Raps were outrebounded again, which really isn’t that much of a surprise, but the fact that so many of those rebounds were uncontested or had nobody even in the area, has to set off some alarms.

Nice game by TJ, running the floor and EFFECTIVELY using his speed. In the third quarter, there were a few plays where he used his quickness to blow by the Sonics when the floor was open for easy layups. He also had the vision to stop and pop when it was there (which it was quite often from the free throw line) and he gave a lot of guys good looks (13 assists). How one RF reader could even possibly suggest that this game didn’t need to go to overtime because of TJ’s play is, well, it’s so ridiculous, it doesn’t even deserve further comment. That’s just hate.

What I loved about Bargnani today was that he was consistently getting beaten on D, but when the time came down the stretch, he took a big charge. He stepped up and knew he was going to get rocked, but he held his ground and took the charge. I also like that he had some simply brutal 3-point attempts (I mean, one hit glass and no rim), but down the stretch again, off a miss by TJ, a block against Bosh and then receiving a broken play pass, he calmly drained a 3. That’s what it takes to play in the NBA. You can be having the worst day or making some glaring mistakes, but you have to have enough confidence in your game that you know when it’s on the line, you can answer the call. Onions baby, onions.

Going back to what I was saying earlier about the Sonics, they’re not a last place team. They showed that today. They also showed that they have a tendency to lose close games. Maybe that’s mental toughness, maybe it’s coaching, I’m not completely sure since I don’t follow them on a regular basis, but things like fouling a rookie on a 3-point attempt in the dying seconds of a game won’t help your team to win.

Ray Allen also showed what I was talking about with that sweet stroke. I mean, a few of those dying second, broken play 3 pointers and almost 3 pointers were a treat to watch. I am not completely sure what the Raptors were thinking letting him take those open mid-range jumpers, because he’s going to hit those 9 times out of 10 and if he starts hitting those early, he’s going to get warm and then you’re in for a long night.

Okay, quickly back to rebounding. A RF reader (TTFD) made a comment that about rebounding and how Sam should really just have them running a box-out practice. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Sure, a lot of it would be stuff that they already know and I’m not even sure at this point if it is something that many guys on the team are good at, but a point would be made. It’s like having a bad hockey game, where you don’t hustle, so your next practice, there are no pucks and the power skating lady is there to make you skate for an hour (if anybody has been through this, you know the pain that goes through every inch of your body when you even see that woman at your practice). A point has to be made with the Raptors that the rebounding situation is out of control. Sure, there are guys who are good rebounders and there are guys who aren’t, but if you’re not even putting a body on anybody, if you’re not clogging the lane, on offense, if you’re not banging for a rebound, then you’re making everybody on the other team a great rebounder. They don’t even have to try.

Anyway, nice to see the Raptors come out with the win in the end. Can’t believe MoPete barely played in a game like that where they needed some defensive stops. I like Juan Dixon’s game, but how MoPete has slid so far down with Sam, I don’t know. What did he do? His game was solid, he was great off the bench, plays possibly the best D on the team. I don’t know. If I were MoPete, I would probably start taking some of this personally.

That’s all.

Raptors vs. Sonics Preview

It really feels like the Raptors haven’t played in a week. Not having a Friday night game was like going through rehab…had the shakes man, the shakes!

So I made a few comments the other day on the Sonics and how I don’t think this team is really a last place team, simply because they have been hit pretty hard with the injury bug and they have also lost a lot of close games. They also have Ray Allen, who can go off at any time and has what has to be one of the sweetest strokes in the game (although he has had a few cold games…yikes).

The Sonics were beaten by the Celtics last night, yes, the Celtics, so maybe they really are a last place team. I mean, it’s bad enough when you lose to the Celtics, but when you blow a 16 point lead against the Celtics, some alarms have to be going off. Some SERIOUS alarms need to go off when you blow a 16 point lead and then LOSE by 15. That’s where GMs start thinking, “Hey, maybe I need to just blow this whole thing up.”

Anyway, this kind of goes back to what I was saying in my earlier comments. When the Sonics get down, they will not come back. They don’t have the offense this season and I think the mental aspect of the game is getting to them. At the same time, the Raptors have to make sure that they don’t take the Sonics lightly, because the Sonics have to go into Detroit on Wednesday, so they are probably thinking that they are going to lose that one, so they need to get the one in Toronto. I guarantee they got a serious talking to after the Celtics game, so they should be fired up.

The key for the Raptors? Ball movement and early scoring. If they are able to get on the board early and often and actually make a few defensive stops, they should be able to take care of business against the Sonics. But the early scoring will be the key.

Cultural Stereotyping in the NBA

I got into an interesting conversation with a guy on the GO train a few weeks ago about stereotypes in the NBA. The conversation started off with us talking about TJ and how he needs to learn to slow down a bit, to relax and use his speed as an asset, not a detriment to his game. It then got into talk about Jose (wow, never happened before) and his ball management, but how he is getting beaten too often on quick drives.

Anyway, from there, we started talking about how there seems to be a tendency to talk about the European ball players and their ability to manage flow, take smart shots, be under control, while the American players are talked about in more athletic terms. Was it simply a case of the old black/white? Were the white Euro players being given additional credit for intelligence while the black players were given additional credit for their athleticism?

We threw around a few ideas and decided that it wasn’t as cut and dry as that, but there did seem to be some trends. Let’s look at Manu Ginobili. Probably as good of an athlete as there is in the game, but what does he get talked about most for? His “flopping”. I don’t think he flops that much more than let’s say, MoPete, but when Mo does it, it’s a good defensive play, a smart veteran move. When Manu does it, there seems to be a bit more venom in comments, from commentators and NBA players (especially NBA players).

I think the whole TJ/Jose comparison is one that works well. I’ve noted a lot on RF how TJ needs to get under control a bit more, use his speed better. But when you read a lot of comments and listen to fans, there is always talk about how he makes stupid mistakes, how Jose is a smarter ball player. Is that really true? I think they’re both smart players, just with different games. Jason (White Chocolate) Williams is a stupid player, the guy makes horrible mistakes each time down the court. Anyway, by no means am I saying that Jose/TJ is a cultural debate, it isn’t…but I think if Jose had the exact same game, but was a kid from Brooklyn, you might see some different comments.

Another example: Kevin Garnett. Probably one of the smartest players in the league, but the focus is always on his athleticism. True, that could be because his athleticism is astonishing (one of my favourite players), but nobody ever talks about how he makes so many smart decisions, doesn’t force anything, knows when to attack, gets his teammates involved, etc.

Anyway, just some food for thought. I’m not trying to create a big issue here, but it really is something people should think about. Have a listen around the league or check out some of the things you read online or in the papers. There tends to be a bit of a slant.

Measuring sticks

Games like tonight’s against the Grizz are what a coach of mine used to call “measuring sticks.” These were the games where you could measure what you were really made of, whether you were a team that could bounce back after terrible performances to beat a team you should or whether you were a team that would hang your head and play down to the teams you should beat. I guess we know which team the Raptors are. That being said, let’s start with yesterday’s “game”.

There’s no excuse for allowing a team to score over 70 points in a half. None. I don’t care how hot a team is, whether a guy is shouting “hibachi” or what, you have to make adjustments and find a way to disrupt your opposition. There’s no secret to what happened last night. It wasn’t so much that the Wizards were on fire as it was that (once again) the Raptors couldn’t rebound. Bosh had one rebound. One. And this is a team that sent PJ back down.

The Raptors need to start thinking of rebounding in a different fashion. They need to start thinking of rebounding in terms of possession. What’s that they say about possession and the law? That possession is 90% of it? Well, it works the same way for basketball. The Raptors need to start realizing that every rebound they give up is an additional possession for the opposition. It’s like being back in college and any time there is a jumpball, don’t even bother looking at the arrow, because it’s not going to go your way. The possession arrow always points for the opposition. Maybe if they think about it this way, they’ll be more willing to get a little dirty inside. I can’t believe I saw Rasho get pushed out of the way last night and then complain to the ref that somebody went over his back. Come on Rasho. Really?

When your team shoots over 60%, that should a winning recipe. You shouldn’t lose too many games when you’re over that threshold. But if you are not able to rebound the ball, you are going to lose those games and that is going to get depressing.

So on to tonight’s game against the Grizz. As I mentioned, this was a measuring stick game. I have to admit, I missed a good chunk of this game, so I’m really not in a position to say a whole lot about it, but let’s take a guess on one thing that improved over last night…could it be REBOUNDING? Okay, they were still outrebounded, but at least it was close. They also weren’t chucking threes left, right and centre, so that helps too.

Anyway, I wish I could comment more on tonight’s game, but I really can’t since I missed most of it. At lesat they came out with a win.

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