Archive for May, 2007

Spring of Sam

Well, Colangelo stood by his word of wanting to get the coaching situation resolved by the end of May, signing Sam to a 3 year contract worth between $12-14 million. Should we care about the dollars? Nope. They don’t count against the salary cap, so for all I care, they could have given Sam a 3 year $30 million contract. I like the fact that it is a 3 year, which is pretty much the norm as a 4 year would have been a bit excessive.

Once it came out that Indiana wasn’t as hot on Mitchell as originally reported, it was all but a lock that something was going to get worked out between Mitchell and Toronto. Turns out that it wasn’t so much Indiana as Larry Bird not being completely sold on Mitchell and if a Hall of Famer steps up and says something like that, then it is usually in the best interest of your team to listen up.

So is Sam a good fit for Toronto? Sure. He has formed a certain amount of trust with his team and has gone through the good and the bad. He seems to be good with young players and doesn’t take any crap as we have seen him have to deal with some real characters in the past few years. Mitchell still has a lot of developing to do, but if you’re going to be doing that, then I guess it is good that he is doing it with a team that is still developing too.

The Raptors are clearly the best fit for Sam. They just make the most sense for him. It wouldn’t have made sense for him to go to somewhere like Indiana or Seattle, because those teams have all sorts of problems and it would be a situation where he would not only have to gain the trust of the players, but also implement a new system and take care of figuring out what his lineup would be. There would be too much work for him to do that he had already accomplished in Toronto. Those teams are also older than the Raptors and when you have a young team on the rise, it’s best for you to stay there with a nice contract. It just makes the most sense.

Now it will be interesting to see who Colangelo brings in to fill that swingman spot for Sam…stay tuned for some thoughts on that.

Vince Carter Shot…oh, no, he’s okay, my bad

Wow, if you had seen Vince Carter go down in last night’s Nets game, you would have thought there was a sniper in the stands. Usually when you see a guy go to the ground after being airborne, you figure he has done something serious (like Garbo). Carter’s “injury” (other than his ego being hurt from missing ANOTHER fallaway jumper)…a leg cramp. Wow.

Seeing how Cleveland completely controlled Game 1 and then turned it on in the last 2 minutes of Game 2 to seal the deal (going to LBJ every time down the court), you have to wonder how the Raptors fit in with those two teams. The Raptors had their share of trouble with the Cavs during the season and weren’t so great against the Nets, but for some reason, I would have had more confidence if the Raps had gone up against the Cavs in the first round rather than the Nets. I still don’t know why I don’t give the Cavs the credit they deserve, I am always just waiting for the wheels to fall off with that team.

Anyway, just from watching that series, I still think the Raptors could have competed better against NJ, but I guess it’s too late for that now.

Key Decisions win Big Games

Well, we all saw what the Raptors could do on the road when Bosh decides to show up for a quarter. Although Bosh was miserable for most of the game and once again fell in love with his shot (what in God’s name was he thinking launching that 3 after blocking Vince at the other end?), he started to play like a man in the 4th quarter. Too bad he couldn’t have played that way throughout the playoffs.

So let’s look at some key decisions down the stretch. First, Bosh hits a bank jumper. As soon as I saw that, I thought, “Oh God, the next time down the court, I know what’s coming.” After all of the success the Raptors had down the stretch with Bosh going inside, sinking that one bank shot got Chris back into his love affair with being outside. So he bricks one up and the Nets come back the other way. We’ve said it all season long, so it is kind of poetic that Bosh missed a jumper down the stretch.

Now let’s look at how the Nets used their last possession. They went inside to one of their athletic players and let him back in (on Bosh, who refused to get tough on D and plant his feet, letting RJ back in), putting him in a position where he was either going to put it in or get fouled. THAT’S what you do down the stretch. Vince showed what NOT to do down the stretch, going for a completely unnecessary 3 (and with MoPete in his face after initially stepping back to guard the dribble). RJ had it right.

Okay, now Jose’s pass on the last play wasn’t a good one, but that happens sometimes on lob passes. But the rule is, if you’re going to put up a lob pass, you’d rather have it go heavy than end up short. It was a well designed play and Bosh was open, but it didn’t work out.

So can anybody tell me why TJ was put on the bench down the stretch? The guy was actually playing in control, taking good shots, breaking down the D, I don’t get it. Especially down the stretch, where you need the option of being able to dribble penetrate (the Nets proved throughout the series that if there was one weakness they had, it was stopping dribble penetration), you have the PG with the bum ankle on the floor. This is not a dig at Jose, he played well, but as far as providing options down the stretch where you need to get into the paint, I think TJ should have been in there just to provide more attack options. People are going to talk about his attitude when he was put on the bench, but I’ve got to go with him on this one, he shouldn’t have been taken out.

While I think the chances are extremely slim, I hope some scenario arises where the Raptors can find a place for MoPete and he actually chooses to stay in Toronto. Personally, I don’t think MoPete should stay here, he is a great defender and while his shot was off this year, he is a legit shooter. After getting burned a couple of times by Vince going left, it was a nice adjustment down the stretch to shut him down when he tried it again. He was tough on Vince all night and you need that defensive toughness in the playoffs. Vince was so frustrated tonight, he was thumping his chest after getting fouled on the way to the basket. Didn’t hit the shot, didn’t dunk over somebody, he got fouled. Yep…and now I am watching him in the post game conference for the winning team. I just vomited in my own mouth.

Let’s be honest folks, games 3 and 4 were the series. No excuse for playing like that at all. No heart. That lack of heart killed them. They needed a bit of Warrior in them. I hope the Raptors learn a lot from this series for their playoff run next year. I hope they learn that you have to show up every game and how important each possession is. I hope Bosh learns that when you play against a tough D, you have to find ways to beat it. You have to adjust your game and get tougher than your opposition. The Raptors are young, inexperienced, ready to learn. Let’s hope they learned from this series loss to the Nets.

One other note: as awesome of a player as Jason Kidd is, I just love how the guy is a class act. When RJ hit that shot and the Nets were celebrating, go back and check the clip. The one guy who is walking to the bench, looking for Lawrence Frank to draw up the D is Kidd. All business. He knew the game was far from over with 8 seconds left and a 1 point lead. Kidd is a true leader.

Good luck to the Nets, they deserved to win the series.

Well that certainly wasn’t a confidence builder…

I hate to be the guy who rains on a parade, but as much as Chuck keeps saying, “What a ballgame!!!”, once again, the Raptors were lucky to come out winners (and once again Nachbar missed at the buzzer to win…um, did anybody else think Carter WALKED before that dish to Nachbar?).

Let’s give it up for Jose, he played a great game. 25 and 8, but even better than that, Jose chose the right time to play his best defensive game of the year. The one point I have knocked him on all season is that he is usually a step behind on D, but tonight he was all over Kidd, not giving him a chance to breathe and making sure that he was on him all the way down the court after the inbounds pass. Leo made a good point (????) about Jose having his hands up in Kidd’s face all night, making it tough to see the lanes. The one thing I hated about Jose tonight? He still does that falling all over the court thing and he needs to stop because a) he is going to hurt himself and b) some refs are going to think it is all show and when he needs a call, he won’t get it. But yeah, a great game by Jose…and expect him to be ready for Friday, that ankle injury isn’t that bad. Do some R.I.C.E. and he’ll be fine for Friday (but so will TJ…oh no, here come the arguments over who should start…I’m waiting for it).

Having just as good of a night? MoPete. This is what we were talking about when we were saying that down the stretch and into playoffs, you need guys like MoPete. Good on Sam for giving him the start tonight (although really, after the ass-whoopin’ in Jersey, you could have made an argument for any lineup change). Mo was hitting his shots and looked comfortable for the first time in a long time. But Mo’s D was what it always is, solid. His hands were busy, he had himself set, was in the right place at the right time, was right up on Carter (and RJ) and forced Carter into one of his infamous jump shot nights. Also, 45 minutes in the playoffs is no joke.

If there was one thing that was glaring tonight, it had to be Bargnani’s D. Yikes! That could be one of the worst defensive performances I have ever seen. I mean, ever. Guys were blowing by him on the dribble, he wasn’t picking up on switches, he was losing his man, he was soft on a lot of exchanges, wasn’t aggressive down low, it was just ugly. That is one of those tapes you watch not to see how you got your 18 points, but how you probably were responsible for about 30 the other way. I know, he’s a rookie in a new league in the playoffs, but I don’t think there is any excuse for being that lost.

So how does a 20 point lead turn into a 2 point win? Well, for starters, let’s look at some of the stuff we have talked about all season. The rebounds were even, the turnovers pretty close, but damn if the Raptors forgot to go inside down the stretch. What was with all of the jump shots? Jose was doing a great job of distributing, then he launches a 3 with a guy in front of him? Bosh knocks down a couple of jumpers and falls in love again. Nesterovic is just running laps up and down the court. No offence, just a bunch of guys running up and down the court.

Even worse than the lack of a plan down the stretch was how the Raptors still don’t remember to box out. Mikki Moore throws down a rebound as all of the perimeter guys forget to drop down and once again, the Raptors were a shot away from being done. You HAVE to box out, especially down the stretch. Moore is athletic and so are guys like RJ and Vince. If you don’t box them out, they will rebound and dunk all night. Much in the same manner, it is also important to make the lane the toughest place on the court, which the Raptors did for much of the first half. Somewhere along the line, they forgot about that.

The Nets missed a lot of good looks tonight. They never got in a rhythm because of it or else this would have been a much different game. But when the Nets started finding their rhythm, it was a little too late. This is why we continually say, free throws are so important. The Raptors needed every single one of them down the stretch and that’s why you have to hit them. When you have a chance to make points on your opponent, you have to take them. There’s no way out of missing free throws and if your team is missing them, it will eventually come back in the end. Good on the Raps for taking care of this tonight.

Well, now let’s see if the Raptors can play a COMPLETE game in Jersey.