Archive for October, 2008

Game 3: Raps vs. Bucks – Pre-Game

The Bucks weren’t a good defensive team last season and with the acquisitions they made this summer, I can’t say they are going to be a ton better on D this year. Sure, they are going to be better defensively, but when you look like they did last year, there really isn’t anywhere to go but up. You don’t need new players to do that, you just need a goal and some desire. That’s where Coach Skiles comes in. While I think Skiles is a good coach, I think eventually he will wear Jefferson out as RJ likes to take the odd game off here and there. That isn’t going to be something that Skiles tolerates, so we will either see a rededicated RJ or it could end with a combatative RJ, which is probably a little more likely.

With that said about RJ, we have to remember that this is a guy who loves playing against the Raptors. He just seems to have the Raptors’ number and saves his best games for them. The big difference this time around is that RJ will be working with a new coach, a new system and a bunch of new players. Only four players remain from last season, providing the Bucks with the full rights to use the term “rebuilding.”

Andrew Bogut is a little bit of a hothead as we have seen in his games against the Raptors in the past. It will be interesting to see if JO takes his chances with Bogut tomorrow, not letting him to get easy points near the basket. I think he will be able to put the extra pressure on the 7-foot Aussie, causing him to dish back to the top of the key quickly turn to the boards ro a rebound.

If anybody knows some magic, let’s do what we can do to keep Charlie Bell out of the game. Another Raptor killer.

3 in The Key

1. The Raptors cannot afford to have Andrew Bogut push them around. It iwll be important to close down on him early in the game.

2. The Raptors need to score, but they also need some solid D, guys who can take care of Bogut time.

3. The Bucks still won’t be able to play D, so the Raptors should take calculated risks during the game. If they can move the ball down the court quickly, if there are solid quick break opportunities, then the Raptors should probably go down that road.

Enjoy the game.

Game 2: Raps vs. Warriors – Post-Game

This was a great game for a Friday night. The kind of game where you have a nice roller coaster of emotions that puts the rest of the week behind you, allowing you to realize that pretty much everything else you had to deal with can be erased by entertaining basketball. But what it essentially came down to was players showing their real personas down the stretch.

I’ve always believed that you find out what a player is all about when the game is on the line. His true tendencies, his willingness to do what it takes to win, the thought process behind what it takes to win. That all comes out in the last few minutes, when every move can be factored into a do or die situation. We found out what Maggette was about tonight, but it’s nothing that we didn’t already know. Much will be made about the Warriors coming back after going on a 17-4 run and how the Raptors kept their composure down the stretch, but make no mistake, Maggette’s need to fire the rock at every opportunity spelled out how this was going to end. Sure, he hit a few shots in the 4th, but when you’re firing almost every time you touch the ball, you’re going to have streaks. We saw him take turnarounds, catch and shoots, dribble stops, any kind of ill-advised jumper. In the end, I just find it tough to think that coming out of a timeout with 12 seconds left on the clock on the road in a tie game, that you let Maggette run the clock down and then take a contested jumper to win. Especially when Jackson and Harrington had looked much more interested in the game than Maggette.

I mentioned how in the Raptors season opener, while Andrea didn’t have the stats, that I liked how he was being aggressive. In the pre-game, I talked about how if he continues that against the small Warriors, he would be able to get going inside and then set up from the outside. The great thing we saw from Andrea tonight was that he was attacking early. He didn’t take time to come out and get warm, he came out and attacked right away. He finished strong, not going for the lay-ins, instead going for the dunk. Once he established his presence inside and off the dribble, we saw defenders respecting his dribble more, giving him room to shoot and when the Raptors needed some big shots, he was able to take them. This is something that he needs to continue to do, even if it doesn’t always bring results every night, because more often than not, it is going to work.

Well, you knew I was going to talk about it, but how good was it to see a Raptor block a shot and essentially send the message that things are going to be a little different inside this season? When JO blocked Brandon Wright’s shot and sent him to the floor in the second quarter, that showed what his presence is going to be about this season. I have no problem with a game like tonight’s from JO. The Raptors don’t need him to come out and score in bunches. They need him to play solid D and make middle of the court a more dangerous place to play for opposing teams. That was what he did tonight.

Another quiet, solid game from Jose. All business, just come out and take care of business and go home with another win in the pocket. While he was distributing the ball like ususal, what you have to like about his game is that down the stretch in the 4th and then in OT, Jose knocked down some big shots for the Raptors. He didn’t force it, he just took what the Warriors were giving him and punished them for it. Once again, he got some solid minnutes of relief from Ukic (although Ukic did look like he was trying to do a little too much tonight), which is a nice cherry on top when you go into OT.

Well, next up the Bucks.

Game 2: Raps vs. Warriors – Pre-Game

Where to start with the Warriors? Barond Davis walks, Pietrus follows…and Barnes…and now Harrington wants out and there is talk of…wait for it…Eddy “Pass Me The” Curry heading out that way. Oh yes, they also have shot happy Maggette and Dance Man Turiaf (who actually plays hard in a defined role, so he might find some of the “me first” attitudes in GS not to his liking). They have Biedrins who plays absolutely no D, but can dunk (how can a guy who looks like he has such quick feet on the offensive end have such slow feet on the defensive end?). They have Monta Ellis, he of the big contract and small brain (dude, get off the moped, seriously). Let’s kick in some real “characters” on their roster (including Nellie) and it just seems like a big powder keg. If this team gets off to any kind of a slow start, look out, it could be showtime at the circus. Maggette likes to shoot, Jackson likes to shoot, Williams likes to shoot…boom.

The great thing for the Raptors is that the Warriors can’t (or won’t) play D. They don’t seem to be interested in it whatsoever and for a team like the Raptors who are trying to figure out how the offensive end of things is going to work, the Warriors couldn’t have come along at a better time. This is the type of game where you can not only get a handle on what you are doing offensively, but also gain some confidence. It would be nice to see Andrea break out in a game like this, so hopefully he gets it going when he comes off the bench. The Warriors aren’t exactly a big team, so if Andrea is able to attack the basket, he could see rewards from the inside first, then the outside.

If the Raptors are able to come up with another decent defensive game, they might be able to ride this one out, as due to the personnel the Warriors are putting out on the floor, there could be a lot of forced shots if things don’t go their way early. There will be a few guys who will think that they can carry the Warriors on their backs and that is precisely what the Raptors need.

Let’s see if the Raptors continue to figure out what kind of a team they are going to be and come out with a win at home.

Enjoy the game.

Game 1: Raps vs. Sixers – Post Game

Well, pretty much a lot of what we thought we would see tonight. It started off sloppy, like we thought it would, but there were a lot of good things that we were hoping to see. People will be quick to point out how poorly the Raptors rebounded tonight, but let’s also take some of that with a grain of salt. The Sixers were missing a lot of easy lay-ins and short jumpers and while the Raptors should have been grabbing some of those rebounds, those were also shots that never should have produced an opportunity for a rebound. Either way, if the Raptors want to continue to win games, they certainly can’t start the game getting waxed on the boards like that.

While he didn’t have a great game, I liked what I saw from Andrea tonight. I liked that he put the ball on the floor and tried to cut to the basket, which ended up resulting in misses, but there was a follow up by Joey on one of them and I just like that there was some aggression in his game tonight. He looked a little hesitant sometimes tonight, like he was about to jack up a shot, but then heard Sam in the back of his head, shouting to put the ball on the floor. It’s a work in progress, but I liked that his game is developing.

It was nice to see Bosh and JO work well together on both ends of the court. JO changed a lot of shots on D as his presence was enough to get in the heads of the Sixers. We even saw Brand triple pump, which you almost never see, even though he is a “small” big man. It was also good to see Roko do a good job out there giving Jose a rest, but at times it looked like he was trying to run out the clock in the middle of the game. He would make a nice cut to the basket and then curl back out to the arc, looking to pass right back to the interior that he just escaped from. Hell, once you’re that close, go up. Not a big deal, his major concern is just to get Jose a rest, but I think everybody can be happy with what they saw from him tonight.

Nice game, but I’m not going to make too much of it as it is just the first of the season. So here is your post game 3 in the Key, but one that won’t focus much on the actual playing of the game, just the whole thing itself.

3 In The Key

Key 1: I’m sorry, it’s going to take a while to get used to Matt Devlin. Say what you want about Chuck, but his voice is great (other than that one night a few years ago when he tried to broadcast the game with a serious throat problem…that was painful). Also, some of his catch phrases were…um…not catchy. “Give it to me! Give it to me!” I didn’t know if he was watching the game or if Leo was getting frisky under the table with him.

Key 2: Sam looks like a completely different man without his glasses on. It’s creepy.

Key 3: I sure hope somebody else noticed this, but in the first quarter, when the camera was focusing on Roko while somebody was taking a free throw, there was a seriously hot brunette sitting courtside with some um…enticing cleavage going on. Nice break in the action…it was like watching a Habs game at the Bell Centre (in case you don’t know, the guys working the cameras at the games have a knack for creating fan noise by finding the talent in the crowd).

Games According to thriller92 – 10/29/08

Atlanta Orlando 7:00 PM ET- Both teams underwent small changes in the offseason. ATL lost their 6th man, so the main thing to look for with them is when their bigs go to the bench, can Pachulia and …? fill in for them enough to a point where they dont have to tire out Horford and Smith throughout the year. With ORL itll be interesting who starts at the 2, Bogans, Lee, or Pietrus and which guy is going to be out of the rotation. The only other thing I can think of is if Battie is going to be a part of the rotation again as he was a solid player before his injury.

Wed, Oct 29 New Jersey Washington 7:00 PM ET- Jamisons injury luckily wasnt serious in the preseason so he’ll be good to go. The main things to look out for are the starting positions for both teams. Boone is probably the Nets 3rd best player but hes had an irregular heartbeat in the preseason, so we’ll probably get to see if Brook can play early on. And with WAS, with Haywood out for 4+ months, Thomas will probably start but thisll be Blatches make or break year.

Wed, Oct 29 Miami New York 7:30 PM ET – The main things to look out for in this game is who starts at the 5 for the Heat(Haslem or Blount), and whose going to play center for the Knicks when Lee goes out because Curry is in the doghouse with Dantoni and likely isnt going to play tomorrow because hes too fat. Is Randolph really gonna play center? Heh.

Wed, Oct 29 Indiana Detroit 8:00 PM ET- Expect a 20 pt beatdown. The only thing to look out for in this game is how much of the offence TJ is going to be involved in, whether its going to be like CP3 type involvement where he runs pick and roll every play, or if hes gonna be passing to the wings off screens more of the time. With that team TJ should be running most of the stuff for them to even have a remote chance of winning 30 games this year.

Wed, Oct 29 Sacramento Minnesota 8:00 PM ET- Spencer Hawes will get his moment in the sun with B Miller suspended 5 games for chewing tobacco or something stupid. Good first test for him going against Al Jefferson. Should be a very high scoring game and Kevin Love should also have a great start to the year going up against whoever SACs starting PF is, whether its Thompson or Moore he should have a double double. Expect Martin to get 35.

Wed, Oct 29 Milwaukee Oklahoma City 8:00 PM ET – Maybe the most meaningless game ever, but it should have the best atmosphere out of all the games WED with the Thunders first reg season action in OKC. The Bucks are very imbalanced but theyre still not bad enough to lose to OKC I dont think…

Wed, Oct 29 Phoenix San Antonio 8:00 PM ET ESPN – PHX/SA just doesnt have the spice to it anymore after the beatdown in the playoffs. PHX is in no mans land in the west, set for a 1 and done in the playoffs. I guess the main thing to look out for is Porters strategy vs TD and TP if hes going to shut the other guys out or if hes gonna make the other guys beat them, and for SA who is going to be the 3rd leading scorer until Ginobili is back.

Wed, Oct 29 Memphis Houston 8:30 PM ET – Even though this game doesnt look like much it may be the most intriguing of them all. Mayo, Artest and Gasols debuts. Will the backcourt of MEM give HOU any problems, and how fast will HOU click on both ends of the court? HOU is probably the 2nd deepest team in the league after the Lakers so itll be interesting to see how they use their rotations and how much smallball they use. Over on Mcgrady grimacing 10 times.

Wed, Oct 29 Denver Utah 9:00 PM ET – Is JR Smith starting or are they gonna continue to waste their time with Anthony Carter? Will Nene be a presence on offence? Will Utah win by 40?

Wed, Oct 29 New Orleans Golden State 10:30 PM ET- Another team whose rotation isnt set. Harrington just asked for a trade, will he be demoted or sit out or will he continue to start? Will walk on Demarcus Nelson start at PG for the Warriors? Marcus Williams seems to be in the doghouse with Nelly even though hes easily their best pg, if he cant start now he doesnt have a prayer to become a regular rotation player since they have the worst pg rotation right now maybe in league history. Should be a good practice for NOH to get all their stats way up to start the year. I love the addition of Devin Brown as well to their lineup for added depth at SF. Itll be interesting to see if the SG position for them starts out 24/24 in terms of minutes with Mo and Posey. Expect CP3 to have some ridiculous statline of 30 and 20. Oh yeah, and I’m interested to see Randolphs playing style, if he plays at all.

Wed, Oct 29 L.A. Lakers L.A. Clippers 10:30 PM ET- Game of the night as long as pansy and the beard play. Not hard to believe at all that they may sit with minor injuries. I really doubt LAL will be able to trap LAC in the halfcourt like they did the Blazers tonight because of Cambys passing for a big and the Clippers ability to get to the rim with multiple guys in the starting lineup instead of just one for the Blazers in Roy. Clippers should really try to exploit the Thornton/Radman matchup early and often if theyre gonna have a shot. Besides that the main thing to look out for is the Clippers rotation. Who will start at sg, ricky davis, mobley, or Gordon? And whose gonna get the short end of the stick on minutes? Should be a good one as long as Diddy and Camby dont pussy out.

Game 1: Raps vs. Sixers – Pre-Game

Finally, it’s here. I don’t know about you guys, but it felt like this season just couldn’t get here soon enough. After going through all of the TJ/Jose garbage last season, enduring Bosh’s YouTube videos, trying to figure out what was bothering Andrea and then getting knocked out by the Magic, it just felt like there were a lot of moving parts last season that weren’t fully secured. It always felt like the Raptors were one episode away from completely falling apart.

So now that the new season is here, the Raptors can look forward to putting a new face on. The TJ/Jose situation has been taken care of, with Jose (rightfully) winning the day. Bosh has returned with a renewed sense of energy and dedication. Andrea doesn’t have to worry about any pressure since JO has been brought in and in addition to that, the Raptors now think they have enough pieces to get past the first round in the playoffs. But then the question becomes, “Are you just happy with getting out of the first round of the playoffs?”

Since I just went through some overviews of both of these teams, I’m not really going to go into detail about how they match up against each other and at this point in the season (first game), you will probably see a lot of sloppy play anyway. The good thing for the Raptors is that they get to face the Sixers right at the start of the season and this is supposedly the team that is going to finish ahead of them in the standings. There is a chance that this could happen, the Sixers do have some good pieces, but for the Raptors, it would be a good way to get themselves in the proper mental state for the season. There’s nothing better than starting things off with a team that many people are predicting to finish ahead of you, even though it may be the first game of the season.

Here are tonight’s 3 in the Key:

Key 1: The Raptors are not deep at PG, so it will be key for Sam Mitchell to watch Jose’s minutes at the start of the season. You don’t want to throw him into the fire and get him up in the 40 minute range right at the start of the season, especially when he had some groin issues during the Olympics. Jose is going to need to be a stud for the Raptors all season, so managing his time will be essential.

Key 2: JO and Bosh need to get their touches on offense so the Raptors can establish how they are going to operate down low. Forget the pre-season, those games didn’t matter and the level of intensity just isn’t there. This is the opportunity for the Raptors to let the league know that Bosh and JO are going to be a formidable force.

Key 3: Bosh and JO are going to have to work hard on the boards, creating scoring opportunities, but also boxing out and creating some better chances for defensive rebounds. If the Sixers get going on the boards early, it could be a long night for the Raps.

Enjoy the game…and heads up on the early start. 6:00!!!

5 Teams in 5 Days – Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors are going to have a lot of questions from last season answered in the 2008-2009 campaign. Will Jermaine O’Neal bring the added toughness, defense and rebounding help they need? Will Andrea Bargnani rebound from a less than stellar sophomore season? Who wants the starting SG position?

Well, one thing that many Raptor fans are happy to have resolved is the Jose/TJ situation. By completing the blockbuster trade that brough O’Neal to Toronto, the Raptors were able to move what had become more than a headache out of town, allowing Jose Calderon to run the offence. While Calderon showed last season that he is more than capable of running the show, the question this year isn’t if he can run the show, but who the hell is going to give him some minutes off the bench? Roko Ukic? Essentially what the Raptors are going to have to do is give Jose some spells throughout the game, not allowing him to go into extended runs. While he may be in good enough shape to play a ton of minutes every night, those kind of minutes finally catch up to you when the playoffs roll around.

This year, I think we will see the return of Andrea Bargnani. Apparently, he has spent a lot of time working on everything that doesn’t involve shooting a 3, including his defence. What you will probably see quite often this season is Bargs working against the opposing team’s centre for a good chunk of the night, which could bring some frustration as he is sure to get pushed around. The good thing for him is that with Bosh and O’Neal working as a tandem, there could be a little more room for him to operate, which should help with those confidence issues we saw last year.

Is this the year we finally see the Raptors pull down some rebounds? I’m a little hesitant to put all of that on one guy, but O’Neal should help in this area. He isn’t a lights out rebounder since his injury problems, but he does play solid D and uses his body to its max, boxing out and pushing opposing players away from the basket, creating easier rebounding opportunities for his teammates. Let’s also hope that his knee will allow him to get up to grab a few extra rebounds, because this is a guy who has averaged a double-double three times in his career. The ability is there, but it all depends on that knee.

Supposedly Chris Bosh is a new man after his summer session with Team USA at the Olympics. He’s training harder and is a leader at practice. Nice of him to decide now that he actually has to show up in practice. Practice? PRACTICE? Yes, Chris, we talkin’ ’bout PRACTICE. Hopefully he will be putting as much effort in on the floor as he has been with his YouTube videos. This town has always been a little tough on Chris regarding his physical strength, but we did see him with a little more aggression last season. It was good to see him throwing down some dunks on people instead of taking jump shots and his defence improved from the start of the season. It will be interesting to see if his D continues to progress now that he has Jermaine working with him.

Although the Raptors are going to be working inside with Chris and Jermaine for most of their possessions, they can’t forget that they have some lethal outside threats, which may be the factor that makes or breaks it for them. Interesting how by creating more of an inside threat, their outside threat may end up being what wins them games, but when you have Chris and Jermaine inside, there is going to be more room for AP and Kapono to get their feet set and fire away (although does Kapono ever really set his feet? The ball is in and out of his hands in a millisecond). We have all seen how easy it is for either one of those guys to get hot, so the Raptors have to make sure that they don’t forget the guys on the perimeter. That being said, the Raptors have lived and died a lot of nights by the 3 (with more dying than living), so we can only hope that they are serious about working down low this season.

5 Teams in 5 Days – Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers are going to be good. As good as everyone is making them out to be? I’m not so sure. The real question is, which team do the Sixers want to be? Do they want to be the run and gun team that won 22 out of its final 34 games last year to get into the playoffs? Do they want to be the half-court bangers, ready to rule inside and take no prisoners? Do they want to be a slash and dash team, using Iggy’s move to SG as a new option? Mo Cheeks is a good coach, so he’ll figure it out, but at what point in the season?

I don’t think you’re going to see the Sixers demonstrate the same kind of speed they did last year down the stretch, because Elton Brand just can’t burn the court like that. That’s not his game and when you drop nearly $80 million (the “Philly Max”) on a guy, most likely, you’re going to find a way to mesh your style of play with his. With Brand, Dalembert and Young in the frontcourt, opposing teams are going to have to get ready inside, because the Sixers could win a lot of games just by dominating the boards. The minor problem is, if you are going to play tough inside, then you have to be able to sink your free throws and the Sixers don’t have a player who shoots over 80% from the line. You might see Young develop more as a player as with the addition of Brand, he is able to get out of the PF position and into the SF slot, giving him the ability to demonstrate some more of his athleticism. But once again, if you are going to be making the high flying moves, you are going to get fouled…and if you are going to get fouled, you had better be able to sink your free throws.

The one thing I’m not sure about is the move of Iggy to SG. There wasn’t really anywhere else for him to go, but the one weakness with the Sixers this season is that they aren’t going to have a real outside threat (although I suppose you could put Donyell Marshall there…but his playing time will be limited), which may leave Igoudala forced to provide it for them. Iggy is 32.9% from 3 and Andre Miller is 8.8%. Kareem Rush is supposed to be one of the answers they are looking towards, so look for him to be one of the first guys off the bench and he WILL be chucking. What kind of effect will the move have on Igoudala’s game? We’ll just have to wait and see (and we won’t have to wait long).

While there seems to be a lot of focus on the Sixers offensive end, I think they are going to do some serious damage on the defensive end. They are long and athletic and while they may not be the biggest team around, they will get tough inside if they have to. Between Dalembert and Brand, you may see a few more blocks in Philly this season and Igoudala can be a beast on D when he wants to.

How They Match Up Against the Raptors

This is a tough question, because are we talking about how the Sixers match up against the new Raptors? With last year’s Raptors, this Sixers team would probably have their way, just because I think they are going to be very strong on the boards. With the addition of O’Neal, you might see the Sixers pushed a little out of their comfort zone on the offensive end, providing more rebounding opportunities for the Raptors on the whole. Overall, the Raptors may be a little more athletic than the Sixers, but it’s really a toss up. Between the Celtics, Raptors and Sixers, the top of the Eastern division is going to be pretty interesting.

A Long Season and a Wide Smile

If you consider Minerva’s wide smile as a representation of the entire history of the universe, then this pre-season cannot even take up a single charged electron hovering within a dimple. But it seems like we’ve experienced enough of it to cover everything that the waxing of her upper lip might have removed. I’m sure she doesn’t require such beautifying measures, but unwanted, bristly follicles stuck in wax, torn away from their life source, and tossed away unceremoniously, pretty much sums up how I feel about this last little bit of time reeled-off within the Raptor’s universe.

Now is the regular season going to be much different? Will time continue to seem to drag on? I think it might. I reached a certain level of boredom last season already, that I never felt before. Coming back home on the subway and seeing young fans slumped in their seats, on the verge of assuming the fetal position, and not expressing sorrow over a disappointing loss, but rather over what might happen in the TJ-Jose saga in the weeks to come, exemplified how the excitement about the team within this community fell off substantially. Personally, I kept anticipating a decent winning streak, and there were tantalizing hints at those developing – but they just never materialized anymore than shapes of unicorns formed in the clouds.

I expect this season to be quite the reverse in many ways. Jose is not only the singular floor-general, but he looks entirely comfortable as a leader on this team. And pre-season ugliness aside, I have to imagine that a lineup with Calderon, Bosh, O’Neal, and Parker, has to be able to create something more than a collection of individuals, and carry this team somewhere this season. When that winning streak finally materializes I am not going to be euphoric. This team should be able to gain enough of an identity that they will be able to systematically tally up one win after another, even if absolutely everything fails to go just right. It might take a little while to get to the point where they have a much wider margin for error, and a lesser tendency to make errors, but I’m thinking that it will happen, and that it will not be something to trigger enormous amounts of dopamine in my brain.

Gone this season will be the whole nail-biting “salami and cheese” moments, along with an announcer that craves giving players nicknames that matchup with his favorite breakfast cereals (Captain Crunch, Golden Grahams, Special K, Snap Crackle and Pape). All of that stuff was getting old already anyhow. It has been all about the playoffs for some time now. Last season just never developed in any way that could ensure success against Orlando, or pretty much anybody else. This season, with Bosh seeing the game through new eyes post-olympics, and as a part of a viable tandem on both ends of the floor, and most importantly – with his good health allowing for proper role definition from CB4 on down – we should all sense a steady path to the playoffs.

But it will likely be a slow, slow, steady path, making the interminable pre-season suddenly seem like a single gleam of light bouncing off of Minerva’s incisors. I might be wrong. The entire regular season might be charged with electricity. Maybe Sarah Palin shows up at the first game in Philly, trying to expand her base beyond hockey moms. And maybe Jose hits a three-pointer to open the scoring, throws up his familiar moose antlers, and the VP-wannabe feels compelled to shoot him in the ass and call out for the materials needed for a proper field-dressing. Maybe it just gets all the more exciting from there on in. Maybe Andrea takes to singing Figaro while driving to the basket and finishing with vicious dunks. Maybe Jamario jumps over Yao. All fun stuff, but not at all necessary to any degree to allow for us to see the season in it’s proper perspective. I’m simply planning to soak it in, game by game, and look to May for the real thrills. And that will not be something easy for me, or any of us I would guess, to settle into just yet. We’ll look for the bedpan at the end of the rainbow, the big weakness on the wings, the lack of depth on the bench, before finally seeing that this team is what it is, and that it might allow for some cautious optimism and a bright future. But there will be no ref to start the clock prematurely, and allow the history of the universe to unravel towards that future any sooner. It’s going to be a long season.

*Courtesy of RaptorsForum member: LX*

5 Teams in 5 Days – New York Knicks

Maybe it’s just me (I certainly hope not), but I just can’t join the big love-in that is going on with D’Antoni heading to New York. Is he a good enough coach that he can adjust his 7 seconds or less offense to suit what he has on hand or is he going to try to force what he has become known for into a team that doesn’t have the tools to handle it? You could argue that the guy who would have best fit into D’Antoni’s run and gun style is now playing for the Nuggets: Renaldo Balkman. Balkman wasn’t lighting up the scoreboard on a regular basis, but the guy could get up and down the court and showed some skills that could have turned him into an effective player given D’Antoni’s style. I guess we’ll never know.

The Knicks brought in Chris Duhon to try to shore things up on the PG front, but let’s be honest, this guy isn’t what people try to make him into. He takes 3’s when there is no need to and when you shoot 34.8% from behind the arc, you had better be getting some good looks. He’s a decent distributor of the ball, but when you have Quentin Richardson and David Lee as part of the tandem finishing for you, don’t look for your assist stats to start flying through the roof.

Speaking of David Lee, he will probably see a lot more minutes under D’Antoni, just because the guy is all about hustle. He can get up and down the court and likes to bang to grab a rebound, so you might see him getting a lot of follow up baskets. This scenario might become quite frequent: Lee gets defensive rebound, outlets to Duhon, hustles down the court, grabs the rebound off a miss and goes right back up. He’s a good free throw shooter at 81.9%, so if he can continue that trend, he might be looking at a career year.

The thing with running an offense that focuses on, well, running, is that you have to have a solid bench and this just isn’t the case in New York. The Knicks bench is a series of kicks in the balls, each one bringing more unbelievable pain than the next. Jared Jeffries. Nate Robinson. Wilson Chandler. Eddy “Pass Me The” Curry, Stephon Marbury. Ouch. If guys are going to come off the court huffing and puffing after running D’Antoni’s offense, they had better not look to the bench to get a rest. There are two guys there who can realistically run in D’Antoni’s offense. Marbury and Robinson. Marbury actually had a lot of success with it in Phoenix when he was there, but is he really interested in playing anymore? And as for Robinson, this guy is a circus act. Sure, he can run, but he’s the type of guy who is going to try to use this offense to create highlight reels for himself and that just isn’t what it is about.

Zach Randolph is likely going to have some kind of blowup at some point during the season and you might even want to keep an eye on that taking place with D’Antoni. D’Antoni wants guys who will hustle and while Randolph puts up good numbers, hustle just isn’t part of his vocab. “Confrontation” is part of his vocab, so get the extinguisher ready for the fires that are sure to come.

The Knicks are going to be better and they may get out to some early leads on teams and then fight to keep that lead come the end of the game, but in the end, they will be better. But while D’Antoni is a good coach, he isn’t a magician and he can’t turn a team half full of bums into the Phoenix Suns.

How They Match Up Against the Raptors

If the Raptors decide to actually guard Jamal Crawford this season, they will take care of the Knicks. But they can’t have episodes of those disastrous nights last season where they made Crawford look like the second coming of Michael Jordan. The good thing about the Raptors this season is that they actually might be a bit tougher, as in stronger with the addition of O’Neal. While O’Neal won’t match up directly against Crawford, don’t think that you will see him walking through the lane for his 30th point without O’Neal reminding him where he is. We have already seen this in the preseason where O’Neal has knocked a few guys around. If the Knicks want to run, they might find that the Raptors can run with them, if not better than them, so it might not work in their favour against Toronto. The key for the Raptors will be staying focused on their game and controlling the pace.