Archive for November, 2008

Game 16: Raps vs. Lakers - Post-game

Believe it or not, I actually saw a couple of things that I liked in tonight’s loss.  Sure, I saw a TON that I didn’t like, but there’s plenty of time for that later.  Good news first, good news first.

We saw another good night from Bargs, who is continuing to use headfakes to lure defenders out and then making his move to the basket.  When the opportunity is there, he is taking the shots that are given to him, but what I like even more is that he is hustling back down the court on transition plays, defensively and offensively.  Tonight, we saw him miss a shot, but then get all the way back down the court for a block on the defensive end.  We didn’t see that kind of hustle or even defensive thinking from Andrea in the past couple of years.

I also liked what I saw from Joey Graham again.  I think we are all waiting for the clock to strike twelve and have him running back home in rags while the chariot turns into a pumpkin, but I’ll definitely take what Joey is doing on the floor right now.  He is using his size to his advantage, protecting the ball when he is driving and going up strong.  There are some drives where I swear he has no real intention other than getting fouled, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  He is making his presence felt and that creates opportunities for his teammates.

I had mentioned earlier that the Raptors were going to need some help, because we couldn’t expect Bosh to continue to put up those kind of numbers, especially against a team that plays as good defense as the Lakers.  It doesn’t even sound right to say that the Lakers are a defensively sound team, but they are and they showed it tonight with how uncomfortable they made Bosh.  Bosh was fading away from the basket, having to adjust shots because of the height he was consistently facing, sometimes shooting over Gasol and Odom at the same time.  You would wonder why when he had that matchup looming over him why he wasn’t passing out of that situation, but it really didn’t look like there was a whole lot of motion going on with his teammates, just a lot of standing around.

So that would be my segue into the negatives from tonight.  Okay, Jose cannot be at 100%.  I say this because when you’re down on the road in LA, with the game in reach, you don’t sit Jose for 4.5 minutes to start the quarter, put him in for a few and then have him sit to end the game.  That didn’t smell right.  Then again, for some reason, Bargnani sat the first 4.5 minutes of the 4th quarter and he was having a pretty solid game, so maybe we’ll just sum that up as another one of Sam’s strange personnel moves.  But for me, I have this strange feeling that either Jose’s hammy is still sore or there is something else wrong with him.  Something just doesn’t seem right.

Maybe it is because Roko doesn’t get that much playing time, but why so often when the Raptors need to bring the ball up the floor is Roko way the hell down by the opposition’s 3 point line?  Tonight, we saw HUMP start bringing the ball up, Kapono had to do it another time and we even saw Bosh dribble out a bit before Roko came back to get the ball.  This can’t be any sort of strategic move, because nobody would ever want Hump or Bosh bringing the ball up the court.  It’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Random thought:  Can somebody explain to me why coming out of the end of a quarter, you have to burn a timeout to inbound the ball to start the 4th quarter?  I mean, really?  Did you not just come out of an extended break?  Kapono looked like a kid who knew he was going to mess his pants and had to get out of class immediately before something bad for everyone happened.  Yikes.  That situation takes me back to one of those little sound bites they ran from Bosh’s interview tonight.  Bosh said that when playing for team USA in the summer, the big thing was how prepared they were.  How people were coming out to see them practice and how it was entertaining, but that it was also guys going hard at each other and making sure they were prepared to win.  When you can’t inbound the ball coming out of the 3rd quarter in a game where you have a chance and one would think that with a little momentum going your way that the other team might press, then you’re not prepared to play and you’re therefore not prepared to win.

Not having JO in the lineup tonight was a surprise, since there was a lot of rumour going around that he was going to play.  You could see the impact that had on the game as the Lakers were able to countlessly walk down the lane untouched for layins and dunks.  The Raptors have to realize that even though they don’t have JO in the lineup, that doesn’t mean that they can’t play tough down the middle.  There’s no reason for Farmar to be walking through your lane for a layup.  It’s embarrassing. 

You know how in those mob movies, some dude always gets driven out into the middle of nowhere and is then shot in the woods?  I’m not saying Sam is going to get fired on this road trip, because it really wouldn’t make any sense since he is without JO, has Jose running suspect, is facing some of the better (and best) teams the league, but damn, if I were heading out on a road trip right now and I was Sam, I’d be looking over my shoulder.

Run Joey Run

I can hear David Geddes’ song in my head, but with the lyrics changed slightly.

Sam please don’t
It wasn’t his fault
He means so much to me
Sam please don’t
We’re gonna get better
Just you wait and see

Every night, the same old dream
I hate to close my eyes
I can’t erase the memory
The sound of Sam’s loud cry

Run, Joey run, Joey run, Joey run, Joey run, Joey run, Joey ruuuuuunn!!! (ad infinitum)

Now the question remains - can the dream and the song come to an end and leave us all feeling like we’re only one more player away from something really special here?  Can Joey keep that motor running as he heads out on the highway looking for adventure - whoa… let’s toss the iPod into a ditch already.

The real question is whether Joey’s recent performances mark any significant change in how he plays the game.  Did a light go on?  I’ll spare you the Debbie Boone and say that maybe the biggest thing that has happened has been the ability to play off of what his teammates are doing, thanks to a noticeable number of them doing some of the little things that can make them all look better in the long run.

If I remember correctly, Joey came into the Charlotte game last week, and started off by scoring on a nice put-back.  But that doesn’t happen if Jose doesn’t wait for Joey to get into good rebounding position before taking his long-range shot, something that hasn’t always happened in the past.  That was followed up by Bosh doing a terrific job of attracting the defense in the lane as Joey received the ball at the top of the key and made one of his spectacular dunks while breezing by Bosh and the two defenders that were pinned down in the post.

In the next game against Atlanta we saw Joey do the very same sort of pinning down of defenders and clearing the lane for Bosh.  And the attention that Joey was receiving at that point, was set up by another brilliant tip-in that again relied on the shooter timing his shot correctly.  For the moment it appears that Joey’s energy is being nicely harnessed, rather than just allowed to float off into the ether.  And it’s the little things that he is doing, along with the guys around him that makes it possible for all his pistons to be firing at once.

Look at some of the nice picks set by Bargnani this season.  Look at how much more Bosh is doing besides putting up numbers.  Look at the effort that guys like Jose and Kapono are putting out defensively where little is expected of them in terms of their abilities.  And all that stuff catches a little bit of energy that guys like Joey bring to any game, and it makes it work for everybody.

In the past, Joey has had a lot of ups and downs, but so did the players around him.  This team is a little older, more experienced, and more aware of each other.  So if this season works out well for Joey Graham, it should be a testament for patience on the part of Colangelo and Mitchell.  They thought that not making too many changes over the last couple of seasons would prove fruitful, when fans were generally screaming for blowing the roster up in a hundred different ways.  Time can prove to be one of the most useful tools in the NBA, if for nothing more than to get the kind of timing that we are seeing with these guys right now - the kind of timing that makes everyone on the court a more effective player.  It’s the kind of thing that has been missing in the losses, when there was too much reliance on Jermaine and Bosh and Jose doing all the big things.  

I’m hoping that Joey’s emergence, and the two wins that came with it, will close off that whole way of thinking for good.  It’s got to be the little things that lead to bigger things.  If Humphries accepts his pass while open in the post and the Raptors up by 18 against the Nets, and goes hard and strong to the basket instead of slowly turning and lazily laying up a shot that gets blocked to start what some thought was going to be the beginning of the end of the franchise, well then who knows what kinds of expectations might be built up by now.  Too many role players concerned themselves with not messing up what the stars were doing, including Joey, in short stints where his hands seemed to repel the ball into the hands of opposing teams.  Now we finally seem to have role players being role players, but with some certainty that they are all doing the little things together.  Run Joey Run indeed.

Tim Hortons & The Raptors

Okay, so I’m a marketing guy.  I used to be on the creative side, coming up with media campaigns, designing creative, etc.  Now I’m more on the analytical side.  Anyway, with the holidays approaching and the current economic state the world is in, I was thinking that a lot of charities may suffer for the next little while as people might not have as much to donate.  Layoffs are appearing in the news every day and many of those who are still employed are nervously watching the markets.

I have no connection to the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation, but from all accounts, the camps that they run for kids are top notch.  I’m not really a coffee drinker and I never went to camp, but whenever there’s a Camp Day at Tim’s, I make sure I get a couple of coffees that day and stick some money in the drop box by the register.

So I was thinking, knowing that they may not receive as many donations this year (from private and personal donors), why don’t the Raptors and Tim Hortons hook up on a “Double-double” promotion?  Every time one of the Raptors scores a double-double (for our non-Canadian readers, a “double-double” is 2 sugars and 2 creams in your coffee), the Raptors could donate a fixed amount of money to the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation.  The Raptos (MLSE) might say that they may also be feeling the pinch because of the weakening Canadian dollar, the stronger push they might have to make for ticket sales, but in the end, it’s a write-off and it would be a great community builder.  Tim Hortons already has an established relationship with the Leafs (and six other NHL teams), so MLSE already has the relationship in place.  Kind of seems like a no-brainer to me.

There are multiple ways this could be spun off too.  In addition to the Sprite Zone at the ACC, why not create a section that for a couple of nights a season, could be the “Tim Hortons Double-Double Zone”?  Then, you could have a lot of kids who don’t get a chance to see a live Raptors game, able to take in the action.  From the completely selfish business side of it, you would be growing your brand and possibly creating an attachment that could later lead to ticket sales when those young people whom you have invested in realize their potential and become successful business people.  From the community building standpoint, if you have ever seen a kid jump out of his seat when he sees his first live dunk, it’s a hilarious, entertaining and heart-warming thing to see.  Tim Hortons could also hand out some swag to the kids just for going to the game, but some additional stuff could be thrown in if anybody on the Raptors gets a double-double that night.

Anyway, it’s just a thought I had and since I don’t work on that side of the business anymore, I am going to leave it up to Tim Hortons and the Raptors (MLSE) to see if they can pick up the ball on this one.   I’m going to go stare at my Christmas tree now, which I just set up today.

Game 16: Raps vs. Lakers - Pre-Game

Sorry for not dropping a post-game report for the Hawks game Friday night, but I essentially got Doug Christied that night.  We’ve all been there before.  Anyway, on to the Lakers.

Last year, early in the season, the Celtics looked like the champs.  Everybody was saying that the Celtics were the team to beat, that they were the lock for the championship.  They had a little bit of a rocky ride in the playoffs, but during the regular season, it was pretty much as nice and smooth as a team could hope.  This year, if you aren’t talking about the Lakers in the same vein as you did the Celtics last year, then you have to be a little crazy.  I would venture to say that the Lakers this season are even a little scarier than the Celtics were last season.

The thing that makes the Lakers scary this season isn’t the fact that they are 13-1 and have won 6 straight (well, that’s scary in itself, but I’m talking about what makes them additionally scary), it’s that they have Andrew Bynum back in the mix.  Remember, when the Lakers were bounced last season against the Celtics, Bynum was on the bench, missing a good chunk of the season from his dislocated kneecap and he was in a serious breakout year.  With Bynum tough on the boards and bringing good size to the floor, Kobe being Kobe and Gasol almost averaging a double-double, that’s a pretty scary thing to start thinking about.  You might argue that Vujacic has as quick of a release as Kapono (although both of them seem to come out of nowhere some games…let’s hope Sasha decides to sleep in this one).  It’s a tough lineup.

The other thing that makes the Lakers scary is that they’re just not out there putting up points (although they do lead the league in that category, so watch out); they can play some D too, currently ranked 8th in points allowed.  You can attribute some of that to Bynum and his presence in the middle, as he has been able to change a lot of shots, just like JO has done in Toronto for the Raptors.  The game is a whole lot different when the middle gets clogged up.  When the lane doesn’t get clogged, you have players who end up, I don’t know, scoring 81 points. 

I don’t think we have to worry about Kobe scoring 81 points against the Raptors on Sunday, but not because the Raptors are a good defensive team, because they’re not.  We don’t have to worry about that happening again, because before it even got to 60, JO would take off his brace and beat Kobe with it before he had himself or his team embarrassed like that.  We should all assume that JO will be back in the lineup against the Lakers, but we can also assume that the Lakers are going to challenge JO early and try to get him on the bench.  They know that this is his first game back in and they also know that when he isn’t in the lineup, there are some gaping holes in the middle of the court.

It will be interesting to see how Bosh performs.  He has been having an MVP season, but these are the kind of games where you can really take a look at where you are as a team right now.  You will have your regular starting lineup back together, you have won a couple of games and you have been playing consistent ball.  Is that enough for Bosh to keep going and try to get the game down to the final play, asking for the ball in his hands?  We’ll see.

3 in the Key

1. JO has to stay out of foul trouble if the Raptors want to have a chance.

2. Raptors bench is going to have to step up.  After a nice appearance by Kapooooh-no and Gatorade Graham, the Raptors are going to need a repeat, as they can’t expect Bosh to carry the team again.

3. Transition D will be important.  Kobe can get down the court for open dunks better than anybody in the league and Bynum is Gasol can run the floor for a big man.  The Raptors will have to get back and get set or they’ll be sinking fast.

Game 15: Raps vs. Hawks - Pre-game

Well, if there’s one thing you can say about the Hawks this season, it’s that they are a little streaky.  So far this year, they have seen a 6 game winning streak to start the season, then a 4 game losing skid bringing them back to Earth, but now they have won 3 of their last 4.  Here’s hoping that it’s time to go skidding in the opposite direction again.

The thing about the Hawks is that they are pretty much middle of the pack in most of the statistical categories, except from behind the arc, where they lead the league in 3 point percentage with 42.6%.  Ahead of Portland and your beloved Raptors.  Bibby and Johnson are proving to be legit consistent threats from downtown, so the Raptors will have to be sure to try to get them to put the ball on the floor, although they will need guys to help or else Bibby will have a field day.

As we mentioned earlier, the Raptors have a western road trip coming up after this game and it would be nice to see them head out on that trip with a win, but this isn’t going to be an easy one.  The Hawks are playing good basketball and we all saw last year in the playoffs what they are capable of.

The Raptors are going to have to give Bosh a little more help against the Hawks, because they can’t expect him to carry them every night.  I think Bosh played about 45 minutes against the Bobcats, which just shouldn’t be happening.  You’ll start to get jelly legs at the end of games on the west coast if you are running out 45 minute nights and the Raptors certainly don’t need things to be any less light on their bench.

I think this is another game where you sit JO in order to get him ready for the west coast road trip.  If the Raptors are able to play off the fan enthusiasm, they might be able to get a lead and then see what they can do with it (read: blow it).  With some of the young and athletic players on the Hawks, there will be a lot of opportunities for blocks and I don’t know if I want JO feasting on blocks right now when he is still sore (apparently the ankle is worse than the knee).  If you land on a sore ankle, there is a chance you will roll and then there goes your knee.

Will the Raptors be able to make the youth and enthusiasm of the Hawks?  Are they going to be able to keep up or are we going to see some guys pulling at the ends of their shorts by the 3rd quarter?  I guess we’ll have to tune in to see.

3 in the Key

1. Avoid trying to run all night with the Hawks.  Slow it down and run the offense.  Hold on…the Raptors  have no plays.  Okay, slow it down and wait for nature to happen.

2. Force Bibby and Johnson to put the ball on the floor, but remember to get help in the lane.

3. Don’t be afraid to get a little tough with the Hawks.  Thump and Bump!

2008 Turkeys of the Year

Turkey's of the Year

Presenting the 2008 Turkeys of the Year

Gilbert Arenas

Agent Zero

He is qualified in many ways to be on this list:

- His stupid blog

- getting overpaid, is he really worth a MAX contract? You could also say the Wiz owner is a turkey

- for cheating on Halo 3. Arenas had his XBL profile looked up through bungie.net and was caught boosting. He joins a game with other XBL accounts and then quits them to boost XP.

- He’s scared of playing basketball. Arenas said. “If I come back in January — that’s about 20, 25 games we counted — when do we say it’s okay? If we’re 15 games out, how hard is it to come back from that? It might depend on who is in the eighth spot at the time and what our record is.”
He mentioned something else about using this year to get someone high in the Draft, similar to what happened to San Antonio when David Robinson got hurt and they picked Tim Duncan.

- One thing I don’t care for are frontrunners. And Gilbert Arenas, who is a headcase and occasional asshole, that I still liked did the worse thing imaginable. He became a frontrunner after saying he didn’t support McCain or Obama. Now he’s got Obama tattoos on his hand and Obama & family murals in his house. Disgusting.

Stephon Marbury

Starbury

Pointless media day rants and all, he said he’s always been a good teammate but this offseason Crawford said the team didn’t even know why he was on the team, maybe that’s why the flew to pre-season camp, they didn’t want to stay with him on the bus for hours.
People hate Marbury because of his attitude and because he is one of the biggest reasons for the Knicks problems.

He was a poison to any team he has been on in his career, even though some of the teams he has been on have been good. He has had feuds with Larry Brown, Isiah Thomas and he is “the most reviled athlete in New York.”

WWE superstar Montel Vontavious Porter said in an interview that he based his wrestling persona on Marbury. M.V.P. said he had an encounter with Marbury when he was a doorman at a club.

Eddy Curry

Eddy

Curry showed up to training camp in October 2008 out of shape for the second year in a row, more than 300 pounds, incensing new head coach Mike D’Antoni. Curry has not only lost his job, but was not even in D’Antoni’s rotation at the beginning of the 2008–2009 season.

Mark Cuban

Cuban doin' his thang

Hey, we’re all innocent until proven otherwise, and nobody’s laid a thing on the high-rolling, outspoken owner of the Dallas Mavericks just yet. But these insider trading charges against Cuban, who’s making a bid to buy the Cubs? They aren’t making him look any more loveable.

Kevin Garnett

KG

He was a class act in the NBA before he came to the Celtics. Now he picks on little white players.

Shaquille O’Neal

Shaq

It’s OK to admit that the Big Goof is amusing sometimes. He can be, in his own way, kind of charmingly churlish. In an impromptu late-night rap in June, Shaq took to the mic and asked, in a fractured rhyme, “Kobe, tell me how my ass taste?” Don’t know what it means. Don’t want to.

Clay Bennett

This is for moving a team that has been in Seattle for 41 years and taking away a rivalry with Portland. The move made no economic sense for the NBA but David Stern was aboard. Seattle has four times the population of Oklahoma and is a top 10 city in terms of businesses and per capita income. Bennett is also responsible for the worst name and logo int he league.

Drew Gooden

He obviously didn’t get the memo that the beard growing contest with Stevensen was over. Is that tentacle trying to grab Deng’s tongue?

Gooden

Anderson Varejao

“Side-Show Bob” and his hairstyle that hasn’t been updated since the first Simpson episode. Easy choice for this list.

Sideshow Bob

Memphis free-throw shooters

It’s amazing, really, that the Tigers made it all the way to the NCAA title game in April shooting freebies the way that they did. They ranked 339th of 341 teams. Against Kansas, things finally caught up to them. Ahead by six with 1:23 left, they bricked four straight FTs, then lost in OT.

Short Shorts

Retro Shorts

*Blog Entry courtesy of Raptors Forum member TO2988*

Game 14: Raps vs. Bobcats - Post-game

Well, everything worked out as planned.  JO didn’t play, the Raptors won and well, nobody else got hurt.  The only thing that bothered me about tonight’s win was how the Raptors were one bucket away from blowing the whole thing.  They let another double digit lead fade down to a single point lead and as they did, I could feel myself gripping my Coors Light (sorry, no MGD right now) a little tighter and I actually started to pull the garbage together early for once, a fitting metaphor for what was taking place on screen.

The Raptors were actually a bit lucky down the stretch and it’s good that we have been discussing the calls (or lack thereof) that Bargs gets, because man, the refs let a juicy one go on him when Wallace was driving for a dunk.  The replay clearly showed Bargs getting a lot of body on him when they were both in the air and there should have been a foul called.  I’m not saying that Bargs is good enough to get calls, I guess he just got lucky there. 

I’ve been talking a lot lately about Barg’s progress this season and with good reason.  We saw an additional part of his game tonight, where he didn’t really have things going on the offensive end, but he picked himself up by rebounding and playing some surprisingly good D.  He’s never going to have the fastest feet on D, but he is continually getting himself positioned properly so that he can make the most out of what he has.  I also like the fact that he isn’t afraid to take a charge or two and has thrown himself in there when he has seen the opportunity.

It is too bad that Okafor stuck his hand through the bottom of the basket, because Joey was going to have a serious highlight there.  Okafor was about to get crowned and would have been on every sports update tonight as he is supposedly a defensive presence.  It’s good to see Joey jumping at the opportunity he is getting right now, but we’ve seen this before.  Cue up the stinker game next time he gets in.  Will we see another Gatorade Graham stat line? The infamous wall of holes?  0-0-0-0-0-0?  I sure hope not, I think he really can be a valuable piece, but Joey and consistency just aren’t good friends.  Consistency just doesn’t like him like that.  Consistency just walks in, has a night with him and then comes back later.

So now the Hawks.  This should be interesting.  Does JO play?  I say no, keep him out until the west coast trip, but we’ll talk about that a bit in the next game preview.

Game 14: Raps vs. Bobcats - Pre-Game

Well, I usually don’t say this very often, but the Raptors really need this game.  Not in the sense that it will have any big playoff implications or that it is going to make everybody comfortable again, no, this is a game that the Raptors need just to steady the ship and buy them a little bit of time.

This is a game where we shouldn’t see JO, even though there is a lot of talk about him returning to the lineup.  Good on JO for wanting to play, I’m starting to like him more and more, but this is where your medical staff have to step in and make a decision.  Even more than that, management has to protect their investment and keep JO out of this game.  If the Raptors can’t beat the Bobcats without JO, then there are some serious questions that need to be answered (cue me trying to answer some serious questions after the game).

I happened to be watching CP24 the other night and saw that the Raptors were at the Kiehls store, trying the different lotions and stuff.  It just kind of seemed completely appropriate.  Jason Kapono made an absolute fool out of himself, but that’s okay, because it has really become more of an MO for him.    I don’t really have anything more to say on that, because I suppose they were there for a good cause, but God, the timing couldn’t have been any more priceless.  Make sure those hands are soft boys!

There’s a west coast trip coming up soon and it would be nice for the Raptors to pick up a couple of W’s over Charlotte and the Hawks, who have been coming back to Earth after their great start to the season. There’s nothing like a little upswing heading into a road trip and for the Raptors, it might start right now.

3 in the Key

1. Get out early and run.  Build up a lead and this time, yes, this time they should be able to hold it.

2. Turnovers need to be minimized.  The Bobcats aren’t going to generate a lot of their own chances, so don’t give them any extra ones.

3. Don’t play JO.

A Kick in the Nuts

 

That game against the Nets just plain hurt. It would be hard to come up with a more painful scenario for a Raptor fan. If they had just simply lost the game it would be one thing; but to have victory against Vince in the bag, only to see it turn into a coin toss in OT after losing the big lead, as well as losing Jermaine to injury, and then just blowing the 7-point lead with so little time left, only to then see them show some ability to recover all the same, but giving up a highlight reel dunk at the very end, to go along with the VC histrionics already burnt into our retinas at the end of regulation - that just hurt so perfectly bad. Still - that’s what great games are made of. And somebody has to lose great games and shit games alike. In a way, getting caught up in the moment hurt so good, as a young John Mellencamp might put it. It got the blood flowing. It offered a reminder of what makes the NBA so much fun. The real unbearable pain comes when you see that the game was not lost with the boobs who could not inbound the ball to an open 7-footer, or call a timeout in an obvious timeout situation, or hit a clutch freethrow. The game was lost, like so many, with porous perimeter defense. The next game against Boston just continued the trend.

Jermaine O’Neal has helped close the door on opposing players that fly into the paint on constant blowbys. He has helped enough that some teams have become hesitant to drive and they shoot instead. There is no doubt in my mind that the team is headed in the right direction as long as O’Neal is able to stand in there and provide leadership on defense. But when he is not in there the team is headed in the wrong direction. The overall balance just isn’t there, and I have to blame Colangelo for not making it possible to truly capitalize on what Jermaine brings to the team.

The problems are nothing new. Go back to last season and you will see the same problems when only one of our main point guards was available. The combination of Ford and Calderon allowed for both guys to extend themselves on defense, at least for some good stretches, and still have something left for the fourth quarter. But with one of them out of the equation, the defense became a problem that had to be fixed by slowing down the pace of the game, doubling too much, and helping too much, all game long. It effected the offense, in the sense that any shot that was slightly questionable could lead to another transition opportunity that too many tired legs were not going to stop. It effected the rebounding, as so many attempts to recover defensive position or provide help, left mismatches and guys just out of good rebounding preparedness. Again JO has offered a much greater margin for error, and has shown how much better Bosh and Bargnani can be used on both ends of the floor. Now just imagine what this team would be like with real perimeter defense.

Colangelo made up his mind to trade TJ and keep Jose without hesitation. But he should have thought about trading them both. The point could have been manned by at least one solid, durable, and tough guy, if not two. And we could have added another good, durable defender on the wings as well. He even could have likely added from there. Notice the word durable. If TJ was thought to be injury prone, then Jose certainly has to be in a similar class. And his injuries tend to come from no contact. He had a bad spleen or something while in Europe. Then there was the bad heel that plagued him as a rookie, Then he was taken off on a stretcher when he got himself twisted up the wrong way all on his own. Then he killed his ankle in the playoffs by just coming down the court and stopping. Then he hurt his groin in the summer olympics, followed by a hamstring pull not long after, and neither time did there seem to be any physical strain applied by another body. He avoids all contact as much as anybody on the team. And any opposing team’s gameplan appears to be all about working him physically by running him ragged, setting screens which he is invariably poor at running through, running by him whenever possible, and running over him when the opportunity arises. How did Colangelo think he was going to survive an entire season like that?

I thought from the start that this team needed to find a gritty defender in one of Adams, Solomon, Moon, or Graham. That’s a pretty tall order, but out of four guys desperate to stick in the league it seemed possible. I thought it was most important, and possible, that Will Solomon could and would be a strong defender that Sam could throw out there when Jose started looking all too slow and frail. But now we hear Gherardini explain, as reported by the Star, that since Will was a star in Europe, he was excused for poor defense and even encouraged in that vein, so as to not pick up fouls. So they knew going in that defense was going to be a challenge for this guy. And not having that additional defensive support on the perimeter in place just wasted everything that was gained in the TJ Ford trade.

You want a new coach in here to make things better? That is starting to be understandable to some degree, and might become more understandable if losses mount up. And I can’t really stand by Sam so much, because he helped put this team together along with Colangelo, and no it doesn’t work to just make excuses for him based on the personnel he’s been handed. But I have to wonder what kind of coach is going to look at such an unacceptable situation and eagerly dive in? What kind of a coach is going to put themselves at such a disadvantage every night and ask his players to make up for it? I think that Sam will end up being that coach, having helped paint himself into a corner, and maybe he can pull off a way to minimize those perimeter deficits. Or the injuries will just put the team in the tank anyways. The season is still young so who knows? But I think about the difference one tough, durable defender or two could have made to this team, and I drool.

Did Lawrence Frank simply out-coached our guy Mitchell? Look back at last season when he faced us without Jason Kidd or Devin Harris. Was he out-coached by Sam then? Did his players just give up on his gameplan and hand over an embarrassing loss where they didn’t even compete, in the same way that some think might have been done here in the game against Boston? Would Frank get out-coached if he was unable to take Yi out of the game? Or would it only be a sign of not having the necessary options available?

Toronto fans wanted their Golden Ocho, and Colangelo made him his guy moving forward, all the while surely knowing the risks of falling backwards without filling out the roster properly around Calderon. And instead of providing the necessary support, he gave us a Eurostar with bad habits, and a caste of characters on the verge of leaving the stage entirely. Now that is a kick in the nuts that surpasses anything Vince Carter can dish out.

Game 13 - Raps vs. Celtics - Post-game

U-G-L-Y Raptors got no alibi, THEY UGLY! Well, it ended up prettt much how we thought it was going to although apparently Matt Devlin was disillusioned enough to think that it was going to be different. At one point in the game, when the Raptors were down 18, did Matt Devlin really say, “Well, this isn’t shaping up like I thought it would.” What? After that display on Friday and having JO ridiculously inserted into the lineup (have to question the coaching staff AND the trainers on that one), there was no way the Raptors were going to walk in and do anything today.

But let’s start with JO. Kudos to him for fighting through pain and wanting to play in a game against a big time team, especially since he used to get a lot of flack for being soft when it came to his injuries in Indiana. But you have to wonder what the Raptors were thinking by actually inserting him in the lineup today. At best, he was going to be at about 50% on that knee. Knowing going into the game that there was no structural damage to the knee, but that there was a strain, JO should not have been playing today. You know going into a game with the Celtics, JO is going to have to bang with Perkins and KG, which is no easy feat when you are 100%. So when you are out there on a sore knee, you have had serious knee problems in the past, you are sporting a brace, and don’t have another game until Wednesday against the BOBCATS (who are undersized up front and are generally soft), you have to wonder what the point was in starting JO today. Weigh the options, take a long look at your season and you division and then tell me that it was a good decision to start JO today. I mean, if you don’t take part in the pre-game warmups and essentially stay in the locker room until it’s go-time, then it shouldn’t be go-time. Shut it down, come back stronger another day. Raptors, PROTECT YOUR INVESTMENTS.

Growing up, I was always told that actions speak louder than words. Cut to image: Sam on a timeout, talking to 4 out of 5 guys on the floor, with the team leader, Chris Bosh, not listening to a word Sam’s saying, away from the group. Leo summed it up saying that if they weren’t going to get him any touches, then why should he be in there listening to the play that was being drawn up, but to put it that way made it look childish on Bosh’s part. There may be some validity in that, but I think Bosh was making a very clear statement to anybody in a position of authority at that point. I read that as Bosh saying, “There’s no point in me listening to what you are drawing up, because you couldn’t draw lottery numbers out of a bag.” Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I don’t think Sam has a lot of support coming from his franchise player right now.

Seriously, what is going on with Jose on D? Maybe his hammy isn’t that strong right now, because he is getting continually exposed on D. Sure, Rajon Rondo’s quick, but he’s not quick enough that he should be making Jose look that bad with the same move every time down the court. Given, there should have been some support sliding in behind him after Rondo got the corner on him, but should Rondo be gaining the corner that easily? When I spent much of the past few years defending TJ Ford, I talked about his ability to defend from the PG position. I think we’re seeing a bit of what I was talking about now. Jose has a lot of positives and Raptor fans are always quick to highlight them, but right now, his D is terrible.

There were two plays today that made me really happy and it actually neither of them ended well for the Raptors. Both plays were by Bargs. In the first, he put the ball on the floor and got around KG, but when he tried to throw it down, Perkins stuffed it right back down his throat. I love the fact that with those two guys in front of him, Andrea didn’t hesitate to attack. He’s not as strong as either of those guys, but he tried to use some athleticism to get to the rim and at least draw the foul (there was some contact, but I think the refs got it right by calling a straight up block). The next time Andrea got the ball, he once again put it on the floor as on a switch, he had Rondo on him. He started to drive, but when Rondo planted his feet, Andrea stopped and popped a nice J that just fell short. What I liked about that play is that he recognized the opportunity and actually had Rondo backing up on him, but he also recognized when the lane was closing, support was coming in behind Rondo and he could use his height advantage to take the jumper. That’s significant progress from before, when if he actually put the ball on the floor, he would just charge right ahead and pick up the offensive foul.

So, after the past two games, one could say that the Raptors are stumbling. Actually, one could say that even before the past two games, but I think we have seen a lot of things exposed lately. You only have to wonder how long things go before some sort of change is made. I don’t know if the Raptors go into the New Year looking exactly as they do right now.

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