Archive for October, 2010

Claw Marks: battle of the underwhelming

The RF Forum did not have too much to say about that game against Cleveland. There was some debate as to whether Kleiza or Bargnani had a better game. And whether it was right or wrong to not dribble out the clock, along with a few some thoughts on what appeared to be a good many empty seats. If we can find so little to disect for another 80 games we’re laughing.

Mr. Mxyzptlk

nice win against what was essentially a D-League squad tonight


Great game. And the player of the game is Reggie Evans, no questions about it. I loved this guy’s energy. While he didn’t score more points than Kleiza, Bargnani and Barbosa, he did a lot of things that led to the win.

1. Obviously his 14 rebounds. The offensive rebounds allowed many more points, since we did a good time today on scoring on second chances. By the way, funny going back to that poll of what happens first, the 14 rebounds occured on the first 2 games.
2. His defence. He frustrated Jameson, who did not get to shoot too many shots in the first half. He also completely neutralized JJ Hickson. Cleveland couldn’t recover when Evans got him into early foul trouble. Evans got several steals and knocked several balls away, leading to many fast-break opportunities.

And a final thought about Barbosa. I love this guy on the fast break. I think he can fit in well with the Young Onez on the break. With his natural speed and his experience on the Suns, I think he’s the best Raptor we had on the fast break since Shawn Marion.


WTF is wrong with Jose’s shot?
He’s 2-13 in the first two games. Is it just confidence?

RaptorsandBuckeye FaN

It has to be confidence you would think. That is usually what it is for most shooters. Jose just looks bad and hopefully he gets it right soon.


Damn I missed most parts of this game… saw Kleiza drop 13 pts in the 3rd quarter… seemed like he made that with the flow of the game and didn’t force things.

Is Kleiza one of the most efficient guys on the team? I mean Bargnani gets the ball every possession and barely scores more points? Maybe Kleiza should get it more in the post? Thats his strength as a SF.


It’s only been two games. It takes longer than that to figure out if something will work well or poorly over the course of season.

Last night Bargs shot 7 for 13 and scored 20 points. Kleiza shot 7 for 15 and scored 19. Bargs was actually more efficient last night, even if it is hard to believe. I think both guys need their touches. But given Bargnani’s tendency to lose focus when ignored, I really think it is important to establish him early. Based on what Raptor fans saw last year, when Bargnani scores some points early, he gets a little more energized.


That was the first and probably only live game of the season for me so i am very happy i got to witness a thrashing. Great game all around really from pretty much everyone. Kleiza was a force in that third, Bargnani was very effective too. I don’t really care about who was better or more efficient as they both played excellent and in the end i cheer for the team not the player. Barg’s defense in person was actually rather good, actually same could be said for Jose. While a couple times he got rather handily beat, i would say he did his job nicely for the bulk of his minutes. In general i thought he ran the team really well whereas Jack was a bit sloppy out there. No worries though it was one game and in no way do i want to change the starting lineup. Jose’s got to find his shot though. Guy is in a horrible shooting slump now. It was also good to see Amir have a nice game after a shit outing on Wednesday.


Reggie Evans = New face of the franchise?
Now before you start laughing your asses off think about it!….. Is there a player on this team who energizes the crowd and epitomizes this new “gritty, blue-collar” team more than Reggie?
Bargnani is a sham and shows about as much emotion as a shoe.

DD just isn’t ready.

And I’m not sure that Kleiza or Barbosa would fill that role either….

… but in a “hockey city” that has a long-standing love affair with maximum-effort players?

Reggie Evans may just be that perfect fit for us until we find our next stud.


RF forum digs in post-game: first blood


I’m going to blame the loss on the team’s inconsistent play in the first quarter. That was the only quarter we lost. I know we were outscored by 3 in the final quarter, but that doesn’t count in my books because of the intentional fouls to get New York to the line. Effort for 48 minutes. Didn’t happen last year, didn’t happen today. We’re in for a long season if this doesn’t change.

The other key moment was allowing Wilson Chandler to go off. What the hell was Triano thinking? He’s usually good at the tactical stuff, but if I were him, I’d sub Bargnani?in the game because Evans/Andersen can not go up against smaller players. At the very least they would have to switch Chandler back to the 3, and the rotations would be even again.

Dark Knight:

Ah you win some, you lose a lot.


Young Onez…
Please stop making youtube videos and hit the gym.


not liking a lot of things.

Not liking Barbosa’s chucking.
not liking lack of team play. lots of guys just trying to do it themselves instead of passing.
not liking shabby rebounding by guys not named Reggie Evans.
Not liking not enough floor time for Derozan.
REALLY not liking that contract to Amir.

Loving Reggie Evans though.

Mr. Mxyzptlk:

what i find most distressing about this loss is that both teams are basically bottom feeders in the East..yet the Raps still couldn’t put up a W on the board despite having home court on opening night

going to be a long fucking year to be a Raptors fan


On the plus side we forced Amare Stoudemire to have 9 turnovers.


Well I think we’ve won our first game of the season for I think 3-4 years in a row. And we still ended up being bad. So I’m not taking much out of the first game of the season. At least we don’t start getting false hope.


I felt Barbosa was left out there WAAAAAY too long. Why go small with an injured Barbosa when Kleiza is sitting on the bench?


I’m surprised at how bummed people are!

I thought that was a really exciting game, I loved every second of it.

This team gave you 100%, lots of positives. You guys are focussing on the negatives and man, of COURSE there are lots of those. Have you seen the roster?

You are expecting guys who aren’t great to play WAY above themselves. Taper the expectations, just look for development.

My biggest positive was seeing Demar attack the basket looking for contact! We need guys like that now and later…starter or 6th man? Who gives a shit?

Thriller’s Previews of a Whole Bunch of Games

October 27th Preview:

26 of a possible 30 teams are playing tonight(league pass ftw tonight), here are the matchups:

MIA@PHI 7 PM- MIA is coming off a back to back where they got shown they cant be there game 1 like Boston was when they first got their big 3. It’s obviously going to take some time and it hurt they were missing Chalmers and Miller especially last night. Chalmers is likely to be back tonight in a backup role…why Arroyo is starting nobody knows. The Heat need to start House or Chalmers to spread the floor as shown in last nights 1st qtr. In any case, expect Bosh and Wade to have monster games and for this to be a blowout by the mid 3rd qtr. They’ll show how scary they can be tonight.

BOS@CLE 7PM- The Cavs are going to have to come out blazing from the outside and pound the offensive glass to have a chance in this one. They do have the fact Bostons on a back to back and it’s their season opener so it should be sold out and loud on their side. Should be a close game throughout with Boston puling away late. JJ Hickson watch is on!!!

DET@NJ 7PM-Both teams arent very good, the only thing to really look out for is Brook Lopez’ progression and how NJ looks as a unit, because they do have some decent pieces this year, but really their season relies on Brook turning into a top level player…but it’ll obviously help if his supporting cast proves they can produce in a bigger role(Morrow/Outlaw starting, Farmar/Williams off bench). For the Pistons watch for Austin Daye and his progression as he’s starting at PF now, not Charlie.

SAC@MIN 8PM- One of the things I’m most looking forward to this year is seeing where Tyrekes game goes from his amazing rookie season of 20 5 and 5. Hes got all the skills and tools to become the next superstar, and his team improved in the offseason around him. The Kings could surprise a lot of teams this year with their very good young players and overall depth. For Minnesota, look for Kevin Love to become the focal point, and possibly lead the league in rebounds in a starting role.

ATL@MEM 8PM- Probably the 2nd best game of the night. Will MEM be able to bring it all together this year with their incredibly strong starting 5? They have all the makings of being the next great young team, but its just a matter of chemistry and D now. And for ATL theyll be displaying their motion offence, but we’ll see how long that lasts until it becomes ISO JJ every possession again. This and the next game I’m going to talk about will be the games I turn to with my friends during Raptors game commercials/halftime:

CHI@OKC 8 PM ESPN- Game of the night. Durant vs a healthy Deng should be a very exciting matchup to watch as Deng is a very good defender. Rose vs Westbrook is definately the matchup of the night. The Thunder need to show progression with their halfcourt game if they want to do anything big this year. Without Boozer its hard to see CHI winning this one barring miracle games from Rose and Noah. I’m interested to see who starts at C for OKC, as Aldrich had a terrible pre season and Krstic apparently has a shoulder injury. And also how the Rose/Brewer backcourt works on offence with limited spacing(though Deng looks like he improved his 3 pt shot bigtime judging from pre season). Ibaka needs to turn into the smaller Mutombo for them this year for them to seriously contend with the team as constructed. They’re gonna have to trade Green eventually though.

MIL@NOH 8PM-One of the more intriguing things going in to game 1 for me was seeing how the hell Skiles is going to make Jennings/Salmons/Maggette work. Will he start both Salmons/Maggette, or balance out his lineup with Delfino in the starting 5, and will that cause bad things in the locker room and on the court for the player who goes to a bench role. For NOH, they’re living on a prayer for the playoffs this year that involves Marcus Thornton turning into one of the better sgs in the league and Bayless breaking out off the bench, and obviously Paul playing like God. Crazy how Thornton lost his starting spot after having such a great rookie year. Decent game to watch in surfing.

CHA@DAL 8:30 PM- Dallas is going to start off the year with a slight change to the starting 5, with Terry starting, and Marion off the bench. They’re going to miss Beaubois for the first month, and I’m guessing when he returns he’ll be starting at SG. Terry starting with Kidd didnt work before so I dont think it’ll work well now. For CHA, they need to play more uptempo this year because their halfcourt offence sucks, and Augustin needs to play well in a starting role. Expect a sloppy boring game with a good finish.

IND@SAS 8:30 PM- SAS comes back in 2010 with more depth and more young players. The thing I wonder going in to this game is the starting 5 and how much Splitter plays off the bench. Blair should be starting this season beside TD. For IND, they’re terrible. They need Collison to break out like most think he will, and then have a huge offseason next year. Expect a blowout tonight.

UTA@DEN 9 PM- UTA comes back into 2010 with more depth but a question of whether it was just adding quantity over quality. Both teams are without key pieces with KMart and Okur out. DEN needs to control the damage inside with both Millsap and Jefferson now playing together in the starting 5. I like the look of Utahs team this year overall especially when Okur is back. I like Utah winning tonight as well, too much quality size, DEN wont be able to matchup with them on the interior, they’ll have to win with perimeter shooting.

HOU@GSW 10:30 PM- Probably one of the worst back to backs you can get in the NBA after losing a painful game the night before if you have a team with not much depth, but luckily Houston does so they should be fine. The backcourts should explode vs one another with Ellis/Curry vs Brooks/Martin, should be a very exciting matchup and a very fun game to watch.

POR@LAC 10:30 PM- Blake Griffin gets a very good test out of the gates going against one of the better defensive frontcourts in the NBA even without Oden and Pryzbilla. POR is coming off a back to back so I expect Roy to be a little more involved this game. Clippers do have a much better team on paper this year vs last but we all know that doesnt mean much. Should be a great matchup in the frontcourt, and backcourt if B Davis decides to show up.

blame florida

It’s not just that the evil Pat Riley nabbed Chris Bosh. It’s how he set about his plan to crush Toronto for his own gains, ever since Mike James, playing for the Heat, unleashed an Amityville Horror show on the Raptors to end the 2002-03 season. That feat gave the Raptors a shot at the 4th pick in the draft, one spot ahead of the Heat. Riley had wanted that pick to get Bosh, but you have to feel that he knew he would get the best of us in the long run. And he did. The Heat would end up Wade using that 5th pick, and now have Bosh in his prime, and topped it all off with a much more desirable James than the guy from Amityville who was only the best player in his own mind.

Where did Mike James end up after winning that otherwise meaningless game? After bouncing around for a couple seasons he landed in Houston, under Jeff van Gundy. Brother Stan van was coaching the Heat at the time. You have to think that Riley had a word with his coach, and got him to convince Jeff that he needed to send MJ to Toronto in order to acquire Rafer Alston, who had also played for the Heat, and whom Stan could vouch was superior in every way imaginable. You have to be able to hear Stan squealing over the phone line - “Make the push Jeff! Go get this guy and send James the other way!”. Deal done. And a season of listening to Mike James talk about Mike James was underway. The first step in making Chris Bosh think he would probably like to play just about anywhere else was successfully executed.

But wait? What’s this? Toronto did not keep Mike James around, and instead found a couple of point guards that might actually make Bosh happy? What could Riley do about TJ Ford? The kid was coming back from a bad back injury. There had to be a way to bring that into play. Riley had easy access to Al Horford, who was playing for the Florida Gators during TJ’s first season in Toronto. Certainly Riley would have kept him under surveillance, and met up with him whenever he could, using his hypnotic powers to continually suggest a deep dislike of TJ Ford to Horford. “He thinks you have the same father Al…you are the Ford born of a whore…the Whore Ford…he thinks of you as his bastard brother…you must show him who is who…you must knock him down hard Al…you will have the chance…do not fail to bring him down…..”

Riley’s next ploy? Jason Kapono. He set him free, knowing that Bryan Colangelo would not be able to resist picking up the free agent. Toronto overpaid Kapono, but on top of what he got for not taking a whole lot of shots, I have to conjecture that he was getting something on the side from the man in Miami. Under what instructions would JK operate? Turn Sam Mitchell into such a golf fiend that he could no longer bear homestands of any length. Tell Jose Calderon that his shooting success comes from the legs and that he owes everything to a regiment responsible for building up the quadriceps, and only the quadriceps, to the point where, if he had to, he could wrap his legs around Joey Graham, and squeezing him between the thighs, leave him permanently disabled. He was prepared to be Jose’s personal trainer if need be. His thigh master. Getting those quads so much stronger than his hamstrings that he wouldn’t be able to do the hokey-pokey without incurring a bit of a tear. And finally, it was up to J Killah to drive everyone insane by not taking the three’s that he was brought in to take. Long twos. Awkward drives. They all came in abundance. He would force the team to come up with a whole new system, but made sure that turned out not to work until the team was down by thirty in the first round of the playoffs, in Orlando.

But the conspiring did not end there. Pat Riley is an evil man. You have to assume that he personally talked to Florida Gator stars Noah and Horford, convincing them not to enter the draft in which Toronto pick first, and were looking to find some good size to compliment Bosh. When Colangelo picked Andrea Bargnani, I can imagine that Riles laughed so hard that his breathing failed, to the point of needing to be resuscitated. Many people wondered why he stayed on as coach, instead of retiring to his GM’s office, after winning the championship that same year of ‘06. What got him through that 15 win season less than two years removed from the victory parade? I’d say he was able to rub his ring and laugh inside every time he thought about the ‘06 draft. I swear he was rubbing that ring and chuckling to himself on one of the nights where the Raptors routinely destroyed his Heat. But on that particular night Bargnani was laid out flat on his back with three broken teeth, and would never recover the few ounces of courage that Sam Mitchell had been able to dredge up from the depths of il Mago up to that point. The future was about to turn dramatically for each team. The Heat would find themselves shining bright at a championship level again, and the Raptors would be denied getting there yet again, their tomorrows dimming interminably.

The final piece of the puzzle? Taking on Jermaine O’Neal’s huge contract, which would expire just in time for the signing of Bosh and Lebron. Being sure to get a pick on top of everything else, and sticking Toronto with Marcus Banks. It was almost all too easy. But if only it was Pat Riley alone targeting the Raptors like easy prey. It seems clear to me that Riley was merely a more-than-willing participant in a circle of conspiracy involving all of Florida.

But why? Why does Florida hate us? Is it because our team’s name was derived from a fictional theme park that made the Magic Kingdom look like a big yawn? Perhaps. It might simply be that the It’s a Small World ride was built specifically for the enjoyment of multicultural Canadians, and that the insipid song that streamed into surrounding neighborhoods, instilled a vengeful outlook towards all of us and all of our meager exploits. There was word that local citizens had fought to put an enormous wall around that part of the park, and maybe even seal it off completely with a large dome. They could try to keep it from being resupplied with concession supplies, so that eventually it would just go dark with every last animatronic doll finally falling silent and going limp. Then the Blue Jays won consecutive World Series, with Joe Carter exclaiming that he was going to go to Disney World, and the It’s a Small World venue was flooded with happy canucks, to the point where making any changes would go against all capitalistic principles.

Was it because Canada refused to support the embargo on Cuba? Was it cigar envy? Did the Raptors become embroiled in political intrigue that had stretched back to Kennedy’s assassination? It seems entirely plausible to think that the FBI and CIA could have worked with the owner of the Magic and his hopped-up Amway followers, together with disaffected Disney-area inhabitants, as well as a Disney estate suspicious of Toronto’s Jurassic-flavored, theme park ambitions, and with anyone holding a grudge against Castro, to squash the dreams of Raptor fans. If not then why deny Toronto the number one pick that the Magic enjoyed for two consecutive seasons upon entering the league? If not, then what explanation is there for two Floridians becoming budding stars here, only to have one leave for Orlando to become like his hometown hero Penny Hardaway, and the other one asking to be traded after having his personal choice for GM turned down. And let us not forget that the GM candidate in question, one Julius Erving, was residing in Orlando at the time. Coincidence? Or full-blown conspiracy? The trade that was finally engineered did land the team Alonzo Mourning, who of course never reported to Toronto, but instead negotiated a buy-out while working with the Miami Heat, where he remains today, helping Chris Bosh with his poses.

It’s a never ending cycle. The team’s own history is intertwined with Florida’s. The franchise was awarded to the city of Toronto at about the same time that Elian Gonzalez was conceived. In January of 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia left Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. Thermal protection tiles on a wing were damaged by a piece of foam that broke away during take-off. The damaged wing overheated on re-entry over Texas. Coincidentally, months earlier, Vince Carter had gone down with jumper’s knee in Houston. He returned to action two days before the shuttle would disintegrate. The next season The Raptors would hire an animatronic male-double of former Attorney General Janet Reno, not long after her unsuccessful bid to run for Governor of the state of Florida. Can there be any doubt that the interests that could orchestrate hanging chads in order to deny Al Gore his place in history, would have any problem denying the Raptors any kind of achievement in the NBA? The only hope for Toronto’s Raptors would appear to be the flooding of the entire state due to the effects of the same global warming that Al Gore was prepared to combat. Until then the circle will remain unbroken.

camp sin esperanza

To counterbalance Camp Hope down in Chile, it’s only right to tag the Raptor’s camp as camp no-hope. But alas there doesn’t appear to be any chance that they’ll have to resort to cannibalism here either, though it would make for a strange, and intriguing dramatic arc, not soon forgotten. Let’s face it - if Jose’s hammy goes on him one more time, they could start by chopping off his leg, and eating it, if they had to. Yet, although they begin the season in a metaphorical pit, the choices will not end up being quite so stark. Jose actually looks to be on the verge of finding himself right back in the starting five, along with Reggie Evans. I’m not sure what it says when a team attempts to trade away a couple of players, and then when the transaction is bungled, the said two players are made into two-fifths of the starting lineup. In any case, as I expected, team B is where the real intrigue lies, and where I think the heart and soul of the future might be determined. We’ll have to wait and see, but I see the possibility of the bench bringing more of the defense that they are going to need to build around, rather than using the model inherent in the starting lineup, of splitting the difference unsatisfactorily between strengths and weaknesses on either end of the court. If there is hope it is sitting on the bench.

Looking at the pre-season match-ups so far, it might be possible to find hope in the ability to beat teams from city’s that start with Ph, sporting undersized frontcourts, and playing bench players a good amount of the time. Aside from the sure success that those situations will bring, we’re going to see a lot of the same things we saw before Colangelo’s arrival - a costly lack of interior size, a costly bit of deadwood that just never gets cleaned up in some areas, young kids developing in the raw, and a player or two looking to have a Mike James sort of career year at the expense of the kids’ development. The good news has to be that guys like Leandro and Linas are not anywhere near as insane as Mike James, there’s no questioning the smarts or work ethic of the kids here now, and the guy that would fill Eric Williams’ role as the disgruntled has been, has been shipped off to the Suns. But the similarity of the situation is still close enough to be a little deflating. Sing it Pumbaa - it’s the circle of suck.

And oddly, sucking is what I’m hoping for. It just seems to be the most feasible way to inject the necessary talent into this lineup, come around draft time, and I mean talent that doesn’t fall to even the middle of the lottery selections. At the same time, I will feel for some of those guys in red, if the necessary losses stack up just so. It would be nice to see Jarrett Jack in the playoffs dammit. I’d love to see results for my Jungians. If nothing else, Colangelo’s constant shuffling has allowed for a fresh cast of characters that can tug at the heartstrings in the same way as reality show contestants, or trapped miners. There will be fan favorites and guys that we want to see voted off the court. But I really hope that none of that amounts to much this time around, and that instead, regardless of results in the standings, they can work towards building a solid foundation for when that injection of talent arrives. To me, that is where all hope lies. Hoping for a couple of playoff dates is just misplaced. Let them make the jump for real a year from now, not return as reality show victims. I’d like to see nothing less than a continuous climb and never be face to face with the circle of suck again.

To get there with that foundation in place, they need to make this camp into camp Esperanto. It’s going to be all about communicating. They are going to need to be speaking the same universal language when it comes to modifying expectations, filling roles, and supporting each other through some rough patches. The coaching staff is going to need more than just an assortment of matching ties to make this season work out in some fashion, in being able to assure individual players that they will be lifted out of that hole eventually, and that hopefully they can continue to wear the same uniform in doing so.

Ah - but those uniforms turn out to be a bit of a problem in their own right. It would be nice to see some ugly players make an ugly situation work out for the best in the long run. But with that new light fabric? Too sexy. I’ve seen enough episodes of the Bold and the Beautiful, and enough Jeanne Beker, to see how these jerseys are so light as to not even sit upon the shoulders, but rather flit and hover above the shoulder blades as if to suggest that these men of great strength and athletic ability are wearing sporty little nighties from Victoria’s Secret. All they need is to go back to the short shorts and the whole messed-up picture will be complete. This mental image that has befallen my brain, threatens to make this season that much more challenging as a fan. I can only hope that through a stretch of expected losses, I’ll stop seeing Amir Johnson in lingerie, and start to see Tyra Banks come into the game for Marcus, Alessandro Ambrosio for Leandro, Dani Evans in place of Reggie, May Andersen rather than David, and Geena Davis where Ed previously appeared. The mind can play tricks in these difficult times. Some might be worth an ounce of esperanza.

Thriller’s Preview: The East

Southeast Division:

Atlanta Hawks-

Starters: Mike Bibby, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, Al Horford
Rotation Players: Jeff Teague, Jamal Crawford, Mo Evans, Zaza Pachuilia

Key Additions- Jordan Crawford(only because of the Lebron Nike confiscation incident). In other words, the Hawks didnt do anything.

OUTLOOK: The Hawks decided to become a treadmill team by re upping Joe Johnson to a huge contract. They’re not in that bad of a positon, but they aren’t going anywhere but down. They had a tough choice to stand pat and be mediocre and maybe win a round a year or just blow it up and be in danger of having to move the team due to the lack of fan support, so logically they made the right move. The only difference this year is the starting point guard position being there for the taking with Bibby getting older. If Teague can show progression and maturity expect him to take the starting reigns from Bibby early in the season.


Orlando Magic

Starters: Jameer Nelson, Vince Carter, Quentin Richardson, Rashard Lewis, Dwight Howard
Rotation players: Chris Duhon, JJ Reddick, Mickael Pietrus, Brandon Bass/Ryan Anderson, Marcin Gortat

Key Additions- Chris Duhon, Quentin Richardson

OUTLOOK: The Magic added 2 solid rotation players who fit the style they play. Duhon is an upgrade from Jason Williams because of youth, and defence. Duhon can run the offence better at this point consistantly than JWill can as JWill turned it over a lot last year when teams pressured him. And QRich provides the consistant 3 pt shooting Barnes did not provide last year with the same rebounding numbers, but the downside is Q isnt as good of a defender as Matt is.

Although they added 2 solid rotation guys, the Magic still sit in the same position as last year really, with their hopes and dreams on VCs shoulders. With VC proving last year he couldnt carry them to the promise land, their only hope, yet again, is that Dwight improved his post game to a point where he’s near unstoppable and needs to be double teamed even when going up vs the toughest teams and defenders. So essentially, they’re going to win a round, and from there it’s unlikely they go further unless they face a team besides Boston or MIA.


Charlotte Bobcats

Starters: DJ Augustin, Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace, Boris Diaw, Nazr Mohamed
Rotation players: Shaun Livingston, Gerald Henderson, Tyrus Thomas, Kwame Brown

Key Additions- None.

OUTLOOK: The Bobcats stood pat and are hoping that DJ Augustin with the opportunity will turn into a starting level PG. Their defence is good, but their bench is very shaky and their frontcourt is still awful. I can see this team blowing it up by the deadline and looking to deal Jackson and or Wallace(unless their GM goes in the opposite direction and makes a horrible mistake in trading draft picks to try and possibly win 1 round in the playoffs which isnt happening unless they can somehow get CP3 or something) They, like Atlanta, are on the treadmill, but Charlottes treadmill is of worse quality due to the lack of talent.

9th IN EAST(if they keep the team together the entire year)

Washington Wizards

Starters: John Wall, Gilbert Arenas, Josh Howard, Andray Blatche, Javale Mcgee
Rotation players: Kirk Hinrich, Nick Young, Al Thornton, Yi Jianlian, Hilton Armstrong

Key Additions- Kirk Hinrich, John Wall, Yi Jianlian, Hilton Armstrong

OUTLOOK: The Wizards quietly re tooled their team and have one of the more interesting new lineups in the NBA. Their starting lineup looks promising, and their bench looks like one of the better benches in the NBA. The question will be the chemistry, with both Wall and Arenas in the backcourt, as well as having so many players playing together for the first time, and 8(9 if you count Yi which I dont yet) legit players who need minutes. Their best option is to deal Arenas early in the year after he shows his value, and hand the reigns over to Wall completely whichll also free up minutes for other people. I like the look of this team though and I think if Wall does show hes the real deal, and Blatche and Mcgee continue their improvement, then they have a very good shot at making the playoffs and being one of the more exciting teams to watch in the NBA. Their core is very very good.

7th in East

Miami Heat

Starters: Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, Chris Bosh, Joel Anthony
Rotation players: Eddie House, Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, Zydrunas Ilgauskas

Key Additions- Lebron James, Chris Bosh, Eddie House, Mike Miller, Zydrunas Ilgauskas

OUTLOOK: Expect them to be the most hated team in sports, and to create a new worldwide known chant of BEAT THE HEAT. They’re also going to win a lot of games and be scary good. Their biggest question is defence and rebounding come playoff time as their center position is a big question, and if the centers dont play well its going to put a ton of pressure on Bosh?on that end which he hasnt proven he can be that defensive anchor as of yet. But with others carrying the offensive load maybe he’ll develop in to that kind of player, he certainly has the tools.

1st in EAST

Central Division:

Chicago Bulls

Starters: Derrick Rose, Ronnie Brewer, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah
Rotation players: CJ Watson, Kyle Korver, Taj Gibson, Kurt Thomas

Key Additions- Ronnie Brewer, Carlos Boozer, CJ Watson, Kyle Korver, Kurt Thomas

OUTLOOK: The Bulls made some very nice offseason moves getting Rose a very very good 2nd option in Boozer, as well as some solid complimentary pieces with Brewer, and the new bench pieces. The Bulls biggest questions going in to the year will be if they can keep themselves in the top 5 seeds until Boozer can come back, and obviously their perimeter shooting. Although I like Brewer, I dont like the fit with both him and Deng on the wings. Rose needs shooters around him so they can fully exploit teams on offence, and I think with both starting it really shrinks the floors with team being able to zone in on the pick and roll without any consequence on kick outs. They’re going to be one of, if not the best rebounding teams in the NBA and they’re pretty deep so they’ll be a tough out come playoff time.


Detroit Pistons

Starters: Rodney Stuckey, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Charlie Villanueva, Ben Wallace
Rotation players: Will Bynum, Ben Gordon, Austin Daye, Greg Monroe, (Jonas Jerebko)

Key Additions- Greg Monroe, (Tracy Mcgrady)

OUTLOOK: I think Joe Dumars has lost his damn mind and the Pistons are going to trade Rip and Prince finally this year. Theyre going to be awful.

15th IN EAST

Cleveland Cavaliers

Starters: Maurice Williams, Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, Antawn Jamison, Anderson Varajao,
Rotation players: Ramon Sessions, Daniel Gibson, Joey Graham, JJ Hickson

Key Additions- Ramon Sessions, Joey Graham

OUTLOOK: The Cavaliers lost their best player and now have a former Raptors?duo manning the 3 spot. Yeah, they’re not in good shape. Mo Williams and Jamison will shoot their way to some wins and their defence should still be decent, but they dont have enough talent and scoring in the halfcourt to win a lot of games.

11th IN EAST

Milwaukee Bucks

Starters: Brandon Jennings, John Salmons, Corey Maggette, Luc Mbah a Moute, Andrew Bogut
Rotation players: Keyon Dooling, Carlos Delfino, Ersan Ilyasova, Drew Gooden, Jon Brockman

Key Additions- Corey Maggette, Keyon Dooling, Drew Gooden, Jon Brockman

OUTLOOK: The Bucks had one of the more confusing offseasons of any team in the league. The additions of Dooling and Brockmanmade sense because they’re hard nosed defensive players who will fit in the system and style that Skiles likes to play, then they went out and got Maggette and Gooden, two players that are well known for their selfishness, lack of defence, and erratic play. This is definately one of the harder teams in the NBA to predict, because if
Skiles can somehow make it work and make those 2 new additions to play within the system, then they’ll be an extremely tough out in the East, and one of the deeper teams in the NBA. I think by mid season, they’ll have Maggette coming off the bench because I think it’s unbalanced with too many guys needing the ball in the starting lineup as of now, and whether Maggette accepts that role will determine the fate of the team. I think Skiles is a good enough coach to make this work.


Indiana Pacers

Starters: Darren Collison, Mike Dunleavy, Danny Granger, Jeff Foster, Roy Hibbert
Rotation players: TJ Ford, Brandon Rush, Paul George, James Posey, Tyler Hansbrough

Key Additions- Darren Collison, James Posey, Paul George

OUTLOOK: The Pacers improved their outlook by picking up Collison(and George in the draft, assuming he pans out), now he has a great chance to prove he’s one of the better young point guards in the NBA. The problem is they didnt improve their frontcourt talent or depth at all and their wing positions are still very mediocre at best. Expect another long season in Pacer land, and after this year it wouldnt surprise me to see Grangers agent looking to have him shipped elsewhere.

13th IN EAST

Atlantic Division:

Boston Celtics

Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal(Kendrick Perkins)
Rotation players: Nate Robinson, Delonte West, Von Wafer, Glen Davis, Jermaine O’Neal

Key Additions- Shaquille O’Neal, Jermaine O’Neal, Delonte West, Von Wafer

OUTLOOK: Boston took a big risk in adding both O’Neals, as their season rests on the health of their bigs and adding 2 guys whohave had well documented injury pasts especially lately may blow up in their faces. If it does work they have the size to give any team in the league a ton of problems, and if it does work, they’ll also have an issue with minutes as one of Shaq/Jermaine/Baby isnt going to play much. It’ll be interesting to see who gets the shaft. I can see Doc Rivers using the O’Neals in small doses until the playoffs though to save them, which will be huge for them as long as the chronic problems dont occur anyway. I think with giving their old bigs rest during the regular season it may put their seeding down 1 to the 3rd spot instead of the 2nd spot, but come playoff time they’ll be really tough to beat if they’ve gelled and can stay healthy yet again. There’s the big variable of health with the Celtics, but they made it work last year and I think with their improved depth and their ability to integrate anyone into their system they’ll be extremely dangerous come playoff time.


Philadelphia 76ers

Starters: Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Spencer Hawes
Rotation players: Louis Williams, Andres Nocioni, Thaddeus Young, Marreese Speights

Key Additions- Evan Turner, Andres Nocioni

OUTLOOK: The Sixers made some small moves and got a top pick in the draft. They have some nice young talent but the parts still don’t fit. They still can’t figure out if they want to be a quick up tempo team or halfcourt team, and in both styles of play they’re not even that good. This will be a transition year for them, hoping that the Holiday/Turner backcourt works, and if it does, they can re tool next offseason around it because it has the potential to be one of the better backcourts in the NBA for a long time. They’re going to have to make a decision on Iguodala and Youngs futures with the team and soon.


New York Knicks

Starters: Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Amare Stoudemire, Ronny Turiaf
Rotation players: Toney Douglas, Roger Mason Jr, (Kelenna Azubuike), Bill Walker, Anthony Randolph, Timofey Mozgov

Key Additions- Raymond Felton, Ronny Turiaf, Kelenna Azubuike, Roger Mason Jr, Anthony Randolph, Timofey Mozgov

OUTLOOK: I like what the Knicks did in the offseason acquiring a lot of solid role players(Turiaf, Azubuike when healthy, Mason) and some young talent with a lot of potential(Randolph, Mozgov). And of course Amare and Felton. I think the Knicks will come to find that they should start Randolph with Amare once Randolph proves to DAntoni hes ready and just play uptempo. I like the overall depth of this team, but I think them taking the first step in making the playoffs will come down to Randolphs progression and health. If he becomes the Lamar Odom clone everyone expects him to be and they can play DAntoni ball, I think
the Knicks will make their first appearance in a while in the playoffs.


Toronto Raptors

Starters: Jose Calderon, Demar Derozan, Linas Kleiza, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani
Rotation players: Jarrett Jack, Leandro Barbosa, Sonny Weems, Ed Davis, David Anderson

Key Additions- Linas Kleiza, Leandro Barbosa, Ed Davis, David Anderson

OUTLOOK: The Raptors?are in a rebuilding year with a big identity crisis. They’re going to be awful this season, but we all hope they can show flashes, and that Demar Derozan can take his first step to superstardom, and Weems and Johnson as well as Bargs?can take the next step in their careers as well. Improvement throughout the year is what we expect, and hopefully they’ll be able to make it exciting along the way. Hopefully the defence isnt near last in the league again, and they play up tempo to keep it exciting as I expect we’ll be one of if not the worst halfcourt teams in the NBA.


New Jersey?Nets

Starters: Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow, Travis Outlaw, Troy Murphy, Brook Lopez
Rotation players:Jordan Farmar, Terrence Williams, Derrick Favors, Johan Petro

Key Additions- Jordan Farmar, Anthony Morrow, Troy Murphy, Derrick Favors, Johan Petro

OUTLOOK: The Nets added a good core of solid players and a promising rookie. With Troy Murphys expiring deal and already available cap space they have put themselves in a good position to make a big move for a key player at the deadline or in the offseason. Until then though, they’ll be better than last season but they’re still going to have a tough time on defence though their offence should improve a lot with the outside shooting they brought in. If Favors proves to be the PF of the future and they can get a key player at the deadline they could turn out to be a playoff team, but unless that happens they should still be on the outside looking in.

12th IN EAST

Thriller’s Previews: the West

Northwest Division:

Utah Jazz

Starters: Deron Williams, CJ Miles, Andrei Kirilenko, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson
Rotation players: Earl Watson, Raja Bell, Gordon Hayward, Mehmet Okur

Key Additions- Al Jefferson, Earl Watson, Raja Bell, Gordon Hayward

Outlook:The Jazz come back in to 10/11 with another solid looking lineup, and a different style starting lineup. With all the talk that they’re going to start the two more skilled post players over the conventional lineup with Okur, the Jazz and Sloan are really trying something new and it should work so long as Jefferson fits in to the system and doesnt piss Sloan off by playing no defence. In saying that they’re still stuck in the same position they’ve been in in years past. They dont have another playmaker at the wing position when teams slow down the pick and rolls, and they still dont have good enough defence to do anything come playoff time.


Denver Nuggets

Starters: Chauncey Billups, Aaron Afflalo, Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, Nene
Rotation players: Ty Lawson, JR Smith, Al Harrington, Chris Anderson

Key Additions- Al Harrington

OUTLOOK:The Nuggets are coming back with the same team as last year, plus signing a talented yet erratic forward in Al Harrington. If the recent talks about Melo wanting out didnt happen you’d say this team is likely a top 3 seed again and one of the tougher outs in the NBA when healthy. But with all the Carmelo talk, and now with KMArt taking his time to come back and having his own issues with management, this season looks like a definite shit storm in Denver Like many I’m expecting huge changes come the deadline, thus the low seeding. And then it’s only downhill from there, rebuilding for the rest of the season and having Al Harrington and JR Smith take a million shots and all of us laugh at Denver again like in the pre Melo days.


Portland Trail Blazers

Starters: Andre Miller, Brandon Roy, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Oden
Rotation players: Jerryd Bayless, Wesley Matthews. (Rudy Fernandez), Marcus Camby, Joel Pryzbilla

Key Additions- Wesley Matthews

OUTLOOK:The Blazers are the one team that can absolutely challenge the Lakers when healthy with their size and backcourt playmaking abilities. The problem is their health obviously. If they have a Celtic like 2010 season where everyone stays healthy for the most part, this team will show that they’re a championship contender, but more likely at least one of their centers will go down again and their seed will fall, and then won’t have enough depth come playoff time.


Oklahoma City Thunder

Starters: Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic
Rotation players: Eric Maynor, James Harden, Daequan Cook, Serge Ibaka, Cole Aldrich, Nick Collison

Key Additions- Daequan Cook, Cole Aldrich

OUTLOOK:The Thunder are coming off a great season and made a couple of minor additions to improve their bench. The main improvements will come internally though, with Russell Westbrook needing to take that next step to become an allstar PG, and Kevin Durant to become a better all around player with his playmaking and making others around him better. If their two best players do take those steps, which is very likely, and Ibaka continues to look like the next Mutombo(though a little undersized)the Thunder are going to be extremely tough to beat come playoff time. If they can’t win a couple rounds this year though they need to look in to moving Green and re thinking their 4/5 starting positions to become a legit title contender.


Minnesota Timberwolves

Starters: Johnny Flynn, Corey Brewer, Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, Darko Milicic
Rotation players: Luke Ridnour, Wesley Johnson, Martell Webster, Anthony Tolliver, Kosta Koufos

Key Additions- Michael Beasley, Luke Ridnour, Wesley Johnson, Martell Webster, Anthony Tolliver, Kosta Koufos

OUTLOOK:I shouldnt even be writing an outlook for this team because everyone knows they’re going to end up last in the West, and they have absolutely no idea what the hell they’re doing with the team. The parts dont fit and a lot of the young talent hasnt proved much yet. Big years ahead for Flynn, Brewer, and Beasley to define the kinds of players they’re going to be in this league.

15th in West

Pacific Division:

Los Angeles Lakers

Starters: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Rotation players: Steve Blake, Shannon Brown, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom

Key Additions- Steve Blake, Matt Barnes

OUTLOOK:The Champs got better in the offseason by adding 2 very solid role players in Blake and Barnes who will fit perfectly in to their systems on both sides of the ball. Both are very active on defence, and can hit the open shots on offence. Both will be huge especially during the regular season in keeping Fisher and Artests minutes down so they’re fresh come playoff time, something that they couldnt do last year. The only question again with this team is the health of Andrew Bynum, because if he’s out a long period of time there isnt ANY bench depth at PF/C for this team if Odom is starting as I dont think Theo Ratliff can be counted on to play more than 10 minutes a game effectively.


Los Angeles Clippers

Starters: Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, Rasual Butler, Blake Griffin, Chris Kaman
Rotation players: Eric Bledsoe, Al-Farouq Aminu, Ryan Gomes, Craig Smith, Deandre Jordan

Key Additions- Eric Bledsoe, Al-Farouq Aminu, Ryan Gomes

OUTLOOK:This team has a lot of very good young talent, probably top 3 in the NBA with Gordon, Griffin, Jordan, and now Bledsoe and Aminu who have both looked good in pre season. Their main issue is the Clipper curse and their leader coming in to camp fat again. Hopefully Baron works hard in the upcoming weeks and gets it together because this team, yet again, has a good chance of making the playoffs if he gets his ass in gear with all of their talent in the frontcourt. But it’s the Clippers so it’s almost for sure not going to happen sadly.

10th IN WEST

Phoenix Suns

Starters: Steve Nash, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill, Hedo Turkoglu, Robin Lopez
Rotation players: Goran Dragic, Josh Childress, Jared Dudley, Hakim Warrick, Channing Frye

Key Additions- Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick, Channing Frye

OUTLOOK:Unless Nash pulls a miracle this team doesnt have a shot in hell of making the playoffs. Starting Hedo Turkoglu at Power Forward to balance out the lineups is not a good idea, and neither is benching Hill to make the lineup more conventional so Hedo can start at the 3 so they won’t have a bad situation on their hands with what they should be doing, which is bringing his fat ass off the bench. You know you had a terrible offseason when 2 of your acquisitions got signed to longterm deals worth 25+ mil and they’re coming off the bench(Frye/Warrick) and your prize acquisition took a year off and has played his pre season like he played his entire year last year. Hopefully Nash gets traded, he deserves better.

13th IN WEST

Golden State Warriors

Starters: Monta Ellis, Steph Curry, Dorrell Wright, David Lee, Andris Biedrins
Rotation players: Charlie Bell, Reggie Williams, Louis Amundson, ( Ekpe Udoh)Brandon Wright

Key Additions- Dorrell Wright, David Lee, Louis Amundson, Ekpe Udoh

OUTLOOK:Another transition year for the Warrriors and their fans. They’ll be an exciting team to watch yet again, but with or without Nelson they’re going to be a deplorable defensive team that needs to play uptempo to even stand a chance vs any team with half a decent frontcourt. Their bench is very weak and any injury to a main player will turn them in to a team that can compete on most nights in to a team where you can guarantee a win against them. Hopefullythe Warriors get good new management in place this year and they finally figure things out next offseason.

14th IN WEST

Sacramento Kings

Starters: Beno Udrih, Tyreke Evans, Omri Casspi, Jason Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins
Rotation players: Francisco Garcia, Donte Green, Carl Landry, Samuel Dalembert, Hassan Whiteside

Key Additions- Demarcus Cousins, Samuel Dalembert, Hassan Whiteside

OUTLOOK:The Kings may have the most good to very good young players on their team in the NBA. They have too many guys that need minutes to grow though. This will be a good transitional year for them in finding out what they have and who will be in their future plans. Expect some moves at the deadline to shore up minutes for their core young players. I really like the look of this team though, as the Evans/Cousins duo could be one that will be talked about as one of the

better duos in the NBA come seasons end and going in to the future, and the players around them look promising as well.

11th IN WEST

Southwest Division

Dallas Mavericks

Starters: Jason Kidd, Caron Butler, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Brendan Haywood
Rotation players: Rodrigue Beaubois, Jason Terry, Tyson Chandler

Key Additions- Tyson Chandler

OUTLOOK:Expect Beaubois to take over either Kidds or Marions starting spot when he returns to the lineup. The Mavericks need a jumpstart to their starting 5 and something that will give them a chance to be more than 1st rd team this year, and right now Beaubois growth is the only thing that gives them that chance. Overall the team lacks bigtime in depth in the frontcourt as Chandler cant be counted on and there’s no one else besides him to backup the 4/5. This team will still make the playoffs and win a lot of games but they’ll be out in the 1st rd unless they make a few changes to their lineup at the deadline.


San Antonio Spurs

Starters: Tony Parker, George Hill, Richard Jefferson, Antonio Mcdyess, Tim Duncan
Rotation players: Manu Ginobili, James Anderson, Dajuan Blair, Tiago Splitter

Key Additions- James Anderson, Tiago Splitter

OUTLOOK:The Spurs made an uncharacteristically terrible mistake in re upping Jefferson longterm when he looked like a really bad fit last year, but besides that they got a steal with Anderson in the draft, and Splitter finally comes over from Europe. I dont expect that their starting lineup will stay the same for long, as either Blair or Splitter is likely to take Mcdyess’ spot to give the Spurs a newer look and likely improve their starting 5, and I wouldnt be surprised if Anderson made his way into the starting 5 before seasons end as well. The Spurs like the Mavs dont look like they’re going anywhere this year, but they at least have more than 1 guy that can grow in to something special and maybe help catapult them into a longer unsuspecting run this season.


Houston Rockets

Starters: Aaron Brooks,Kevin Martin, Shane Battier, Luis Scola, Yao Ming
Rotation players: Kyle Lowry, Courtney Lee, Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill, Brad Miller

Key Additions- Courtney Lee, Brad Miller

OUTLOOK:The Rockets have one of the deeper benches in the NBA with the good offseason acquisitions of Lee/Miller and of course getting Yao back to ensure that no one is playing more minutes than they should. The key to their regular season is keeping Yao healthy with his 24 mpg limit, as well as their backcourt figuring out how to play together. Adelman is one of the better coaches in the NBA and has had extremely deep teams before, so I expect the Rockets will figure things out. Come playoff time, no one will want to play them if Yao is healthy with all of the talent, depth, and backcourt quickness around him.


New Orleans Hornets

Starters: Chris Paul,Marcus Thornton, Trevor Ariza, David West, Emeka Okafor
Rotation players: Marco Belinelli, Peja Stojakovic, Quincy Pondexter, Aaron Gray

Key Additions- Trevor Ariza, Marco Belinelli, Quincy Pondexter, Aaron Gray

OUTLOOK:The Hornets come in to this season with a better starting 5 then last season, but their bench depth is awful and their overall talent level just is not good. Paul should reclaim his unanimous top PG in the league status this year, but I dont think there’s a chance in hell this lineup makes the playoffs despite Pauls play.

12th IN WEST

Memphis Grizzlies

Starters: Mike Conley JR, OJ Mayo, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol
Rotation players: Tony Allen, Xavier Henry, Sam Young, Darrell Arthur, Hasheem Thabeet

Key Additions- Zavier Henry, Tony Allen

OUTLOOK:The Grizzlies come in to this season with the same starting lineup which is a very good step in the right direction as their starting 5 was one of the better units in the NBA last year. The key for them is internal growth and meshing as a unit on the defensive side of the ball as this team is more than fine in the scoring and rebounding department. They still need to figure out who gets touches in certain situations and making sure everyone gets enough touches and minutes(which leads me to believe they’ll make a couple of trades to balance out their lineup), but the main thing that will decide whether this team makes the playoffs is their play on the defensive side of the ball. As my surprise pick, I’ll slate em in for the 8th spot as they look to have all the ingredients to make the playoffs in a weaker West this season.


back to reality

The worldbeaters that ate up the Suns last week are going to face some different challenges against the Celtics, that might put that 50 point differential in perspective fast. In any case, we are going to have a chance to see where this team is actually progressing in the obvious process of defining roles and creating a cohesive identity - a process that could take the entire season. One pre-season game offers no real indication of that process. It did give some indication that everyone buys into the need to work together in order to have a chance to overachieve. They all came out of the gate with some good intensity, and all looked to be headed in the right direction. Game two might very well offer some hurdles that they did not face against the Suns, and that is going to offer a clearer picture as to how they need to approach games when they count for something.

For starters, they are going to get a look at perimeter players that are a little harder to disrupt with pressure defenses. The Suns threw a whole assortment of guards and wings out there, with JRich playing only six minutes, and the lack of cohesion involved with all of that team’s new was pretty clear. So that made for pretty easy work when it came to getting results from some of the Raptors new defensive schemes. I’m going to be very eager to see how things go against a team that can execute comfortably while taking advantage of some speed, shooting and toughness on the perimeter. If the Raptors can get some good points off of defense and yet still lose to the Celtics, then it’s going to feel better than a 50-point win to me, because it will be a much clearer indication of how the right approach is at least getting some realistic results.

The next reality check will involve size. The last time out they faced a tired-looking Robin Lopez, and a Hedo that might just be proving to the world that he is near the end of his career. That was enough to make a guy like David Andersen look pretty good. He looked like he might have learned a few things from Scola while he was in Houston, or maybe from fellow Aussie Andrew Bogut. If his level of engagement and quick feet on defense can continue to be a factor, then he might fill a role that makes it easier to place other pieces around. But it’s one thing to play big and provide energy against what the Suns offered, and another thing to make that stuff count when he encounters much more size, and a Big Baby that can easily provide the energy and intensity that was missing from the Suns lineup last week.

On the same note, we’ll get to see if Andrea Bargnani can look as comfortable on the defensive end as he did last week. Again - size is going to be something that provides a litmus test. Andrea does not always show a willingness to stay involved in the paint when a lot of physical contact is required. If he gets through the game against Boston without looking like a spectator too often, then it has to be chalked up as a very good sign going forward, and again be a much more meaningful achievement than the huge blowout win that preceded it.

If the Raptors are going to overachieve, as they need to, then it is going to start and finish on the defensive end. They are going to have to show that they can consistently stop the ball at the point of attack, and disrupt opposing offenses, while some of the guys like Andersen, Evan, Johnson, and eventually Davis make up for size disadvantages with quickness, toughness and athleticism. That means that past weak links like Calderon on the perimeter, and Bargnani under the basket, need to at least limit the amount of exposure that the rest of the team would have to make up for. If guys like Calderon and Bargnani can actually prove to be somewhat effective with whatever group of guys they happen to have on the floor with them, then it’s going to make it a lot easier to do more than just preach accountability.

And if that happens, then I would almost expect this team to overachieve. Much of the credit would have to go to PJ Carlesimo’s influence on the culture of this team. Here’s hoping that he has been able to bring some of what was practiced in San Antonio over the last decade, in keeping this team grounded in reality, and moving forward in creating a solid defensive identity throughout the entire lineup. If a guy like Bargnani could actually flourish where he once floundered, then it’s going to be hard to look past the influence of Carlesimo. Bedwetters have Suzanne Somers. Baby Seals have Bridget Bardot. Maybe Andrea has one PJ Carlesimo.

But of course that’s getting way out ahead of the curve already. I still expect this to be a bit of a long season. But if it looks like the team is taking some positive steps towards amounting to more than the sum of its parts on the defensive end, throughout the lineup, then they’ll have greatly exceeded my expectations already, since I just didn’t think it would really be possible with the current personnel. The game in Boston will offer a hint as to where the possibilities lie, and we’ll go from there.

One final note: I’ll be interested to see if the coaching staff all wear matching ties again. Will it be the same blue stripes? If not, then how many sets of matching ties are in play? And will they be working on the side as a new wave cover band? Please let there be a set of skinny leather ties, and an encore performance of Angst in My Pants.

shape of things

Some guy named Dampier still needs to make a decision on where he wants to play. I have to assume that if he chooses Toronto, it will be due to either having no other viable option, or having been promised a substantial role as a starter, or both. It’s entirely possible that any other team that showed interest, found the guy to be old and slow and out of shape. It’s also entirely possible that the Raptors, desperately in need of some size to allow for Bargnani to be exposed a little less when it comes to playing big, or to play his natural position, or both, will take on one year for a big sloth regardless of his conditioning or the fact that he’s missing training camp - even after the difficult lesson they learned when an old, slow guy missed camp last year, and ultimately set the whole team back throughout the season that followed.

We’ve heard about how everyone in camp is working hard and in great shape. There is a good deal of running and athleticism on display, apparently. There’s the good news. But we also get some indication of how the starting lineup could be taking shape, and it’s hard not to feel that there are some square pegs in the equation.

Bargnani was given a starting position from the word go, being the only guy that did not have to compete one iota, even though he might be the one guy that could benefit most from competition. Kleiza has also been written in with pencil at least, with no real reason given for that decision, other than for how well he has played against europeans. Triano has talked about how Kleiza would make opposing teams pay should Bargnani be double-teamed. I’m not at all convinced that Bargnani would see a whole lot of doubles, and if he does, I don’t see how that doesn’t benefit any other of the four guys out there with him. Triano makes out like Kleiza’s shooting ability alone would cause teams to forego double-teams. Yeah - ok, that might be the case against the worst teams that lack players who can guard more than their own man, but otherwise it just doesn’t seem like a big selling point. Do they really want to shut double-teams down, or are they already offering excuses (credible or not) as to why the double teams aren’t materializing like they did in years past? And with that excuse in hand do they then have a follow-up as to why the proposed ball movement is not resulting in the kind of exciting basketball that was promised? That’s looking at negatives rather than positives, but when the positive selling points are so oversimplified and filled with assumptions that are hard to justify, it’s hard not to look into some dark corners. In any case, throw Dampier in the starting lineup, and we have ourselves a frontcourt that is all about putting Bargnani in a position of feeling as little pressure as possible.

And that leaves us with only the backcourt to round out, where there is just a problem with finding the players that can obviously compliment that frontcourt, or each other. If Jose starts, and DeMar suits up next to him, we have a pg that is unwilling to take open shots, and a sg that is still looking to find a good range, and it would also be a pairing that would tend to be exposed defensively. The best pairing defensively might be Jack and Weems, and those two might also be best to compliment what looks to be the starting frontcourt. But if Dampier doesn’t sign here, and Bargnani is counted on to play big in more ways than just taking big shots, then it might just feel like the strengths and weaknesses are getting spread out across the different units that get employed, and I can imagine Triano making changes in desperation throughout the season. All in all, gaining a sense of what this team is about by looking at the starting five, is going to be a challenge, unless Bargnani manages to take a big step forward and show himself to the player that nobody talks about him being now - the guy that they are going to build around.

Ultimately, I would love to see Jack, DeRozan, Weems, Johnson, and Davis on the floor together, even if it is not at the start of games. They feel like the B-Team right now, but they also feel like the real team to me. Maybe I’m just a little stuck on the Jungians. There just looks to be the promise of strengths being used as strengths, on both ends of the court, and not just as a means to counterbalancing obvious weaknesses. Here you’ve got a group that can be built upon. Right off the bat you can think of plugging Barbosa in for Jack and seeing some results. If nothing else, you give Devlin the perfect tagline - SONNY-D-and RUM! That might not ever get old. Now imagine a future pick, or pick-up though a trade, improving on the point guard position, and this team starts to really feel like something is taking shape.

So forgive me for looking past the starting lineup entirely for now. Give me a bunch of guys that are pushing each other while complimenting each other nicely, playing a swarming style of defense that can make-up for a lack of size and create offense off of defense consistently. Start plugging in options like Kleiza into that scenario, and I automatically start to appreciate how he can contribute to this team in a big way. This team has some pieces - but each one of them will be challenged by a new role. If most of them can fill those roles suitably, this season will not feel like a waste. But to make that happen, the different pieces are going to have to fit together. I just want this season to be about building on the strengths while players develop, rather than structuring the team with built-in excuses at the expense of developing a chemistry and identity that cannot be denied. Let the starters enjoy hearing their names when the lineup is introduced. Just please give everyone else a chance at starter’s minutes, and playing with the right counterparts, because there is a good chance that therein lies the shape of things to come.

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