Archive for December, 2010

a seismic shift, or alt-shift-delete?


That was fine game last night. Not because of the win. Nor due to the nature of the win. I mean that was all good. But I can remember Jermaine Jackson leading a couple other ten-day contracts in some battles. And there was Lamond Murray lighting up the Spurs at around this time of the year. What sets last night’s game apart from so many others, is that the approach was so different than so many others over the last few years.

Down there in Dallas, the Raptors played a style that limited possessions, and relied heavily on defense, in order to find the equalizer that could make up for the talent differential. It worked like a charm, and beyond that, it just plain looked like a basketball game. And it flew in the face of the re-invention of the game that seems to be Bryan Colangelo’s favored mode of thought. We have seen decent teams, and bad teams alike, crumble under the weight of running, and rushing offense, and floor balance for transition defense be damned. The running game needs to come out of an integrated whole, and not applied to a mix of players with no clearly defined roles, simply as a means of trying to hide the lack of an integrated whole. There are no freaks of nature on the Raptors that are going to be able to use a quick-paced game for the advantage of the team over the long haul, but there just might be some basketball players. We’ve only been allowed to see them perform that way when the bench has been shortened due to injuries. And those short-handed nights have usually worked out quite well.

Last night offered one of the starkest contrasts to the regular gameplans. The night before, the team had shown a distinct inability to do much of anything offensively. Forget about being patient enough to find a second or third option - they couldn’t find a first option. Rushing their early offense lead to turning the ball over in a hurry, much like in many other games over the last 3 years, but perhaps it had never been quite so clear just how little chance this team was giving itself. There had been some nice comeback wins where tired opponents withered late after exploiting so many giveaways and so many fastbreak opportunities. The Raptors have been able to find their equalizer in those games, with some added pressure as games wore on, and by making use of a bench so deep that it extends right through the starting lineup. Think back to Ali’s rope-a-dope. He was no longer as fast as lightning. He didn’t have the footwork any longer. So he let his opponents tire themselves out by hammering away on his body, until he once again held the advantages that he had enjoyed as a young man, relatively speaking. The Raptors had on occasion been able to reduce the opposing team to something less than or equal to a bunch of second-stringers, and to their credit, put up the fight to get some results.

But this team is not going to be able to withstand a season of kidney punches landed in endless flurries. I don’t know if any team would. PJ Carlesimo came onto the telecast at the half in the game against Memphis, and said that the defense wasn’t so much of a problem when they forced the Grizzlies to play in the halfcourt, so they were going to have to try to do that more often. Somewhere, not too far deep inside him, he had to know that was only going to happen if they gave up on the ridiculous offensive gameplan that gave the opposing team more easy chances going the other way than it did good shots for the Raptors. And surely he couldn’t have been alone with that realization. Surely the players themselves knew as much, even as easily seduced as they might be to the idea of quickening the pace.

And the next night we saw an abandoning of good ship Getashotoffquick. We saw plays run. Some of them worked, without requiring pure, blind aggression from each individual, but instead through finding teammates and teammates ensuring they were in the right spots. When plays did not work, they were able to defend in transition, and then further at the point of attack, and finally they contested shots and altered shots. And off of some of the other team’s broken plays, they were able to run and score on legitimate fast break opportunities. There are ways to play the game in spite of a deficit of overall talent. It’s not going to translate into a great number of wins, but it will assuredly point any team in the right direction. And we saw that in Dallas. Jerryd displayed heart and desire in controlling how this game was played. He should have a couple more d’s added to the end of his name as his reward, and hopefully have his name all over a few more wins like this one. When he went down and Barbosa took over, there were not the usual turnovers from Leandro. His speed fit into this grind-out game better than it would have had they all been racing up and down all night long. He found an advantage, and then made it possible for all five guys to take advantage of it, and that hadn’t happened so often before. It was basketball. You know - that team sport. It was not Colangelo’s “exciting brand of basketball” as he and Triano had envisioned. But it was basketball. And if you love the game, then what is more exciting?

Now the question remains as to whether it was an actual shift in plans, or just something they needed to do while shorthanded? If we see this team go back to poorly defined roles in which each guy plays on an island that no Herve would want to inhabit, with possessions multiplied rather than limited, then there have to be some serious questions about what is being built here. Are they putting together a team for fans that love the game? Or are they trying to do whatever they can just to engage fans that might happen to like the game, by offering regular doses of adrenaline that have little to do with future success?

claw marks: no snipers on this grassy knoll


It’s been a while since there’s been much to comment on about this team. It seems almost conspiratorial. A win in Dallas changed that. The FBI might have to investigate.

DuCa00795

Dallas is going to be embarrassed when they read the papers in the morning hahaha. I almost felt bad for Dallas, then I realized we have one of the worst records in the league.

tettays

Ed Davis and Amir Johnson = New Twin Towers!…sorry Bargs just come off the bench and be a role player like a Rasheed Wallace-type and jack threes like you did in your Rookie year…

Sick, Wicked and Nasty

If only the team played with this heart every game. Fun to watch.

MikeToronto

Perhaps the most spirited game I’ve seen this club play. Ever.

Player of the first half - Ed Davis. Stats speak for themselves, career-highs in all categories.

Player of the second half and my personal player of the game - Julian Wright. The polar opposite - stats tell nothing. He embodied the spirit, he played defence like he was possessed and he made incredibly smart offensive plays. Talk about affecting the game without scoring!

I am really proud of my team tonight.

BballWatcher

Wright made some good plays, but honestly, Johnson had a much bigger impact and if anyone put their personal stamp on this game, it was Bayless. Jerryd was cold from the field but his passion infected the whole team. Yelling at Kleiza to “use his head” after Kleiza got tossed and then sacrificing his body on somewhat reckless drives to the bucket (with an already injured ankle), Jerryd led by example and by the time he got hurt, he had already gotten his message across to the team.

Now the worry is how long will Bayless be out. It could have been a sprain or a strain on his ankle (I hope to god it’s not a broken bone but it didn’t look like one). That type of injury could have Bayless sitting out anywhere from a week to a month or more, depending on the severity.

JoeyJoJo Shabbadu

This game says one thing. That Dirk Nowitski is on the short list for MVP this year…and that’s all.

RaptorsandBuckeyeFaN

ED DAVIS!!!!!!! What a game by him and it started early. At least there’s something positive for the Raptors this season. Watching Ed Davis progress.

kishan13

This should be a wake up call to Triano to start playing Wright more and if Wright doesnt get atleast 20 min next game, Triano seriously needs to go.

Onekhmer

wow i was really waiting for the Raptors to screw up, and not ge too excited but they fought right to the end GREAT GAME

Rudy-T

That was kind of what I was thinking/hoping the Raps would be this season at best. I mean a lot of hustle, not much talent, but going at it on almost every game. Win one of three or four games, but always fight.

Deck the Hall and Oates


I apologize in advance. Just bear with me if you can. You see, I’ve had my head full of 70’s era disco classics. I have this system to get me through the endless Christmas season. Whenever I hear a carol that threatens to loop through my cranium for weeks, I quickly download the corresponding disco song into my brain, and successfully block out the seasonal ditties. Winter Wonderland is transformed into Boogie Wonderland. O Little Town of Bethlehem is made over into Funky Town. The Little Drummer Boy gets remixed into Turn the Beat Around.God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen quickly becomes YMCA.Joy to the World? Well that has to be Shake Your Booty. Good King Wenceslas? Dancing Queen. O Christmas Tree? Push Push in the Bush. And so on.

And I remained stuck in that era, perhaps a little too happily, while considering the long journey, not of the Magi, but of the Mago, and how his ups and downs have played out with the fans here in Toronto. Going way back, when I found this team promising enough to attend games in person, I found the reactions of many fans around me, way up in the upper reaches of the ACC, to be as over-the-top as anything associated with the age of disco (yes - which I am certainly old enough to remember directly). All it took was to see Andrea left open beyond the arc, and this one particular guy sporting a euroleague Calderon jersey would start squealing and hyperventilating. “Oooooh-oooooh-Andrea-that’s his shot-that’s his shot”. It got to the point where out of worry for my fellow brethren in the stands, I’d have to have a paper bag at the ready. I’m kidding a little, but do not think for a moment that I am overstating the possibility of some of these guys coming close to collapsing from not enough CO2 coursing through their veins. What came to mind then, and repeatedly during every flash of his game advancing over the years, as well as now - with the disco jumping from one neural transmitter to another - is Minnie Ripperton and her notes soaring as many octaves above middle-C as there were sections between me and courtside. And as often as all the Rippertons would begin to quaver, there would be an accompanying verse from Morris Albert. Often enough it happened on the same play. Andrea is open and I’d hear the aaahhh-ahh, only to have him get the ball and launch a clunker which would bring along the woh-woh-woh-woh in the same breath. Then there are the stretches where Minnie stirringly dominates for a few games, only to have Morris return with his gasps of loneliness. This season, Andrea has followed form, with the highs getting that much higher, but so many cliffs coming along for regular drop-offs. The question is whether he can break the pattern for good, and if nothing else, make me think of Leo Sayer’s When I Need You. Make the big shots when needed, while showing a steadiness in all other areas of the game. Have the big games when need be, and otherwise keep the team in games when someone else can make the bigger impact. If that doesn’t happen, then the future remains a little troublesome. The rebuild will take place upon a shaky foundation. And we’ll all be heading into Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam territory.

That’s what this season is going to be about - solidifying that foundation. Or so I would hope.?If I can get through the season of humbug, please don’t make me say bah! to the rest of the Raptor season.?If an old fool can use disco to find the true meaning of Merry during Christmas, then this team needs to be able to figure out how to play basketball for real for a stretch here and there. And it doesn’t just apply to Bargnani. There is not a lot of talent here. We’ve seen any number of guys playing as starters that just can’t handle the role. Reggie Evans was able to play as a starter and make life easier for some other players around him. There are not a lot of bench players that can do that. And so this team relies on a running attack that can pull out a few wins against lesser teams, and tired teams. Hand-in-hand with the increased scoring comes easy baskets in transition going the other way, but we’ve seen a few times where the Raptor’s depth can give them an edge in the talent level going down the stretch, regardless of a dearth of legitimate starters. It reminds me of another phenomenon from the 70’s - the rope-a-dope. And I just can’t see this team building upon that much more. So they are going to have to see who can deliver in a halfcourt offense while not giving up too much in other areas. In other words - is there anybody here that can play an honest game of basketball every night out? Can we see the first option taken away from any halfcourt set, and be able to go to a second option, or a third option with some success? And can we shut down other teams in transition, get them to forego their first option, and stick with the play as they go to a second or third option? This team is a long way away from showing any of that. And as the season stretches out, that is going to mean more ugly losses than surprising wins, or so I would guess. At the same time the passing game is beginning to come around, and we are at least starting to see more cohesion than the one-pass-and chuck-or-drive-into-traffic sequences that have become too familiar. So, among some of the ugliness, I hope to see moments where we can see if Andrea, or Demar, or Ed or Amir, or Linas or whoever, can get to a level where their combined talents fit within a gameplan that can go up against any starting lineups at their best, at least for part of a game. Aggression alone has gotten them through the first part of the schedule still in the hunt for an eighth seed. But now the aggression is starting to work against them as much as anything else, because they just aren’t finding a second or third option, and they lack any kind of organization defensively. I honestly hope they look towards defining some cohesion on the defensive end, before looking at anything else. In any case they need to go beyond finding spots in the schedule where they stand a chance to win on individual play from one or three guys, and instead find moments where they show some ability to strengthen a team concept in any way. And when that happens, someone had better be taking notes, and not just singing them.

claw marks:the big apple bites

js12

If it weren’t for a couple of mistakes, we could have won, or at least tie the game. If we are going to lose, at least we fought hard and lost to a three point shot that bounced 3 times around the rim.

Instead of looking at the 5-second call, not taking the foul, etc. , we should look at avoidable casual plays. Like Weems pulling up on a fast break. Like Kleiza, Barbosa and Sonny taking a 3 with lots of time on the shot clock. We need to play smarter- as shown by the result, every play counts.

AR1815

Easily could have had it - Bargs missing the FT with less than 2 mins, the VERY close 5-second call, Jose not fouling Felton at the end, and the horrible play for the final shot all could have been different. Disappointing that even with a career night by Bargs, we still couldn’t pull it out.

Superjudge

all I can say is this…. about time guys like Linas and Weems learned that the ball goes to Bargnani first….. if he has nothing, then you can have a try…but only then.

Feed the guy the rock and he’ll score it.

Now only if he can learn to defend it.

Rudy-T

The way Bargs was passing tonight, others will get their opportunities too. He was playing smart and has been doing that lately. He isnt forcing it too much and gives the ball back out when he feels he doesnt have the position. And tonight he also had nice passes out of double teams.

The thing is, he is only this good when his jumper is on and he gets some early baskets. If he doesnt get those, he becomes frustrated and his play goes down. We saw that in Indiana. We started out with Weems taking stupid jump shots and Bargs didnt get the ball. He ended up with a bad game and it was bad for the whole team.

This time Jay had clearly told Jose to give it to Bargs on every offensive set and it worked pretty good.

10gizzle

Every play should be a high post with Bargs.

The guy can actually pass, he’s shown this skill many times in the past.

It seems like every time he got the ball around the free throw line he either scored or created a chance for the team.

point me in the direction of albuquerque


Where is this team going? Will we see more games like the win against OKC? Or more like the loss against Indiana? In the end, I think it’s most important to see what pieces on the team work well with each other, and which don’t, regardless of wins or losses. They should not lose sight of that just yet.

The win against the Thunder was notable right off the bat, in that it showed real progress in the ability of this team to use a quicker pace to it’s advantage. Through the first half, it looked like the faster pace might favor OKC, as would be expected to a degree. Were the Raptors just playing into the hands of the opposition? They were using up a lot of energy and not exactly doing anything beyond staying fairly even on the scoreboard. It looked like a further continuation of what plagued them all last season and in a good part of this season: score in bunches with running and early offense, and get scored on in bunches in transition and poor rotations. But there was a change in the overall pattern in this game. Instead of the Raptors losing their legs and just lying down and dying in the second half, they actually saw OKC do just that. But here’s the problem - the Thunder, and particularly Westbrook (their main guy with Durant absent), were simply tired from a roadtrip that had featured a triple overtime stint previous to this one. The Raptors did well in exploiting that factor. But how many games can they win based on a team not being up to playing a complete game? Maybe too many, if you want to see a high draft pick more than anything else. But then again, we’ve already seen the Raptors lose games they had the potential to win, because they simply looked ragged themselves, so it should all equal out to some extent.

That doesn’t mean I would entirely discount the game against OKC. That second half featured some nice passing and some solid defensive play. They showed some hustle across the board, and it didn’t lead to any dead ends, but rather capitalized further on their good team play. I won’t just say that the Raptors need to play teams that are gassed, hurting, or just more dismal than our team in Toronto, in order to display such things as ball movement and defensive prowess. Instead, let me look at the positives. They are the poor girl that David Cassidy comes across in the Partridge Family song that also served as the opening theme to the television show. And they have now been pointed in the direction of their Albuquerque. This game should be exhibit A in terms of demonstrating where they need to be. If this team can develop beyond simply running well, and working hard, then they can break through an otherwise low ceiling. Passing and defending are all about a team truly coming together. It’s nice to have an identity centered on the idea of hard work, but it’s the kind of thing that can be negated all to easily over 48 minutes, whereas whatever talent that this roster possesses can be magnified by the development of an identity based on passing and defense with consistency. Without that basis the running game is just a way to hide the truth about that low ceiling. So it was very nice to see this team go beyond running and working hard when they had the chance against a gassed-out team. At least there is a latent possibility that can come into play a little ways down the road, and hopefully they get frequent enough glimpses of that, so that they don’t feel like they’ve already landed in Albuquerque, as D-Leaguers.

But for an identity based on strong two-way teamwork to become a reality in the future, I suspect we are simply going to have to see some significant changes to this roster. If nothing else, that became evident in the loss to Indiana. That game featured a first half with a meager 5 assists, and 10 turnovers. That would be an embarrassment to most D-League teams. This team just doesn’t have much in the way of a halfcourt offense, and it’s going to take more than just time to fix that. There are too many guys that simply do not pass. And it turns out that they are some of the biggest guns that this team relies on. Reggie Evans might actually be missed for his passing abilities, almost as much as for his rebounding, and that fact says more about the rest of the team than it does about Reggie Evans. Sonny Weems and Demar Derozan had been making the attempt to make things work in the halfcourt sets, but have recently become black holes themselves, and that is to be expected to a degree. Just as a weak link or two on the defensive side can make everyone look pretty bad as defenders, when it comes to sharing the ball, the weaker links tend to make those committed to working well within halfcourt sets develop impulses that work against those ends. The key for this team going forward, is to see if they can minimize those weak links on both ends of the court. If they can’t get as far as that, they will need to identify those that make the problem impossible to improve upon, and build around anyone but them. They need to at least be pointed in the right direction, or else the feeling that working hard isn’t going to be enough quite a lot of the time right now, is going to be compounded by a sense that hard work might never be enough to counteract those that hold the rope, and even pull, but never in synch with all the rest.

There might not be any Keith Partridges on this team. Those that come closest might only be suited as backup singers - your Laurie Partridges. That’s fine for now. But the Danny Partridges that ultimately get in the way more than they help, have got to be switched out for the sake of the band. Eventually. Because believing that Danny is just pointing out that the only way to go from here is up, is only going to be possible for so long, before everyone realizes that they are actually being pointed in the direction of an Albuquerque they just don’t want to know about.

claw marks: shut up clarence

‘trane

other than a shaky minute or so at the end, it was so, so nice to watch a professional victory. two-way basketball baby.

oneironaught

Great victory, especially since I was watching the OKC feed, which really makes me appreciate Devlin. Their guy was radically bias until the bitter end, claiming the Raps owe the Thunder for helping them draw their largest crowd of the season. And of course every Raptor bucket was either luck or made possible because of an uncalled walk. How sweet it is!

bladeofBG

Jose thoroughly outplaying Russell Westbrook on both ends, running our offense and creating plays in our 3rd Qtr run, and not letting Russell do anything of significance in the halfcourt! Russell got better stats, but he got’em during inconsequential moments in the 2nd half! No impact plays like what Jose and our guys were doing!

Thriller92

I was shocked that Triano put Jose on Westbrook, but his pick and roll strategy was perfect with Amir/Bargs(whoever the bigman defender on the screen roll was) closed the area that Westbrook had quickly and we basically sandwiched him and he couldnt go anywhere.

rapsmannn

this is what we look like when our PG is locked in

hence my desperation to draft Kyrie Irving who brings it every night, obviouslly I let go of that dream considering the way we are playing of late

LX

Jose and Andrea had a good sweat going. If they get that, along with the added speed of Bayless and Barbosa (on both ends), good focus from Demar, Amir and Sonny, and what looks like the natural defensive ability of Davis, then this team can do some things.

canuckdownunder

The best thing I saw was that AB wasn’t just getting all the rebounds that came to him, he was moving to get rebounds beyond his immediate area, especially some nice hard fought offensive rebs. Not to mention jose, say what want about the 15 assists, but i havent seen too many times hes played better defence than this, against a legit top 5 pg. By the way, now im not saying ed davis should start, but i reckon later on in the season, he might be our best option playing with ab

Rudy-T

As I said during the game Jose and Bayless did great job on Westbrook, but Triano also had his hands in that. And he has gotten guys motivated and ready to play lately (outside some total dissapointments like ATL). His substitution patterns still make me wonder often, but I think he has been much better this season than previously. Maybe it has a lot to do with being able to generate the team style from the begining after Bosh left.

new money


So your favorite cable operator is going to take over control of your team. Is that good? Now of course, we all hate the type of monopoly that a company like Rogers represents. From the beginning, those that held the rights to broadcast and charge cable fees, had a license to print money. Or at least suck it right out of our pockets. These guys are the new robber barons, but instead of needing a California in which to send passengers and goods along the rails, they need sports teams to fill their channels with content. With the internet and cell phones added into the mix, a billion and change is going to loop back upon itself in a hurry. So it’s definitely good for them. And in the sense that it is such an easy equation, it is likely good for us as fans, in that our team will not be beholden to formulas ensuring a safe financial return before wins and losses are ever considered. Losing will mean that the initial investment does not feed on itself as well. Winning will mean the returns just keep getting fatter. The dynamic in play is quite different in that sense, and welcome.

A Rogers ownership would mean something on an entirely different level in terms of financial interests. Over the last decade in this country, the top one percent in terms of wealth doubled their earnings. The teacher’s pension fund likely looked to tap into that as much as possible, and could do so with MLSE holdings, without ever having to be concerned about how teams performed. They only needed to know that seats could be sold, and that those profits could be converted to safe bets in real estate or whatever. Eventually, they would look for the best time to sell altogether. It’s about the money, and keeping it piling up reliably. Rogers does not have the same concerns. Remember that they basically have that license to print money. They do not need to look for safe bets to invest in. They need to find the content that will make their fountain of coins resemble a mushroom cloud. Over the last decade the top .1 percent of wealth has increased their earnings four-fold, and the top .01 percent has increased their earnings by five times what they enjoyed previously. You have to think that “earnings” ends up being used very loosely. And that is not what Rogers is “tapping into” - that is the wave they are riding.

Now that hardly ensures a winning Raptors team. The cable money shoveled into the Knicks franchise is a testament to that. And another concern for myself, as a fan, would be how much of a priority basketball would represent alongside hockey, baseball and soccer. What if a lack of certainty over the necessity of acquiring a basketball team is part of what is holding up the transition? What if they end up looking at basketball as just an add-on that they might just as gladly see sold and moved to another locale? There’s your big possible downside. And for all the inherent safeness of MLSE, they did a nice job of keeping basketball operations separate and important in its own right. It would not be good if the Raptors just ended up being defined as a weaker sister in the Toronto sports fairy tale, remaining as long as they scrubbed the floors while the other mean fatties went to the ball. Ratings would mean as much as anything in that scenario, and it’s hard to say what that might mean. If this team is given an honest chance to become a winner, then there’s no foreseeable problem. It’s just a matter of whether that honest chance materializes, like a glass slipper, or is held off while the other teams hog all the attention. This is a media conglomerate we’re talking about, and the media hasn’t exactly put basketball front and center to this point. Hopefully the value to a niche market will be evident and they go from there, building a winner and becoming all that much more valuable to a wider market.

In any case, this news goes a long way to explain some of the odd behavior of Bryan Colangelo over the last year. Certainly, he can not be well-served by this process being ongoing. He has likely been biding his time more than anything, with any real moves having strings attached to them, and questions hanging overhead. He has not been all that autonomous a figure as much as he’s been a pitchman, and it would be nice to see a real return to the former ideal. As much as I’d like to be critical of him, it’s just not fair to do so until this thing gets finalized one way or another. I hope that happens soon. In the meantime I am looking forward to calling Rogers and spitting out “PROB-LEM with BASKET-BALL TEAM” to their speech recognition calling service. Hello? Yes - I was hoping that Andrea Bargnani could be traded, and if not, then I am really going to have to look at switching to Bell…

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