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Toronto Raptors fire Sam Mitchell!

It’s official.

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Post-Seasons Reasons

So. Is there any reason to believe in this team (outside of the local impulse to scream about how awesome it is that the Raps are in the playoffs again) will make a mark beyond a trace come this weekend? It seems sour. Bittersweet I guess, but outside of the so-so play in November and December, we haven’t been able to put together a run at all this season, so for many reasons it would appear that this team is locked in for a first round exit. With more downs than ups, and last night’s first half of ugliness against the tepid, it smells like Toronto’s fate is out of their hands. After all, to win against these guys is usually determined by the quality of their opponent. Jack made the point last night that winning teams make winning a part of their everyday habit. From the way they compose themselves on the court, to the post-game wrap-ups, they’re habit is walking and talking like a winner. For this to be a habit, obviously, you gotta start chalking up more W’s than L’s, but is there some kind of initial impulse that precedes the actual way a winning team wins? A culture of success?

Some have argued that Colangelo has come in and done that. He has comparatively when stacked against the likes of Babcock, Grunwald, and Zeke. But last year is looking more and more like an aberration. A year where they caught some people by surprise and guys had career years. Things have leveled off in some areas, while others have declined. This team still can’t manufacture stops on the defensive end on a consistent basis (The Tepid shot over 50% in the first half last night). This isn’t news. Though statistically they’re better defensively this year, the past two months have seen some pretty awful efforts to stop the opposition. What’s news is the steady decline of the Raptors ability to “make shats.” There’s theories abounding as to how and why the best three point shooting team in the league percentage wise has been taking less of them. The fact that the deadliest three point shooter in league history (percentage wise) not only made one, but also took one for the first time in a month yesterday is troublesome. There are guys in shooting slumps to be sure. Bargs is one for his last 17 behind the ark, and Delfino, well he’s a walking/talking heat check. But the guy you want taking maybe 5-7 threes a game in Kapono, not being able to get one off can’t simply be because he isn’t looking for his shot. Colangelo made the point that in Kapono’s case, his decline in play this season has been because of coaching. To elaborate, its this team’s lack of offensive cohesiveness and execution to be able to consistently get Kapono that kind of looks he’ll bury 60% of the time.

Whether this is due to personnel or coaching at this point is less significant than the timing of this executional conundrum. Finding answers this late in the season gives reason to think that this post-season is going to be as short-lived as last years. Pistons rookie Rodney Stuckey hit it on the head when he said during the playoffs, “You’re locking in on one team and everybody knows what each other’s going to do.” The problem here in the context of the Raps is that they’re entirely unsure of what “each other’s going to do.” Their more down than up play doesn’t leave them with a lot of room to establish Jack’s winning habit. Bosh et al are trying to sell this to the fans as a long season of ups and downs that every team goes through, which is light years away from what winning teams actually do. That said, maybe they get lucky, get hot, and snap out of whatever funk they’re in and take it to the Magic. There’s a ton of reasons to suggest otherwise, but in the end all you need is one for the contrary.

This blog entry courtesy of ClingRap.

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Jamario Moon: 33

jamario.jpg

When news broke that Jamario Moon would be participating in this year’s All Star slam dunk contest, Raptors and NBA fans alike were all heard saying the same thing - “Finally!” As much as Toronto fans are quick to denounce Vince Carter’s relevance and what he brought to the basketball domain in Canada, no one can doubt that he absolutely owned the slam dunk competition. For the unfortunate few who competed in the same event in the following years, none could ever electrify the stadium as Carter did, and the excitement of the slam dunk contest plummeted to a point where it could not even match that of the skills competition.

This year’s contest proves to be an event worth watching, not just because Jamario has the ability and athleticism to win the competition, but because he deserves it more than anyone else. NBA fans are only beginning to learn the hardships and the long road that has led Moon to his starting role today, and the more you know of him, the more you appreciate who he has become.

All bets are on Jamario to take the crown this year. Gerald Green had his chance to prove himself last year, and although he is the champion, he’ll be hard pressed to come up with more creative dunks this year. Rudy Gay oozes talent, but lacks the technical skills to wow the judges, and the only way Dwight Howard is going to win is if he actually snaps the rim off the backboard.

If there is one thing to look forward to when Moon raises that trophy in the air, it’s that it will signify that he has arrived. For all the blood, sweat, and tears, he will have emerged from the depths of the shadows of mediocrity and find himself in the spotlight of the greatest NBA event of the year. And for that, we can all agree that there is a big bad Moon rising.




Who is Raptors?

Who is Raptors?

The snow’s falling and I’ve got an essay to write. There are lots of questions, but none more pressing than the one I led with. These guys can simultaneously stink up the joint and make it smell lemony fresh all in the span of 48 minutes. It’s refreshing and parching to the senses. It’s like watching someone make a really nice pizza, crust and everything from scratch, and then burn it to bits in the oven. The ideology machine at MLSE and their PR gurus will have us believe that the injuries are the source of this contradictory madness. They may be right. But there’s been some not-so-subtle indicators of some deeper issues plaguing this good one moment, gone the next squad.

Watching the game against Boston, it was amazing to see how significant Garnett is to his troops. The Boston teams of yesteryear, as in last year and the year before, took a lot of ill-advised shots and showed a lot of immaturity by not playing as a cohesive unit. They had talent, young talent, but a lot of one-on-one guys. They shipped those dudes west in exchange for a guy who has more focus that the Hubble.
He comes into the game after the Raps reel off a couple in a row and before you can say “Big Ticket”, his guys are back up by 18 and cruising to their ninth in a row. His impact is never subtle, always significant.

On the other side of the ball we have a team described somehow positively by Rautins and Swirsky as not panicking despite being down 15 mid-way in the fourth to the NBA’s hottest, most dominant team. From the opening tip until the final horn, this Raptors team didn’t simply play a bad game. Rather, Boston, like any good team that plays consistent ball will do, exposed the Raptors’ “deer in the headlights” tendencies.

Boston came out and laid some fucking wood. They hit Parker in the chops. They leveled Calderon twice. Clobbered Bosh. They played a suffocating man-to-man defense that looked a lot like a zone because of their scrambling. They talked and helped and forced the Raptors into more turnovers than assists and even more rushed and bad shots.

This team quite simply, with their asses being handed to them, kindly thanked the Celtics for returning them in tact. They didn’t push back, not once. They laboured and took what the Celts gave them. They wined to the refs. Even I know that if you get pushed in rec league, you push back. The hard fouls aren’t a coincidence, they’re a strategy.

So, who is Raptors?

Every single person in Raptorland knows that this team needs Andrea Bargnani. They need him now. He reminds me of C-3PO out there. He uses a lot of movement and energy (more than I thought was humanly possible) for one dribble pull-ups. For a professional basketball player, he sure seems confused as to what to do with the ball. His stance for one thing, is far too upright. He should go to YouTube and check some of his stuff from last year. With every passing game he looks less like himself and more like a poor man’s Pat Garrity. Who is Andrea Bargnani? Where is Andrea Bargnani? Have the Monstars stolen all of his skills? I think the scouting report is out on this guy. If you look at what opposing teams have done over the past month to contain him, it’s been to get in his grill. They’ve done that. Andrea has yet to show them he’s capable of playing under such pressure. Has he heard of ball fakes? Jab steps? Using his off-arm to create space? I think he’s better than this. Until then, I’m putting him on notice.

Who is Raptors?

I don’t know. They have quarters of magnificence and quarters of incompetence. Sometimes coming one after the other. I wish they could just play more like a .500 team that looked like a .500 team. Not like a .500 team that shows signs of being so much more.
This I do know. Turn down the volume of your televisions Raps fans. Don’t believe the hype being shoveled on there. Open your eyes to the inconsistencies, the lack of preparation and the indifference towards mediocrity. Ask yourself, “Who is Raptors?” When you figure it out, drop me a line.

This blog entry courtesy of ClingRap.

Raptors give the Mavericks another go

The last time the Raptors faced off against the Mavericks in Dallas back on November 20th, Dirk Nowitzki went off. During one stretch during the third quarter, he reeled off four straight long balls to bring his team back from a 24 point deficit to win the game. Bosh and Bargnani both had big games that night, so they’re going to have to step it up again tonight in order to keep this game competitive.

Without TJ Ford in the line up tonight, it’ll be up to Jose Calderon to lead the charge, and you can bet Calderon fans are salivating at the thought of having him run the team for the next few games. Just keep in mind that no matter who you like more, this team will always be better with the both of them on the roster. The TJ/Jose debates really need to go away.

But whichever way you look at it, this can be one of those games where you decide you’re going to win it for your team mate. When TJ went down, there was a definite ominous feeling in the air, and players were genuinely frightened given TJ’s injury history. You can bet that in the huddle tonight, they’ll be playing this one for him. That being said, Dallas is coming into the game winning only 3 of their last 9 games. It would be a great time to jump on their current struggles, while using the recent loss in Dallas as experience on how to prevent the same embarrassment from happening again.

The problem is, Dirk has a history of enjoying great success against the Raptors, and knowing how to shut him down is a lot easier than actually doing it. Statistically, Dallas is better at scoring, preventing their opponents from scoring, and crashing the boards. Perimeter defense will once again be an issue with Nowitski, Howard, and Terry roaming the arc, all who have either been playing well lately or have the ability to throw daggers at the Raptors in crunch time. Bosh will once again have to establish a strong inside presence all game to establish a solid offensive rhythm. With Jose running the offense, it should be more controlled. The worst possible thing you could do is have the offense run through 2 or 3 different players with no sets against the Mavericks, because they will disassemble the offense quite easily with their playing style. Establishing a rhythm early and not allowing Dirk to get into his will be key tonight.

Enjoy the game.

Brand new Toronto Raptors message board!

We just wanted to let all the readers know that a new message forum has been installed. Please update your bookmarks, as the old board will be taken offline soon. We encourage you to re-register on the new board. All links on the main page have been changed to reflect the new forum location, or you can click the link below to go there directly now. Thanks again for being a part of the Raptors Forum community!

www.raptorsforum.com/f/

Raptors, Cavaliers….. up NEXT.

Much like Paris Hilton’s much-hyped trip to Rwanda, tonight’s game between the Toronto Raptors and the Cleveland Cavaliers might feature some other no-show’s due to the Christmas injury bug. LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani, and TJ Ford are slated as game time decisions, leaving court side ticket holders more time to enjoy the theatrics of the air-filled Raptors mascot.

The Cavs come into this game winning 8 of the last 9 meetings, the most recent of which LeBron dropped a huge triple double on the scorer’s table. If LeBron plays tonight, then Jamario Moon will once again have to come up big. After his last assignment against the King, Moon remarked that despite all the scouting reports and video he watched, LeBron was bigger and faster on the court than he could’ve ever anticipated. James is putting up career numbers averaging over 30 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists a game. What did you expect, Jamario?

The Raptors will need to play hard interior defense to keep this game close. Don’t look to the Cavs to be satisfied playing much perimeter tonight. Aside from Damon Jones and Daniel Gibson floating along the arc, Cleveland will be looking to take it inside pretty much all game. Toronto’s defence has been spotty the last few games, and in the event Bosh sits out tonight, it’s going to be a tough night in the paint shop stopping the Cav’s big men.

Cleveland boasts 6th in the league in opponent’s scoring and 3rd in the league in rebounding, which doesn’t bode well for a Toronto team that struggles with rebounding. This may be one of those games where the Raptors will yet again live and die by the three. But with so many question marks as to the starting lineups, it’ll be interesting to see how the game pans out tonight.

Enjoy the game.

Raptors vs. Mavericks Preview

Velcro and a little bit of Moonshine.

That’s what the Raptors are going to have to rely on tonight to have a chance at tarnishing Dallas’ perfect home record of 5-0 this season. Chris needs to be like those wallets you used to have in grade 4 that you couldn’t rip open with the jaws of life. His game has simplified into two possible plays - park himself at foul line elbow and make 3 second decisions on whether or not he is going to toss jumpers, or clamp down on the rock and forge straight to the basket with conviction. Most would advocate for the latter, but Bosh has still demonstrated a tendency to get stripped in the lane because he looks for the foul first and foremost, rather than looking to dunk. The key for Chris tonight is to attack early and often, keep the defenders anxious of foul trouble, and draw attention.

As the team’s second highest rebounder, Jamario Moon’s rebounding assignment is going to be tougher than Amy Winehouse’s. Dallas’ rebounding has been less than stellar this year, but Toronto has simply been that much worse. With Rasho Nesterovic out with sprained right ankle and Andrea confused in large crowds, Moon is going to have to prevent the cow from jumping over him and play above the rim for loose balls.

The Mavericks come into this game statistically better than the Raptors in virtually every category. Dallas beat Toronto both times last season, and 13 out of the last 15 meetings. And despite the fact that the Raptors have been playing better on the road, it’s been against teams with losing records. Dallas boasts 3 players in the top 30 scoring leaders this season (Howard, Terry, and Nowitzki) and 2 players (Diop and Nowitzki) in the top 30 rebounding leaders this season. Toronto boasts zero (that means NONE).

The outlook is bleak, but stranger things have happened. Enjoy the game.

Raptors Top 10 Plays of 2006/2007

Marty York eats a Mail Bag

I don’t know how many people left in this city hold a semblance of respect for Marty York. Why the Metro continues to employ a never-was beat writer to cover sports, I’ll never know. But I’m fairly certain that the droves of basketball fans that have been deriding Marty for years of baseless Raptors reports are tickled with fancy over Doug Smith’s Friday Raptors Mail Bag in today’s Toronto Star.

A reader submits:

Q: I really enjoy what The Star is doing with the Tuesday (and sometimes Friday) columns.

I just wanted to ask, since you seem to mention it a lot, is the chemistry with the beat grunts as good as the Raptors chemistry? I notice you mention Stumpy a lot, how do you get along with Grange from the Globe and Marty York (even though some of his stories are completely wrong)?

George Weiz, Toronto

And although Doug Smith hardly occupies the top of my list of favourite sports writers, he’s moved up a few notches with his reply:

A: Oooh, baby, this is like the biggest softball question of all time.

First of all, I need to clear one of your misconceptions. A beat grunt, which is a term of great pride, is used to describe someone who regularly covers the team, goes to games and practices. In the last 10 years of covering the Raptors full time, I’ve probably seen an average of 70 games a year, never missing more two in a season at home, and taking in probably 90-100 practices a year. Never once, not one single, solitary time, never, ever, ever in a decade, have I once laid eyes on that last fellow you mention at a practice, game, press conference or media availability. To cast him as a beat grunt does a disservice to all the honest, hard-working, legitimate beat grunts in all sports. Please never, ever, ever use that name in that context again.

Now, as for our team chemistry, it’s very Raptors-like. We get along, we love to bust on each other and make fun of ourselves, we’re highly competitive but professionally respectful of each other.

Oh, and if you catch us in an adult beverage parlour or a hospitality suite, we can be like Martin and Lewis we’re so funny. That’d be Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, not Darrick Martin and Martin Lewis.

That just made my day.

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