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Report Card Time: Ed Davis


Ed Davis is up next.

‘trane

Missing the preseason and the first 17 games of the regular season was not a promising start, but Ed took the time he had to show that he belongs in the NBA. While his numbers are not spectacular, they don’t really tell the whole story. He showed flashes of excellent play - 17/11 vs Chicago, 22/13 vs New York come to mind - and became more consistent with the increased minutes. Davis finished the season averaging 13/9 over the final 11 games.

Grade: B+

LX

Ed can guard more than his own man without breaking a sweat. He gets in good positions on both ends of the court. You can see that he simply has good instincts, and even as a rookie that had to fight his way into the rotation after missing the early part of the season, he was just able to show that he can play ball without needing to over-think anything. He changed a lot of shots; he made a lot of shots. He provided a nice jumping-off point for next season and beyond.

Grade: A-

oneironaught

People fear change, which is why some Raptor fans vehemently opposed our 2010 lottery pick, Ed Davis. “But can he score?!”, questioned many. “What do you mean he’s not a threat offensively? What! Injury prone as well? Good grief!” Even coming off one of the worst defensive seasons in the history of the NBA, skeptics of picking a potential defensive stud let their collective voice be heard, “there’s a reason he fell in the draft”. Personally, I loved this pick from the get go. So much so, I refuse to credit Bryan Colangelo for it because it was the obvious choice. Literally, a no brainer. Even David Kahn would have got this one right. Kahn would have converted Davis into a PG, but I digress.

- blocks, changes shot
- physical man to man defender
- almost infallible finishing around the bucket
- jumper improving

Ladies and gentlemen, it took us five years or so to find an exciting young replacement for Vincent Lamar Carter. We found a replacement for Christopher Wesson Bosh before he even left.

Grade: A

fancylad

He’s fundamentally sound, can D up,has good inside game and looks tough. What’s not to like about him? Too bad he already wants out of Toronto. just kidding.

Grade: A

Acie

I absolutely love this guy. Too bad him and his dad hate Toronto so much. I wonder what mom thinks about it?

Grade: B+

INSIDER

whats new? a fantastic young player who will potentially be the best Raptor player in a few years, but will probably leave at the end of his contract.
hooray for us!!!

i predict a HUGE season next year, and an even better season the year after…. and so on…. until he dumps us and become the next hated ex-raps player.

Grade: A

RF Posters

On the forum, it looks like 76 percent say it’s a solid B, while 16 percent are ready to hand out an A.

Report Card Time: DeMar


School’s out, but those report cards can make or break the summer. The students of the game at RF will take a look at each player on the Raptors squad and offer their grades. We begin with DeMar DeRozan.

‘trane

A great year for Demar. He still has lots to improve on - defense is inconsistent and 3 point shooting is abysmal - but he is becoming a confident offensive weapon, capable of taking the last shot. His attitude also seems to be a big part of the camaraderie that has developed, especially amidst the negativity of a losing season. Demar’s growth has been a bright spot this year.

Grade: A

LX

He’s become increasingly consistent offensively, and without playing on an island. If he continues to improve, then he’s going to be able to help this team make a nice jump. With Ed and Amir I can see a core of players that can allow good team play to bring some wins as they all continue to develop and get stronger.

Grade: A-

oneironaught

As a rookie who was limited to a dribble or two off the bounce, shot the ball like he was trying to break the back board, and couldn’t finish in traffic despite being an athlete, I had low expectations for Demar’s sophomore campaign. But he certainly proved me wrong, and then some:

- handles, shot mechanics vastly improved.
- post game more diverse
- crafty in lane - dig that euro step
- doesn’t need the ball to contribute - utilizes screens well

Defensively though, there is much to be learned, young padawan. Namely, close outs.

I’ll wrap it up with a quote from the exalted George Costanza, who said, “it’s not a lie, if you believe it”. Despite contradicting general belief, Demar thinks he can be one of the best players in this league. If he persists in that belief, and the trend of doubling his point totals year in year out, he’ll prove the doubters wrong, all while averaging 1088 points or so by his 8th year.

Grade: A-

fancylad

He showed promise last season and has delivered on that promise this time around. well pretty much. You know what? Going by his age and pre-NBA experience i am going to say this was his real rookie year and with that in mind i think he was pretty damn awesome. The guy is totally reliable with that mid range jumper and he still has the best hops in the league. and because i still consider him a rookie (yeah i am kinda joking - but not really!) i won’t shit on him for his defense. That will naturally become better with experience especially for someone with his athleticism.

Grade: A

Acie

Although he’s still a long way away from reaching his full potential, he proved that hard work does really pay off and provided a glimmer of hope in what was otherwise a dismal season.

Grade: A

INSIDER

i have to admit, when we drafted him i never thought DD would be anything more than an athletic dime-a-dozen wing. i am happy to be eating my words.
DD grew in leaps and bounds this season and flourished in his second year. improving on all aspects of his game; his jumpshot, his D, his ballhandling…. he stepped up his entire game - and he doesnt look to be stopping.
His growth from year one to year two was fantastic, and was the complete opposite of his counterparts (Tyreke evans, etc) who suffered the sophomore curse and struggled.

DD is our brightest star and I am confident he will continue his upward trend for next year… 20/5/5 for 2012???? i dont see why not?

Grade: A

RF Posters

The early count shows 55 percent favor a B grade with 40 percent handing out an A.

high tide


OK - so it took a full season to get these guys playing a style that serves them well. At least it happened. Everything I was looking for as far back as training camp, and have repeatedly bored you with throughout the season, now appears to have been realized to some extent. I can’t complain about all the losses in between, because the talent added through a high draft pick is going to be essential. And now there is some indication of what that pick is going to be added to. It seems possible to see this team improving on defense, to the point where it allows them to convert stops to easy baskets. Get a pick that can turn the possibility into a reality, and this team is on its way to having a solid foundation going forward.

Of course missing from that foundation are Colangelo favorites - Bargnani, Calderon and Kleiza. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for any or all of them, but I would suggest that it would be a challenge to figure out what the role of each guy would be. Kleiza looks to be on the shelf for some time yet, so they are not going to need to decide on his role for some time. The other two mainstays just may have to go. I still think that Jose could be an excellent choice as a backup point guard, but if we draft a point guard to upgrade the position overall, then Bayless might be the better choice as a guy that could share minutes, and share duties in the backcourt as a combo guard with the new guy. Jose has never been a guy that can play as part of a dynamic offense. He either has the ball and makes something happen, or he doesn’t have the ball and he fades into the background. When he’s played with Navarro on the Spanish team, he has repeatedly passed the ball over to his off-guard and then literally stepped back. That is his mindset. It’s not that he needs the ball, but without the ball he doesn’t take on much of a role. Take Jose off this team and you have more threats to drive and keep opposing defenses on their heels, rather than just find somebody some space for a jumper that opposing defenses are fine with giving up. That’s not a change that will make this team world-beaters overnight, but it will give them a definitive focus and foundation to build on.

Andrea could also be a part of that foundation theoretically. There is no denying his impact on games in fits and starts. To me that suggests no more starts. He could be a very effective scorer coming off the bench, and he could be quickly brought back to the bench on those nights where he’s clearly killing the team with awkward shots and no defensive presence. For the bulk of this season he has been given the chance to show that he can provide a net positive on the floor over the course of 48 minutes. He’s managed to do so a handful of times. And that is not good enough. Simply making him a second or third option on the starting lineup doesn’t help. He needs to be able to be something of a focal point on offense in order to make-up for being the focal point of attack for opposing teams on the other end. There is only so much effort that the other four Raptors on the floor can provide to make Bargnani’s lack of a presence something that works out in the wash. It’s not something that is going to work over the course of complete games with Andrea playing big minutes. That’s just too hard and improbable against most NBA teams. Andrea as the main guy, rather than a specialist off the bench, takes the kind of focus and foundation that we’ve seen in the last couple of games and turns it into something that is too dependent on a single, inconsistent performer.

There are a group of guys on this team that are young, still improving, and happy to be playing together. That’s a group that can overachieve over the next season or two, and that would allow room to add some pieces that make for a really strong, well-balanced team. For much of this season we’ve seen hard work that doesn’t often pay off. On the offensive end, guys like Jose, Andrea, and Linas have provided some sense that scoring can come easy. I would argue that it has come at the cost of the team relying too much on a bunch of jumpers that can turn a sense of ease into all kinds of difficulties in a hurry. And then the hard work on the defensive end has to overcompensate for the pieces that don’t fit, while offering up transition baskets going the other way off of missed jumpers. It’s been sad to see strong individual efforts lead only to easy baskets for opposing teams. These guys need to know that they are all pulling on the same rope. For the most part we’ve seen two or three guys digging in with all fours just to keep the rope from going slack, while two or three other guys hold on with one hand, if that, while distracting the other side by building sand castles. A lot of that has to do with the personnel. But with the addition of James Johnson, and Ed Davis getting better by the minute, some real results can be had from a more defensive mindset. At least this past weekend has hinted at that possibility. Now can they add the right draft pick and another piece or two to solidify that?

I felt like I was watching basketball last weekend. I missed that feeling. I want more now. We’ve seen hard work that doesn’t prevent easy baskets for the bad guys for longer than I care to remember. Jay Triano is in danger of being defined by the failure that comes from that imbalance. And now we’ve seen a glimpse of how hard work can allow for some easy baskets, in close and reliably, for the good guys. In that scenario Jay Triano can be defined by the improvements of developing players like DeMar, Amir, JJ, and Bayless. The coach can get credit for a team that plays together in order to overachieve. In any case it is something to build on. The sand castles can, and will, just wash away with the tide. There are some pieces with real value that can bring something back in return, in the form of Andre, Jose, and maybe Bayless or Barbosa if a pg is drafted. Those aren’t bad assets to dangle out there. And even if they garner mostly draft picks coming back, it opens up the chance to find the pieces that can work together over time, and gives the group we watched this weekend a chance to get better from season to season. I would so much prefer that as an alternative to always wondering what kind of neurotic identity might eventually take hold.

the hairy situation


There is not an awful lot in the Raptors immediate future that provides much intrigue. It looks like they are locked in as the 5th worst team in the league, barring some kind of run by the Timberwolves. So it’ll be all up to the lucky bounce of a fair number of ping pong balls before we can get worked up in any way about possibilities next season. The only thing that draws my attention on a day-to-day basis is Jose Calderon’s thinning hair. Can he make it through the season without a bald spot becoming harder to miss than one of his free throws from a couple season’s back? I have a whole host of locker room scenarios playing out in my mind, including Jose scrounging up shavings from Reggie’s beard, trying to get Andrea to wear a sleeve on his calf again so that he can shave off and donate his leg hair, asking Leandro if he’s done any waxing and whether he might have saved any furry remnants - and then mixing his collection of discarded follicles with the gel Jorge had handed to him before the 2006 World Championships, while whispering in his ear, “we need to look like world champions if we want to be world champions”. Jose would be a true basketball king shortly thereafter, and look the part, but now he may need this concoction to hide the slowly growing circle of light that crowns his head. As that circle widens, there will be only one solution - clipping his entire mane down to a fine stubble. No more with “a little off the top”. He’s going to need counseling from Bruce Willis.

The question will be when not if. And that seems to correlate with the fate of the team’s ownership. We first heard that Peddie was retiring. When? Sometime soon. There would be a slow process in looking for a replacement, and it wouldn’t represent much more than a “little off the top”. Then we heard a leak concerning Roger’s interest in purchasing all the holding interests of MLSE. That was quickly covered up with the usual media concoctions that might equate to Jose’s mixture. And now we hear that the teacher’s pension fund is indeed looking to sell it’s shares. The question, like with Jose’s impending baldness, is how long before everything at the top gets lopped off? And of course this question is much more important than impending changes to Jose’s grooming habits. It impacts on the whole future of this franchise. I’ve made the point in the past how new ownership would likely be a very positive step, but in the meantime, the waiting could prove to be quite negative. How far can this team move forward until they have moved forward with the handover of all the accounts? What happens to Colangelo and Triano in the meantime? How will possible trades, or even the draft be effected? Unlike with Jose, a holding pattern is not something to hope for.

When Bryan Colangelo arrived he decided on something of a makeover for the team. And not just with his overhauling of the roster. We would no longer bleed purple. The change to red meant a transformed court and locker room. And the claw became the dominant logo over the old dribbling dinosaur. That was nice. It had some effect. But any textbook on management principles will point out how such superficial changes in appearance do not resolve any underlying issues necessary to achieving a fundamental difference. Even if the ghost of Marlon Brando whispers into Andrea’s ear that he looks like a champion, we’re not likely to see him holding the big ball of gold that makes it so. This team needs a legitimate makeover, starting at the top, in order for results on the court to hold as much of a claim as monetary gains through the usual conservative approach of too many cooks perusing the books. I’m anxious for this all to happen quickly as a fan, and yet I sense that fans are not going to be given any consideration in any of it, and that it will drag on while various sides look for an advantage that might allow them to rub a few extra nickels together. In the end, I just hope that this team can end up with the sort of solid footing at the the very top that it has never quite managed to achieve, and without which it is left needing more luck than anything else. The fans have been there all along. We’ve served the pensioners well. Now it’s time for the money to deliver more than cosmetic changes and a little hope here and there for us. It’s time for ownership to look for the same sort of results on the court that we’re all looking for. Now let’s see that ownership finally emerge, and soon - before we see Jose resort to a drastic haircut.

some certainty


Yes there is at least one thing we know for sure: this team is not going to have a winning record. Not a whole lot of people likely care, and for good reason. But there should be something to care about. All I can come up with is getting a good pick. It’s the players yet to be on this team that I care about more than anything else.

In a way that includes next season’s Ed Davis. I expect him to be a different player in his first full season. Already we have seen a difference from when he first took to the court. His knee is getting stronger. He’s got some improved quickness. Give him the summer and and a full camp, and I can’t see why he wouldn’t have an expanded role to step into.

James Johnson? Who knows? I like that he has been on the team’s radar for a long time. Picking him up was not just a whim. This was not just giving a young athletic guy a shot. In the minds of Colangelo and co., there was already some commitment to having him fill some needs on the wings. He looks like a guy that can defend. And he can pass the ball. The problem is that we have seen similar things from a couple of different guys named Wright, and a guy named Weems, and eventually some nice two-way abilities tail off in every instance. The question is whether Johnson has over-achieved thanks to the adrenaline rush of finally seeing the court. On a team that is sorely lacking in so many areas, just being able to exhibit some passion, intensity, and effort, can make any player look better than they really are. I’m trying to care about him. I just need to see guys like him and Davis and the guy that gets picked in a few months, able to fill enough roles properly to allow for any five guys to play off each other, and magnify some of the strengths that are starting to show through.

We have seen them look like a team that can consistently amount to more than the sum of its parts, precisely twice this season - in the win in Orlando, and last week against Chicago. Everything broke just right in both those games, but all the same it was nice to see 48 minutes of executing on both ends of the court. To be able to see more than two games where that happens might lead me to care. And I have to think we need to be seeing it happen at least in bits and pieces for the remainder of the season. The first quarter last night was a good example. Now let’s see where they can find some options once the easy scoring dries up, without resorting to one-on-five play. If we don’t start seeing more of a team coming together at times, then it’s going to be hard to give a passing grade to the coaching staff, or to assess which players are worth keeping. They will be in danger of starting from scratch next season. And that is about as happy a prospect as Franco and Hathaway hosting the Oscars again.

Twenty games doesn’t amount to much in the big picture, but they need to be able to extract some possibilities and get a sense of where a little fine-tuning can net a few good results. Right now they are looking through the wrong end of the binoculars altogether, so the fine-tuning knob isn’t going to make a great deal of difference for the most part. But there has to be a few moments where they get a glimpse though the small end and gain enough of a sense of the importance of details in making each other better, so that something can be carried over into next season. That is going to be Triano’s challenge. He doesn’t need to make me care at this point. He needs to be able to give his players a sense of a bigger picture of what they can care about. Otherwise a lack of details is going to magnify the obvious weaknesses: we’ll see guys like Bayless and Barbosa looking increasingly lost, we’ll see DeMar and Andrea looking as incomplete as ever, we’ll see Ajinca and Weems amounting to little. There needs to be some sense of certainty that can start working it’s way positively through the lineup. There’s not going to be a lot of it - they just need to make sure it doesn’t get lost altogether as the season winds down. And to be honest, I’m likely to miss it, because until the sense of a team being pieced together smacks me in the face harder than an ounce of Brut, it’s going to be hard to care.

no shot


The San Antonio Spurs play a smart game of basketball. They take away the paint as much as possible. And then they count on the opposing team taking enough bad shots to make the biggest difference. They know they will take good shots, because they are disciplined, and they all insist on it from top to bottom. And they have the means and know-how to manufacture good opportunities. That doesn’t just simply mean they have guys like Manu and Tony that can create for themselves, because even when those guys are making their moves, the rest of the team is doing something to make them that much more effective, and being ready to get their own chance once the defense has been broken down. There was an instance last night where Ginobili got into the paint on a break and turned the ball over when he expected an unguarded Hill or Neal to be cutting to the basket instead of falling back behind the arc. It was a mistake that was not lightly brushed off. The open guy that is filling a passing lane on a break, is going to be going to the basket next time.

Most of the work that was done by the Spurs, was just rudimentary execution of cuts and pick and rolls, done with enough care and precision to provide easy baskets. It did not require any great displays of athleticism or talent. It required more than one guy working together for the benefit of the whole team, and knowing what options might follow, and which ones to choose. The Toronto Raptors ran down the court and tried to get shots off before the Spurs could settle in on defense. They got open shots, and even a nice number of good shots. But if they didn’t get a shot up in a hurry, they tended to get bogged down, with no real options. There was a point in the second quarter where DeRozan held the ball on the perimeter and looked for Bargnani to free him up for a drive with a screen. Bargnani stood frozen, three feet away, seeing nobody was going to come out and guard him there, and called for the ball. He shot the three and made it. Hooray. But there is no nothing to celebrate if that is going to be the level of offensive execution we can expect from the two guys that got their shots. The defense did not have to work, and they got the Raptors to take what has not been a high percentage chance. When it came to the Spurs tightening up in the fourth quarter, it was not like they needed to worry about a lot of options. The Raptors had not really demonstrated any ability to get beyond taking the first open look that was available. And even though Andrea stayed away from the fadeaways and showed more discipline then he has in a month, after a few hard fouls, he didn’t force the issue at all. It ended up being left to Barbosa to use his speed alone while four other guys watched. Needless to say, the Raptors are a long ways away from being the Spurs.

OK. That’s obvious right. Need to keep the expectations in check. But can they not at least strive to play as a team and execute plays on some level that shows some kind of commanding presence that can be built on? The sad truth is that they are not made to do so. Aside from Jose and DeMar and Amir, you are not going to see much integrated into the offense beyond taking that first hint of an open shot. This team could really use another solid veteran or two that could make it easier to head in that direction. Instead we got Barbosa coming in with his predisposition to go one-on-five. And we got Kleiza with his predisposition to force his own dribble into a crowd or force his post-game while everyone watches. And really, it’s been a problem beyond this season, and it likely starts with the need for five weapons on the court at all times when the culture of any successful team can make do with a BB gun as long as it is one of five that is working together. It’s a matter of where the emphasis lies, and with the progress of DeRozan and Johnson, there is at least a little hope that tide might turn.

I honestly preferred the slower pace, the reliance on defense and the need to execute in half-court sets (as difficult as it proved to be) during the long losing streak. To me, it gave an indication of which players have the most value. It turned out that there were only so many good shots that could be made available to Amir and DeMar, and our high-volume guy in Bargnani ended up putting up some terrible numbers. The answer? Apparently that was forcing Jose to take more shots. The result? A solid shooter, and a guy that could qualify as a solid vet that could lead them towards executing properly, went 2 for 15 against the Bucks. They turned him into the same undisciplined hack that has been counted on far too often for far too long. Now that they are back to the quicker pace, with Barbosa and Bayless back, it seems that flaws are just being hidden, and not all that well. Can we actually expect a team that doesn’t make opposing defenses work (beyond shutting down the first option early in the shot clock) to then be able to read what good offenses are doing and react accordingly? It looks like we need to wait for more talent and more athleticism before it’s going to look like anything will work on both ends of the court. I only wish that something of a foundation could be put in place before that occurs, and I fear that what remains in place will be the old foundation of five different guns that all work alone to get shots that only help the opposing artillery lead a charge. This team can score easily enough, but when the style of play, and the inevitable misses, don’t give their shaky defense a chance, then it becomes clear they are playing a different game than the Spurs, or just about anybody else. So will they just insist on trying to reinvent the game altogether, and achieve mediocrity at best? Or will a real team take hold? If they are committed to a rebuild, then not choosing the latter could be pretty scary. A rebuild needs a foundation, and a foundation needs players that can support each other in some small ways to start with at least. Seeing attempts to mask deficiencies when building strengths as a unit is in order, is going to be hard to go through for the rest of this season. I can understand that it might be necessary at this point. What carries over will be telling.

perfect ten


A ten game losing streak. Those don’t usually inspire anything other than contempt. But this was as good as a big losing streak can get.

First off, we’ve seen the Nets and Wizards and Clippers pass the Raptors in the standings. Even Sacramento and Minnesota have crept closer. Cleveland is the only team that looks like a lock to finish lower than our boys this season. If we could see the Raptors finish second or third from the bottom, then the ping pong balls give us a real shot at a much needed injection of talent. If we could somehow package someone and Miami’s pick for another lottery pick, draft night could be orgasmic.

As well, there were some good games in there, with some nice competitive stretches. Take out the back-to-back games in Florida, and there was consistently some good signs. Injuries have forced them to slow the pace and see what they can do in halfcourt sets while offering a chance of limiting the other team’s possessions. The halfcourt offense has benefitted from two things - consistently good play from Jose Calderon, and DeMar DeRozan improving his ballhandling by leaps and bounds, where he has previously just leapt and bounded (all to often right into shot blockers). Jose’s performance this season has made it hard for me to see him as a guy that needs to be moved at all costs. I would love to see us draft a Kyrie Irving (go ping pong balls!), and have him eased into the starting lineup under the mentorship of Jose, who could then be asked to come off the bench without objection and likely be able to excel in that role. Eventually the right deal could be found as Jose’s contract gets less burdensome, and even then, that would be necessary only if Bayless develops into a player that just can’t be squeezed into a role as a backup 2 and third-string pg any longer. It’s possible that Colangelo could be faced with making a happy choice between trading Jose or Jerryd. Of course, all of that depends on the ping pong balls, so bring on more losses.

DeRozan meanwhile, is looking like a basketball player and not just a slightly overwhelmed kid. He’s proving able to use his body control and improved handles to get around defenders and finish, or pull up for a jumper. Considering that he began the season fairly one-dimensionally as a guy that plays aggressively, for better or worse, he’s come a long way to where he can temper that aggression with some smart decisions that improve his own offensive efficiency as well as other teammates. He’s taken the reigns over a good number of stretches, and shown that he understands enough to make it work. He’s also shown some defensive toughness and smarts, although it is still a part of the game that leaves him falling far short of being a perfect Comp10. It is going to be worth watching this team for the rest of this season to see how much of an all-around game he can put together. Right now he looks to have the right demeanor, perhaps realizing that as much as he wants to win games, putting together perfect ten-minute stretches is going to be more important for his game and the overall development of the team. If Triano has done anything to instill that sense in him, then he deserves full marks for any good that comes out of it.

Is there any other cream that has risen to the top of the rather funky milk while it has sat in the refrigerator over these ten losses? I’d have to make a case for Amir. My “Dirty Baby” (mine because nobody else is ever going to call him that), has fought through his back woes, and done nothing less than make more progress in his development than ever before. He’s averaged more than 30 minutes in this stretch of losses, shooting .658, and averaging 7.8 rebounds while more importantly consistently playing tough on the boards. His game is no longer so heavily reliant on Jose setting him up for easy dunks or drives on the pick and roll. He now has some range on a very reliable jumper, and he’s shown some nice quickness on drives along the baseline. His numbers in pretty much all categories, have climbed from month to month. And I don’t think he’s peaked yet. I think this could be a guy that averages a double-double, brings energy and toughness, and never takes a bad shot. Will he be a legitimate starter, or a very nice role player coming off the bench? It depends on where he peaks, and on just how big he is able to play, particular on the defensive end, where he ends up being something of a tweener. We saw him being able to cool off the hot hand of Bogut last night, but only after being unable to keep up with Ilyasova all game long. He might be a better defender as an undersized center, and that might be workable on a team that can stop the ball at the point of attack and provide the quickness and length that allows for some swarming of opposing threats. And this current roster has some guys that can fit that scenario right now. Otherwise, Amir might be able to improve his mobility yet, but if he’s going to be forced to defend quicker power forwards, I would guess that his ceiling would be that of an invaluable bench player that gives up a few too many points on occasion.

What of the funky milk that lies beneath the cream? It has a bit of a garlicky odor. Someone fed Bessie some leftover pesto. Andrea Bargnani started this season with improved numbers. And he showed some willingness to do the work required of him on the defensive end. He got to the line and shot fewer threes than usual. On his career night in Madison Square Garden, he performed on both ends on that big stage, remaining active all game long, while getting other players involved. But it was one night, although at the time it seemed like more than that, since it was part of a pretty good 10-15 game stretch for the Mago. But alas poor Yorick, the limelight has dimmed, and the calcium oxide used for the lighting effect has been replaced by this souring milk. In the last ten games he has shot 39 threes as compared to 44 freethrows, making a dismal percentage of .282 behind the arc. His overall shooting percentage has come in at .414. In the early part of the season we didn’t see many fadeaways. He was going straight up, or leaning into the basket.. He was taking advantage of his size advantage over many defenders. But the fadeaway is back in his arsenal, and he is chucking as much as he is shooting, and we’ve seen the clunkers and airballs killing momentum. His rebounding has dipped down to 5.2 per game, which actually flatters him in comparison to bigs that play fewer minutes. A seven footer that can’t average 5 boards every 36 minutes is simply going to be a costly asset. When the offensive game goes awry, there is just no way to win on most nights. His help defense has deteriorated dramatically, just as it appeared there might be a chance for stabilizing it. He offers no resistance, and all too often ends up being a spectator. The team’s slower pace should equate to fewer possessions for opposing teams, as I suggested earlier. But the inability to secure rebounds has meant that opposing teams get off far too many shots, with a good number of those being easy points from Andrea’s cover coming in unimpeded for a rebound after some good defending from everyone else. That happened all through last season as well, and appears to be a pattern that is not going to be broken anytime soon. It’s also a perfect formula for losing, so the ping pong balls are happy, having sex and multiplying.

This team’s last quality win (that’s not counting a squeaker against the horrible Kings, or the route of the utterly hapless Cavs) was against Dallas with Bargnani out of the lineup. It’s the perfect equation - isn’t that how the marketing campaign goes? Andrea+you=that losing feeling. Let it go on often enough to ensure the losses keep coming and we get a good draft pick. Just don’t forget the smell of that milk, and please Mr. Triano and Mr. Colangelo, do not try to reinvent the game so that we can maybe use that milk in our lattes. This guy is on the clock. Though it doesn’t look like he will ever respond at this point, he does still have a chance to consistently display the form he exhibited through late-November and early-December. If he manages to do so consistently, then I can live with one more shot at making him part of a team, with a suitably lesser role, and rolling with it for a while more. If the current trend continues, then he just simply has to be unloaded as soon as possible. So there you go - clarity is at hand. A perfect ten losses can provide for some of that.

If it’s not clear enough, allow me to quote one of the fine contributors in the Raptors Forum - Ligiea:

Amir and Andrea make for an interesting contrast.

One is full of hustle and earns his minutes with effort. The other plods along and seems interested in scoring, but not much else.

One shows patience and waits for the right shot or opening on offense. The other is chucking the ball at a rate you would expect from a legitimate all-star, not from a borderline 6th man candidate.

One always has his hands up, fighting for every rebound. The other is passive and waits for the ball to fall into his hands.

One player is getting better every month. The other seems to be regressing.

Perfectly summed up Ligeia.

Finally, on top of everything else - we don’t have to hear about that damn three-pointer streak anymore. Absolutely perfect.

Claudius: Bucks vs. Raptors preview

Does anyone remember when the Bucks vs. the Raptors felt like a real rivalry. Now, I know this will be the second time in as many pre game blogs, but again I remember when Ray Allen and Vince Carter led their teams and always seemed to be in the same conversation. There was the controversy over the Olympic selection and you had two teams that seemed to be battling for one of the top 4 spots in the East. The games were chippy and hard fought. It really felt like a true rivalry and not forced and I was always curious to see how it’d play out in the playoffs if we ever met.

Really, these two teams recent histories are somewhat similar. The Bucks got the number 1 pick in the 2005 draft and didn’t see the need to draft a guard (Paul and D. Williams are chosen later) or a forward in the highly touted (then) Marvin Williams. They choose Andrew Bogut, a centre with some raw skills but something to build around. Toronto, in 2006, choose a centre as well, Andrea Bargnani. A guy who we were told had the skill set of Dirk and would be just as impactful. Interesting debate…who’d you rather have? Bogut, a guy who can defend, rebound but is somewhat limited offensively or Bargnani a guy who can’t defend and rebound but has offensive upside.

The Bucks come in injured with Brandon Jennings still injured but, they got a Corey Maggette back as they beat the Hawks a few nights earlier. They play with a lot of grit. You really can’t dislike players like Mbah a Moute, Ilyasova and Bogut. Tough players, who work hard. I’m also really liking Larry Sanders (no, not the comedian). He’s got a nice pick and pop game and while he isn’t a great perimeter scorer if we leave him open and let him shoot he could do some damage. Also, he’s proven to be a blocking threat this year averaging just under a block and a half per game.

With the Raptors, well, the injuries aren’t really a surprise to anyone. Sonny is still hurt, Reggie still not back and Barbosa is still day to day with his hamstring. Bargnani hopefully is recovered fully from the flu and flu like symptoms. DeRozan could have a tough night tonight. The Bucks, under Skiles, have become a very solid defensive team and considering our lack of offensive weapons, or well, being reliant upon two weapons, I could see it being a long night.

In the end, I see a pretty boring game taking place, which is rare for a Friday game. Personally, I love Friday games, at least in person. They’re fun times. The crowd is usually relaxed. After the game, it’s nice to go out into the town and enjoy all that’s around you. But, I can’t help but feel that with the Raptors losing streak and well a game that has a good chance of being somewhat boring and maybe even a big loss, could take the steam out of the crowd.

My prediction:

Raptors: 88
Bucks: 97

Have a happy Friday everyone!

Claudius: 76ers - Raptors preview

So, yeah, it’s been awhile. What can I do? And now, hopefully, it won’t read like a 3 year old wrote it.

I’m gonna start off with a little story first. It was 2000 or 2001, I can’t remember right now, but the Raptors had a big time match up with the 76ers on a Sunday afternoon on NBC (really, I loved that John Tesh piano intro). Anyways, the Raptors in December had made a big trade, moving Kevin Willis for Keon Clark. The 76ers were being powered by Allen Iverson and Aaron McKie. And while, I can’t remember a lot of the details of the match right now, I remember it being an entertaining game that SLAM once called the best game of the season. I remember that the Raptors won, in Philadelphia, and the new team started to come together. It was a moment that I won’t forget because it was becoming cool to become a Raptors fan and I felt that we really arrived as a franchise.

Fast forward to 10 years later (give or take a year) and well, we have this. Does anyone in the NBA really care for this match up (do the fan bases care)? It’s amazing what time will do. Both teams seemed so full of promise and close to ’something.’ Now, well, we have this.

The Raptors, seem to play their best basketball at home and considering that they played a competitive match with a more talented Memphis team on Monday, I’m optimistic that the Raptors can FINALLY snap their losing streak. I’m sure a lot of Raptor fans will also be ogling Andre Igoudala as it seems that a lot of people feel he should be the player Bryan Colangelo should be targeting for a trade (A. Why would Philly trade him within the division and B. Bosh is a better player yet we didn’t want his contract (allegedly) so why take a on an even more overrated player?) I’m scared of Jrue Holliday in this match up as he always seems to have a knack for beating us with his quickness and if Jose’s in the game, well, hopefully Bayless could contain him.

If there was a ever a time for Andrea to get going this would be the match. It’s not only about his scoring. It’s about defending and getting after the rebound. Speights and Hawes, have length, but they’re not great rebounders. Yes, Brand is in there (and having a nice season), but if you can’t take advantage of Spencer Hawes then well, I dunno any more.

DeRozan, well it’ll be interesting who gets the defensive assignment as I’ll venture it’ll be Igoudala, who could use his size to muscle him out. The nice thing about Monday’s game was that he wasn’t the first person on the defensive end leaking out to get a fast break opportunity. He used a lot of his jumping ability to grab some boards and he seemed to have a knack for it. Considering who he was going up against in Gay, Mayo and Allen I expect much of the same here.

With the Raptors though, I don’t know where the rest of the offense is going to come from though. Is it going to be Amir? Is Sonny going to provide a bit of a spark? Is it going to be Bayless? Gaines?

With Philadelphia, you don’t know what you’re going to get either. Is it going to be a team that works inside out with Brand and Iggy? Are they going to rely on penetration and hope Holiday can get easy looks? Is Thaddeus Young going to continue to elevate his game as he has over the past 6 weeks? If so, who on our team is versatile enough to guard him? Is it going to be Lou Williams, who I feel always hits 3s after 3s against us? Are we going to be dumb enough to play zone when Philly runs out a rotation of Williams-Meeks-Kapono-Young-Hawes? What’s the bet that we do, considering the zone got us back in the game against Memphis and somebody will think, hey that worked last time let’s do it again!

Really, I’m anticipating a game of bad basketball. Hopefully Evan Turner shows up and justifies his 2nd selection and DeRozan shows up and a great game ensues between a couple of young wing player, reminiscent of that earlier age. And maybe, just maybe, just like in that earlier match up between two top teams and we saw some growing up occurring right in front of our eyes, we’ll see it again.

Prediction:

Raptors: 108
76ers: 107

claw marks: rockin’ the black ones


Black jerseys on their backs, and one big black hole that couldn’t put the team on his back. It was nice to see that the discussion did not even mention the fashion statement.

DDUnreal

Step 1: high scoring half
Step 2:get double teamed
Step 3: turnovers
also, AB will be the same forever

oneironaught

Valuable learning experience for DeRozan, in that he’ll have to learn how to deal with pressure and double team traps.

JeffB

Andrea Bargnani, a 7′ 250lbs Center has a grand total of 1 double double this season (1 double digit reb game) and is averaging 0.8blks. Nothing more need be said. We all know he can score, but everything else, he lacks consistent effort and heart to succeeed on a regular basis. I’m tired of hearing “that’s a 7 footer running the floor” or “How many 7 footers do you know can do that”. How about pointing out what he should be doing as a 7 footer that he doesn’t do.

DSWC

I only got to watch parts of this game, but considering how under-manned the Raptors are, I’m still impressed that they managed to compete with the big boys (whether or not they took us lightly or not).

I think this is definitely promising, as we knew this was going to be a tough year, but we at least always manage to compete. Yes these are some tough times, but at least we’re not getting blown out every night.

Nice to see the emergence of DeMar, as he’s played well in the new year, especially when Bargs was out, and he was given an increased role. It seems like he took it and ran, and has been riding that momentum ever since. Davis has been slightly building all year, and while the points aren’t always there, the rebounds usually are. Amir has been playing really consistently too.

Crepe

I don’t know what to think about Bargs.

One game I’m like “Wow this guy is amazing, unstoppable, a Beast, He’s the man”
The other I’m like “Damn come on, you don’t give a shit, you don’t care about winning, You don’t care about anything!!”

I’m tired of that, really tired.

fancylad

i turned off after the first half…. so i was really impressed!

That touch pass from Julian Wright to Amir was beautiful. Derozan played really well. Was impressed with Davis’ activity on D. Looks like i turned off at the right time.

I don’t know what to say about Andrea. Even though i only saw the first half, i saw exaclty what everyone is all alluding to. However, i’d prefer to stay positive…. Bargnani with the massive effort to help out operation tank.

Forza Tankgnani.

Claudius

What got me, was that Ed Davis and DeRozan were out there playing a different game.

When a shot goes up on the offensive side, Davis is really the only guy on our team who’s in position to get a rebound or make the opposition work for a defensive rebound. He doesn’t need touches. He just makes plays out of nothing sometimes and all it shows is heart and determination.

DeRozan is one tough dude. He was getting hacked and beat up all night but he was still attacking and that’s one awesome sign. Right there he showed me why he’s considered so highly. Hill, Manu and Neal were hacking him and taking cheap shots but he kept on coming. I think it may have been his first instance of seeing an NBA double team and he really suffered but I’ll take him learning from that right now.

But Bargnani? It’s like, when his shot is not falling he gives up on the game. Can’t score, then it isn’t worth playing and it drives me insane. Hell, why are you taking 18 fters and not attacking a slower player in Blair? Is Andrea hurt? Why not attack to get yourself going? Instead it was like he feared the contact on some lay up attempts where he’d fade away from the basket and flick the ball there. What the hell is that? Why not do other things to get yourself INTO the game. Set a few hard screens to release Demar. Play some post defence. Understand where you’re supposed to be in 2-3 zone. They weren’t playing match up zone so I don’t know why on some plays Andrea was playing man to man but it just spoke volumes about him.

And I know Leo was saying in the 4th when Bargnani hit that ONE shot to start feeding him the ball and all I have to ask is why? Why give it to him when he hasn’t earned it and really you should be in straight attack mode? No wonder your stuck coaching Canada Basketball.

Hell, bench Bargnani for the next game, or well, don’t start him. Send a clear message.

Ligeia

The most frustrating thing about Bargnani, from my perspective, is this: his ability to score when he is on is just enough to offset his other deficiencies. If he’s not scoring, he is useless.

Many might call me crazy, but I’ve been wondering lately if Bargnani is best suited as a 6th man on a really good team, a team where everyone else covers his defense and rebounding. He would be a mismatch king and should be able to score at will.

The sad thing is that I’m already way more excited about Davis as a core piece of this team than I am about Bargnani.

‘trane

i still love bargs. he can be frustrating, and he certainly is useless on an off-night like last night, but i still think he’s a fantastic offensive talent and should be a big piece of the raps going forward. he is by no means a centrepiece, but he would be a massive matchup asset if we had another traditional big. the raps would also be greatly improved next year if we were able to obtain a hard-nosed vet big man that plays d and can teach davis and amir how to play like a pro. you need those kinds of mentors. this has been discussed relentlessly, but a bigs rotation of bargs/x, amir/davis would cause matchup nightmares for opponents as long as player x is big, solid on the defensive end, hard-nosed and aggressive. a guy like perkins, assuming he’s not done, would be perfect. chadler, m gasol, camby, haslem, and perhaps mcdyess would work too. i’m sure there are others… dalembert? nene? regardless, i think Bargs is a good deal, and most of the time he does what i expect him to do. we just don’t have the talent alongside him to cover for his weaknesses. and lucky is the team that has players who don’t have glaring weaknesses.

bjjs

You just can’t cover the weaknessess Bargnani brings to the starting lineup, like I have said numerous occasions, and Ligeia just mentioned, Bargnani is best suited as a 6th man.

He could be superb in that role. Unfortunately, it probably won’t happen under Colangelo. One thing about the Gunz is that they all respect Bargnani’s offensive game. I would love to see him come off the bench and light it up after a defensive tone has already been set with a solid starting lineup with two way players at every position.

Staying in front of your own man might be good enough when you’re playing the Nets or the Kings, but if you want to win more than you lose and play good basketball, you need 5 guys who can read defensive situations and act accordingly.

You can’t just have one player, and say you suck defensively so you get to just guard your man, and ignore everyone else and expect to be as good as teams who have 5 guys keyed in every possession. It’s unrealistic.

Then there is transition defense…

Teams will make Andrea play defense. Simple as that. They’ll involve him on pick and rolls and attack him. You can help for him, but that will leave something else open. If you want to leave a defensive red exclamation mark on the court you’ll be counting on some offensive ineptitude by the opponent.

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