Daily Raptor Dish - 02.02.11 (Snow Day Edition!)
Bargnani needs to get more out of his talent
Collison's poor judgment; assessing Toronto's frustration level; Raptors stuck in Indy again
It is about time Andrea Bargnani decides if he is going to be part of the problem or part of the solution.
Long ago Bryan Colangelo hitched his wagon to the idea that Bargnani would be a big part of the latter in Toronto but the man he put his faith in has been a massive disappointment of late.
Granted Bargnani’s 17-for-62 shooting over his past three games makes it easy to fire shots at him, but this goes far beyond what he does or does not provide at the offensive end.
The issue with Bargnani remains his frustrating inability to get the best out of his talents by outworking opponents and showing commitment at both ends of the floor.
That means not allowing big men such as Roy Hibbert (24 points, 11 rebounds vs. Raptors), Kevin Love (6-for-10, 12 rebounds in 24 minutes against Toronto), Ersan Ilyasova (9-for-10) and Andrew Bogut (10-for-12) to do whatever they want inside.
It means chasing down loose balls and doing a much better job keeping opponents off of the boards (Indiana outrebounded Toronto 56-38 on Monday — including 15-8 in a first quarter that saw Bargnani play 10.5 of 12 minutes).
Bargnani has the height and base to do a better job in those regards. It is a matter of effort and will. There should be some pride shown in trying not to post the worst rebounding numbers for a big man in the history of the league.
His other main deficiency — painfully poor help defence — a trait shared by the bulk of his teammates which makes him look even worse — is not something that is easily fixed, but it would be forgiven if he appeared to be working harder at the areas of his game that can be upgraded.
Offensively, Bargnani can also work harder. That means going to the tough areas like the low post instead of flinging up jump shots, even if they are “good shots” as the Raptors constantly claim.
To his credit, Bargnani did not use nagging injuries or overuse as excuses for his dismal play.
He also admitted after the team’s 12th loss in a row on Monday that going down low as he was when he was on an excellent scoring streak earlier in the season was something he needs to return to.
Saying it is one thing though, actions speak far louder.
Raptors tipoff: Hello, Hawks
Darren Collison’s a pretty good player, just maybe not a very smart one.
No reason for him to jack up a three at the end of Indiana’s no-doubter win over the Raptors on Monday night.
It enraged Jay Triano who tried to call a time out to basically say, “screw you” to the Pacers for the nonsense, but referee Danny Crawford was having none of that, which, of course made Triano even matter.
We’ll see if the Raptors remember the slight the next time they meet the Pacers.
Déjà vu? Raptors’ losing streak stretches towards record
Hate on the contract all you like, but Johnson is doing his best to show he deserved the biggest payday of the off-season.
Johnson has arguably been one of the NBA’s 10-best players in January, averaging 26 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game on 50.4% shooting. He handles the ball a ton, yet is 12th in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio.
Crafty and seemingly never tired, Johnson is an extremely tough cover for DeRozan who has fallen off the map of late after a solid month of his own.
DeRozan has had three terrible games in a row and has shot just 35.9% from the field over his past five contests.
The offence runs through Johnson with Mike Bibby providing shooting, Al Horford, Josh Smith and Mo Evans providing defence and intensity.
At 30-18, the Hawks are again a force in the East. Horford, Smith, Bibby and sixth-man Jamal Crawford traditionally run roughshod on the Raptors. The team defends Philips Arena doggedly, posting a 15-7 home record heading in.
DID YOU KNOW
Hawks won both earlier meetings this season at the ACC ... Raptors have not won in Atlanta since Dec. of 2007 ... Smith posted a triple-double against Toronto earlier in the season, while Crawford lit them up for 36 points — the most by a bench player this season and he is also the NBA’s top bench scorer per game ... Crawford has an NBA career-record 32 four-point plays, including four this season ... The Hawks are 14-7 since Johnson returned from an elbow injury.
Smith: The look in Raptors’ faces says it all
After his one-time team suffered their 12th straight loss, former Raptor John Wallace found a moment for modest reflection.
“I’ve been there,” he told the Star over the phone, while attending to the tears of one of his five children at his home in Rochester, N.Y.
“We were the worst team in the NBA.”
In 1997, when the baby Raps were in just their third season of existence, they played in an awkwardly large SkyDome and wore comical purple jerseys.
And although they weren’t really the NBA’s worst (a distinction held by the lowly Denver “11-71” Nuggets), the Raptors dropped what remains the worst skid in franchise history. From Nov. 6 to Dec. 9, the team lost 17 straight games.
“It was humble beginnings,” recalled Wallace, who played in every game for the Raptors that season, averaging 14 points per game. “It’s not that they didn’t want to be good. They just didn’t know (how).”
The Star asked Wallace — who now helps run a youth development program called “Winning Because I Tried” — to give some advice to the current Raptors’ squad, just five games away from matching the dubious record.
“Don’t get discouraged. You’re losing close games,” the 36-year-old offered, recalling Monday night’s 104-93 loss to Indiana, when Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan appeared to be shooting the same medicine ball.
“When your two leading guys are having problems, it’s going to be tough to win. You have to overcome that.”
Raptors trapped in Indy by winter storm
Blank stares and vacant eyes.
The telltale signs of an extended losing streak remain constant and it doesn’t matter whether it’s 1997 or 2011 or whether a team is losing on merit or because of some extenuating circumstances.
The scene in the Raptors’ locker room today is eerily familiar to a bygone era and to wander among the players now evokes memories of Damon Stoudamire, Doug Christie, Reggie Slater and Darrell Walker and some of the darkest days in franchise history.
Blank stares and vacant eyes.
It was back in November and December of 1997 that team history of the ugliest kind was made, a spirit-sapping 17-game losing streak that remains to this day the worst ever.
The Raptors lost their first two games, won their third and then lost 17 consecutive games, close ones (six by five points or fewer, one in double overtime) and blowouts (five by at least 18 points, one by 28 and one by 30). It set in motion a series of franchise-changing events.
Eventually that year, Stoudamire, the team’s first “face”, would be traded, coach Walker would be fired and replaced by Butch Carter, the team would be sold and it was a time of chaos.
But before that, there were losses, lots and lots and lots of losses and there’s a common feeling now with then.
The most frustrating part of that streak and this one — 12 straight going into a game Wednesday in Atlanta — is that there’s no consistent explanation and players and coaches get tired of trying to offer explanations when there’s really nothing to say.
You could see the wear and tear on Jay Triano’s face after Monday’s loss here just like you could see it in Walker’s face deep in that 1997 period.
Jose Calderon sat at his locker in Conseco Fieldhouse, draped in a towel and looking down at the ground like Stoudamire used to do in the then-SkyDome.
They all knew their words were hollow and little more than clichés but there’s really little to say.
NBA legend weighs in on ticked-off Triano’s timeout try
Weather’s like everything else in the NBA these days.
It’s stopping the Raptors.
An ice and snowstorm that socked Indianapolis and the American Midwest foiled the team’s travel plans Tuesday for a game Wednesday night in Atlanta.
The team spent nearly five hours trapped in its chartered aircraft on the tarmac of the Indianapolis airport Tuesday afternoon. After the original Monday night departure was delayed because of an overnight ice storm, airport officials were able to de-ice half the plane Tuesday afternoon before running out of de-icing fluid.
By the time more fluid arrived, the de-icing machine had frozen and eventually the whole plan was put on hold.
They will try again early Wednesday morning to get to Atlanta for the scheduled 7 p.m. game against the Hawks.
In the 16-year history of the Toronto franchise, only one game — in Washington in 2003 — has been postponed because of inclement weather
DeRozan to play in Rookie Challenge
“If [Triano had] gotten a timeout with less than a second left on the clock, I would’ve said, ‘That’s bush-league coaching,’ ” said Fitch, who retired in 1998 after a 25-year career as an NBA coach that saw him guide household names such as Larry Bird, Phil Jackson and Hakeem Olajuwon.
Losing only productive thing for Raptors to do
Raptors sophomore will join up with the likes of Blake Griffin for pre-all-star game contest
Atlanta vs. Toronto
DeMar DeRozan has shown flashes of being a serious scorer, if little else — he is rebounding less and shooting worse than he was as a rookie last season, but every once in a while he shows flashes of being a serious NBA player. Bargnani has been a little better, if just as maddening. Forwards Ed Davis and Amir Johnson have shown flashes and improvement, respectively, which would be slightly more encouraging if they weren’t so close to being the same player.
But hey, assets are assets, and the Raptors need them. The trick is that all these young players are improving enough to perhaps become supporting players on a reasonable team, and no more. Which means the Raptors need to go and find a centrepiece, again. Since superstars don’t often get stolen in trades, and free agents aren’t coming to Canada, it is most likely go to be via the draft.
And while the 2011 draft is universally acclaimed as underwhelming, you might as well start there and see what you find. In the last 10 full seasons, the Raptors have missed the playoffs six times. In those six years, they recorded 24, 33, 33, 27, 33, and 40 wins. Their top picks in the drafts that followed were fourth, eighth, seventh, first — they moved up in the draft lottery despite an 8.8% chance at the top slot — ninth, and 13th.
In their worst year, the Raptors got Bosh. In their second-worst year, they won the wrong lottery but got the best guy on the team today, even if his essential flaws abide. When injured forward Reggie Evans tweeted yesterday that “If people do not have nothing good to say about [Bargnani] can kiss your the sun do not shine cause he our best player,” he offered a grammatically fractured but accurate assessment of life after Bosh.
And in the other seasons, had the Raptors picked, say, fourth overall instead of seventh or eighth or ninth, they could have had point guard Devin Harris (2004), point guard Chris Paul (2005), guards Tyreke Evans or Stephen Curry (2009), or big man DeMarcus Cousins (2010). Only Paul is a clear franchise player, but the point tends to be that if you draft well, it’s better to draft higher. If you’re going to be bad, be good at it.
TIME: 07:00 P.M. EST
VENUE: Philips Arena
After a snowstorm resulted in the postponement of a home game last month, the Atlanta Hawks were able to muster up enough energy to defeat the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre.
The way the Raptors are struggling, another storm could provide a much-needed break in the schedule.
The Hawks look to win their sixth straight home game in the series Wednesday night as the Raptors try to avoid their first 13-game losing streak in nine seasons.
With a home game against Milwaukee postponed Jan. 11 due to a snowstorm, the Hawks didn't leave for their game the following night in Toronto until 10 p.m.
Atlanta (30-18) still managed to win its third in a row over the Raptors, 104-101 as Mike Bibby made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 8.2 seconds left. Jamal Crawford paced the Hawks with a season-high 36 points.
Toronto (13-36) was supposed to fly to Atlanta following a 104-93 loss at Indiana on Monday, but a severe snowstorm developing in the Midwest caused its flight to be canceled. The team spent the night in Indianapolis.
If the Raptors can get to Atlanta, they will look to avoid their first 13-game skid since Feb. 12-March 7, 2002.
"We have to be frustrated," guard Jose Calderon said after scoring 13 points with seven assists Monday. "Everybody is thinking we want to win. We have to keep working and take the positive parts. We just have to keep working and stay together."
If Toronto is going to end an eight-game road losing streak, the club will likely need a better effort from its top two scorers.
Andrea Bargnani, averaging a team-best 21.1 points, is scoring 16.7 per game and shooting 27.4 percent in the last three. DeMar DeRozan is averaging 9.0 points over that stretch, 6.4 fewer than his season average.
"It's my fault (they're struggling) probably because I had to play the (expletive) out of them for nine games in a row when we had no other bodies, so they played 44 minutes per game and are probably worn down a little bit," said coach Jay Triano, whose team last dropped nine in a row on the road during an 0-11 skid from Dec. 1, 2004-Jan. 14, 2005. "... They have to learn to fight through this."
The Raptors will conclude their three-game trip trying to win in Atlanta for the first time since Dec. 11, 2007.
The Hawks, winners of 12 of 14 at home, are looking to bounce back from a 102-91 loss at Dallas on Saturday. Atlanta was outscored 14-1 in the first five-plus minutes of the fourth quarter and missed 11 of 15 shots in the period.
"This one hurt," said swingman Joe Johnson, who finished with 27 points and eight boards. "We had total control heading into the fourth quarter. It got out of hand and we couldn't get back in it."
The Hawks, shooting 30.4 percent from 3-point range over the last nine games, could fare better against Toronto, which has allowed 100 points or more in each of the last eight contests.
Atlanta has won nine of the last 11 meetings and will try to sweep the season series for the first time since 1998-99.