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Daily Raptor Dish - 18.03.11
How Raps respond to Motown mauling is crucial
DeRozan not surprised by Crawford's ability
As he addressed one of the smallest media gatherings of the season, a sure sign the Raptors have become completely irrelevant, head coach Jay Triano had a confession to make.
A night earlier, the dysfunctional Detroit Pistons posted 38 first-quarter points en route to a 107-93 win.
Part of the storyline centred on Detroit’s advantage in size and savvy, the inability of Toronto’s youthful pieces to match the Pistons’ experienced parts and the season-long theme of Andrea Bargnani unable to emerge as a rebounding presence.
More than anything, though, Toronto’s lack of energy to begin the game became a topic worth dissecting in the aftermath of yet another Raptors’ road loss, the team’s 14th in a row, a franchise record that threatens to get worse as a daunting five-game Western swing looms.
'Your jobs are safe,' MLSEL tells employees
Whether it was watching Jordan Crawford step up his game during Xavier’s NCAA tournament run or hearing about a LeBron James facial that would become the talk of the basketball world, DeMar DeRozan has paid attention to this explosive wing.
Tonight against the visiting Wizards, DeRozan will go toe to toe with Jordan for the first time at the NBA level.
Last summer, Crawford, who grew up in Detroit, made his way to L.A., where many of the game’s established and emerging ballers convene in an informal setting.
Later, DeRozan, a native of L.A., would run into Crawford in Las Vegas at summer league.
Friends who will become on-court foes, DeRozan isn’t surprised at Crawford’s ability to fill the net on a Washington team that has lost five in a row and 12 of its last 13 games.
“He’s definitely a terrific scorer,’’ DeRozan said of the rookie Crawford, who played all 48 minutes in Chicago on Tuesday in pouring in 27 points. “He’s a terrific shooter and when he gets hot, he’s definitely tough to stop.”
James Johnson building his confidence with Raptors
The grand poohbahs at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd. don’t want their employees fretting about the impending sale of the company.
As a result, a memo was sent out by the company’s brass this week assuring everyone in its workforce that there is no reason to worry about their individual employment futures if and when a transaction takes place.
The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan acknowledged last Saturday that it would “explore the possibility” of selling its 66% share of MLSEL, adding that it was considering an auction. To that end, the Teachers’ retained New York-based Morgan Stanley to help find potential suitors for MLSEL, which includes the NHL’s Maple Leafs, the AHL Marlies, the NBA Raptors, MLS Toronto FC, Leafs TV, Raptors TV and the Maple Leaf Square condo development that features Real Sports bar and eatery.
“It was just a chance to make sure the employees knew that they were valuable assets in whatever deal goes down,” a source said. “They needed to know that they are valuable resources in this whole process.”
Because the potential sale stands to be a complicated process, those close to the situation estimate it will take at least 90 days before any transaction likely will be completed.
Larry Tanenbaum, who controls 20.5% of the shares in MLSEL, has the right of first refusal if and when a potential buyer is poised to complete a transaction.
Those in the know continue to insist that Tanenbaum likely will attempt to increase his cut, although it is uncertain whether he will be able to put together enough financial resources to acquire majority control of the company.
“Don’t count Larry out of this,” a source said.
Toronto vs. Washington
“You get (confidence) by playing, not being worried about being taken out if you make a mistake or anything like that,” he said.
“(You get confidence by) playing through your mistakes with a coach who allows you to play through your mistakes until you feel confident enough that you won’t make those mistakes any more.
“(Raptors coach Jay Triano) has a limit, but it’s a lot better than I had and what I was used to. That’s why I’m a lot more comfortable bringing the ball up, making decisions going to the rack, things like that.”
Johnson has the kind of multi-faceted game that the Raptors have been dying for in a small forward for years. He rebounds efficiently, is the team’s best one-on-one wing defender and is capable of leading the break in transition.
He has to work on his jump shot — and is doing so, with assistant coach Alex English — and needs to work on his physical conditioning, but he’s been a solid contributor in the 10 games he’s played since the Raptors picked him up for a 2011 first-round draft pick (which is likely to be in the late-20s).
“There was no more dummy offence, no more shooting off screens with nobody in my face to contest,” he said of his newfound time in actual games. “That drains your confidence a little bit, makes you not want to do the stuff you know you can do. Right now, it’s not making me a shooting threat that I am, but that’s okay.
“I know I’m a good shooter and I know I can shoot the ball well but confidence is everything in the jumper.”
He thinks he’s simply getting a chance to show skills that were long dormant, especially as something of a “point forward” capable of initiating the offence.
“It’s definitely part of my game that people didn’t know about,” he said. “Coming out of the draft, I was always able to push the ball up, make guard decisions or whatnot and still be able to run my forward spot.
While the Toronto Raptors haven't won a road game in more than two months, no one has been worse away from home than the Washington Wizards.
Hoping to avoid a 13th loss in 14 games overall, the Wizards will try to get their second road win and take the season series from the Raptors on Friday night.
The Wizards opened the season 0-25 as the visiting team, breaking the previous franchise record of 15 straight defeats from Dec. 23, 1999-Feb. 20, 2000.
After recording its only road victory of the season, 115-100 over NBA-worst Cleveland on Feb. 13, Washington (16-50) has gone on to lose five more away from the Verizon Center.
The Wizards play 10 of their last 16 games on the road, where they have been outscored by an average of 14.0 points in 30 losses.
Toronto (18-49), meanwhile, will be happy to return home after its longest road losing streak in franchise history stretched to 14 games with a 107-93 loss to Detroit on Wednesday night.
The Raptors were outscored by 14 in the opening quarter. Despite cutting the deficit to five in the fourth, Toronto suffered its fifth loss in six games overall.
"We fought hard to get back into it, and then they pulled away," said forward Ed Davis. "We had a lack of focus and a lack of energy, and it showed up in the first quarter. We have to come ready to play."
Andrea Bargnani, first on the team with 21.7 points, had averaged just 12.5 on 28.0 percent shooting in his previous two games prior to scoring 20 against the Pistons.
Bargnani was held to an average of 15.0 points as the Raptors and Wizards split their first two matchups of 2010-11 before scoring 25 in Toronto's 98-95 road loss Jan. 15.
The Raptors haven't lost the season series since going 1-3 in 2007-08.
Washington is shooting 49.2 percent against Toronto this season but struggled again offensively in its 98-79 loss at Chicago on Tuesday night.