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Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Living in a van down by the river
Daily Raptor Dish - 24.02.11
Dandy debut for James Johnson
Pain before gain for Raptors
James Johnson got the fresh start he was looking for Wednesday night — literally and figuratively.
The newest Raptor started the game for Toronto against the Chicago Bulls, donning number zero to signify his new beginning with the Raps.
The 6-foot-9, 245-pound Johnson was solid in his debut, scoring nine points, grabbing five rebounds and three blocks.
But the intangibles Johnson brought in his 27 minutes on the floor don’t show up in the boxscore.
“I thought from the opening tip he brought an aggressiveness that we wanted him to have,” Toronto head coach Jay Triano said. “He is basically running blind out there on the offensive end (but) that’s something that will come around.”
Johnson, who said he found out about the trade late Tuesday night, had no time to practice with the team and learn plays, instead relying on pick-and-rolls and put-backs.
Known for his defensive tenacity, the Wake Forest product brought just that last night, frustrating marksman Kyle Korver on the perimeter and running Luol Deng off mid-range shots.
Johnson held Korver to just three points in 18 minutes of play and held Deng to a respectable 19 points on 7-for-16 shooting.
“He practised and played against Luol Deng every single day in practice and he’s had to guard Korver in practice,” Triano said. “We just thought, you know what, if you play these guys every day we are going to throw you out there and we want to see what you can do.”
Business as usual for Colangelo
One of the most illuminating topics Colangelo raised was the art of making a move and how he resisted the urge to add a veteran piece that, in all likelihood, would have resulted in more wins, but at the expense of compromising the team’s plan of building through youth.
“We’ve talked about this rebuilding process of bringing in young assets,’’ Colangelo said. “We’ve talked about maintaining cap flexibility that will enable us to be players in free agency.
“There have been deals that would have made us more competitive now, deals early in the season that arguably would have put us in a playoff hunt.”
Similar deals may arise prior to today’s deadline, but under no circumstance will Colangelo panic in appeasing a fan base that grows restless with each defeat.
“There are deals that would have put us in a playoff competitive environment, yet kept us in neutral that would not have allowed us to take the step forward,’’ Colangelo added.
“We’re going to get a high draft pick, we’ve got cap flexibility to take that next jump. There’s some painful steps along the way and we’re experiencing that with our won/loss record.”
Ex-Bull shines in Raptors’ win over Chicago
As far as Bryan Colangelo is concerned, it’s business as usual in these unusual times when the future of the Raptors president/general manager has yet to be resolved.
Whether he gets a vote of confidence or whether he’s shown the door, Colangelo is taking care of the basketball business without worrying about the business of sports.
Colangelo’s contract expires at the end of this season, a decision that squarely rests with the board that oversees Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd.
A year ago, the board exercised its option to extend Colangelo for one season, essentially rendering the basketball boss a lame duck.
To his credit, Colangelo has stuck to his plan of rebuilding a roster by going with youthful pieces.
When asked during his media availability prior to Wednesday’s visit by Chicago about his future, Colangelo was matter of fact.
“Not at all,’’ Colangelo said when queried if he was worried. “There’s no update.
“It’s unresolved at this point, but at the same time it’s not affecting anything I’m doing. Those things (negotiations) get handled at the appropriate time and now is not the appropriate time.”
Raptors power past Bulls
“Figured he knew this team better than anybody else,” said Triano. “He’s practised and played against Luol Deng every single day in practice and he’s had to guard (Kyle) Korver in practice and we just thought, ‘You know what, if you play these guys, we’re going to throw you out there. We want to see what you can do anyway and better than easing into a game, sitting on the bench thinking too much, just get out there and play.’”
The trickle-down effect was impressive, as the Raptors as a whole played their best game in weeks against a quality opponent. Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan each had 24 points, Calderon handed out 17 assists and Sonny Weems took his demotion like a pro and provided 12 points off the bench.
And, for one of the few times this season, the Raptors were excellent down the stretch, executing plays crisply out of timeouts and getting two crucial defensive stops against Derrick Rose, with Weems forcing a missed jump shot on one and Amir Johnson blocking a Rose drive on the other.
All of that came after Toronto had blown a late seven-point lead, and it looked as though the Bulls were going to steal a win.
“Our experience in tight games has to get better, and it will, but you have to play in them in order for it to happen,” sad Triano. “After the timeout, we never turned the ball over again and we did a good job executing in the half-court.”
Convoluted salary cap killing the NBA
For once the dreaded fourth-quarter meltdown failed to materialize for the Toronto Raptors.
Too often this season the Raptors have competed hard through three quarters only to see that effort frittered away over the course of the final frame be it through miscues, lack of effort, or just plain lack of skill.
Wednesday night against a tough Chicago Bulls team, the Raptors went full-bore for a full 48 entertaining minutes and were rewarded with a deserving 118-113 victory before 18,105 spectators at the Air Canada Centre.
Oh the Raptors made it interesting, frittering away an eight-point lead with about four minutes left to play as the Bulls – behind the always mesmerizing play of guard Derrick Rose – came back to tie it at 107-107 with just under two left.
But the Raptors never lost their cool and the continued good play of guard DeMar DeRozan and a savvy coaching move by coach Jay Triano in the final minute, helped Toronto wring out a victory.
Of course it always helps when your offence is clicking as the Raptors knocked down 58.1 per cent of their field goal attempts compared to just 43.7 per cent for the Bulls.
Colangelo expects quiet deadline day
If it makes you feel any better, go ahead and blame the lawyers for the fact that for NBA players, Toronto has become Milwaukee with hotter, exotic women and restaurants.
Hey – happy trade deadline day, Raptors fans! Seriously: with a salary cap that requires a degree in quantum physics to understand – which has teams moving rubbish contracts around like some kind of game of Old Maid, and has general managers such as the Toronto Raptors Bryan Colangelo reduced to trumpeting the size of their “trade exceptions,” even while they stand by the wall like some Phil Kessel, pawing the floor anxiously waiting for one of the cool kids to call them over – it’s no surprise the NBA is now the league that became too cute by half.
The more convoluted the salary cap and structure of contracts, the more agents become involved in the process. The more agents become involved in the process? The more power goes to the players. The more behind-the-scenes manoeuvring takes place.
So no wonder the sight of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and the next belle of the ball – Chris Paul – cutting up during all-star weekend got tongues wagging. All of them are represented by Leon Rose of Creative Artists Agency – the same agency that employs Henry Thomas, who is the agent for Bosh and Dwyane Wade. And unlike Michael Jordan or Larry Bird or Magic Johnson or their ilk – who’d have slapped you upside the head if you’d suggested they called up one of their rivals to cajole them into joining them for a shot at the title – these guys are shameless in their collusion.
'Rebuilding' Raptors get best of Bulls
“We've taken a very strong look at this draft,” Colangelo said. “It's not a great draft by star quality standards but there are what I'd call a lot of impact players potentially up at the top.”
Colangelo said his own unresolved contract issue with the Raptors is not a factor in how he goes about business.
“We've talked about this rebuilding process,” he said. “We've got a plan in place we're talking about bringing in young players, bringing in young assets, creating more flexibility as much as possible so we can be a player in free agency.
“We did not want to compromise that situation. There have been some deals from the start of the season to now even that probably would have made us more competitive by now.
“There was a commitment to being patient, letting the young guys develop and come along. We feel like we're accomplishing a lot of that. We've got the stages of this development happening and we've made tangible progress.”
He said if he had done a deal to bring “more veteran talent to put us in a playoff competitive environment and yet kept us in neutral so to speak” it would have hampered the plan.
Add to that the Raptors' own high draft pick this year and the salary cap flexibility that has been achieved.
“It's all kind of set up for this next jump but there's some painful steps along the way and we're experiencing that with the win-loss record,” said Colangelo.
Bulls defense falls apart in Noah's comeback
"I told everybody if they could get a win for me, I'd be in debt to them," Johnson said. "I guess I'm in debt."
Johnson added three blocks, and was part of the Raptors' best defensive effort in memory. Sure, the Bulls eclipsed the 100-point mark, but shot only 44% from the floor. MVP candidate Derrick Rose had 32 points, but from a poor eight for 22 shooting.
The Raptors' defence collapsed on Rose all evening, or at least until the fourth quarter. He had 19 points in the final frame in the comeback attempt.
DeRozan was relentless down the stretch, scoring six late points for the Raptors to keep the Bulls at bay. He and Bargnani both scored 24 points.
This amounted to a nice moment in a bleak season, however.
"These early steps are the ones that are troubling," Colangelo said. " But it's all done with a purpose. It's all done with a plan."
And unlike those of his Atlantic Division counterparts, Colangelo's plan will require a hell of a lot of patience
Noah’s return can’t help Bulls, sloppy defense in loss
Joakim Noah returned. The Bulls' defense vanished.
That's the gist of the Raptors' 118-113 victory over the Bulls Wednesday night at Air Canada Centre that snapped the Bulls' four-game winning streak and raised coach Tom Thibodeau's blood pressure.
The Raptors posted opponent season-highs for shooting at 58.1 percent and points in the paint at 58. Only the Knicks way back in the season's fourth game Nov. 4 have scored more points. And the Raptors didn't even make a 3-pointer.
"Defensively, it was a disaster," Thibodeau said. "Start with defensive transition. Keeping the ball out of the paint. Challenging shots. Every aspect of our defense went out the window. It's disappointing. We got into an offensive game, tried to outscore them. That's a recipe for disaster."
This wasn’t the Bulls strutting their stuff.
This was a grind-it-out midseason road game against a bottom-feeder that has lost so much it has nothing to lose.
In other words, the kind of game made for Joakim Noah. The only problem was, the Bulls forgot to pack their trademark defense for this trip north of the border.
There was no storybook comeback this time. With neither the defense nor Derrick Rose hitting on all cylinders, the Bulls fell to the Raptors 118-113 on Wednesday night, spoiling Noah’s return.
The defeat was only the third in 13 games for the Bulls, whose four-game winning streak was halted.