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LX 01-24-2008 12:19 PM

Safe No More - The Real Raps Emerge
 
Last night the Raptors went back to playing basketball. No more Jose walking it up at a snail's pace, looking for the play call, dribbling behind the arc while the play gets set up or not, and then putting all the pressure on Bosh or Parker to make something happen with a short shot-clock scenario. No more treading water as Bosh had seen the last couple of weeks. No more trying to hide the holes and weaknesses that have surfaced in the absence of TJ and Jorge, and as a result, not making the most of the strengths that remain. And those strengths are knowing how to play basketball without constant direction from the sideline, moving the ball, making shots, staying mentally tough if not physically so, and scrapping it out in crunchtime.

Jose has gotten loads of praise for playing it safe. Last night he looked a little more like TJ, even what is often referred to as bad TJ. But it was superior to all the safe stuff we've seen of late. He made everyone better, including himself, by pushing the tempo, driving the ball, forcing the odd pass, and making the defense work. Lo and behold we don't actually need two point guards to keep the other team wondering what they are going to see. We saw how TJ can be that much more effective when he changes things up, and plays more like Jose here and there. Now we have seen the same in reverse from Jose. Since late last year I've been saying that they are both becoming quite similar. If you look at how they are both developing within the system, I think that's true, and that they don't need each other to provide different looks. They can both do that on their own as the system dictates.

And Jose's great numbers looked really good last night, since he was not just playing it safe, but rather pushing the envelope and making things happen while living a little on the edge. He definitely looked like a guy that deserved to go to the All Star game, and not just a guy with some good numbers. I would rather have AS Jose leading an offense at a 60 percent clip, then a safe Jose putting up good numbers while the rest of the team lags at a less than 30 percent success rate. No? That's going to bring some ugliness with it, and some defensive deficiencies left out in the open - but leave it to Colangelo to patch those up.

When you have two teams really playing a game of basketball in the NBA, you are going to have all kinds of frustrating mistakes mixed in with making the most of the good stuff. Especially with a young team. The Raptors are not the Pistons or Spurs just yet. So they have to play in a style that gets their shooters good looks in rhythm, and that gets the opposing defense on their heels a bit. Making the most out of that kind of pressure, also forces the opposing team to play a little out of character on offense themselves. And while sticking to a slow half-court game reveals a few things that this team will be capable of milking in the future, it gives the opposing team too much of a chance to control the tempo themselves, and assert their own defense enough to put a game to rest far too early. No more of that in the near future please! The best band-aid for solving the absence of two vital cogs, is to play the same style that they made possible, and just look past the difficulties that come with the package within the game while looking to reduce those difficulties from game to game.

Last night I saw a Raptor team that knew what they were and how they should play, in spite of all the freebies and soft interior play that is just going to happen with TJ and Jorge missing. And I saw a Boston team that wasn't always so sure of itself, and wasn't quite ready to be challenged. So let's cut them all some slack, and erase all the comments about this guy making bad decisions and not having a good basketball IQ, because that all comes with any learning curve. Last night the curve had a nice bend in it in some respects, and flattened out in other areas. They gave themselves a chance with a guy like Jamario not doing all that he had to do, and a guy like Bosh being a little out of sync. To me that's a sign of a team that can do some damage regardless of what weaknesses might crop up and turn ugly.

Dr. J. Naismith 01-24-2008 12:44 PM

Well said LX! Regarding your comment on Jose running our offense at a snail's pace reminded me of the piece Michael Grange quoted in his blog yesterday from a Raptor blogger. It compares how effective the team is at Ford's pace as opposed to Jose's. Interesting stuff that I'll let you read for yourself. This is just something that I'd like to add to what you already alluded too. ;)

BTW, this definition of pace factor is as follows - Pace Factor is an estimate of the number of possessions per 48 minutes by a basketball team. It is essentially a measure of the team's "speed of play."


Quote:

Originally Posted by Caldeford
When T.J. Ford is running the point, Toronto plays at an above-average pace, when Jose Calderon is getting the majority of the playing time, the Raptors play at the slowest pace in the entire NBA.

Unfortunately, I can’t break pace factor down possession by possession, but here are the two numbers to remember: 94.6 and 90.2.

When T.J. Ford plays more than half of a game for the Raptors (24+ minutes), the Raptors pace factor is 94.6, which would put them 13th in the NBA. When T.J. has been injured, or has played less than half of a game for the Raptors, their pace factor is 90.2, which would tie them with Detroit for the slowest pace in the league.

I think these numbers pass the “laugh test,” which means they “sort of make sense.” When T.J. is in the game, he can break his man down off the dribble early in the shot clock, and (as his critics often point out), he takes jumpers early in the shot clock every so often as well. Conversely, Jose Calderon is more prone to working the offence deep into the shot clock, waiting until the best shot is possible before ending a possession, so to speak.

But I think one other element is at play here that might be going unnoticed. I think both T.J. and Jose play at a faster pace when both are healthy. I have no doubt that Jose has slowed the pace of this team since T.J’s injury. You simply don’t see that typical Calderon finish off the initial pick and roll very often anymore. I suspect that’s because it’s probably a play that requires a high amount of energy for Calderon to perform it successfully, and, well… he hasn’t had a lot of energy to spare lately.

So are the Raptors a grind it out team or an up-tempo squad? The answer—at least when they have a full, healthy roster—is a bit of both.

Link - Click here

LX 01-24-2008 12:58 PM

Yep - I agree with that completely. That's where all the treading water comes from. They are just trying to make sure they don't kill Jose, or get him in foul trouble, or both, when they can. The trouble is, unless they are playing teams like Sac or Atlanta that just give up before they even start, they are not going to be able to sustain the little charade they've been playing.

Jose's natural instincts are to play slow and steady and make the simple pass. Great. But that's not where he showed how good he could be, starting from last season onwards. He's had to push himself to go beyond that. So just as people said that TJ had to learn to play more like Jose, I was pointing out that Jose had to learn to play nmore like TJ, and that they both were in fact doing so within our system.

BballWatcher 01-24-2008 01:07 PM

To Jose's defense (and I'm not trying to be a Jose apologist all over these boards), he's the only active true PG right now. He's conserving his energy because all of a sudden he's playing 40+ minutes a night.

When Juan Dixon is the only guy spotting you off the bench, you need to save some gas for the 4th quarter.
------

To further back up Jose (I swear, I'm not related to him in any way), he's also only a 3rd year player.

I feel TJ has a lot of growing left to do, and has improved a lot in a season with us. Yet, he actually has more NBA experience than Jose! So if TJ gets the his 'decision making will improve in time' mulligan, then I'll grant Jose a 'he will know when to pick his spots and attack the defense' credit as well.

Sick, Wicked and Nasty! 01-24-2008 01:10 PM

Showing that i'm not biased against Jose by any stretch I will admit that in the past week he has shown a lot more creativity, driving and dishing and not always playing it safe which is what our team needs and the results are obvious. I've been critical that his safe approach is only successful against crappy defenses and the last week has shown that when he plays a bit more aggressively and lets' loose on the reigns a bit he can be effective against a better defensive unit.

If this trend continues, AND he works hard on his defense I could see him as a good starter for this team, should BC elect to unload TJ, but the realist in me doesn't see that happening. THere is more trade value in Jose once he's got a big contract due to TJ's injury problems... or he'll keep them both given we know Jose is willing to play a backup role if it's towards winning.

LX 01-24-2008 01:23 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by BballWatcher (Post 6340)
To Jose's defense (and I'm not trying to be a Jose apologist all over these boards), he's the only active true PG right now. He's conserving his energy because all of a sudden he's playing 40+ minutes a night.

When Juan Dixon is the only guy spotting you off the bench, you need to save some gas for the 4th quarter.
------

To further back up Jose (I swear, I'm not related to him in any way), he's also only a 3rd year player.

I feel TJ has a lot of growing left to do, and has improved a lot in a season with us. Yet, he actually has more NBA experience than Jose! So if TJ gets the his 'decision making will improve in time' mulligan, then I'll grant Jose a 'he will know when to pick his spots and attack the defense' credit as well.

That's exactly what I was already agreeing to. And both pgs should get a mulligan, as should pretty much the whole team. But Jose did reveal his decision-making abilities when he pushed the ball and drove into the paint last season. I've always thought he was ahead of TJ in terms of his development in that area, while TJ was ahead in terms of being consistently competitive in all situations. More experience for both is just going to be a good thing for this team. Keep them both, and nobody should ever feel like they are being an apologist for either one, or start thinking that either one is all that they will ever be just yet. Leave that to dumbasses like Hollinger.

Acie 01-24-2008 01:32 PM

On a side note Jose has come along way since I first watched him play for Tau Ceramica where he basically brought the ball up the floor and then passed it off or when he played for the Spanish National team and again brought the ball up the floor and then deferred to Navarro.

LX 01-24-2008 01:46 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ACIEEARL40 (Post 6345)
On a side note Jose has come along way since I first watched him play for Tau Ceramica where he basically brought the ball up the floor and then passed it off or when he played for the Spanish National team and again brought the ball up the floor and then deferred to Navarro.

Exactly - those are the natural instincts I was referring to. If he falls back on that, then he's no farther ahead of a TJ that falls back on speed and athleticism. That's not being critical of Jose playing that way - it worked for Tau, and it works against teams like the Hawks and Kings. But it's not what this team needs the most. It's just what they've had to rely on too much, and I've tried to point out that it's not the road paved with gold.


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