The Toronto Raptors Blog with an Arsenal touch

Posts Tagged ‘andrea bargnani’

Normally a 20 point win in Cleveland would make me cream my pants

Posted by Arsenalist on October 8, 2008

After a sluggish and defense-free first half where the Raptors gave up 28 points in the only meaningful quarter, we got our act together and led a third quarter charge ignited by our starters and finished off by our bench. The bench led the assault with Will Solomon and Andrea Bargnani netting 17 and 15, respectively. Mitchell let Solomon play a game-high 32 minutes and he preformed well under constant pressure from the Cavaliers defense (Mo Williams), something which was great early on but eased off as the evening wore on and the enthusiasm for the game shifted into truer presason-mode. Check out the highlights and a good CBS game report.

From all accounts it appears that Bargnani looked confident in his approach while Jermaine O’Neal was working hard at shedding the rust off of his 29 year old body. Andrea Bargnani was a big positive as he led the team in rebounding with 8. At the end of the day its pre-season and the only thing you can read into this performance is that we showed up to win the game and not just stretch our muscles. Its a good approach to have from Day One and hopefully the effort that was present in this game is maintained throughout the season. As Sam Mitchell points out:

“We have a lot of work to do … but we got better as the game progressed. We made a lot of mistake defensively, especially in that first quarter. We can’t give up 28 points in the first quarter. But the effort was there.”

When was the last time a Raptors team was commended for consistent effort? Let’s move on and if you’d like more on the game maybe you can check out Dime’s take on it. This game does remind us of something: our big-man situation is quite enviable, with Chris Bosh, Jermaine O’Neal, Andrea Bargnani and a resurgent Kris Humphries I think this was the first time in a long time that I felt we could hold our own against the Cleveland bigs (Wallace, Big Z and Varejao). Again, its one game but its better to win than to lose.

Bryan Colangelo is comparing Andrea Bargnani with Danilo Gallinari and disagrees that Gallinari is a better prospect. Colangelo’s argument seems to be based on size alone and sounds damn sure that Bargnani is the better player and will have a better career. I think Gallinari’s a different type of player, he’s quicker and more athletic than Bargnani but is almost a prototypical small forward. Bargnani on the other hand has the unorthodox tools to be successful in different situations and can pose matchup problems on a nightly basis, the only question is whether he’ll be able to refine his technical skill and play with a confident approach so that he may utilize his God-given advantages.

Charley Rosen’s Atlantic preview has us finishing third in the division and the best case scenario for the team is deemed to be a second-round appearance. Obviously he’s more sold on Philly and Brand than on the Raptors and O’Neal. Check what he says:

..the roster remains top-heavy with shooters: Marshmallow-soft Andreas Bargnani. High-flying Jamario Moon. And Jason Kapono, who has no other NBA qualifications. Only Anthony Parker has a complete game, and is in fact one of the league’s most underrated players.

I would normally agree with that assessment but I’m going to give Bargnani the benefit of the doubt right now. Let’s see how he’s improved, I don’t think Rosen would’ve made a comment like this after Bargnani’s rookie season and given all the talk of improvement around the kid I think he deserves another shot. Besides, Rosen isn’t exactly a Raptors fan. Kapono is perceived as a a one-trick pony around the NBA but as we saw in the playoffs last year he can do more than just catch and shoot. This is where Sam Mitchell comes in and hopefully helps elevate a player’s game.

As for Anthony Parker, the problem with him is that he’s old. He’s 33 right now and seems to tire out in the fourth quarter and starts front-rimming his jumpers and FTs. That’s really the biggest knock on the guy, he’s a good player who’s playing beyond his means – 32+ minutes last year is stretching the guy to his outer limits. He’s probably the most complete guard we have and we’d all be even more happy to have him if he was 25.

I think that’s all I got today. There’s not much going on. Greg Oden made his debut for the Blazers. Is he eligible for Rookie of the Year this year?

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , | 15 Comments »

Hollinger be talking; Kapono be thinking; Sampson be signing; Manatee be resting

Posted by Arsenalist on October 1, 2008

The name’s Sampson. Jamal Sampson. The initial reaction to this signing was much like the ones of Hassan Adams and Willie Solomon: Who? Once you get past the disappointment of signing somebody on the fringe of the association the normal next step is to wonder what he can do for us. At the worst it’s a move that will replace Maceo Baston, at best he might turn into a Loren Wood or Jelani McCoy. The numbers aren’t flattering and he’s bounced around (the Raptors are his 7th team) but who knows, with some playing time he might be able to show us a little something something. All the best to Sampson, I mean that, hopefully he puts up a fight in training camp and gives Humphries a run for his money.

If you really want to read between the lines you could say the Sampson signing is insurance for Nathan Jawai. The Raptors are taking every precaution with The Manatee’s heart condition. The question that comes to mind is whether we did a proper physical before we drafted him. He missed most of summer league and couldn’t get past media day, not being crude here but isn’t it too soon to be seeing specialists? This one’s got early retirement written all over it. All the best to him too, he seems like good people. I really wanted to see how he reacts when he’s put in the game to defend Dwight Howard, I’m taking he’s seen nothing like the sort before. NBA initiation, it’s the best.

Hollinger’s Raptors preview is out and he’s predicting a 47-35 record (tied with best ever) which would be good for third in the Atlantic and fifth in the East. To sum it up he’s saying that our interior defense is our biggest strength and the lack of depth in the backcourt our biggest weakness. Hollinger’s a closet Raptors fan who wants us to trade for a more experienced reserve. Well, we all do but since we refuse to pay the luxury tax and have a plethora of small and unproven contracts, we can’t make a move. So we better learn to live with what we’ve got. In summing up last season he brings up 1 good and 1 bad point. The good: We were better than our record last year and should’ve piled up more wins but the TJ Ford saga and Bargnani’s regression while playing heavy minutes cost us wins. The bad: He once again brings up his stupid, retarded and nonsensical point differential argument and uses it to argue point #1. There are many things wrong with giving any sort of weight to point-differential without considering records against +.500 teams. After all beating a good team by 1 point is much more indicative of a team than blowing out a sorry opponent by 20.

Dave Feschuk is back and his initial offering is weaker than an Arsenalist 3AM post. And that’s weak. The subject of the matter is Jason Kapono and how he was two players last season: a good one and a crappy one. Says Kapono about his inconsistent playing time and performance:

“Partly the blame’s on me, I’ve got to perform in the short time that I do get, and then extend my minutes. Hopefully now I have earned somewhat of a chance to kind of work through an oh-for-2 or oh-for-3 start (from the field).”

“Partly”. Let me finish of his thought for you: Sam Mitchell didn’t know how to use me and I was just trying to get mine in an offense that is based on freestyling. I’m a shooter and you can’t yank me after I miss my first two shots – see, I’m not Bargnani or Humphries. And so I didn’t play great defense last year, well, who did? Cut me some slack here, this time I don’t have Delfino to compete with and I’m damn sure that Adams and Solomon aren’t taking any PT away from The Kap. As long as I get some consistent playing time and have some idea of when I come in to the game I’ll put up some numbers. Running a play for me would help too, I can’t do this on my own. I tried last year and you should give me credit for that instead of talking about my 4 3’s all spring. You know?

There’s an article about Will Solomon in the Sun. It’s about how he left a couple million dollars on the table and went to Europe instead thinking there was more money there. Fast-forward six years and its no longer about the money but the pride of playing in the NBA. I don’t know, something tells me if he had gotten Delfino-money in Europe he’d manage to suffocate that pride for a few more years. Again, good luck to Solomon. He’s also good people. Plus he seems like a motivated guy who could play hard for a new contract. Always good to have those unless they start jacking up shots to pad stats (see Voshon Lenard).

Finally, Matt Devlin’s thinking that Jermaine O’Neal is looking “lean and strong” and by O’Neal’s own admission he’s never worked out this hard in the summer in quite some time. Andrea Bargnani was working on his back-to-the-basket moves at Tim Grgurich’s Big Man’s Camp and Sam Mitchell wants him to play “18-feet and in”. That sounds good on paper but Bargnani’s mid-range jumper had back-rim written all over it last season and he was far more comfortable shooting the 3, a lot like Bruce Bowen. Don’t know how that’s going to work but I’m all for moving Bargnani closer to the basket.

That’s it for this morning. Eid Mubarak!

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 19 Comments »

Proof that Andrea Bargnani is working hard this summer

Posted by Arsenalist on August 1, 2008

Andrea Bargnani working on his game

Andrea Bargnani working on his game

I’ve been known to read peoples facial expressions and judging from the picture above the Paul Bunyan look-alike muscled an offensive rebound away from Bargnani and then put it in for a 3-point play. Seriously though, aside from working with John Lucas and attending Tim Grgurich’s big man camp I have no clue what Bargnani’s been upto. Pete Newell’s big man camp starts off next week and there was some talk earlier in the year of Bargnani attending it.

In a HoopsWorld article from a couple days ago it was suggested that he could move out of the four spot and onto the perimeter which somehow is supposed to be a good thing. In a perfect world he would be able to defend the small forward position and score using his size on offense but realistically speaking he’s still a lot closer to a PF than a SF. Jay Triano alluded to two of Bosh, O’Neal and Bargnani being on the floor at all times which would mean there will be minutes for Bargnani at the PF as one of Bosh or O’Neal moves over to play center. Lest we forget Bargnani’s “natural position” is the power forward and so far in his Raptors career he’s been asked to play center.

I don’t think the difference between defending the C and the PF is much different in the NBA, both require him to box-out, rebound and use his quickness as an advantage. Last year a lot of fans felt that he was playing out of position and if we moved him over to PF it would fix a lot of his problems, I don’t buy that argument. At the end of the day he’s got to play big-man basketball and both positions offer the same defensive challenges and offensive opportunities, in fact you could make a case that he should be able to take advantage of centers more easily considering how they’re usually slower. Regardless of which position he plays Sam Mitchell has to try to use him as a plus point rather than a liability.

Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon were playing pick-up at some guy’s house and gave their thoughts on the Jermaine O’Neal trade. Both are counting on a “renewed” O’Neal to lead the Raptors this year. Parker gave his thoughts on ex-teammate Will Solomon joining the squad and says its another shot at the NBA for him after being very successful in Europe. Sure, whatever to not give the impression that we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel here. Jamario Moon will be heading down to Vegas again to work out with Joey G and O’Neal later in the month.

Resident fruitcake Mike Ulmer got to interview Nathan Jawai and once again failed miserably. My favorite gem from this interview has to be the question, Are Australians just like Canadians? No Mike, Australians marry kangaroos, eat their offspring and run around naked in shopping malls trying to set off fire alarms. WTF?!? You get a chance to interview a player, ask him basketball related stuff like his impressions of Mitchell, what he thinks of his teammates and other interesting stuff. Who cares if he thinks Torontonians are nice?

Jack Armstrong will replace Chuck Swirsky on the Fan 590. He’s paired up with some hockey coach just to even the balance for the puckheads. I might actually listen to a Fan 590 show after years of boycotting it because of their idiocy when it comes to covering basketball. Eric Smith is a fair enough analyst but after that the drop down is so significant that its not worth it.

The folks over at Rush the Court have compiled a list of schools which have produced the most NBA draft picks (Google Spreadsheet) and not surprisingly UCLA and North Carolina are #1 and #2. You might be surprised at #3, its not Duke. My Kansas Jayhawks are #8.

Could they have found an uglier picture of Bosh? On a non-basketball related note, this has to be one of the craziest stories I’ve read this year.

That’s about it for now. Thanks for swinging by in the summer time. A special thanks to the ArseBlog for linking it up.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 19 Comments »

The Saturday Morning Post: What’s next for the Raptors?

Posted by Arsenalist on June 28, 2008

Let’s look at the changes to our roster so far:

Additions: Roko Ukic, Jermaine O’Neal, Nathan Jawai
Subtractions: TJ Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, Maceo Baston, Carlos Delfino

Bryan Colangelo is working towards having a “nice, lean roster” for next year which sounds like a good enough idea. What he doesn’t mention is having an athletic roster that is capable of providing consistent defensive stops and can play man-defense out on the perimeter without needing help from the paint. As you recall against the Magic, we got undone because of guard and small forward penetration. And as you might also recall, we were poor at close-outs and interior and perimeter rotations all season long. None of that has been addressed yet and granted the summer is long, however, we don’t have the resources to fix this team.

Good defensive news first: There is a defensive silver-lining to the Jermaine O’Neal trade and its his ability to play help defense. Consider this scenario: The opposing guard just beat Calderon to the paint. Pause. Last year Bosh came and helped out leaving the weak side wide open for any opposing player to step in for a layup or foul. Next year Bosh can actually come out and help his guards whilst feeling confident that Jermaine O’Neal is there to back him up and not leaving him out to dry (shake head at Bargnani). So see, the trade actually helped us on both ends of the floor.

Back to the issue at hand though, what do we need to do to become lean, athletic and a better defensive team in a strong East. The bad news is that we’ll only have about $5-$6 million to spend after paying all our existing players, this of course assuming that we want to stay under the salary cap which is going to be known in July. Speaking realistically and glancing at the 2008 NBA Free Agent list, you’ll notice that there aren’t any quick fixes to this problem. Sure there’s Mickael Pietrus, Josh Childress and J.R. Smith but throwing the MLE at them is hardly going to prevent their teams from matching the offer (assuming they sign the offer-sheet). There’s also Bonzi Wells who happens to be an unrestricted free agent but I’d rather have Jamario Moon.

There’s also Ron Artest who might opt out of his contract with the Kings. But unless him and Jermaine O’Neal shared the same bed on road-trips, I hardly see him picking the Raptors over other suitors like the Lakers. This one’s a no-brainer. This leaves us with fulfilling our needs via trade and now that TJ Ford and Rasho’s expiring contract are no more, we’re left with the likes of Jason Kapono, Joey Graham, Anthony Parker and Kris Humphries as trade bait. Aside from Jason Kapono there isn’t anything here to get excited about and frankly, I’d rather keep Kapono here and see what he can do with two double-team threats on the team. A contending team or two might be interested in Parker for his veteran presence and mid-range game but that’s about it. That’s all the ammunition we have. All that’s left is to figure out who is desperate enough to take our 5M MLE and run with it. Don’t you get the feeling we didn’t get enough out of this draft?

The more and more you think about it the more you’ll realize that next season, much like last season, will be dependent on what Andrea Bargnani can do for us and how well he can guard his position. If he’s able to play the SF effectively for 15-20 minutes a game, it’ll change the entire dynamics of the Raptors. If he can become more of a slashing type player, our problems will decrease because he has the ability to create off the dribble and get opponents into foul trouble. If he can have a Toni Kukoc type impact on this team, we can aim for home court in the first round.

There’s also the issue of guard defense. I haven’t seen nearly enough of Roko Ukic to say whether he can effectively spell Calderon through the course of a season. At 6′ 5″, I am hoping his defense is better than Calderon’s and that he can remedy some of our penetration issues. I thought Keyon Dooling would’ve been a nice signing for us because of his hounding defensive play and ability to knock down shots. Then again you have to give Ukic a shot and see just exactly what he can do, he’s 24 and not getting any younger.

There is one player that I haven’t give up on yet: Joey Graham. Before you close the window, consider this: When has Graham gotten any consistent playing time under Sam Mitchell? Never. Has he been afforded the same leeway has Jamario Moon, Anthony Parker, Andrea Bargnani or even Carlos Delfino? No. His trade value is practically zero so you’re not going to get anything for him on the market but he can still give us something. We tend to forget that he’s a strong, athletic player that when playing with confidence, can slash to the rim, grab rebounds, play hard and when the lighting is right, knock mid-range jumpers down. I’m not even looking at him for offense, I think he can help us defensively and needs to be given a fair shot in training cap and at the start of the season. Call me crazy.

Note to those of you who would’ve loved to see Gerald Wallace on the Raptors, here’s the game tally for his career: 54, 47, 37, 70, 55, 72 and 62. Sure he puts up good numbers but its while playing for a terrible team. You can’t expect him to replicate those numbers here and for what its worth, defensively, I’ll take Moon over him any day.

The Raptors get a 8/10 for their draft according to Yahoo Sports. Figure that one out.

Have a nice weekend.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , | 17 Comments »

Five misconceptions about the Raptors

Posted by Arsenalist on June 1, 2008

Misconception #1: Bargnani is a candidate to be traded

There is a better chance of the Raptors shipping out Chris Bosh than Andrea Bargnani. It sounds ridiculous but as of today its a true statement. The fact is that we don’t know what kind of player we have in Bargnani, I mean we know that he has issues rebounding and playing defense and scoring but we don’t know whether those things are permanent problems or whether they can be corrected. Colangelo doesn’t know that either and isn’t stupid enough to trade him when his value is at an all-time low. Next season will give Colangelo a clearer idea of what exactly he has in the the second best player to come out of Italy over the last three years and he’ll decide next summer whether Bargnani can be part of the Raptors nucleus for years to come. So until then, no Bargnani trade talk since its all pie in the sky type shit.

Misconception #2: Jose Calderon is far superior to TJ Ford

He’s not, he’s a better shooter and a better floor general when it comes to running a team built like the Raptors – aka full of players with European background that can’t create their own shot and lack athleticism. If TJ Ford plays the entire year the way he did before he went down against Atlanta, we’re all talking about sign-and-trading Calderon to the Clippers right now. Unfortunately for him he got hurt and in his return he didn’t display enough professionalism and common sense to be considered a leader. His demeanor on the court requires some thick skin from his teammates and I’m not sure if the Raptors are the bunch that can tolerate stare-downs and shrugs after a missed layup or a turnover. Jose Calderon is the better point guard for the Raptors but TJ Ford is at least on par if not better than him when it comes to skills and ceiling. He’s also 2 years younger.

Misconception #3: We can get a player at #17 that can help us next year

CDR will not be available at #17, the NCAA tournament rocketed his stock just out of the reach of the Raptors. It doesn’t even matter though, the Raptors don’t need another young guy that will get buried under Sam Mitchell’s insane substitution pattern and thereby struggle because of unpredictable and inconsistent playing time. We need a true rebounder and a true scorer, neither one of them can be found in the draft, at least not ones that are good enough to help the team now. Our best option is to package the pick along with TJ Ford for something that can help us and lift the pressure off of Bosh.

Misconception #4: Our priority is finding a second scorer

Its not, its rebounding and defense. Having a Rashard Lewis type player on the Raptors would help things out but not having a second scorer isn’t the reason we finished 41-41 – it was rebounding and perimeter defense that did us in. You don’t believe me? Go look at the box score for 35 out of our 41 losses and tell me if not having enough scoring is what killed us. All year long teams killed us on the boards and second chance points, if we just sure up our rebounding and go from 28th in the league to say 10th in the league, you’ll see our win total rise significantly. So as much as we’d like a sexy scorer in here it would be more prudent for Colangelo to address our rebounding needs. The last thing we want is to go into next season with Jamario Moon being our second-best rebounder.

Misconception #5: We have a chance at the #2 pick.

Pat Riley is not going to flinch at anything the Raptors offer save Jose Calderon, the #17 pick and then some. The “then some” part is the one the Raptors a) don’t have or b) are not willing to give up. I don’t blame either GM for not doing this deal, what the hell would we do with the #2 pick anyway? Our people don’t even scout the NCAA thoroughly and couldn’t tell you who’s the better fit for our team – Rose or Beasley. I wouldn’t mind picking Rose and trading both of Jose/TJ out of town and acquiring Maggette in the process. The problem with this is that it depends on what Chicago does, if they end up picking Rose with us having the #2 pick, its all for donkey nuts. Oh my God, I just proposed 4 different trades/signings in this paragraph.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , | 13 Comments »

Draft for potential or for now? Or just trade the damn pick.

Posted by Arsenalist on May 28, 2008

When I was 17 I used to play pick-up with this guy at an outdoor court in Mississauga. He was OK, nothing great but he was OK. Being a lefty was his real advantage but his jumper was seriously lacking. He had it firmly set in his mind that once me managed to get into a US college, he would just average 8 points a half for a total of 16 points a game and be a lock to get drafted. I always told him to have a backup plan just in case things didn’t pan out, you know, him being only 6′ 0″ and all and me having a superior jumper than him. I lost touch with him, wonder what became of the guy. Reason I’m telling you this is because he looked a lot like Donte Greene who Chad Ford has us drafting at #17. In his mock draft earlier in the day he had us selecting Robin Lopez with the following comment:

Lopez is drawing a lot of comparisons to Anderson Varejao. On a team that needs toughness and rebounding in the middle, he should be a great fit. He’s kind of the anti-Andrea Bargnani.

Everyone loves taking a shot at Bargnani, who can blame them, he’s probably the easiest guy to pick on in the NBA right now and there’s always truth in the criticism received. Anyway, between the two I’d pick Lopez because as much as we need a 6′ 10″ swingman, we need toughness even more. And its not like like Lopez could even come close to picking up the scoring load on this team. The advantage of drafting a hustling big man over of a finesse guy in the draft is that the former can be counted on to do things like rebounding and defense and can help the team immediately. The Raptors would be unlikely to select a player and then wait him out while he develops and brings his game to a meaningful level, especially after Colangelo made it clear yesterday that he’s looking for immediate help.

There’s a bunch of players in the draft that could be good fits for the Raptors. The question will be how much of a “project” is Bryan Colangelo willing to take on and whether hand-holding Bargnani through his 3rd NBA season plus nursing along another rookie is too much to ask for Sam Mitchell. The easier thing would be to just trade the pick as part of the PG package and increase the value of the return product. Sometimes in all the fantasy trade talk that goes on we lose sight of the fact that it’s very hard to make trades in the NBA, let alone ones where you clearly come out on top. So although Maggette/Ford or Ford,#17/#2 might sound logically right, the apprehensiveness of the GM behind those players/picks will probably kill the deal.

The Hawks are close to hiring a new GM – fingers crossed that its Maurizio Gherardini. They might be the most talented team in the East and if the new GM can handle the decisions coming up for them, there’s every indication that the Hawks will be one of those teams that’s neck-and-neck with us next year in the standings.

You know the chances of the Knicks picking Gallinari are high when daddy chimes in and the sun shines on old friendships. He’s going to stick out on that roster more than David Lee.

That was probably a foul on Derek Fisher but it was an excellent no-call. Classic example of why games need to be called differently late in the fourth quarter. Brent Barry was nowhere close to scoring and didn’t deserve a shot at two FTs, let alone three.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , | 16 Comments »

Gallinari better than Bargnani? + We’re not alone in the pursuit for CDR

Posted by Arsenalist on May 23, 2008

The Knicks are high on Danilo Gallinari and one longtime Eastern Conference European scout had the following to say:

“He’s better than [Andreas] Bargnani, no question….The guy doesn’t back down from anybody. You’re in his face. He’ll get right back at them….The only Europeans who succeed in the NBA are the tough ones. The Italian league is better than college. If you put him in college ball, he’d be getting 25-30 (points) a night and everyone would be going ga-ga.”

One thing is for sure, this isn’t a Raptors scout talking. And just for Bargnani’s sake I’m hoping Gallinari is a dud.

There’s some love in the air for Chris Douglas-Roberts and we’re hoping he’s around at 17 but we’re not the only ones. The Orlando Magic are also interested and might do something ballsy like trade up in the draft to get him or even make a run at Brandon Rush. If we’re going to get CDR we’re going to have to play ball and outbid and outsmart other teams, he’s not going to fall in our laps like Danny Granger did a few years back. The tournament might have upped his stock beyond our reach. In a conversation between CDR and Draft Express he also mentions how the Nets are interested and if that happens, Richard Jefferson could be expendable.

I don’t know if this is good strategy or madness by Rick Carlisle but he’s going to change his entire offense so its easy for Jason Kidd to do his thing. Kidd’s 35 years old and can’t stay with any of the elite PGs in this league so the best the Mavericks can hope next season is a hollow regular season filled with wins that don’t mean squat when it comes playoff time. I think we saw just exactly how good Kidd is in New Jersey and how far he can carry a team, in the West the job becomes that much more difficult and the chance of him seeing the conference finals there are remote.

I couldn’t find any articles this morning where I could whore TJ Ford and Anthony Parker as trade bait so we’ll keep it quiet for today. The Knicks hunt for a point guard could turn towards Baron Davis which makes a lot more sense for them than acquiring the erratic Ford. As I said before, the only people on the Knicks I like is David Lee and Jamal Crawford and I doubt they’ll be willing to part with those two.

Since it’s a slow day we’ll throw in Mark Cuban’s views on marijuana smoking as pertaining to Josh Howard. Cuban doesn’t like it, probably smoked the wet kind and coughed his lungs out. There are unconfirmed reports that David Stern was with him when he tried it, a source close to the NBA says:

David Stern held the screen as Cuban took his hit. Cuban then gathered up the smoke and proceeded to do a mouth-to-mouth with Stern who passed out immediately into Darius Miles’ lap. Cuban then laid down a beating never seen before on an already passed out Joey Crawford who happened to be knitting a sweater on a nearby couch.

This little piece of information slipped past me and I found it on RealGM – Kevin O’Neill got hired by the Grizzlies as an assistant coach. The man knows his defense and should stick to it for earning a living, it’s when he tried to turn a team with Vince Carter on it into the mid-90’s Cavs that the shit hit the fan.

Finally I have some complete horse-shit to report, its this article at Bleacher Report, a site that fails to produce a single worthy piece out of the 64,857 it publishes daily. It lists the ten best fan bases in professional sports and I have to say the sniveling little cunts got it all wrong. I mean I’m glad Toronto FC made it but what are the Dallas Maverick fans doing there and more importantly what the fuck is Man Utd doing at #1 and where are the Raptors fans (biggest online presence ever)?. The whole thing is drastically wrong because if we were to talk about great fanbases the top 50 would be filled by football clubs from across Europe and South America. I will say this though, we are one of the most loyal fanbases in professional sports and that’s counting Europe.

You think Manu Ginobili’s diving is getting some press?

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , | 38 Comments »

RJ to TO unlikely + Bargnani’s mouth breathing + Nicolas Batum

Posted by Arsenalist on May 22, 2008

OK, nothing much Raptor related going on but we have confirmation that Carmelo Anthony will not be traded. Great, what this means is that Kiki Vandeweghe who had expressed an interest is heartbroken. Maybe he’ll turn his attention to the Raptors and be willing to part with Richard Jefferson for something other than Andrea Bargnani. That’s unlikely because they already have a good young point guard in Devin Harris and have no need for TJ Ford, they also wouldn’t care much for Jason Kapono and that’s all the bargaining chips we have. The Nets also don’t seem to be interested in selecting 10th and might be looking to deal the pick.

Bryan Colangelo feels picking 17th still isn’t too bad and feels he can get a player who can contribute at that stage (ahem CDR). Good to also see the boss acknowledge that the East got better last night:

“A couple of teams in the East will end up with some pretty good players and Chicago made a big jump and will be able to add a player to a roster that is already pretty deep, which will give them a chance to get back on track faster than expected. And Miami didn’t fall back too far and will get a good player, too…..The draft is pretty deep, picking 17th is not like picking No.1, obviously, but it is a draft that we believe will have some very good players available later in the first round.”

There’s only one mock draft you need to look at and it’s, they have us selecting Nicolas Batum and I have no reason to believe otherwise. Here are his strengths:

Agile forward with size, an incredible wingspan, and great all around skills … Has a natural feel for the game, and great physical attributes … Competitive … Team player, but also knows when to take over … Clutch player. Shows the ability to raise his level of play in big games … Makes his teammates better with his vision and ability to create … Has a diverse offensive game with the ability to pull up off the dribble, hit from outside, and penetrate to the rim … Shows a good stroke from outside, and excellent confidence to shoot through cold spells … Has 3 point range … Quick hands and feet, plus athleticism make him a potential lock down defender … His foot speed and first step is very quick … He has huge upside but needs to gain more experience …

I like what I read, here are the obligatory YouTube clips.

Anthony Parker had some surgery on his middle finger which he damaged when giving Sam Mitchell a finger after his Game 2 last-second play call. Andrea Bargnani went through surgery too and had his “adenoids removed and his deviated septum repaired”. Whatever, let’s just hope he starts breathing through his nose again because its damn aggravating to watch him clank three after three and then pose for Blowhole Weekly.

Parker’s contract, well-defined skill-set, and veteran leadership is the stuff made for a championship team looking to add a key role player. It makes no sense for him to be our starting shooting guard next season because of the Raptors youth movement and his value as trade-bait. He should be added to the list of Raptors headed for a probable exit.

The Magic want to resign Keyoon Dooling, the Raptors series proved that their point guard situation isn’t that bad after all. With Jameer Nelson already locked up long term it doesn’t look like the Magic will be biting on the TJ Ford bait. Good for them. When I think back to how our point guards were supposed to dominate that series I realize how foolish we all were and how we overrated our PGs. Blast!

You can add Shaun Livingston to the Clipper-to-be-had list. With Miami looking for a power forward, Elton Brand’s name pops up which would make the East even scarier. Corey Maggette’s going to demand a high salary and has too much trade value to remain in LA and he along with Artest is another player that brings something the Raptors are desperate for: toughness. With Livingston on the outs, here is a team that actually needs a point guard and has assets that interest us. Logical trade partner indeed.

You know who would make a good coach? Jeff Hornacek would. He always struck me as a high basketball IQ guy that played the game the right way and never feared anyone, not even Michael Jordan. Of course any long-serving player with above average intelligence coming out of the Utah system is naturally a good candidate for a head coach in the NBA. He’s on his way to becoming an assistant soon and it’s not going to be long before he’ll take over a head coaching role somewhere. If Sam Mitchell could make it, there’s no reason Jeff Hornacek can’t.

Kobe took it to Bowen last night which was great, next he should carve open a wound on Bowen’s knee cap and step on it with cleats. It’s those cunty Celtics again tonight, here’s hoping for some Deeeetroit Basketball.

Till tomorrow. Also, tell your friends about this blog. Feed.

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NBA Lottery results no good for Raptors

Posted by Arsenalist on May 21, 2008

The sun even shines on a dogs ass some days. The Bulls won the NBA lottery which sets the stage for John Paxson to do something really funky with the #1 pick – like draft a Euro and ignoring the plethora of NCAA talent. Lightning doesn’t strike twice and he’ll end up bringing Derrick Rose back to Chicago which would signal the end of the Kirk Hinrich era (chuckle). The only Raptors angle here is if the Bulls pick Michael Beasley and look to Toronto to upgrade their PG situation through TJ Ford. Looking at the Bulls roster, aside from Loul Deng there’s nobody worth liking, let alone trading for.

The lottery results also mean that the two best players in the draft will be playing in the Eastern conference thus making the competition that much tougher for the Raptors. The East is getting stronger and winning 3 out of 4 against Chicago and sweeping Miami next season looks more and more unlikely. ‘Sit and wait’ is definitely not the way to go this off-season and the lottery should give Bryan Colangelo even more motivation to improve. The Raptors are picking 17 and Raptors Talk has all the mock drafts linked up.

Andrea Bargnani’s name gets mentioned in a harmless report and everybody gets their hopes all high that he’ll get shipped. He’s not going anywhere, there’s a better chance of the Raptors trading Chris Bosh than Andrea Bargnani. Colangelo has a summer regiment lined up for him and he’ll be a fool to part with him with this trade value being this low and still not knowing what exactly he has in him. The Nets are dangling Richard Jefferson (who happens to be their best player) and Rod Thorn won’t be settling for anything less than proven talent or surefire potential (read Carmelo Anthony). For better or for worse Andrea’s here long term. Dime did a 2006 draft do-over; there’s no point dwelling on this but we had a chance to fix this franchise that night and blew it.

Mike Miller’s on sale but Memphis is asking a higher price than Pau Gasol for him, go figure. Miller does fit the Colangelo brand of player and would be vastly more valuable than say Jason Kapono or Joey Graham. The Rockets are interested but unwilling to part with Luis Scola which makes total sense. Those Argentinians make for some tough NBA players and after Ginobili, Scola is the best from that land. Last time I checked the Rockets are another team that don’t have a true point guard and could use some outside shooting. Dangling Kapono and/or Ford for a package with Scola might make sense for both teams.

A player I’d love to see on the Raptors is resident psychopath Ron Artest whose free agency plans has the Kings on edge. I feel like a prostitute dangling my only two assets once again but would they be interested in TJ Ford or Jason Kapono? Doesn’t matter, Ron Artest is to a Colangelo-type player what Darius Miles is to a Harvard graduate. Thinking out loud now but if our problem is defense and we require a slasher on offense, is there a better fit?

David Stern wants to rip Tim Donaghy a new one right before he gets ripped a new one in prison. For the most part NBA officials are pompous little pricks and it brings me great joy to see one of them quivering. Next on the hit list is Jack Nies, I’m thinking some sort of a sex scandal involving Joey Crawford’s bald head.

Those cunty Celtics won again at home, no to worry though, the Pistons will win this in 6. Two matchups to watch in tonight’s Western conference finals: Kobe/Bowen and Jackson/Popovich. Phil’s finally got the weapons he needs in LA to take down San Antonio, should be fun.

Till tomorrow.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , | 21 Comments »

Crosshair: Andrea Bargnani

Posted by Arsenalist on May 10, 2008

It’s a slow day here in Dubai so I’ll continue with the Crosshair series by getting to Andrea Bargnani.

He was the key to our season and the linchpin that would determine continued success or regression, as his season would go so would the Raptors’. At the outset of the year we were relying on key production from two players: Bosh and Bargnani. Bosh delivered, Bargnani didn’t. The entire season went by with someone like Ford, Calderon or Moon trying to up their production to compensate for Bargnani’s regression. After every decent game by Bargnani (few and far between), we looked at it as ‘the sign’ of him coming out of his funk but it always turned out to be a mirage in the desert that was his season.

Bargnani declined in almost every major statistical category: minutes, points, rebounds, field goal percentage, three-point shooting percentage, steals and blocks. The two statistics that defined his seasons were his impotent rebounding (3.7/gm) and his horrid 38.6% field goal percentage. After rebounding at a 3.9 clip last season, one would’ve naturally expected him to improve that figure given his 7-foot frame and the years worth of experience he had gained. After shooting 42.7% in his rookie year, one would’ve expected that number to either improve or stay on par, but the significant 5% drop in that critical area proved to be the reason for his worthlessness. The one thing he was marketed to do well was shoot the three and shockingly he ended the season shooting 34.5% from downtown. If there ever was a case where the numbers reflected a player’s season, this was it.

The most disappointing aspect of Bargnani’s game is how he refuses to use the advantage given to him by God. He doesn’t take smaller players into the post and bails them out by shooting a jumper or that low-percentage fake-the-drive-pull-up-for-the-j move which is simply too fast and rushed to be as effective as it can be. Against slower players who have trouble moving laterally, Bargnani settles for the jumper instead of driving to the rim and using his quickness advantage. Once again, he bails the defense out by not taking advantage of his supposed strength and not exploiting their definite weakness. His basketball IQ when the ball is in his hands appears to be as low as Darius Miles and every decision he makes is unnatural and forced. It’s not a surprise that close to 80% of shots are jumpers, this might even be acceptable as long as you’re hitting them but when you’re shooting them at a low clip, why not work inside-out?

Explaining his regression is simple and can be summed up in one sentence: The scouts figured him out and he didn’t improve his game to counter them. This happens in every sport, a player has a good rookie season but struggles in his second year as coaches and scouts adapt to what they were doing. The ‘sophomore slump’ is common but avoidable if you work at your game over the off-season. Andrea was busy playing for Italy to focus on these things and team management didn’t do enough to bring him along over the summer. Bargnani thought that he could just camp out at the three-point line again and defenders would play him for the drive while he launched jumpers in their face. Instead, defenders crowded him and forced him to put it on the deck which he couldn’t, the end result was him desperately wanting to shoot the jumper but having no idea how to get open. Rushed shots, forced shots and plain old bad shots earmarked Bargnani’s season because he was never able to keep the defense honest and never proved that he could make them pay for playing him tight.

The decline in his three-point shooting was the result of him rushing his already questionable shots because of the fear of the defense catching up to him and taking this momentary clean look away. It was like a child trying to finish off the chocolate bar in one bite before his parents could find out that he was eating candy. When his shots did go in and he did get hot, you just knew that there was no way he could sustain this ridiculous shooting percentage for more than a game. So it happened that every good Bargnani game was followed by 6 or 7 sub-par performances where he had trouble staying in the game because of missed defensive assignments, failure to box out his man and early foul trouble.

In Europe with Benetton Treviso his rebounding average was 2.0, 5.4 and 7.1, not exactly great rebounding numbers for a center, so its almost unfair to expect him to improve on those in the NBA. He is by every account a finesse player that has shown that he can’t be counted on to bang the defensive boards. His pathetic (and that is the appropriate word) 3.7 rebounds are shocking but not surprising, they may be disappointing but not unexpected. The desire to rebound can’t be taught, it has to come from within, a player has to want to get in to the paint, use elbows, box-out, be physical and snatch one away from the would-be offensive rebounder. In addition to lacking the technique to rebound, Bargnani also lacks the desire which makes him a complete non-factor on the boards. When your starting center is that soft on the boards, the production from everybody else on the frontline and the team has to be outstanding to make up for his deficiency. Although Bosh did his best to pick up the slack, we don’t have nearly enough physical down-and-dirty type players that can compensate for the rebounding hole left by Bargnani.

Consider this, one of the biggest problems the Raptors had this year was giving up too many second chance points through offensive rebounds. We averaged 40.07 rebounds a game which was third worst in the league only better than Sacramento and Miami – both lottery teams. If Bargnani had averaged 3 more rebounds a game taking his tally up to 6.7 (something in-line with Dirk Nowtizki), we’d average 43.07 rebounds a game which would’ve been good for 8th in the league!

A word needs to be said about Bargnani’s man-defense: It’s OK and passable. People often define it as being “great” which it is far from. He has a propensity to pick up two quick fouls early in the game in one-on-one situations relegating him to the bench which automatically means he’s not a great man-defender. Bargnani’s gotten better at keeping his arms straight in the air and using his size to bother offensive players but that does not come close to meaning he’s a lock-down defender. He’s gotten better at using his feet but it only works well when he’s mentally in to the game and playing with a fiery attitude, something which is often not there.

In my humble opinion playing him at center isn’t asking much from him. Yes, technically speaking its not the position he played in Europe but is it really that much different than a power forward? In the NBA the job description for a PF and a C is practically the same, there’s not nearly enough differences to say that Bargnani would’ve been more effective at the PF. I find that excuse for his play to be very lame and a sign of clutching on to straws to justify his performance. If he wants to play in the NBA, it’ll have to be at the 4/5 spots, doesn’t matter which one. The one position he can’t play is the small forward as Sam Mitchell’s ill-timed and failed experiment in the playoffs showed. Bargnani just doesn’t have the lateral quickness to keep up with the athletic NBA SFs who can expoit him at will.

So what do we do with Bargnani? Bryan Colangelo says to judge him after 5 years, Chuck Swirsky once replied to my email and told me to give him 3 years. I’ll go with Chuck. Bargnani has a busy off-season planned where he’ll work on the fundamentals of the game, if we see a meaningful improvement next year in his point production and defensive game, we should hang on to him. If the improvement is negligible and if he has regressed, there isn’t enough time for us to wait on him and we should ship him off as soon as his trade value reaches a point where we can get a warm-blooded body for him. He’s only 22 and might be a late-bloomer but will Colangelo actually wait till the end of the 2010-11 season before deciding Bargnani’s fate? I highly doubt it.

We have seen glimpses of what he might be able to do if he uses all his tools to full effect, plays with a high level of intensity and decides to be a factor on the glass. You might be able to see signs of greatness in him mainly because of his versatility but similar signs could also be seen in Kwame Brown. It might be too early to group Bargnani with Brown but unless he shows the Raptors that he’s more than an average three-point shooter, he’s going to end up being a bust like Brown. Bryan Colangelo jumping the gun and picking him #1 in the draft didn’t help Bargnani and it was unfair to him. There is a zero chance that he’ll be the best player coming out of the ’06 draft and we should all accept that and move on. Hating on Bargnani for being the #1 pick never made sense to me, its not like he chose to go #1, it was Colangelo that incorrectly deemed him worthy of being a top selection. Colangelo went out of his way to draft Bargnani and against conventional wisdom so if Bargnani ends up being a disappointment, blame the GM well before you point to the player.

Personally, I’d settle for Bargnani being a Mehmet Okur type player.

Back to regular blogging starting on Tuesday, will continue with the Crosshair series as time permits. Here’s another crazy fact about Dubai: 80% of the population consists of foreign workers. Yes, that’s right, foreign nationals outnumber local residents 4:1. The locals are filthy rich and are well protected by the government which has written every single law in their favor.


Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , | 20 Comments »