Arsenalist

The Toronto Raptors Blog with an Arsenal touch

Posts Tagged ‘bryan colangelo’

The perfect evening against an imperfect opponent

Posted by Arsenalist on October 19, 2008

Toronto Raptors 93, LA Clippers 89

If Bryan Colangelo had his wish Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal would have close to 20/10 nights every night. Well, last night he got his wish although the Clippers missing Baron Davis and Marcus Camby might’ve taken some of the ecstasy out of it. I didn’t watch the game, couldn’t find it on TV so can’t really comment much but looking at the box-score it was a good night for the Raptors. Roko Ukic got to play 15 minutes (and Will Solomon only 9, I like where this is going) and Joey Graham took a step back from his Minnesota performance. I highly doubt we’ll see an article in every paper about him today, as it should be.

The win combined with the Lakers victory over Barcelona means that we get to play in the “finals” of the LA Shootout. This might be the only finals appearance of any kind the club makes this decade so lets enjoy it while we can. The only thing to note from this game is that Bargnani didn’t play because of a bruised right leg. It’s funny how the Raptors were flown all over from the East coast for this game just because they have two significant foreign players – got to love the NBA, they look for ways to generate fan interest in any which way.

So Mitchell was asked why the Raptors were able to pull off a road win and The Wise Man of the North responded:

“Inside presence, think about it. I told our guys, when’s the last time we shot 38 per cent (and won)? … Not very often. So you can win games shooting 38 per cent if you play D and get to the foul line (and rebound).”

Just thought about it and he’s right. Playing defense, getting rebounds and shooting more FTs will win you a lot of games but let’s not go nuts. We won by four points against a team who was missing their two best players. Just like you brush off the Minnesota loss you should brush of the Clippers win, that’s how the preseason works.

Somebody remind me again how great Hassan Adams is and how NJ was ruing letting him go and how we’re so lucky to have this talent that slipped through the cracks and fell on our laps. Hot garbage! He’s the new Maceo Baston, nothing more. He’s been entirely unimpressive thus far and this night was no different, his fat-ass went 0-2 with 2 turnovers and 0 assists in 5 minutes. Put a fork in him, he’s done. One more note on this game, ex-Raptor and brand new NBA employee Haywoode Workman was a referee for this game. I like this move by the NBA, more players should become referees. Tops on my list: Charles Barkley, Charles Oakley, Keith van Horn, Allen Iverson and Rasheed Wallace. Just picture Vince Carter arguing a foul call with Charles Oakley and instead of Oakley explaining his call he just bitch-slaps Vince across the face. You’d have people come to the games just to watch the officials!

Raptors Talk has an article about Bryan Colangelo letting players with good value walk. The author seems very down about this, in fact I think he wrote it just before he wrote a brief but thoroughly spell-checked suicide note and overdosed on pain-killers. He’s got a point, Bryan Colangelo seems to do nothing with marginal free agents who could have potential. I doubt we needed to buyout Garbajosa’s contract, there was interest from the Lakers and you’d think we could’ve offloaded him for a second-rounder somewhere. He did have the grit factor going for him despite his injury. Letting Mike James walk didn’t make much sense either, I’m positive he wasn’t the Colangelo mold of player so why he didn’t trade him at the deadline when he was having a good season didn’t click. Maybe Colangelo was in two minds about Mike James and couldn’t make a decision until after the season and if that’s true its a horrible trait to have in a general manager. I don’t now about Primoz…that might be a reach.

Andrew Bynum. I remember during the 2005 draft I said to myself, “Self, we should take a chance on Andrew Bynum. Chris Paul and Deron Williams are already gone and its a crapshoot from here on out. Why not reach on this raw talent?” But Babcock selected Charlie Villanueva and everybody got their panties tied up in a knot and it turned out to be a decent pick and the rest his history except that Andrew Bynum is on his way to becoming a perennial All-Star. Why am I mentioning him? Because he’s now asking for an 85 million dollar contract and despite the Lakers trying to play tough they’re bound to give it to him.

The Knicks are so down on Eddy “I just ate a bowl of” Curry, they don’t even make a secret of not liking him or wanting to trade him. The Magic also have a decision to make at backup PG and its come down to JJ Redick vs. Keith Bogans. You remember Keith Bogans right? He’s the guy we insisted on leaving open in the playoffs last year. Gerald Green dropped a spectacular 29, I still remember that little twat’s breakaway dunk against us in Boston at the end of a blowout. We’ll make him pay for it….just you wait.

That’s all I got. Have a lazy Sunday.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , | 10 Comments »

Raptors contingency plan

Posted by Arsenalist on September 2, 2008

The nature of risk management is to be prepared for the unexpected and much like in the corporate world, the Raptors also need a “fallback plan” in case things don’t go the way they expect to. In other words, if the shit hits the fan we need to be ready. So although we’re all counting on Jermaine O’Neal to return to All-Star form and combine with Chris Bosh to become the most formidable frontcourt in the NBA, we need to have a plan in case they don’t. We’re counting on Jose Calderon to play 82 games at the same level as he did in January and February when TJ Ford was out. We’re counting on Jason Kapono to shoot more than 10 threes all spring and we’re counting on Anthony Parker to show up in the fourth quarter. We’re counting on Jamario Moon to make the 18-footer and we’re counting on Roko Ukic – a rookie – to spell Jose Calderon. We’re counting on Hassan Adams and Will Solomon to play meaningful minutes at the SF and we’re counting on Bargnani to have his best year ever. In short, a lot of things need to go right for this season to be successful.

There’s one thing that really concerns me in the case where things don’t work out: we don’t have any young talent on this team. Its one thing to say that we can ‘reset’ if the O’Neal experiment doesn’t work because of his salary coming off the cap in 2010 along with Bosh’s but its another to say what we’d do if we have to start over. If Bosh and O’Neal bolt we’d be left with the ‘nucleus’ of Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon to lead the Raptors past 2010. Calderon is obviously a damn good player but I don’t think anyone but the staunchest of Bargnani believers would be comfortable in seeing them as the two best Raptor players.

Our failure to take advantage of the draft over the last three years has left us devoid of any young talent (19-23) resulting in all our eggs being in the Bosh/O’Neal basket. It’s a tricky situation because drafting young talent and giving them significant playing time is a sign of rebuilding which isn’t all that attractive to someone like Chris Bosh. But at the same time you must draft and develop talent which will either take over or supplement whats already there. To this day the only two legitimate Raptors players we developed from rookies to having a significant role are Morris Peterson and Chris Bosh. Both of them have been great servants of the Raptors organization and have followed a good course in their development with the organization. When Damon left, we had T-Mac. When T-Mac left, we still had Vince. When Vince left, we still had Bosh. When Bosh leaves, we still have…….Bargnani? See what I’m talking about?

I’m not sure when Bryan Colangelo’s contract is up but if this experiment doesn’t work, I would not be surprised if he bolts during the summer leaving someone else to clean up his mess and spend the plethora of cash we’ll have at free agents who’d be skeptical to come here. At the end of the day he’s going to have to answer to his bosses and if their priority is to win NBA playoff series, his job will not be considered secure but if its to run a profitable organization, he’ll even get extended.

This summer was considered a “make or break” for Bryan Colangelo and he’s made a move which demands results this coming season. Its not far-fetched to say that if things blow up in his face he’ll be the one who’ll be looking for a job in a summer or two. Of course he’ll fire Sam Mitchell well before that since he’s setup to be collateral damage. The moves of this summer aren’t ones which are designed to produce results two or three years down the road but next and next year only. While we’re challenging for home-court next year we’ll also be keeping a close eye on Bargnani who by all accounts is setup to be Bosh’s successor in Toronto. If things go wrong and Bosh opts for the exit, all our hopes will be on Bargnani.

Given the talk coming out of the Raptors camp we can see that they’re very confident in the team that they have. A preview that was done a while back on Raptors Talk slotted the Raptors finishing at #5. This of course assumed a lot of things going our way including Orlando and Philadelphia stepping back despite adding Elton Brand. If you’re an optimist you can subscribe to this seeding rather easily but the question really isn’t where the Raptors finish, its what the Raptors do once they make the playoffs. You can question the Raptors depth all you want but this year’s Raptors talent is more concentrated and more likely to meet with success in the playoffs than the last two versions. Assuming everyone’s healthy, I can honestly say that we actually might have a legitimate chance against the likes of Washington, Orlando, Philadelphia and maybe even Detroit if we face them in the post-season. When was the last team a Raptors team could say that?

There’s definitely hope in the air but if that hope is crushed, there’s darkness to follow.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , | 47 Comments »

Questions you would like to ask Bryan Colangelo

Posted by Arsenalist on August 28, 2008

Let’s hear Bryan Colangelo talk:

One interesting thing to note in the interview is Colangelo’s implicit frustration with Chris Bosh taking shots outside the paint and getting away from his low-post game, something he didn’t do in the Olympics. He’s also saying that this is the first time Chris Bosh was fully prepared for a tournament and that credit needs to be given to USA coaching staff. Note to Sam Mitchell: This is an indirect shot at your preparatory skills which have proven to be far from adequate.

The Jermaine O’Neal trade is hailed as the “biggest acquisition in Raptors history” which is a point hard to argue. What’s also hard to argue is that its also one of biggest risks in Raptors history with over $42 million in salary being held up. O’Neal’s longevity is up for debate and Colangelo’s saying that since he didn’t play much over the last few years and didn’t play much early in his career, his NBA life will be extended and that his current age of 30 is somewhat inflated for NBA lifespan purposes. The math actually adds up but thinking about it practically it seems a bunch of bullshit, no?

There’s no doubt that his health is factor #1 when determining any success the Raptors might have this year and we all pray that he stays healthy. But I hope this isn’t the only math the Raptors did when deciding on the trade. The faith Colangelo has shown in his medical staff is phenomenal and I hope they live up to it.

Jose Calderon is being praised for doing the “wise thing” by sitting out the Gold medal game. No names were mentioned but you could almost hear Colangelo curse Garbajosa for not doing the same last summer. Losing Garbajosa for most of last season was bad enough but watching him walk away for free in the summer was disturbing; you can’t tell me we couldn’t have shipped him off for a second rounder. He’s also insinuating that the Spanish coach favored Ricky Rubio over Jose Calderon because of Jose not showing up early enough in the Spanish training camp. Meh.

Jack’s getting into the hang of things when doing his show and the interview wasn’t all that bad but here are some questions I’d like to ask Colangelo:

  1. When did you start targeting Hassan Adams as a potential signing?
  2. Is the Raptors organization willing to go over the salary cap luxury tax this year or next?
  3. What do you think about the offensive sets the team ran last year and what kind of things will you do to help Jermaine O’Neal get back to All-Star form?
  4. What do you expect out of Roko Ukic this year?
  5. What has Andrea Bargnani been upto this summer?
  6. What team in the Eastern conference improved the most this summer, at least on paper?
  7. What’s the expected production from the SF position this year? Do you think you have addressed this 2-year old problem this summer?

Just to name a few. If you got your own, post them in the comments section.

Rod Benson signed with a French team called Nancy.

Later.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: | 10 Comments »

Over/under date for Sam Mitchell firing

Posted by Arsenalist on July 31, 2008

Let’s get some Raptors news out of the way. We’re playing defending Euroleague champions CSKA Moscow in a pre-season game on October 14th, Posted Sports looks at our history in these international affairs. We’ll also be traveling to Edmonton on October 21st to face the Nuggets at Rexall Place.

Back to the reason for this post: Sam Mitchell. There was a time under the Lenny Wilkens regime when the makeup of the Raptors team demanded great coaching and technique. The talent and experience was there and the onus lay on the coach to produce results. Lenny often always failed us in that regard and when it finally became intolerable he was let go in favor of Kevin O’Neill, a defensive minded X’s and O’s coach who was brought it so that the Raptors could finally get a system in place which would take advantage of the talent and ability on the team. Unfortunately, O’Neill also failed us.

Not since the days of Lenny have we absolutely demanded anything of our coach, at best we hoped the team would make the playoffs or maybe have a good regular season. The head coaching job here was practically a no-stress job where expectations were fairly low and if you played your cards right you’d have a chance to see through your contract. Going into next year things have changed. There are expectations of Sam Mitchell next year, whether they’re realistic or not is an entirely different matter but for the first time in his coaching career he’s going to be absolutely expected to deliver. From Colangelo’s perspective he’s handed Mitchell two All-Star power forwards and one of the best PGs in the East; we can point to the weaknesses of the rest of the roster but that doesn’t change the fact that there is some great talent on this team that Colangelo won’t stand to see wasted.

The question then becomes whether Mitchell can deliver Colangelo’s vision. Judging by the technical merits displayed by Mitchell in his time here you would think that he doesn’t have a shot. Regardless of which side of the Mitchell fence you’re on you have to acknowledge that the man lacks the X’s and O’s knowledge to compete with the likes of Stan Van Gundy, Lawrence Frank and other relatively young coaches. Just as we expect players to improve through the course of the seasons, Mitchell must also improve. This coming year can be seen as his “make or break” year when it comes to the Raptors organization and if things go south in the fall, I would not be surprised to see Colangelo swallow his contract and get a European coach like Ettore Messina in here.

If I had to ask one question of Bryan Colangelo, it would be this: What win total do you expect next year and what seed are you aiming for? The answer to this question will ultimately decide whether Mitchell will be finishing his contract. After openly questioning the utilization of Jason Kapono and Andrea Bargnani last year Colangelo made it clear that he was not happy with some of the coaching that was going on. One can’t expect him to tolerate the same mistakes from Mitchell who is sure to be on a short leash because after all when a team fails the first thing a GM does is make a scapegoat of the coach.

So while some may argue that the talent, however ‘concentrated’, is there, others may argue that Mitchell is being setup to fail with a team with close to half a dozen new faces with varying levels of talent. He didn’t show enough intelligence or common sense last year when trying to establish a rhythm with Jason Kapono, Andrea Bargnani or Kris Humphries so you would think he’ll be hard-pressed to do the same with the new set of players. We as fans can only hope that Mitchell’s development and ability has improved because his skills will be of high premium next year as he’ll be facing his biggest challenge yet.

It makes sense to add a veteran assistant coach to the Raptors coaching staff who’s expertise lies on the drawing board. If we can combine Mitchell’s motivation techniques with a true basketball sense this team could and should work. Hell, I’d take Kevin O’Neill any day, the guy was a horrible NBA head coach but there’s a lot to be said about his defensive coaching. As for our offense, adding a coach with a European background makes too much sense especially given that Jose Calderon now has full reigns on the team. As it is right now our coaching staff is simply not good enough to deliver and makeup for the lack of depth on this team.

Phil Jackson needs Tex Winter, Doc Rives needs Tom Thibodeau, Jerry Sloan needs Phil Johnson, Stan van Gundy needs Patrick Ewing..well..er..maybe not..but the point is Sam Mitchell needs some guidance when it comes to coaching. Mike Evans, Jay Triano and Alex English might be good but they haven’t shown any creativity with the offense which fails us too often in the fourth quarter. On a side note one of the best coaching moves we ever made was hiring Dave Hopla the year before last, pity he left us.

So what is the over/under date for a Mitchell firing? I’d say Christmas. If the team is struggling and the resources are not being utilized to what Colangelo thinks is their potential, he’s not going to be willing to waste the season and will naturally make a move to replace Mitchell with a hand-picked coach who’s probably been in the back of his mind since the day he took over the job.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , | 40 Comments »

What does signing Will Solomon say about the Raptors?

Posted by Arsenalist on July 29, 2008

The multi-faceted player that Bryan Colangelo hinted at acquiring didn’t turn out to be Bonzi Wells or Michael Finley but Will Solomon. The Raptors have signed the 6′ 1″ guard to a contract for the upcoming season and it’s logical to think he’ll be playing the role of Darrick Martin. The combo-guard played the last two season in Turkey and was the 33rd pick in the 2001 draft by the Vancouver Grizzlies. He also happens to look a little like Milt Palacio and if his play is anything like the former grandmaster, we are in good hands.

Once again the Raptors tap into the international market to address a need. Nathan Jawai, Hassan Adams, Roko Ukic and Will Solomon were all snatched from foreign teams and combined the quartet has very little NBA experience. With the exception of Adams who played a year with the Nets and Solomon who played the better part of a season with the Grizz, the Raptors incoming crew lacks meaningful NBA experience which could come back to haunt them. If Joey Graham and Kris Humphries remain on the 15-man roster come November, we’ll practically have 6 “scrubs” on the team. This evaluation might seem harsh when applying it to Roko Ukic but until he’s gotten himself in a groove and played through his initial NBA season, expecting anything significant out of him is probably unfair, just like it would’ve been for Calderon’s first year.

When Colangelo was talking about “concentrating talent” on the team earlier in the year I didn’t expect this degree of said concentration. After Jermaine O’Neal, Chris Bosh, Jose Calderon, Andrea Bargnani and Jason Kapono, we are severely reaching for talent and ability. The “Big 3” will need to produce at a very high level and with great consistency if the Raptors plan on hiding their weak bench, something which used to be their strong-suit only a year ago. Say what you will about Carlos Delfino but the man could come off the bench and spark the team with his offense and defense, albeit not with great consistency. Right now we’re asking Hassan Adams to fill that role which you would think would be a drop-off. We’re asking Ukic to make-up for TJ Ford which you would also think is a drop-off (at least next year). We’ve basically replaced Rasho Nesterovic with Jermaine O’Neal which by itself is a great improvement but when you look at all the overall addition/subtractions, its hard to definitely say whether we’ve actually improved or not – especially considering the relative improvements other teams in the East have made.

If Colangelo is to be believed this signals our last signing of the summer which has to be disappointing. Colagenlo’s most important off-season has consisted of one big risky move and a few signings that are unlikely to have an impact given the talent of the players and the coaching philosophy on this team. Asking Mitchell to integrate half a dozen new players with below-average talent is asking too much and will result in us putting too much pressure on our Big 3. Taking Boston’s example last year this might not all be bad but keep in mind that Boston’s supporting cast was superior and their three stars are future Hall of Famers. I mean, let’s not kid ourselves, we’re nowhere close to the Celtics in terms of core talent or supporting cast.

Maybe Colangelo’s thinking is to test out the Bosh/JO combo and see if it actually flies and if the team is doing exceedingly well by the trade deadline or is one player away from legitimately contending, then make a move to acquire another true talent. This “wait and see” approach makes some sense but it sure puts a damper on a summer where much was expected of the Raptors. There were obvious weaknesses at the end of the season (rebounding, perimeter defense, athleticism) and we’ve addressed them to some degree but this pessimistic observer feels its hardly going to be enough.

The last thing I want to see on the Raptors is players being stretched out of their ability and ask of them things that they’re not capable of doing. We saw this last year with Jamario Moon and are poised to see the same complaints being directed at the likes of Hassan Adams, Will Solomon and Nathan Jawai. It’s a slippery slope when you start expecting things from scrubs and get annoyed when they don’t deliver. The supporting cast Bryan Colangelo has assembled does not fill me with confidence, mainly because of their lack of proven talent and experience. Sure, they might have potential to be good players but how long can we afford to wait? I though the plan was to fix the Raptors this summer, not sign players that in the best case will turn out to be average NBA players.

We’re not even close to contention.

Jason Kapono talks about the O’Neal trade and how it’ll help him get his shot off. He reckons O’Neal will do for him in Toronto what Shaq did for him in Miami. An optimistic view of things but I see what he’s saying. If you combine Bosh’s quickness in the post with O’Neal’s back-to-the-basket game you’ll get a diverse set of double teams which can open up the offense given the right pass out of the double.

“If O’Neal’s playing well on the block, that’s going to help us out. The more shooters and post players you have, you have the balance to create problems for the guys on the defensive end. Defenders must choose between helping out on the post or guarding guys who can make shots on the perimeter. It makes you want to get training camp started just so you can get him in here and used to our system and our sets and used to the guys. You can’t expect J.O to learn our system in two weeks. Obviously we are going to have a tough time in the pre-season and have a few bumps in the road.

I give Jermaine two practices to learn our entire “system”.

Matt Devlin finally replied to my email and it was a long one too. The Swirsk’s replies were never more than 10 words and I suspect Devlin’s will get shorter too once the season begins. He sounds like a very humble and honest guy but that’s what they said of Charles Manson. There’s an article about him in the Globe where he talks about how he’s going to focus the attention on the players and how he’s not a “hometown announcer” aka homer.

Ricky Davis signed with the Clippers and Renaldo Balkman got traded to the Nuggets in a move that fails to make sense for the Knicks. Andris Biedrins got re-signed for 62 million over 6 years, sounds like overpayment but given today’s NBA market its almost fair value.

Till tomorrow.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , | 47 Comments »

Roko Ukic sale and some potpourri including Dalembert being kicked out

Posted by Arsenalist on July 16, 2008

Danilo Gallinari’s play in the second half against the Cavs’ summer league team was very impressive. He played aggressively and with confidence, he mixed it up by shooting the three, going inside and displayed a tight mid-range game. Along with that he showed he had the handles to actually take slower defenders off the dribble by going either way. In short, it was a performance that might make skeptical Knick fans believers. He looked far more fluid than Andrea Bargnani and was a threat to do multiple things, not settle on one. Then again it was only one game. This kid might be a player.

During the broadcast of the Knicks/Sixers game Quentin Richardson was asked what he thought of the moves around the league including Elton Brand’s, he generally gave praise until they brought up the Jermaine O’Neal trade. Awkward silence ensued. That trade was “weird to me” said Quentin because it entirely changes the Raptors’ makeup and style of play. He’s got a point, we’ve gone from being a somewhat quick breaking team to an entirely half-court one with the addition of the big-man O’Neal and the loss of speed-merchant TJ Ford. The Raptors used to win games by having 5 guys in double digits and racking up the assist totals but next year the formula for success will be different – vastly different. You’d expect the points to be less spread out across the box score, a shorter rotation and more emphasis on post-ups and interior ball movement than ever before. The way Colangelo envisions the Raptors next year might be a complete 180 from his first two years! Call it a change of philosophy or a return to common sense but I like the direction. The execution is an altogether entirely different matter.

Barcelona have sold Roko Ukic to the Raptors for $650,000. This figure does not count against the salary cap, it’s just the transfer fee.

A bit surprised to see Marcus Camby traded to the Clippers for just a second round pick. Obviously the primary reason to make the deal for Denver is to shed nearly 16 million dollars in salary over two years. From the Raptors perspective you have to step back and say, hmmm..we could’ve gotten him here to solve the rebounding and defense issues and traded TJ Ford to satisfy the SF need. Hmmm…wouldn’t that have been something, eh? Either way, it looks more and more like Josh Smith isn’t going anywhere.

Nathan Jawai’s reminds us that he’s only been playing basketball for five years and still getting adjusted to the NBA style of play. He’s realizing the difference in talent and athleticisim between the leagues which is obvious but he also points out a key difference between the Australian league and NBA – no defensive three-in-the-key. Combine this defensive issue with the fact that he can’t simply tower over smaller players and get his on offense and it speaks of an uphill struggle to get in the NBA. He does have the right attitude so he might have a chance. A chance. If you didn’t catch the Denver game, there are highlights.

There’s no indication that the Raptors are remotely interested in Carlos Delfino unless he signs an offersheet for a ridiculously low amount which the Raptors could match because of them extending a qualifying offer to Delfino. It’s likely that Delfino’s next destination is somewhere in Europe, probably Russia. You have to think that Hassan Adams is essentially the replacement for Delfino which means that one of our most glaring weaknesses coming into the offseason remains unaddressed. The sad part about this situation is that aside from swings like Josh Childress and Ron Artest who aren’t coming here, there’s not much Colangelo can do. Realistically and salary-cap wise speaking, we can’t acquire someone like Gerald Wallace or Josh Howard or anyone who’s in the upper-echelon of NBA swings so we have to look at tier-two options like Andres Nocioni or Gordon Giricek. But hearing Colangelo speak, his main target for the rest of the summer is a combo-guard on the cheap and a player that I’ve always liked is Quentin Ross of the Clippers.

Some absolutely shocking news – Canada released Samuel Dalembert after their stunning victory over Korea, Leo says:

“Without going into too much detail, it’s a situation that we decided to move forward with the players who have the passion and desire to play for Canada. It’s disappointing for sure, but I think you have to have players who are a 100% committed to it. If not, it’s not going to happen for us.”

Leo Rautins showing some big time balls by kicking out a legit NBAer out of a roster that’s lacking any.

Michael Grange had some brief but key points about Canada’s loss to Slovenia. NBA Live ’09 is around the corner, check out the screen caps – very sweet.

Next Raptors summer league action is against the Sixers on Thursday. Approximately 110 days till the season starts. Later.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Raps lose to Nuggets + Only 3 sureties, rest is “wide open”

Posted by Arsenalist on July 15, 2008

Summer league continued with a 90-79 loss to the Nuggets. The Raptors managed to win the second and third quarters but got off to a horrid start and ended the game by repeating their first quarter performance. The defense was very leaky and the offense a bit of a mess as one would expect of a bunch of guys thrown together at the last minute. Joey Graham and Hassan Adams racked up 31 and 28 minutes and scored 16 and 11, respectively. On an evening where it was very hard to spot an NBAer on the Nuggets squad, the two pros were easily our best players. Based on the Nuggets’ ball movement it looked like they’ve been playing together for years – 6 players in double figures!

The point guards struggled again with John Lucas unable to find the stroke going 3-12 FG. Daniel Ewing was glued to the bench along with Rod Benson and Chris Bosh’s little brother managed to get in for four minutes and clanged a couple jumpers. Jaycee Carroll came back to earth and C.J Giles racked up 8 turnovers to go along with his 8 points. Check the box score for more excitement but it doesn’t look like there’s anything good coming out of this year’s summer league crop. Nathan Jawai’s 2 points in 20 minutes is analyzed in detail by a RealGM poster. FYI, Donte Greene (who many an expert had us picking) exploded for 40 and the game-winning assist against Phoenix.

A quote-heavy article in the USA Today has Hubie Brown analyzing the trade and Sam Mitchell mentioning that Jermaine O’Neal, Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon are the three starters for the team and that “everything else is wide open”. Nothing we didn’t already know but it assures that Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon’s jobs aren’t guarantees. Bryan Colangelo’s picking O’Neal to have a “breakout year” and Brown wisely cautions that the trade is entirely dependent on O’Neal’s health to which Colangelo counters by praising his medical team.

It’s been said before but it warrants mention again: balancing the two front-court powers so that they’re complementing each other rather than coming in each others’ way will be Sam Mitchell’s greatest challenge as a coach. This situation can go south very quickly if the Raptors offense becomes as simple as O’Neal and Bosh alternating PNR and post-up situations. Mitchell has to balance O’Neal’s desire to revive his career and channel that motivation into the team functioning better, not individual glory. As he pointed out in his presser, its hardly going to matter what the stats are if we don’t see playoff success. At least early on O’Neal and Bosh share a clear understanding of what they need to do “to lead this team to the next level.” We’ll see how they’ll execute their ideas.

Ron Artest is still out there and looking to be traded to a team that’s more “committed than Sacramento”. Get him here and half of our defensive and toughness problems will go away. The problem is we don’t have anything to barter with. If nothing else, it would be very much appreciated if he’d stay in the West and not join an up and coming Eastern conference team like the Sixers, Nets, Bulls, Hawks or Magic.

Jose Calderon’s giving his thoughts on Greece while Leo Rautins is hoping that his Canadian team is finally mature enough and ready to take center stage. Canada plays Slovenia at 6AM today.

The men from RaptorsTalk have an Eastern Conference preview already out and they’re picking the Raptors to finish above the Sixers and Magic. A very optimistic article that’s worth a read but only exists because the summer is so damn long.

Scott Foster was at the receiving ends of 150 phone calls from Tim Donaghy while he was busy supplying Vegas with future NBA boxscores. So far Foster’s not under any investigation. I’m still waiting for the NBA to get into Hue Hollins’ grill for calling that foul on Scottie Pippen the year Jordan was playing baseball.

In other news, Ex-Raptor Rasho Nesterovic will be retiring from international basketball after the Olympic run. He was one of the better Raptors last year and produced whenever called upon, even if I think hard I still won’t be able to come up with any complaints about his play.

That’s about it for this morning. Thanks for reading. If you’re looking for some extra-curricular activities Cuzoogle will help you out.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , | 12 Comments »

Bryan Colangelo should be more like David Morway

Posted by Arsenalist on July 14, 2008

Dead Season is in full swing. Our beloved Raptors are in Vegas where they’ll play the Nuggets tonight at 6PM. Nathan Jawai is expected to get some play in tonight’s game; he’s still recuperating from an injury he suffered while reaching for some popcorn that fell through a movie theater chair earlier in the year. He did manage to retrieve the popcorn but injured his groin in the process. Says Nathan:

In hindsight it was probably a bad idea to twist my body and stick my arm between folding chairs for two bits of popcorn and I probably should’ve let it go, especially since I weigh 395 pounds. I’ll continue to work hard at not spilling popcorn and I’m confident that I’ll overcome this affliction.

In reality the giant injured himself in pre-draft workouts.

A non-Raptor to keep your eye on during the game is Denver’s second round pick Sonny Weems who likens himself to a future DPOY. There’s something about the hunger of an out-of-contract rookie desperately trying to get into the NBA that’s very intriguing and Joey Graham’s about to find that out. Graham’s great game against Sacramento was a nice enough event but to think that its increasing his trade value to anything meaningful would be foolish. You can put up big numbers in the summer and it won’t mean a thing if you didn’t come to training camp without an area of your game being improved. If Joey wants to seriously contend for Moon’s spot he needs to sure up his mid-range game, increase his lateral quickness and up his basketball IQ to the level where he doesn’t look confused when the ball’s in his hands. It’s a tall order for Graham but if he can nail 2 out of 3, you never know.

As for tonight’s game I’m expecting to see something better from John Lucas and Daniel Ewing, they were both awful against Sacramento and will be looking to rebound. If Jaycee Carroll continues to hit running floaters and knock down jumpers for the second game in a row, I’ll be switching to him as my outside pick to make the team.

Interesting blog from Indiana GM David Morway who takes us inside the war room of the Indiana Pacers and tells us how the deals with Portland and Toronto went down. They were targeting Brandon Rush from the outset and had made the Roy Hibbert agreement with the Raptors well in advance. He also says that they aggressively tried to acquire another pick in the first round but nobody was giving it up. Firstly, I wish Bryan Colangelo would write a blog like this and give us fans an idea of what was going through his mind. Secondly, if the Pacers valued first round picks to a degree that they wanted three of them, why didn’t the Raptors care to have even one?

Everybody in Charlotte’s on the trade block including Gerald Wallace. If he had been our major off-season acquisition I would’ve had a real problem with it. He’s been putting up big numbers on a very bad team and hasn’t helped that team achieve anything. In the process he’s gotten rewarded with a big but relatively reasonable contract (~9M). He’s also had issues with injury as you can see by his game tally. Having said all that, I would welcome him on this team given the talent already present in the front court. Salary-wise, this trade would be almost impossible for us unless we managed to shed someone like Kapono, Bargnani or Parker in the process, something I feel the Raptors are very reluctant to do.

I wrote an email to Matt Devlin yesterday:

Hi,

Welcome to Toronto.

Day 1 Raptors fan here. Looking forward to hearing you call the games. Raptors fans are one of the most passionate fans in all of sports, for many people its very hard to believe that given the incorrect “hockey crazed” label of this town. Most of us understand the game very well and can “see through” the commentary and media coverage around the Raptors. I guarantee that you’ll be a fan
favorite (even more so than Swirsky) as long as you simply call things the way you see them.

I really look forward to hearing you and Jack together.

Zarar

Eric Gordon’s done for the summer league and there’s no chance Greg Oden suits up for it either. Canada’s playing Slovenia at 6AM tomorrow.

Later. Feed.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

The Saturday Morning Post: Shhhhh

Posted by Arsenalist on July 5, 2008

Shhhh….(whispering) if you listen closely you can hear it. Shhhh….there it is..it’s the sound of nothing happening in Raptorland. It’s what the off-season is made of and results in a void around these areas for long stretches at a time. But nay! I wow to keep the train chugging along despite the lack of activity or rumour in the Raptors camp. It makes for quite a pathetic read but we’re like meth addicts, we need something…anything.

Since there’s no Raptors news this morning, I found it quite apropos to start off with the Chris Paul contract extension which stands at $68M/4yrs for 17 million a year. Even in the inflated NBA market that is superstar money indeed. If we sign Calderon to an 8M/yr deal it doesn’t sound like overpayment at all. In fact, if I was Calderon I’d hold the Raptors feet to the fire and ask for even more money since we don’t have a backup plan at PG anymore. Hell, I’d start the bidding at 13M and settle at 10M if I were him, you think Colangelo has the balls to let Calderon walk at this point?

I don’t want to scare anybody but the Celtics are talking about getting Maggette (Spurs hunt). If that’s not enough, Josh Smith might end up in Philadelphia. New Jersey’s retooling and will have a young athletic product on the court which leaves the Knicks as the only team that I can confidently say that we’ll finish ahead of next year.

Chris Duhon gets a 12M/2yrs contract with the Knicks, that’s 6M per year. You can’t possibly tell me Calderon is only 2M/yr better than Duhon. There is a Raptors connection to this (very lame one), Duhon was signed to an offersheet by Rob Babcock but the Bulls matched it paving the way for the TJ Ford trade a year later. The most interesting story is the one suggesting that the Warriors have been contacted by nine different teams about sign-and-trade offers for Monta Ellis who thinks his future is away from the bay area. Insert sentence which drools over Monta Ellis in a Raptors uniform. On another guard note, Keyon Dooling is likely done in Orlando as they signed Courtney Lee to a contract.

Ontario’s debating whether they should allow Vegas-style gambling and MLSE doesn’t care either way. The opinion of this insignificant observer is that how could it possibly hurt? There’s lots to gain in this proposition including more tourism and increased business; I can’t see the OLGC being opposed to this as long as they’re the major shareholder of the “house”.

Toronto stole some NFL games from the Bills so the least the city of Buffalo could do was try to snatch some NBA games away from us – good luck! Unless MLSE’s getting 90% of the ticket sales that’s highly unlikely to happen. On a similar note the Raptors are holding their training camp at Carleton University.

Leo Rautins and Canada are off to a rocky start with a shocking loss to New Zealand. The shocking part wasn’t the loss but the fact that New Zealand actually had a basketball team. As long as Leo keeps on stressing how vital it is to keep the ball inbounds when blocking a shot I think we’ll be fine.

I have a confession to make, I am a D.I.S.C.O Dancer.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Stakes raised for Sam Mitchell

Posted by Arsenalist on July 2, 2008

Let’s start off with Ron Artest. Quote from Monday:

“Not opting out, the Kings have been there for me, so the best I could do is stay in my contract.”

Quote from Tuesday:

“I don’t see myself with [the] Kings beyond 2008-09. I think I made the biggest mistake by staying in my contract and I have to live with it.”

‘Nuf said about how volatile this guy is.

As mentioned yesterday and further confirmed today, Jose Calderon has signed a new deal and we’re also going to be bringing in Roko Ukic over. No surprises there. We know what we’re getting in Calderon and what he’s capable of, the only question is whether he can continue to do what he’s been doing but as a full-time starter having full responsibility of the team. I have a fear of NBA scouts ever since the Bargnani thing, let’s hope Calderon can overcome the attention and detail with which coaches and scouts will look at him. With the inexperienced Ukic backing him up you expect Calderon to play high minutes and that automatically means that at some point he’ll get burned out and get into a 10-20 game shooting slump so be prepared for it.

Over the last two years the Raptors have been successful when their bench play has been strong, in our division winning year the Forderon duo was our key advantage, last year whenever we got key contributions from Carlos Delfino or Andrea Bargnani, we gave ourselves a great chance to win. With TJ Ford gone, our already shallow bench has taken a hit and we’re compensating for it by shortening our roster. Colangelo’s trying to concentrate the talent on the roster and force Mitchell to create a consistent rotation with well-defined roles. I think this is a great move by Colangelo who sees that last year’s unpredictable substitution patterns, sporadic playing time and illogical coaching decisions cost the Raptors plenty of games. He’s setting the table for Sam Mitchell to prove himself as a coach who is not just a motivator, but someone who when given talent can make it show on the court.

I suspect the freestyling nature of the Raptors offense isn’t going to be tolerated next year, Mitchell will have to use his brains to figure out ways to manage Calderon’s minutes, ensure Bosh/O’Neal cohesion, reduce Bosh/O’Neal redundancy, hide Bargnani’s defense at SF, showcase Bargnani offensively, utilize Kapono’s shooting ability, take advantage of Humphries’ hustle, put Calderon in situations where he has options and most of all manage expectations of players so there are no surprises game in and game out. Once we have the political situation of the team taken care of and every player is on the same page, only then can we hope the talent and potential of this team to shine through to whatever degree it can.

The Raptors still have the MLE to throw at a player so we should expect a signing at some point in the summer, hopefully a SF. It’s starting to look like Colangelo’s done acquiring pedestrian talent only to see Sam Mitchell retrofit a roster into a style of play. If we can establish an 8-man rotation and use the DL for what it’s actually designed for, we’ll start to see consistency on this team, regardless of talent level. This should in turn help our defense because it’s on defense that teamwork shows and trust amongst teammates mandated. When the same players play together more often, they automatically develop a better understanding of what each others’ tendencies and capabilities are and are likely to adjust better.

The Clippers couldn’t acquire TJ Ford or DJ Augustin but they managed to get their hands on Baron Davis. This is a bit of a shock as Golden State was giving all indications that Davis was their franchise player. With Davis is headed out, it puts even more impetus on the Warriors to resign their free agents including Mickael Pietrus who’d look good in a Raptors uniform. On another free agent note, did you know Damon Stoudamire is an unrestricted free agent? Emotional homecoming, I can already picture it.

The Raptors have also signed Hassan Adams from to a 1yr/400K contract. The defensive-minded guard played in Europe last season and registered 61 games for the Nets in 07-08, you might remember him from the playoffs of that year too. Not the signings I was hoping given the 2008 NBA Free Agent List. There are a few players that the Raptors could consider: Ricky Davis, Gordan Giricek and most importantly Jarvis Hayes. I’ve always liked Hayes’ game, he’s a solid defensive minded SF that doesn’t mind getting to the rim and can hit the 3. Tayshaun Prince has got the stranglehold on the SF minutes in Detroit so Hayes is likely on the move with interest from Phoenix already there.

There’s also the need to address Anthony Parker who I’ve always suspected is capable of being an NBA 2-guard as long as there’s enough distractions for the defense to worry about. It’s when you start consistently running double-screen fadeaways for Parker and look to him to carry you through quarters that things go awry. His clutch record doesn’t help matters either but with O’Neal and Bosh around you’d think 3-point shooters are a premium and Parker is definitely that. With only the MLE at our disposal and both a SF and a SG need to fill, I suspect we’re going to aim for the SF since Parker is the lesser of the two problems.

It’s a long summer, too long.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , | 31 Comments »