Arsenalist

The Toronto Raptors Blog with an Arsenal touch

Posts Tagged ‘chuck swirsky’

Chuck, what took so long?

Posted by Arsenalist on May 7, 2008

There’s not many reasons to interrupt a vacation but Chuck Swirsky quitting the Raptors is one of them. Believe it or not my first reaction to the news was, “Oh, no!”. That was the emotional me talking, the one that likes to hang on to old t-shirts with holes and stains that came from God knows where. After digesting the news a little and soaking in the hot, humid, disgusting Dubai air, I realized that this was great news and something that was probably long overdue. No disrespect to the Swirsk (well, some) but his enthusiasm for a bad team and constant hyperbole were getting on everyone’s nerves. The fans had “outgrown” him and his act was wearing thin; his popularity was mostly limited to either the young ‘uns or the ones who watched the majority of the games on the US feeds. The thoughtful, knowledgeable and passionate Raptor fan had little use for him anymore.

It’s time to show him a little respect. In his early days he provided something fresh, something exciting and one wanted him to bust out the “Mojo” and the “Boom-shaka-laka” almost every time. It was a nice touch when watching a mediocre team. When Vince Carter did his thing in Toronto, Swirsky was the perfect voice for him. Nothing he could say would be considered exaggerated because every Vince dunk was truly “worth the price of admission” (this year a TJ Ford dunk with the Raptors up 17 and 20 seconds left was called that). The radio was the perfect medium for Swirsky because he spent his time describing the play-by-play instead of chiming in on the analysis – something that was always lacking in him. Chuck and Jack were the best radio team the Raptors have had. Ever. Swirsky’s enthusiasm and excitement for the game shone through on the radio without being over-bearing or annoying. It was radio – anything goes.

Two things led to Swirsky’s decline. Vince and TV. Fans did not like the fact that the TV guys never called out Vince Carter. It bugged us to no end, watching Vince smile away at the end of 20 point losses while the announcers completely ignored this sacrilege was too much to bear. Excusing Carter’s behavior when he was on the Raptors and then heavily criticizing him once he was on the Nets was something no Raptor fan can forget or forgive. It’s understandable on the part of Swirsky/Rautins but its also unforgivable on the part of the fans. Here was a superstar that nobody had the balls to say wasn’t pulling his weight but the second he moved to a different team, you suddenly grew nuts to say what you saw? Fans like me couldn’t get a grip on this and lost a large amount of respect for the people we rely on to bring us games.

Swirsky is made for the radio, once he came to television there was simply too much air-time to fill and he did a horrible job of deferring to the analyst when he needed to. Asking condescending questions like, “What are the Bulls running, Leo?” while giving a free pass to Lenny Wilkens’ and Sam Mitchell’s horrid offensive sets never quite made sense and irked us even more. Hyping up Andrea Bargnani and refusing to acknowledge his faults was Swirsky’s most recent crime and the one fans are likely to remember the most. His lone vote for Bargnani in the Rookie of the Year voting lost him a lot of credibility and cemented him as a homer. Begging for the NJ series last year didn’t make any sense either and although Orlando was a desirable matchup this year, Swirsky’s constant unwarranted confidence display in the Raptors was hard to comprehend and even in his final year he continued to ignore and downplay the Raptors’ faults and focused on the few strengths they had. Simply put, there were too many times where he didn’t call it the way he saw it.

The “Salami & Cheese” did him more harm than good, it was a gag that should’ve been used for a couple months and dropped. It never should’ve become a crazy form of self-promotion that it ended up being. It got to the point where other announcers were pulling it out against the Raptors! The call was always a mild insult to the opposition and when the Raptors went on a losing streak, the jokes started to flow. It’s one thing to call it on a game-winning shot, its another to bring it out early in the fourth when you have an audience on NBA League Pass. Not cool or very sportsmanlike. It was only natural that most fans ended up outgrowing the shtick, but Swirsky never got the message. The Kobe incident didn’t help either.

Swirsky was great for us and helped us increase our fan base in the early days with his exciting calls and over-the-top announcing. As the team grew older and fans became more knowledgeable and demanded more from the team on the court and in the booth, Swirsky couldn’t fit the bill. It was partially because he was paired with Leo Rautins and the two were horrible together, often getting into clearly uncomfortable situations for stupid reasons while providing mundane and regurgitated analysis. Chuck and Jack were a much more complimentary team and Jack did a great job of taking over the broadcast and doing the analysis, leaving Swirsky to do his job – calling the play. Maybe if he was always paired up with Jack, the fans would appreciate him more since he’d be drowned out by Jack’s always accurate, honest and up-front analysis – something everybody loves.

Swirsky says he’s gone for personal reasons and has left “money on the table”. Its hard for me to believe that the constant bashing on RealGM and other Raptors blogs didn’t have a bearing in his decision. He seemed pretty damn excited to be a Canadian citizen and did extend his contract in 2007 and had everything going for him in Toronto. I’m not going to sit here and doubt his “personal reasons” but its hard for me to believe that the criticisms from the fans didn’t help him make his decision much easier. The change from loving Canada to leaving Canada is too drastic to simply be attributed to personal reasons.

I think he’ll be fine in Chicago because he’ll be back on the radio. I would’ve loved to see Swirsky stay and do the radio for the Raptors, an area where Paul Jones struggles tremendously. As it is, he’s gone and we’re in need for a play-by-play man. If you’ve been reading this space you know that I never got over John Saunders and although I doubt he’ll take the job given his CBS and ESPN commitments, its worth a call. Ex-Bluejay man Dan Shulman would be great too. Whatever the Raptors do, they better not hire Paul Jones or Rod Black.

I think I’m going to end this post because the battery on this laptop is running out. Sorry if I sounded incoherent in this post but I’m making this at 2AM and am terribly sleepy after a day in the ridiculous humidity.

Here’s something crazy about Dubai. License plates are considered prestigious, almost everyone has a 5 digit license plate which costs nothing. If you get a 4 digit one, its more prestigious and can run you around $10,000. A 3 digit one runs you approximately $50,000 and mostly the very, very rich and the Sheikh’s relatives/friends have those. The 2 digit ones belong to the Sheikh’s family and if you want one, be prepared to spend 1 to 2 million dollars. As for the 1-digit license plates, the Sheikh’s son has one of those. They’re a sign of social status which is totally fucked.

The extravagance, the materialism and the abuse of poor South Indian and Philippine labor is too much. This city is literally built on their sweat while the natives (Emirati’s) see no problem exploiting them and treating them as second class citizens. That’s what I’ve understood so far.

I’m back on Tuesday and will continue with the “Crosshair” series then. Andrea Bargani is next. See you then!

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , | 52 Comments »

It’s Friday and time for another Raptors weekend

Posted by Arsenalist on April 4, 2008

Digesting the Atlanta loss hasn’t been easy. Al Horford’s claims that he nipped the ball on it’s way to Ford is probably the card the NBA’s going to play in denying our appeal. Regardless of whether he nipped it or not, the NBA’s got the reasonable doubt it’s been looking. Plus, we did blow a 17 point lead and gave up 20 points in OT and are solely responsible for the loss. It should never have come down to the final half second but that doesn’t mean we weren’t wronged. Chuck’s blatant homerism drew some attention at Slam Magazine:

The funniest part of that clip is the way Raps play-by-play guy Chuck Swirsky is certain that the ball went in with time left. Even as replay after replay shows Ford’s hand touching the ball with the lights on. That actually made me laugh out loud. If Swirsky ever gets fired, it won’t be because he doesn’t support the Raptors.

Moving along.

The Bucks might be interested in Maurizio Gherardini and I say take him. Bryan Colangelo needs to balance the Euroness of this team with some old fashioned NCAA talent and it’s going to be tough convincing me that Gherardini knows half as much about the NCAA talent pool as he does about the European leagues. His influence on this team has been a positive one, he was key in the signing of Parker and had a hand in landing Garbajosa which he deserves credit for. I’m not sure he has the ability to scour through the 2008 eligibility list, target a sleeper and do what it takes to pick him. Leo Rautins might refer to him as The Godfather every chance he gets but that’s a tough sell to the knowing NBA fan.

Philadelphia’s continuing it’s stellar play and right now they have the inside track to that highly desirable 6th spot and frankly, they deserve it (Jason Smith’s already celebrating). They have an Atlanta date on Friday night and it should be interesting to see how they’ll do against a team the Raptors had serious issues stopping. Washington recently went a respectable 2-3 on their West coast swing (the one we went 0-5 on) thus setting up a tight race down the stretch. Lucky for us Washington and Philadelphia play each other on April 12th so if we sweep our remaining 7 games (possible but very unlikely), we’ll avoid the 7th spot. There’s something to aim for, but as has been the case so many times this season, we’ve looked at a stretch of games, deemed them winnable and proceeded to bomb the schedule. Expect no different here, unless we catch fire we’re looking at backing our way into the playoffs which is not the way you want to go in.

This is from a couple days ago but ESPN ranked the best foreign players and Jose Calderon came in at 8th, it’s a fair placement given the likes ahead of him. Jose’s got a telling quote in one of his earlier blogs which I didn’t catch, here it is:

My personal ambition is to be a starter in any team where I play, as well as to have the maximum responsibility in my team. But above this, I want to win.

If I was Jose Calderon, I’d leave the Raptors unless I was at the minimum guaranteed a starting spot. From his perspective the Lakers are a perfect fit. He would get to play with Pau Gasol, become the unquestionable starter and have a chance to win an NBA title. Unless Ford is cast out, all he’s going to get here is split playing time, constant controversy and a .500 team. From the Raptors perspective it’s a bummer but from his angle, he’d be a fool not to explore free agency in detail.

Chris Bosh won the Atlantic division’s NBA sportsmanship award, it’s the NBA’s way of giving us a consolation prize for the Atlantic. We’ll take it, bring on Antawn Jamison! Bosh can own him when it comes to ethical behavior, fair play and integrity.

We’ve lost 7 of our last 8 Friday night games, only two more to go: tonight against Charlotte and next week at home to New Jersey – I think we can end on a bit of a Friday high.

Here’s Nikki Reyes asking Andrea Bargnani some very meaningless questions and ending with something all Raptor fans want to know: Are Italian or Canadian women hotter? WTF?

Maciej Lampe is ready for the NBA. Get ‘er done BC.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

Clueless 4th quarter stretch kills Raptors in Sacramento

Posted by Arsenalist on March 17, 2008

Toronto Raptors 100, Sacramento Kings 106

The first three quarters were marred by stretches of bad defense, spotty offense, turnovers and generally speaking, some low quality basketball on both ends. Both teams were thankful that the other hadn’t blown them out so the fourth quarter began with the Kings nursing a three point lead and the Raptors looking to salvage a win on this roadtrip before they get a lesson in Basketball 101 tomorrow in Utah. The game was up for grabs in the fourth quarter but the Raptors, not surprisingly, failed to execute down the stretch on both ends and the core flaws of this team were yet again exposed.

Let’s fast forward to the fourth quarter to the part where we’re intentionally fouling Sacramento to stretch the game. Who’s their best FT shooter? It’s Kevin Martin at 86.4%. Who do we allow to easily catch the ball four straight times and get fouled? Kevin Martin. There was zero ball denial being deployed and Martin iced the game going 6-8 and Sacramento grabbed the offensive rebound on his last missed FT (how fitting). The inbounds play where Delfino allowed Artest to walk right underneath the rim to catch and lay the ball in reminded me of Corliss Williamson in Game 5 of the Detroit series. It was that dumb and obvious. The Raptors weren’t even on the same page when it came to fouling, Mitchell wanted the Raptors to play defense with 34 seconds left but Jose Calderon didn’t get the memo and so began the fouling fiasco. Maybe it’s stretches like these that’s prompted TSN’s Tim Chisholm to openly rip Sam Mitchell:

Mitchell can (and does) blame the players all he wants, but his Raptors have become a purely reactive team because he coaches them that way. This is not a team that walks into a game knowing who they are and how they’re going to beat their opponent, they’re a team that looks to interrupt what their opponent does and hope that they fall apart like the Raptors do in similar circumstances. They never impose their will on their opponents, but rather try and counter every move their opponent makes against them, tacitly admitting that they can’t conceive of a plan to beat them in advance and giving all the psychological power that implies to the opponent.

Rasho Nesterovic’s soft hands and Jason Kapono’s outside shooting kept us in this game of runs where the first team to play defense was going to come out on top. Just like the Golden State fourth quarter, nobody played any real D, the Raptors just cooled off between the 2:40 and 1:04 marks of the quarter where Jamario Moon missed a three and Jose Calderon missed a jumper. On the other end in this same stretch Kevin Martin and Ron Artest got scores while Brad Miller hit 2 free throws. A 1 point game turned into a 7 point deficit and that’s all she wrote. Talk all you want about whether Jamario Moon is the guy to be taking threes in crunch time (and why Kapono was on the bench) but that’s a whole other topic. This paragraph is to let you know what key stretch cost us the game.

This blog is becoming pretty boring because I keep saying the same shit over and over again: Their guards got into the paint way too easily and created opportunities for everybody around them. 19, 17, 14, 32, 15. Those aren’t the lottery numbers, those are the point totals for Sacramento starters who were benefiting from PG penetration and the Raptors’ inability to fight through the pick part of the pick ‘n roll. For a team that runs the pick ‘n roll on eveerry siingllle plaaay the Raptors can’t defend it for shit, Jose Calderon is the worst when it comes to this. He firmly believes that going underneath on a shooter is a valid option as long as you flail an arm after the shot’s been taken. This is pretty basic stuff, almost man-you-ball basic. The rebounding was expectedly bad again, 50-36 is the final tally with Sacramento grabbing 5 key offensive boards in the crucial fourth quarter. Ho hum.

Looking at Mikki Moore (17/7) and his snake collection I can’t help but think that’s the type of guy this team needs. A banger, a banger that knows how to bang and rebound, and be angry and collect snakes. That’s what we need, a snake-collecting, mean, tattooed, angry, tough rebounder to set some things right. Plus he can hit the mid-range jumper better than Brezec, Hump and Bargnani. Yes, I said Bargnani. What did Sacramento get him for? 5.3M. We threw away four times that much on Jason Kapono who had his second great game of the year. Bryan Colangelo dropped the ball on this one, he knew Garbajosa had injury issues and didn’t address our interior defense need even after having an up-close view of Moore in the NJ series.

It’s becoming clear as my Dasani bottle that Jose Calderon and TJ Ford cannot coexist. I’m not being a drama queen nor am I a supporter of one over the other. They’re hampering each others games, Calderon hasn’t been the same since TJ got back and TJ hasn’t been the same since he’s been coming off the bench. Let’s face it, he’s over his injuries now so the deserving player should get the starting job and since TJ is our official starter, there’s no need for him to come off the bench anymore since you can’t really lose your job to injury. It’s not like the team is in some great rhythm that something might be disrupted if TJ starts. Maybe they can play better if they have well defined roles, like it was in the beginning of the season. What do you think?

Although they won’t admit it, the other is a distraction to them. More Ford to Calderon, than vice-versa. We need to get back to having a traditional PG setup and trade one of the two to address one of our many other needs. Which one do we trade? Do you really care? Is one of them that much better than the other?

This one hurt. Tomorrow in Utah will be very tough, Matthew Sekeres agrees.

Liners:

  • If Sacramento doesn’t commit 22 turnovers, this one might’ve not even been close.
  • Andrea Bargnani supporters, let’s hear it: 2-7 FG against a Kings team that doesn’t have a center. 37% shooting in the last five games? Why is he taking transition threes when he has the laterally challenged Brad Miller on him? Didn’t we draft him to blow by slower bigs? What gives? What are we waiting for? I thought this was the perfect opportunity for him to step up with Bosh being out? Huh? Anybody?
  • Sam Mitchell doubling Anthony Johnson with TJ Ford on him in the post is questionable. Johnson is not a great offensive player and even if he can score, why not let him make a shot before respecting his post-up game?
  • The Raptors need to get better at double-teaming. For starters, either do a hard double team or don’t do it at all. Poor Jose Calderon is often asked to provide temporary help on the post-up player which doesn’t bother him at all. All it does is pull Calderon out of place so his man can drift, catch a pass and make an open jumper.
  • Our close-outs on Kevin Martin, Ron Artest and Beno Udrih were very bad. We have to do a better job of keeping track of our man on the floor and must rotate briskly, quickly and with a purpose to shooters. I sound like a broken record but perimeter D and blow-bys are killing us.
  • Leo Rautins love Jason Kapono. Leo calling out TJ Ford as being the reason why Kapono missed clutch threes was asinine, Leo argued that Ford wasn’t finding Kapono on the floor and that cooled him off. Wrong! Only once did TJ not pass him the ball on the wing, that does not cool off the reigning 3-pt champ.
  • I want a job like Doug Smith. Sitting courtside, I promise you I’d report a helluva lot more than what he does.

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Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , | 42 Comments »

Sunday *boilk* – Bosh return imminent + What’s a #1 pick?

Posted by Arsenalist on March 16, 2008

Good news, Chris Bosh is aiming for a Wednesday return against Miami. He’ll avoid the roadtrip and will likely give it a shot against a Miami team that wouldn’t shock anybody if they go winless the rest of the season. Yes, they’re that bad.

Some words of warning: Bosh’s return will naturally be followed by some sub-par performances as has been the case anytime he’s returned from any kind of injury, however small. He takes great care of his body and needs to be in complete agreement with it before he tries anything even moderately complex. So I wouldn’t be surprised that in the first few games he’ll be somewhat passive and rely on the jumper much more than the drive. It’s something we should be used to buy now. The good news is that we have about 20 games remaining which is enough time for him to regain the mid-season form he had been in before he went down.

The Kings got blown out last night in Phoenix (gave up 79 points in a half :) and the game was over at the half. Most of the Kings starters didn’t exert themselves too much so they should be fresh enough to give the Raptors all they can handle at home tonight. This is the only winnable game of the roadtrip and we’d be good to take advantage of it by showing up from the start and not getting down 20 early. The mental and physical energy required to come from behind takes too much toll to actually complete the comeback, even more so on the road. The Kings will be looking to split the back-to-back and will make this a very tough game for the Raptors. Kevin Martin is exactly the type of player that can give our guards fits by creating off the bounce and penetrating, let’s hope we learned a thing or two from the Denver experience. Taking some pride in the defense should be priority number one, over the last nine games we’ve give up close to 50% FG 7 times!

I’m sure Sam and the team are busy preparing for the game since according to Channing Frye there’s nothing to do in Sacramento.

Something has been made of the Raptors suing the Spanish Federation over non-payment of benjamins concerning Jorge Garbajosa. I’m with the Raptors on this one, it’s nothing personal, just business. If you agreed to a contract, you have to honor your end and if the Raptors feel they’re getting jipped, they got all the right in the world to sue. Of course all this wouldn’t have been an issue if Garbajosa wasn’t stupid enough to suit up in a meaningless tournament knowing the precarious situation his leg is in. I’d understand if Olympic qualification was dependent on the FIBA tournament but there was nothing of the sort on the line. Nothing. Zero. He’s created a lot of problems for all parties involved.

I’m a little sad to see our small forward situation, an area where we had a weakness at the end of last season and something that still hasn’t been addressed along with the rebounding. Jamario Moon, Joey Graham and Carlos Delfino are the 3 by committee and let’s face it, none of them is good enough to be a starter. Moon’s defense is so inconsistent that you don’t know what to expect from him on any given possession, Graham is plain bad and Delfino is about as consistent as Morris Peterson. Pickstar brought up a point in yesterday’s comments about benching Moon but the question to ask is, in favor of who? There is no clear cut winner in the battle for the three spot and Sam’s simply picked the guy who plays the best D among the three.

Can this team find within itself to get better defensively? Is it just a matter of effort and application or do we just not have the personnel to be good. We allow teams to shoot 46% against us, that’s 10th worst in the league and the 9 teams behind us are all missing the playoffs. What’s kept us afloat so far is our shooting which is at 46.7 FG%, 6th best in the NBA. Now mind you even that number is skewed because we’ve shot the ball really well in many of our losses where we tried to out-gun the opponent but failed to score in crucial fourth quarter stretches. Imagine if we were a decent defensive team, if our guards were able to keep their man in front of them and our rebounding wasn’t 4th worst in the league. We could actually be favored in a playoff matchup! My belief is that as it is right now, we cannot be a good defensive team for three reasons: 1) Our perimeter defense (especially the PG spot) is weak and we concede too many points because of blow-bys and 2) Lack of pure rebounders, once we get a stop, the possession should be over but it’s not. Aside from Bosh, we don’t have anyone who can consistently grab in-traffic rebounds which is key and 3) Interior defense, our rotations inside the paint are shot. This doesn’t get much ink but if you take notice you’ll see that Chris Bosh is the only player who knows how to rotate on defense, once the offense negotiates him, it’s a layup every time.

There’s a very good Raptors message board, Raptors Forum, that is slowly gaining popularity, sign up and join the discussion and help make it a solid board. RealGM has been disappointing of late, Exhibit A is this clown who’s first 17 posts all involve blindly bashing Jose every chance he gets. Tsk, tsk.

I emailed Chuck Swirsky and told him to stop calling every player taken in the first round as the “#1 Pick” because it’s confusing, see, they’re first round picks, not #1 picks. There’s only one #1 pick in any draft. It went something like this:

Me:

Hey Chuck,

Just want to let you know that you’re totally wrong about calling every first round draft pick a “Number 1 pick”. There’s only one Number 1 pick in the draft and that’s the first guy taken, everybody after that is a 1st rounder and NOT a Number 1 pick.

Chuck:

Its a matter of semantics most basketball fans understand when we call a player their first round pick

Me:

Well, I’ve been fan for a long time and have never heard that semantic. Every fan I speak to (in person or online) refers to them as a first round pick. Same goes for media outlets like ESPN, Sportsline, CNNSI, TNT etc. So you might want to be in line with what the general semantic is and not something that’s niche to a select few.

Chuck:

No reply.

Meh, thought I’d throw it in there. Reading his blog, it turns out that Deshawn Stevenson thinks Lebron James is overrated.

Till after the game.

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

What a disgrace!

Posted by Arsenalist on March 14, 2008

Toronto Raptors 105, Denver Nuggets 137

My puke bucket was full midway through the first quarter. After suffering through a few more minutes of watching the Raptors get their ass absolutely spanked by the Nuggets, Jack Armstrong dropped a gem, and I’m pseudo-quoting:

If your plan is to outscore teams and you start playing the better ones, you’re not going to win.

If you stuck around to watch the fourth quarter (which is my duty as a blogger), you would’ve heard him drop another one:

If the Raptors matchup against Washington, Cleveland, Orlando or whoever, do they have what it takes to win 4 games? I’d say ‘no’. Can they stop a team by playing “down and dirty”? I don’t know.

O wise Jack, you see right through the facade of this team. We can beat the bad teams but once you stick us against an opponent of half-decent quality, we’re in deep trouble. The flaws of this squad were apparent and out in the open for everybody to see. We knew Bryan Colangelo’s experiment had holes but that they were this big, we didn’t know. And even if we did know, didn’t want to believe. This West coast trip is showcasing just how misconstrued the idea that the Raptors have any sort of depth really is. Take Bosh out and we’ll struggle in the D-League, that’s not even hyperbole, we lack the strength, ability and desire to compete at a consistent level against above average opposition. If you stick this team in the West, we’ll be bottom three every time. Colangelo has a lot of work to do and it’s got to start in the upcoming draft and off-season. If there’s one good thing that comes out of a loss like this it’s that you get an indication of who the people you want to weed out are and who’s still competing in the face of adversity.

This insufferable display of deplorable defense was a sight to behold and remember. I have not seen a Raptors team play this bad in a long, long time, I remember this Clipper game from ages ago (forget which year, maybe even 10 years ago) where the Raptors got embarrassed and blown out of the building. I thought I’d never see that day again but today matched that. We gave up 79 points in the first half, we couldn’t prevent a single Nugget from penetrating the lane. We couldn’t rotate out to any of their shooters, not even the first one out of the pass. We never covered the guy leaking out, we never provided help when a teammate was beaten (hell, we didn’t even bother calling screens out), we couldn’t take away the drive or the shot, we just laid down and waited Denver to pummel us in every which way. And they did, they killed us like we haven’t been killed before. Utter embarrassment and humiliation. Total degradation.

There’s nothing much to say, if you saw the game you know how bad it was. But I’d like to touch on how unmotivated, unprepared and lacking a plan this team came out tonight. There wasn’t an emphasis on doing a singular thing, we couldn’t contain Iverson, ‘Melo, Camby or anybody else on the Nuggets. We allowed every single player to have a great game and didn’t have an idea of just how we were going to try to win this game. Double Iverson? Front ‘Melo? Get Camby in foul trouble? Force Anthony Carter to create? Force perimeter jumpshots? Collapse on ‘Melo? These are just some of the strategies that we could’ve used but we did nothing. We played man-defense for most of the game and got burned every single time the Nuggets put the ball on the floor. We never stood a chance because we didn’t have a damn clue on how to even approach this game. Typical freestyling, only this time even the effort wasn’t there.

Calderon and Ford both stunk and TJ played as disinterested as ever. They combined for 9 points and Bargnani had 6 in 13 minutes. Rasho and Parker carried the load, the latter’s 15 points coming almost entirely in the first quarter. That’s when this was still sort of a game, by the time it ended the score was 44-23 and garbage time had officially begun. The rest of the game was a display of Denver athleticism, creativity, desire and skill. The Raptors ended up looking like clowns with careless turnovers, forced passes, lazy defense and not to mention body language that would’ve made Zack Randolph blush.

Sure, Bosh is out but how hard and how long can you ride that excuse? I don’t care if you’re dressing 8 players and 3 of them are gimps, you still have to come out and compete. Nobody has a problem that you get blown out by 30, it’s the way you get blown that says a lot too. Speaking in intangibles, this team lacks toughness, grit, desire and emotion. Speaking in basketball terms, they lack the lateral quicks to stay with opposing guards, they lack the agility to play interior defense, they lack the physicality of playing a gritty hard-nosed contest and finally, they lack the instruction to do any of the above. Chris Bosh is injured but that doesn’t mean you get a free pass to lay an egg every time.

Sacramento is our only shot of winning a game on this trip, they’ll be playing a back-to-back (Phoenix) and we’ll have a days rest. No excuses.

Liners:

  • Jason Kapono was put in to guard Carmelo Anthony.
  • What is Kleiza’s problem? He was jawing at Jay Triano for a good 10 minutes and got T’d up for it.
  • Chuck/Jack much more enjoyable to listen to than Chuck/Leo.
  • Denver leaked out on every possession but the Raptors never adjusted.
  • Aside from a couple blocks, Anthony owned Moon and penetrated at will. Iverson got into the paint at will, almost embarrassingly easily leaving Ford and Calderon a glimpse of what true talent looks like.
  • Wasn’t there talk of a VC for Iverson swap years back? Should’ve probably made that if it was on the table.
  • Another Friday, another loss. This is the 6th straight time we’ve lost on a Friday night, the last victory was at home against Milwaukee on January 25th.
  • If there’s one thing i expect to see from a Sam Mitchell coached team it’s a consistent effort. Screw the X’s and O’s but the effort should always be there because he’s supposed to be a motivator before a basketball coach.
  • Circle March 23rd on your calendars. That’s when we play Denver at home. How the Raptors come out in that game after tonight’s humiliation will speak even greater volumes about this team.
  • Nights like these test your Raptors fanhood.

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Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , | 43 Comments »

TJ Ford, villain or hero?

Posted by Arsenalist on March 13, 2008

Toronto Raptors 106, Golden State Warriors 117

Good fightback by the Raps but in the end it’s awfully hard to beat the Warriors at their own game. We fought valiantly but came up just a few chucks short of pulling a memorable victory at the Oracle. The Warriors just wouldn’t miss, they shot a blitzkrieg-like 56% and were hitting everything in the fourth quarter (73%). Our perimeter defense barely resisted and fell for the first drive-fake every time conceding Golden State an open 18-footer at their command, which Baron Davis and Monta Ellis did well to exploit. We tried to stay on pace by trading baskets and had TJ Ford leading the onslaught in the fourth but eventually the well dried up for him and a couple TJ misses and a Bargnani turnover was all it took to turn a 1 point lead into a 7 point deficit. Seeing how we were down 20, there’s a moral victory somewhere in here.

Anthony Parker had another solid performance (22/9) but took only two shots in the fourth which TJ had long before decided to be the time where he’d take the game over singlehandedly yet again. TJ went 4/9 in the quadrant and kept the Raptors in the game but in an entirely different manner than how the very effective Kapono/Parker/Delfino/Humphries/(Ford/Calderon) lineup had shaved the lead down from 20 in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. Perhaps if we’d just stuck with team ball and had decided to continue to trust our teammates, our successful strategy of moving the ball around a porous GS defense would’ve also worked in the fourth. But this is a trend we’ve seen over the last couple weeks, TJ coming in and getting a high shot and point total but the Raptors end up losing the game because he eventually runs out of gas and points. A team high 18 shots off the bench for a team high 23 points. To his credit this time around he did have 8 assists but it’s hard to look at that after yet another fourth quarter where it was all points, no assists. Villain or Hero? You decide.

Andrea Bargnani needed more touches, his four turnovers weren’t very glamorous but he was 5-9 FG and looked to do the right thing on offense every time he had possession. Very similar to the Laker game, Bargnani needed to be involved in the plays early and often because Don Nelson’s side didn’t have a clue on who to put on him and Bargnani did well to exploit both size and quickness mismatches. If a better distribution of opportunities had fallen his way, he would’ve been in line for a bigger night. We can blame the others for not giving him the ball, but at some point you have to demand it by giving them a succinct message about how you won’t tolerate Delfino looking you off. Michael Grange made an honest post about some of the things that went wrong last night, I like his take on Kris Humphries, nothing that you didn’t already know but good to see it brought up:

This is a good example of why his playing time can be so erratic: Early in the fourth he hustles and draws a foul on a loose ball situation; hustles again and forces Golden State to lose the ball out of bounds after an offensive rebound on the same trip. So far so good. Then he takes a fading 18-footer with 20 seconds on the shot clock, which would be a bad shot for Bosh, and is unthinkable for the Hump, but he’s not always thinking.

The Raptors stayed in this game by shooting 50%, holding their own on the boards (38-40) and by going to the FT line. The technical area where this one was lost was perimeter man defense, missed rotations underneath and 17 costly turnovers leading to 21 points, a 54-38 points in the paint drubbing and a 23-5 ass-kicking in fastbreak points. Before the game even started it was known that the first team that would decide on playing defense would win the game. That wasn’t the case, neither team slowed down or picked up their D, it just so happened that we went dry before they did. The Raptors (especially the second unit) deserves a lot of credit for not folding after being down 20 early but slowly chipping the lead away in a professional and patient manner, not by jacking up threes.

You can’t really complain after this one, GS is leaner, meaner, more athletic, more talented and have a game plan, however crazy it is. They want you play an up and down game where the shot-clock is only 16 seconds long and any shot as long as it’s open is a good one. We got suckered into playing their game and although we competed, the chance of us winning in such a high-wire affair was always low. The alternate would’ve been to slow things down and force half-court execution but I’m not sure we would’ve fared much better. This was Sam’s type of game, no plays, just do whatever the hell you want but make sure you rebound. Simply put, the better talent one.

Liners:

  • Monta Ellis can get any shot he wants anytime he wants it. He tore us a new one in the first three quarters and Baron took over in the fourth.
  • I watched this entire game on mute. Sure, I missed a few things here and there but overall the experience was far more enjoyable, will do it more often. Any stupid Chuck/Leo convos?
  • Coming up is Denver which should be another L and after that is our only chance at a W in Sacramento. For those counting, the Wiz are 2 1/2 game back.
  • The Warriors came into the game as the best offensive (110.80 PPG) and worst defensive (107.64 PPG) team in the league. On this night, we beat them to the worst defense award.
  • If you happen to have a sick fetish for Primoz Brezec and want the Raptors to desperately resign him before he turns his back on us and goes on to join the Knicks and become league MVP, you might want to check out ResignPrimoz.com. I don’t know who’s behind the site but I wouldn’t be shocked if it’s Brezec himself.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , | 26 Comments »

Payback’s a bitch

Posted by Arsenalist on February 12, 2008

San Antonio Spurs 93, Toronto Raptors 88

“Let’s just say the language was PG.” That was the phrase used to describe Bosh’s demeanor in the third quarter by Rod Black who hasn’t figured out the motion picture rating scale just yet. When this was reported out of the huddle by the extraordinary journalist, the Raptors were getting spanked soundly by the Spurs at home and CB4 was in the midst of a miserable 3-11 FG performance where he looked exactly like the second-tier star that he is. Apparently Bosh was angry and agitated with his mates about the teams performance, the funny part about that is that the team wasn’t doing all that bad, it was Bosh that stunk the joint up by being a no-show in a statement game.

Pretend you didn’t watch the game and somebody told you the Raptors lost, what two reasons would you guess for the loss? Think about it, take a few seconds while I type a few ellipses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . if you picked rebounding and perimeter defense you’d be spot on. See, it’s come the point where you don’t even have to watch the game to know why they’ll lose. We got outmanned 46-34 on the glass and got burned by the Spurs’ perimeter ball movement which continuously carved us out with lot of the effects being felt in the paint. You’d figure that we’d defend Manu Ginobili a slightly different way after he’s already dropped 25 but no such luck, and there’s not even Sam to blame. The loss drags our record against the quality teams even further lending a significant hollowness to our overall record which stands at a seemingly constant 4 games over .500. Now when the month began, most of us had already circled this one as a L but to see it happen this way is disheartening. The loss isn’t bugging me as much as the way we lost it.

There were two plays that epitomized Chris Bosh’s performance, one of them was in the first half when he had Damon Stoudamire guarding him one-on-one at the top of the key and Bosh chose to uncork a fadeway jumper from 17 feet instead of getting the two easy point. The other play was a replica of the first one except it was Jacque Vaughan who was guarding Bosh when he launched another ungodly fadeaway. We needed him to go at Oberto and Elson with a vengeance but he chose to lay back, neither of the Spurs PF/C combo has the quickness to stay with Bosh but once again, he let them off the hook. With Bosh being a non-factor, it was left upto Jose Calderon to be the primary offensive threat and he tried his level-best to keep the Raptors in it but never got the help he needed from Parker, Bargnani or Kapono. Icy hot Carlos Delfino was the only other player who was ready to take on the challenge of the Spurs and his Argentinian pals. Not enough contributors on a night where we needed everybody to play at their level or better.

Let’s talk about Andrea Bargnani for a bit, he’s been playing a lot better of late even though his shooting percentage nor his rebounding is where we’d like it to be. But when you compare how awful he’s been for most of the year, you look at a 3-11 FG, 2 board performance and go, “Eh, he could be worse”. Or you try to justify it by saying that he at least tried to do some things right by attacking the rim and playing sound but ultimately ineffective defense on Duncan. Bluntly put, we need more output from him and I don’t even care about the boards. Although his size might suggest otherwise, most of us are starting to live with the fact that he’ll never be a great rebounder and are coming to grips with the reality that 80% of his contributions will come on offense. So on a night like this when Bosh may as well be on the bench, it makes his contribution even more important and when he comes up short, we don’t stand a chance. It’s only because of Calderon that this game was even close.

I was officially sick of it last week but now I am disgusted by Jamario Moon shooting jumpers like they were part of the game-plan. Leo’s lone good (and obvious) point in this game was that the jumper should be a supplement to Jamario’s game, not his primary offensive weapon. It’s when he starts thinking that his perimeter shot is the endpoint in the offensive set is when he needs to be benched, taken aside and given a lecture. The fact that one of the first shots of the game was a Moon deep jumper should tell you that the Raptors are a little unprepared. The Raps are one of those teams that need the first 15 plays of the game scripted, exactly what they do in important football games. It’ll get them off to a good start and help them avoid digging a 9 point hole which you struggle to get out of for the remaining 45 minutes. My point from yesterday about the Raptors coming out without any intensity at home was in clear view today as the Raps came out ball-watching instead of trying to kick-start the game.

Getting to the numbers, we shot 44% and allowed the Spurs to shoot 49% and grab 10 offensive rebounds including the most critical one when Manu Ginobili rebounded his own miss (for what seemed the 16th time) with 10 seconds left. A player who wasn’t boxed out ends up costing us a chance to tie the game. The defense on Ginobili was extremely suspect all game long, when you have a player that’s “in the zone”, you put a guy on him and tell him to not worry about anything but his man. I mean he shouldn’t look at anything but his opponent’s face and force him away from the things that he’s doing well. The Raptors simply didn’t do that, when Moon was guarding him, he was inexplicably offering help on Jacque Vaughan and Finley drives! WTF man? Just worry about Ginobili and make him put the ball on the floor and at least make him think about driving. Every time he did drive, he either didn’t finish or passed the ball off. If you’re a big Manu fan, check out this article which gives him the fellatio he deserves, apparently Greg Popovich’s PG interview consisted of two words:

“Manu Ginobili”

Deep, fucking deep. A word on the Spurs though, they were awesome to watch. The perimeter ball movement was crisp, the speed at which they recognized perimeter doubles was unbelievable and their inside-outside and outside-inside ball movement was timed perfectly enough to elude any Raptor defender hoping to make a rotation. Despite their efficient offense and our typically bad rebounding and defense, we were right there in the game and if we had just gotten a little push from Bosh, maybe if he had just canceled out Duncan’s 22, we would’ve been singing a different song. As it is, the Raptors lose to another top-tier team.

TJ Ford was ineffective, while he was on the floor he canceled out Damon Stoudamire but ended up spraining his wrist and was never heard from in the second half. I thought this was one of those games where he could’ve exploited Stoudamire or Vaughan off the dribble but watching him play you realize that although John Lucas has done a great job of keeping him in shape, he’s not ready for primetime minutes just yet. The rust is surely wearing off but his jumper is a little flat, just like it would be if your legs aren’t in your shot. It’ll come back, give it some time.

Up next for Jay Triano and the Raptors are the revenge-seeking Nets at home. I can guarantee you that Jersey will actually be up for this one and won’t have forgotten the 37 point drubbing. Let’s hope San Antonio’s the only team who’ll end up getting the payback they so desperately seek.

Liners:

* This was one of the most perimeter oriented games the Raptors have played and the offense never looked more stagnant. Aside from the high screen ‘n roll, there was zero movement.

* Bosh’s aggressiveness dictates the Raptors’ aggressiveness and when he’s not playing with fire and energy, we tend to lay back a little. Either his love with the jumper needs to stop or he needs to become a better shooter, status quo is not cool.

* Manu Ginobili had 15 boards, he knew where the ball was going before anybody else.

* Fabricio Oberto’s defense on Chris Bosh was suffocating. It’s one thing to shut a player down by forcing the jumper, Oberto played great ball denial, tight post defense, never allowed Bosh to catch the ball in an advantageous spot, used the baseline effectively and simply outsmarted Bosh.

* Andrea Bargnani didn’t have a good game but as I said before, I’m finding it really hard to criticize him because relatively speaking, he played fucking great!

* Anthony Parker’s perimeter defense needs to get better, I sound like a broken record but he needs to stick to his man and stop relying on playing recovery defense – he’s just not quick enough to be cheating and then trying to close-out a shooter like Ginobili or Finley.

* TJ and Jose played at the same time at the end of the first half. This tells me Mike Evans wants to experiment playing both PGs at the same time and it’s Mitchell that has some unwritten rule against this phenomenon.

* It’s a pity to see Jose Calderon’s awesome performance go to waste, I wish Chuck and Leo would just STFU about Calderon being more “selfish”. To top it off, as soon as he missed an open jumper, they point out how the move wasn’t “aggressive”.

* Tim Duncan’s line: 11-19 FG, 22 points, 13 rebounds.

* If you’re sick of Chuck Swirsky and want to listen to the game on the equally bad but less annoying Fan 590, check out this piece of software, it gets rid of the TV delay by syncing your radio.

Till tomorrow.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , | 34 Comments »

I didn’t know it was this easy to get a win at Madison Square Garden these days

Posted by Arsenalist on January 11, 2008

Toronto Raptors 99, New York Knicks 90

Update: First Ever Podcast

“The First One, It Kinda Sucks”Download It! (Size: 6.8 MB, Length: 7:07)

Or you can play it by staying on this very page:

Warning! It’s so bad that I couldn’t bear listening to it once I had recorded it. I had to get the first one out of the way. It’ll get better.


Chuck Swirsky is taking a lot of the fun out of watching Raptors basketball for me, from berating the other team on every opportunity to ignoring every mistake made by the Raps, it’s all getting a little ridiculous. It’s funny how Randolph being benched is brought up every 2 minutes but when Bargnani is exiled to the bench it’s rarely mentioned. I’m embarrassed for the Raptors because some of these games are broadcast on NBA League Pass and our crew comes out looking like the biggest homers short of Tommy Heinsohn. The Salami and Cheese thing really has reached it’s saturation point and needs to be shelved for good. It’s insulting to the other team even though he’ll claim it’s all in good fun. Plus, it actually ends up jinxing the Raptors because every time he calls it the other team goes on a run and he’s left trying to save face with asinine comments like, “it’s a little too late for a Knick run with 4 minutes left” – the Knicks were down by 10!

Anyway, that didn’t stop me from enjoying this game from all angles: Knick fans, Isiah, Randolph, Curry and even good ‘ol Gren Grunwald and his broken right foot. While enjoying their suffering (Schadenfreude I believe) I kept thinking to myself that Bosh might’ve had a 60 point game if he didn’t bother taking 20 footers for half the game, clearly he can get to the rim anytime he wants, so why bother with the springer. Oh wait, I had answered my own question in a previous post. Chris was looking for his points tonight but was wise enough to pass quickly out of double teams setting the Raptors wheels in motion as the Knick defense (missing entirely until the 4th) self-destructed. We did have some help from Isiah who chose to send a message to Zach Randolph by benching him early because of a verbal argument. Eddy Curry looked to be of a similar fate in the first half although his crime was much less apparent. Surprisingly Renaldo Balkman was the only Knick big to administer any discomfort as the rest were either ineffective or benched. Thanks Isiah!

As for the Raptors, they did nothing special either. Chris Bosh dominated the game by looking to score every time and on a night when the Knicks were having trouble putting anything together, he could afford to miss a lot of jumpers. Calderon didn’t shoot the ball well but increased his AST to TO ratio going 8/1 which will ensure a good night’s sleep for Swirsky. Let’s give Jamario Moon some credit today because over the last couple games he’s been really disciplined about not taking bad shots and has stepped up his defense to the point where he’s not gambling, contesting shots and positioning himself for every reasonable rebound. Another hustle player, Kris Humphries bounced back from a Sam benching to hit a couple nice fadeaways and grab 7 important rebounds, a couple late in the fourth. The Raptors bench isn’t close to being as productive as it was earlier in the year with Delfino, Kapono and Dixon struggling but it’s shown a couple signs in the last two games. Of course having Jose start decimates the second team so maybe it’s wiser to wait until TJ comes back and then reevaluate the second unit.

There’s not much negative to write about Bargnani either who showed a pulse on offense by making a nifty pass to Bosh after posting up Nate Robinson and hit a couple jumpers which reminded me a little of how important he can be when he’s playing well. David Lee getting the better of him on a FT rebound was really sad to watch but I’m happy with Bargnani’s 7 points, 2-2 FG and 2 rebound performance. I’m not even being sarcastic, I’m happy. Remember folks, with this man, we need to take small, baby steps. That or start Bargnani Sucks Ass threads on Real GM. Take your pick. Mitchell weighs his words carefully but does call out Andrea’s rebounding:

“I think people are on Andrea, rightfully so, because he hasn’t had games on a consistent basis where he’s got double-digit rebounds. Until he starts doing that, that’s going to be a fair criticism of him and that’s understandable. If he’s going to play the position, he’s got to do it.”

I remember the days I used to circle the four Knick games on my calendar when the schedule came out in anticipation of all the little individual and team rivalries that we had going. Sprewell, Carter, Childs, Oakley, Jackson, Camby, Butch, Lenny, JVG, oh man. Those were really some great games. The garden used to be rocking and there wasn’t a dull moment from the first quarter on. I’m one of the few Raptors fans that actually wants the Knicks to be a good team just so we can recreate that rivalry that was as good as any in the league. I guess I’ll have to wait another three years according to Glen Grunwald who still says a lot without actually answering a question. The thing I remember most about Grunwald was that speech at Maple Leaf Gardens where he literally brought me to tears at the end of the season. It was the same game Allen Iverson dunked over four Raptors incluing Marcus Camby.

This paragraph belongs to Anthony Parker who even when struggles doesn’t lose confidence in his game. He’s had some miserable games during the season but has never let up his offensive, defensive and rebounding efforts. He hit a key three in the fourth quarter which restored the lead to 14 and kept the Knicks in check. There was some talk that he has a high trade value and should be traded since we’re not winning an NBA championship this year anyway. I completely disagree with this line of thinking, the Raptors have been a team that always loses its good players for the sake of the “future”. Well, the future is now and even though we’re not going to win the EC this year, it’s still good to make it to the second or third round of the playoffs and get some post-season experience under our belt. No team has ever won a title without losing in the middle rounds for a few seasons in a row, I say we start that losing streak.

Check the boxscore, it tells you all about how the Knicks shot 51% in this game and still managed to lose. For once the rebounding numbers were in our favor (43-33, 11 offensive) which created a ton of second chance points and ticked off valuable minutes late in the game. Isiah must be perplexed at how well the Knicks ended this game but failed to show the least bit of desire, ability or even interest for the better part of the game. The three guys that played well (and by well I mean hard) were Nate Robinson, Rolando Blackman and Jamal Crawford, aside from those three nobody cared. Well, maybe Randolph did but he was riding the pine from first quarter on.

Up next is a revenge mission against Portland. We blew the game on the west coast and need to earn a requital against Brandon Roy and Co. who have won 46 of their past 47 games – or so it seems like.

One-Liners:

* The ESPN game menu is better than the NBA.com one.

* If Nate Robinson had finished that putback jam, it would’ve been the end of Bargnani’s career.

* Anybody notice the hot black chick next to the Raptors fans they showed in the end?

* Rod Black thinks Sam’s temper is inversely proportional to the size of the Raptors lead.

* We missed about 10 WIDE OPEN shots today. Even the dead-eye Calderon missed about four he usually drains.

* I’m not talking about it much but aside from Bosh, we were exclusively a perimeter team. I would hate to see what would’ve happened if Curry and Randolph had their minds right for this game.

* Carlos Delfino needs to play better and smarter for us, he’s too good to just side-step and take a jumper. As for Kapono, I’m waiting for Sam to do something to get him some shots. He’s being wasted right now.

* Somebody please explain to me what Joey Graham did wrong to get the yank after 4 minutes.

* Darrick Martin played a halfway effective backup PG today. I guess he’s ahead of Dixon in the depth chart again.

Later.

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

Phoenix West beats Phoenix East (kinda, sorta, not really)

Posted by Arsenalist on December 23, 2007

Toronto Raptors 103, Phoenix Suns 122

I can deal with this loss because I wasn’t expecting us to win, if we can’t beat Seattle we definitely won’t be able to beat Phoenix the day after. That would be like finishing Drake’s Fortune on the Hard level right after you got your ass handed to you on Easy. But believe it or not there are multiple things to cheer about, yup, multiple. We’ll get to Chris Bosh and and Andrea Bargnani in a bit but let me put my reporter hat on and outline just a couple points mentioned by Bryan Colangelo during his first quarter interview with Leosky:

Jose Calderon isn’t going anywhere: Raptors are going to do everything to resign him. This of course translates to matching any ridiculous offer that a team throws at him. My only issue is that we’ll end up paying the PG position around 17M a season which might be a bit high. But if the Raptors can afford it, why not? Nice to see Colangelo give credit to the villainous Rob Babcock for picking up Calderon.

Andrea Bargnani: Obviously Colangelo’s not going to come out and say that he should’ve taken Roy or Gay but he does appear to have a roadmap for Bargnani and feels that he IS the right player for this team. BC is all about spoon feeding Bargnani and wants to make him “comfortable” in every way and feels that it’s the only way you’ll realize Bargnani’s potential. OK, sounds good, I guess we’ll just have to be patient with him and suffer through the growing pains. I’m fine with that, really I am but in the meanwhile we do need to find a legitimate second scorer if we want to taste the second round again.

Let’s get to the game now. We have clear proof that Joey Graham is not dead. He was seen wearing a Raptors uniform although his play was unbecoming of a player who wants to stay in the NBA. After Jamario “Happy Feet” Moon was quick to pick up three fouls within minutes Sam called on the rarely used Graham to inject some defensive purpose and slashing. Graham didn’t look very good and shied away from contact which is the last thing you want to see from a player who’s supposed to be our physical presence. But in all fairness to Joey I can’t even remember the last time he played significant minutes, it’s tough to ask a player to just step in and have an impact – especially against the Suns who put the fear of God in you on defense.

If there’s one negative that I’d have to pick about Sam’s coaching style (ignoring that he only has one play for a minute) I’d say it has to be the lack of a set rotation, this cannot be healthy for the players. You can’t have no idea when you’re going to play next and just be “ready” when you’re called upon. I know that sounds like an ideal team where everybody’s happy and doing each other’s laundry but in reality a player needs direction and goals to strive towards and on this squad people like Joey Graham, Maceo Baston and Juan Dixon have zero idea what’s next. This is probably a good place to mention that we should make Darrick Martin a full-time assistant coach (why, I don’t know) and free up that roster spot for a power forward or guard from the D-League.

Let’s get to the two bright spots of this game and they are….drumroll…Chris Bosh and…and…and…Andrea Bargnani. Bosh had 42/13 and went 22/24 FT from the line. A manly performance by CB4 who came ready to play and attack the rim like every single Raptors fan wants him to. After keeping the game close till the half, Phoenix simply pulled away in the third quarter and there was nothing the Raptors and their tired and porous defense could do to stop them. And when Phoenix did happen to rarely miss a shot, they got the offensive rebound and stuck it back in. On the bright side, Marion, Stoudamire and Skinner all took turns getting abused by Bosh, it made me feel a little better about this game.

Now Andrea Bargnani’s line of 6-13FG for 13 points isn’t exactly impressive but considering that he’s having trouble throwing a rock in the ocean, it’s a vast improvement. More important than the stats are some of the plays he made and the confidence he showed on the court. His three dump-offs to Bosh after driving past his man was a welcome sign and something that’ll help me sleep better during this six-day break. Sam gave him the start which translated to instant confidence. The starting center position is his for good and today he responded well, let’s just hope it continues and he can help carry the scoring and rebounding load.

Enough with the positives, we did get blown out by 19 points and one of the reasons was – and you can take a good guess here – lack of defense. Jamario Moon seems to be regressing and showing his true colors, a player that relies solely on his athleticism instead of his brain. Moon’s defense on Grant Hill was simply bad, if you can’t guard the guy one-on-one at least have the courtesy to come back down the court in time to avoid him getting a layup. It’s the least you can do. The Raptors had a problem filling the starting 3 spot at the start of the season and that issue is still there. Phoenix’s offensive rebounding killed us and sealed any hopes of an outside shot at a win in this one. It’s hard to stop Phoenix and when you do, defensive rebounding is a must. No one person to blame here but as a team we did a poor job of boxing out, even Kris Humphries who’s usually stellar cleaning up the glass was caught out of position and was over-athleticised (new word I just created) by Amare, one of the most gifted athletes I’ve ever seen.

Let me try to end this one by explaining the title of the post. We’re often compared to Phoenix because of our style of play and the fact that Bryan Colangelo helped build both teams. I never agreed with this comparison because if you look at Phoenix what sets them completely apart from any other NBA team is that they run the break and look to get easy points almost every time down the floor. The Raptors never do this. Calderon is notorious for pulling the offense back on semi-transition opportunities which is exactly where Phoenix exploits its opponents – by running the break and having their big men establish inside position early. So although we try to use a formula similar to Phoenix, by no means is our style of play similar to theirs. They run back-door cuts, curls, corner-screens, UCLA cuts while all we do is run the pick ‘n bloody roll.

One-Liners:

* I thought the Nash sucking up was only restricted to games in Toronto. I was wrong. If it were up to Leosky they’d put him in the Hall of Fame before Jordan.

* Where the hell is “The Truck” during road games?

* Chuck Swirsky openly calling for Bosh to break Vince’s 51 point Raptors record in a blowout game was disgraceful. Please Chuck, please. Plus, it shows his hate for Vince.

* Juan Dixon is playing well and deserves more minutes.

* The refs put us in a bad situation early by calling everything on us. All of Parker’s first three fouls were highly questionable and ended up sending him to the bench for a looooong time.

* The defense in the first half was good enough to keep us in the game but in the second half it was evident that fatigue had taken it’s toll.

* We’re 1-3 on the roadtrip and well on our way to 1-4. I’d be ecstatic if we finish 3-4 on the trip by beating Houston and New Orleans. It’s my Christmas wish.

I’m out for a week. Thanks for reading. Grab the feed.

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

Chris Kaman on suicide watch as Raptors win in LA

Posted by Arsenalist on December 19, 2007

Toronto Raptors 80, LA Clippers 77

I love these West coast games, no better way to spend a late night watching the Raptors, drinking tea and eating almonds until blisters start popping on the roof of your mouth. Who cares if it’s 1:30AM and that you have a FT job to go to, I might even have to kill off another uncle and sleep this one out. But enough about that, we have a real problem on our hands: Chris Kaman is on suicide watch after being annoyed to extreme levels by the defensive wall that is Rasho Nesterovic. Yes, Rasho the much-maligned soft-Euro that begs to be judged by the “little things he does on the floor” frustrated the petulant Chris Kaman into a total of two second half points as the Raptors started off their 7-game West coast swing off with a must-win win against a depleted Clippers side that put up a fight that most of us didn’t see coming.

The story of the game was the Raptors second half defense which looked similar to the one deployed in Indiana – crowd the paint and scramble back to the perimeter players if the pass out of the double-team is made (a weak zone almost). It wasn’t until the second half that the Raptors realized that save Richie Frahm the Clippers don’t have a single player that can be counted on to knock down an open jumper. Once you get Corey Maggette and Al Thornton taking perimeter shots (contested or not), the game is half won. Now you might look at the scoreboard and say, “Hey Arsenalist, we only won by 3 points so stop ripping on the Clips” and I’d say that even though this was a three point game, this game was ours to be had midway through the third when said defensive adjustments were made. If it weren’t for our reeking offense and Anthony Parker trying to do everything wrong and succeeding we’d end up winning this game by 15-20 points. The luxury of PVR is that you can rewind and investigate just exactly how that shooter was left so wide open. Turns out Anthony Parker’s often late getting back to his man and gets caught up in screens way too easily (Aaah! Ray Allen flashback!).

Aside to Chris Bosh: You can blow by Kaman anytime you want. You can post-up and lean into Tim Thomas at will. There is no reason for you to be taking jumpers let alone fadeaways and bailing the Clippers out. Thank the lucky star Procyon that Bosh drove to the rim just enough times to get himself 16 FT attempts of which he converted 12 and thus bailed out the 37.5% shooting Raptors. Against a better team we lose this game because they’d convert more offensive opportunities, the paper clips scored 28 points in the entire second half and all the credit can’t go to our defense, they are decimated by injuries.

No Raptor fan wants Andrea Bargnani to succeed more than me so I almost choked on an almond when he hit his first three, I took it as a sign of him coming out of the pitiable slump that he’s in. But the only highlights that followed after that was a nice pass to a cutting Humphries and a block on the 48-year old Tim Thomas. Sandwiched in there were about 5 ill-advised shots and a rejection at the hands of CK35 (fragrance for white men with thinning hair). At least he hit a shot and wasn’t a complete embarrassment, it’s a step up and I’ll gladly take it. Hopefully tomorrow he can make say three shots and not get rejected. Fingers crossed. Aside to Bargnani: The pump fake doesn’t work if the man is already in your face, he’s not going to bite because he wants you to take that contested shot from 22ft. You pump fake when you want the defender to come closer to you or you want him to jump in the air so you can drive by him. In your case the defender is challenging you to drive thus your pump fake redundant.


chuck swirsky cheerleader chimney la clippers raptors
I can’t blame Chuck Swirsky

What do you guys think of this? I agree with Chuck Swirsky and his wish of something like that popping down my chimney. But Leo Rautins couldn’t just let a joke be a joke and kept harping on it for the rest of the broadcast. Leo, we know you’d tap that ass in a heartbeat so stop giving the Swirsk a hard time about a harmless comment you abrasive prick. But don’t say this blog is all about bile because Leo did call it early that if Bosh went to the line 15 times we’d win this game, he was right. Not a tough call to make by any means but at least he made it.

Jamario Moon won his matchup with Corey Maggette and got a block for the Xth game in a row (the only thing more impressive than this stat is DiMaggio’s hitting streak). After playing Maggette tight early and realizing that it wouldn’t work since Maggette is more attracted to the rim that I am to almonds, Moon backed off later on in the game and went under the screens thus conceding the jumper resulting in success. Scouting report stuff really, nothing more. Jose Calderon’s quiet 12/6/9 were punctuated with the game-icing drive on Dan Dickau who I was shocked to see on defense with the game on the line.

There’s a fine line between being a chucker and having confidence and Carlos Delfino crosses over that one about 3 times a game. CD should realize that making a jump shot does not give you a green light to shoot a 24 footer on the next possession. But one can’t criticize him too much because he’s the second hardest working Raptor (Hump43 wins that award – another solid game BTW with an in-traffic rebound that would put Moses Malone to shame) and deserves some leeway when it comes to shot selection. He is the heart of the bench. Surprisingly enough he’s been playing PG and has been very good of late, he can easily spell Calderon about 5-7 minutes.

One-Liners

* We need a better performance against Portland, 37.5% will get us blown out of the Rose Garden.

* I don’t make many predictions but here’s one: Bargnani will have 15+ points tomorrow. He is simply due.

* Without Chris Bosh we are doomed, despite his springers the man is providing key scoring during important stretches in the game.

* Can we do a Quinton Ross for Juan Dixon trade?

* Props to the “Let’s go Clippers, let’s go!” fan.

* I know exactly when D-Mart is about to launch a 20 footer, it’s almost like a sixth sense. He had a nice block and a score on Dickau but as I said I’d rather have Delfino playing the point than him.

* Didn’t see a single celebrity.

* I SWEAR THERE WILL BE A PODCAST COMING OUT SOON. LOOK FOR IT.

Till tomorrow. Get the feed.

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