Arsenalist

The Toronto Raptors Blog with an Arsenal touch

Posts Tagged ‘Matt Devlin’

Enough of the “hide your ‘real’ strategy in preseason” BS

Posted by Arsenalist on October 12, 2008

It really irks me when players and coaches make quotes like these, in this case it’s Jamario Moon talking about the Philly game:

“I don’t think we’re going to show them everything we have in this game and neither will they.”

Piss off. Seriously. What can you possibly do on the court that will compromise you in the regular season? What mind-blowing scheme does Sam Mitchell have up his sleeve that if he tests in a preseason game that will cost him a W in the regular season. Let’s rewind back to last year and consider what Boston ran against us in the preseason versus what they ran in Game 3 of the regular season. Nothing, they killed us in both. This quote especially doesn’t make sense after what Mitchell said about NBA play-calling a few days ago, something to the effect of “everybody in the league runs the same thing really, they just call it different things”. We said the same types of things before the Magic series and look how that ended. We should play the game seriously and try our best at all times and rack up a win every chance we get. It’s that simple and should be the basic operating principle of this team. None of this Macgyver shit.

From the same article Mitchell tells us that he’s going to “save a couple of surprises for opening night”. Last time Mitchell surprised us we saw Andrea Bargnani being beaten like a pinnata by Hedo Turkoglu as a starter at SF in Game 1. Arsenalist.com has exclusive insider-info on this and can now report that Mitchell will be starting Jamal Sampson instead of O’Neal and the Raptors mascot will take Chris Bosh’s starting spot. Again, the mystery here is as annoying as it is confusing.

Chris Bosh and the Raptors are complaining that the preseason is too long and they’re “ready to go now”. No, you’re not. We allowed the Knicks to score 111 points at home and the chemistry between Bosh and O’Neal wasn’t exactly top-notch. Our defense was scrambling and our offense was about as consistent as Hump’s FT shooting. I’d hardly call that “ready to go”. I do question the seriousness of our training camp and preseason, I’m not an insider nor do I have a press-pass so I get my information from what I read, hear and watch and based on that I’m not seeing any urgency or great focus coming out from the Raptors camp. All I’m seeing is meaningless quotes, unfounded optimism and a little bit of unwarranted overconfidence. I hope we get our shit together and enter a serious, no-nonsense F**k-you mode by Game 1.

Matt Devlin tells us that we’ll only be dressing 10 players this afternoon as Graham, Sampson and Jawai have all tweaked something. You have to feel sorry for Joey Graham, this was the last preseason where he had a chance to make an impression on the coaching staff and maybe, just maybe contend for some minutes if not a starting spot. Instead he gets injured and defaults Jamario Moon into the starting role. I always rooted for Graham but its apparent that God hates him and when the All-Mighty hates you there’s simply nothing you can do about it.

In order to make the transition easier, Jawai’s coach of five years Aaraon Fearne will be moving to Toronto with his entire family. This is a bit odd, no? Is he going to be working out with him, is he part of the Raptors coaching staff? Consultant? Will he just be having dinner with him and tucking him to bed at night? A little more details from Devlin would be nice.

Alright, I’m starting like to like Bill Walker (YouTube). He’s a combative type that can keep the locker room on edge and might just be crazy enough to pull out an AK47 if a foul call doesn’t go his way. Here he’s picking a fight with T-Mac after going at KG in practice. The Celtics who were already a tough team just got a little tougher if not meaner with his addition; I just wish that somebody on the Raptors had a personality similar to his so that things like the TJ Ford incident didn’t go unpunished.

The Warriors suspended Monta Ellis for 30 days for being stupid. Dime Mag says that Chris Mullin and Don Nelson didn’t really want to but were forced by the owner of the team, Robert Powell. Nate Robinson’s emulating Steve Nash to make Mike D’Antoni happy. The Knicks camp is booming with optimism these days, its almost sickening. Here are some pics from the Suns-Nuggets outdoor practice and some players complaining about the wind. Finally, Cuzoogle’s rolled a classic blog joint. I have to warn you. If you start clinking on his links you will end up wasting half your day. Beware.

I usually make a post-game post right after the game ends but seeing how its preseason and all it’s best that we talk about it in tomorrow’s post. I highly recommend that you subscribe to the feed in order to make the transition smoother to the ‘new site’. Have a lazy Sunday.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , | 9 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 »

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 »

Raptors end poor O’Neal’s “suffering” as Jose becomes rich and Matt Devlin gets THE job.

Posted by Arsenalist on July 10, 2008

Everybody was all smiles, everybody said the right thing, everybody was optimistic, they were all looking forward to a bright future on a talented team, all that was missing was the confetti and cocktails. The lovefest which were the two press conferences formally introduced us to Jermaine O’Neal and a couple hours later, Jose Calderon was formally announced as the starting point guard for the team, officially putting and end to Forderon.

Jermaine O’Neal Press Conference :: Jose Calderon Press Conference :: Cuzoogle interview vids and more

I think we’ve all said what needs to be said about this trade – basically the Raptors have put all their eggs in one basket and if O’Neal gets injured again, out goes all the enthusiasm, the hope and any chance of post-season success. It’s quite cut and dry really, either Bosh/O’Neal lead this team on and off the floor by producing strong numbers and being a tough no-nonsense presence in the locker room or they flop, rendering the entire off-season useless.

Hindsight’s 20/20 but if we hadn’t made this trade and instead managed to sign Corey Maggette, gotten Joey Dorsey or Roy Hibbert in the draft and flipped TJ Ford for say someone like Mike Miller, would you be happy? I think either way we’d be far from being a top-tier team but at least we’d have more good players on the roster. I do think that the avenue Colangelo has chosen has the potential for greater short-term success than relying on rookies to produce and trying to fit in multiple new players. Then again the C*nty Celtics rebuffed that theory last year.

Given our cap situation you have to think we’re done making any significant moves and the roster for next season is set with the exception of a player we might acquire via the MLE. Bryan Colangelo alluded to this in the press conference today when he thanked Calderon for deferring some money towards the later years of his contract so that his lazy ass wouldn’t be forced to make a trade this summer. The Raptors are now a front-heavy team which I hope and pray means that our PINP numbers will increase and that our rebounding will get better. If we can actually improve those two aspects of our game, we might not be terrible.

Jermaine O’Neal said something very simple and profound in the conference. No, I’m not talking about his rebirth in Toronto, I’m talking about the part where he was mentioning all the great talent on this team and he started off by saying “There’s Chris Bosh, there’s Jose Calderon and there’s . . . er . . . Bargnani….”. Yes folks, that’s the fact of the matter, our fourth best player is still Andrea Bargnani and O’Neal was adamant that Bargnani is “a very important part of this team” because of his three-point shooting and his potential to drive to the rim.

I’ve been saying it for quite some time now, what will determine our success next year will be the play of Andrea Bargnani, yes, even moreso than the play of Jermaine O’Neal. I was glad to hear O’Neal say that he hopes to teach Bargnani “toughness” and “physical play”. He sees it as clearly as anyone else that without Bargnani slashing to the rim and keeping defenses honest by knocking down perimeter jumpers, his acquisition is almost redundant and plays into a “black hole scenario”.

Bryan Colangelo assured as that O’Neal’s been checked out by the greatest of doctors and that all the tests came back negative and that he’s pretty much Iron Man at this point. That kind of talk is definitely reassuring but to think that he’s going to quit getting injured cold turkey is being very unrealistic. Sam Mitchell compared the Bosh/O’Neal combo to David Robinson and Tim Duncan which might be a bit premature given the rest of the lineup and coaching staff. Whatever makes him sleep at night.

Some of the quotes coming from O’Neal are pretty bizarre. He’s looking at his playing days in Indiana as if he was in the Dark Ages and monsters carjacked him every night after the game. The Detroit brawl apparently left a deep scar in his mind which he’s finally recovered from as of July 9th, 2008. Some of the quotes from the press conference:

“I played on one leg for two-and-a-half years, I have no doubt in my mind that this is going to be a healthy year for me.”

“It got to the point where I was extremely miserable, everything around me was falling apart. After (the brawl), I never saw the light of day again. It was all downhill after that.”

“When I got the call … it was like a rebirth. Sometimes you lose that love and you need a move or something else to get that fire back in you.”

“My mother started freaking out because she knows I don’t show a lot of emotion,” said O’Neal, who admitted he cried upon learning of the trade. “It was just like, the suffering was over”

Indiana Pacers: Where suffering at $20 million a year happens.

Mike Ulmer had a chance to sit down with O’Neal one-on-one and proceeded to ask the lamest and stupidest questions ever. Ever. I want to gouge this guy’s eyes out.

The most interesting news of the day had to be the Raptors announcing that they’ve hired former Charlotte Bobcats play-by-play man Matt Devlin to replace Chuck Swirsky. Here’s a glimpse of his work.

Jose Calderon’s press conference can basically be summed up in a couple sentences from Colangelo’s viewpoint:

“Jose is the nicest guy ever, he feeds orphans and saves baby turtles and is just such a swell guy that we had to give him the starting nod. Plus he’s a better fit for our team than that tantrum-throwing unpredictable TJ Ford (who’s also nice but not so much). Jose totally deserves all the money we’re throwing at him and we love him for wanting to stay with the Raptors. And! And! And he deferred like 60K till later in his multi-million dollar contract, I mean, who does that anymore?? Just look at him, the guy’s an angel!

The same can be done with Jose’s reaction:

“I didn’t even look outside Toronto. I’m too comfortable here and I know the money’s going to be the same everywhere so why bother moving. I like this team too, I’ve already played here for a couple years and know how the system works so why bother eating bullshit from another coach and another organization when I got these guys by the balls. Me and TJ are cool, nothing personal, I’m just glad I game out on top. I’ll talk to TJ soon about this, you know, when we play Indiana. I love the fans. Hugs and kisses.”

Sam Mitchell:

“I guess I should thank Bryan for solving the PG problem for me because I sure couldn’t figure out which one to play when. Having O’Neal’s nice but this means there’s pressure on me to win and actually utilize Kapono. I mean, nobody’s going to tolerate him having three threes in two months while I got two double-team threats in the low-post. Jose’s a smart player, he’s the right PG for the team Bryan’s…err…we’re trying to build in Toronto. I actually don’t have to yell at him anymore which is a shame because I like yelling.”

Here’s what the new scoreboard at the ACC looks like. Raptors.com already has a Jermaine O’Neal wallpaper, I hear it’s already on Colangelo’s laptop.

That’s about it fellas, thanks for reading and take it easy. Just a reminder that there is an RSS feed for this blog.

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