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Posts Tagged ‘Raptors’

Lakers beat Raptors in a “shootout”

Posted by Arsenalist on October 20, 2008

I’ll be honest. I had no idea a replay of this game was on TV and was shocked to find it on at 12:15 AM just as I was about to go to bed. It was the fourth quarter and the Laker commentators were commending the Raptors on playing well and celebrating the Lakers comeback which had put them up 4 going into the fourth quarter. So I sat down, made myself some tea and started watching the fourth quarter expecting the Raptors to hang tough and maybe even pull out a rare win in LA. How wrong I was. That fourth quarter was the worst I’ve seen the Raptors play in years. The Laker bench was running backdoor cuts, throwing alley-oops off the glass, getting five offensive rebounds on one play, getting deep posts against us while we were bumbling the ball like it was covered with acid, ball-watching the rebounds, not getting back on defense and worst of all not matching the Lakers’ enthusiasm. I don’t know what was going on in the first three quarters but it definitely wasn’t this.

I had to turn it off. Yes, I turned it off at the 1:25 mark when Jamario Moon tried an MJ fadeaway to no avail. This happened right after the Lakers had gotten another offensive rebound for a layup and I said to myself, “Self, turn this shit off and go to bed”. Here’s the box score and here’s a recap.

They interviewed Bryan Colangelo in the fourth quarter and asked him about the O’Neal trade and he flat-out said: “We were desperate for an interior presence…and took an educated risk.. It’s odd that a team that has a 6’11” PF and a 7’0″ C desperately needs an interior presence but that was the case. I too felt that we needed an interior presence, more specifically a pure rebounder and defender but I never figured he’d add someone like O’Neal because of the fear of redundancy. So when the trade was made many people had positive reactions because it did address a need but at the same time it came at a cost that seemed too high. It’s like asking for a Honda but getting a Hummer except now you don’t have any money for gas. I do stand by this trade, I think the other one that was on the table was Gerald Wallace for TJ Ford straight-up which looks enticing on paper but as can be argued wouldn’t have made the team better since Wallace is basically a good player on a bad team. He also happens to have a longer contract. So how did O’Neal do last night? 12 points, 4 rebounds on 4-8 FG in 21 minutes. Can’t stretch a guy like that out in preseason on back-to-backs, probably a wise idea that he rested.

No rest for Bosh though, 11/11 in 34 minutes a night after he played 36 minutes. This sounds like a bit much for a couple meaningless preseason games but maybe it’s Bosh who wanted to play, he’s been eager about getting on with the season for some time now. Ukic’s minutes are rising, they’re up to 20 now but he’s not making the most of it going -31. Ouch. I don’t care how flaky a stat that is, if its that low its saying something about your play. Bargnani was -27 and played most of the fourth quarter where Chris Mihm had his way with him on the glass. The most impressive Raptor that I saw was Hassan Adams. I know, I know. He hit a couple jumpers, got a sky-high offensive rebound and even threw one down. It means nothing though and only confirms that the preseason is too long. Way too long.

Messiah’s grading the Raptors preseason performances and he’s fairly bang-on with his grades, I’ll repeat them here. I’d give Jamario Moon a D-, that’s about the only place I disagree.

In other freaky news, Kenny George, the tallest college player at 7’7″ had part of his foot amputated! And you though you were having a bad day.

Only more preseason game left, its tomorrow in Edmonton against Denver. After that it begins.

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

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

Posted by Arsenalist on October 8, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Arsenalist on October 1, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s it for this morning. Eid Mubarak!

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

Screw it, I’m following the Knicks

Posted by Arsenalist on September 29, 2008

I’ve decided to give up on the Raptors and follow the Knicks as my “favorite team”. This decision came last night after a lengthy and through-provoking discussion with my shrink who advised me to look out for my long-term happiness rather than get mired in the insecurities of the tumultuous near future. He told me that when it’s all said and done, money talks and bullshit walks. Now granted that this doesn’t sound like a sage’s advice as the $300/hr rate might lead you to believe but Dr. Stein did make a lot of sense. Says he that since I’m so emotionally involved with the well-being of the team and since that such well-being also determines the well-being of the people I live with (I throw chairs at people), it is best that I invest in sureties rather than risks. Naturally, I asked him what this had to do with me following the Knicks seeing how they’ve become the scum of the NBA and how even New Jersey laughs at them. The answer was surprising yet convincing.

According to The Stein the Knicks will amass more wins over the next 10 years than the Raptors and will always be closer to a title than us for decades and possibly centuries to come. When I heard that my first instinct was to get up and take a piss in Stein’s vase of petunias which serves as the centerpiece of the table between my couch and his chair. Unfortunately, I had just visited the bathroom so there was no need to go again. Instead I got out of my reclining position, sat on the couch, put my elbows on my knees, crossed my hands and gave The Stein the same look Arnold gave the Predator when he was covered in mud and said, “Say what?”. Stein told me to relax and sit back and think about the facts, then he said the following:

Mr. Arse, you’ve been a 10-year patient of mine and I owe it to you to tell the complete truth and nothing but the truth. So I regret to inform you that although the Raptors will surely out-perform the Knicks this coming season and maybe even the next, the balance of power will hardly shift towards Toronto in the long-term. The Knicks will always have more money to spend and will always attract free agents just because of where they play. Sure, the last few years have been tough because of Isiah but things will come to pass, they’re not going to be stuck in salary cap hell forever and eventually when Curry, Randolph, Marbury and other such lard contracts will expire they’ll get a chance to reset. Sooner or later they’re going to get a real GM, maybe even Colangelo, and end up climbing the ladder of respectability.

Of the 13 seasons the two clubs have been in the league together the Knicks have had the better record nine times. That doesn’t sound like much but its the percentage that I think will hold true for the next millennium unless the core principles of running the Toronto Raptors migrates from running a profitable business to striving to win an NBA title. I’m not saying both can’t happen but when priorities are scheduled the latter needs to take precedence. The Knicks might be a dysfunctional team with incompetent management but deep down their core principle is right: they’re trying to win a title. How successful they’ve been of late hardly matters, the current suffering is bound to end because the goal of the organization is still more viable for fan happiness than the Toronto Raptors.

I’ve also noticed that you have a subconscious inferiority complex about the Raptors which can’t be justified. Sure, we play in Canada – the supposed wasteland of the NBA – where we need to overpay players to sign with us, beg them not to leave and hope to hit a home-run in the draft rather than just pick out free agents every summer. Deep down you know that this city is far superior to almost all other NBA cities but yet we still need to resort to these measures just to keep the seats filled. You’re wondering whether it will ever end and there will be a summer where we won’t have to worry about either bringing someone in or keeping someone here, we could just relax and put agents on hold as they call us. Truth is that its likely never to happen, especially with a strong Canadian dollar (good for business, bad for players), higher living expenses and stringent tax laws. You’ll always be fighting this emotional battle which will end up leaving you (if it hasn’t already) barely satisfied with the current roster and wishing/hoping that at least 10 things go right for your team to have a shot at something meaningful. Stop lying to yourself. Please.

So consider the switcharoo to becoming a Knicks fan. I understand that your loyalty lies with the team that is geographically closer to you (in this case 500 meters) but as your doctor I’m concerned about your health and would advice the switch to be made within the next two years.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Too many things…can’t think of title…wait, got one: Semi-Hot Girl

Posted by Arsenalist on September 24, 2008

Congratulations to Lexi (I’m assuming that’s her stripper name) for making it to the Raptors Dance Pak. Unfortunately our girl Natalie couldn’t make it but I’m almost positive that 10 years down the road they’ll be doing the exact same thing, whatever that thing is. Most likely it’ll be performing for the Idaho Stampede dance team, a glamorous gig I hear.

The Idaho Stampede will be holding tryouts at Humber College on October 5th and 6th so if you happen to be good enough and tall enough, give it a shot. As the Idaho Stampede slogan says, The NBA dream starts in Idaho.

As a rule of thumb you should know that The Bleacher Report is run by a bunch of imbeciles who are great at producing consistent slime. But there are always anomalies and this article which talks about our bench and their anonymity is one of them. The author of the article is Messiah2315, for those of you who read RealGM occasionally you might remember him as the guy who got banned for stupid reasons, apparently he was humiliating the moderators. Anyway, nice article with a good comment on Roko Ukic:

One thing people will learn immediately about Roko Leni Ukic is that he’s about as good a slasher this team’s seen in a while. He’s a shooters dream—a drive-kick guy who has great court vision, out-of-this universe handles, and plays in control. While, in his younger days, people played off of him due to his lack of upper body strength and limited finishing ability, last year he showed some great skills at finding his shooters. Ukic’s jump to the NBA couldn’t have come at a better time. Had he come two years ago, he might have come down with Yoroslav Korolev syndrome, and been forced to play in Turkey for the next three decades.

The more I read and watch Roko, the more I think he’s going to be a difference maker for us. It took Calderon a couple years to get used to the NBA and Roko actually seems ahead of Calderon when it comes to experience and court awareness. Being a Euro rookie actually has its advantages – the scouts haven’t completely figured you out and you can get away with lots of things your rookie season. See, Calderon’s going to have a much tougher time this year because the scouting reports are out and everyone knows what his strengths and weaknesses are and the defense will adjust accordingly. Roko on the other hand is a relative unknown and it’ll take at least a year before the books are caught up on his style of play, until that time he has a chance to surprise a few.

Even if Roko excels there’s still the issue of bench depth. I don’t mind a shorter rotation with “concentrated” talent but that’s only a feasible strategy for the playoffs, not a 82 game regular season. It’s actually quite startling when you think about it, two years ago our bench used to outscore the opponents on a nightly basis and this year it looks like it’ll never happen. If Kapono starts instead of Jamario Moon it’ll mean that we won’t have a single legitimate offensive player coming off the bench. Say what you will about Carlos Delfino but he was likely to catch fire once in a while and score his fair share, right now you’re looking at Hassan Adams and Willie Solomon – 6′ 4″ and 6′ 1″ respectively – to bring in the offense. Roko’s going to need somebody to pass to you know.

I haven’t even talked about the loss of Rasho Nesterovic who had an excellent year last year. He clogged the lanes, played hard, hit the mid-range jumper and caused grief for opposing centers with his size. I see that we’ve basically replaced him with Jermaine O’Neal but just as O’Neal does things that Rasho can’t, Rasho did things that O’Neal can’t. It’s going to be a void that’ll be felt, unless of course Andrea Bargnani makes us all forget about him. Too many bloody questions and not enough answers with this Raptors team.

Some sad news down the wire with Shareef Abdur-Raheem retiring. He was a good player with lots of talent who never found the right team or a winning team to play on. Leo Rautins hated him and accused him of choking in the clutch which was ultra-unfair to the guy because his fourth quarter success rate seemed just about on par with any other average NBA player. It probably all started on the wrong foot in Vancouver where he got so used to loosing that it sort of became his thing. Vancouver did kill a lot of NBA careers: Big Country, Steve Francis, Brian Hill to name a few. Shareef’s viewpoint on Vancouver:

“Vancouver wasn’t bad for me, as far as the city and the people. The thing that was bad about it was the losing. I always felt that Vancouver would be a nice place to be if we were winning. We were all working hard to get better, but we just could never get it all on the right track. That was the most frustrating thing about it. I don’t think I ever displayed it publicly, but I went home a lot of nights very frustrated.”

Losing does that to you. You could live in the greatest city in the world (Barcelona) and still hate it if your team’s getting spanked and humiliated on a nightly basis. It reminds of the 16-66 Raptors playing in the Skydome, no matter how nice a city Toronto was it was hard to look past the losing. The fear of reverting to those times keeps me awake on many nights, I can’t bear to see the Raptors being the laughing stock of the NBA – I think Minny suits that role fine.

The Raptors will be unveiling a third jersey on Thursday, apparently its all black. In similar news, Orlando unveiled their alternate jersey and I can’t tell the difference. Stephon’s closer to being unemployed. I wouldn’t put it past him to collect the welfare cheque. Ouch. Never liked him, I don’t know why, he always struck me as too much of an illiterate thug.

Sorry about the lack of daily posts but remember, I’m brewing something. Seriously though, if you come to this blog often enough you should get the RSS feed. I’m not whoring it around, just saying that it’s a good idea to latch on to it in case something happens…

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

Atlantic Division predictions

Posted by Arsenalist on September 14, 2008

Why not? There’s nothing going on anywhere so it’s time I write the ultimate filler post. Without further ado:

Boston: The Celtics trinity are a year older but they’re still only 31, 32 and 33, one could even argue that they’re in their prime. They lost James Posey who was instrumental in their title run but as we’ll see this season that when you have three Hall of Famers on the roster, you tend to make up for things like that. The Big 3 might be a year slower but Rajan Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, Leon Powe and Baby Davis all gained experience last year that should help the Celtics in the regular season. Short of the Celtics putting it in cruise control and waiting for the playoffs, the Atlantic division is theirs. I highly doubt Boston will “take it easy” during the season because they realized last post-season how important home-court advantage in the playoffs can be. They’re not going to challenge for 70 wins but they’ll win the Atlantic.

Philadelphia: The second spot in the division has to go to either the Raptors or Sixers and I’m leaning towards Philly for two reasons: 1) They play better defense and 2) They play harder. They also happen to have more talent and athleticism across the board with Dalembert, Iggy, Brand and Miller headlining the roster and the team has their coach’s attention, something that can’t be said for the Raptors. Philly has a tight unit that can run, slash, block shots, rebound and starting this year, play in the post. There’s also something to be said for having a PG who can penetrate at will and pass it off to two double-team threats in Iggy and Brand, it’s combination like these that make for fourth quarter scores. Philly edges the Raptors to take second place.

Toronto: The team with the most “ifs” in the division. The hope is to finish with home-court in the conference but that would likely mean finishing above Philadelphia which is hard to see happening unless many things go right. Not saying it can’t happen, just that the odds are against us. Areas of concern last year were: perimeter defense, rebounding, fourth quarter scoring/lack of SF production. Of those three major needs we seem to have addressed one – i.e: rebounding. The Raptors are hoping that the players who played mediocre or bad last year simply play better and produce more. They’re hoping that Bargnani’s miserable season (BTW, great piece on Andrea Bargnani at Hoops Addict) was an anomaly and he can get back to terrorizing centers by taking them off the dribble. They’re hoping that the “addition by subtraction” at the PG spot works out in their favor and that Jermaine O’Neal returns to All-Star form and out-play the Dalembert-Brand combo in Philadelphia. Sam Mitchell needs to gel the team like Mo Cheeks did last year and I simply don’t have the confidence in him. I’d like to think we could beat Philly by a game or two but the reality here is too much to ignore.

New Jersey: Vince Carter, Bobby Simmons, Yi, Devin Harris, Brook Lopez and CDR sound like a good young exciting team but there’s very little of substance here. The lazy Carter’s 15 million dollar contract sticks out like a sore thumb on a team that’s trying to rebuild from the ground up and get some momentum for their eventual move to Brooklyn. The priority here isn’t winning, its developing some young talent and hoping somebody takes Carter off their hands. At least they know exactly the direction they’re going in. The Nets will be fun to watch and might even surprise some people but at the end of the they’re a couple notches below the Raptors, Sixers and the Celtics.

New York: If the Knicks go with the lineup of Gallinari, Crawford, Jeffries, Duhon and Malik Rose they’ll manage to win a few games. This team plays hard as often as AC Green gets laid so its always going to be an uphill battle for them. Mike D’Antoni’s a run ‘n gun coach without a run ‘n gun team. It’s not going to surprise me if the Knicks falter and fail but if all things go right and Marbury returns to mediocrity along with Eddy Curry showing a glimpse of his Bulls days, they might challenge the Nets for the 4th spot.

That’s it for today. Grab the feed for Arsy Raptors stuff delivered to your RSS reader.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

No news so let’s look at some stats

Posted by Arsenalist on August 5, 2008

Team USA’s looking rather unbeatable. LBJ, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard are just too good for anybody and its not a stretch to think that this team can win each game by 25+. Never say never but I don’t think those Argentians can back-cut this team to death like they did against Antonio Davis and Co. a few years back, much better talent and much better coaching. Larry Brown always struck me as more hype than substance and Coach K’s “back to the basics” philosophy is working, at least in the warmups.

As you might imagine there’s very little (zero) Raptor news. Matt Devlin is covering wrestling for NBC in Beijing and in his latest post from a few days back he’s talking about how Russian teams have ‘money to burn’ when it comes to signing players and the weak dollar isn’t helping matters. Basically money talks and European teams have it and should continue to provide the NBA with competition when it comes to signing players. So far we haven’t seen any big names depart to Europe and until that happens nobody’s going to be hitting the panic button and call the NBA anything but the best basketball league in the world. Whoops! Just as I say that ex-Raptor Carlos Arroyo just bolted to the Holy Land.

OK, so I was bored and started digging up some stats from last season and I came up with the following table. They’re mostly taken from Hoops Stats.

Stat Name Stat NBA Rank
PPG 100.18 13th
OPPG 97.28 10th best
RPG 40.07 28th
Record when scoring 100+ 27-17 16th
Record when opponent scores 100+ 7-30 23rd
SPG 6.95 19th
BPG 4.09 25th
APG 23.81 4th
Turnovers 11.69 2nd best (DET)
3-pt shooting 38.9% 3rd best behind NO and Phoenix
FG shooting 46.6% 7th
FT shooting 81.24% 2nd (DAL)
Point Differential +2.9% 13th
Starter PPG 65.5 22nd
Bench PPG 34.6 3rd
Starter RPG 25.7 30th – dead last
Bench RPG 14.3 7th
Record vs. .500+ teams 11-33
Record vs. sub .500 teams 31-12
Best Player Chris Bosh 11th – 24.3 eff

The two things I took from those is 1) our starting 5 struggles to rebound and 2) we can’t beat good teams. Rebounding was and still is a concern, Jermaine O’Neal was brought in to remedy that and there’s no doubt he’s going to help us in the area, but by the same token we also lost a very good defender and a durable rebounder in Rasho Nesterovic. We definitely improved but its hard to say by how much. Point #2 directly hints at our inability to execute in the fourth quarter for whatever reason. No point getting into the specifics of whether Bosh chokes or if its Parker missing shots, Jose stiffening up or Sam failing us, bottom line is its an area where we must improve.

I’m not one to pay too much attention to the 100 point threshold but looking at our record when we concede more than 100 is very shocking. It obviously speaks of a failing defense but also speaks of an offense that can’t stay in “run ‘n gun” games and can’t sustain a high tempo of play for 48 minutes. One of the goals of next year’s Raptors team is to form an identity by adopting a philosophy and sticking to it through thick and thin. Mitchell needs to decide whether we need to get fast break points and gun for a number each game, he needs to set a goal for a PINP number, a goal for PF assists, post-up counts, guard rebounds etc. Hiding weaknesses and taking advantage of strengths sounds like a simple enough concept but putting that into practice is terribly difficult. This team has enough holes and enough strengths to make Mitchell’s job a nightmare next year and it’ll be upto him to establish a framework where we can consistently play to our strengths by doing all the little things necessary to keep everyone involved while being disciplined. It’s a tall task, I hope Sam’s up to it.

Hoops Addict is having a tournament where he’s picking the best garbage man in the league, he asked me to nominate a player from the Raptors and I had to pick Kris Humphries who is currently losing to Reggie Evans and needs your vote. There’s tons of good candidates, definitely worth a read.

Going on vacation soon. It’ll be quiet around here for a couple weeks. Take it easy.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , | 11 Comments »

Rod Benson talks about summer camp

Posted by Arsenalist on July 22, 2008

Uber NBDL blogger Rod Benson talks about his summer camp with the Raptors including how Sam Mitchell doesn’t accept anything less than defensive perfection (insert a big f*****g joke here). I sat through watching this team fail to close-out and rotate the entire freaking year, I’ll attribute this slip of Benson to not getting any PT:

The first practice was all about instruction. Head coach Sam Mitchell made it very clear to all of us that our focus would be defense, so I was making every effort to be in the right spot and to talk. Only an idiot would do otherwise, I thought. Still, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t escape the ridicule that seemed to catch up with everyone who failed to employ the correct defensive tactics. If there was one thing I learned from coach Sam during that first two hours, it was that he doesn’t accept anything less than perfection.

Beijing’s getting closer and the reason I’m picking the Americans to win isn’t because that they’re a much better team than any other country but simply because they have Lebron James. An experienced Lebron James. In tournaments past they’ve lacked that one go-to guy that could get them out of their doldrums when things weren’t going their way or when there was one too many defensive gaffes and offensive Larrybrowness. Safe to say that getting points will not be as hard as it’s been the last two tournaments given how Lebron’s learned to suck the defense and even give out contracts to people named Boobie.

Chris Bosh talks about the lack of size in the US frontcourt and how its not a concern since talent-for-talent they matchup against any team’s 4/5’s. Bosh is likely to play backup center to Dwight Howard which is a good thing. In the upcoming season he’s going to be asked to switch around and play the C more often since Bargnani and O’Neal’s natural position is the PF.

New Jersey made another nice acquisition: Keyon Dooling. A defensive-minded guard who can shoot and plays hard, much like Darrel Armstrong who he’s likely to replace. So far NJ’s acquired Eduardo Najera, Yi, Jarvis Hayes, CDR, Dooling and Brook Lopez. That’s a nice young core but aside from Vince I don’t see legit proven talent on that team. They almost seem to have too many role players at this point.

Juan Dixon wants to be a Raptor again apparently. Actually, Juan Dixon would like to play anywhere and would be more than happy if any team would take him.

Matt Devlin’s loving Toronto, he sounds like a very humble guy that’s got his head on straight. John Bitove’s in the news.

Off to work.

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Raptors assume greater risk as TJ Ford, 17th pick and Rasho traded for Jermaine O’Neal + RaptorsNation.org

Posted by Arsenalist on June 26, 2008

It actually appears to have happened. TJ Ford along with our prized 17th pick and the expiring contract of Rasho Nesterovic for Jermaine O’Neal. Rasho’s obviously thrown in for salary reasons and is easily the third best piece that the Raptors are giving up in the trade. Whether the best piece is TJ Ford or the 17th pick is up for debate.

The trade is designed to increase our post-scoring, make us stronger on the glass (3rd worst in the league) and is an attempt to build a formidable frontline which will attract more double teams thus allowing our shooters more open looks. If all parties in this trade were 100% healthy, the preliminary “winner” of the trade would easily by Toronto. However, given Ford and O’Neal’s injury histories, only time will tell who won this trade. My money’s on Indiana. Ford happens to be 4 years younger than O’Neal who is 29 and although Ford’s injuries have been serious, they’ve been of the “freaky” type having to do with stingers and aggravations. He basically had one injury and fully recovered from it. O’Neal’s injuries appear to be much more chronic in nature and have a higher chance of resurfacing once again – groin, back and knee. The Raptors are definitely taking on more risk here by putting their eggs in O’Neal’s basket.

Then there’s the matter of giving up the 17th pick in a deep draft. You could argue that the draft combined with TJ Ford provided us an opportunity to fulfill two needs: wing scoring and rebounding. However, we’ve packaged both of our best summer assets and a serviceable center for one player and passed up the opportunity to have a shot at some solid players that are slated to go in the teens in the draft. Granted, it’s early and we could trade our way back into the first round but I don’t see many teams willing to give up their first round picks this year. The pick to me is the hardest thing to give up here because there’s just so much bloody potential out there.

Then there’s the question of salary. O’Neal just became the highest paid Raptor and if God forbid he injures himself and ends up playing 40 games this year, his trade value come summertime will be zilch. That’s 20 million tied up in salary for the 2009-10 season! There’s no doubt that this deal has to a degree handcuffed the Raptors in terms of future trades and signings.

In every sports trade, trade is an element of risk involved and whether the risk needs to be mitigated eventually defines whether the trade is successful or not. If O’Neal puts up 20 and 10 like he did for almost 5 seasons in a row and we win 52 games next year, everybody will applaud this move. If he fails to deliver and doesn’t mix-in well with Bosh and the Raptors continue with their mediocrity, whats the point? When you give up on young talent as the Raptors have in this trade, be prepared to be scrutinized for years to come whenever the player in question is doing well. Before it was Charlie Villanueva, now it’s TJ Ford.

The impact on Bargnani won’t be as severe as you would think – we did give up Rasho in the trade and his minutes should be distributed according to player form. Rasho’s career average in MPG is 23 while O’Neal’s is 28. That’s a five minute difference which isn’t hard to live with for Bargnani and should motivate him to play harder now that there’s more competition. If the talk of Rasho returning after being waived is true, then Bargnani is in serious trouble.

The Raptors acquiring a legitimate starting center in a trade speaks volumes as to what the franchise thinks of Andrea Bargnani. Either they’re prepared to give up on him and traded for an insurance policy (ironic given JO’s health) or they see Bargnani playing the SF position thus giving the Raptors a very big frontline and an advantage on paper (although the Orlando series exposed him like never before). The trade should serve as an ultimatum to Bargnani that he should be prepared to battle in training camp and practice if he wants to see any minutes past garbage time. The other way to look at it is that Colangelo feels that Bargnani is still two more years away from realizing his potential and needs to play second fiddle to O’Neal during this time while learning in the process. Is this trade Colangelo acknowledging his mistake of drafting Bargnani? Not yet, this is simply a change of strategy.

The most glaring aspect of this trade is that we’ve handed our PG responsibilities to Jose Calderon without a certified backup on the roster. Calderon has as many defensive issues (if not more) than Ford and is as liable as going into a scoring drought as Ford. He does happen to be a better fit for the Raptors given his holding style of play which suits our “offense” much better. This isn’t a knock on TJ, he happens to need more athletic, alert, fast-break type players to be successful. Calderon doesn’t, he’s willing to patrol the three point line and be patient with Bosh on posts and re-posts while there’s inconsequential movement on the weak side. To put it in simpler terms, TJ Ford’s a Don Nelson/Mike D’Antoni player. Nothing wrong with it, except we’re not nearly as up-tempo, exciting, fast-breaking or athletic as players in those systems need to be.

The final word on the trade: We gave up too much and took on the greater risk. We gave up the younger player with less chronic injuries, a valuable teen pick in a deep draft and the expiring contract of a good center for a player who was great 4 years ago. I’d feel far more comfortable if we hadn’t given up the pick but at some point you have to prove to Chris Bosh that you’re trying to win.

Here’s hoping the Raptors do some maneuvering and somehow come out with Brandon Rush tonight. On the other hand, if Rush or CDR are gone by the time our Indiana’s pick rolls around, Colangelo needs to be given some credit for predicting that and using the pick’s value in a trade.

Check AltRaps.com for links relating to the story, here’s one however and its Colangelo talking about the trade and how letting Ford go was a foregone conclusion reached by both parties.

“There was discussion with T.J. at the end of the season and also with his agents or representatives since the end of the season where we amicably discussed the scenario that might play out where he might be part of a trade and he’s comfortable with that”.

Note: Live Blogging tonight for the draft starting at 6:30PM on RaptorsNation.org. I’ve never tried to do this before so we’ll see how it goes. Try to swing by so I don’t look like a fool. Thanks!

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , | 45 Comments »

T minus 1: No sign of what the Raptors might do

Posted by Arsenalist on June 25, 2008

Let’s start off the day with Chad Ford’s mock draft which insists on us taking Robin Lopez at #17. I don’t see it happening unless Brandon Rush, CDR or even Donte Greene are already taken. There’s no doubt that drafting a hustle-type big man is the easier thing to do, there’s far less expectations from a banger than from a scoring talent and also a greater sense of assurance about what you’re getting. Rebounding is Need #1 but wing scoring and defense is #1a. As evidenced by the rumours, we’re looking for a big man via trade so it makes sense that the draft is there for a young winger. Anyway, we’ll find out tomorrow.

Doug Smith points out 7 players we’re closely looking at of which 5 are big men. Rush and CDR and nowhere to be found. I highly doubt the Raptors will tell Smith or anyone for that matter who they’re looking at. Take the list with a bucket load of salt. He’s also saying the deal to Phoenix remains “very much alive”.

The Jermaine O’Neal trade talk when combined with speculation that we might go big in the draft leaves us with one question: What does this do with Andrea Bargnani? Has Colangelo given up on him and is already hunting for a C replacement? Is he planning on moving him to the three so rebounding is less of a responsibility? Michael Grange tries to answer questions like these and suggests that Colangelo might be closer to giving up on him than before. In my opinion, the first 20 games of the season will tell us exactly where Bargnani is and whether those intimate sessions with John Lucas worked or not. Until then, I’ll hold judgment but I’ll say this: If he doesn’t get it done in the first half of next season, I see no reason not to trade him and publicly admit the mistake.

From Indiana’s perspective only two players are untouchable: Granger and Dunleavy. The rest are available (even Tinsley) as long as you give them something they can use now. Larry Bird doesn’t appear to be too fond of rebuilding from the ground-up, he’s all about applying patches and hoping they stick. Since Indiana’s already picking at #11 its somewhat surprising that they’ll also be in the hunt for a pick 6 spots further down. They’re looking to swing trades and something tells me their interest in our pick is only because they want to package it with another trade.

The Knicks are up for trading practically anybody on their roster as long as it gets them a shot at O.J Mayo. Donnie Walsh is crazy enough to try to acquire Shawn Marion (who makes $1.3 billion) just to re-unite him with Mike D’Antoni. I see the Knicks are fully in pursuit of mediocrity. I think our new slogan should be: The Toronto Raptors: Hey, at least we’re not the Knicks.

The Pistons are reportedly trying to acquire Baron Davis which would leave a PG void in Golden State and we know how much Don Nelson loves T.J Ford. But as I said yesterday, there’s absolutely no one on the Warriors that is even worth looking at who is not labeled as untouchable or is a free agent.

In ex-Raptors news, Jorge Garbajosa has signed with his former club Unicaja for next season. This after he turned down offers from CSKA Moscow and Real Madrid. Not surprisingly, no NBA teams were in the mix.

Have a nice one.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »