Arsenalist

The Toronto Raptors Blog with an Arsenal touch

Posts Tagged ‘Raptors’

Indiana deal dead, Knick interest in TJ Ford + Exodus to Europe?

Posted by Arsenalist on June 24, 2008

We all know TJ Ford is going to get traded but that doesn’t mean you have to print a picture like this of him in the Toronto Star. It’s like they went through every image of Ford they could find and picked the worse one possible. BTW, I love newspapers – always a day late in their reporting.

The Indiana deal is dead and the reason isn’t the 17th pick, its concerns over TJ Ford and Jermaine O’Neal’s health. Fair enough, both sides would’ve done this deal with an element of reluctance and fear of coming out on the wrong side of a gamble. On the surface TJ Ford’s injuries seem to be less chronic than Jermaine O’Neal’s although both are probably one play away from having their career’s killed, but then again who isn’t.

TJ Ford and Leandro Barbosa are also on the Knicks radar according to Donnie Walsh who wants to get himself a new PG on or before draft night. In the same story we’re told that Jorge Garbajosa might sign for CSKA Moscow – good luck to the lad. Also according to this article, Anthony Parker is said to be considering Olympiakos and has their offer “in his mind”. Now I’m not one to cite another blog as a “source” but here goes anyway: Delfino is also said to have interest from Europe. Don’t put it past his agent to cook stories up just to increase his worth on the market. Also, the Raptors are apparently anxious to “revamp the roster”. This paragraph should suffice for the BS portion of this post.

According to Michael Grange there was no “next Jamario Moon” to be found at this year’s free agent camp. Tamar Slay and Rod Benson picked up some cred but as far as being invited to training or summer camp, no luck there. Yet.

Dave Feschuk tells us that Matt Bonner’s getting married in Toronto but the story is inappropriately titled “Return of the Red Rocket” when it really should be “Return of the Red Rocket because he’s getting married here and then returning to wherever he’s playing now”.

Our man Brandon Rush leads off USA Today’s look at the best young guards in this year’s draft. The more I read about him, the more I want like him on this team. He seems to be a guy who appreciates the prestige of playing in the NBA and won’t get caught up in the “playing in Canada” bullshit. His knee injury has given him a very fresh perspective on basketball and has made him into a truly hardworking player, not just someone who relies on talent exclusively.

Chris Bosh is pumped up for the Beijing Games, great, just don’t get injured. That would seriously suck and put a damper on the season. Even if he tweaks his knee just a little, that means 10 games without him which means at best a 2-8 record.

Thanks for swinging by.

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

Sunday shakedown

Posted by Arsenalist on June 22, 2008

The free agent camp continued yesterday but so far no reporter has covered the proceedings. Check Smith’s or Grange’s blog, maybe they got something. Eric Smith tells us of some of the things he saw. There’s also this scrum interview with Marerresse Speights. I know I’m reaching to get the Raptor fill for this post.

How would you feel if the Raptors drafted Kosta Koufos or a player of that caliber? If we don’t have a shot at drafting a decent college player (CDR, Rush, Lopez, Greene, Batum etc.) and are forced to look at he second tier of players, I’m all for re-igniting the TJ Ford + #17 pick for Boris Diaw. The only argument against that trade is giving up the pick but if we’re going to be throwing it away anyway, why not just use it.

There’s a piece on Canada.com which talks about players not showing up for workouts. Donte Greene drops a nice little quote:

“Not to name any names, but I’ve known a couple of guys who have had guarantees and were sitting in Madison Square Garden [on the evening of the draft] looking [stupid] because they didn’t get picked. Guarantees, I’m not too big on guarantees. It’s nice to have one. But I wouldn’t sit on it, that’s for sure.”

The article also brings up an excellent point about Greene’s one-on-one defensive limitations because of Syracuse playing zone defense almost exclusively. It’s a valid point but that’s not a reason to not draft him, if a player is a good athlete, has quick feet and willing to play defense, he’ll end up being a good defender in the NBA. College experience can only help, never hurt.

Very nice read in SF Gate this morning about teams’ “trickery and deceit” leading up to the draft and how everything anyone like Jim Kelly or raptors.com or anyone else associated with the organization says is pretty much all bullshit and smoke screens.

Here’s a sign that newspapers are a dying medium, they’ve having hot or not contests.

That’s all I got.

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

The Saturday Morning Post: Qualifying offers, trade rumours and some Bill Walton

Posted by Arsenalist on June 21, 2008

Good Saturday Morning!

The Raptors extended qualifying offers to Jose Calderon (no agent, fired him) and Carlos Delfino which means they have an intent to resign them and want to have a shot at matching any offers made to either player. This makes perfect sense for Jose Calderon but it’s a little surprising to see Carlos Delfino get the same treatment. The Raptors probably have a salary in mind for Delfino and unless he signs an offer-sheet at or below that number, they’ll let him walk. He is a serviceable backup at the 3-spot and with Joey Graham more and more out of the picture, Delfino and Moon look to be the second line at the SF position. This of course assuming we get a starting 3 somewhere through draft/FA/trade.

The Boris Diaw for TJ Ford + #17 better be horseshit because if we are actually considering making that trade it tells me that either Colangelo has a soft spot for the Suns or that TJ’s value is so low that any package not involving our pick will get us nothing. With Garbajosa gone, we do need a versatile forward that can rebound and score but giving up the 17th pick in a deep draft might be paying too much. A straight up swap for Diaw is far more acceptable and probably something even Colangelo feels is fair, hence the smoke in the first place. Porter’s fondness of TJ Ford stems from his stint in Milwaukee and he’s seen what we’ve seen – potential. He feels he can get it out of him whereas we’ve given up.

Now if you throw in Leandro Barbosa as part of trade talks, that changes everything. The Portland Trailblazers are looking at him and might be willing to give up Martell Webster and the 13th pick. The Suns (much like the Raptors) are also trying to upgrade their SF spot and are looking to be in the hunt for Richard Jefferson, Josh Howard or Gerald Wallace. The pick of that group remains the slasher Jefferson that could use a change of scenery and some distance from the plague that is Vince Carter to fully recognize his potential. I believe he’s a perfect fit for the Raptors. There’s also Ron Artest but if he’s going anywhere it’s going to be the Lakers.

Speaking of Boris Diaw, every time his name comes up I think back to Bill Walton’s insane commentary in the Suns/Lakers game – check it out. It has something to do with Beethoven and the Age of Romanticism.

The guys from NBA TV break down the Raptors draft and say that the time is now for the Raptors and that the rebuilding process better start showing some results. They also take Jose Calderon over TJ Ford and like Jamario Moon as a bench player. Finally they point to Bargnani as being the key to the Raptors and how he needs to pay back some dividends – Rick Kamla is still a believer in him and if he’s a believer, so am I. The general consensus seems to be to take the best player available at #17 and not draft by position, something I totally agree with.

There’s a piece in the G & M about how the Raptors are helping out Basketball Canada in many different ways. One of the reasons cited for this cooperation is Bryan Colangelo’s “deep respect and passion for the international game”.

Nicolas Batum failed a stress test which is the reason why he didn’t participate in our workout.

Later!

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

TJ Ford, Raptorulosis Fasciitis and Cuban’s load of crap

Posted by Arsenalist on June 19, 2008

Its hard being rational in the summertime when there’s absolutely nothing going on and the only thing one can do is speculate on free agent acquisitions, hypothetical trades, possible draft choices and when the barrel will hit $250. Its like a disease that starts around May and ends around October, call it Raptorulosis Fasciitis. Its like walking through a vast desert with thousands of mirages but only a few wells. Its like getting through Lord of the Rings, except that its five months long. Its like scratching your nails on miles and miles of blackboard. It’s like….what I’m trying to say is that its a tough time which calls for perseverance, sanity and most of all a cool, calculated mind that can reject rumours for what they are and accept realities as they stare you in the face.

The man from Raptors Den looks at the possibilities of trading TJ Ford for players like Corey Maggette, Ron Artest, the #2 pick amongst others. Its a nice enough article but I can’t help but think this is one of those situations where the cool, calculated mind should kick in. It’s the opinion of this observer that the chance of us landing a player of Ron Artest’s caliber while only giving up TJ Ford is downright impossible, unless of course the other GM’s mind is mush. TJ may be a nice little talent but his stock is low because of injury and recent play. I would even consider giving him the starting role, hoping he plays well and then shipping him off at the trading deadline when teams get a little desperate for help and might be willing to give up more. Just a summertime thought, that’s all.

There’s word out of Miami that if Beasley is available at #2, the Heat will snag him and look to trade Udonis Haslem who “could be swapped for a point guard, with Kirk Hinrich, T.J. Ford and Mo Williams in play”. Such a trade does sound more reasonable than acquiring Artest or Maggette since the players involved are in similar tiers and there is a real supply/demand issue at hand. Haslem’s a very good rebounder that can knock down the mid-range jumper and plays hard, we can’t ask for anything more.

On a side note, DJ Augustin is dazzling teams with his workouts. If I’m the Clippers or Portland, I’d look at him first before even thinking about making a trade for Ford, Hinrich or Williams. There’s too much quickness, youth and skill here to pass up.

How do we fix the Lakers? That is the burning question in LA and two of the answers include acquiring a perimeter touch and getting some depth in the backcourt (getting killed by Rajan Rondo does that to you). Look no further Mitch Kupchak, we’d be glad to provide you with Jason Kapono and TJ Ford except that we have no idea who we’d want from your roster. We know you’re not willing to part with Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol or Kobe Bryant and we certainly don’t want anything to do with Vujacic, Radmanovic, Ariza or Walton so why not give us Ronny Turiaf? Naah, you’re probably not going to do that either, are you? Huh? Please?

Interesting quote from Joe Luis Saez, the president of the Spanish federation:

“Jorge is perfectly recovered from his injury and this for us is the best news. To be able to have Jorge with us is gratifying because he is a player that has given everything to the national team and he wants to continue to give it.”

My first reaction is that he’s a lying bastard. The second one is that he might be telling the truth which leads me to contemplate that if Garbajosa is in fact healthy, why we didn’t ship him off and use his expiring salary as an asset? It’s almost like he was given the choice to play for the Raptors or to play for Spain in Beijing and he chose the latter. Remember that the Raptors did not want him to play in the summer games and the only way he could’ve done so was if he was no longer under contract with us. Colangelo was fairly desperate to get his mess resolved and even flew to Spain to put this shit to bed, unfortunately for us we couldn’t get anything in return for him.

Speaking of the Olympics, Mark Cuban has something to say about them, its all coming because of his ungodly fear of losing Dirk Nowitizki and Jason Kidd to injury while they’re not in a Dallas Maverick uniform, the gazillionaire says:

“It’s not that I don’t like the idea of them representing their countries. If the Olympics were truly a nationalistic endeavor built on sport and part of the public domain, I would be willing to take risk and support their playing. What I don’t like is that we lie to ourselves and pretend that the Olympians represent our country. They don’t. They have taken relatively low paying jobs working for the Olympics, who in turn sell the broadcast and marketing rights for billions of dollars in profits, all the while creating enormous risk for those of us who pay them for their day jobs that support their families. It’s amazing how players who are free agents won’t participate, but those with guaranteed contracts will. “

So its not about the money to him, its about the hypocrisy. What a load of crap!

Let’s go Blue Jays…..

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

Free Agent camp, more workouts + Final word on Jorge Garbajosa

Posted by Arsenalist on June 18, 2008

We got a free agent camp happening June 20th – 22nd at the Air Canada Centre. This is where Jamario Moon impressed us enough to punch his ticket to the NBA, this year we got a few players vying for a summer camp invite and without further ado I present John Lucas, Sean Banks, Brian Haper, Dijon Thompson and the list goes on and on. Forgive me if the names don’t ring a bell but these are fringe basketball talents that in 99% of the cases provide bodies for summer camp and nothing more. This lot is not where we will find the answers to our defensive issues but due diligence must be done. Truth is that we don’t want to find the next Jamario Moon, we want some proven skill and not something you find trolling through the neighbor’s garbage.

Wayne Ellington and Danny Green who both worked out for the Raptors dropped out of the draft along with many others. Donte Green who DraftExpress has us selecting worked out for the Portland Trailblazers; GM Kevin Pritchard says that he’s a “spread” guy that can open up the floor and could go in the teens because of his athleticism and shooting ability. He ranks Joe Alexander better than Green or Nicolas Batum who also worked out for them.

Green, Batum along with Roy Hibbert and others will be working out for us on Thursday. Jim Kelly’s got a busy weekend as the workouts continue on Saturday with players that have zero chance of being picked at #17 showing up in Toronto, presumably to impress not just the Raptors but other teams since word does get out fairly quick.

Jorge Garbajosa and the Raptors are no longer related. Let’s take a quick look at just exactly what Jorge Garbjosa meant to this team, how much he contributed on the floor, how much did his locker-room presence mean and finally whether we should really care that he’ll be gone.

People who point to Garbajosa as being one of the key reasons why we went from being division winners to having .500 record are significantly discounting other factors. And by other factors I’m not referring to Andrea Bargnani’s regression or TJ Ford imploding or anything Raptors related, I’m referring to the unarguable and cemented fact that the year we won the division, the East and especially the Atlantic was miserable. It was easily the worst division in the league. What does this have to do with Garbajosa? Nothing specific to him, except that it reminds us to acknowledge that there was nothing great about that Raptor team, it just so happened that the competition was brutal.

Grit is something that was missing from the Raptors all year and many pointed to Garbajosa’s absence as leaving a void in that department. There’s no doubt about that, he did leave a void in the grit/rebounding/toughness departments but the question is how big of a void did he leave? Did he leave a void so big that we became third worst rebounding team in the league? Is he the reason our perimeter defense was amongst the worst in the NBA or that we had trouble stopping teams in the clutch? No, not at all, if anything you can argue that we upgraded ourselves on the defensive side through Jamario Moon who happens to be a much better one-on-one defender and as good a rebounder. Granted, Moon might not have the lunch-pail demeanor of Garbajosa but I’m of the belief that said attitude is only effective when it is backed up by numbers, and for me Garbajosa’s 4.7 RPG were simply never good enough.

His outside shooting was too streaky to be called a threat and teams would gladly leave his 41% shooting (34% from 3) open on the perimeter to help contend with Bosh. It’s fair to say that he brought little on offense and couldn’t be counted on to provide anything worthwhile besides hitting a three now and then. His value to us was entirely on the glass and in his grit, granted that they’re both areas where we’re lacking, but is his departure anything to lament? Not at all, he’s entirely replaceable and upgradeable. Let’s just move along and hopefully he can resurrect the career that he himself so deliberately ruined somewhere else.

You can argue that the way the Raptors treat him will affect Calderon’s free agency decision, what with them two being friends and all. It’s hard for me to buy that argument because Calderon’s going to be making some mega-millions and I have a strong feeling that once that first paycheck rolls in he’s going to be more than content about his situation.

Those &%^$# Celtics finally finished off the Lakers who looked a lot like the Raptors, especially with their off-the-ball movement. The Lakers lost that series only because they lost critical Game 4. The fourth game of a playoff series is always the most crucial one since it usually means 2-2 or 3-1; the blown Lakers lead will come back to haunt them all summer long.

Sorry if the posts have dried up but there’s simply not much happening these days. Grab the feed if you have a RSS reader. If you just want to waste some time there’s always cuzzy.

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

Raptors set player workout schedule (BTW, we also need a SG)

Posted by Arsenalist on June 2, 2008

OK, the Raptors have a busy midweek ahead with player workouts scheduled on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

June 3rd – Tuesday:
G – Wayne Ellington – North Carolina
G – Shan Foster – Vanderbilt
G – Jamont Gordon – Mississippi State
F – Danny Green – North Carolina
G – Malik Hairston – Oregon
G – Courtney Lee – Western Kentucky

June 4th – Wednesday:
F – Ryan Anderson – California
F/C – Kosta Koufos – Ohio State
F/C – Robin Lopez – Stanford
G – Drew Neitzel – Michigan State
G – Jeremy Pargo – Gonzaga
G – Jason Thompson – Rider

June 5th – Thursday
F/C – Alexis Ajinca – Hyeres-Toulon
G – Chris Douglas-Roberts – Memphis
C – DeVon Hardin – California
G – Mykal Riley – Alabama
G/F – Brandon Rush – Kansas
G/F – Bill Walker – Kansas State

I find it very hard to get excited. These kids will come here put out an effort which will equal the interest they have in the Raptors. There’s always the incentive to get drafted higher and get paid more but players have known to target teams and obviously vice-versa is true too. Toronto would be a good place for a swingman to get drafted because of our wide open starting 3 spot. Jamario Moon is no lock to get that spot back and there will be open competition for it come training camp leaving room for a talented rookie to make his mark.

Brandon Rush doesn’t get talked about much with respect to the Raptors and its surprising because we’re also in the market for a shooting guard. Currently, we have Anthony Parker and backing him up is…..er…..nobody! Delfino and Moon end up taking Parker’s minutes when he goes to the bench and neither of them is a good mid-range shooter, something which is mandatory for a SG. Wow, when you actually sit down on paper and work it out, we got holes in every spot save the 4. We have a plethora of threes, albeit very average. We have Humphries, Rasho and Bargnani playing musical chairs with the center spot and we got TJ/Jose/Ukic all competing for PG minutes. There’s Chris Bosh who owns the PF spot leaving us with the SG position, arguably our weakest link!

Robin Lopez who might be the best bet for providing immediate help is being projected to go 25th to Houston by Draft Express and HoopsHype. Is picking him at #17 jumping the gun? I don’t think so. Lets face it, the mock drafts don’t mean shit and if you look back at every single year’s mock draft by the “expert” sites, they’ve always managed to overrate and underrate players, its just too tough to make these calls beforehand. As long as Sam Mitchell is aware that he’s likely to get zero offense out of him and sees his rebounding/Varejao-like potential, take him. He’s got a chance to sneak up in the draft and gets a favorable little review from the Sac Bee. Although as said on yesterday’s blog, I do hope he’s not the only addition to the front-court.

Remember Kenny Anderson? Yeah, that little cunt that threatened to chain himself to his locker if he got traded to Toronto in the Damon Stoudamire trade. He always struck me as a selfish type of player that had a lot of talent in him but never got his head right (kinda what TJ Ford might become if he doesn’t watch out). Well, he’s interested in coaching because he thinks its his “calling”. Maybe he’s found the basketball equivalent of Jesus but I hardly think his NBA playing career comes close to coach material. Just found it odd, that’s all.

I’ll end with a shocker: Jordan Farmar had a higher vertical leap than Rudy Gay back in the 2006 pre-draft camp. I get a feeling Farmar was wearing those shoes George was sporting in the “Jimmy” episode of Seinfeld.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , | 30 Comments »

Slow Saturday….Josh Howard anyone?

Posted by Arsenalist on May 24, 2008

‘Tis a slow news day when you start off with Vince Carter opening up a restaurant with his Mom. I got a sneak-peek taste of the menu and there doesn’t appear to be much heart or effort put into the steak. When you first look at it you get a sense that it might have some potential but after a bite or two you realize its just your run-of-the-mill sirloin that you’d rather trade for some French fries.

Pat Riley is starting to sound more and more like he’s open to the idea of trading the #2 pick. Over the last few days the Miami media is imploring him to not even entertain the idea but Riley is bent on improving his team by acquiring “as many good players as we can”. Hmm, we got some “good” players on our team, feed him TJ Ford and his long lost love Jason Kapono and we’re suddenly on the table. Just a thought.

We’re all in general agreement that the SG position needs to be upgraded and Anthony Parker’s role/minutes reduced. Josh Howard has fallen out of favor with the Dallas Mavericks and is there to be had. Of the 15 trade proposals listed in the article the Raptors are nowhere to be found and with good reason – we have nothing they’d want. Howard’s a very good scorer and would lift some of the pressure from Bosh but he’s the last guy Colangelo would look at character-wise. Not going to happen, lets move along.

I love the parting shot taken by Jerry Reinsdorf at Mike D’Antoni. He’s saying D’Antoni got scared out of coaching the Bulls because Reinsdorf wanted the team to play defense and D’Antoni openly acknowledged that he tries to outscore teams and defense comes secondary to him. In the interview D’Antoni once again blamed the fact that his teams don’t play defense entirely on the personnel even though Shawn Marion, Raja Bell, Amare Stoudamire and Boris Diaw are all capable players. I just don’t like that guy and it shows.

Sam Smith’s mouthing off again and recommending Chicago trade Hinrich et al for expiring contracts to make a run at Dwayne Wade at the end of the 2009-10 season. I don’t know if you can build on those hopes especially when Wade’s got a 17M option for the 2010-11 season. Factor in Wade’s injury problems and you got Sam Smith coming up with a low-percentage plan that further reduces his reputation closer to mine.

Reports out of Houston say that the Rockets are looking to trade up in the draft to the teens (13-19) and there are teams willing to give their pick up or “trade out of the draft altogether” because of salary reasons. Apparently, the $1.8 million salary scale for those picks is too much for some GMs to bear. Strikes a little odd to me considering how deep the draft is.

Spurs are down but not out. They’re too good to go down in 4 or 5, I wouldn’t be surprised if this series ends up 2-2 and goes 7. Home-court advantage has been huge this post-season and although the Pistons bucked that trend, the Spurs’ experience and talent is too much to discount. Plus, you can’t expect Ginobili and Parker to play like crap for the entire series.

Shameless plug for my Euro 2008 soccer pool – $16 through PayPal. All the money goes to payouts, I make zilch – top 4 win prizes. While supplies last!

Till tomorrow.

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

Crosshair: Jose Calderon

Posted by Arsenalist on May 5, 2008

Next up is Jose Calderon.

There’s plenty of good things to say about Jose Calderon, his play has been a breath of fresh air for every Raptors fan regardless of which side of the TJ/Jose fence you’re on. Calderon has developed an ability to lead a team through his smart decision making skills, greatly improved and highly accurate outside shooting, uncanny ability to turn the corner on high screens and most of all his passing which always finds the man most eligible for the shot.

This year he upped his scoring by 2.5 points while increasing his assists by 3.3 and still shot better than 50% from the floor, one of only three point guards to do so, the other two? Steve Nash and Deron Williams. He also happens to be ranked #3 in PER for PGs. His play when TJ Ford went down with injury was one of the main reasons along with Chris Bosh that the Raptors were able to make the playoffs. What makes Calderon a highly effective point guard for the Raptors is that he understands who his teammates are, you’ll never see him throw a pass which he knows the recipient can’t handle, he rarely takes a risk on the break and always looks to get his teammates setup early in the shot-clock. As he’s coming up the floor his first option is to find any trailers that might be open in the form of Andrea Bargnani, Jason Kapono, Anthony Parker and even Carlos Delfino. He’s a selfless point guard that wants to win and help make his teammates better and is willing to sacrifice numbers and playing time as long as it means team success.

There’s been plenty written about his league-leading 5.38 assist to turnover ratio which gives the correct impression that Calderon is careful with the ball and handles each possession with care. In the mid-season stretch when TJ Ford went down, Calderon was the driving force behind the Raptors. He increased his offensive output and became a legitimate scoring threat which the defense had to respect and that opened up options for everyone else. His clutch fourth-quarter 3-pt play in Boston was the apex of his season and during that stretch he proved that he should be the starting point guard for an NBA team.

If you’re a Calderon critic you might point out his conservative offensive play as being a reason why the Raptors struggle to get easy points on the break. This is a true criticism of Calderon who tends to pull back the offense on 3/2 or 4/3 breaks and doesn’t “force the issue” if it isn’t there. That is partially the reason why his AST/TO numbers are so high but it happens to be a double-edged sword. The Raptors don’t have great athletes or finishers who run the break and TJ Ford’s play is evidence that running the break with this Raptor crew isn’t exactly a great idea. Calderon recognizes this and values the possession more than the chance at easy points, maybe this will change if Ford is gone and Calderon feels he’ll need to make-up for Ford’s “pushing” style of basketball to some extent. I don’t believe by any means that Calderon is protecting his league-leading AST/TO ratio by any means.

The main reason Calderon is so much more dangerous this year is because he’s improved his 15-19ft game. Last year he was primarily a threat to drive off the high screen but this year he’s shown that he can step a few feet inside the arc, rise, and drain the jumper. This has made him a dual threat which NBA defenses have to respect and given Calderon’s intelligence in these matters, he’s been able to translate that into high assist numbers while keeping the decisions intelligent. Given the Euro stylings of the Raptors, Calderon’s patience, leadership and high basketball IQ appear to be the perfect fit for the team Bryan Colangelo’s trying to build. Whether you agree with his team-building method is an entirely different issue.

Calderon plays hard and with his heart on his sleeve, he can shoot, finish, can setup teammates and this season he showed he can do it while playing extended minutes. Something we didn’t know before this season and something that will weigh heavy on Colangelo’s mind as he decides whether to bring TJ Ford back.

Just like every other Raptors perimeter player, Calderon’s defense is below-par. He is extremely guilty of allowing dribble-penetration and has trouble fighting through screens and contesting shots. He’s a victim of Sam Mitchell’s half-ass defensive strategy and you can often find him double-teaming players for odd reasons allowing his man to knock down the open jumper. At 6′ 3″ and long arms he should be a good defender especially given how hard he plays, but so far in his NBA career we haven’t seen anything from Calderon that might indicate he can hold his own on the defensive end.

The Orlando series exposed his defense to some degree as he couldn’t contain Jameer Nelson or Keyoon Dooling from getting in the paint which allowed the Magic guards to pick out shooters. His lateral quickness isn’t great and one would think he should play the offensive player for the shot instead of the drive, a far safer option. If there is a knock against Calderon it is his defense, this also happens to be one of the core problems with the Raptors. Allowing penetration at the point-of-attack is something no NBA team can live with, either the Raptors need to adopt a better defensive strategy or Calderon needs to tighten up his defense or there needs to be the sufficient interior defense that can tolerate Calderon’s man getting into the paint. He played 30 minute a game this year which was up 9 minutes from the previous year, we expect this number to only get higher and its paramount that we don’t suffer defensively as his minutes increase.

Calderon’s a restricted free agent and Bryan Colangelo has already said that he’ll match any offer for Calderon. By all indications, he’s here to stay and we have to work with what we have – an intelligent, hard-working point guard with a very reliable outside touch and a tendency to take it to the rim when the opportunity presents itself. Not bad at all. You know his offensive game has nowhere to go but up and as long as he can improve his defensive game he’s going to be a mainstay in Toronto.

The new season is over 5 long months away but I’m already looking forward to how Calderon will improve next year. He’s a player that you want on this team and are willing to live with his flaws as long as the coach can do an average job of hiding them.

I’m off to Dubai for a week long vacation, I’ll do my best to keep the crosshairs coming. Maybe give you guys a snapshot of the man-made city while I’m at it.

As for the present today, its one of my favorite scenes from Reservoir Dogs where Steve Buscemi (Mr. Pink) is trying to get out of tipping.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , | 37 Comments »

Crosshair: Anthony Parker

Posted by Arsenalist on May 4, 2008

Next up on the crosshair is Anthony Parker. These are going in no particular order.

He reminds you a lot of Voshon Lenard – a capable scorer that can be effective as long as he’s not being stretched past his physical ability and talent. Parker’s got a textbook jumpshot that rivals Allan Houston and a fadeaway that can be considered deadly as long as the legs are fresh. His low-post game consists almost entirely of the fadeaway which can be used with success on shorter players. Once you put a bigger defender on Parker, his offense quickly degenerates as the fadeaway isn’t nearly as effective and the fake-the-drive-pull-up-for-the-j becomes too contested to be consistent.

Parker is the best mid-range shooter on the Raptors and can come off screens and into the 15-18ft area and drain the shot. On occasion he can drive to the rim and finish with authority which keeps the defense somewhat honest but even then they always play him for the shot – 82% of his shots are jumpers. Parker’s ability to score deteriorates as the game goes on and his legs get tired. This often results in him missing big free throws and jumpers late in the game. There have been over a half-dozen games where he’s missed a shot that would’ve iced the game or brought the Raptors completely back in it which has negatively affected his clutch rating. Maybe in his younger days he could’ve sustained his field goal accuracy for longer durations but as he approaches 33 it’s only going to get tougher.

Parker’s tendency to become anonymous for large parts of the game is very troublesome, as a starting shooting guard playing 39+ minutes a game you have to be a constant factor in the play. There are times where you almost forget that he’s in the game until you look at the box score after the game (see Orlando) which makes you wonder just exactly what the hell he was doing while he was in there. This phenomenon is partially because he’s not a good enough scorer to demand the ball and score consistently like better 2-guards such as Crawford, Johnson, Hamilton, Allen or Richardson. It’s also because in a Bosh-central offense his primary role becomes that of a three-point shooter. If the defense has him covered on the three-point line, he basically becomes a non-factor. Although there have been a few times where he’s carried the team offense over a 4-5 minute stretch, it doesn’t happen nearly enough for him to be considered a go-to guy when your offense is in a funk.

Overall, Parker’s offense only flourishes when teammates are setting great screens, Bosh is being doubled off his man and he’s being guarded by smaller players. If that’s not happening, Parker finds getting his points much harder and becomes that much less of a factor. He doesn’t have any go-to moves in his arsenal, something which is almost mandatory for a shooting guard on a team that hopes to be contending. The 7% dip in his playoff shooting percentage (48% – 41%) is a great example of how a limited offensive player like Parker can be neutralized in a controlled and planned playoff setting.

Just like his offense, Parker’s defense also suffers as the game wears on. This is completely natural for any NBA player but since the Raptors’ perimeter defense is leaky at best, a drop-off in Parker’s ability to keep his man in front of him is highlighted even more when we lose. Nobody can question his effort when it comes to man-defense, but if he’s guarded by a quicker player his lateral quickness can be put to the test quite easily. In many cases this year the offensive player has tried to create space by shaking Parker and shooting over him, he’s done an excellent job of contesting those shots. It’s because of these types of possessions and his on-court demeanor that he’s built a reputation of being a decent defender, but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty he has some serious issues.

The biggest complaint about Parker’s defense is that he drifts from his man for no reason, especially when he’s guarding him on the weak side. This has resulted in countless open threes for the opposition and has effectively negated anything else he does on defense or as some might argue, what he’s provided on offense. Sam Mitchell’s tenure has seen the team refuse to double team legit scorers (Kobe) while sending help when its not needed (Howard 12 feet out). Such inconsistent defensive philosophies have resulted in players like Parker, Delfino and Calderon not understanding their defensive duties as they should and they are always found cheating and getting burned. How many times this year have you seen Parker wildly flail his arm as the shot is being released? Those aren’t shot-contests at all because they don’t actually bother the shot, they just underline how late Parker is on his close-outs.

Jack Armstrong’s been saying it all season: down and dirty defense, quick close-outs, shot-contests and a determination to keep your man in front of you is what the Raptors need to do. Anthony Parker can give you the grittiness but if it isn’t accompanied by the lateral quickness and a defensive system that puts a premium on close-outs, it doesn’t mean much. Leo Rautins’ metaphysical love for Anthony Parker is largely because they’ve both bounced out of the NBA and played in Europe. Parker’s return to the NBA is something of a vindication for Rautins’ career, you know, European ball matters. Leo constantly referring to Parker as a clutch performer couldn’t be farther from the truth but his claim that Parker is a leader carries a lot of weight.

Just like Moon’s getting too much playing time because of lack of other options, Parker being a starter who plays close to 40 minutes a game tells you how thin we are on both offense and defense at the SG position. The closest thing to a backup shooting guard we have is Jason Kapono and he was missing practically the entire season, thus forcing Parker into playing heavy minutes which his body isn’t made for.

Parker probably should have been playing in the NBA a couple years before he started his Raptors stint. It would’ve been interesting to see what he could do with younger legs. At this point in his career Parker cannot be a starting shooting guard for a team that hopes to win a round or two in the playoffs. Maybe earlier in his career, but definitely not now. His contract is reasonable at 4.5M and he’s coming off the cap after next year. He should be playing approximately 20 minutes a game coming off the bench and become our Vinny “The Microwave” Johnson. Bryan Colangelo has to sure up the starting SF and SG position at some point and whether he can address both this summer is the question that will determine Parker’s fate. Colangelo has to decide whether Parker’s best value is in a trade to a contending team which puts a high value on his outside touch and veteran leadership or letting him come off the cap next year.

Personally, I like Anthony Parker’s attitude, on-court demeanor and what he can give on offense. He’s simply too old to be a factor the way a starting shooting guard should be. I think he has a place on this team as long as his role his reduced and better defined, right now we’re asking too much of him and when he doesn’t deliver (12.5 PPG – 32nd among guards) we tend to get upset without realizing that he’s just another player on the Raptors thats being asked to produce beyond his means.

As for the present today, George Washington anyone?

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

End this season already

Posted by Arsenalist on April 6, 2008

I miss The Oak.
I miss The Oak.
Big it up for eastcoastrapsfan for stepping up and doing a great job covering what appeared to be two unwatchable games that were the lowest points of the season. I’d like to think it can’t get any worse but Charlie Villanueva has yet to explode against his old team and there couldn’t be a sweeter time to do it than Wednesday. There are two things that make this stretch the Raptors are in even more unbearable 1) These are very important games that shouldn’t be hard to get motivated for and instead of stepping up and playing at a higher level, the team has malfunctioned and has once again shown how flawed it is at its core and 2) The opposition isn’t exactly great.

Barring something unforeseen and entirely out-of-the-blue, this Raptors team is headed for a one and done in the post-season. If that is to be the case, I’m hoping it’s a very humiliating series where this team is ripped apart in every game starting from tipoff to final buzzer. There shouldn’t be any doubts or questions about what the flaws of this team are, what the talent level on it is, how hard working the players are, how bad the coaching is, how suspect the preparation is and how watered down the on-court product is. The last thing I want is a first-round exit where we win two or three games and give false hope to the fans and management that this group might be more than a .500 team in a weak East. That’s one school of thought. The other is that we somehow win a playoff round (facing Orlando or whoever) and build on it in the off-season replacing key components instead of blowing the whole thing up. Fine, this might be a legitimate roadmap and something that I still subscribe to but what the previous fortnight has shown me is that instead of requiring maybe a legit 3 and a rebounder, we need a legit 3, a real rebounder, a better shooting guard, a better coach, another decent 3 and maybe something else.

We’re a jump shooting team and Dave Feschuk correctly summarized the reason for the NJ loss in a single sentence:

“..their jump-shot-heavy offense couldn’t produce the preferable haul of long-range swishes”

We can talk about our defense for eons at a time but the heavy reliance of our offense on outside jumpers is too much. The always crucial Points in the Paint stat has always been against us and over the last three years there’s been nothing done to remedy that. Yeah we average 100.24 which is good for 13th in the league but what gets masqueraded is that we get into long stretches where we’re comfortable trading baskets with teams that know very well that when it comes down to it in the fourth quarter, they’ll be able to get a stop and we won’t. We lack a clutch performer, Chris Bosh is a power forward and that’s probably the last position player you want originating your offense in the clutch, it’s not a shock that the fourth quarter is usually his worst. I respect Chris Bosh for playing hard on both ends but his clutch game focuses on trying to get fouled rather than trying to score – not a good #1 strategy. In another Feschuk article, he’s absolving Sam Mitchell and blaming the fourth quarter blues on Bosh:

…if your $13 million all-star can’t stick an elbow in a smaller man’s eye and score at a game’s biggest moments, in a league in which the best player on the floor so often prevails, you’ve got bigger problems than the contents of the clipboard.

Harsh but warranted criticism. However, Sam Mitchell gets a big fat F on his coaching this season regardless of how well Bosh has done in the clutch. His failure to establish a consistent rotation, develop Bargnani (yes, he takes some blame for that), handle the TJ Ford situation and tighten up his X’s and O’s have no doubt proven that the Coach of the Year awards don’t mean shit. His post-game analysis of things has become mundane and it always boils down to making shots and just playing “better”. Sure, he doesn’t have much to work with but its not like he’s helped improve one area of this team from opening day. Even Sam Vincent’s ahead of Mitchell at this point.

As I’m typing this Kevin Durant just hit a deeeep bomb to tie the game in overtime at 135.

The question is how do the Raptors salvage the rest of the season and the playoffs. What can they do that might make this campaign a relative success and not a drastic reverse from last season? Winning a playoff round is looking more and more unlikely, the development of Andrea Bargnani (arguably our core piece) has been a huge disappointment, our successful PG combo from last year has been a source of more disruption than production, our bench has declined (especially defensively) and generally speaking there hasn’t been a single area where we’ve improved from last year. The answer of course I don’t have (maybe we need a hero?) But I know that even if we do somehow manage to fluke some playoff success by some sheer stroke of luck, it’s going to be a hollow victory because the knowing supporter is well aware of the problems that this team has.

We have five games left and even if we win all five, it won’t mean a damn thing aside from getting some soon to be squashed momentum on our side. I want Atlanta to catch us so we can drop to 8th and face Boston, at least Bosh will get an up-close look at greatness when he faces Kevin Garnett and take something away from the experience. If we face Detroit they’ll just put on a technical marvel of how to dismantle a team broken at the nucleus – if you think the Raptors have issues shooting the ball right now, wait till Billups, Wallace and Co. get done clamping down on Parker, Bosh and Forderon.

Let’s look past the technical issues, the thing to be most questioned about this team is its mental toughness and willingness to fight. There have been very few occasions where this team has played playoff intensity basketball or shown a determined grit and desire to make a consistent defensive stand. Never have we stood up for a teammate after a hard foul, rarely have we shown a willingness to win a game in the paint and play tenacious physical basketball in the trenches, almost never to be found is that deep confidence that even the hated Vince Carter displayed late in the fourth quarter. The swagger and killer instinct hasn’t been there all year and it’s left up to the smallest guys on the court to rev up a team whose heart seems to be missing.

There are times when one thinks back to Charles Oakley and even Antonio Davis (like him or hate him) and realizes that those types of players bought intangibles to a team that are almost a necessity to any rebuilding project. It’s that touch that we miss right now. Say what you will about Glen Grunwald but when he saw a problem, he tried to fix it. It may have gotten him in trouble once in a while but at least he acted and built a pretty damn good team at one point – it was Lenny that couldn’t figure his end out.

This summer is looming large for the Raptors, we need to take a long hard look at Andrea Bargnani and see what we have in him, if it’s just a continuation of status quo, we need to dump him right after bumping up his trade value. The TJ/Jose thing is a mess and someone needs to go (TJ has some great value, I sincerely believe that), summer signings and trades (note the plural) are almost a must if we plan on finishing anything above than 4th in the Atlantic. Our scouts (taking Final Four off) need to look at the draft and see if there are any sleepers that can help this team right now, we don’t need any more Joey Grahams or Jamario Moons, we need some players that can take the pressure off of Bosh. In other words, we have a lot of work to do and Bryan Colangelo and Maurizio Gherardini better not have any vacations planned.

One might even say that the summer has already started.

Posted in premiership, Raptors, Sports, tfc | Tagged: , , , , , | 22 Comments »