Arsenalist

The Toronto Raptors Blog with an Arsenal touch

Posts Tagged ‘Roko Ukic’

I can smell Joey in the air

Posted by Arsenalist on October 18, 2008

Joey Graham plays a few minutes where he looks like a basketball player and all three papers are pumping out articles about him: Star, Sun and Globe. But you don’t really need to click on any of those links because what they say about Graham can be logically deduced if you’ve been a casual supporter over the last few years. The Raptors have always just been hoping that Good Joey shows up to the games rather than actually hastening his return, but Mitchell thinks the coaches are doing what they can:

Joey’s attitude is always great He’s a joy to be around. It’s frustrating sometimes because you see that talent and you’re trying to figure out how to tap into it. You know that you’re really going to have something good if you can and you’re always hopeful. As coaches we have to continue to work with him. Not get down on him, not give up on him, we’re not going to do that.

Judging by the 8.7 minutes Graham played last year somehow I think we’re not doing all we can to help him out. As Feschuk points out in the Star, it might be that “Mitchell’s incessant criticism has damaged Graham beyond repair”. Who knows, maybe he’ll come around and be productive for us and usurp Jamario Moon. There’s a school of thought out there that says if you put him in the starting lineup instead of Moon we’re going to be a better team. Joey is a much better slasher than Moon and has shown a desire to attack the rim (the finishing isn’t there but that’s a different story) which should be welcomed by Mitchell. The defense is probably not as good as Moon’s but that’s only because of Moon’s reach, there’s no talent differential there. Both have serious issues with their man-defense, can’t shoot, become anonymous on offense, take bad shots and do general dumb stuff on the court. I don’t think I’d even notice a difference if you substituted one for the other which is why I’ve always said that Graham deserves more time.

So Joey had a good game, so what? Let’s get back to reality, he always has a good preseason game or two giving way to such enthusiasm and since this is already his fourth year with the team and neither the coach or the GM has seen anything great out of him, I think Graham is done as a Raptor. But that doesn’t mean he’s not going to be a serviceable NBA player. At this stage of his career he needs a team where he can play through his mistakes for 20 minutes a night and a coach that doesn’t ride him so hard so that he gets his rhythm and confidence back.

Speaking of Graham, his brother’s having a good preseason over in Indiana along with Raptors draft pick Roy Hibbert. You’ll love Hibbert’s line: 12 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks. Has any Raptor grabbed 12 rebounds or 4 blocks this preseason? No, they haven’t. We’re going to regret trading Hibbert, it was obvious then it’s even more obvious now. The O’Neal trade would’ve felt a lot better if we would’ve been able to keep our pick, as khandor mentions all the time it was a 4 assets for 1 asset trade.

There’s a very nice blog post over at CBC sports which really stole the words out of my mouth. Its basically pointing out that although Will Solomon looks good he doesn’t really look good which is very true. There are some who compared Solomon to TJ Ford which was ridiculous because Solomon just doesn’t have the court vision or dribbling skills to ever be as good as Ford is now. Bringing the ball up the court, using a screen and knocking down a jumper behind it does not make a point guard. Granted, Solomon’s pleasantly surprised a few people with his scoring but that doesn’t mean he’s been running the point effectively, his assists and turnover numbers aren’t flattering and he often guides the offense to a grounding halt by picking up his dribble under mild pressure. Last year we had Delfino playing the point for about 4-6 minutes a game when Ford went down and this year you would think Roko Ukic would get that opportunity and if you’re a Roko fan (which I am), you’d want Solomon and his minutes switched around. Help me out here Sam.

The Knicks might be sending Danilo Gallinari to the D-League on a “rehab assignment”. D’Antoni feels that the D-League was made for raw talent like Gallinari which prompts me to suggest that we should be sending Nathan Jawai down there too. Get him that “taste of reality” D’Antoni’s talking about, its a lot better than rotting on the bench in Toronto. And might I suggest that if Roko Ukic isn’t going to be getting much playing time as indicated by the preseason (if he’s averaging 8MPG in preseason, what will happen in the real games), send him down to the trenches so he can get a taste of the physical American game. It’s not a crazy thought, no, its not.

Do you ever feel nostalgic about Rob Babcock? You ever thank him for Jose Calderon, Roko Ukic, Charlie V and freeing up cap space? I sometimes do but then I look back at the 2004 draft and remember that we passed over Andre Iguodala (9), Andris Biedrins (11), Al Jefferson (15), Josh Smith (17), JR Smith (18) and Beno Udrih (18). It makes me feel a little better until I look at the 2006 draft and remember that Colangelo passed up on Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay. Actually, come to think of it that was very crappy draft year….just some Saturday morning random thoughts.

There’s a little note in this article which says the Raptors will play one of FC Barcelona or the Lakers on Sunday if they beat the Clippers tonight. Back-to-back’s in preseason. What’s that all about?

Hey, get the RSS feed for this blog. It’s free. Got to get ready for Arsenal vs. Everton now. Later.

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

Roko Ukic vs. Will Solomon, Sam Mitchell vs. Media

Posted by Arsenalist on October 16, 2008

It’s the only question mark left on the Raptors squad, who will be Jose Calderon’s official backup? In the black corner is an unheard of European journeyman that resembles a poor man’s TJ Ford in what he can do on the court. Unfortunately he also reminds you of Mike James. In the white corner we have an NBA rookie and another European professional, Roko Ukic, who happens to be a remnant of the Rob Babcock era (bringing that tally to 4 – Bosh, Calderon, Mitchell). So far Solomon appears to be ahead in the race but that’s only because he’s been getting more minutes, if you extrapolate Roko Ukic’s play and numbers over the course of 48 preseason minutes he’s averaging 84ppg, 39apg and 16 spectacular plays per game. In hopes of making this race a little tighter (and fairer), Mitchell will be cutting back Calderon’s minutes and giving them to the wannabe backups, with Ukic getting a major bump:

“Right now we are giving (Solomon) an opportunity. I haven’t decided yet because Roko is getting better every day. Roko is doing some things and I have to get him more (court time). I’m probably going to be trimming Jose’s minutes back a little bit and start playing those two guys more so I can really, really get a good look at both of them.”

Fun fun and Giggity Giggity Goo. My money’s on Solomon but my heart’s with Ukic, there’s something about him that says “I’m actually better than Jose”.

Chris Bosh isn’t going to be lured by the European millions (Article, Video) that will apparently be offered to Lebron and Kobe. Bosh says he’s happy where he is and it’s comfortable at home and he needs to prove himself and the grass is sometimes greener on the other side and that he’ll go for what he knows right now but let’s not kid ourselves, if he gets offered 35M/yr he’s out of here. Like. Now.

I hate the way Sam Mitchell talks to the media. Listen to this interview. So annoying.

“You don’t have a question, you don’t have to think of something..you going aaaawww…now something dumb can happen…you guys complain when I’m mean but now I’m nice and you still complain…”

Name me one other NBA coach that talks like that. Worst part is that he thinks he’s dropping knowledge on us by saying simple common sense generic stuff. Today he’s talking about being aggressive and working on our offense because we always work on our defense and something about personnel, team, leeway, screens and other generic scrum talk. Funny part is that whatever basketball specifics he says the team’s working on in practice is exactly the area where the Raptors under-perform in games right after. So watch our offense against Minny tonight, it better be pristine and running like a Japanese railway.

Back to the press briefly, there are few people that are more annoying than the morning show guys on the Fan 590 but I find myself rooting for them every time Mitchell’s on because the condescension starts from the second he’s on. It’s too much to bear for even an outsider and casual observer like me. Now these guys aren’t exactly Rick Reillys but they’re just doing their job and the least your millionaire ass could do is answer a few questions without sounding like a jerk, you know, like the rest of the team and management does. Somebody should slap Matt Devlin’s personality on Sam Mitchell when it comes to talking to the press.

Quick thought, does the title of this article apply to Jamario Moon? Moon’s playing time last year and so far this year is the ultimate indication of just how shallow we are at our wing position. It says a lot when you’re a starter and wander on the court aimlessly for 30 minutes and nobody talks about your game. The starting SF is a foregone conclusion and for yet another year Joey Graham fails to challenge for it for whatever reason. At least last year Delfino had Moon on his toes but this year who’s the challenger? Will Solomon? Kapono? Sad state of affairs this.

There’s a game tonight, Minny at home. I’ll be watching out for how Jermaine O’Neal handles Al Jefferson. Not a lot going on in Raptorland so I’m off to bed.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , | 18 Comments »

Early “statement game” against Philly + PER madness

Posted by Arsenalist on October 10, 2008

Did you watch the Knicks game? If you did, how many time did you see Jamario Moon “drive the basket aggressively”? You didn’t because it didn’t happen so I’m going to go ahead and say that Mike Ulmer didn’t watch the game or if he did he was baked out of his skull at the time. A worthwhile quote from that article is Andrea Bargnani admitting that his mid-range jumper is much better and how its something that he’s been working on. I was surprised at how much softer it had become since last year when the only destination for it was the back-rim.

Sherm the Germ mentioned it during the Knicks game and the Toronto Sun is insinuating it too: Will Solomon is Jose Calderon’s primary backup. Two pre-season games is not an indicator of how good or bad a player is so I wouldn’t read much into his decent games except that he’s a feisty little guard who’s looking to stick in the league. He’s not TJ Ford but I could see him coming off the bench and providing a defensive lift while sparking the offense; ironically that’s the role Jose Calderon was asked to play the last two seasons. I think Roko Ukic is on line to have a season like Mo Pete’s rookie one where he moved without the ball, played hard and converted his open shot opportunities. I wouldn’t hand the job to Will Solomon just yet, he might get the early dibs on it because of his experience but Ukic is the guy you want in that role.

From the same piece we learn that Jermaine O’Neal will play about 30 minutes in Sunday’s game so we should see a bit more of him this time around. Our twin towers are going head-to-head against Philly’s and it should make for an interesting dynamic. I would count this one as something more than just a warm-up game, you want to send a division rival an early message just like Boston sent us one last year. Hopefully Mitchell realizes this because for a team that’s looking to find an identity its games like these that help towards building one. The matchup features the two teams who made the biggest acquisitions in the East in the hopes of usurping Boston but before we can attempt to do that we should try settling the score between us. This will be a good test for our interior defense, Bargnani’s post-up ability and our perimeter defense which Iggy licks his chops at.

Lang Whitaker finally finished reading the Pedowitz Report and finds a sentence in it which summarizes it succinctly:

We have discovered no information suggesting that any NBA referee other than Tim Donaghy has bet on NBA games or leaked confidential NBA information to gamblers.

I suppose this means Scott Foster is off the hook and we can go right back to respecting and loving NBA referees and pretending their personal biases don’t come into play (ahem Hue Hollins, Steve Javie, Joey Crawford, Jess Kersey). I think a lot of the referees in the league are arrogant little power-tripping ****s, sure there’s always the honest hard-working “the game is above me” type ref but they’re in the vast minority. The only thing that I can say in their defense is that the NBA is the hardest league to referee.

There’s much being made about Bill Walker’s dunk on Theo Ratliff (YouTube) but the only thing that it convinces me is that you can find some talent in the second round if you’re prepared to look hard enough. Adding a young athletic winger can never hurt, especially as a second round pick since there aren’t any contractual commitments. It’s not like it’ll become a “Joey Graham situation”. Of course I’m referring to CDR being picked a spot ahead of us because we didn’t bother targeting him and picked a Sashimi raw big man that’s got heart issues even though we needed to get more athletic.

Bleacher Report time. Relax, nothing bad this time. It’s a piece by Messiah2315 where he argues how Jose Calderon is far from an ideal point guard. It’s a great read if you doubt Jose’s PG abilities, not so much if you don’t. This might be a good time to mention that according to Hollinger TJ Ford is better than Jose Calderon. That’s from his PER rankings where we also learn that Chris Bosh is deemed the second best PF in the league along with other meaningless rankings. I really hate this system.

Frank Zicarelli reminds us how David Stern cost us Greg Oden. I’d like to remind you that Voshon Lenard cost us a shot at Lebron James (think about it). Vince Carter left a game injured and Ball Don’t Lie is picking the Sixers to win 50 games.

Finally a little quiz. Who do you think Draft Express is projecting as the #1 pick in the 2009 draft? Think about it and when you’re done click for the answer.

That’s it for this morning, feed anyone?

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

“We’re going to play physical and we’re going to play tough”

Posted by Arsenalist on October 7, 2008

Pre-season will never tell you how good your team is but it might tell you how bad it is. That’s probably why Bryan Colangelo’s making the trip to Cleveland to see his team and prized acquisition in action. He’s also sure to keep a close eye on Sam Mitchell, Colangelo’s not a GM that meddles in coaching affairs but he might make an exception this year if he sees players like Bargnani, Kapono or O’Neal being misued or not used to their full capabilities. He made some comments towards the end of last season about player misuse and this time around I highly doubt he’s going to wait that long before letting Mitchell know what he really thinks. The leash is short.

The Raptors practiced on Monday and Mitchell’s saying that it’s all about getting better and acclimatizing O’Neal into the team. A veteran like O’Neal’s in cruise control and his pre-season performances hardly matters because its all about familiarizing yourself with team concepts. He also says the Raptors don’t do anything different than any other NBA team, they just call things differently. So pre-season is all about getting the nomenclature right. Andrea Bargnani gives a little more interesting interview where he stresses that he “needs to get better in the low-post” and thinks that his off-season regiment has given him new weapons which he can use this season. He’s also saying he gave up international ball in favor of following the regiment the Raptors had set for him. I think that had a lot to do with Maurizio Gherardini whispering something to Andrea as much as it had to do with him wanting to get better. In short, Bargnani’s talking the right talk heading into pre-season and so far his on-court results aren’t bad.

Basically the same thing is being rehashed here and here.

Now I don’t know if this is all talk but it makes me feel nice when I see a quote like this:

“It doesn’t matter who we play against, we’re going to play physical and we’re going to play tough.”

When was the last time a quote like that came out of training camp? I’d say not since the Oakley/Davis years have we had anyone close to an ‘enforcer’ in camp. I’m not saying O’Neal’s an enforcer, I’m saying he’s a big solid talented body that welcomes a physical challenge and won’t shy away from it. We’re counting heavily on O’Neal to provide a scoring punch, rebounding boost, interior defense and raw toughness in the paint. If he can deliver 3 out of 4, it ain’t bad. It’s sort of putting all our eggs in one basket but at least we have a basket.

Funny quote from Roko Ukic as pointed out by Lang Whitaker whose take on the Pedowitz Report is something I’m looking forward to:

“I got some air balls in the practices so far. I just need to reduce this.”

Joey Graham didn’t practice on Monday and neither did Nathan Jawai who was sent to a medical facility down south to get a second look at his aching heart. I’m telling you, he’s just homesick. Given the 13 players we have on the roster I’d put Graham, Jawai and Sampson at the bottom of the pecking order. If Humphries early success spills over to the regular season we’ll be seeing practically nothing of Sampson and barely anything of Jawai; they might end up being strictly practice players which Joey knows all about.

So we’re in Cleveland tonight and get the Knicks tomorrow at home. Lebron is expected to get some time along with Mo Williams and the Cavaliers will be looking to play some fast-break basketball and pressure the ball 90 feet which should provide a good challenge for Ukic who’s likely to get a good chunk of playing time. Just like us they’ll be testing things out so most of what will happen tonight shouldn’t carry much weight. There is the matter of the first quarter and a half which is played fairly hard by both teams and since Cleveland actually has excess players in camp they’ll be going hard at it for most of the game. We on the other hand have our roster set in platinum encrusted diamond.

Michael Curry’s been comparing Rodney Stuckey to Chris Bosh in a good way:

“As a player, I was in Toronto when Chris Bosh was a rookie, and their demeanors to me are the same. Both of them are very quiet but aggressive. Both of them had to work at it, but both of them want to be great.”

We (I) like to criticize Bosh for not being a “true franchise player” but I have never doubted his desire of wanting to be great and respect the work ethic, seriousness and commitment he brings to the team. I’m just waiting for him to elevate his game to the next level and maybe O’Neal can provide the backdrop for Bosh to rise to the NBA’s elite level – a constant MVP candidate.

That’s it for this morning. Have a nice Tuesday.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , | 23 Comments »

Lots of things need to go right for us to be good

Posted by Arsenalist on October 6, 2008

Captain Jack’s predicting 48 wins but at the same time says that 7 things need to go right for us: 1) We stay healthy 2) Unheard of second unit provides consistency 3) O’Neal plays 70+ games 4) Two of Humphries, Bargnani and Kapono have career years 5) High level team-defense and rebounding 6) Consistent effort and quality of play (no bombing 1st quarters at home against the Clippers) and 7) Great coaching.

And what lies at the end of the season according to Jack? A second-round appearance with an outside shot at the Conference Finals. That’s a lot of things that need to happen if we want to have our best ever season. It’s an optimistic article but keep in mind that this is the time to be optimistic and in fairness to Jack he did bring up the major question marks on the team, I just wouldn’t bet on us delivering on the 7 points. I think hoping O’Neal plays 70+ games is expecting too much and I don’t think Sam Mitchell is the coach that anyone can have a career year under nor is he a coach that is able to mask our lack of depth by “hiding” weaknesses.

Jermaine O’Neal’s being honest with himself these days and gives himself a D- when asked how he handled the leadership role in Indiana. He also says that early on this pre-season the Raptors spacing in scrimmages was terrible (*shudder*) but is getting better (*whew*). O’Neal sounds like he’s into playing defense and calls out previous Colangelo Raptors teams as being great on offense but shitty on defense. So given that we’ve gone back to the basics of mastering techniques like “defensive slides and close-outs”. I like this, our perimeter, close-out and rotational defense was so bad last year that in order to fix something so flawed you first have to completely tear it down. Hopefully there’s enough time before the season for Jamario Moon to learn how to force a guy baseline.

Speaking of overhauls our man Roko Ukic needs one, apparently he can’t shoot and his mechanics require a complete overhaul. The technician is Gord Herbert who’ll be trying to replace the great, great Dave Hopla (who did wonders for the 2006-07 team) in trying to teach the Raptors how to shoot. Says Roko:

“Basically, I never worked on my shot. In Europe I came too young with the first team when I was 15. I wound up skipping parts of my development. In Europe you work on your development until you come into the professional ranks. Once you are with the first team you are just working on the team stuff, the technical stuff. They don’t work so much on individual stuff so I’m missing some of the fundamentals, especially on my shot.”

I hope we actually help this kid and hot f*ck him up completely.

Kris Humphries and Andrea Bargnani were the two best players on the court in the inter-squad scrimmage in Ottawa. Humphries is getting a lot of attention and is delivering in the playing time that he’s getting. He’s a resource that wasn’t tapped properly last year and this year it’ll be even harder for Mitchell to give him proper, consistent minutes. With Andrea Bargnani likely to play the 4 or 5 when Bosh or O’Neal are resting, Humphries’ role diminishes. There’s 96 minutes to be had at the PF and C positions. If Bosh, O’Neal and Bargnani play say 30 minutes each, that leaves 6 minutes for Humphries. You’d think the Raptors would want to feature the Bosh/O’Neal combo so if Humphries were to get any more minutes they’d be at the expense of Bargnani. Either way he’ll be the second guy off the bench at the big positions unless Sampson or Jawai (still injured) usurps him.

Those sniveling little rotten c*nts at The Bleacher Report have shit out another article and this one’s a doozy. Here’s how they analyze the Raptors in their season preview:

Toronto is very interesting, because it has a very strong backcourt and are good at every position, but don’t have any strong players who can really take over a game. Anthony Parker had a very nice rookie season last year and should do even better, although he likely won’t get as many touches with such a strong presence in the post.

You know, every time I think I’m doing a poor job of running this blog I just browse over to that site and instantly feel better.

There are some clips from the scrimmage here and here. Can’t really tell much except that we’ll need to wait till the first game of the pre-season against Cleveland on Tuesday to know anything worthwhile about the team. Training camp in Ottawa is over and everyone’s giving their thoughts on how it went including Sam Mitchell who says that “the main goal of the pre-season is to come out healthy”. I think he misspoke there, surely there’s got to be more than just that. There’s tons of video on the official site.

Grab the feed for this blog. Trust me you’ll need it with the change I’ll be making soon :)

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , | 18 Comments »

Philly rip Raps, Leo rips Dally, Croatia rip Canada

Posted by Arsenalist on July 18, 2008

The Raptors dropped one to Philly in Vegas. Up by a deuce with 16 seconds left, they let Philly tie it on a layup (think defensive breakdown) and committed an offensive foul to give them the ball back with four seconds left. This of course was enough time for Jamont Gordon to lay one in with 0.6 left.

The PG play was a bit better with Ewing and Lucas improving their shot selection enough to have more points than attempts. Joey Graham and Hassan Adams got their run in and the Raptors had a nice rally in the third where they cut down an 8 point deficit. Nathan Jawai didn’t play (presumably because of his injury) and Rod Benson finally got off the bench for 0 points in 4 minutes. Honorable mention goes out to CJ Giles for grabbing 12 rebounds and being very active on the glass. There’s no point talking about this game because we’re not going to be signing a single player from this roster that we haven’t already inked.

Leo Rautins ripped into Samuel Dalembert on the Fan 590 and called him a prima dona. There are rumours that fire was coming out of Leo’s nose and smoke out of his ears when he was speaking.

The game against Croatia was nothing short of a blowout as recorded so excellently by the Posted Sports Live Blog. As Grange points out there was never a doubt about who the superior team was as Croatia suffocated the Canadians into horrid shooting spells to take the game 83-62. Canada shot 27.1% for the game! So ends Canada’s Olympic dreams and so begins the speculation of what the future of Basketball Canada holds including Leo Rautins’ job status. The Raptors interest in the game was Roko Ukic who ended up with an unimpressive 1/5 for 3 points (box score). As the Posted Blog notes, the main fault today was the inability to execute on offense more than the Croatian defense and that blame must lie somewhere. The game repeats in the evening at 10PM on The Score.

They’re trying to come up with a nickname for the Oklahoma City team and some douchebag is saying that naming the Raptors the Raptors was a mistake and just a 90’s fad. I beg to differ, so what if Jurassic Park was the thing back in the day, the Raptors name still isn’t half bad. The real mistake was associating the color purple with the team which could only mean Barney! Aren’t dinosaurs supposed to be big, dark and menacing? Our early marketing never really captured that image. I’m happy with the name, I just wish they’d stop using the word “extinct” every time we get kicked out of the playoffs.

A nice post here about how Phoenix is no longer the attractive NBA market that it used to be because of the way Robert Sarver does business which is in stark contrast to how Jerry Colangelo did it. The report also suggests that the Suns are going after Shaun Livinston among other second-tier guards. Deron Williams has agreed to an extension with the Jazz and the Clippers have signed Kelenna Azubuike to an offersheet as the exodus from Golden State continues.

Jay Triano will help P.J Carlesimo lead the US Select team which now also features O.J Mayo. Triano is obviously a very well-respected coach whose involvement with USA Basketball speaks volumes about his credibility around the league and his coaching skills. I never got around to figuring out why he was made the scapegoat for Team Canada’s failures. He got the short end of the stick on that deal and I’m happy for the bloke anytime I see his name popping up anywhere. Future NBA head coach this man right here.

Quick one today.

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

Ukic signing official + Joey Graham speaks + TJ Ford!

Posted by Arsenalist on July 17, 2008

Official announcement of the Roko Ukic signing is the main news of the day. It’s a guaranteed three year deal that runs till the end of the 2010-11 season. Financial terms weren’t disclosed but given how close the Raptors are to the cap, it can’t be more than a million per. In 34 regular season Italian League games, Ukic averaged 11.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.7 steals. The most impressive thing about the man was his blistering FG percentage which is close to 60%! Combined with Calderon, Ukic is going to give the Raptors an all-Euro PG tandem with steady hands.

The NBA-readyness of Ukic has often come into question, after being selected by Rob Babcock in the second round of the 2005 draft, Ukic, then a 21 year old, was deemed to need a year or so more of European basketball. But with Calderon and Ford gobbling up the minutes at that position Ukic was forced to prolong his European career although many scouts believed that he was NBA-ready. Now at 24, he comes into the league at the same age as Jose Calderon and we’re hoping the results are similar. Asking him to replace TJ Ford is a tall task given the former Raptor’s speed and ability to keep defenders on their toes, if Ukic can hold the fort down by playing good defense and running an organized offense while Calderon gets his 15 minute breather, he’ll fit right in.

There was some talk yesterday that the Raptors were interested in the services of James Posey. As ridiculous as that sounds the rumour carried some merit. That merit was quickly squashed as Posey cashed in on a 4 year 25 million dollar deal with the Hornets who have had enough of Mo Pete’s inconsistency. As John Hollinger points out, signing 30 year old role players to big deals rarely works out (see Bryon Russell, Dan Majerle, Jaren Jackson, Rick Fox and Raja Bell) and it hardly makes sense to pay Posey this kind of money this summer when nobody cared for him the previous year. The other big signing of the day had the Cavs giving Daniel Gibson a five year deal.

Mike Ulmer talked to Joey Graham about playing in the summer league. Basically Joey’s saying that its better than sitting at home. I’m curoius as to whether Bryan Colangelo requested Joey to participate or whether he decided on his own that he needs to sharpen up his game:

“I was at home, sitting around, and I really wasn’t working out with guys. I said ‘why not go somewhere and play?’…I want the coaches to know I still can play and that I am a guy who will work hard. Last year was the first time I didn’t play that much, my first bit of adversity. It builds character and makes me into the person I want to be. I didn’t like not playing.”

This is probably a good time to mention how bad the blogs on Raptors.com are. It took me five minutes to figure out how to just link to this story. I mean, can’t they just get a WordPress installation?

TJ Ford was introduced as an Indiana Pacer on Wednesday and he proclaims that “Pacers basketball is back!” Well, the way he said it there was no exclamation mark at the end but you know TJ, he speaks casually but his mind is racing at 100mph. Ford says he’s going to be durable and aims to play the entire season:

“I think a lot of people are wondering if I take a hard fall whether I’m going to get up or not. I think the staff we have here, the things they discussed with me, that can help my situation better than what it is. I think I’ll be durable throughout the season.”

I think he”ll be just fine with the athletes around him and the Pacers will surprise people. It’s definitely more of a rebuilding project than Toronto but Ford’s saying the right things early on and Jarret Jack does seem like he’s ready to take the back seat. Jim O’Brien’s calling the Pacers off-season so far a “stroke of genius”. I’m not going to go that far but it`s hard not to like the talent they’ve acquired.

Samuel Dalembert’s agent is responding to him being cut by wishing Basketball Canada “Good Luck ever getting another NBA player to show up again”. In hindsight, I’m not sure if cutting him was a great idea, it does send a bit of a harsh message to any other potential players. I think a benching would`ve sufficed but I stand behind Leo’s decision of not putting up with any nonsense.

The Raptors resume summer league on Thursday against the Sixers. Third time’s the charm. Dance Pak auditions are happening. Insert innuendo here.

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

Roko Ukic sale and some potpourri including Dalembert being kicked out

Posted by Arsenalist on July 16, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stakes raised for Sam Mitchell

Posted by Arsenalist on July 2, 2008

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

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

Quote from Tuesday:

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

‘Nuf said about how volatile this guy is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a long summer, too long.

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

Calderukic time + Defending Colangelo + Second round draft history

Posted by Arsenalist on July 1, 2008

Tuesday marks the first day of free agency and the Raptors have but one call to make. It’s to Jose Calderon offering him at least $40 million over 5 years. I suspect this deal to get done fairly quickly, after all Bryan Colangelo doesn’t trade Ford without having some assurance that Calderon’s demands aren’t too extravagant to not be met. We’ll end up paying Jose a lot of money and then proceed to bitch about it if/when he gets burned out by Mitchell who’ll be forced to play him 37 minutes a game because we won’t acquire a backup PG and/or if Ukic isn’t able to fill in adequately . Here’s hoping Calderon’s performances stay at least on par and his defense improves enough so that Bosh/O’Neal don’t spend their time clogging lanes left open by Jose.

There are also unconfirmed reports that Roko Ukic has signed a two year contract with the Raptors. It only makes sense. I figure we’ll see something more official in the next couple days.

Update: Calderon staying according to his website, no numbers yet:

“Early this morning, through my agents, I reached a preliminary agreement with the Toronto Raptors. I want to thank Bryan Colangelo, Maurizio Gherardini, Sam Mitchell and all of the Raptors family for the confidence that they have placed in me. I am sure that together we are going to achieve big things in the future.”

Add Kelly Dwyer to the Bryan Colangelo fanboy list. He’s very irked that two Toronto newspapers had the audacity to second-guess Colangelo’s wheelings and dealing of the past couple years and suggest that Colangelo could very well be an average NBA GM (this of course set off khandor). I wonder how long Colangelo will milk that division title which we happened to win the year the Atlantic was part of the NBDL. The article also calls for a Leave Britney BC Alone video.

Dwyer does bring a good point up, it’s up to Sam Mitchell to use Jermaine O’Neal effective and if he can’t, the Raptors should eat the rest of Mitchell’s contract and get themselves a coach that knows how to use what he’s given. The Raptors have to make sure that Jermaine O’Neal’s offensive game complements Bosh and doesn’t take anything away from it. Bosh should never be starved of shots and O’Neal’s role should be well-defined enough so that combined with Bosh they can create a threat which will open up the rest of our offense, not create two black holes. Last season’s player utilization was hard to watch with the sub patters of Kapono, Bargnani, Humphries and Rasho all open for criticism. Not to mention how Sam got away with Kapono hitting only three threes in two months. Ugh, disgusting. Colangelo will not stand for anything similar with Jermaine O’Neal since he’s on a short two year contract in which results are expected.

Ladies and gentleman, I present to you the Toronto Raptors second round draft history:

1995, #35 – Jimmy King, Michigan
1998, #47 – Tyson Wheeler, Rhode Island
1999, #46 – DeeAndre Hulett, USBL
2003, #52 – Remon Van de Hare, FC Barcelona
2004, #40 – Albert Miralles, Spain
2005, #41 – Roko Ukic, Croatia
2005, #58 – Uros Slokar, Slovenia
2006, #35 – PJ Tucker, Texas
2008, #41 – Nathan Jawai, Australia

Two things to point out, the only good piece that ever came out of this lot is Roko Ukic and we have Rob Babcock to thank for that one. As you can see, expectations should be very low for anything we pick up in the second round so there’s no disappointment in what we got. The annoyance of this pick isn’t in the pick itself but in the fact that CDR – an athletic defensive minded SF – was taken right before us. The Raptors weren’t proactive enough in trying to get something out of this draft and failed to even partially address a very obvious need – athleticism.

Ron Artest is not opting out of his contract with the Kings. Ron Ron says the Kings have “been there for me”. How very romantic. The real reason of course is that he knows no team will pay him more than the $8M he’s making now and he doesn’t want to play for a contender for less money. I mean, if the Kings were “there” for you, why not just outright say you won’t be opting out at the end of the season. These athletes really piss me off sometime. Emotions aside, when the season ended I wanted the Raptors to acquire Ron Artest in a trade and draft Brandon Rush. 0-2 there.

The Wizards resigned Antawn Jamison for 4yrs/50m which is fair market value for him. Applause for Ernie Grunfeld. Wait a minute though, he’s talking about giving Gilbert Arenas a 100 million dollar contract which will ensure that the Wizards never get past the second round for the next decade. If ever there was an opportunity to sign-and-trade somebody, this is it. If Grunfeld actually gives him the deal after he blackmailed the Wizards by threatening to leave unless Jamison got his contract, it’ll show how owners and GMs are absolute slaves to players. Arenas single-handedly lost the Cleveland series and he gets rewarded with a deal. Blah!

Now if you read this space fairly regularly you must know what I think of those imbeciles over at The Bleacher Report. This time their “analysis” of our draft has this to say:

The addition of Jermaine O’Neal is either going to be a hit or miss for the Toronto Raptors. In my opinion the Raptors got the worse end of this trade. Although they got better in size including the addition of Roy Hibbert they got nothing at the guard position.

Piss off. Seriously. Stop writing and sell that domain to a company selling bleachers.

Stuck in Vancouver till Thursday night. Watching American History X again, sick movie. Might give TauEpsilonNu’s idea a second thought.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments »