Arsenalist

The Toronto Raptors Blog with an Arsenal touch

Posts Tagged ‘sam mitchell’

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

Posted by Arsenalist on October 12, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“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 »

Over/under date for Sam Mitchell firing

Posted by Arsenalist on July 31, 2008

Let’s get some Raptors news out of the way. We’re playing defending Euroleague champions CSKA Moscow in a pre-season game on October 14th, Posted Sports looks at our history in these international affairs. We’ll also be traveling to Edmonton on October 21st to face the Nuggets at Rexall Place.

Back to the reason for this post: Sam Mitchell. There was a time under the Lenny Wilkens regime when the makeup of the Raptors team demanded great coaching and technique. The talent and experience was there and the onus lay on the coach to produce results. Lenny often always failed us in that regard and when it finally became intolerable he was let go in favor of Kevin O’Neill, a defensive minded X’s and O’s coach who was brought it so that the Raptors could finally get a system in place which would take advantage of the talent and ability on the team. Unfortunately, O’Neill also failed us.

Not since the days of Lenny have we absolutely demanded anything of our coach, at best we hoped the team would make the playoffs or maybe have a good regular season. The head coaching job here was practically a no-stress job where expectations were fairly low and if you played your cards right you’d have a chance to see through your contract. Going into next year things have changed. There are expectations of Sam Mitchell next year, whether they’re realistic or not is an entirely different matter but for the first time in his coaching career he’s going to be absolutely expected to deliver. From Colangelo’s perspective he’s handed Mitchell two All-Star power forwards and one of the best PGs in the East; we can point to the weaknesses of the rest of the roster but that doesn’t change the fact that there is some great talent on this team that Colangelo won’t stand to see wasted.

The question then becomes whether Mitchell can deliver Colangelo’s vision. Judging by the technical merits displayed by Mitchell in his time here you would think that he doesn’t have a shot. Regardless of which side of the Mitchell fence you’re on you have to acknowledge that the man lacks the X’s and O’s knowledge to compete with the likes of Stan Van Gundy, Lawrence Frank and other relatively young coaches. Just as we expect players to improve through the course of the seasons, Mitchell must also improve. This coming year can be seen as his “make or break” year when it comes to the Raptors organization and if things go south in the fall, I would not be surprised to see Colangelo swallow his contract and get a European coach like Ettore Messina in here.

If I had to ask one question of Bryan Colangelo, it would be this: What win total do you expect next year and what seed are you aiming for? The answer to this question will ultimately decide whether Mitchell will be finishing his contract. After openly questioning the utilization of Jason Kapono and Andrea Bargnani last year Colangelo made it clear that he was not happy with some of the coaching that was going on. One can’t expect him to tolerate the same mistakes from Mitchell who is sure to be on a short leash because after all when a team fails the first thing a GM does is make a scapegoat of the coach.

So while some may argue that the talent, however ‘concentrated’, is there, others may argue that Mitchell is being setup to fail with a team with close to half a dozen new faces with varying levels of talent. He didn’t show enough intelligence or common sense last year when trying to establish a rhythm with Jason Kapono, Andrea Bargnani or Kris Humphries so you would think he’ll be hard-pressed to do the same with the new set of players. We as fans can only hope that Mitchell’s development and ability has improved because his skills will be of high premium next year as he’ll be facing his biggest challenge yet.

It makes sense to add a veteran assistant coach to the Raptors coaching staff who’s expertise lies on the drawing board. If we can combine Mitchell’s motivation techniques with a true basketball sense this team could and should work. Hell, I’d take Kevin O’Neill any day, the guy was a horrible NBA head coach but there’s a lot to be said about his defensive coaching. As for our offense, adding a coach with a European background makes too much sense especially given that Jose Calderon now has full reigns on the team. As it is right now our coaching staff is simply not good enough to deliver and makeup for the lack of depth on this team.

Phil Jackson needs Tex Winter, Doc Rives needs Tom Thibodeau, Jerry Sloan needs Phil Johnson, Stan van Gundy needs Patrick Ewing..well..er..maybe not..but the point is Sam Mitchell needs some guidance when it comes to coaching. Mike Evans, Jay Triano and Alex English might be good but they haven’t shown any creativity with the offense which fails us too often in the fourth quarter. On a side note one of the best coaching moves we ever made was hiring Dave Hopla the year before last, pity he left us.

So what is the over/under date for a Mitchell firing? I’d say Christmas. If the team is struggling and the resources are not being utilized to what Colangelo thinks is their potential, he’s not going to be willing to waste the season and will naturally make a move to replace Mitchell with a hand-picked coach who’s probably been in the back of his mind since the day he took over the job.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , | 40 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 »

What’s really going to happen in the draft….

Posted by Arsenalist on June 7, 2008

Raptors War Room

Colangelo: Who do we take in this draft?

Mitchell: I need a rebounder, a scorer, a playbook, some athleticism and defense.

Gherardini: I know a few guys overseas who can supply that in one package.

Colangelo: What? Who?

Mitchell: Oh no, here we go again….

Gherardini: Ronalds Zakis.

Mitchell: Who?

Colangelo: Who?!?

Gherardini: Ronalds Zakis, he’s 6′ 9″ and from Latvia, need I say more? He gets you 6.5 rebounds a game and is NBA-ready. He can shoot, he can pass, he can rebound and most of all he fits like a glove on this team. I’ve been following this guy since age 4, a talent unseen I swear by the Gods.

Mitchell: How about we take Brandon Rush? We could use some of that scoring and defense, he’s athletic too and we desperately need that. He even plays perimeter defense you know……

Colangelo: (ignoring Mitchell, turning towards Maurizio) Tell me more about Zakis.

Gherardini: He got 1400 in his SATs and sat through Sex and the City without even flinching…

Colangelo: By God!! This man is a beast.

Mitchell: That don’t mean shit.

Gherardini: Told you the guy was tough, question is will he be available at #17, personally, I think Phoenix will grab this guy at #16, we should trade up.

Colangelo: Done! Let’s just ask Jim Kelly what he thinks about Zakis. Hey Jim, what thou thinkst of our fellow Zakis?

Kelly: (pretending he knows who Zakis is) Well, I think he’s a goooood player with goood potential and has gotten stronger since the last time I saw him and is on his way to becoming a gooood player…..?

Mitchell: Oh Jim, please help me out here. I don’t need this man, I need Rush or Lopez or Dorsey or even Hibbert…please no more 5 year projects..I beg you man.

Colangelo: (ignoring Mitchell’s negativity) Sam, you’ll love this guy. Should we ask Chris Bosh what he thinks about the pick?

Mitchell: (sensing some hope) Yes, yes!! Let’s ask Chris, he’ll tell you what we should do!

Gherardini: Judging by the great chemistry and synergy and love Bargnani and Bosh display, its clear that Chris loves to play with underdeveloped players with a shot at greatness but a probability of mediocrity. Its just a waste of time asking him, its almost insulting his intelligence.

Colangelo: Agreed! Zakis it is…on we go…trade TJ Ford + #17 to Golden State for #14.

Mitchell: (defeated, stares blankly into space)

——

Yeah, its a slow day and its the weekend. Take the mind of the Raptors and go roll a blog joint with Cuzoogle or check out Euro 2008.

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

Shit from here and there

Posted by Arsenalist on May 19, 2008

I almost made a post on Sunday but the Celtics Game 7 win didn’t sit right with the stomach. There’s a team in the conference finals that has yet to win a road game, isn’t this a little sad? The Lebravs had this game but he took a very bad shot down 3 late in the fourth and failed to keep Paul Pierce away on a Big-Z vs. Posey jumpball. Ballgame right there. As Lang Whitaker explains the result was hardly his fault, Cleveland’s a good defensive team but they run plays for Delonte West in the clutch. There’s something highly fucked about that. Turns out the only guy who doesn’t choke on oxygen for the Celtics is PJ Brown. The sad shit that is Kevin Garnett couldn’t buy a field goal when it counted and if Bosh had taken similar shots down the stretch he would’ve been a candidate for castration on every blog and RealGM for weeks. Anywho, Celtics = cunts. Very big ones.

Rasho exercising the 8-mil option on his deal was quite predictable, he’s a nice enough guy with a dry sense of humor, a good jumper and great fundamentals on defense but I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if he’s worth 8 million dollars. If the plan is to rebuild, Rasho should be at best spelling Bargnani for 10-15 minutes a game while Andrea feast or famines it for 35+. The best Colangelo could’ve done here is buy him out and spend the money on that elusive scorer, but he doesn’t strike me as a man that’s into giving free money.

I have a sick feeling the Knicks are going to get the top pick. The NBA can’t afford to have a shit-stain of a franchise in New York for too long. The Knicks have the 5th highest chance of winning but they’re the front runners to do so. Mike D’Antoni’s NY signing also came after he secretly met with David Stern who assured him that he’ll get the #1 pick as long as it means NY becomes more than a treadmill team that would get swept in a 7-game series by the Charlotte Sting. How’s that for conspiracy theories? I’m probably not that far off. In other lottery news, Jay-Z will be repping the Nets in Secaucus.

There was a Raptor article in the Toronto Star today, it’s about Raptors scout Masai Ujiri giving back to Nigeria. Cry me a river. Seriously though, nice guy. You think this post is weak? Doug Smith’s “reporting” that the Raptors would give permission to any team who would want to interview our assistant coaches. No fucking shit Doug! These guys are dying for that chance and to hold it from them would be like denying them water in the middle of the desert. He’s also really bewildered why Phoenix and Chicago haven’t approached them for their coaching vacancy. I can get that one for you Doug: It’s because our offensive and defensive system is a fucking joke and reflects badly on our entire staff, not just Mitchell.

Miami’s plan is to land a free agent power forward and if they do I hope they can give us Udonis Haslem in exchange for TJ Ford. Chris Quinn and J-Will aren’t cutting it in Miami and Ford might be a good fit with the high-flying Shawn Marion on the wing and a double-team-inducing guard in Wade. I’m probably pipe-dreaming again.

Jay Bilas wants to tweak the draft. Who cares? Then there’s this guy who’s comparing Lebron James to Allen Iverson because of their NBA Finals run. This guy must be born of parents who were siblings.

Till tomorrow. Enjoy Game 7.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , | 29 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 »

I heart Phoenix

Posted by Arsenalist on May 1, 2008

Basketball is so much more enjoyable when there’s not a losing home team to worry about, take for example Game 5 of the Cleveland-Washington series last night. The Cavs were up 5 and with the ball with about 1:30 left and Lebron jacked up an ill-advised three. The rest is history as Washington forces Game 6 at home (probably because Arenas didn’t play). With 11 seconds to run a play Caron Butler drove the ball straight at Lebron to get the go-ahead points. Notice that he didn’t take a perimeter jump shot about 3 feet out of his range after just catching the ball from his point guard, even though he was being guarded by the other team’s best defender. Ahhhh. That felt good.

The Phoenix Suns are being mentioned a lot, trade ideas involving the acquisition of Barbosa and Diaw seem to be popular with TJ Ford + chump change going the other way. Steven Nash is on the decline and since TJ Ford is the closest thing to him it make a little sense that TJ could be linked with a move to the desert. He might have the run ‘n gun in him but he sure doesn’t have the outside shot, left-handed finishing ability, ability to keep the dribble alive under pressure, poise, and most of all discipline. Phoenix is one of those teams that’s always trying to hunt for the title, I don’t see them giving the reigns to Ford and feeling confident of even making the playoffs. At best if he goes there, he’s going to play backup until Nash retires or dies.

The Atlanta Hawks might be a better fit for TJ Ford, he could get away with a lot more there than if he was playing under the high-scrutiny of the Suns. The Hawks need a point guard and we got a spare one – it’s a match made in heaven. Bibby isn’t going to stick around and Ford comes relatively cheap, there’s always the injury risk but the ROI for the Hawks could be good. I’ll take Marvin Williams or Josh Childress, thank you.

Jack McCallum is reporting that Mike D’Antoni is on the outs in Phoenix which is going to make Bryan Colangelo regret saying that Mitchell is safe. If the story is true and D’Antoni is fired, there is no way Sam Mitchell will be the coach of the Raptors next year. Colangelo will convince MLSE to swallow Mitchell’s salary at the chance of hiring D’Antoni again. In Colangelo’s world where defense and rebounding always come second to racking up points, D’Antoni could conceivably be the guy that turns the Raptors into Phoenix East, something that was always the intent. Will that translate to playoff success? Probably not, but will it give the fans some false hope that this team might even wind a round or two? Oh yes. His poor defensive record will hardly matter for teams who’ll be looking to replicate the regular season success of the Suns and are too distant from the playoffs to even worry about the results there. The Knicks are already licking their chops. BTW, I tend to believe McCallum, he’s the chap who wrote the 7 seconds or less book after stalking the Suns for a year.

Funny story from a couple days back at Bryan Colangelo being furious at Sam Mitchell for playing a round of golf on Sunday, a day after going down 3-1 to Orlando. I had trouble getting out of bed and Mitchell’s playing golf. Nice.

The most annoying blog on the planet has to be Jose Calderon’s, he insists on publishing it in PDF format where copying the text is impossible. To the Nazi fuckers running that site: its called HTML. In his post after Game 5 he’s contemplating his future and professing his love for Canada. Say what you will about those Euros, they’ll never complain about Toronto as a city. They might leave for cash-money reasons but it’ll never be because they feel that playing in Toronto is holding back their careers. To some that might be reason enough for signing them. Not to me.

WTF is up with Sam Dalembert? The TNT crew picked Boston to finish of Atlanta in Game 6. No way Jose. This one’s coming back to Boston.

Later.

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

Just win, baby!

Posted by Arsenalist on April 28, 2008

For all practical purposes this series is over, the chance of a Raptors series win is 1.69% since only 2 out of 118 teams have come back to win after taking a a 3-1 deficit on the road. I can also guarantee you that those two teams didn’t have a defense that could be broken down by a simple pump-fake at the three point line, nor did they get cold feet with less than 5 minutes left in the fourth quarter. However, it is what it is, the Raptors in a truly “must win” game. It’ll be a chance to see if this team finally leaves it all on the floor and plays with that passion, grittiness and intensity that’s been lacking all season. Desperate times call for desperate measures so if nothing else we’ll see which of these Raptors desperately wants to win.

Jamario Moon is good to go so the Raptors will be putting out the same lineup that’s kept them in it for two games in a row. The deciding factors will be the same as they have been all series, preventing their G/F’s from breaking us down and picking out shooters along with closing out said shooters when the defense does collapse. Boxing out Dwight Howard should be a no-brainer and a given but given how poorly the Raptors have covered him on the defensive boards in this series, it’s probably a good idea that Sam Mitchell make this priority #1 on the old blackboard. I think at this point in the series both teams know what they need to do to win and its a question of execution.

In the same article linked above Chris Bosh is quoted as saying:

“We can’t rely on three-pointers, that doesn’t get you [far] in the playoffs. We know that.”

It’s a nice enough thought but the three-pointer is what this team is built on, if they’re going in we’ll have a shot at winning but if we’re shooting them at less than 30%, we’re going to lose. Plain and simple. It’s not as if though we have any wing players that can drive the ball effectively if the chucks aren’t falling. Anthony Parker needs three screens to get anywhere, Delfino can drive but will he choose to is a different matter and Jamario Moon’s taken it to the rim once all series. Asking these guys to play inside-out is like asking a pitcher to play the DH. So the Raptors better hope their threes are falling because they don’t have anything else to fall back on.

To bust out a cliche from the old cliche vault, we got to take it one game at a time. Sam Mitchell expects to bring the series back to Toronto but doesn’t specify exactly how he might do that. He’s basically optimistic because he believes that the Magic’s lead in the series is mostly attributable to a few key shots. The man does have a point there but isn’t every NBA game decided by a few key shots. There’s nothing that’ll make me believe that we’re going to be the team that’s going to hit those “key shots”.

If you’re made it this far into the post you obviously think the Raptors have some chance of winning this game. Here’s your reward for being a loyal Raptors fan.

Apparently you can’t get Bill Simmons to watch the Raptors-Magic series:

I love hoops as much as anyone and still can’t bring myself to watch the Magic-Raptors series. It’s like the NIT of the NBA playoffs. Does the winner even matter? They should call it “The NBA-TV Invitational” and give the winner a trophy that’s sculpted into the shape of Rick Kamla’s face.

Haha funny-man. Now go fuck yourself. I hope pray that the Atlanta Hawks swallow a barrel full of Red Bull and beat his Celtics, it would almost make up for the Raptors. One man’s misery is another man’s joy and right now my joy is any man’s misery.

What are the chances we win the PG matchup in Game 5? You’d have to think Jose’s not going to stink it up again and will play with that Spanish passion that he only reserves for his wife (left). TJ Ford had a great game 4 which means he might just end up going 2-11 tonight, hopefully he can make life a little harder for Jameer Nelson and force Nelson to have a Game 3 type evening. I’m going to skip talking about Hedo/Lewis because we simply don’t have an answer for them. We can however neutralize Howard’s influence on the boards if we decide to take him seriously. While Rasho or Bargnani are on the floor all they should be concerned with is boxing out Howard – nothing else! I don’t care if Bargnani has 0 points and Rasho has 6 fouls, just KEEP. HOWARD. OFF. THE. GLASS. Please!

If we had given Andrea Bargnani’s minutes to Kris Humphries, this might’ve been a different series. Just consider Game 2 where a single rebound was the difference between 1-1 and 0-2. How many rebounds did Bargnani have in that game? 1.

It goes without saying that either Chris Bosh needs to have a monster evening or the bench must go for 45+. If one of the two don’t happen we’re doomed. I think Kapono will carry his weight, its going to be up to Carlos to have one of those nights where you might even entertain the thought of bringing him back next year. We haven’t seen much of Humphries, maybe he can give us something against Marcin Gortat (who scares the living shit out of Bosh)? Joey Graham might have an offensive arsenal that rivals Hoffa but he can still play some defense, I implore Sam to put him on Hedo or Rashard and see how far he gets. If they score on him, yank him but at least give him a shot. The man has the physical strength to fend off Hedo/Lewis, just test him out, he could be useful.

Realistically speaking, we got too many defensive problems and not enough fourth quarter offense to beat the Magic on the road. It’ll almost take a couple career nights from the Raptors or a seriously pathetic game from Orlando for us to win this one, but stranger things have happened. Haven’t they? I don’t know, its just another cliche I suppose.

Let’s just dig in on defense, try to move without the ball and knock down our perimeter jumpers and hopefully we can eek out a win and go from there. Who knows, maybe the Magic will come out complacent and cough one up at home. It’s too late to talk about technicalities and strategies, just win, baby!

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