Thursday, December 6, 2007

45 points!!!!

So if I keep listing the teams that the Raps blow out, I guess it’s only fair to list the reverse.

Teams that have blown the Raptors out

It’s hard to really be that upset over last nights game. I went to the ACC knowing full well that it was not going to be pretty, and for the first half of the game, the Raptors showed some potential. I mean, the Suns were still in complete control for the first 24 minutes, but at least at half time it was a 5 point game which was more then enough for me to hope for a miracle. Then the second half started. 45!!! Points in a quarter. That’s just crazy. It was overall a combo of Barbosa and Bell who just rained the threes at the worst possible times. Sure Amare had a good game too, but it was the three point shooting of Bell/Barbosa that killed us.

But let me also say that Steve Nash really is MVP material this year. He might not get the press because he does not have to do as much scoring this year as perhaps he had to the previous seasons, which Grant Hill on the team and Barbosa taking it up another level so far, but when Nash is in the game, the Suns are a well oiled machine. When Nash was out, that is when the Raps actually put together a few runs to make it interesting.

Ford looked good last night by the way. And him and Jose on the floor together, not in the final 2 minutes of a game, but for about 5-6 minutes covering the 3rd and 4th quarter was definetly an interesting move by the Mitchster.

Kapono, who has been on a solid streak of games, had his worst game as a Raptor last night. Deflino, while not looking bad, also had his worst game in the past 2-3 weeks last night. Now to be fair to Delfino, he didn’t play bad at all last night, just not as good as he has been playing.

So the question is if Bargnani and Bosh played, would the final result be different? Yes. The Raps would not have lost in the fashion that they did. But at this stage in the Raptors development, they still would have lost. Since the issue last night was completely defense related, the only thing Bargnani would have helped with would have been maybe grabbing one or two of those rebounds that the Suns got off their missed shots, as well as maybe having Amare missing one or two extra shots over the course of the game. But definetly Bargnani would not have helped enough on the Defensive end to make a big difference. Bosh, while not a 1st round defensive team player, would have made more of a difference on the defensive end. Enough though for the Raps to pull out the victory? Well since the Suns won the game from driving –kick-kick, I don’t think Bosh would have helped out stopping the three point shooters.

And here we are back to the same problem from a few weeks ago. Toronto’s perimeter defense as well as getting back in transition. The same issues from a few weeks ago.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Silly questions from Charlotte

Interesting tidbit from last night on Raptors TV gamenight. As they showed clips of the Raps destroying the Bobcats, that showed a clip of a reporter from Chartlotte ask Carlos Delfino a few questions after the game. Now here was a game where Bargnani and Ford did not play as well as Bosh, and where Delfino, Jose and Hump stepped up for the good guys. And this reporter asks Delfino “How long do you think you guys can keep this up without Bosh and Jorge Garbajosa?”. Now here is how you know when a reporter has zero clue what they are talking about. How will they hold up without Bosh and GARBO?? Geez, I don’t know but I am more worried about Bargnani and Ford then I am Garbo right now. Garbo, of course, wasn’t even on the court for a majority of the games he did suit up earlier this season. And let’s be honest here, I am a big supporter of Garbajosa, but in terms of importance, even last season I would put Ford above him and Bargnani at the same level. That was last year. This year even if Garbo was fully healthy and playing, I think Bragnani is still obviously the bigger, more important piece to the puzzle. But this reporter asks Delfino the question like Garbo is our number 2 guy to go down with an injury.

I guess the point is that we here in Toronto have moved on from thinking about Garbo’s injury. The fact that he didn’t play much this year made it easier. So when a reporter asks that question, it screams “that’s so 2 weeks ago”.

Another question I have here is why all the interviews on Gamenight for the Raps are done by the opposing teams reporters? For Cleveland’s game Bosh was interviewed by the Cavs broadcast team. I am going to keep my eye open to see if that’s a trend.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Another one bites the dust

No Bosh
No Bargnani
No Ford

Yet we can officially add Charlotte to the "Blow Out" list.


The week ahead

Well this week might not be pretty.

Monday vs Charlotte
Wednesday vs Phoenix
Friday at Boston
Sunday vs Houston

The good news is that 3 of the games are at home. The bad news is that Bosh/Bargnani and Ford will not be playing tonight and who knows about later on this week. And even if they do play, as we saw how long it took Bosh to get into game shape from that pre-season injury, they might not be playing at 100%.

Charlotte – Last season we handled Charlotte with out much problems. And if we were at 100% we would be able to do it again this year. But missing the players we are missing, tonight might just be a close one. Being a home game for Toronto helps, but at the same point, the Raptors can’t afford to lose tonight with the schedule they got coming up. Time for Moon/Parker/Delfino to step up, and for Jose to take maybe a few more shots on the offensive end. Even with out the Raps big 3, the team is solid, but when Hump and Joey are on the floor, no one is safe.

Phoenix – Let’s just hope that all hands are on deck for this one. If we take on the Suns sans Bosh and Bargnani, it will be trouble. Even with those two, this would be trouble. But at some point the Raptors need to start to get some victories over the NBA elite. The Suns have been playing good basketball, but they have also allowed teams like the Knicks to stick around for the majority of the 48 minutes. The Raptors are better then the Knicks, which actually might make this tougher as I doubt the Suns will try to sleep walk threw Wednesday’s game.

Boston – If Bosh and Bargnani play on Wednesday, then this might just be the message game in Boston. Let’s be honest, the Celtics have not looked all that impressive recently. They are getting by on some solid defense and the fact that the teams they are playing have come up with duds (that Knicks team looked worst then my high school basketball team. I really truly think that we could have taken then out as well). This game is the perfect chance for the Raptors, if they are making their shots, to send a message. BUT, it’s going to require a 100% Bosh and Bargnani.

Houston – Well last season the Raps smoked the Rockets and the Rockets smoked the Raps. So let’s see who brings the goods this week.

Well….2/4 is the goal. That means tonight and one of the big three games. 3 wins this week would be magical, but the Raps have still yet to prove they can take out a top dog, and the Suns/Celtics are at that level with the Rockets not far behind. Let’s keep those fingers crossed that at least Bosh gets back ASAP.

Cleveland and Washingston

Sorry for the lack of updates…

Cleveland was a strong W. With no Bosh and no Lebron, it was up to the other 14 players and we already knew that Toronto has much stronger depth. In fact, Cleveland was very close to making it to the “Blowout” list as the Raps had a 20 point lead in the 3rd and never looked in danger. But a blow out is a blow out and this was not technically a blowout since the Cavs did go on a run in the 4th to at least keep the game from going into garbage time. Bargnani looked great and Delfino looked great.

We didn’t need Bosh for Cleveland, but we did for Washington. Bosh had great games vs the Wiz last year and with him in the line-up, I am 95% percent sure that the Raps would have won on Saturday. But with out him it was going to be tough. The reason though that Washington won was due to the fact that the Raps looked tired and the Wiz really wanted that game more. Antawn Jamison after the game talked about how badly the Wizards wanted this one after losing a few in a row, and it showed during the game. And the Raps were a step slow on defense which shows that they are playing the back end of a back-to-back. Bargnani though, needs to step up more consistently as he shot something like 2 for 13.

So to wrap up the week, the Raptors went 2-1. Not terrible, but with everything that went down, injuries wise, they are not heading into the toughest stretch of the season the way they should be.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Adding to the fire

I am going to make this quick and get right to the point. The media here in Toronto needs to stop talking about this Jose/TJ thing. Seriously. While fans of the Raptors might be complaining about starting one over the other, by hearing Doug Smith or any one of the Raptor TV guys or Chuck Swirsky or Leo Routins mention the conterversy on a regular basis just helps to add fuel to the fire. And is that what ether Ford or Jose needs to hear about on a regular basis? Here we have two outstanding point guards who are happy with the roles they have. So does having to hear about what the fans want (which is generally Jose over TJ) going to help the cause? Now, I have looked around the net for Raptor pages, and while there is a lot of Raptor fans on the net that are vocal and I am sure there is more outlets on the net then I know of for them to speak out, generally speaking everyone in the city only gets the Raptor news from the papers or the games on TV.

If these guys in the paper or on TV just stopped referring to it, then I would bet most fans might not complain about it that much ether. And even if they did, who cares. Mentioning it though is just making it worse and encouraging more people to be vocal about it. I know that Doug Smith is just generally joking about it when he always refers to the amount of emails he gets saying “Jose over TJ” but he jokes about it EVERY single week. If the purpose is just to be funny, well the joke has worn off. Move on. Because by mentioning it every single week it encourages more emails saying the same thing.

On TV, how many times have I heard the guys say “…and these two players get along and know what their roles are on the team. So there is no need for this TJ/Jose starting contervery.” Now if these guys said this once, alright. Whatever. But again, I think I hear these guys say it once a day. Ether on Raptors Today, or the pregame/post game show, or by Chuck and Leo during the broadcast. STOP bringing attention to it and it will die down.

By the way, as I predicted yesterday or the day before, Jose should be starting tonight with Ford coming off the bench at least for tonight’s game.

Think about it

What is going on with the people in Spain? Here is a story from the globe and mail discussing how Jose Calderon told this reporter that Jorge Garbajosa had been practicing with the Spain national team for weeks before the Euro’s which would really paint Jorge in a negative light, seeing how he shattered his freaking ankle months before and had only received clearance from the Raps to play a few days before the tournament started. So Jose tells everyone that Garbo was practicing well before the clearance was given, and now Jose is talking about how much trouble he got into from the people in Spain. These must be the same people that are attacking the Raptors franchise for trying to punish Garbo for playing for Spain.

What is with you people? I understand that you don’t perhaps hear as much as someone who lives in Toronto hears, and I am sure when you see teams like the Knicks you can easily feel that a majority of franchises are screwed up, but I want you to understand that part of the appeal to this Raptors team is the fact that they have the best intentions in mind from top to bottom.

Fred Jones last season was riding the pine. Sulking a bit in doing that as well. So what does Bryan Colangelo do? He talks to Portland to see if they were interested in Jones, since Colangelo knew that Jones would be interested in Portland seeing how that is his home town. Was Colangelo making the trade to help Fred Jones out? Or just because he really really wanted Juan Dixon?

I am not going to assume here that this franchise is perfect BUT I will more then assume that this franchise is not run by a bunch of idiots. The reality is that management puts a lot of stock into locker room attitudes, as we have heard so many times from Colangelo talking about how good so and so is with the rest of the team and in the locker room. So do you think that if this team was trying to punish Jorge, that the vibe from other players might be a bit negative, especially Jose, towards the Raptors management? Do you think that Raptors management doesn’t want Jorge on the court where he could help them win? Do you think they would accept the possibility of not being as good this year just for the sake of punishing one player?

But the people in Spain attack Raptors management, and now Jose Calderon and not put the blame where it should go with is on Jorge Garbojosa. And I am not coming down on him, but the reality is that he started playing ball WAY to early in a tournament that I am sure meant a lot, but regardless he still has a broken ankle. I am not sure what these Spanish doctors are saying, but take one look again at that injury from last March and tell me that a 29 year old can heal that quickly.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Could ROY really be a possibility?

Now I have been reluctant to check out the various rankings has during the season because it is just so damn early. The top 30 teams, the race to the MVP and the rookie rankings are all going to change as the season wears on. But, today I took a quick glance at the rookie ranking and boy was I ever surprised to see who number 2 was. .

And here is the thing, remember how everyone talked about how great of a rookie class 2007 was? That the draft was the deepest in years? Sure Oden not playing is a huge blow, but still, JAMARIO MOON IS RANKED SECOND??!? That’s crazy talk!

But really though, no rookie at all has really caught my attention at this point. Nor should they since it’s the end of November. Last year’s ROY was currently injured at this point of the season. Still, it’s tempting to consider if Moon has a legit chance at ROY when April rolls around? I never thought of it before hand, partially because I have a hard time considering a 27 year old who has played ball in various developmental leagues a true “rookie”. Same with Juan Carlos Navarro. Sure these guys are rookies to the NBA, but it’s not the same as being drafted out of college. Some of these guys, like Jorge Garbajosa last year, are well seasoned players.

And that fact alone actually gives Moon a HUGE advantage here. The fact that he has composure in the game that most rookies don’t have due to age and experience differences. Let’s be honest, Moon has that starting SF position locked up. Did he have some crazy stat line last night? No. But nether did Mike Miller and that was who Moon was responsible for. Moon is the starting SF now and I think it’s safe to say he will be at that position for the entire run. So, he is a starter and is he is contributing to this team, if not for the points then for the boards/steals/blocks. And we hear from Mitchell, and saw vs Chicago, that Moon does have an offensive game that they are bring in slowly, which is wise. Now, let’s assume that the Raps are ready to make a run up the standings here. Currently they are sitting in 6th spot and while they have a very tough schedule in December, just like last year in January, this team should be in a decent position to shoot for a top 4 record in the east. So here is Moon, in the starting lineup and a contributor to a (potential) top 4 team.

Kevin Durant might have a nice future, and he might be shooting a bit better then he did a few weeks ago, but he is also playing on the team that should end up winning the 2008 draft lottery. So what’s more impressive? Contributing to a winner or a loser? Sure this is the Chuck Swirtsky argument on why Bargnani was the ROY over Roy, but I think there is a solid difference between the Bargnani/Roy thing and this Moon/Durant thing.. Bargnani didn’t get more then 30 minutes a game last year like Moon is right now, and Bargnani was contributing, but mostly in the 3’s department. Moon is giving a bit of everything during a longer span in the game. On top of that, while Durant might end up the better player long term, Brandon Roy did have a fantastic season last year on a team that was stronger then this Seattle squad. So let me say that, while I agree with Chuck in that a producer on a good team should be considered more favorably then a producer on a bad team, Moon is much closer to the level of contribution that Durant brings then when comparing Bargnani to Roy.

But again…it’s early.

Last night...

New Jersey Nets
Chicago Bulls
Memphis Grizzlies

The growing list of NBA teams that have been blown out by the might Raptors. I really wish I could add Dallas to that list, but I can’t put a team on the list unless Derrek Martin gets serious burn. Only then, has the Raptors truly blown a team out. And don’t be fooled by the 13 point difference in the final score. This game was in garbage time mid way threw the 3rd. The defence of the Raps was abit shaky in the 1st quarter, and when Bosh headed into the locker room, and Hump and Derrick Martin was on the court, it did look scary. In fact, the second quarter when the Raps outscored the Grizz 30-10 was tight up until about 5 minutes left when, surprise surprise, Jose checked back into the game. Calderon is just on fire right now and that 5 minute stretch was just awesome.

We, without a shadow of a doubt, need TJ back sooner then later. That keeps Martin off the court and allows the Raps to keep the pace of the game quicker for much longer. Believe me, I know all about trying to pace myself to stay mentally focused during the course of a game. In my b-ball league we play two 23 minute halves and I have smoked more then a few packs of cigs since my high school days. If I go for it all in the first 5 minutes, then I am completely useless for the remainder of the 41 minutes. So I have had to learn to pace myself, only using my energy in bursts. So with Jose, who I am quite sure is in just a little bit better shape then I am, can obviously have more frequent burst of energy BUT, he still has to pace himself for the 41 minutes a game he is getting. With TJ though, both players don’t have to worry so much about saving energy and can turn it up a notch more frequently. That puts a very high amount of pressure on the defenses to continuously stay on guard for the attacking Raptor points. We need TJ back to help deliver that 48 minute attack.

Here is my advice to the Raps…Friday vs Cleveland, if Ford is ready to go, start Jose and have TJ come off the bench. Let TJ work with the second unit and let Jose continue doing what he has been doing the past 4 or 5 games. Then against Washington on Saturday let TJ start where he should be full of energy which will be needed in that particular game.

Speaking of Cleveland, usually I prefer the Raps prove themselves and beat teams at full strength, but it is early in the season, and I think it would be nicer right now just to get a streak going, so is it wrong to hope that Lebron does miss a few games due to that injury last night?

I am not too worried about Bosh though, as it was his groin muscle he hurt last night and NOT his knee which I was initially afraid of. If it was the knee then that would have been a huge problem, but a pulled groin? Hopefully he is back for tomorrow. As for Bargnani, I am not that worried ether. He was able to hop off the court, and unless you need to be carried off, he shouldn’t be hurt that badly. If Lebron does not play Friday, and I do NOT want to get over confident here, but we won’t need Bargnani. Washington, who is playing outstanding so far given the fact that they lost Arenas, we will Bargnani for.

And Carlos Delfino…HUGE. He in the second quarter, Bargnani in the third (it was when Rasho subbed out and Bargnani subbed in that the Raps really ran away with it) and Jose overall were last nights MVP’s.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The week ahead

The week ahead for the Raptors is a crucial one. It’s time to get this party started.

Since the Dallas game, this team has looked much better then compared to the majority of the first handful of games. When you look at the past four games, they won two of them while losing the other two due to MVP performances. Now, of course, you would still like to see this team be able to stop/overcome those MVP players, but it is still early. Right now the team is at 7-7 and with Chris Bosh playing back to his all-star level, the rotation starting to take solid shape and Mitchell using 8 or 9 guys tops, which is what I was begging for a few weeks ago. With Moon looking like he is legit. With Kapono starting to look like he deserved the 5.5 mil and Bargnani back to looking like “December-March” Bargnani, this is the time.

Wednesday vs Memphis
Friday vs. Cleveland
Saturday at Washington

Well, with the Memphis, that one just needs to be a “for sure” game. Playing at the ACC against a sub-500 team that you already beat a week ago. Again, the Raps can not let the shooters of Memphis get going, but as long as the defence on those guys is tight, Memphis should have no chance. Watch Bosh have another huge one against these guys.

Cleveland should be interesting because Lebron is just on another planet right now. Hopefully Lebron’s game against Boston will slow him down a little, but it’s just insane what this guy is doing. And it’s SO simple. Shooters on the outside, Lebron take his man one on one till the double comes, outside guy cuts to the net and Lebron throws a lob to the weak side for a three. Wash, rinse, repeat. Now, here is the thing… the Raptors last week had Lebron down for the count. Well…let’s not go that far, but the Raptors in the first quarter were dominating the Cavs. What ever defensive scheme the Raps drew up was working nicely and the momentum was fully in the Raptors favor. Now do you want to know what Juan Dixon was the back-up point guard against the Bulls while Martin rode the pine? Because in the Cleveland game, when Martin subbed in for Jose at the start of the 2nd, the wheels completely fell off. The Cavs got the transition game going, got some momentum and the Cav shooters started to get a rhythm going. Sure the game was still tight the rest of the way, but when playing on the opponents floor with the shooters hot and a MVP like Lebron, let’s just say that that situation is a tough one to get a victory out of. Now, if they were able to continue that pressure in the 2nd that they had in the 1st, I got a feeling it would have been a different story. Personally, what I would do is let Lebron go one on one for the most part, show some double but never fully commit, and if anything, foul Lebron hack-a-shack style. JUST don’t let the Cavs shooters ever get easy looks. Let Lebron score 50. And I know that Lebron is not as bad at the line as Shaq, but at this point, his 68 or 69 percent from the line is more appealing then letting the shooters go nuts. NOW, here is the problem with this plan. It really let’s Lebron get into a rhythm himself, so that if the game is close at the end…well, we all know what happen against Detroit in game 5 last year. Bottom line is that you need to out score the Cavs. And I will take, for example, Lebron shooting 18 for 26 from the line over the Cavs as a team shooting 12 for 19 from the 3 point line. By the way, the Raps need this one too. Got to get the momentum going.

The Wizards are playing like mad dogs right now. Sure they are missing Arenas, but unlike last year when the injury blows happened in mid-season, this Wizards team pretty much went threw training camp without Gilbert so they were already practicing and preparing for this injury situation. Now, here is the thing. Sure Butler and Antawn are great players and sure they are going to be a handful, but this team was not THAT strong when it was all three of them together, are they really that much better with just two, even when considering that they have been able to prepare for this current line-up that they have? Maybe they are, as they have been on a tear after that 0-5 start. But I just don’t feel that they are. This is going to be a tough one regardless for the Raps as it’s yet another back to back, going from Toronto to Washington the next day. And I remember a game last year when the Raps won about 3 or 4 in a row and looking good, then going to Indiana on the second half of a back to back and being exhausted and losing by about 15. They do not have the work load previous to this Washington game like they did during that Indiana game, but I can see something similar happening here, especially with the effort they will need to beat Lebron. Regardless, I just don’t feel a 2/3 week is good enough. If this team has truly turned the corner, 3/3 would be a suitable example of how they have.

Now, Jose has been playing off the wall the last few games, but we do need TJ back. Word is that TJ will be ready to go this weekend and if that’s the case, that will be a huge benefit as Jose will be dead if he has to play 40 minutes all 3 games this week. And let’s not forget that Rasho will return which would help against Big Z who killed the Raps last week.