Saturday, January 31, 2009

To Trade or Not To Trade

That is Miami's question. But in reality, that's every teams question and BC of all GM's is probably facing the most pressure. With the Raps sinking to second last in the conference, with the growing yet reasonable fear that Bosh has very little to stay for, pardon my French but BC has to pull some serious shit out of his ass.

In terms of the Marion trade, sources seem to indicate that the ball is in Riley's court so to say but I find that hard to believe right now. O'Neal has played two solid games stats wise but really, every game since hes been back he's played with high energy and doesn't seem to be worrying about his knee. If I was Riley I would have to believe his knee isn't the issue and it's more simply about getting conditioning and game timing back. That being the case, with Miami in the playoffs, for the Raps sake as well, it might be better to pull this trade off sooner than later and let their teams have more time to adjust. At the same time, Marion has yet to play since these rumors surfaced and if he is unfit to even suit up, while O'Neal is ready to go, how is it that Riley has the power over this negotiation. With Miller underperforming, O'Neal is definitely the best deal out there. Personally, as great a passer as Miller is, there is not enough talent or sharpshooters on Miami for him to pass to in the first place. Again, it seems the hold up is which is better, cap space now, or in two years?

From my standpoint, I think Miami is better off with making some big signing two seasons from now. Why? Because Wade has shown a much stronger commitment to Miami and winning his championships there, after all, he already has one and lets face it, Miami is probably a harder city to leave than Toronto. It's probably much safer for them to wait for the best free agency class in history and make a run at say Stoudamire or ..... yep, Bosh. From Toronto's side however, I think they have to do something this season or this offseason. They need to have talent here waiting to convince Bosh to stay, and more importantly, they have to do something with that talent.

I think from this standpoint, it's safe to say that O'Neal will not play another season as a Raptor. Even if this Marion deal falls through, the plethora of expiring deals we have and our 1st round draft pick has to be able to fetch us some valuable pieces and I think BC recognizes the importance of getting these deals done before training camp. In fact, I hope it doesn't, I'd rather see them use O'Neal to get multiple pieces from Chicago or Goldenstate and add to our depth instead of filling one spot. When next season approaches, Goldenstate may want to give up some of its long term deals to be able to play in the offseason while Chicago may decide to make O'Neal their big man, or use his cap space to finally get one. Both these teams would be able to offer two or three pieces that would play big roles on our team instead of getting one small forward, and one scrub in Banks. After all, the last thing the Raps need is another 13th man.

I for one can't wait for the trade deadline to come. Not to see what happens or doesn't happen, but just so we can stop expecting ONE PLAYER to come on a white horse and save the season for us. We need more depth, we need more than Jesus, we need his wise men too!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Officiating As Horrible As New Springsteen Song

How horrible was the officiating tonight against the Bucks? Apparently, home-court advantage doesn't exist for the Raptors. The offensive foul called to J.O. snapped our momentum, followed up with Jose's missed free throw & Kapono launching unnecessary three-balls. The officiating was just horrendous. But if you think that was bad, check out this new Bruce Springsteen song called "Queen of the Supermarket" from his new album, Working On A Dream. It is officially voted the worst Springsteen song ever! Let's hope he sticks to his classics at the SuperBowl!

I love Bruce Springsteen, especially his work on Thunder Road, but damn man... just check out the lyrics:

With my shopping cart I move through the heart
Of a sea of fools so blissfully unaware
That they're in the presence of something wonderful and rare
The way she moves behind the counter
Beneath her white apron her secret remains hers

Raptors Relying on National Team Spirit

The Raptors look determined in their new "happy-go-lucky approach" - that is anything can happen in the NBA. And with the Raptors looking from the outside-in of postseason basketball, what have they really got to lose? Some say nothing, I say dignity. With Calderon's return, the Raptors are 3-0 and I'm not surprised when you put a player, who is one of the best in his position in the entire world. Remember the Spanish National Team in the 2006 FIBA World Championship when Spain went on to win. And in the following season, Jose's averages nearly doubled with his new vigor and confidence in his game. I'm talking about that taste of winning a title, a taste that is inexpressible through words. I'm saying this taste lingers and with Calderon - a champion, a leader - there's everything to lose when you don't win.

Anything can happen in the NBA. Some people say the Team U.S.A. didn't exactly have the best team that year, but there's a difference between saying that you brought the "best players" and bringing the "essential players". Ask anyone now and those who are not stubborn will say the US lacked the gusto in their game and that instead of playing with their hearts, they played with the names on the back of their shirts. When an interviewer asked Jose what he thought had changed after their recent success, he commented about how the team have players, who represent their country in the National team. Maybe Jose envisions a similarity in the talent of his Spanish National Team that won in 2006 with the roster of the Raptors now. And if this is how he sees the current situation then he certainly believes that this team is "capable". And if anything is possible in the larger sense of Spain winning a world championship, then it's not too hard to see that anything is also possible in the smaller, NBA reality.

But say what you will. If the roster stays the same after the February deadline, the Raptors have the essential players to at least be appreciated, despite how the season pans out, so long as Jose is out there to push everyone to their limits. JO is a class act. He's accepted his role, is happy no matter what happens from now until February and is working with how much springs his legs have left in order to help his current team. Bargnani is finally accepted, Graham looks to have fulfilled that "Golden Graham" nickname of his. And maybe the most important realization so far this season is with Bosh seeing the importance of Jose's presence. And to watch A.P. as he's forced to turn his back on opposing players and not help them up just shows you there's no lack in commitment. I mean, it's A.P.! This is a guy, who has never said a swear word since Guantánamo was reopened to be used as a prison & who's helped the elderly cross the street a record 8,132 times!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Jake Voskuhl honoured on Basketbawful!


Our beloved Raptor, Jake Voskuhl was honoured over at Basketbawful, making him a new term in basketball. Way to go, Jake!

AB, most improved?

For those of you who read the awards race on espn you all must have noticed one thing, for the most part, people in the race rarely change. One of the most stagnant races has been the MIP award with Harris at the forefront since day 1. But after looking at the numbers, is Harris really most improved, has he got that much better? In my opinion, there are more deserving players who have made huge strides in their development.

So here it is, the top 5 candidates for MIP. You may be surprised where I think people should rank.

5. Devin Harris
Thats right, as many people have already crowned him, I feel he is not the most deserving guy out there. Why? Let's take a deeper look into his improvement. After the trade last season, before even a training camp, Harris averaged 15.4, 3.3, 6.5, 1.4 and .3. This season he is averaging 21.5, 3.1, 6.4, 1.6, .2. 6 points more. Does 6 points more really warrant an end of season award? Especially on a team where they have almost nothing and he and Vince take almost every shot? AKA the John Salmons effect? To me, his growth is more the reflection of being on a team where he is the system rather than his own development as he has only improved in one category, scoring. I'm sure you could make the case that he's developed as a leader and captain as well, but who else is going to lead those scrubs.

4. Danny Granger
Again if the case for Harris is look at what a great scorer he's become, then Granger wins this battle with a 7 point increase from last season. In my opinion, his progress in scoring is even more impressive because Harris gets so many of his points in transition on the fast break while Granger is getting the bulk of his points in the half court set. Considering that he is not only their #1 option on offense and is also their primary perimeter defender, Granger has certainly shown his growth and development on both sides of the court. Sigh, why Joey?

3. David Lee
We all know Lee is perhaps one of the smartest rebounders in the league after he nearly led that category two seasons ago from the bench. One could of course argue that with Curry out indefinitely from Day 1 and with the shipping of Randolph to the Clippers, these numbers are expected of Lee, after all, who else is there? But to me, the fact that any team's primary big will always be handling Lee, the fact that New York has no other bigs, the fact that he is undersized at the PF position as it is and yet is scoring so effectively all bodes extremely well for Lee. On a team with no greatness, Lee is shining in the spotlight and is huge factor for New York's success this season. Shooting a blistering 57%, making the most of his free throws, and with his tenacity and hustle on the boards, it is very possible that come season end, Lee could be challenging for most double doubles, rebounds per game and this very award.

2. Andrea Bargnani
You heard me. I think AB ranks this high. Why? Well in the case of my #1 and #2 option, we really have to look at stats from a particular point and not the from the beginning of the season. Being on the bench early on in a lesser role is squandering the true value of their presence. Since he's been a consistent starter, he's come to consistently give more than we've asked for, averaging around 20 and 7 with a block a game. He's going to obviously have to sustain his performance till season end to get his numbers up to where he belongs but if he does so, he has a strong case for MIP. This is mainly because, he is one of the few candidates this year who shows progress in almost all areas of the game. Being avid Raptor viewers, we witnessed his penchant for taking himself almost immediately out of games with foul trouble last season and his improvement in this area alone could warrant this award. But after developing into one of our best defensive players, learning how to use his height, creating unique playing sets by pulling away bigs from the basket, and having a more diversified offense, Il Mago is rising in value daily and is proving many doubters, myself included, wrong. As he's average become more reflective of his current performances, Andrea will have a case much like Bobby Simmons and Boris Diaw a few years back, unprecedented improvement in all areas of the game and isn't this the requirement for Most Improved? His role in helping the Raps push for the playoffs may also have a huge impact on voters.

1. Paul Millsap
To me, even if Bargnani is able to get his averages to 20 and 7, this is Pauls award to lose. Again, as was the case with Andrea, we have to look at this numbers post Boozer. What makes him so remarkable is that he is in fact outplaying Boozer averaging 20+ and 12+. An added benefit is that boozer doesn't give much in the way of steals and blocks while Millsap is proving to be quite effective in that department as well. Like David Lee, playing undersized at the PF position but with a formidable bulk, perhaps we are seeing the new round mound. Bargnani shows progress all over, but Millsaps development is unprecedented, nearly doubling all his stats in only 10 more minutes. With an ever changing lineup due to injury, Millsap has been the one consistent force for Utah and has done it so well, that Boozer may have to find a new home. I agree with Van Gundy in that I think Boozer deserves to not only carry this award home, but be invited to be an all star this year and perhaps as an underpaid all star for years to come.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

10 Questions

Instead of giving my thoughts, I thought it might be more interesting to hear what you guys and gals think about some questions I have.

1. How big a factor do you think Utah's possibility of signing a cheaper Millsap and letting Boozer walk plays in Riley holding onto Marion?

2. With Redd done for the year, do the Bucks ownership reevaluate whether it's even worth it to make the playoffs, throw the season away and move Jefferson?

3. Has Vince Carter earned the right to be part of New Jersey's long term plans?

4. Will anyone besides Okafor and D.J. be left from the original Charlotte roster starting next season?

5. Does New Orleans rely too much on good games from all four of its core for success?

6. With solid coaching, scouting, a great GM and fabulous internal development, are the Blazers the new Spurs looking to form a dynasty primarily through internal growth?

7. In two years, will their be any remnants of the run and gun suns with Stoudamire and Barbosa apparently both on the block?

8. Is Mike Dunleavy the worst coach with secure employment in NBA history?

9. Are the Sixers much improved, or did they thrive without Brand clogging up their system and letting them play the more familiar style of last year?

10. Is BC looking to move more than O'Neal? Will Parker, Kapono and Graham be gone by next season? Does this pave the way for Delfino's return?

Let me know what you guys think!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Low Expectations

It just dawned upon me how surprised I was that the Raptors won last night in Chi-town. And that makes me feel even more pathetic, the fact that I get excited over one game which wasn't a big showdown or anything against a top-tier team. I know we just won and I'm not trying to be a downer, its just feels so...revolting to feel excited about ONE win. We just ended a seven-game losing streak - holy shit how the hell did it get to that? SEVEN GAME losing streak! That's expected from the Thunder, or maybe the Timberpups. It's just a big laugh now that some analysts pegged us before the start of the season to challenge Boston in the east. Here we are, around the half-way mark, fighting for the 8th spot, just hoping to squeeze into the playoffs to be mincemeat for whether Boston, Cleveland, or Orlando.

Does yesterday's win seem like the start of a winning streak, or does it feel more like we just stopped the bleeding? The realist side of me says the latter, but the dreamer in me can't help but feel and hope that we can finally start something (good) again. There was the little streak against Houston and Orlando but all that seemed to be a fluff. But we do have Jose back, and O'Neal (whatever that's worth), so there IS hope, and there's still plenty of time left. But one thing's for sure, after the inflated expectations coming into the season, most of us Raptors fans, who are still sane, have low expectations for the remainder of the year. And maybe that's what we need so we don't keep disappointing ourselves as the losses pile up. After all, there's nowhere to go but up, right? ...Right????

Friday, January 23, 2009

Underperforming or Performing? An Unforgiving Crowd.

How nice it is to celebrate a victory again! You can't help but look at the box score and feel a sense of nostalgia, out-rebounded, better shooting fg%, 3p%, Ft%, multiple players in double figures, low turnovers and no Solomon. That was the raps of two season ago was it not?

But as we reminisce on the horror of another losing streak and as more and more fans hurled themselves headfirst off the bandwagon, I personally can't help but wonder, was our assessment fair? Looking back at that last seven games, Boston, Boston, Chicago, Indiana, Phoenix, Atlanta, Detroit. Even with a healthy lineup we could and probably would have lost five of those easily. Chicago and Indiana would and still were the only "gettable games" but as far as I'm concerned, whether you even include Chicago as winnable is debatable. I'm always worried when we play the Bulls or the Bucks. They both just have so much talent on their roster you never know what kind of team you're really going to face. It's about the same as predicting whether good Joey or bad Joey will be showing up.

Again, to reiterate. I'm sure many of you would struggle to rationalize that you would bet on the Raptors against the Celtics, Suns, Atlanta or Detroit this season. And having realized that, is it fair or justifiable to be so angry at losses when we were missing two of our best players? Take out West and Chandler, how many games can Paul carry them when he already does so much for them. (BTW, I'm adding this later because I just noticed that those two didn't play today and lo and behold, they lost to the T-Wolves.) Whoever you believe is the best player on the Celtics, take out the other two and how many games can they win. With them, its even easier to imagine because so many of them were alone for so long in their careers and failed to succeed. Given that we were actually still competitive in a lot of those games should be viewed as an accomplishment in itself. For the most part, we lost simply because we can only hide having no floor general for so long!

I know in the NBA it's a common understanding that injuries are a part of the game. You can't whine about who you don't have, you have to play with what you've got. But for the Raptors, we have a team where virtually all our talent is in a handful of players and if 50% of them are gone, how much can we really expect from the rest of the team. After all, we are talking about a team where in the last two years, two players signed as the 13th man, aka water/towel boy/seat filler were able to in one instance, crack the starting lineup, and in another, for a substantial period of time, be the first big man off the bench. This is a stark contrast to the rest of the NBA who chooses to not play their 13th man and in many cases, waive them. You understand of course that this is the equivalent to paying them to GTFO.

So let's try to be a not only a supportive fan base, but an understanding one. Everyone's at fault here, myself included for getting frustrated and throwing our team under the bus. It's just natural when something you love as much as we do slaps you in the face but something Doug Smith once pointed out stuck with me. You look back at that Portland game where they almost blew the lead, their crowd was 100% behind them more eager to help the team get over their shooting drought while if this was at our beloved ACC, I can't help but wonder how we would have reacted.

Perhaps this is a reflection of our fan base. Coming here just three years ago, I remember buying tickets of any quantity anywhere in the stadium being as easy as Jamario missing a shot. And with one year of success, I remember tickets selling out almost instantly. Maybe this is what you get with a huge percentage of fans being bandwagon, but I'd like to think after two years, that as a fan group, we have grown. After all, we expect players to grow every year, should we not be equally responsible? The best teams in the NBA have the best crowds, so maybe we can do something more to help our team out and help set the precedent for excellence.

Let's start bringing this environment, every game, hell, everyday!

Mediocrity Attributed To Lack of Identity

I'm actually being nice by saying our Raptors are just "mediocre". I am so ashamed with this team right now. We've become dull and boring to watch and it's a damn shame to be representing Canada in this way. Man, a month ago I can't believe I was
actually pissed that they were showing games on TSN2. Now, I really just don't care.

Mr. Bryan Colangelo, could you please give us a sign as to where you're going with this team. It seems our franchise has been battling for years against this perpetual search for an identity. Who's our leader? What's our strategy? What's the system
we're running? With Mitchell, we tried the run-and-gun style and obviously we didn't have the right players to make that work. And now with Triano, we try to feed off our defense, but on offense we live and die on our jumpshots until we finally shoot ourselves out of the game and into another loss. WTF!?

There's no consistency in both our defense and offense and that's because the Raptors quite clearly need to develop an identity first. When we don't have an identity, we'll never develop a consistent system & without a system we'll never be
successful. We'll be mediocre forever as our theme goes from now until management finally decides which players will really help achieve the kind of system we want to run.

The system of this team is pretty much as follows and I'm only going to do our offense (again, the lack of identity means a limited system to work with):
#1. Whatever Chris Bosh wants to do with the ball.
#2. Unleash our shooters: Parker, Bargnani, Kapono.
#3. Attack the basket.

This system is so inflexible, flawed and pathetic that opposing teams have the easiest scouting report to follow. All they have to do is contain Bosh, be aware of our shooters and don't allow our guys to attack the basket, so that we'll take all the unnecessary shots we're given. Our defense is unforgivable - outrebounded (since 1995), jumping on pump-fakes (because it's apparently fun), teams can pretty much attack the basket whenever they want using elementary school basketball skills & our weak perimeter defense is always exposed because none of our guys want to communicate properly.

Forget about who's the team leader right now because the Raptors obviously don't have one at the moment. Did you think Gregg Popovich named Tim Duncan team leader as soon as the Spurs drafted him #1? No! What they knew then was that he was capable of potentially replacing David Robinson and would also be an awesome foundation to build around. Like Rachel mentioned, some are born leaders and seeing Duncan in his first couple of seasons I thought he would never be a leader because of his timid and quiet nature. But it's about building yourself to have the heart of a champion and so if you're not born a leader then you build yourself as leader.

I think forcing Bosh to become team leader at such a young age has burdened him so much that he wasn't given the chance that Duncan had to build and acquire those leadership qualities the proper way. It's obvious Colangelo should start thinking of Bosh more as a base, a foundation to build around rather than giving him a title that he is yet to earn and that's for all of us supporters to give to him. The only way to build a sense of identity is to really think about the right pieces that will help the foundation of our team vs. the excess of the same players we pretty much have on our roster and we continue to shop for. And that's what it ultimately comes down to and it's plain and simple - quality vs. quantity.

CB4: Default(y) Leader

"No one is coming in today to save the day," Wade said. "This is my team. I have to continue to lead this team. I'm not worried about who's not here. I'm worried about who's here." -Dwyane Wade

When will you ever hear CB4 say something to that effect? After all these years, I still don't see Bosh as a leader. He's the leader of this team, almost by default.

By naming CB4 the leader so early on in his career, it forced him to mature quickly. But more importantly, keeping him as the leader of this team has proved to be a hindrance. Once someone is labelled as a leader, whether or not they accept it, a possessive discourse comes into play. This is _____'s team. The issue I have with it? Naming a leader can lead to unnecessary controversy in the future that the media will swell into a shitfit. Had CB4 been considered one of the best players on the team versus being called the leader, perhaps things could have been different. Perhaps we could have acquired someone of a greater calibre with more leadership qualities later on. That way, drama about who's team it is could be avoided, and CB4 could (gladly and I'm sure willingly) step back and let someone take the role. I'm almost positive that if Bosh were to be traded or go to another team in 2010, he wouldn't dispute being a part of the core and not at the centre of it.

Propelled and almost coerced into the position in his earlier years, he's come to accept that he's the face of the team. It took a bit of time, but he would eventually accept his role, which is very Chris Bosh-like. A passive, kind person with a calm demeanour. Are these necessarily bad qualities to have? No. Are they not appropriate for a leadership role? Yes. I thought that CB4 would come back with more fire and intensity after the Olympics, and hoped for a ridiculous turnaround, much like Calderon's second season. And I got it... for the month of November.

But here CB4 goes again, reverting back to what's comfortable, but not substantial enough for this team to convert into some W's. Jump shot after jump shot, jab step after jab step, hesitation after hesitation. The fiery attack on almost every possession is gone. And the same old intimidation by great defensive players (*cough* KG) that leads him almost to paralysis.

Becoming a leader by default is not the foundation that any team should rely on. What happens when you do? You don't pass the first round of playoffs twice and sit 3rd worst in the Eastern Conference, 4.5 games back from the 8th seed. You end up riding your second 5+ game losing-streak with little hope in sight. And this is when you start thinking about lottery picks. I don't put all the blame on CB4, because that would be inhumane and irrational as can be. But I do think that people need to realize that Bosh does not have that leadership quality that has potential to manifest into a championship. Some were born to be leaders, and others weren't. So why force the issue?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Raptors Should Trade Team For Derrick Rose

Of course, I am just kidding. But according to, Derrick Rose is the most underrated player in the NBA, quietly averaging a mammoth 1687 PPG. Maybe we should take Chuck's advice after all and trade Bosh.

LOST in the Raptors

Bryan Colangelo as Jack Shephard

Widely known as one of the top Executives in the NBA for having the ability to operate on a team as a kind of "spinal surgeon". Like Jack Shephard, who saves Sarah - a woman who was told would never be able to walk again - Bryan Colangelo saves the Phoenix Suns by acquiring Steve Nash from Dallas, a move that will see Phoenix as the top playoff seed in the West and as a result, Colangelo is rewarded with the 2005 NBA Executive of the Year award.

But Jack crashes in the island, while Colangelo lands in Toronto, where he will be forced to take on a new challenge. Like Jack, Colangelo has control issues (with MLSE) and trouble dealing with situations he cannot fix (the Raptors mediocrity), but his ability to solve problems through reason and his cool head makes him a trustworthy leader for the Raptors franchise.

Colangelo decides to operate right away on the team's spine in his first year. And just as Jack promised to fix Benjamin Linus in Season 3, Colangelo removes a "tumor" laid on by Rob Babcock by sending Rafael Araújo to the Utah Jazz in exchange for Kris Humphries. This will dictate further moves that will immediately change the franchise and Colangelo will once again be rewarded with the Executive of the Year Award in 2007 as the Raptors clinched their first Division title in franchise history.

Jack leads his group of LOSTies to be rescued. Coincidentally, Colangelo seemed to have rescued the Raptors after his team finished first in their division. However, another season passes (in both the NBA/LOST) and we learn that both Jack and Colangelo's resolve has collapsed. Jack is a broken man, who wants to go back to the island because he feels he needs to save the other abandoned survivors and Colangelo has learned that his recent moves to sign Kapono long-term, the acquisition of Will Solomon and the O'Neal-Ford trade didn't exactly rescue the Raptors from mediocrity, but instead moved the franchise further away from being playoff contenders. Both Jack and Colangelo now know that they have to go back - Jack to the island to save the other survivers and Colangelo to his top Executive days, where his moves weren't so lame.

Sam Mitchell as John Locke

John Locke was disabled and unable to walk prior to crashing in the island, where he was miraculously healed upon the crash. Sam Mitchell also struggled with similar factors of disability (figuratively speaking). When he first became the Raptors coach, he found himself struggling to lead a Raptors roster that was encumbered by its handicap of always being in a rebuilding state.

But like John, Mitchell saw himself and his team instantly cured of its disability with the appointment of Colangelo as the new GM. With a fresh new roster and a very, very weak Division (except the Nets), Mitchell was able to lead the Raptors to its first Division Title and Mitchell would be awarded with the NBA Coach of the Year Award in 2006-07.

But of course, everything has its cause and effect. There was tension between Colangelo and Mitchell, just as Jack and John were seen as antithetical to one another and were philosophical opposites. John would separate himself from most of the camp in the island and likewise, Mitchell became the black sheep and would go on to be fired by Colangelo. But of course this decision didn't exactly rescue the team. And John Locke, whom everyone predicting is not really dead after seeing last night's Season 5 Premiere looks to redeem himself. Could this mean redemption for the ex-Coach of the Raptors as well? Was Colangelo too rash on firing Mitchell just as Jack now seems to regret not listening to the warnings of John?

T.J. Ford as Charlie

Charlie was in a rock band, but his drug addiction and growing self-doubt crippled him in his life. Likewise, T.J. Ford had battled against recurring back injuries after suffering a career-threatning spinal cord injury. For Charlie, crashing in the island gave him a fresh start. And for Ford, it seemed his stop in Toronto was also a blessing. Sam Mitchell mentored T.J. to overcome his disbeliefs and establish himself once more as a top PG in the league, just as John helps Charlie with overcoming his heroin addiction.

But in the Summer of 2008, T.J.'s role with the Raptors was questioned after his refusal to accept a back-up position to Jose Calderon. And like Charlie in Season 3, whose death was unpreventable; T.J. also faced the inevitability of being traded. Charlie's last act before his famous "heroic drowning" was to warn the rest of the survivors that the boat that was coming to "rescue" them was indeed, "Not Penny's Boat" or not a rescue boat. Likewise, the boat that was supposed to "rescue" the Raptors, in this case the "Jermaine O'Neal boat" did prove no more than a failure.

Chris Bosh as Sawyer

As Season 5 of LOST begins, Sawyer finds himself stuck in the island with only a couple of interesting characters: Daniel Faraday & John Locke. With the Oceanic 6 - the show's profound characters - having left the island after being "rescued" Sawyer finds himself among some really less interesting and mediocre castaways. Sound familiar? Another season begins for the Raptors and with little moves in the market, Chris Bosh, who aside from Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon finds himself burdened to save the rest of the Survivors on his own. And like Sawyer, we just don't know when or how Bosh will finally get some reinforcements to aid him.

Andrea Bargnani as Desmond Hume & Jay Triano as Penelope Widmore ("The Constant")

Everybody knows Desmond is a symbol of free will and determinism - that is people are capable of controlling their own destiny. Desmond, who had been in the island longer than everyone else has been trying hard to get back to his one true love, Penelope for the longest time. Desmond, who is alluded to Odysseus can't seem to find his way back home to Penelope and is told by time and course-correctors that he is destined to be on the island and not be with Penelope. But Desmond is committed to get back with Penelope at all costs. We find out that because of a timeshift, Desmond is out of sync with his reality and is told that he will die if he doesn't find a "constant".

In the Raptors world, Andrea's been committed to reaching his potential. He knows with hard work, he is capable of being a superstar in the league, but his growth as a player was hindered by limited minutes given to him by Sam Mitchell in his first two season in the NBA. Similar to Desmond's situation of inevitable death, Andrea needs to find his "constant" in order to overcome the inevitability of being traded.

Desmond figures out that his one "constant" that will save his life is Penelope and in Season 4, he finally gets contact with his Penelope - his "constant" - by way of satellite phone and escapes death. In contrast, Andrea was amidst incessant rumors of being traded throughout Christmas time. But Andrea would soon discover that his "constant" & his Penelope is indeed sitting right beside him on the bench in Jay Triano. So, Andrea finds his "constant" via combination of Colangelo firing Mitchell and appointing Jay Triano as interim head coach & O'Neal getting injured. Trade talk over Bargnani subsides as he is promoted as a starter , rediscovering his true form and achieving career-highs.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Why I love the Toronto Raptors

Understandably, there's been a lot of negativity towards the Raptors around the net. Fans believe that we possess the talent to do some real damage in this league. But lately, I've started to notice that some of the frustration is beginning to turn into resentment. So to counter this, I want to hear from around the Raptor blogs the top 5 reasons why people love the Toronto Raptors.
I present my top 5 favorite Raptors moments. *note these are personal, and are not always based on the importance of the game at the time.

#5) 2000 All Star Dunk Competition.
Vince Carter and T-Mac put Toronto on the map.Vince Carter vs. Steve Francis. The 1999/00 season was a milestone for the Raptors. Torontonians had finally started to take notice of something other than the Maple Leafs, the Raptors were on a roll. Even though I had watched the Raptors many times since their oppening season, this moment for me was huge in fully converting me to the Raptor cause. I can still remember watching this with my dad (I was 13). Carter's first dunk and the honey dip set a standard. But it wasn't until T-Mac helped him do the through the leg (which literally brought the entire stadium crashing down) that I knew that Toronto had finally been put on the basketball map.

#4) May 2nd 2001: Eastern Conference Quarter Finals (Game 4)- Toronto Raptors vs. New York Knicks
Carter hits the early dunk.

There was a lot of resentment carried over from when the Knicks swept and embarrassed the Raptors in 2000. The Raptors had already taken a surprise win in Game 2, but dropped game 3 in Toronto. Hope in New York was high, but what happened in Toronto during Game 4 set the standard for all coming Raptors playoff games. From the outset of the game, the crowd was electric. Vince had convinced the team to share purple headbands in an attempt to spur team unity. I still credit this game as having a huge part in the Raptor's game 5 win. It was incredible seeing the ACC play as much a part as the players themselves. Who can forget Jerome William's dunk which sent him famously into the crowd high fiving everyone? Or Van Gundy tearing up his team sheet after a Raptors run. Many won't like that I'm praising him so much, but it was Vince Carter who started the party. On the first or second possession of the game, Vince stormed down the pain and delivered a dunk that set the ACC on a 2 hour adrenaline ride. This was followed by a hard punch to the basket pole, followed by a "this is our house" stare down to the Knicks. That's a way to start a party.

#3) 2007: Eastern Conference Quarter Finals (Game 2)- Toronto Raptors vs. New Jersey Nets Anthony Parker's big three after Bosh's rejection.
I was still a bit teary eyed, as many Raptors fans were, at seeing Sam Mitchel get his Coach of the Year Award along side the entire team. The game was nerve wrecking, and I had a personal grudge against Richard Jefferson after his Game 1 post-game comments. Seeing Bosh reject him was extremely satisfying. But the play that followed sent me and my old man jumping up and down in our living room hugging and screaming. I can still remember it: "Jose nearly trips over Jefferson's corpse, passes to AP, AP to Mo Pete..........and back for the three". The ACC, as expected, proved right there to be amongst the greatest NBA playoff venues. That play, for me, represented the Raptors 06/07 season in a nutshell. Just awesome stuff.

#2) April 9 2003: Toronto Raptors vs. Charlotte Hornets-
Keeping the miracle alive.

The season was hilarious to me. The Raps lose 13 straight, then Carter. And somehow managed to win 12/14 to qualify to the Playoffs (which they had to do, and did against all odds). I went to the ACC to watch the Hornets game, and it was during their 9 game winning streak, with 5 games to go. It was the first time that I experienced a playoff atmosphere while being there. The entire place was standing for nearly the whole game. Seeing everyone pick up their socks in Carter's absence was incredible. The game was tight (84-80). But believe it or not, the Raptors were trailing near the end of the game, with our playoff hopes down the line. I don't exactly remember the play, but the big shot in the game came from a three ball that literally sent the ACC to the mental ward. The best memory was this big biker guy picking me up when the shot went in. My old man was hugging some other fans in the background. It was one of the biggest adrenaline rushes I ever felt in a live arena.

#1) May 4th 2001: Eastern Conference Quarter Finals (Game 5)- New York Knicks vs. Toronto Raptors. Alvin William and Chris Childs hit the most important shots in Raptors history.  

Who can forget this? After the rousing Game 4 performance, everyone in Toronto believed it could be done. This game was a war, and the myth of MSG was proven right as a sight to behold. With a little under 3 minutes left, I can still remember Chris Childs shooting a 17 foot shot with the Raptors losing 81-80. All I remember is me hiding behind the couch, and I screamed "Is he crazy?!?!?!?". When the shot went in, I somehow knew we had killed off the Knick's rally.
While it wasn't THE winning shot, it ended the Knicks' rally at that point. This was of course followed by Alvin William's famous shot to seal the deal. At that point I celebrated with my entire family what seemed at the time like a miracle. From then, I called my best friend (big b-ball family) to hear his house in celebration. Outside my door there were people running around with Raptor flags, cars honking in the background.

Damn, I love the Raptors.

Forget Trading Bosh, Whose Going To Steal Him?

It’s every general managers worst nightmare, a talented individual, leaving without anything in return. Unfortunately, in some cases, whether it be hesitation to pull the trigger, a lack of cap, or an economic recession (hint hint), players often leave to where the grass is greener.

I’m sure many of you have at least once read one of Paul Johnson’s “The Five”. I remembered reading his article on the top five FA’s for the famous 2010 offseason. This got me thinking, forget the best five, any fool can recognize the best names of the NBA, lets talk about where they will go! Who has a realistic chance of stealing a franchise player, whether it be this summer, or the next.

Before I delve into it, there are a few variables to consider, but for the most part, here are the key deciding factors, whose on contract, both staff and players, what city do you call home, ownership, and of course, the availability of money and how much is really available after you resign part of your core . Look no further than Portland, many of its contracts will run off the books prior to the best FA crop in history, but how much of that money will go to keeping their core together. Finally, of course these should be taken with a grain of salt, who knows what could happen in the next month, who knows what can happen at any time really, a bad trade there, a critical injury, anything can happen.

So here it is, the top five “thieves” on the market.

1. Dallas
With all this talk of New York clearing cap, teams struggling to shed contracts Dallas’s positioning for a great FA haul have largely been kept secret. Perhaps because in the media, they are just the team with an enigmatic owner who gave up a youthful all star for a quick win right now fix but to players, this may be the most attractive option out there. How many players out there do you think feel the frustration knowing that their owners refuse to spend the money that breeds success. With Cuban, you may get someone who is perhaps too involved, but at least you know that you have someone who values winning as much as you do, someone who feels the stings of losses as much as you do. And moving on past ownership, you can find comfort in a great coaching staff and a solid core. The opportunity to know you can make a run alongside an already potent duo in Nowitzki and the JET should be appeal enough. Raptor fans watch out for Dallas. Even if the Raptors made it to the second round this year and the next, the chance to play for a team dedicated to success, 2 proven players and in front of your home crowd may be simply too much to pass up on.

2. Detroit

Detroit may be in the most unfortunate situation of all the NBA franchises. Why? Because they have the talent, the GM savvy but perhaps, not the money. I have to believe that Detroit’s ability to play in the market will really depend on how the recovery of the larger market goes. With a city plagued by the suffering automobile industry, they really can’t be that secure in their financial stability. With an already commendable core of RIP, Prince, Maxiell and I’d have to assume a resigned Stuckey, they may be so talented that they may not need a marquee signing. But with the cap relief from Wallace and Iverson, they are in perhaps the greatest position of all teams to make a running this offseason and perhaps get a prime big man to already seal a starting lineup for the next few years. Could this be Boozer’s next home, perhaps not but I wouldn’t be surprised if one of Utah’s phenomenal big man rotation ends up here. With the emergence of Millsap as a deserving starter, he could be the cheaper but equally effective big man Utah holds on to. This leaves Mr Dumar’s the very real opportunity to go after Okur or Boozer. An interesting point about the 2009 FA’s big man crop is that although they are not as prominent as some of the names in 2010, there are quite a few quality bigs out there that could be signed for a bargain. To me, David Lee stands out amongst the rest as a great possible steal.

3. Chicago
Ah the city that inspired thousands to pick up a basketball and try it. The only reason they rank as low as third is just because it’s simply too hard to predict how they will look next week let alone by the end of the year. But assume for a minute that with the exception of cap buster Larry Hughes, that Paxson plays it safe and keeps his core together, instead hoping to sign that quality big rather than sacrifice assets. With arguably the best 1,2,3 rotation in the NBA, this historical franchise is probably seen as an ideal destination for many of the bigs looking to cash in. The Bulls for years have been struggling to find that big man, and after showing such reluctance to trade away their many valuable pieces, perhaps it’s time to play the open market instead. With a much larger market, this franchise, unlike Detroit, has a much stronger ability to whether this recession and make the big offers. Even if some of the pieces do go away, they have so many that as long as Rose and Deng are kept and a nice signing, the Bulls will already have a very commendable roster.

4. New Jersey
Even though they may be the Brooklyn Nets, the team as a whole has made such progress this year alone, that with steady progress in the following season, it will be hard for a player to not recognize a great opportunity to play alongside a solid 1-2 in Harris, Carter and the emerging Lopez. It’s yet to be seen what further moves will be done, but I have no doubt that they will either add another piece to their core, or we will see some solid progress in YI that the Chinese populace undoubtedly see’s right now. Anyways, even without that addition, the solid guard play will be attractive to any big men to come over and complement them.

5. Miami
Ah Miami, this is one of the franchises, where the city alone has an appeal. How many people would love to call Miami their home, a chance to play for a legend in Riley, and a chance to play for a living super star in Wade. How many people honestly believe he’s going anywhere. Once Marion is moved, or leaves on his own, you will see some solid development with Beasley and steady progress from Chalmers. This team then may become a place of interest for all FA’s, whether you be a point guard, or a centre. Although I’m sure Riley wants to add a great big man like the rest of these teams, I think he would strongly consider another great wing player or point guard.

I think what makes all these teams so interesting is the fact that a lot of these teams have the ability to make the playoffs without any additions. After the Elton Brand fiasco, we all know how important that is to a player. This also seems to bode well for the Raptors as a lot of these teams are out there to find a big man and might be willing to take the gamble with O’Neal for a lack of great quality big men in the league in general. But at the same, it’s just as dangerous for the Raptors in 2010 as teams set their eyes on Bosh, a quality big for the future. But whether you’re Okur, Bosh, Boozer, Stoudamire or Ming, the market looks fantastic for big men and there definitely feels like there will be a few steals out there.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

All-Star Voting a.k.a. The Popularity Contest

I'm sure that everyone knows about the atrocity that is CB4 trailing Yi Jianlian in the All-Star ballots. How is this possible? I'm still asking myself the same question. I've read some other forums about this, and it's turned into this racist fued about Chinese people supporting their man because he's Chinese. This is definitely not the avenue I'd like to take. I'm all for supporting one's countryman, because everyone knows that Canadians pride on Leo Rautins Steve Nash. Aside from that fact, Yi is beating out the likes of Pierce, Turkoglu, Granger, and Prince amongst others. Really? REALLY?!?!?!?!!?

Bosh's lack of votes is still reflective upon the fact that he isn't getting as much respect as he deserves. I'm not talking MVP-styles, cause you know I'm not one of the fans chanting MVP when he's doing free throws. BUT what I am saying is that despite his efforts last year to make funny video pleas to put him into the All-Star game, he's still not recognized as one of the top forwards in the NBA. And then comes along Yi this year, who's effortlessly being voted in third amongst Forwards.

Including Yi leading Bosh, there's also the puzzling figure of Gilbert Arenas getting almost half a million votes and he has yet to step on the court this season. I wish I could compromise these votes with the fact that he'll be playing by then, but from what I hear, he won't be back til mid-February.

Which brings me to the conclusion that the All-Star game is another bid to see celebrities. Being a celebrity is different from being talented. Exhibit A: Rafael Araujo. Definitely a celebrity in Toronto. Granted, not the most admired celebrity of the Raptors, but nonetheless, a celebrity. Exhibit B: Britney Spears. 'Nuff said. Yi and Yao are both huge celebrities in China, and I don't doubt that a bunch of their votes are coming from overseas. Again, I don't hate on the fact that they're getting their votes, but I will hate on the fact that the reason for voting All-Stars into the game is flawed. How is it that Hibachi Boy is beating out our own Calderon and the Hawks' Joe Johnson? Remember, Hibachi got to the level that he did not only because of his ability to pierce teams with his game-winning shots, but also because of his beloved blog that fans ate up. So again I say, the All-Star voting system is flawed.

I thought that the purpose of the All-Star game was to exhibition the best players of the NBA for both conferences. I thought that fans were supposed to vote based on talent that season, but I guess I was wrong.

If this is what the All-Star game is about, which is seeing celebrity players as opposed to talented players, then what's the point? It's irrefutable that the All-Star weekend is quickly declining in quality, and the voting process proves no differently. I don't find comfort in knowing that CB4 will most likely be chosen over Yi by coaches as a reserve for the game because seeing basketball fans not give credit where credit is due is as uncomfortable as it gets. It's a slap in the face to the work ethic of players, and it's a slap in the face to the existence of the All-Star game.

The "Untouchables"

I found interesting that Chuck Swirsky recently mentioned how the Raptors should make a bold trade, get rid of Bosh and start fresh with a new strong core. It's interesting to note how little we can trust our own commentators when Chuck was feeding us the same "don't touch Bosh" BS over the past few years. But the truth is that the Raptors are no different to other Toronto teams who have hindered their chances at greater ambition because to the limited foresight. What I'm talking about is the common practice of Toronto teams treating complementary players as if they were superstars.

The procedure is simple.
1- Toronto team starts rebuilding.
2- 80% of the team is filled with mediocre-terrible players.
3- Fans demand to scratch the entire team.
4- MLSE agrees, but designates their list of "untouchables" (IE: Jim Brennan, Toronto FC, Mats Sundin, Maple Leafs). Their logic being that the best of this bunch is good enough to be among the best in the league.

The Raptors currently have their three, straight from the mouth of Brian Colangelo: Jose Calderon, Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani.
The thing is that I can easily see Chris Bosh, Andre and (maybe) Jose being key in winning a championship by complementing true superstar players. That's what these players are, complementary players (and very good ones at that).
Ever since the Raptors lost Vince Carter (at the time, a true game winning superstar), Raptor fans have tried to put Chris Bosh in his suit as the savior.
My point isn't that the Raptors shouldn't build around these guys. But we should seriously give some consideration that Chris Bosh is not the franchise player we were trying to make him be, and that he's actually more expendable than most think.

Brian Colangelo, The Savior?

We all of course we remember when BC, aka the architect, agreed to come to Toronto. The city once again had a non alcoholic related buzz about it, people were talking, someone of consequence, was coming North. With half the team removed, a leafs team scrambling to d o anything, a #1 pick and a Canadian themed uniform, it was safe to believe this was the time for the Raptors. We can reinvent the culture, forget the 81 point nightmare, it was finally time for the Raptors to matter.

Uncharacteristically, we were right!

With the arrival of "Il Mago" and the signing of TJ. Ford, and the development of Bosh, our core was set. The Raptors stormed through with an NBA best rivaling home record and were blessed with our second banner, a division title. Fans were inspired. "BC for PM!" signs read in the stands. The town was talking. Jesus Christ, aka Bryan had come to save us, to rescue us from the dark. As we stormed to third place in the league, people wondered what we could really do in the playoffs. How far away that seems now.

The sea of red. How nice of us to make the Nets feel welcome. But lets not harp about allowing someone to average a triple double. Hell, lets skip last season and not complain about allowing someone to average 20 and 20. Lets just focus on now and what's left of BC's legacy?

I think Solomon deserves to be here twice.

But what was left from Mr Embry?

The first pick

Given that the first pick was handed to him to choose, how many great pieces has he really brought here. For the most part, we seem to have accumulated an astounding number of limited players, whether they be scrubs, athletically challenged, intellectually challenged or what have you. Take out whoever would have been our first pick, and it looks more like we used all our cap space on an undeniably talented but risky player, and the rest we can barely give away, let alone trade away. Looking at what Wayne Embry left us, yes he made his mistakes, but for the most part, the players we move forward, are his. Yes I would keep Graham, I still believe once he knows his role, he can be a solid rotation player.

Looking back at this, should we be surprised? I don't know why we should be. To me, BC has always seemed like a great builder, but not fine tuner. People seem to remember Phoenix as always having Nash, but look a bit further back and you'll see a not so fabulous team. In fact, you would probably notice a team a lot like the raptors, destined to get to the first round at best. But lets not even look at those years of mediocrity and lets focus on the Suns of success. Within one year, BC pulled off a serious of moves highlighted by the arrival of Nash. They took off, but to me, that highlight of a season was their peak. I still don't think they are better today than with that lineup of Nash, Johnson, Richardson, Marion and Stoudemire. BC traded Johnson for a bunch of scrubs buried on an Atlanta bench and the team never was able to get over the hump. He was never quite able to fine tune that team and I don't see it changing any time soon.

I don't doubt for a second his ability to shed contracts, and rebuild from nothing, but I do question his ability and willingness to take risks, to gamble and as I've said many times now, fine tune. In the off season, I was hoping we would be able to use Rasho and TJ as separate pieces believing that there was no fix it all player. BC took a gamble and it's clearly not paying off now but I do commend the risk he took. Hopefully this has not turned him off risk taking and next year, if all signs point towards another sinking ship next year that he has the courage to pull off a move that can restore some pieces, give us some depth, and perhaps allow the raps to at least maintain, mediocrity.

It is undeniable that in his first year, with the arrival of Parker, Bargnani, Ford, Garbo etc. that we were on the right track. But what can we say of his moves after our cloud nine season. Quite frankly, Kapono being our marquee signing, and giving up all our assets for one player doesn't quite cut it for me. As we swallow another loss at the hands of one of the more recent BC import's, one must wonder, with our core largely from a pre-Colangelo error, how much has he really done?

The Raptors: The Key To Success

Another day, another loss, another opportunity missed, another jump shot missed another team getting more than a victory. The Raptors, more than any other team have undoubtedly been successful in one area this season, we are regrettably, the team that sets you straight. Lose to us and it's like a slap in the face, get your sh** together and bring it to your next opponent. Beat us, and give yourself more confidence, more belief, let yourself walk the walk and sleep soundly knowing you set a team that could have been, three steps back. The Hawks game to me was more than a loss for a few reasons, the seams on our team are breaking. It's hard to believe that two seasons ago, Sam Mitchell held high his award, largely due to his ability to build such chemistry so quickly and yet now we see distrusting eyes glare at each other, blaming each other for yet another opportunity squandered.

But as we point the figure on our side, on the other end of the court, a team celebrates. We see a team with renewed confidence, with a swagger, a victory despite key injuries, a team that is better than the sum of its parts, a team that will carry this momentum forward. Time and time again we have seen the Raptors squander a lead and as we shake our heads in disgust, eventually we move on, waiting for the next game with that faint hope that maybe today is the day. How many of us think about the other team, the effects of a stolen game from another teams eyes. Upon closer inspection, it's quite nauseating just to see how our beloved Raps have become the NBA band-aid quick solution for teams.

Of course it all began that faithful day when Vince C***** stepped onto the court. In a game where if we saw the box score, with Bosh and Bargnani combining for more than 60 points, we would immediately think victory, we allowed a comeback of the ages, a desperation three, an alleyoop winning dunk. What was the followup? Like an enraged bull, the Nets carried their momentum forward and charged charge up the standings with basically a two man team. And as their euphoria has worn off, we can now see the effects as they tumble down to reality and as quality teams expose their many weaknesses. It's really too bad we don't play the Nets again, they may need us to make their playoff run.

And then when all hope was lost, then came the rallying cry that called many Raptor fans back from the fence with a victory over our executioners last April, the Orlando Magic. Here we have a young team with undeniable size and talent, but perhaps lack the mental tenacity and focus to maintain top quality play over 82 games. I'm sure you remember reading prior to this atrocious season that nobody mentioned the Magic as contenders, nobody even saw them as elite. They were instead seen as a team on the border, a team who despite their talent and roster, lacked one thing, presence. But never fear, the Raptors are here. As the Magic suited up, I'm sure they saw this game as in the bag and were surprisingly, even to us fans, given a contest. We were able to keep the game competitive and even uncharacteristically gut out a victory! But again, what was the reaction. I seem to remember Stan the man saying something like "We just didn't have the energy." I don't know how the rest of you reacted but my first reaction was, wow, no energy and they still almost won. When the raps have no energy, we lose by 40. When we have some energy, we lose by 20. When we give it our all, we ....still lose. But this was definitely the slap in the face the Magic needed, and since then have rallied onto impressive victories. So impressive that they have by consensus, gained the watchful eye of critics and have joined the elite. I know Bosh and Howard are already great friends, but I'm sure Howard is thankful for having such a caring, giving friend.

And then of course, we have that dreaded back to back against the Celtics. When I first heard of these games coming up, I immediately thought, wow, this is exactly what the Celtics need. The Celtics, being recently tackled off their high horse were in disarray, questioning each other, their swagger, they had lost 4 games in a row, for the first time since this new big three joined forces. We probably could not have faced a mentally weaker Celtic team, but at the same time, we probably could not have faced a more determined Celtic team. I'm sure they recognized this as a golden moment to quench their thirst for victory and get back to their winning ways. Trust KG and company to recognize this opportunity and be able to turn it into not two victories, but five and counting.

You'd be all smiles as well knowing you get to play the Raptors twice.

To me, just seeing that schedule was the beginning of the end for what little confidence the Raptors had restored in themselves. Why? Because even though the game was competitive, you can't help but notice as we swapped two for three, a free throw for two, and a turnover for three, that at the end of the game, we felt good about almost winning. Since when was the standard of Raptor excellence and "feelgoodery" an almost victory. It's nice to say you learn from your mistakes, and can even build on losses, but do we learn? As Kapono travels once again for the billionth time in his career, did he learn? As Bosh hesitates too long again and gets shut down by Noah, does he learn? As Joey clears out space with his off arm and gets called out again, does he learn? To me, these things are ingrained in their muscle memory, we can't really learn, too much of basketball is about reacting and reflexes, the best have the patience and the IQ to think and react, but we are far from the best. To me only one thing is clear, the Raptors have learned one thing this season, how to give the other team what they need. How noble of them, how generous, how patriotic of the Raptors to embrace the Canadian friendliness and give so selflessly to the rest of the NBA. Here's hoping we get Marion. Say what you will about him wanting to be the man, asking for more attention, more lime light, at least at the end of the day, he's a taker.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Doug Smith's Christmas Wishes Didn't Come True

May Bryan Colangelo find under his tree some trade offer that he can accept, one that makes his team better at no substantial cost so we can put to rest those wacky rumours (until the trade deadline that is).

May Chris Bosh find the resolve to play more like November than the first part of December, and cascading cheers every time he’s at the Air Canada Centre. Oh, and some more of those 30-point games.

May Jermaine O’Neal find youth, springs for his legs, a spate of good health and a knee brace that has straps that work.

Jamario Moon? His wife’s due to have a baby any day, please let the child bring him great joy and contentment and tire him out so much he cannot bite on pump fakes.

Jay Triano? A southern accent, a zany personality and the ability to entertain the masses in a variety of ways. Oh, wait. Been there, done that, dude got fired. Scratch that.

Jason Kapono? Space, wide open space. So he can work on a gentle draw with a 4-iron, of course. What? You thought it was for shots? Nah. All he needs basketball-wise are some Kareem highlight videos so he can work on his sky hook, or whatever that abomination is.

Andrea Bargnani? Where to start? Santa doesn’t have time to read a list that long.

The rest of them? And you?

Peace, prosperity and, perchance, a jump shot.

Taken From: Doug Smith's Blog from Dec. 26/08

Dear Jamario

Dear Jamario Moon,

You've done it again. You've taken yet another ill-advised shot in the hopes that you would make it. When will you get it? We talk about the fact that Shawn Marion doesn't know what option he is - do you? You are NOT the first option when it comes to late-game situations. In fact, I'm surprised that after how many ill-advised shots you've taken in close games, the person bringing up the ball still passes you the ball while youre standing at the elbow. 

You talk under your breath after Chris Bosh confronts you on-court for how you played D on Joe Johnson, and then within the next couple of plays you fall prey to the pump-fake like you normally do and send someone to the free-throw line. Oh wait, didn't CB4 confront you on that at another game, too? And yet, what do you do? After you foul, you smile like the goofy-ass player you are and say to yourself "Awww mang, I fell for it again". Don't fucking smile. You know what you do? DON'T FALL FOR THE PUMP FAKE. 

You get those open shots because scouting reports show you like to take the jumpshot, and are quite contact-averse. How is this possible? With such athleticism, stop trying to be a finesse-player when going to the hoop and dunk that shit. Or better yet, try even driving to the hoop and finishing instead of passing. You're a tall, lanky motherf-cker! I find it ironic that your last name is Moon, or that we used to call you Apollo 33, cause I haven't seen you get in the air nearly as much as you should. And I'm not falling for that shot-blocking "ability" you possess, either. You tend to "block", or as I like to call, "swipe from the side/behind" because you've gotten blown by so much that you've adopted this new skill to try and save face. Frankly, I'm surprised that you're still in the starting lineup after half a season. I would much prefer Joey Graham, but that's just me.

But in all this, even in that tough loss to Atlanta, I find solace in knowing that you belong on this blog. You, Jamario Moon, inspired this post. Because you, Jamario Moon, are mediocre.


Irritated Jamario Moon Observer

We Are All Waiting

The O'Neal trade is a failure. It's time to move on. Let's make the best possible move we can get and let's pull the trigger as soon as we can... and hope all the good things that have come from J.O.'s absence continues. We don't really have anything to lose at this point. We're 10 games under .500, we have no depth and we aren't exactly showing any signs that we want to compete this year, so we might as well just ride the season out and try to get some consistency to build on for the next year.

Am I giving the season up? No. It might sound like I am, but really I do feel that something can still change after an O'Neal trade. And honestly, how many really thought the O'Neal trade was actually going to tremendously improve the Raptors when all the other teams were simply getting better?

I think with this season especially, the Raptors are overburdened with the loss of Mitchell, the failed trade, the injuries and the lack of consistency. I feel once Colangelo deals with the O'Neal situation, at least some of that burden will be gone and there will be less pressure.

The Matrix Situation: It's pretty much a safe trade between the two clubs. Neither team has anything to lose. And in terms of salary situation, there isn't any safer deals out there that Colangelo could dive into.

Should the Raptors deal with other Losers? Is "playing it safe" that best we could muster? What if Colangelo can use his reputation to tempt other teams to give up something we can actually build on? What if the Kings are willing to give up Brad Miller, John Salmons (someone B.C. once coveted) and a vet. guard, Bobby Jackson for O'Neal and Kapono? I am very anxious to see what Colangelo does in the next couple of days.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Was That DNP A Sign?

Short post tonight. As I watched from the stands and saw Humphries struggle to contain O'Neal, my mind drifted to the other O'Neal. He played against Indiana without injury did he not? My first thought was that this was a sign that he was going to be traded. After noticing that Kapono was not there as well, I thought maybe they were both involved. After all, there was no reports about injuries in practice or from that game. Anyways, life went on, but then as I glanced through the box score for the Miami game, things got even more interesting. Shawn Marion, after picking up his stats over the last 10 games, was another DNP. Coincidence? I think not. In Jermaines case, it is definitely possible that perhaps he is sore after returning to action, what really seals the deal in my mind is Marion. He has performed exceptionaly well over the last span of games for the Heat and there has been no mention of any injuries lingering or new. I am unfamiliar with whether trades occur over the weekend, I've never really paid attention to it, but I have to think, if trades only happen during business days, then prepare to read about a trade within the next few days, if not tommorow morning.

Bosh gets called out for his unclutch-ness

The Bleacher Report had a little recap of today's Suns-Raps game (thanks to Raptors Republic for the link) and other than the usual, this stood out:

"..when Toronto needed calm leadership, nobody stepped up.

Chris Bosh, who had just moments earlier scored a basket and was fouled by O'Neal missed a crucial free throw, went missing. Whenever the Raptors look to their franchise man for a big play, Bosh seems to look elsewhere.

If Bosh does have the ball in his hands, his "move" consists of nothing more than a stutter step followed by a jump shot. Rarely does he attack the hoop and when he does, it's without conviction."

Ouch. They nailed it. I guess it's no secret, the whole world knows. No, Bosh isn't Kobe, LeBron, or 'Melo, but he is still our franchise player and one hell of a player. He hasn't shown that he'll takeover in the clutch in big moments, against big teams (the Bobcats don't count). The whole of Raptor nation knows this, but maybe where I differ is that I truly believe he has the skills, he just doesn't do the 'right thing'; it just irks me that he doesn't make better decisions in the clutch. That last line really hit home, about settling for a jumpshot instead of driving hard all the way to the hole. We need more of what he's doing to Brian Skinner in that picture.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Matrix Revolutions

Since its all the hype right now, lets talk about this seemingly very real possibility of the Matrix himself, Shawn Marion, coming to Toronto. I don't like his character. I know he is very talented athlete and player, he can do wonders for our defense and fast-break, and of course, add something the Raptors severely lack in - athleticism. BUT, again, I don't like his character. This guy was living a dream playing in Phoenix with Steve Nash and Stoudemire, and as Bill Simmons once said in one of his articles, Shawn Marion should be thanking God every night that Steve Nash and Mike D'Antoni ever walked into his life. Instead, he started whining about not being in the spotlight enough and even more ridiculous - that he also should've been considered an MVP candidate. Are you kidding me? Steve Nash brought out the best in him with his run-and-gun style and selfless team play. Amare Stoudemire would warrant more of an MVP vote than Marion. So he cries about not getting enough touches and didn't wanna play second, or I guess third banana on a team and then goes to Miami. It didn't take a genius to figure out that Marion can't create his own shot for shit.

Now don't get me wrong, again, he's a GREAT piece to have, if he can open his eyes and see that he's not a #1 option, or #2 for that matter. He brings a lot to the table, and I'm hoping he realizes now that "hey you know what, I'm not that prolific scorer that I thought I was."
Acquiring Shawn Marion for Jermaine O'Neal is a good or bad deal depending on what Colangelo is trying to achieve. Is it just for salary purposes, and to experiment and see if this works out? If so, then fine. But Shawn Marion is far from the answer for our glaring need of a scoring small forward. Dude can't create his own shot and his jumpshot makes Jamario Moon's look smooth.

There's further rumours that after getting Marion, Colangelo is looking to trade Calderon for Nash. Are you out of your fucking mind? This is the equivalent to Cuban trading Devin Harris for Jason Kidd last year. No, I'm not saying Calderon is anything close to as good as Harris is, but you get my point - trading a young, promising point guard for an old, about-to-be-out-of-the league one. For all his defensive discrepancies, Calderon is one heck of a point guard. Yes, you're right, he probably couldn't stop Robert "Tractor" Traylor from blowing by him, but he's still one of the more top-tier pg's. Which brings us back to the Matrix. Marion's strength offensively is fast-break, and we all know Jose isn't that type of point guard. So what, you're gonna get Nash just so we can run that for a year...maybe 2? The whole point is to grow into a contender with our young, promising squad and have a bright future, correct?

I'm all for Marion coming to Toronto for the right reasons. But if Colangelo and co. are seriously expecting him to be that slashing wing we so desperately need, than he needs to get off the crack. And that's as much on Marion as it is on Colangelo; if Marion's attitude has changed then this may work. And I guess with the shitstorm of a season we've had, why not try it right? It just looks gloomy, naturally, for us Raptors fans. The Matrix Reloaded in Miami, and has been a disappointment there so far from what I've read, and coming to T.O would be the Revolution.

Rumors, Rumors, Rumors.

Any fool who watches the raptors lose time and time again can all agree on one thing. Jamario Moon as the starting small forward is barely acceptable on a D League level. In fact, our perimiter play in general is perhaps one of the most lacking in the NBA. As the raptors tumble through the standings and as the 76'ers pull it together in the absence of Brand, the window of opportunity to claim a playoff spot is dwindling and the pressure to deliver a trade hightens.

During this economic recession, basketball and all pro sports take an interesting turn. How valuable is it to make the playoffs? Teams like Miami, New Jersey and Milwaukee, currently in the playoff hunt have to evaluate and wonder, is it worth it? With salary cap killers, Carter, Marion, Jefferson and Redd, an owner must be wondering whether a first round exit is worth all this money in troubled times. In my opinion, this recession makes trade talk all the more interesting as financial motives begins to take a higher precedence in trade motives.

What does this mean to the Raptors? Despite our famous stingy ownership, the Raptors are one of the few teams in the NBA who can afford to have salary busters. Being in a strong market, filled with corporate sponsorship, and a historical NHL franchise, they are one of the few teams who don't have to worry as much about breaking even and can contemplate taking on heavy contracts.

For the Raptors, we can discount a trade with the Bucks simply because, as I believe, our best trade bait is ONeal and with Bogut signed to a long term deal, they don't need Oneal there. But we can look at other teams looking to cement their core, give playing time to the young and shed some contracts. So who do the Raptors have a shot with? Just by looking at team situations, salary situations, and young talent, and players the Raptors may actually want, I think we can fairly easily narrow down possible trading partners to the Chicago Bulls, Charlotte Bobcats, Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat. These teams made the cut mainly because these teams would be interested in Oneal and have viable players to sendback and help clog up our deficiencies.

These four seem to be the most viable deals for the Raptors to do in return for Oneal, so lets take a deeper look into the benefits of each deal.

Dallas: Gets a great low post player to complete Dirk. In my opinion has a much better chance of working over the Bosh Oneal duo. Before he came I always felt that Oneal had a better shot of coexisting with Bargnani because that three point threat needs to be there.Not to mention this deal lets them dish their publicity nightmare Howard and also gives him the fresh start he needs. To make this deal viable, the expiring contract of Stackhouse would have to be thrown in as well. Given that he has seen a reduced role with Dallas given the emergence of Barea, they are also helping to solve their minute and chemistry issues. It is also of importance that in the west, they are going to need a solid defensive bigman to contain almost every team in the West. Dallas also doesn't lose any financial flexibility as the length of the contracts are the same.

Raptors: Giving the abundance of minutes at their positions, and Stackhouse's leadership off the bench, this may look like a simple financial inclusion, but his effect could be extremely influential on the rest of the bench. Both these players will look at this team as an opportuntiy, a fresh start and a chance to still be on a team that has a chance. In Howard we will find a solid all around sf, who more importantly, can create his own shot and be given the ball in late game situations. Having the team option for Howard may prove important in keeping Bosh with the Raptors if this trade works out.

*Note: For this trade, another player may have to be involved, possibly a Moon for Green swap.

Heat: Oneal round two. This duo may not be as powerful as the Superman Flash combo but it certainly would be a scary duo to face. With Wade unstopabable this year and able to get to the rim at will, he could be the perimiter play Oneal needs to regain his touch. Without any other credible bigs on the floor, this could also give him the room he needs to operate down low. An understated aspect of this trade could be the minutes it opens up for Beasley to have a more prominent, stable role and gain some valuable minutes to learn and get back into ROY contention. Again we see the immense cap relief in 2010 to keep wade and who knows what else.

Of all the possible options, this may be the easiest to do, but the least helpful. In Marion we certainly get someone to address our needs of a defensive stop, but the question is what can he bring to the offensive table. Do the raps really want another player who can't create his own shot. I can't imagine any team at any time giving the ball to Marion to make the last play. However, his knowledge and ability on the fast break may be what the Raps need to learn how to actually run effectively. I think the success of this trade hinges on Bargnani's ability to keep this run going. If he maintains himself as a 20 point threat, it may not matter what Marion brings to the offensive table and his offensive putbacks and few fast break points may be all we need. I dont think the Raps really will be getting anyone else of value to make contracts match. With the emergence of Roko, do we really want Banks to clog up pg minutes? Getting Wright may be valuable if he can provide a consistent role.

Charlotte: They may be able to get rid of the NBA player with what I assume must be the record for most concussions. They get a great defensive and offensive low post weapon in ONeal who will definitely fit in well with Larry Brown's System. The availability of this deal however has dwindled in my mind as they already made moves to acquire Boris Diaw and recently Diop. With Okafor on the roster, they may be reluctant to add another big and may be in fact more keen on acquiring a strong guard. I would think that if a player of Oneal's stature was acquired, it could mean another big is on the move in Charlotte or they may just like to keep Diop and Diaw incase Oneal's injury history follows him. I do think however with the acquisition of Oneal, Charlotte could boast perhaps one of the best post defenses in the NBA and with Raja on the wing, it may not matter how difficult it is for them to score.

Raptors: For this deal to be a success, I think a lot of it hinges on who the second peice is. If we were to receive Felton, this could be a steal. We would garner a solid pg/sg rotation and our whole at Sf would certainly be filled but at the same time let's not forget however that charlotte struggled to score with these two players as key weapons. I think it would be safe to assume they would be no better for Toronto's offense. As Raptor fans cringe when Solomon and Moon take their jump shots, do we really want two more players who have a penchant for bad shots? This deal to me is the riskiest of the possible ones out there, these players could thrive, or it could be the beginning of the end.

Bulls: The final deal to discuss. It's almost definite that one of the pieces involved will be Nocioni, and the success of this deal will largely depend on who those second and third pieces are. With Rose claiming the spotlight, Hinrich's days as the pg could be numbered. As the Bulls have searched for a low post threat for years, and after missing out on Gasol, this could be their chance to add that missing piece. A core of Rose, Gordon, Deng, Oneal and with the progress of Noah and Thomas, this would be a scary team for anyone to play. If I was Paxson, I would have to consider this deal greatly.

Raptors: I think perhaps the most important element of this trade is the fact that we would be getting three players back. With Hinrich, Nocioni and perhaps a thrown in Sefolasha, although their are no stars, we would be contributing greatly to our depth, our bench, and I believe our attitude. Nocioni is one of the most hard nosed players in the NBA and in all three of those players, we would be getting players with defensive mind sets. To build on my last article, I think they would be great leaders for our bench as well. With Calderon, Parker, Nocioni, Bosh, Barganin and Hinrich leading our bench, I think that's the biggest improvement our roster could see by only losing one player. We solve our SF and backup PG/SG holes in one swift move. Who knows, maybe we could sucker Paxson into taking Will off our hands as well.

I love the Bulls and Dallas the deals the most, but I think the best part of all of these deals, is that everyone's a winner. Here's hoping GM's agree with me!

Back To The Matrix

The Raptors are all over HoopsHype with the same Marion-O'Neal trade rumor. And it looks like both teams are willing for the swoop, with the Raptors possibly also acquiring Marcus Banks and maybe Dorell Wright to match the salaries.

I want to just get back to the discussion of Marion's role with the Raptors if this deal were to be sealed. As Malin has mentioned, Marion is more of a fastbreak guy, who relies heavily on a good pointguard. Calderon will need to really work on his alley-oop skills to get this guy going or else he might just end up settling out in the perimeter and we all know how frustrating that could be. However, we do get an incredible rebounder.

But with the possible acquisition of Marion, is Colangelo already planning a swoop for Steve Nash as well? Could these be counted as long-term moves or is he trying to make us believe that this could change the mediocre Raptors into contenders? I don't think so...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Is leadership the question?

I could not help but think about the last few lines of the previous post. Is leadership really the problem, can we look at Bosh, or Jose and simply say they are not leading properly? After thinking about it, personally I don't think that its fair to criticize that. So many people tribute Boston's resurgence to KG's leadership, his intensity, leading his crew, but I find it hard to believe that KG learned leadership at the tender age of 32?

Being an avid KG fan in his Timberwolves day, I struggle to remember one year where the team as a whole showed the passion the Celtics showed last year. I quote last year because I don't see it as much this year. Even when they made it to the conference finals, KG was undoubtedly the leader, but his teammates did not show the intensity that he did, it was not visible that KG had a direct effect on "pumping his team up". That was a year where they just had a good mesh of talent, diving for those 50/50 balls was not the reason they made it as far as they did while for the Celtics, the hustle of Posey, PJ and Powe were deciding factors. I can't remember exactly but I think PJ Brown had a +/- of 20 something during the finals. I do think when you see the Celtics this year, you can see that void on their bench. The leadership of those two off the bench, their passion their leadership set the tone for their bench and I think once we hit the playoffs, we're going to really see how much they will sorely be missed. Similarily, I think it will be even more interesting to see the effect Ginobili, Terry, Odom and Kirilenko have on the outcome in the west.

Leaders of the teams get so much criticism because they are the face of the team, but I think it's more important to have a group of leaders, and personally I think the best teams have multiple leaders, different kinds, leaders who are your best player, leaders who are your smartest player, leaders who are your best bench player, leaders who are vets, but more importantly, I think they need PLAYERS who hold each other and themselves accountable. It's always easy to say, oh Chris should have driven on the last possession, but whose fault was it that the game was so close at the end? I think the most underrated leader is the leader of the bench. Having a quality seasoned player accept his role off the bench sends an example to the rest of the bench. I think being able to look at the bench and hold them accountable is important, but I think those players on the bench knowing they are accountable is perhaps one of the most important points in building a team.

Look no further than the spurs and you'll see. Yes, they have a superstar in Duncan and one of the best point guards in the league in Parker, but we also know their success depends on how far Ginobili can carry them. I don't think any Spur took it harder being eliminated by the Lakers when it was clear that him being injured and not having a great series was ultimately the deciding factor. I think too many team s underestimate the value of the 6th man. He's so much more than energy off the bench, he may be the most valuable leader on the team. Down the 13th man, they are the lesser stars, they are the ones who can look to that 6th man, making a sacrifice for the team, helping any way they can, but more importantly, by sharing that bench together, they can relate and learn.

As this is a Raptor blog, let me relate it someway. Looking at their roster, its clear, we are still pieces away, key pieces. In my opinion though, Oneal getting injured may be the best thing that happens to the team this regular season. Not only did we get Bargnani to see that he does belong, but having a former all star, a seasoned proven vet leading the bench, I cant' help but think he will be the example and leader that Joey, Kris, Jake, Jason and Ukic need. I think we didn't realize the psychological implications of the game. Having our 6th man early on be a unproven third year insecure player looking to prove that he belongs, I think that can be a bad sign. Do you really want your leader off the bench to be unsure of whether he even belongs? I think we can rest easy knowing that no matter how many times Azubuike destroy's Oneal's knee, he's going to know he belongs in this league. I think it will be very interesting to keep an eye on how the bench reacts to Oneal being the 6th man.

This was my first post on a blog in god knows so I would appreciate any feedback, positive or negative.

PS. I know its long, I tend to ramble!