Monday, March 30, 2009

Sam Mitchell, Timberwolves Head Coach?

On ESPN's Weekend Dime, they mention that our former coach, good ol' Smitch, may coach the Minnesota Timberwolves next season:

"Toronto ex Sam Mitchell, according to NBA coaching sources, is indeed likely to emerge as the top candidate in Minnesota -- where he was beloved as a player by Wolves owner Glen Taylor -- if Kevin McHale decides not to return as coach.

Taylor has said he expects McHale to return to the Wolves' bench next season."

Obvious really, and I'll be happy for Sam Mitchell if he indeed does get the position. We all know Kevin McFail's tenure as a GM, and he's turned out to be a much better coach than anyone could've predicted. If he decides not to return as a coach, then Smitch is almost guaranteed the spot and as horrible as the T'Wolves have been, Smitch may be a good fit since he's a great motivator, and obviously not a good X's-n-O's type of guy. But that's okay, since Minnesota isn't close to contending anyway, and with a good young core, Sam Mitchell can at least get these guys to play hard. And as soon as he (if) gets the gig, he can start talking about how great of a player KG was/is on day one.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fantastic 4 - & Like The Movie Its Disappointing Considering The Potential

I'm not sulking, in case you think I am by looking at the title; I just mean, who knows what woulda happened had we started winning (and playing) like this earlier on in the season. Anyways, that was a crazy game. I came home from work at about 6:15, and didn't bother turning the tv on because I figured

a) the game was over, as it started at 3:30 and
b) this season was over a long time ago.

So Rachel calls me and feverishly asks me "are you WATCHING!?" I reply "is it still on!??" She informs me that she called me just to know if I'm witnessing, the Raps, up 1, with something seconds to go, have Anthony Parker at the line and how we always joke that he always, ALWAYS misses one of the two free throws - and of course he did. Which allowed the Bulls to tie it on a very difficult Ben Gordon jumper over Bosh.

That's when I'm tuned in to the game, on my couch, ready to take in some Raptors ball - this game looked so intense. Like, playoff atmosphere intense. Which is kind of a sad reminder since we're not in it, but I wasn't feeling down about it, I was too into the game and taking it for what it's worth. The Bulls go on a 4-0 run as Derrick Rose blazes by Calderon, and then came that slick, sharp Bargnani 3. Just drilled it, and I loved how he let out a roar running back down the floor, with his unshaven face, untucked jersey and all.

Calderon almost threw the game away with that awful turnover with no one to pass to in the air. On the steal and fastbreak, Bargnani was outnumbered 2-1 and he still made it really tough for Derrick Rose on that drive - that was good defense and even better offense by Derrick Rose. Then came the moment of truth - down one again, with the ball in the franchise's hands. Chris Bosh drives to the basket hard, and instead of getting blocked by Noah this time, he gets off his layup, misses, but quickly tips in his own miss and gets fouled at the same time. Free throw is good. That was really great to see, not just because we won the game, but just to see CB4 finally make a clutch play when on the game is on the line and put the ball through the basket. Again, yes, the Bulls are no defensive juggernaut, but that was a tough, clutch basket nonetheless.

This was an impressive win, I mean I guess the joke is any win right now is an impressive win, but still it was impressive considering the fact we blew a huge lead, but instead of bending over and getting rocked we actually countered and were able to withstand the attack and win. Wow, our longest wining streak of the season, at four games, and this late into the season. This Bosh quote sums it up:

"I wish we'd been playing like this earlier [in the season] but you can't change the past."

If only.

  • Calderon ties franchise high NINETEEN assists. Daaaamnn! He was almost (young) Jason Kidd like (except you know, the defense..and the rebounding). But seriously, dammnnn, nineteen assists!
  • Was that Kapono, back to swishing jumpers like it's nothing again?
  • Text from Rachel while at work: "POPS HAS SOME NAAAASTTTYY DUNKS!" I saw a replay of the game...(gulp), she wasn't kidding. Pops attacked that rim like it was gonna leak out his next contract if he slammed it hard enough.
  • Bosh with 31 and that's the Bosh we were used to until midseason of this year. Nice to see not just such a solid performance, but some enthusiasm as well. He looked...lively, which has been rare in this brutal season.
  • I've never seen any Bulls games this year other than when we've played them, but I hear from all over that Vinny Del Negro is just a terrible coach (I mean for God's sake, Basketbawful creator Matt McHale, has invented a Dull-Negrometer), and he might've helped in our win tonight. I don't why Tyrus Thomas was still on the court in overtime with all those bonehead shots.
  • That Roko Ukic spin-and-jumper was just dirty!
  • Rachel saw Gherardini today. From her tweet, used of course without her permission: "saw maurizio gherardini with a tall euro-looking man. scouting? left with abercrombie and sporting life bags. said hi but didnt hear me.jerk" and "Hes also not as short and stubby as the tv makes him out to be. quite handsome old man actually. not a silver hair out of place."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Chris Bosh Fiasco

Another low point of the Raptors season, the franchise player is being accused of leaving his then pregnant girlfriend of 7 months, kicking her out (he must be still mad from that Cavs game at the ACC when she egged LeBron to take over the game) and not paying any child support while apparently promising to be there for her and his kid. I have no idea what the truth is, so I can't really say anything until the facts arrive, except that I will admit I'll give Bosh the benefit of the doubt and feel that he's being made to look way worse than the situation actually is. For all the fame that Bosh has sought (and there's nothing wrong with that), this is not only a devastating hit, but at the same time, as the saying goes, "there's no such thing as bad publicity" right?

Speaking of which, I don't know why people are shitting on Bosh for trying to build his public persona and become a celebrity. I understand its frustrating seeing as how disastrous the Raptors season is going, but as long as he's playing his game well on the court and giving it his all, there's no miscarriage of justice with him chasing his off-court dreams. There's only two sides to this view - and you either are totally okay with it or against it. It seems most fans are outraged about his video-making, iPhone App developing practices, but I'm totally for it. Chris Bosh doesn't owe us anything other than playing the game of basketball to the best of his abilities on the court. As mad as I get about him not attacking the rim and driving this season, I feel bad for him with regards to this 'deadbeat dad' situation. This is the insult to injury for him in an already dismal year. Yes, it was a joke when he claimed in the beginning of the season he wants to be MVP, and yes he hasn't brought the defensive intensity he played with in the Olympics, you can criticize all that, infact I encourage you to, but non-basketball wise, it's just inane to bash him for his off-court hobbies.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Smitch Facebook quote, Twitter, and Pops nickname

No point talking about the Raps' current games. Some quick random thoughts:

  • I love the green jerseys. Love'em. Most of you probably find them disgusting, like Rach. But then again, she thinks Marcus Banks is good looking. But I dunno, I think the green jerseys are killer, and I know I'm most likely in the minority here.
  • I have a friend who's "Favourite Quotations" section on her Facebook profile contains this:
    "'You can't listen to how good you are, you gotta prove it every night'- Sam Mitchell" I was laughing my ass off and inquired about it, to which she quickly replied "that was a quote BEFORE he got fired."
  • Iavaroni is here just "observing" the Raptor practices? Jay Triano must be sweating harder than Oliver Miller on a treadmill.
  • Dwyanne Wade is frackin' ridiculous. Talk about coming back with a vengeance.
  • Ron Artest has to be in the top ten list of unintentional humour from NBA players. His latest - he thinks LeBron James is a "new and improved version of myself."
  • The Twitter craze has irked the Milwaukee Bucks into banning the use of Twitter as our old friend Charlie Villanueva (aka The Undertaker) was caught tweeting during halftime of a game. Speaking of which, I've joined the Twitter revolution, find me at
  • Everyone's trying to come up with a nickname for Pops Mensah Bonsu. My contribution: "Poppa Boner" - cuz he always plays hard, which is a thing of envy when it comes to the Raptors.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Death Before Life

Since there's really nothing to say about the Raptors let's talk about a different side of basketball. The what could have been side. And I don't mean this season. What I'm referring to are those duo's/trio's or just basketball cores that for whatever reason were blown up. Whether it be free agency, trades or injuries, their time together was cut short. Looking in hindsight, you can't help but wonder how basketball history might have changed if certain moves never happened.

So here are my top 5 tandems that I wish were given more time.

1. Grant Hill and T- MAC

Ironically, both players have been devastated by injuries but what if they weren't. With T-Mac bursting with talent and youth, he had already established himself as one of the most exciting players to watch in the NBA. To put it frankly, he was probably the Wade of the NBA at that time. If not, he at least shared the title with Carter and Kobe. But more importantly than what T-Mac brought, the real shame was that they didn't even get a chance to play together. Grant Hill was one of the most feared NBA guards on the block, seemingly able to score at will and with an all around well built game, he challenged the league as the best small forward. If this duo had time to gel, they would have formed the strongest sg/sf combo in the NBA with unrivaled scoring ability, athleticism, speed and length to play fantastic basketball on both ends of the court.

2. Ron Artest/Jermaine O'Neal/Stephen Jackson/Jamaal Tinsley/Reggie Miller

Before all the fan beating, gun shooting and injury woes, there was an Indiana Pacers team that rivaled the best of the NBA. Coming off a great playoff run, the Pacers set their eyes on the title and were even favored by many to win it all. Unfortunately, the most spontaneous franchise collapse in NBA history was just around the corner. I think the most impressive thing about this team was that with all the suspensions, they still made it to the second round of the playoffs, which to me is just mind boggling. Artest was having an MVP and defensive player of the year season and if you place him into the mix, who knows what could have happened.

3. Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury or Kevin Garnett/Latrell Sprewell, Sam Cassel

take your pick at which you would have liked to see for longer. The first definitely makes my mouth water, two young intense players having the opportunity to play as a duo from a young age is definitely rare and a pg/big man combo is perhaps the best big man combination one can hope for. You have a star player making the decisions, running the team, and bringing the ball up and worse comes to worse, you have a great post player and defender to hit down low. I can't help but wonder if this duo was cut way too short. Then again, it is Stephon so in hindsight, its expected.

The Minnesota trio separation to me is more baffling. You have a reigning MVP, a trio that carried you to the western conference finals against the Lakers, and for next season, instead of adding smaller pieces, let's blow it up and start again. As Russel Peters would say, "MIND BLASTING!" It was just unreal and I wish this team had at least 2 or 3 years to play itself out. I mean with Spree having an ugly exit and with Sam I Am being traded for Marco Jaric straight up, it was such an unfortunate ending to an exciting Timberwolves team. Of course, Glen Taylor and Kevin have done little to prove that they know what their doing.

4. Shaq and Kobe

I never really thought about this so much because to me it was just like the Jose / Ford situation. Whether we liked it or not, one of them had to go. But with the self proclaimed (by Shaq of course) big man little man duo in the history of the NBA, perhaps 3 rings is selling them short. The only thing that makes this separation easier to swallow is just the fact that they had a great run, and won and at least had the chance to show the world what they can offer. Still, with another 2-3 years, who knows how many more rings that would entail.

5. Vince Carter and T-Mac

This team would not have won. I repeat. This team would not have won. But damn how fun would they be to watch. The problem here was really, you have two phenomenal players that play almost the same way. Repetition in any kind of talent doesn't seem to ever bode well for a team. With all that spectacular play however, at least we'd have 82 games of fun before a playoff exit as opposed to our current situation. I mean do you remember when people knew about the Raptors, and we actually made it to ESPN. Yes, THE ESPN! Nowadays, the Raps have a better chance of finding the wardrobe to Narnia than performing well on national television. If you want proof of that, let me remind you that ESPN dropped our last remaining national broadcast.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Shaq vs Bosh+Stan Van Gundy

There's no middle line on Shaq, you either hate him or love him. I've always loved him and think he's funny as hell. Everyone's noticed now that while he's in the twilight in the career (yet still dominating), he's been verbally lashing out at anyone who is even remotely criticizing him. After his 45 point unloading on the Raps, Chris Bosh mentioned how he didn't called for a 3 in the key, and Shaq responded by calling him the "RuPaul of big men." That stung Bosh but he took the high road.

Pretty mature of Bosh, and I'd say pretty immature of O'Neal, but that's what he does, that's what he's been doing since time and you can say there's a line but did he cross it? I don't know. We've laughed at most of his jokes all this time. While it bothers me that its against our franchise player, I'd be lying if I told you it wasn't kind of funny. Not the fact that Bosh looks anything like RuPaul, but just the reference itself. And Bosh said after that he didn't mean Shaq was doing it the whole game, but he didn't specify he meant for one posession either. And I'd care more if the Raptors didn't get blasted and surrender 45 points so easily to a player - granted it's Shaq, but please double him or something when he reached the mid 20's scoring wise.

Then on we go to Stan Van Gundy who called Shaq out for flopping, and in return Shaq went all out and belittled SVG as a coach and how no player that's played for him likes him. I thought Shaq seemed too venomous in this situation, but then I just saw this interview with him elaborating on the matter.

And I can see where he's coming from. Not that he didn't go overboard on Van Gundy, but he's been in the league almost forever and I guess I wouldn't like it either if someone singled me out that harshly on the podium. Now, let me be clear. I like Stan Van Gundy a lot, I think he's a wicked coach. And yup, no matter how you put it, Shaq flopped, and Van Gundy called him out for it. The issue is whether Van Gundy put too much emphasis on talking about the flop. And shaq didn't deny that he was trying to draw a charge. In the interview he said himself, he didn't get the call, he got up, and moved on with the game without complaining about the no-call, plus the Magic won and it should've been that. And I guess as such a dominating player over the decades I wouldn't want someone to say I was "floppING" as Shaq pointed out, indicating he's been doing it consistently Vlade Divacs style. Of course that's where the problem comes in I suppose, because Shaq has heavily criticized floppers his entire career and now that he finally tried to draw one is ironic, but is it that bad? And to what degree? I honestly have no idea.

So I guess the question is, is Shaq staining his great legacy by all these attacks nearing the end of his career, or is he simply standing up for himself and demanding the respect he feels he deserves? Or is he just simply being Shaq and everyone's reading into it too much?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Offseason Fantasy

I know it's early to be talking about it considering the raptors still aren't eliminated but one can still wonder about what changes are coming. Mind you, my hopes are really based on just that, what I want to happen so here it is, a list of changes that I think can really help us turn us into contenders.

Personally I feel that doing a trade for a powerhouse player like the Marcus Camby trade is very unlikely to happen. If we only have to give up Kapono or graham to get a Michael Redd or a player of that caliber, I find it really hard to believe they can't get a better offer than that. But as with the Camby trade, you really never know. As such, a lot of the moves I'd like them to do are based on their 10 million cap space and basically just negotiating with free agents.

So here are my list of offseason priorities for 2009.

1. With Iverson being unable to fit into the Detroit system, his value has certainly diminished. I don't really understand the shock however. Detroit was famous for being a system without a star, yet now you bring in one. What did you really expect? I still think he has a lot of game left and is still one of the best at playing angles, and getting his own shot. I can only imagine how good he'll be playing the passing lanes and a run and gun system instead of the bogged down half court set of Detroit. If we can get him to a 3/4 year deal for around $7 million, to me thats a great bargain, a chance for Iverson to prove something to the rest of the NBA and a nice fit. To me the only problem is with jose, we have a very weak defensive guard rotation but that will probably only help speed up the tempo of the game.

2. Resign Graham to a deal similar to his current one, 3 years 2.5 million. What this season has proved is this boy can play. He may not be the smartest but his power speed and around the rim play are a good spark off the bench for our new style of play. He is definitely not an appropriate fit as our sixth man but he can be a strong solid 7th man for us.

3. Resign Delfino to a 3 year 3 million deal. He has expressed a desire to get back to the NBA and has always had an appreciation for Toronto. Of all the moves that are possible, this definitely seems to be the most likely of all moves to happen. BC has expressed an interest many times throughout the year in bringing back Delfino. With his improved play over seas, he can be a high quality 6th man for us. With his addition we finally get a VETERAN as our leader off the bench. Something that this franchise has taken for granted.

4. Finally, with all the cap used up, we can resign Marion making use of bird rights. As my previous article pointed out, his impact on the game after just a few practices has been undeniable. His knowledge of the game, athleticism, fast break ability, quick second jump and strong short passes are invaluable to anyone's fast break game. To me it's very likely that he'll resign simply because he knows he has to go to a system that runs, it makes him better, it makes his team better. Unfortunately for him, the warriors, knicks and raptors are the only teams going in that direction and the raptors are the only team with the money to resign him.

5. Finally the last move is to use our veteran minimum, or perhaps biannual exception to bring in a veteran big who can play off the bench, but fill in incase of injuries. For me, the best move is to bring back our beloved Rasho. One of the few NBA players who loves Toronto as his family still lives here. He can be a solid calming presence on the bench, and more importantly, step into the starting lineup if injuries demand it.

The best part of these moves is that they are not costly. The Raptors are one of those few buyers out in the market and lets hope they can capitalize on the abundance of sellers. These moves are all affordable and attainable and gives us a very solid, fairly deep rotation


If that lineup can't get you far in the post season, then the Raptors really are doomed to be Mediocre Forever.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Marion Effect

I know its fairly late to write a Marion review but I wanted to see his impact over a few games before talking about it.

What did I dislike the most about this trade? Really what stung was the loss of one of our only two way players.

In today's NBA, the ability to play on both sides of the court has really become such a lost art. So much to the point where those who do it, generally win it all, Jordan/Pippen, The Dream, Kobe/Shaq, Duncan, KG. That's some pretty fantabulous company to be in.

What I didn't know about this trade however, was how great Marion's skill set really was and how great a two way player he really is. His defensive capabilities are a little harder to understand because he played fast break defense for most of his career. With this style, you basically play defensive by blocking shots, playing the passing lanes and if neither works, don't foul. Because I didn't watch him in Miami, I and am sure many other fans weren't really aware of his defensive abilities in the half court. He's combination of athleticism, speed, IQ and his INSANE second jump allow him to stay in front of his man and also recover from minor slip ups. With his immediate arrival, one can see a stronger defensive impact than with the arrival of JO. The problem being that with JO, he was forced to compensate for our non existent perimeter d and either give up a layup, a foul, or in rare instances a block on a dunk. With Marion, our need to scream "HELP" is diminished. With Marion on the primary weapon and parker delegated to the next best, getting blown by has become less of an issue and as a result, we see the perimeter playing on the passing lanes much more. This style of defense has definitely stemmed from Marion's style and is imperative to our running game. The opposition gets a quick bucket that allows us to run or we get the steal and lead the fast break. Although JO is probably the better individual defender, both players are in more favorable systems and what more can you ask for?

The next biggest effect has to be the increase in short passes. As early viewers can attest to, it sure was frustrating since even three years ago seeing Barg and Bosh try to find each other in the key with short hard passes. JO in fact struggled the most with both expecting these passes and trying to dish him out. Granted, he's never in his career probably ever played with another big who was worth passing to, or had the ability to pass back but still. I commend his effort here because if it worked, it would have been deadly, but 90% of the time it became a turnover. What impressed me the most about Marion was his short passing. In his Phoenix and Miami career, critics have always felt the one aspect of his game that sorely lacked was his ability to create for others and literally "see them". To be honest, I have not seen any evidence of this and his short passes are spectacularly efficient. With his crisp execution, it's definitely proven to improve our play in the paint and also when he dishes it off he generally gets great position for the rebound. He already has seemed to develop a good chemistry with parker and his ability to always find the bigs has been great. Just ask Jawai for his first points. The best thing about his short passes is that he knows he's good at it and as a result, he creates from the key out. When it falls to him, he quickly post ups and from there sees what the options are. This is something no Raptors currently do and it is painfully obvious now how effective it is when done by someone with great around the rim play.

Finally, he brings something the Raps haven't had since Davis in an offensive rebounder. It's amazing how instinctive it is as he's already averaging around 3 a game. It's definitely easier for him given that since almost all our shots are jump shots, rebounds are longer and he can more easily chase them down. In every game he's played so far, we've needed each one of those boards and with our great spot up shooters, his rebound and quick out almost always guaranteed a second chance point. In fact, I could be wrong, but I can't seem to think of a time yet where we missed on a second chance if it wasn't blocked. What's the best part about offensive rebounding, just like his passing, its proved contagious. You can already see Bargnani and Parker being influenced by Marion simply be playing in the key more, attempting the risker short passes and crashing the offensive glass.

These signs all point to more complete two way players as they learn what they can from Marion's short stay. To me, he's already proven he has significant ability left and with the recession undermining his true value, BC hopefully will keep him at a bargain. He needs to be where he can run and not many systems are doing that these days. Colangelo can save this team in one offseason simply by using the cap for a trade, and signing Marion with bird rights. Hopefully someone makes an offer to Delfino, we match and we suddenly have a nice looking 7-8 man rotation again.

To me, the future off this season and even the next still look bright so don't give up yet Raptor fans! After all, things could be worse, we could be the Clippers.