Raptors Rewind- Closing Out 08

Well it was already going to be hard to get a win against the Nuggets. No Jermaine O'Neal and No Jason Kapono and the job gets even harder. I am totally sober while doing this on New Years Eve and that could have been a big mistake. But will see how it goes. I am like your basketball designated game watcher. So you can count on me to deliver you the results of this one on this edition of the Raptors Rewind. Andrea Bargnani and Anthony Parker would fill in for the missing Jason Kapono and Jermaine O'Neal. So let's get this party started and begin the last Raptor rewind of 2008. I am a bit misty but I will collect myself by the time the ball goes up in the air. Hopefully I won't have reason to cry by the end of this game.

1st Quarter

Nuggets take the tip as they come in and K-Mart drives and jams and we were off. Nene would score and the Nuggets were up 4-0 just like that. Andrea Bargnani would miss a 3 pointer and the Raptors were missing shots and not looking good to start this one. K-Mart was scoring again and looking like he did in the old days as a Net. Martin would draw the a foul and Chris Bosh would get sent to the line and make a pair to get the Raptors on the score board. Nuggets would rattle of 5 straight points and had a 9-2 lead. Jose Calderon and Jamario Moon would show some signs of life as the both got 2 points a piece. Chris Bosh would get in the lane and score with a baby hook shot. Nuggets would break the run with a basket and they would make it back to back baskets. Jose Calderon would respond with a drive and score. He would then find Jamario Moon leaking out and hooked him up for the alley oop. Andrea Bargnani would get a block at the one end and a 3 pointer at the other end and we had a ball game with the score tied at 15.

Chauncey Billups out of the time out would draw a foul and get to the line and make a pair with 4:49 to play in the first. Anthony Parker would respond with a jumper on the other end. Andrea Bargnani would score in the paint and the Raptors had their first lead of the night at 19-17. Bosh would get in on the party and score. Then off another Nugget turnover it was A.P for three and the Raptors had stormed in front to a lead 24-17. J.R Smith checked into the game and right away drained a 3 pointer. That is likely why the Nuggets said not thank you to a rumoured trade for Jason Kapono that had been talked about in the Denver media. Jamario Moon got in on the offensive glass for a tap back score for the Raptors. The Birdman would get a tap back on a Billups miss. Billups would no miss on his next shot and the Raptors lead had been cut down to just 1 with the score 26-21. Jose Calderon would get called for an offensive foul and that was his 2nd of the night. Will Solomon had checked in for him and pick up a foul right away. Billups would glad take the two free points from the charity stripe and the Nuggets were back in front. Jamario Moon would get to the line and he would make his 2 from the line to retake the lead. Will Solomon would nail a 3 pointer and give the Raps a 4 point advantage. The Nuggets would respond with a 2 pointer and the score after one was Raptors 31-29 over the Nuggets. Like I said this morning when the Raptors seem doomed to lose they come out and play well. It is just part of the wacky history that is Raptors Basketball.

2nd Quarter

Both teams were shooting well with the Nuggets shooting 57% and the Raptors 52%. Andrea Bargnani faked a 3 pointer and took a step in and drained a long two pointer. J.R Smith would respond with a score for the Nuggets. Joey Graham would make a mid range jumper. Joey had broke the ACC as the entire system went down at the Air Canada Centre. No stats.. no scores... no nothing. There was a delay with 10:28 to play in the half and the Raptors leading 35-31. Out of the delay the Nuggets would score. Will Solomon would come back with a score.

Chris "The Birdman" Anderson would score off the garbage rebound. Nene would get a slam for 2 and a chance at the line. But he would miss it and the Raptors and Nuggets were tied at 37. Chris Bosh would break that tie with a basket and Jose Calderon was back on the floor. Anderson would score again and Bosh would answer that score with his second straight for the Raptors. Jose Calderon was doing a much better job pushing the pace. He would find Joey Graham on the run out and he would get the score. Raptors had a 43-39 lead with 5:58 to play in the half. Just over 4 hours left in 2008 in case you were wondering. Happy New Year to any readers from Europe as you have already seen midnight come and go.

Carmelo Anthony would score out of the time out to pull the Nuggets to with in two points. Nene would get a basket and Carmelo would get a technical foul as he did not like the no call he got. Jose Calderon would make the tech and keep his streak alive. Andrea Bargnani would get a basket and the Raptors lead was 46-43. Jose Calderon would get called for his 3rd foul and be forced to the bench with just under 4 minutes to play in the half. Will Solomon in relief of Jose would drive and score with no hesitation what so ever. He must have heard his number one fan was back in Toronto. Whatever the reason Will Solomon looked good and I am willing to admit it. Chauncey Billups was back at the line a place he was getting to a fair bit. Nugget would get back to just one point down with an easy pass and jam. Andrea Bargnani would hit another basket and he had 11 in the first half. J.R Smith would make a 3 pointer and tie the score at 50. Another 3 pointer for the Nuggets and they would take a 53-50 lead into halftime after a respectable effort being put in by the home side. But they did not have a lead to show for it.

3rd Quarter

Raptors start the half with the basketball and Jamario Moon would miss a 3 point shot. Andrea Bargnani would show Jamario how you make that shot the next time down the floor as he hit a 3 ball. Nuggets would get a score but Jose Calderon would hit another 3-ball. The Nuggets again answered with a two pointer. Jamario Moon would score with a 2 point jumper. Nuggets again would answer. But Andrea Bargnani hit another big 3 pointer and the Raptors powered by the long range shot had taken the lead. The Nuggets would get to the line and tie the score at 61. Carmelo Anthony would get the Nuggets back in front as he would score. Jose Calderon would make the 4th Raptor 3 pointer of the quarter and the Raptors lead 64-63. Chris Bosh would get fouled and head to the line. The Nuggets would already put the Raptors in the bonus and they had not been happy with the calls all night. But to their credit the remained focused and scored 4 straight to re take the lead. Chris Bosh would score in the paint but Billups would answer with a 3 pointer. Bosh would answer with another basket and the score was tied at 70. Nuggets would get a basket from Jones and Parker answered that. Jose Calderon would break the tie with his 3rd long range bomb of the Quarter and it was 75-72 with a time out on the floor.

A steal would lead to a jam for Nene. Jose Calderon had 5 turnovers on the night but I was o.k with it because he was taking chances. Raptors would come back with a basket to get the lead back to 3 points. But the Nuggets would get a score from Melo and it was 77-76 Raptors. J.R Smith would hit a jump shot and the Nuggets were back in front 78-77. Billups would follow that up with a 3 pointer and we were under 2 minute to play. K-Mart with an easy drive and score. Once again down the stretch of a quarter the Nuggets had a 6-0 run. Jay Triano would call a time out and got very upset with his team. Bosh would also talk with some passion in the time out. But the Nuggets coming out of the time out would score again. Finally Bosh would drive and get fouled. The Raptors never took advantage of being in the bonus as this was the first time they had been back to the line in the final minute after they had reached the bonus with over 7 minutes to play. Joey Graham would miss an easy basket the second east miss of the night for him. Nuggets had a 85-77 lead as once again the Raptors folded down the stretch of a quarter. Good teams close quarters and close halfs. The Raptors were showing once again why they were not to that good team level and a long way from it.

4th Quarter

A.P would open the 4th quater it was answered with an Anderson score. The Nugget Birdman had a double double of 10 and 10. Andrea Bargnani would get a score. The Raptors had clawed back to 4 points down with the score 87-83. But a 3 point made and a loose ball foul on Joey Graham and the lead would grow by 4 but Anderson missed the foul shot. Bargnani would score and get fouled he had 22 points in the game. The Raptors would get a turnover and find a leaking out Joey Graham would would not have a third bad miss. He would get the poster worthy jam with no one back to stop him. The Raptors were down 2 points with the score 90-88 and a time out for Denver.

Out of the time out Kleiza would make his way to the line and down a pair. Just under 3 hours left in 2008 and the Raptors still had thoughts of a win to close out the year. But Denver would rattle off 5 straight points and try to make that thought less likely with the score 95-88. Raptors would finally score and Chris Bosh was coming back in the game as he had sat out for the first four minutes plus of the quarter. Bosh would go right to work drawing a foul and getting to the line with his team down 7 points. He made both and the score was 97-92 for the Nuggets with just over 7 minutes to play. Raptors would get lucky as a wide open Kleiza would miss a 3 pointer. Carmelo Anthony would later get to the line and make a pair and the lead was back to 7 points with the Nuggets up 99-92. The Nuggets continued to be frustrated with the Refs and Chancey Billups would get a technical foul and there was a time out on the floor and the Raps would shoot one after the time out.

Jose Calderon remains perfecto as he made the tech. But Jamario Moon would miss a jumper and the Raptors still trailed by 6 points. But the Nuggets would turn it over and Bosh would get fouled and head to the line with a chance to trim the lead. Bosh would make a pair with 5:05 left to play and Raptors now down 4 points. But K-Mart had a blue light special on jumpers to push the lead back to 6 points. Jose Calderon would respond to that with a 3 pointer he was 4 for 4 from behind the arc on the night. Chris Bosh was a little hyped up as he looked for a 3-ball of his own to tie but that didn't fall. The Nuggets would take advantage and score and they lead 103-98. Another Raptor miss and Chauncey Billups has the nickname "Mr Big Shot" and he showed you why hitting a clutch 3 pointer and after a chance to tie they game the Raptors were suddenly back down 8 points before they knew what happened. Nuggets lead 106-98 with a time out on the floor with just 2:45 left to play. The Raptors in a key possession out of the time out would end up with an Andrea Bargnani missed jumper for two. Carmelo Anthony would score on the other end and it was a 10 point advantage for Denver and they looked to be on the way to celebrating a win for New Years Eve.

The Raptors again struggle down the stretch of a quarter and it all adds up and that is why they were not going to the winners circle again. Raptors were down 111-100 with just 1:07 left to play. Bargnani was at the line for a pair and he had a great night despite the loss. Bosh would get fouled and there was 55.7 seconds left to play. But the despite was to great it would seem. Bosh made both and it was 111-104. The Raptors decided not to foul and they would get a stop and Parker would get a 3 pointer. But Billups would head to the line with 13.3 seconds and calm as can be make 2 free throws the lead was 114-107 and there would be no joy in Toronto tonight based on the Raptors. Parker would badly miss on a 3 pointer and that was it. The Raptors drop their 3rd straight and were 12-20 for 2008 not exactly what Bryan Colangelo had been hoping for when he made his big trade in the off season. Six Raptors reached double figures in scoring lead by Andrea Bargnani with 26 but it was not enough. To check out the impressive stat lines for your fantasy squads check the boxscore below

Raptors/Nuggets Boxscore

This is the last blog for 2008 and I wish it had happier news for you. But I only get to tell you what happens. But hey regardless I thank you all for reading through out 2008 and I hope you will all remain for 2009. All the best to you all and all the people you care about in the upcoming year in 2009. Have a safe and happy New Years Eve. That is a RAP FOR 2008 see you in 2009!!!

So Long 2008 ...2009 Has To Be Better!!!

Well It has not been a kind 2008 to Raptor Fans when all is said and done. A loss to the Magic in the Playoffs that was 5 games but it almost felt like we got swept. A big trade and big expectations that have not exactly materialized. Sam Mitchell gets fired only to see the team sink deeper below .500. Raptor fans are questioning Bosh's loyalty and he is questioning their loyalty as well. At least the ones that booed him. Bryan Colangelo has went from genius/saviour to fans to now an average mortal G.M that has every choice he every made questioned. In short it has not been a fun year in Raptorland beyond the odd chuckle at a Bosh YouTube video.

So Here Is My Top 10 Least Favorite Things From 2008

10. Will Solomon/Roko Ukic Signings- I am a T.J Ford fan I have never made that a secret. But I was o.k with the choice the Raptors made to go with Jose. But I had thought it would mean the signing of an experienced back-up point guard to replace T.J. Instead we got a combo guard that played in Europe and had little NBA run. Along with that a rookie that as good as he may become was not ready to play a meaningful role as a back-up right at the start of his NBA Career

9. Joey Graham- I mean will it ever end. Time after time we are sucked into thinking maybe this will be the year for Joey Graham. Well another year and another flash of hope from Joey and the same old Bad Joey keeps coming back. When Joey Graham in 2009 is not re-signed by the Raptors that will make my favourite things of 2009.

8. Nathan Jawai's Heart Trouble- I know I was in a very small minority but I really thought and still do think Nathan Jawai can have a big impact on the Raptors. But a health issue with the big man's heart would sideline him for the entire 2008 part of the schedule. I am hopefully Nate get himself on the floor in 2009. I think everyone will be surprised at how good he can become.

7. Sam Mitchell Era Ends- I had always liked Sam and to see his career in Toronto come to a very fast and ugly end with that game in Denver was truly disappointing. I miss his humour and presence that I had grown use to on a daily basis. Despite wanting what is best for Jay Triano and the Raptors, I still will always enjoy Sam Mitchell and what he did for the organization. He just didn't seem like the old Sam anymore and it may have been the building pressure leading up to his firing. But being the classy person that Sam is we will never know for sure.

6. Hassan Adams Signing- Why?...Nothing else is required.

5. T.J Ford Getting Traded- Yes I support the trade and I understand the reasons why T.J was moved. But he was my favourite player on the Raptors and it was a sad day for me personally. So in honour of that he gets the #5 spot on the list for his new number with the Pacers.

4. Game 1 and 5 In Orlando- These were the most painful games to watch in a series that did not show much from the Toronto Raptors. Beyond a Game 3 last performance for the ages from Forderon it was a train wreck of a series. It would be the lead to all the changes that have not been successful to this point.

3. Andrea Bargnani- I like most are frustrated and wonder if it is time to accept that Andrea Bargnani is just not going to work in Toronto. He is talented but lacks confidence and it never seems to change. I am just wondering if he can ever turn out to have the type of career people want from him here in Toronto. I am thinking he can't.

2. TSN 2 Nonsense- I am still surprised that we are talking about this at this point. If someone had told me that this issue would not have been solved heading into 2009, I would have told them they were crazy but here we sit. I am not interested in who is to blame or even why at this point. I just think it is insulting to fans of the Raptors and basketball. Hopefully we are not still talking about this at the end of 2009. I know that seems nuts to say. But hey it seems nuts that we are still talking about it now.

1. Vince Carter Sticks It To Us Again- The loss to the Nets at the A.C.C may be looked back on as the turning point that sent this season off track. People wonder why Raptor fans still boo Vince and hate him still. It is these moments that won't let the anger and pain go away.

That is my list but I am sure people have many others and feel free to leave your list of best or worst moments in the comments.

Not Exactly The Million Man March

Well it was a small little protest at Rogers when all was said and done. Apparently fans may be angry about TSN 2 mess but not so angry that many would venture out into the cold streets of Toronto. But I still respect the effort that Andrew Ebanks was making. I interviewed him and made folks aware of what he was doing and I feel good about that. Hey it did not go without any attention. Andrew actually was featured in an article in the Globe and Mail. I was contacted by Bill Houston who writes for them and helped him get in touch with Andrew. The Dino Nation Blog got a small mention in the article which was nice. I think with all things Raptors apathy is settling in over the Raptors. That is not a good thing for the folks at MLSE and this TSN 2 matter as I have said is not going to help in reversing that apathy. Here is the article on Andrew and I admire his conviction to his cause.

Globe And Mail -Bill Houston Article

At Least You Won't Remember Tonight's Game?

I could do a preview and give you a bunch of stats for this game tonight at the ACC but basically it really doesn't matter. If the Raptors don't remember the beating they took in Denver the fact Jay Triano is the coach should serve as a reminder. If they can not get fired up for this game really we are in more trouble than we know. It will not be any easier to beat the Rockets or Magic. J.O left the last game after bumping knees with a Warrior and having the flu. So I am guessing he will be back tonight unless that knee bump was much more serious. Everything points to a Raptor loss if you ask me. But I have learned in watching this team over the years that when everyone thinks they will lose that is when they come up with a surprising effort. But hey if it doesn't happen it is New Year's Eve so if you are planing on going out and partying you likely won't remember anyway.

Have fun and be safe...I want all of my readers back in 2009.....So Happy New Year to all of you and the best of everything for you and the people you care about.


Matt Devlin Part 2 From California

Before we get to the second half of my chat with Matt Devlin. Some thoughts on last night. The Raptors had chances to win that basketball game and did not make it happen. It was made painfully clear that this team needs more talent plain and simple. Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon both had excellent personal nights. Jermaine O'Neal was for the most part not able to play in this game with the flu. The team beyond that produced very little. Jay Triano was giving everyone a chance for the most part and no one was really answering the call. It was an extremely painful loss when you consider what lies ahead for this team in this 3 game homestand. Now on to what Matt Devlin had to say yesterday in our interview as it continued after the starting 5 audio portion.

In this conversation with Matt it was more along the lines of topics as opposed to individual questions. The first topic we got into was Andrea Bargnani. Jack Armstrong has been firm in sticking with Andrea and feeling he can be a productive player. I started this topic with Matt's general impressions of Andrea as of late (This Interview Was Conducted Prior To Last Night's Game )

Matt Devlin-" I think that over the last two games you have seen the flashes that we talked about. Number one he has scored in double figures in back to back games for the first time since November. That is certainly significant. Ultimately for Andrea it is up to him. Forget about the pressures, forget about everything. It is up to you, it is your 3rd year. While there has been coaching changes and position changes, he really just has to come to grips with things and let it go. I got to be me and just play. I think if he does that and tries to play free and easy that will really benefit him."

I went on to ask Matt if there is concern in moving Andrea because he may finally get it. There is also the fact that on another roster that Andrea could be able to play as a 4. Which has to been to me what Bargnani sees himself as in terms of a position.

Matt Devlin-" That is a good one, I don't know if you have an answer for that. That answer is for Andrea. I think one of the most difficult things to do is figure out why someone is struggling. Why are they doing this when it appears that they have the ability to do special things. How do you get inside Andrea's mind? You can ask him the questions but is that ultimately how he is really feeling? I don't know.

It is like one of the great unknowns in sports and in life. When gifted talent.... Jack and I talked about this... you are gifted and everyone knows you are gifted. There is another part to that and that is putting it altogether and that is part of the gift. Do you have the ability to put it altogether? That is an unknown right now when it comes to Andrea. Bargnani is in my opinion extraordinarily talented, he has the capabilities to do a lot. But can he do it I don't know."

It is the same type of situation with a guy like Joey Graham. However people expect more from Andrea based on where he was selected and perhaps they should. But that may be part of the problem as well that Andrea Bargnani will always be judged by that first overall selection. In a recent conversation with Paul Jones we had talked about the idea of a sports psychologist being on staff. It could benefit a number of the Raptors you would think with all that has gone on with this team as individuals and as a team. I asked Matt for his take on the idea.

Matt Devlin " This is the third organization I have been with and they have all the resources. Bryan Colangelo is first class at everything that he does. He has surrounded this team with the best of everything. If it is needed it is there.

Technically they do not have one on staff but they have the resources for that. There is technically no team in the league that has one on staff full time. But if they feel or a player feels they need something like that they get it. From my understanding with the people that I have spoken to that they have that ability. If anybody on the team want to go to someone that is there. Everybody now uses like these "life coaches". They will tell you to unleash the power with in. Those things are important for people to reach their potential for any player or in life. But I think it comes down to the individual themselves and do they want it. Do you want to be the best? Michael Jordan said he wanted to be the best and he was gifted and made himself the best. Kobe Bryant is gifted but still puts the time in on the floor. There is a lot of people that say they want to be but then they don't back it up. There is the odd person that is just truly talented and doesn't have to work that hard and take it for granted."

I can only speak for myself but if this losing keeps up I may need a psychologist. I mentioned to Matt that Jay Triano is a big believer in this kind of thing. It was mentioned in the interview with Paul Jones how he used that resource with Team Canada in 2000. The record has not been good for Jay Triano since taking over the team. However it seems the team is buying into what he is trying to but in place. I asked Matt to talk about Jay and how he thinks it is going with him and the players as far as their relationship and faith in him

Matt Devlin " I think all the players have reacted positively towards him. That is one of the things that I think everyone notices. He is somebody that has earned his stripes that has been around the organization. Players and people respect his opinion and his approach cause they see the amount of hard work he has put in. Those are important things. You have to have that and that is something that Jay has provided. So from an environment standpoint that has been a big bonus for the team.

From a philosophical standpoint everyone has already talked about what he has been attempting and trying to do. There are times in which those things are getting done. From the players perspective I think they all understand now what the approach is going to be game in and game out. That is extremely important. Jay has a respect of the players based upon his work with them, his scouting of other teams and the fact that he has put it his time. Those are important and they help build a positive environment to help build together as a team. This team is very close to putting some things together but unfortunately for them it has just be a very difficult schedule. They just have not had that break in the schedule to catch their breath. You also have to take advantage of chances like they had in Oklahoma City."

Golden State may fall in that same column of chances not taken advantage of. The other thing that has been an issue is getting Chris Bosh and Jermaine O'Neal firing at the same time. Last night was another example of that chemistry and the chance to build on it lost. I am not blaming O'Neal he gave it a try and looked every bit the part of a guy that was sick. But even when both have been healthy Bosh and O'Neal have had few nights where they both have been a force. I asked Matt for his thoughts on that relationship and if it was working on the floor?

Matt Devlin " They had it together the other night and that is important. But it just takes time obviously. I think that it is working but it just takes time. It is a lot easier said than done. When you look to the other night they played well together. But I think key now is they just need some help. In that game the other night the need Kapono to knock down some shots and that didn't happen. They combined for 46 points in that game what more can you want?"

But it just seems that those nights have not been the norm to me. There is still times where you see Bosh and O'Neal not on the same page where one will pass to the other and catch that person off guard. Small minor details that just have yet to come together.

Matt Devlin " I think there is some validity to that. They are still trying to find what works for both. I think both have a bit of different styles. That is just something that takes time to sort out. I know what your saying and it is not easy. You say that if one is able to get it how come the other can not. But when you look at the last game that is more representative with the exception of rebounds from O'Neal. That game was more representative of what you want to see, Bosh had 29 and J.O had 17, from shot distribution standpoint and getting to the line. "

But in that game against Portland the Raptors did not win. They have not been able to find a way to win over quality opposition this season. They have at times struggled even against lesser teams. But to be able to get on the type of run they are going to need to breath back life into their season they must find a way to beat the better teams. I asked Matt for his thoughts on how the Raptors can break through.

Matt Devlin " That is all part of the process. I remember Hubie Brown always talking about, one of the steps is being on the road with 4 minutes to go and being in the game. That is a huge step for a team in the process. For the Raptors they need to get there. The other thing and I have talked about this with a lot of people around the NBA. There is no natural progression. Just because you make it to the playoffs one year or the Eastern Conference Final or The Finals does not earn you the right to get back the next year. There are other teams out there looking to do that same exact thing."

Matt had said he was chatting with assistant coaches with Portland and they were saying how many losses it has taken for the Blazers just to get to where they are at in being considered a team in the playoff mix. But the difference with the Blazers and Raptors from my perspective is look at how young the Blazers are. The Raptors have a lot of established players. Bargnani would be the exception but everyone else beyond Roko and Nathan Jawai are experienced players. The Raptors took a risk to get better and to this point that risk has failed. One of the keys is that reforming of the Raptors was Jose Calderon. Fans had high expectations for Jose Calderon. A night like he had last night is what some were expecting from Jose on a more regular basis. He was talked about has the best point guard in the Eastern Conference. I asked Matt if Jose had not matched the expectations.

Matt Devlin " I'm trying to put this in perspective. I mean he is third in the NBA is Assists. From an expectation standpoint I don't know. It is a new role for him and you look at his number the are solid numbers. So I think that he has done a really good job. He has had two different coaches that want to do things differently so that chances how you approach the game. Also the understanding of who you need to get involved and when you need to get them involved. So I think he has done an excellent job. But I understand when people take a look at it and say that from a fan perspective that we want more. I think from a defensive standpoint people are always going to say that he may be a little bit limited. I think against Portland he did a excellent job and was taking some shots, his shooting percentages are down and his shots are up but yet he is still 3rd in the NBA in assists ."

But Jose was expected to be an Eastern Conference All-Star and a top point guard in the East. The guys on TNT have said that the expectations were to high for the Raptors. Kenny Smith even went as far as to say that Calderon was not good enough to be a starter in the league. I am not going that far myself. But I think people wanted more. I asked Matt about the fact that some folks saw Calderon as an all-star and it is not likely to happen.

Matt Devlin " Right, that will be up to the fans and the process of it. When you look in the East you have Rajon Rondo, Devin Harris and Jose. Also a guy like Jameer Nelson with the Magic. There is a core group of young guys that are pretty talented."

When you look at the seasons that a guys like Rajon Rondo and Devin Harris have had it is hard to say that Jose Calderon is better than ethier for me. I just would not be willing to say it and mean it. Matt does bring up Jameer Nelson as well who along with the Magic have gone highly without fanfare this season. Can Jay Triano bring some of what he brought to Steve Nash in his time with team Canada in 2000. Make Jose take a bit more of a risk taker approach at times. T.J Ford in the past was the guy who would take that chance in the past and sometimes it was great other times not. But Ford still managed to stay among the better players in assist to turnover ratio in the league. Can you change Jose at all to add some risk?

Matt Devlin " I think and recently had this conversation about Jose, that is just not who he is. I think from a system standpoint and the way he has been coached his entire career that is just not who he is. He is not a Steve Nash and honestly how many people in the history of the game have that. Very few from a point guard position winning back to back M.V.P's. There style of play is just completely opposite ends of the game. For Jose , will that eventually develop? I can say that through time because Jose really trusts jay and they are picking more spots to run that Jose will take that chance. But ultimately he has been taught to play the game a certain way and that is not to turn the basketball over. From a point guard perspective that is not a bad thing."

I have to admit last night Jose was one of the best players on the floor. But I can't help but think fans expected much more than what they have seen. The increased work load and lack of production from the back-up position has not helped matters as well. That is a wrap for Matt. I thank him as always for making time for the Dino Nation Blog. It is lots of fun to talk about the team when times are good. But when times are rough it can be rough to do it on those days. All the best in 2009 for Matt and I look forward to talking with him in the new year.

The Blogger M.V.P and R.O.Y Rankings

It is time once again to hear what bloggers from around the league have to say on the M.V.P and Rookie Races. I was able to add some thoughts and some of them made it into the comments as part of the rankings. I am sorry to all T-Wolves fans but I had to say it. Who is leading the ROY and MVP race. Check out the link below to find out.

M.V.P and R.O.Y Rankings

With that it is all over for today just one more day in 2008 left to go. Yippie!!!


Raptors Rewind- The Last Night On The Road Edition

Finally the Raptors are coming back to Toronto. But before that red eye flight back that I am sure they can not wait for, it is a game that should make sleeping on the plane pretty easy. The Golden State Warriors make it no secret what they do...Run. The only question is do you get sucked in to run with them and if you do can you win. They can't play defense and they don't care about it. O.K maybe they care but they accept the fact that they pretty much suck at it. What will the Raptors do to counter this up and down circus? Hammer the ball inside should be the answer. Use what you have in Bosh and O'Neal. Speaking of Chris Bosh instead of a national anthem for the Raptors Rewind how bout a funny story from Chris Bosh about his brother Joel and then a Holiday Greeting. To quote Chris Jericho " Monkeys in the Truck Roll The Video". O.K we don't have monkeys or a truck but enjoy a little CB4 prior to the tip off.

1st Quarter

Hope you enjoyed that pre-game entertainment let's hope the in game entertainment is as good. Jermaine O'Neal is starting but a bit under the weather according to Matt Devlin. An early foul and Raptors would inbound the ball from the side and miss a couple chances. The Raptors next trip Chris Bosh would score. Jermaine O'Neal would then get a bucket in the paint and that is the game plan. Warriors would get on the board with a Wright bucket. Marco Belinelli would hit a 3 pointer. Brandon Wright would get his second basket on the night and the warriors were off and running with a 7-4 lead. Stephen Jackson would score after Bosh had split a pair from the line. Bosh was back at the line again he would make both this time. Jermaine O'Neal would pick up a foul on Stephen Jackson and he would make both. Brandon Wright was at the line after Jackson and he made both. Stephen Jackson seemed in pain and it was mentioned that he had had some wrist issues earlier in the year. J.O would draw an offensive foul on Biedrins. Bosh would turn that into points on the other end with a basket it was 13-11

After a Warrior score the Raptors would get back to back 3- balls from Calderon and Kapono. Calderon would score again and the Raptors had an 8-0 run and had taken the lead 19-15. Stephen Jackson out of a time out hit a jumper and it looks like the wrist was fine. Marco Belinelli would hit a 3 pointer and Raptor lead was gone. However Andrea Bargnani was in the game and he scored a 2 pointer to answer his fellow Italians score. Jose Calderon was off to a hot start as he had another bucket and he had 7 points. Anthony Parker got a basket off the transition. Jermaine O'Neal had headed back to the locker room and was questionable with flu like symptoms. But Jose was hot but not in that got a fever I am sick way. He was hot with his shot as he made another and had 9 points now. Warriors were pushing back with there run and gun style and they took the lead back at 28-27. However Joey Graham would be able to show his skills heading to the rack and scoring and the Raptors had a 29-28 lead after 1 quarter of play.

2nd Quarter

Stephen Jackson made a 3-ball to start the quarter for the Warriors. Jake Voskhul who was getting some time with J.O sick in the locker room He took advantage and got himself a basket. I am becoming a Jake Voskhul fan, not a joke, after all he wears my old high school football number and plays like a football player. Andrea Bargnani interrupted my high school football flashbacks with a nice aggressive score. Jake after all my praise is out of the game with 4 fouls already. Like I said he plays like a football player. Chris Bosh was back in and he made a 3-ball and the Raptors were down just 1 with the score 37-36. Stephen Jackson picked Chris Bosh's pocket and it lead to an Azubuike dunk in transition.

Jermaine O'Neal had returned from the locker room and was back on the bench. He would be back in time to see Jamario Moon make a 3 pointer to tie the score at 39. But Stephen Jackson responded with a score he had 13 points. Calderon would find Chris Bosh for an alley opp and score. Calderon would then hook up Jamario Moon with an easy basket. Jermaine O'Neal checked back into the game. O'Neal would go down in a heap as he banged knees with a Warrior. It was not his night it seemed. For the record it was the right knee and not the much talked about left knee. Warriors scored a basket with the 5-4 power play with J.O down and out. Time out on the floor and O'Neal was back to his feet and getting a look from Scott McCullough the Raptors Trainer.

Andrea Bargnani would check in and he would get a basket and then he would get to the line and score a couple more. Raptors had a 46-45 lead with 3:50 to play in the half. Ronnie Turiaf would reject Chris Bosh and it would turn into points at the other end. He would do the same thing again and the Warriors had a 5-0 run thanks to Ronnie T with some D. Warriors now lead 51-47 with 2:28 left to go in the half. Raptors would respond with a score but Marco Belinelli was putting on a show with a 3 pointer and an Andrea Bargnani offensive foul and another Belinelli 3 pointer. The Warriors lead had increased to 58-50. Jose Calderon would get a needed basket for the Raptors. The Raptors had a chance to cut further into the lead but a Jackson steal and a foul on Jackson. He would make both and instead being down 4 the Raptors would be down 8. These are the type of things that cost the Raptors games A couple mistakes at the end of a quarter or half can be deadly. It was Warriors with a 60-52 halftime lead.

3rd Quarter

Warriors were 6 of 11 from behind the arc and shooting 53% from the field. Andrea Bargnani would start the second half as he was out after banging knees but it was more the flu that was the reason it seemed. Bosh would score a bucket but Jackson responded with a 3 pointer and another 3-ball and it was a 66-54 lead early on. Jermaine O'Neal was officially done for the night as well. Raptors would get a 3 pointer from Jamario Moon but were still down 11 points. Stephen Jackson was back at the line looking to extend that lead which he would and the Warriors quickly had built a 70-57 lead. Andrea Bargnani would miss a 3 pointer and this was not the way the Raptors will get back in this game. Jackson was back at the line and he was shooting 2 as Bosh picked up his 3rd foul. Jackson would hit both and the lead was now 15 points. But Jamario Moon was making from distance as he hit another 3 pointer. But the Warriors would score another 3 pointer from Marco Belinelli with a 3 pointer as the Raptors had switched to a zone. Moon hit his third 3-ball of the night and he was only Raptor on target from long range. Jose Calderon would score but the lead was still 10 with the score 75-65.

Biedrins and Bosh would exchange baskets. Jamal Crawford wanted in on the party as he hit a 3 pointer. It was an 80-67 lead with a time out on the floor. Bosh coming out of the time out would have a turn around jumper that he would miss. Joey Graham was able to get a score though on the next trip. Kris Humphries was in the game and took an ill advised jumper that he would miss badly. That was not going to earn more time for Hump who had not been seeing much. Warriors had built the lead back up to 14 points with an 83-69 lead with 3:39 to play. Kris Humphries was at the line and he would only make 1-2. Jose Calderon would find Joey Graham in transition for an alley oop. A Hump Jumper and a Bosh Jam as a trailer the Raptors had a much needed 9-2 run and had cut the lead down to just 7 points. Don Nelson called a time out with 2:23 left in the quarter and his team leading 83-76.

Stephen Jackson with a rare miss out of the time out. Raptors had about 4 chances to score on the other end and none of them would fall. It would end with a Joey Graham miss and a loose ball foul on Joey on Biedrins. He would only make 1-2 and Jose Calderon would drive and score on the other end. Biedrins was back at the line and a rare 2-2 for the 51% shooter from the line. Raptors would catch a break as Stephen Jackson felt he was fouled and he would get technical foul. Which would be made. Bosh would check in for a final play and he would get the ball but his high arc jumper would not fall. Warriors would take an 86-79 lead into the 4th quarter.

4th Quarter

I can't recall to many 4th quarter comebacks this year for the Raptors but they were in bad need of one now. Kris Humphries with a ugly drive and score plus a foul. He would make it and it was not pretty but effective. Hump would score off a pick and roll with A.P in response to a Warrior score. But Marco Belinelli would get another 3 pointer and he was on fire. Ronnie Turiaf would have a monstrous jam and let everyone know about it. He would get called for a technical that Raptors would make. Warriors would get another 3 pointer and it was a 96-87 lead with time ticking away. Ronnie Turiaf would have another score with a little less celebration.

Marco Belinelli was not just shooting he was passing as well. He had a nice find for his sixth assist and the Warriors had 100 points. Raptors only had 87 to this point. Joey Graham would have a jam after a 1-2 trip to the line the lead was down to 10. Bosh would score and cut the lead down to just 8 points. Warriors would score but Kapono would answer with a 3 pointer. Stephen Jackson would miss a 3 pointer but Parker would also miss a 3 pointer for the Raptors. Jackson would come back on the other end and score a 2 point shot and he had 30 points on the night. Joey Graham made a pair from the line but the Warriors still led 104-97. Chris Bosh would chop that lead down to 5 points with a bucket. But the Warriors would respond with a score. Joey Graham would then get his shot stuffed by Biedrins. Jose Calderon would get to the line and continue his streak of free throws as he had 70 straight to start the season. An offensive foul and Chris Bosh 3 pointer and the Raptors were all of the sudden down just 2 points.

The Raptors had 3 chances to tie or take the lead and none of them would fall. Biedrins would score on the other end for the Warriors and that would double lead to 4 points at 108-104 with 2:05 to play in regulation. These two teams did go to overtime in Toronto. Raptors had some work to do if they wanted a win or overtime in this game. However out of the time out the Raptors could not get a score. The Raptors would draw an offensive foul and keep the lead at just 4. Jason Kapono would score with a runner to cut the lead to 2 points. But the Warriors would answer on the other end. Raptors would have the ball stolen on the next offensive trip. Things looked bad with the score 110-106 with just 30.4 seconds left and the Warriors had the ball. Warriors would inbound the ball and get fouled Crawford would split a pair from the line. Raptors were down 5 points with 29 seconds to play. The Raptors out of a time out would have the inbound pass stolen by C.J Watson and this game was toast as Belinelli was fouled and headed to the line making both. Anthony Parker who had a poor shooting night made a 3-ball but it was to little to late. Belinelli made another pair from the line. Jose Calderon would drive and score he had a great night but this effort was going to waste. A Parker airball would sum up the play of the Raptors wing play on this night. Warriors got the win 117-111. A impressive boxscore for Jose Calderon and Chris Bosh but for a lot of others not so much. Both would gladly trade their impressive stats for a win.

Raps/Warriors boxscore

It is becoming painfully obvious that this team needs help. This 2-4 record on this road trip is just another sign that this team is just not good enough. Change must come to the Raptors. Bryan Colangelo is fast running out of time to save this season. I just don't think he can wait much longer. A long flight home and a very tough schedule in front of them these are tough times for the Raptors and at 12-19 it really is a case of watching a season slipping away really fast. There is a legit possibility that Raps could loss the next 3 games which would make them 12-22 heading to face the Bucks on the road. That just doesn't sound good at all. But it just seems unlikely that Raptors can beat any of the next 3 teams. At least I won't have to stay up this late trying to think clearly. So with that said good night everyone and thoughts from Matt Devlin tomorrow from our interview earlier today.

Matt Devlin From California In The Starting 5

As I had mentioned this morning I was going to be talking with Matt Devlin. I was able to catch up with him and here is the audio portion of our interview which we call here at Dino Nation Blog " The Starting 5 ". It never has been 5 minutes in it's history but it is always worth going into extra time for our guests. Matt talks about the Raptors long road trip. Some thoughts on the Warriors and Bryan Colangelo and if the Raptors are going to make a deal and when. Matt also offers a cool story at the end that I never knew about which was pretty cool.

Part two of the interview will be tomorrow and that will be in the written word form. So make sure to come back and check that out as we talk about J.O, Chris Bosh, Jay Triano and Jose Calderon.Tonight it will be Raptors Rewind of the game Matt will be calling on TSN with Jack Armstrong.

West Coast Trip Ends Tonight

It is finally coming to an end. The Raptors will conclude a long road trip that even in watching it seems like it would never end. Maybe it was that awful start in Oklahoma City that just made it seem to take longer. There was also a 3 day break for Christmas in there as well. For the Raptor to be in decent shape at the beginning many folks myself included said this team at worst would need to go 3-3. Well heading into the last game against the Warriors that is still possible. But the Warriors are flying high after an unexpected win over the Celtics. The two teams met already this season in the Raptors home opener. It would take overtime for the Raptors to come away with a win. A lot has changed since then. The Raptors after that 3-0 start to the season have not been able to put 3 wins in a row together since that time. They had a chance to do that in Portland only to watch Brandon Roy take over the game and secure a win for the Trailblazers.

The Golden State Warriors are a little different looking than the team that visited the A.C.C for trick or treating. They made a trade with the New York Knicks that saw Al Harrington go to New York and Jamal Crawford come to Oakland. Crawford has been one of those guys that has had the Raptors number in the past. He once scored 50 points as a Bull against the Raptors and he has looked to be much more engaged since the trade. They also still have Steven Jackson and he is a talented guy as well. The Warriors are team that you never know what you are going to get. But what you can be sure of is that they are going to run and they are not likely going to be able to play very good defense. That being said down the stretch they did hold off the Boston Celtics who were on the second half of a Christmas and Boxing Day back to back.

The Tough Home Schedule Ahead

When you look at the 3 game homestand that awaits the Raptors when they do finally return to Toronto. It makes a win tonight almost required. The Nuggets, Rockets and Magic are the next three teams and all of those will be a tough challenge for the Raptors to find a win. Those 3 teams combined have a 64-27 record. Nuggets and Rockets are 20-11 and the Magic an impressive 24-6. While the Warriors are only 9-23 but are a decent 5-7 on their home floor. It would make sense that Warriors may have a bit of a letdown after a big win over Boston. So if the Raptors can get off to a good start it may help their cause. However the Raptors starts to basketball games have not been the issue this season as it has been in the past. The ability to hold leads they have built has been the problem. Also with the Warriors style of play they can both lose a lead quickly or gain one quickly. The Raptors will do their best to play at their pace and not the Warriors. They should have a big advantage on the inside with Bosh and O'Neal. Jermaine has been playing well of late and the Raptors will hope he can keep it rolling in this one.

Trade Winds Always Blowing

The Raptors and Warriors have also been rumoured to be likely trading partners as well. Marco Belinelli and Corey Maggette have been names that the Raptors have had interest in previously. But Maggette has a contract that he signed that he has not lived up to with Golden State. But he is a player that would serve a glaring need for this basketball club as someone that has the ability to slash and get to the basket and draw fouls as well. Belinelli open eyes in summer league after he was drafted but has not been a huge factor with the Warriors to this point. Maggette is averaging 19.1 points and 5.7 rebounds. He is also labeled with a tag of being a black hole as far as passing the ball. His 1.8 assists per game would confirm that. Belinelli has averaged just 9.2 points per game. The major sticking point is that it would seem that if any move between these two teams were to happen that deal would have to included Andrea Bargnani. Some Raptors fans would not have a problem with that. However Bryan Colangelo just might. If he is going to move Bargnani he has to be certain of what he will get in return and Maggette and Belinelli do not offer that kind of security. But those are just rumours and there is a lot of those flying around. The latest is the Raptors have interest in Joe Smith on the OKC Thunder. He is said to be on the move because the Thunder are planning to sign former Net and restricted free agent Nenad Krstic. New Jersey is not likely to match the offer sheet for him given they seem happy with their first round pick Brook Lopez and the other young big men they have on the roster.

So To Quote Al Davis " JUST WIN BABY"

I am not friends with Chris Bosh or anything but I do know we both love the Dallas Cowboys. So obviously we both are not exactly happy with yesterday and the result. So for all Cowboy fans I encourage Chris Bosh to take all that angry of a season gone wrong and take it out on the Warriors. I mean Chris Bosh can likely relate to Tony Romo, T.O and the rest of the Cowboys. The Raptors have had their struggles just like the Cowboys. They had big expectations as well that they have not lived up to. But unlike the Cowboys there is still hope for the Raptors to turn things around and make it to the playoffs. But it will take a commitment to excellence and a just win baby attitude the rest of the way. Here is hoping it can happen for Chris and the Raptors. But for that to happen they have to start beating the better teams once in awhile and never have another blow up like they did in Oklahoma City.

Calling The West Coast Later

So that is a wrap for this morning. I am suppose to be talking with Matt Devlin today. The funny thing is I am not sure if we will be talking at 1pm my time or his time. So if it is his time, that will likely be for the blog tomorrow. But we will see it is funny how you can forget your time zones when you are e-mailing on the west coast. Oh well it will be good to talk with him regardless of when it is. Over on Raptors.com you can catch his latest game preview from on the bus with Jack Armstrong it is informative and comedy all at the same time.


Join The Revolution To Get Raptors On T.V For All

It has been talked about a lot and it is time to take action. One of the things I have talked about from the beginning of the Dino Nation Blog is about basketball fans getting respected. The biggest lack of disrespect has been put on fans this season. The TSN2 mess has given me lots of chance to write about it. However I came across someone trying to do something about it so I wanted to help out with my little stage that is the Dino Nation Blog. Andrew Ebanks is a fan that cares about his fellow Raptor fans. He had like many of us becoming frustrated and dismayed by the lack of progress in the TSN 2 and Rogers mess. I mean we always hear things like it is close to getting done. But I am here to say that close is not good enough and this lack of respect for basketball and Raptor fans needs to end. When I heard that Andrew was trying to organize a protest about this I wanted to help out. I don't live in Toronto and may not be able to be part of the protest myself. But I do have many readers like you that could be able to get down there and help. So that is why I invited Andrew here to talk to me and with you about this issue and what he is trying to do to bring attention to it. We get started with the way all are interviews get done when we can. That is the starting 5. So have a listen then read on.

One of things at the core of this to me is a general disrespect of basketball fans. I asked Andrew for his thoughts on that.

Andrew Ebanks " I have noticed that things were getting better in terms of basketball broadcasting in Canada. But it took a step backwards when you look at Rogers Sportsnet they use to be big into basketball and now they want nothing to do with it. TSN has picked it up now. But there still seems to be that level of disrespect. They have to take basketball fans seriously. It is one of the biggest growing sports across the country. A lot of the new citizens to Canada they have not grown up on hockey. They have grown up with sports like Cricket, Soccer and in many places basketball. I think it is time that we get respect for basketball and it's fans."

Sportsnet did abandon it's coverage of NBA games. That is how Jack Armstrong went from being on Sportsnet to heading over to TSN and TSN 2. But to be fair to Sportsnet they still do cover through their highlight shows and through there website. Paul Jones writes for their website and offers a lot of great thoughts on Raptors and NBA. But I can understand how the average fan would feel that way. If you are not showing games on your network that speaks to where basketball will rank in your priority list. The number one property on Sportsnet and all Canadian sports broadcasters is the NHL and not the NBA. I have said in this blog that if this matter was about the Maple Leafs and not the Raptors it would have been solved long ago. Andrew agrees with that and had this to say about that topic.

Andrew Ebanks " For me this thing would have been solved long ago if it had involved the Maple Leafs. That is the part that really upsets me. Not everyone likes hockey. It is a great game(hockey) and is part of the fabric of this country. But don't get me wrong basketball is never going to over take hockey in Canada. My only question is why can't there be room for more then one popular sport? Raptor fans are probably some of the most crazy and passionate fans out there and they are very into the team and what is going on with it."

I agree with what Andrew is saying. I mean hey let's be honest I am trying to make a living for myself based on that. The people who are the in charge of broadcasting will point to ratings as the way to point to the choices they make. The ratings are not as large as people might hope or want. But Andrew question how those ratings are created. I will not take you back to my college years and try to explain how ratings work and if they are indeed legit measurement of audience. The truth is basketball does have a fan base. It is issues like this by those people that make the choices that is a slap in the face to basketball fans. This ongoing saga over TSN 2 is proof of that.

That is why it is important that people come out and support this effort that Andrew is putting together. It is not just about TSN2 although that is at the core of it. This is a way for Raptor fans to come together and support there fellow fans. Maybe you are lucky enough to have TSN2 and have not been impacted by this. You can still come out and support your fellow Raptor fans who can not. You can show up for Raptor fans that are through out this country and around the world. This is a way to show that basketball matters to you and it will send a message to all the people in broadcasting that you are out there and you care about basketball. Andrew has protested on his on in like 20 degree weather. However one man on his own can make a statement but not a difference. However if one man can inspire others to join him in that effort it can have a really impact. I hope for all Raptor and basketball fans it does.

This protest is planned to take place at Rogers but it is not just an attack against them. I don't think any fans really understand who is to blame. But Andrew is committed to getting this message out and plans to have protests in the future at TSN and MLSE as well until this matter is resolved. He is doing it for his fellow fans many of which can not afford to go to a game and experience Raptors basketball. These are tough times for people and that is becoming a growing list of people that can not afford to take in a game at the ACC. But there are road games that are not being broadcast as well and that impact is even greater. Andrew expressed that this is not just against Rogers but all 3 parties.

Andrew Ebanks " We figured we would start at Rogers and if this is not solved we will rotate through. The next one will be at TSN or MLSE. But we are going to hit them all up. We are not just blaming Rogers because we ultimately don't know who is at fault. We need to get this solved. The next game on TSN 2 is on January 2nd. That is a big game for fans as Toronto has a large Asian community and it is against Houston Rockets with Yao Ming. Those fans want to see that game."

I asked Andrew when it comes to this protest what did he hope to get from it beyond it's ultimate goal of getting a deal done between the parties. He said that he would welcome the chance to talk with the people that are making these choices. To express his views and find out why this has not happened. I think we all would like to know that. I am open to talking to people as well. So if someone at Rogers, MLSE or TSN wants to talk on this issue here you are welcome to get in touch with me.


That is my e-mail and I want to point out for all the other folks like me, that this is not just Rogers costumers being shut out it is others like me on Source Cable and I would imagine many other cable systems through out this country.

Andrew expressed to me that he wants people that come down to bring signs, whistles, horns and your passion for basketball and the Raptors. He also expressed that he wants this to be peaceful. I would express that as well. Be loud and passionate however do not use this as chance to be an idiot. Show the best of what being a Raptor Fan is all about. People always complain about the government but many of the folks that complain sat home on election day. Raptor Fans have complained about this issue of TSN2 and the broadcasting of the Raptors. This is a chance for you to express your feelings. If you sit back and do nothing the result will be the same. So if you can get out to this, write an e-mail, make a phone call. Do it and be part of getting this situation solved.

The Protest is planned to start at 8am Tuesday December 30th at Rogers building which is located at 333 Bloor St. East

Some Links To help out:

Protest Face Book Group

Email's For Compaines and CRTC





It is time to bring this mess to an end. Raptor fans are being the victims for something that they have no control over at all. It is time to band together and make your voices heard and let people know you care and demand action. We all care deeply about the Raptors and basketball so let's show it. Do what you can and if you are not able to go to a protest in Toronto write a e-mail explain to these people that you are not happy and your view of their company has changed not for the better.


Raptors Rewind- You Never Promised Me A Rose Garden Edition

1st Quarter

Well the first six minutes of this game was making me look pretty smart. I had said prior to this one it would be a battle between the young bigs of Oden and Aldridge and the more experienced Bosh and O'Neal. Well 26 of the first 28 points of the game were scored by those 4 players. Brandon Roy would break a 14-14 tie with a basket and he would follow up with another basket to follow that up and the Blazers had a 4 point advantage. The is after the Raptors had come back from being down 12-6. Bosh got to the line and made a pair and Andrea Bargnani who checked in for O'Neal made his first jumper. We were tied again at 18. But the Blazer again would push back in front. scoring 4 straight until Jose Calderon would respond with a jump shot. Jose would get another basket via his jump shot and all even at 22 again.

Anthony Parker would hit a big 3-ball after Portland had scored to take the lead. Andrea Bargnani would score on a second chance for the Raptors thanks to J.O rebounding his own miss. Channing Frye would score at the buzzer but the Raptors battled back for 6 points down to have a 28-26 after the first quarter of play.

2nd Quarter

Rudy Fernandez would score the 3-ball for the Blazers and they were back in front. But Andrea Bargnani had his groove on with another 3-ball. Will Solomon would get another 3 pointer for the Raptors and they had a 34-31 lead. Andrea Bargnani would score a 2-ball this time and Raptors had their largest lead of the night of five points with the score 36-31. Raptors would build the lead up to 7. But the Blazers would respond with an Outlaw 3-ball cutting the lead down to 4. Will Solomon was doing a good job leading the Raptor offense and they would build the lead back to 6 points with the score 40-34.

Greg Oden was back on the floor had he had his first basket since in flurry early on. But the Raptors would answer that with a 3-ball. Brandon Roy had a bucket that would be answered with a Jamario Moon jam. Raptors lead the game 45-39 with 4:10 to go in the half. Blazers and Raps exchange two point buckets and the lead remained at 7 points. Chris Bosh showed Greg Oden a little something with a nice move and a jam and a foul. It would give Bosh 3 points and the Raptors a 50-40 lead. Oden would get sent to the line and make a pair. Brandon Roy would follow up with a jumper for 2 for Portland. But Parker had a 3-ball and Bosh would score again and he now had 15 thus far tonight. Most important to him his Raptors had a 55-44 lead. Oden would make a pair from the line but Jay Triano would draw up a play that would get Bosh a score. But Travis Outlaw would get a miracle toss from half court to cut the Raptor lead to 8 at the half leading 57-49.

3rd Quarter

Raptors shot 52% form the field and they were 6-8 from 3 point range. But it was Lamarcus Aldridge that would open the scoring. But Chris Bosh responded with a basket from him to start the half he had 19 points to this point. Greg Oden was having a nice night with a number of powerful slams and he had 16 for his side including his latest monster dunk. Jermaine O'Neal would respond with a bucket for bucket. The Blazers would drain a long range bomb to pull with in 5 points and Lamarcus Aldridge would make that a 3 point Raptor lead with the score 61-58. Bosh would drive and looked to be fouled but no call came. The lead remained at just 3 points for the Raptors. Bosh was forced into a fad away jumper from a long way out which he would miss but Jamario Moon was there to jam in the rebound. Steve Blake would come down to the other end and knock down a 3-ball with ease. Blake would get another look to take the lead but that would catch iron. J.O would miss his first attempt but the Raptors would get a second chance with a rebound and J.O would drive to the basket on his second chance to score and not miss. Raptor lead 65-61 with a time out on the floor.

Travis Outlaw would score on a fading jumper in the land out of the time out. Lamarcus Aldridge would tie the score on the next trip up the floor for the Blazers. The lead that late in the first half had grown to 11 was all gone. 65 all and a brand new ball game. Aldridge would get to the line and make a pair to give the Blazers the lead. They would score again to extend the lead to 4 points. Chris Bosh would drive and draw the foul and almost made it an and one bit it would fall out. So he would head to the line for a pair that he would make. Andrea Bargnani had a chance to put the Raptors back in front but he would miss the 3-ball. Will Solomon would make a bad pass that would go out of bounds and the Raptors missed another chance to pull even. Raptors would trail 69-67 after 3 quarters of play.

4th Quarter

Raptors shooting % sunk down to 43% after the 3rd quarter. But they were still in the basketball game. Took over a minute and half for someone to score. But Chris Bosh would bust open the score sheet with a basket to tie it at 69. But after that the Blazers would run off 4 straight. But Andrea Bargnani would answer that with a 3-ball which Brandon Roy would answer with a 3 pointer of his own and it was 76-72. Lamarcus Aldridge was being good all night long.He scored again and Roy followed that up with a basket and another. Raptor were now looking an eight point deficit square in the face.

Jerrmaine O'Neal had the ball swiped away by Roy and wanted a foul. Instead it would be another Aldridge score and an 84-74 lead for the Blazers. Moon would respond with a score only to have Brandon Roy answer with a 3 pointer. He would get another basket and Jay Triano like his team was frustrated with the non-calls as well and get a technical foul. But in reality he was likely as frustrated his team had no answers for Aldridge and Roy. Raptors who once lead by 11 now trailed by 13 points with the score 89-76. Roy would continue to dazzle with another score. J.O would come back with a jam plus a foul and pull the Raptors back to down 10 points at 91-81 with just under 4 minutes to play. There was time left to make a comeback but it would not be easy. Bosh would get to the line with 3:08 left on the clock for a pair. He would make both and the lead was 8 points for the Blazers. Bosh had 27 points on the night for the Raptors. Brandon Roy would take a tumble at hands of Jamario Moon and head to the line and calm as can be make a pair. Bosh quickly answered with 2 for the Raptors. Steve Blake would score with a one handed runner. J.O would respond but the Raptors needed stops. But they were not coming as the Blazers got a dunk to push the lead back to 10 points at 97-87. This game was done for the most part. Raptors once again played well but not good enough. They could not find that complete 48 minutes it would take to beat a quality opponent. Raptors would fumble and bumble their way down the final minute or so. The Blazers would dribble out a season sweep of the Raptors with a 102-89 win over Toronto.

Blazers/Raps Boxscore

I am a bit under the weather so if there is some editing that is lacking it will get done tomorrow morning. I also had to reboot the computer right before the start hence the bit of strange start to this Raptor Rewind with no set-up and Raptor Rewind Logo. But I was able to stay healthy enough to keep hitting keys. So I will be happy for that. Got an interview to put together tomorrow as well. It will get done but may be a little slower then I would like. But it is for a good cause getting Raptors on TSN 2 for everyone so I will get it done. I may just have to stop to blow my nose or but some ice on my head. But enough complaining from me. Raptors have a tough loss tonight and once again can't close the deal on a good team. Nothing new to report there.

Can Raptors Make It Past A Road Block In Portland?

Toronto Raptors have got back to back wins as the head north to Portland. Now I understand the Clippers and the Kings will never be confused with a top tier team in the NBA. But the fact the Raptors have been able to build on what Jay Triano is trying to do is a good thing. No matter who is in front of you the fact that you are winning games is positive re-enforcement for what the team is trying to do. Everyone was upset by the events in Oklahoma City but you have to move forward from it. The Raptors have done that. A good effort in a lose to the Spurs and two wins over Kings and Clippers. It is a start to what will be a long road back for the Raptors.

J.O Starting To Show Signs

Jermaine O'Neal had one of his best efforts as a Raptor last night. He was getting just about anything he wanted as he shot an amazing 15-19 from the field. Even though the trade that brought O'Neal here has been questioned. I think J.O himself has been a solid player for this Raptor squad when he has been healthy. He was done what he can to contribute on both ends of the floor. He may not have been as a big a rebounding force that some might have hoped. But he is bringing effort and energy to a defense that has been badly in need of it. What has been disappointing is that the players around him have not been as effective as people expected to this point. I really felt the Raptors would be better defensive wise with J.O. They have started to show signs of that under Triano but it is far from perfect.

I have been impressed with Jermaine and his attitude to this point. He has shown a real professionalism in dealing with the media and has been a model citizen from the outside looking in. I liked his latest comments that there is no more time for excuses. O'Neal said it is time to start putting those words into action on the floor. He did that last night and was key to the Raptors success. A much different challenge lies in front of him tonight. Greg Oden and Lamarcus Aldridge are a good test and challenge for O'Neal and Bosh. A true match of youth versus experience. It will really present a challenge for O'Neal who started his career with the Blazers and was not able to get much time on the floor straight out of high school. He has to be amused at looking at this team now that is all about youth and letting young players play. But it is hard to argue the talent the Blazers have with Brandon Roy, Oden, Aldridge and I could list a few more. J.O was not the problem in the trade made. The problem if you were looking for one might be that the Raptors failed to address the loss of depth it created. J.O's contract and not J.O is to blame for that. However that was always part of the attraction in taking him is that 23 million dollars that he is due to be paid next season. It is an impressive bargaining chip to have as we head towards the arms race of the NBA in 2010. Bryan Colangelo for all the abuse he is taking at the moment may end up being the smart guy we all thought he was in 2010. But people see what is happening now and are worried to angry about the short term outlook and with good reason.

What I thought the Raptors did wrong was over selling O'Neal after the trade. I can't tell you how many times I heard how he was a 6 time All-Star. But that was in the past. In the present J.O still can have All-Star like nights but to suggest or imply he was going to be an All-Star level play this year was wrong. For him to have a healthy and productive season should have been the pitch. The Toronto Maple Leafs as much as I hate to admit it did something right this year. They under sold the team so much that fans are impressed with there above lousy performance this year. But it was hard for the Raptors to under sell a player that they gave up so much for to bring here. But at the end of all of it from my perspective I am getting the Jermaine O'Neal I expected to see. The only surprise for me is the fact he has been such a stand-up guy with the media and fans. He stays focused on the task and not even this latest side show like attempt from a porn star to get attention has stopped him from sticking to the task at hand. Being such a huge fan of T.J Ford it is possible that I wanted to hate J.O in some way. But I promised that I would keep an open mind and I have done that and it has allowed me to become a fan of him.

Oh Andrea What To Do About You?

It is really a hard thing to figure out what to do about Andrea Bargnani. Please don't tell us about how we could have had Brandon Roy. Drafts are wonderful to look back on years later. But the reality is that Roy was a projected number 5 pick. You want to make an argument about Aldridge or Bargnani I will listen to that as they were projected to go near the top of the draft. I have always said you want to look at a team that should be sorry go to Minnesota. They not only traded Roy this past year they traded O.J Mayo. Maybe that is why Kevin McCale has been called into duty as coach of the T-Wolves and I would suspect has not much job security left in Minnesota.

The problem of what to do with Andrea Bargnani is a tough one. The danger is if you trade him and he has success, those same people that are singing the praises of Brandon Roy will be saying they should have kept Bargnani. That is the thing about writing a blog you can't be so easy to blow with the wind. There is a written document that is out there that can be used against you if you do. In the history of this blog I have flip flopped on Bargnani a couple of times. But I am convinced of a few things that make me think you need to trade him. Here is what they are in no particular order of importance:

  • Andrea Bargnani in his head is convinced he is a power Forward(4). I see him try to play at other spots on the floor and he does at times make effort. But there is no real confidence in him to play those spots on the floor. So do you really want a first round draft choice as the back-up to your star player that plays at his best position? I think not. I also don't think you trade Bosh and keep Bargnani. Bosh has proven he is good and Bargnani has only shown he has the talent to be good. That is a major difference.
  • Confidence issues will haunt Andrea forever. I remember reading and hearing about how well Andrea tested out as far as intellect and confidence. Well I am not here to get into a debate on if you can actually test those type of things. Paul Jones has a masters in sports psychology I will make sure to ask him next time we talk. But all I know is the test was flawed in the case of Andrea. He may have the smarts and basketball IQ. But the confidence was never there for very long and he just seems to be always in a state of a crisis of confidence
  • Bryan Colangelo claims he takes many calls on Andrea. I say answer the phone and make a deal out of one of those calls. The reason being is what happens when the phone stops ringing. Eventually people are going to lose confidence in Andrea and his ability to be a steal or diamond in the rough. The longer you wait in my mind the worse the offers will become.
  • The improvements on defense are not enough to out weigh the regression on offense. He does not shoot the ball with any kind of consistency and I am deeply concerned for a guy who is a shooter he does not seem to make enough shots. Jason Kapono takes a lot of abuse from Raptor fans but I am more confident in him making a shot or a good choice than I am Andrea.
Jack Armstrong and a number of others have stood behind Andrea. I am the first to admit Jack knows more about the game than I do having coached it and broadcast the NBA for over a decade. But I just am not seeing anything that makes me hopeful for the long term in keeping Bargnani. He had a great night last night but those nights seem to grow further a part in nature. I do agree that the Raptors must share in the blame for his struggles by constantly changing and redefining his role. Many feel that Colangelo will not give up on Andrea Bargnani and is not willing to admit his mistake in taking him with the first pick. It will be interesting to see if Bargnani is truly on the table going forward as everyone is of the same mind that Colangelo is going to do something. Finding agreement on what that will be is the hard part.

CB4 Is Not For Sale

About the only thing that has been made clear by Colangelo is the Chris Bosh is not for sale to any buyer. Why on earth would he be. I find it totally crazy to hear people talking about trading Bosh. Some of those same people were saying he was playing like an M.V.P a month earlier. It is hard for me to imagine a trade situation in which Bosh would not be the best player in a trade. People are using terms like blowing up this team and starting over. That is not the plan and likely will not be any time soon. Bryan Colangelo has designed this roster to be able to be rebuild in 2010 and it is not going to happen until that point. He does not have to cash in his chips early to react to a losing season and cure the short term concerns of the fan base. He is not going to give up the cap space he has been building unless he feels it is a move that can address both the short and long term needs of this franchise.

In thinking of Bryan Colangelo I tend to see him in terms of poker. This season has been to this point a lot of bad hands for Colangelo. But it is a foolish poker player that tries to force his hand when he does not have the cards to win. The last thing I would call Bryan Colangelo is foolish. He may take a small risk and look for a high reward at this point but he is far from pushing all in with a weak hand and taking his chances.

Maybe some just didn't understand what the deal was with the O'Neal trade. Bryan Colangelo sold it strong as it was a move for the short term. Maybe he was bluffing us all with saying this was the most talented roster ever. But he know the big pot of this poker game that is the NBA happens in 2010. You can bet that he wants in on that pot and wants to take home as much as he can. That to me was always the end game of the O'Neal trade. If it works in the next two years great but it was not the end goal. I do suspect he expected a lot more return and better results on the way to that. But thus far it has not worked out that way.

But make no mistake in thinking that the goal at the end of the day is to keep Bosh in 2010 and add another significant player to the mix to play along side him That was always the plan and I don't think that will change no matter what happens in the time leading up to 2010. The only way that will change is if Chris Bosh declares his intention not to remain in Toronto prior to that. Despite what Jalen Rose and others may believe I do not think that event has happened at this point.

Another Chance For A Statement Win

Turning attention back to this game in Portland. This is another chance for the Raptors to get a win over a good basketball team. It is something that has been lacking on the resume this year and if they do not figure out how to accomplish that goal it is going to be tough looking forward. Denver,Orlando and Houston are all teams that are better than Toronto. You need to feel you can sneak a win ever now and then against teams that are better. The Raptors must find the confidence and ability to do this. We have seen it in flashes against several teams including the Blazers back in Toronto. They must break through and get a win like that soon. Tonight a win would go a very long way in restoring some confidence in this team. Golden State is up next and they are coming off a huge high in beating the Celtics. Apparently K.G was right in saying that anything is possible and it is. But it takes work and effort along with the belief that you can do it. The Raptors need to show they have that if they are going to break through and get a quality win over a quality opponent.

Do Your Part To Express Yourself

Tomorrow I will have an interview with someone who is putting together a protest about the TSN 2 mess that still remains unsolved. I found it interesting to chat with someone that is a true fan of basketball and cares for his fellow Raptor fans. That is something I have always tried to express in this blog. Basketball fans and Raptor fans need to stick together and support each other and speak with one voice. That does not happen very often but this is a chance to do that. December 30 will be the chance for you to do just that. We all know the Rogers/TSN2 mess. Well a protest has been put together for you to show your support. Even if you have been not impacted by this personally still this is a way to support your fellow fans. Show folks that basketball matters and you want to be respected as a basketball fan and a Raptor Fan. I will talk more about this tomorrow. But the protest is set to take place at Rogers Building which is located at 333 Bloor St in Toronto. Bright and early at 8 am but is planned to continue through the day. So if you are able to do so, go down and lend your voice to the cause of basketball. If you do go though act in a proper way and do not do anything that is going to cause trouble for you or others. Represent Raptor fans in the right way.