The new and improved Andrea Bargnani clearly came to play tonight. He was a big reason the Raptors could even claim to be in this game. While no one can deny his improvement this year my feelings on his future remain the same. It is kind of hypocritical of a lot of people to not agree. If you can say after Chris Bosh left town that you can't really win with him why should it be different with Bargnani? While Bargnani is less likely to leave the Raptors the same things that were said about Bosh and why the Raptors couldn't win with him apply. Bargnani is clearly this teams top scorer. But even now at his natural position that was once occupied by Bosh he can not provide enough to help this team win. Chris Bosh was often taken to task for the games he had big performances often came in games the Raptors lost. The same can be said for Andrea Bargnani. He was about as good as it gets for him tonight shooting 11-18 with 30 points and had 7 rebounds. There was only one assist in that though. Maybe that gets to the fundamental problem with a traditional four as your main piece. It is often said that your best player is suppose to make everyone around him better. I fail to see how Bargnani has done that today or ever.
But his improvement is a positive no matter how you choose to look at it. But to me it makes him an attractive piece to move not keep. In a stacked draft class coming up you would think a team would be willing to part with a first round pick to get a scorer like Bargnani. On a contending team he is a great second or third option. Raptors could get another solid pick and perhaps a player they could use at point guard or a legit small forward something the Raptors have failed to have since Vince Carter left. Never once have the Raptors traded a player at high point of his value. You only need to look at the Vince Carter trade and the next to nothing they got as Bosh left via free agency. Perhaps the last time the Raptors got any true value with a core player in a trade was when they moved Antonio Davis. They did alright in that deal despite losing a fan favourite in Jerome Williams as well. If the Raptors are truly rebuilding then don't go half way.
This of course would be a lot easier to do if Demar DeRozan was showing signs of taking the next step. While Bargnani has shined it has been a bit of a troubling start to Demar DeRozan's third season. There is no really dramatic improvement in his defence. While he seems to be forcing his offence and we have seen many more forced shots than we have highlight dunks. Tonight DeRozan had just 11 points with 4 assists and 4 rebounds. Shooting just 4-12 as well. James Johnson who was a big hit with Raptor fans since he arrived is starting to see his honeymoon end with fans. He did not score a point and was a -14 for a guy that is suppose to be one of you best defenders?
Another chip the Raptors have to play that is less attractive than that of Bargnani is Leandro Barbosa. He had 20 points will the rest of the Raptors bench had just 6 points. Barbosa decided to use his player option to collect his 7.2 million dollars owed for this season of service. He clearly can score and he clearly is not a guy that is ever going to be defence first. The Raptors may want to hang on to him to have his salary come off the books as it is a big piece of that 20 million or so Colangelo would have in cape space next season. But if you can get a player you like already under contract that you would control for a few seasons is that not a better option. Raptors have had their struggles being a player in free agency in the past. Colangelo's big signings have never been smashing successes. Hedo Turkoglu the most recent but there was also Jason Kapono prior to that. They still would have a decent amount of cash to spend as well. But the key is when you go to move Barbosa it is from a position of strength. If you don't get what you want you cash is your 7.2 million in cap room and call it a day.
Mavericks had 5 players in double figures three of those coming off the bench including Carter. Bargnani schooled that Dirk fellow as he not only outscored him 30-18, but even out rebounded him 7-4. But in the only stat that matters Nowitzki got the W. The Mavs get in the win column for the first time this year with a 99-86 win over the Raptors. Both these teams sit at 1-3 on the season but the difference between the two teams is massive.
I grow tired of hearing that it was a entertain loss. If this was a movie or a concert that would be great. But as much as sports becomes more and more entertainment based it still is about winning and losing. The Raptors have proven that while their effort level may be improved and there defence is with out question miles ahead of any point under Jay Triano. They held the Mavs to 44.4% shooting on this night. But at the end of the day moral victories are for losers. This whole attitude of the Raptors at least tried hard and it was more entertaining than watching paint dry concerns me. Great just friggin awesome. Look I get it and yeah there are some good things. But at the end of the day is this core group good enough? Not really sure. At the end of all of this have the Raptors actually solved any of their problems? I think they have solved at least one. Dwane Casey is a keeper it looks like to me. He is not taking any pride in the fact his team tried hard. He expects and demands more. As should all of you that are just satisfied with a team giving an effort. But can this team attract free agents? Remains to be seen. Will the ownership of this team be willing to go to that next level to make the Raptors a true contender when the time comes? Or will the be happy to have a team that is good enough to make the playoffs and do nothing really. See the Atlanta Hawks as the classic example of that. Although they have tried to spend money just maybe not always wisely.
I think what I find frustrating is people seem to just accept and buy in no matter what. While I truly admire the loyalty of fans, I am not ready to see the Raptor fan base morph into the one that cheers for the hockey team that hasn't won since 1967. In theory the Raptors are in a good position for success. But when you place that against this teams failure of the past how confident can you truly be? While I am not as over the moon about Jonas Valanciunas has some people. I think he has a good shot at being successful. However I need to see it against NBA talent under NBA rules to be convinced. Also as this season grinds along and people look to the future the amount of pressure on him will be intense. I mean it is almost now as some people see him as a Savior. Raptors still have no point guard and no real dynamic small forward. At best Jonas is a piece to your puzzle but he is not going to be able to pass the ball to himself. He also can't defend the wing position. Maybe you find that answer in the draft. But for tank nation you might want to look up the odds of worst team actually winning the lottery.
Speaking of point guards Jerryd Bayless turned his angle in this game and did not return. He did have an x-ray on the ankle that came back negative which is positive. That being said if you saw the replay of it on TSN it was a pretty nasty twist. We saw are first look at Anthony Carter as a result and got to see Forbes play some point guard. Along with a bigger dose of Jose Calderon who was having fun playing someone slower than him. A decent night for Jose with 11 points 7 dimes and a couple steals. Jose can defend people that are his lesser in terms of speed. Problem is that list grows shorter ever season. No one will cry more when Jason Kidd retires than Jose Calderon. As for Bayless his status vs Orlando is not known but safe bet he could be out. Aaron Gray remains out with a heart condition. This will take Raps fans back to the struggles of short lived Raptor Nathan Jawai. But we are told things with Gray are not as serious. He is still able to practice with the team despite being held out of game action. Obviously you hope for the best health wise. Basketball wise based on what we did see of him the Raptors are not missing much.
I guess the point I am making is that people tend to be far to accepting. Some of these people were the same ones that never thought we needed a coaching change but they now have fully sold out to POUND THE ROCK. If you have learned anything from reading this blog I hope it is that I don't just follow the crowd. I have been ahead of the curve on a lot of things. Long before you heard anyone questioning Jose Calderon I was. When people were applauding a trade for Jermaine O'Neil that was not me. I was the guy that told you Roy Hibbert was going to be good. The Raptors at the time felt he was to slow to play in their system. Well is Jamaal Magloire going to win a race against Roy Hibbert? Not likely. In terms of him I seem to be the only one that remembers how this guy consistently turned his back on this country and the national team. Only now at the end of his career when he has very little left to offer does he become a Raptor. Yet he is applauded like some hero cause he happens to be from Toronto. You want to applaud an NBA Player from Toronto? Tristan Thompson will make his only visit to the ACC on Wednesday. Applaud him. I never liked Hedo signing as well. This all may seem like bragging on my part. It is not meant to be. But it is to say and illustrate that I often have a good sense on things and have a good track record at being right. But just because I am a realist and I am not so willing to just accept everything at face value doesn't mean I want to see this team fail. I like everyone else want this team to be a success. But I don't do it with disregard or forget the long history of failure with this organization.
If the Raptors problems were simple and easy to fix there is no doubt there have been some smart people in this organization over time that could have fixed them. But it isn't simple, it is very hard. This Organization wants your patience. I say for some they have been patient for 16 years. Based on that it at the least should make you at best skeptical of the Raptors rather than to just buy into whatever they are selling to you. However you care to look at this season, it in many ways is a lost season. Some see it as a means to an end. But there is no guarantee it is a happy ending. Applauding effort and trying is ridiculous to me. That should be a given. Like I tweeted tonight. Yoda put it best....Do or do not.....there is no try.
Obviously the Dwane Casey factor is the big story to this game. The Mavs should know better than anyone how to operate against Casey's defensive system. While Casey should know better than anyone the weak points of what the Mavs do. But in the end it might just be about the Mavs desperation to get on track after they have come out so poorly to begin the season. The Raptors can not afford a start like they had against the Pacers. The Mavs as mentioned played last night in OKC and the Raptors will have a bit of an advantage in that. If the Raptors can hang around for 3 quarters and come up with the 4th quarter heroics we have seen in the first couple games led by DeRozan they will have a punchers chance. But that will be the tricky part being able to hang around.
Key Match Up: Andrea Bargnani from since he entered the league has drawn comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki. Even Dwane Casey surprisingly has used the comparison. But if we are being honest the comparison is an insult to the big German. His performance in last season's playoffs alone should be proof of that. Not to mention his MVP season that did not get matched with a MVP Playoff Performance. Andrea has been a pleasant surprise so far. Despite his offensive numbers being slightly down his improved effort on the defensive end has been praised up and down by everyone connected to the Raptors. His rebounding is still not really impressive. But the key to this match-up is that both guys have a match-up they are not use too. Most times they are matched up with players that would rather play in the post than out beyond the 3 point line.
In another match-up that will be interesting will be DeRozan vs Carter. Many also compared DeRozan to Vince when he was drafted. But that comparison is not really one that has held up over time. Vince in his day was the best athlete in the NBA. He was a dunking machine that could not be stopped. If you want someone to compare DeRozan too it is more Vince's Cousin T-Mac that DeRozan is similar too. In any case regardless of who is on the other side of things, Demar must get things going early. If you had looked at DeRozan's numbers minus the 4th quarter they would be scary.
Even if the Raptors manage to compete in those match-ups you still have Odom to deal with not to mention Jason Kidd. The Raptors will have to hope there young rested legs are enough to keep them in the game. Along with any tricks or advice Dwane Casey can provide. But given the circumstances it is hard to imagine the Raptors getting a win tonight. Dallas did play well last night despite the loss and finally started to look like a team that was defending their NBA title.
The Raptors will have some tough challenges to deal with after that this as well. Orlando still has Dwight Howard and look pretty good early on while the Knicks have struggled on the road in the west after a thrilling Christmas Day win over the still win less Celtics.
If the Raptors return home with anything but three more losses it would be a surprise for sure. But the chances are they will be 1-4 returning home to face the Cavs who they beat to open the season on Boxing Day. It might not be a case of wins and loses for the Raptors on this trip as much as it will be a test of their defensive improvement and if they can truly be able to score against a higher level of competition.
One way or the other will have a better idea of if the Raptors will be the team that was advertised with having little chance at winning or the surprise team that they have claimed they strive to be. Tonight could be the toughest test on this road swing given how the Mavs are really in a must win situation. After all in a shorter season for a team that is expected to make the playoffs you can not afford to have many long losing streaks and hope to be in a good position for the post season.
When you think of the Raptors what pops in your head? Perhaps fans booing Vince or T-Mac. If the Raptors have any sort of tradition it lies more in the fans. They have always booed the guy that has left them high and dry. They have always cheered the guys that hustled and busted their butt even after they have left. A group that is always discounted but continues to show up.
This is not just the Raptors issue in fact the NBA team I had cheered for prior to the Raptors was a lot like that. The Charlotte now New Orleans Hornets. Short of a Ric Flair WOOOOO!!! I am not sure the Hornets have any real kind of tradition. When you say Hornets not any rival jumps to mind. Is this just a case of it take a long time for expansion teams to make roots. In the case of the Hornets they were up rooted and replaced by Bobcats.
But OKC has only been around for a short time and they already have some tradition. The fans don't sit until their team scores a basket. They despite having some ugly uniforms and a pretty simple logo have kept it the same. They still lack rivals but you can see some starting to grow for them vs Dallas and Memphis. Thunder Up has been made famous by the tweets of their superstar Kevin Durant.
MLSE owns one of the most traditional and iconic franchises in Hockey. The Leafs have fed off that tradition for years. After all when you have not won a championship since 1967 what else can you do. They have many rivals some old traditional ones like with the Habs, to new and more modern ones with the Sens. They even market it as "the tradition that binds us all". Yet on the Raptors side of MLSE that tradition is lacking.
Perhaps it comes down to the simple fact of not a lot of winning. Hence you have constant change to try and run away from your not so spectacular past. Whatever the reason is the fact the Raptors lack any sort of tradition is something as someone who has supported them from day one I find myself craving.
I grew up a fan of the Dallas Cowboys. They have all you could ask for in that regard. The star on the side of a silver helmet is iconic. They have traditional rivals that last no matter records of either side. You say Cowboys and Redskins and people have a long history to draw on between the two teams. You can not be a Redskins fan and like the Cowboys and the same is true if you cheer for the Cowboys if you like them you hate a number of teams Giants, Redskins, Eagles and 49ers will never be teams you cheer.
I hope that I live long enough to see the Raptors have a tradition and true identity. I am not sure a rock that sits in the dressing room is going to be it. But what the Raptors have to do is stop changing the paint on the floor, the colours on a uniform and say this is who we are and what we are. That is something that is needed. Perhaps that comes along with simple winning. But maybe you need to start establishing that before the winning comes. I don't crave 3-D logos or countless variations of uniforms. I carve something that is the same and feels like home. Feels like a good old sweater that is comfortable. In 16 years the Raptors have yet to provide that.
The Raptors would slowly start to get the locks off the offence that had been a one man operation in the first with Bargnani largely being their only true effective player on offence. On the other side of things Paul George was showing you why many are excited about his future. He was part of the key match-up I mentioned in the set-up for this one. The other side of that match-up was DeRozan and he failed to score in the 1st half. Raptors could not stop the lead for the Pacers would take the lead into half at 38-34. Not exactly an offensive classic in fact there was a lot of offensive things. But Andrea Bargnani was not one of them. He was perhaps the only reason the Raptors were hanging around.
In the second half the Pacers got back to work and took control of things out battling the Raptors in the 3rd and getting some breaks in terms of the officials for most of the night. Demar DeRozan did start to make himself known on the offensive end but like in Cleveland he has a pretty forgettable first 3 quarters. It reminds you of the whole Tim Tebow phenomenon. Tebow Time at least for 2 games has a Raptor equal and it is DeRozan Time. He again exploded late in the 4th and finished with 22 points(Which led the Raps). But the Raptors had let the Pacers get to far in front to catch. The Raptors would make a strong push aided by the sold out crowd but the Pacers were able to take the body blows and close the deal for the 90-85 win.
The Good: Bargnani despite the typical rebounding struggles The Raptors would be no where close if not for Bargnani. Defence was still good enough holding the Pacers to 39.5% shooting.
The Bad: DeRozan's first 3 quarters. Bayless at times took the Raptors out of their offence and went rogue despite his 5-9 shooting and 13 points. Calderon struggled as well so let's just say general point guard play was poor for very different reasons.
The Ugly: 19 Turnovers. The Raptors are not good enough to have those kind of mistakes and win basketball games.
Now it really gets tough with games vs The Mavs, Magic and Knicks. This will truly test this new Defence to the next level. Especially against the Mavs who should know how to beat this D better than anyone for obvious reasons and they are a desperate team early in this season after an ugly 0-2 start.
Kardinal Offishall will be in the house for halftime as well. Not to mention prior to the game there is going to be a tail gate party that is free for everyone tickets to the game or not at Maple Leaf Square. All this because the Raptors are of course 1-0. Well not exactly but once all the hype that goes with the home opener is finished the Raptors have a tougher task in front of them than they did in Ohio.
See the Pacers actually signed good players instead of punchlines for a TNT Segment with Charles Barkley and Shaq. On a side note Shaq is going to be huge hit on TNT. But between the trade the Pacers made with Spurs and signing David West it has made them a sexy pick to be one of the improved teams in the East.
While the Raptors were making short work of the Cavs, The Pacers were doing much the same to one of the East's other bottom feeders in Detroit. Roy Hibbert the Raptors draft choice for the Pacers as part of the J.O deal got off to a nice start to the year with 16 points and 14 rebounds. He will be a load to deal with for the Raptors tonight. Pacers had 3 players with double doubles in that win and 5 were in double figures as they beat Detroit 91-79.
Key Match-Up: Could go with Roy Hibbert vs Amir Johnson but instead let's go with Paul George and Demar DeRozan. Two young rising stars in the league doing battle at the shooting guard. DeRozan did not look his best in Cleveland till near the end of the game. Tonight he will have a legit test on both ends of the floor.
Other Things of Note: Pacers got to the line 25 times vs Detroit making 20 of those. They also shot 46.7% from beyond the 3 point line. They also feature a deadly duo of point guards with Darren Collison and George Hill. Lou formally Louis Amundson was also added to the Pacers and did not play in the opener.
Raptors are 10-6 in home openers last year snapping a streak of 4 straight wins in their home opener with a loss to the Knicks. It is hard to find any stat in Raptor history where they have a winning record but this is one of them. It is just the rest of the season that has been the problem. Those other 81 games or in the case of this season 65.
So the atmosphere should be off the hook to start. Will it be by the time this one is over becomes the big question. If the Raptors can hang with Pacers that would open a lot more eyes than beating the Cavs. But it will not be easy. Pacers look to have a very talented team that I predicted in this blog should be one of the 8 teams left standing for the playoffs in the East. Early Start time for this game of 6pm? Why that is I have no clue. But it is on once again as basketball officially has returned to Toronto.
#10- Got to start saving money for my playoff tickets in May.
#9- That Ed Davis is better than Chris what's his name in Miami
#8- Dwane Casey for Coach of the Year.
#7- Jose Calderon can play defence it is indeed a Christmas Miracle.
#6- Amir Johnson is going to average double double this year.
#5- I am going to get fat from all the free pizza I eat from Raptors 100 point wins at home.
#4- The Cavs were a quality team
#3- Andrea Bargnani will win Defensive Player of the Year....Book it.
#2- Raptors have the best bench in the NBA.
#1- Raptors are going to have a better record than Dallas and the Lakers.
Joking aside the Raptors did play well against a team that honestly if they hadn't beat this list would have been 10 reasons the Raptors won't go 0-66. Will see what happens when they take a step up the food chain on Wednesday for the home opener at the ACC. But for now enjoy a win just don't catch yourself saying anything on this list. It is still likely to be a long season but that was a heck of a start for the Raptors. They deserve lots of credit.
Andrea Bargnani was not the scoring force we are use too. But he was able to make some key baskets down the stretch as well. Calderon clearly made his case for why he should be the starter for this team with 15 points as mentioned but 11 assists and 6 rebounds as well. The Raptors battled hard and had 9 blocked shots and won the battle of the boards 45-37. Ed Davis looks much improved as well as he got a key offensive rebound and a put back score when the Cavs had crept back to within 2 points.
Tristan Thompson had a solid debut for the Cavs. He had 13 points and 5 rebounds in just 17 minutes on the floor. Kyrie Irving the first overall pick struggled with 6 points shooting 2-12 and was able to get 7 assists despite his troubles shooting. The Cavs looked like the team that was well on the way to returning to the lottery more than the Raptors on this night.
There were bumps in the road along the way but the Raptors for the most part gave 100% effort on both ends of the floor and were rewarded with a win for their efforts. Forget pounding the rock the Raptors were passing it and doing it well. They had 35 assists on 42 made field goals shooting 53.2% from the field. While the Raptors held the Cavs to just 41.2% from the field.
Give the Raptors credit for taking apart a team that they should beat. The home opener should be a step up in class with the much improved Pacers coming to town for the Raptors home opener on Wednesday. But if the Raptors can perform like they did tonight the ACC will be more filled than expected this year and fans will have a lot more to get excited about.
This was in it's truest sense a team win. The Raptors are never going to beat to many teams any other way. If you were told that DeRozan would do little in the first 3 quarters of this game and that he and Bargnani would combine for just 28 points what would you think the result would be? Chances are a loss and likely a bad one. But the Raptors may have answered a question that I asked in the preview for this game. Who is going to be the third scorer for this team? The answer might be everyone. The simple fact is the Raptors will need a team effort to have any chance to win games. Against some of the better teams in this league even with that team effort it will be tough to pull off a win. But without it the chances are next to impossible.
This is a long way from being a fair tale story just yet. But the Raptors matched apathy in terms of expectations with energy and hustle that people who have followed this team have not seen in years. So far so good but this is just step one of what is going to be a tough grind of a season for everyone in the NBA. But it was about as good a first step as you could have hoped for. The Raptors showed they can play defence and not let it stop them from being able to score on the other end.
After a long lockout and more gloom and doom talk than you can shake a stick at, the Raptors provided fans a performance they can be proud of and a win. Dwane Casey deserves a lot of credit for changing the attitude of this team. Under Jay Triano the Raptors would have folded at some point and lost their lead and given up. That didn't happen tonight. Things have changed and the change was badly needed. Raptors win 104-96 and cruise into the winner's circle.
See some people are excited. In fact the Raptors should feel fortunate so many fans still remain loyal to them given how things have gone the past few years. A lot look at this season as something they must endure to get to the end of the rainbow. But what happens when you get to the Emerald City and find out the wizard is nothing more than an incompetent boob? The Cavs will have two rookies in Thompson and Irving to watch this season. The Raptor fan base waits for their draft pick to come next season. While experts not just from here but around the league see a bright future for Jonas Valanciunas there is no guarantee in that. What you can guarantee is the pressure on him will be massive.
Key Match-up: I was inclined to say Tristan Thompson on Andrea Bargnani but Thompson is not expected to start so will see that match-up at times but not a lot. But I thought I would go with Kyrie Irving against Jose Calderon. Yet another point guard that has entered this league that will be an almost impossible challenge for our athletically challenged point guard. See the biggest problem with Jose Calderon is the league has changed so massively at his position since he arrived in Toronto. John Wall, Derrick Rose, Brandon Jennings, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo and many others that are just flat out fast. Not only are they fast but in many cases they are highly skilled. It is not that Jose is significantly worse as a defender it is the league has changed to make him so. Irving was the high scoring Rookie in the Pre-Season with 21 point vs the Pistons. In front of a home crowd with all eyes on him you can expect big things from him. This will be a real good test for Casey's defensive system which had mixed results vs Boston. It is not if Irving goes by Calderon it is when he does and what happens next.
Other Things To Watch: In the pre-season we saw one game of this improved Bargnani that we were constantly told about in training camp and we saw one example of the old Bargnani we have come to hate. Well some of us have. Which one shows up when the lights come on in Cleveland? Also beyond Demar DeRozan and the aforementioned Bargnani who is going to score for this team consistently? The defence will no doubt improve on some level but if it is at the expense of the offence how much further ahead are the Raptors really? It is a riddle that this season will likely tell us.
The Raptors continue to talk about this young core group that they have. What will lie ahead for the likes Ed Davis, James Johnson, Jerryd Bayless and Amir Johnson and the rest. In order for this plan to work some of these guys along with Bargnani and DeRozan must take their games to the next level. While this cast of castoff veterans the Raptors have brought in, will be expected to aid in that development can they add anything at all on the floor itself. Aaron Gray and Jamaal Magloire did next to nothing in the pre-season. While Carter and Butler didn't even play in both pre-season games.
The Raptor's worst season all-time was a 16-66 effort back in 1997-98. If the Raptors lose 66 games this year I officially give up. But in terms of percentage that 97-98 season was a franchise low .195 winning percentage. For the Raptors to sink below that it would take a 12 win season in this lockout shortened schedule. Vegas if you are the betting type of person has the Raptors at 15.5 wins. Slightly higher than that low mark. In the only other lockout shortened season the Raptors with a team that would grow into the best team they had in terms of playoff success road a rookie named Vince Carter to a 23-27 record. The next season they would win 45 games and make it to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
It promises to be a long season with little to get excited about. The Raptors future beyond that may be left for ping pong balls to decide to a degree. But if the Raptors are to do any kind of surprising this season a team like Cleveland has to be a game that you win. If you can't beat them there is not to many teams in the league below them in terms of talent. They like the Raptors are trying to dig out of a hole left by a star heading to Miami. The one in Cleveland is a lot deeper.
I wanted to share a story with you all about one of the people in that video. They had been a long time fan of Morris Peterson. In talking with them I mentioned that Mo is on Twitter. @Mopete24 if you did not know. Anyway I had looked it up for them and in the process of sharing the info with them Morris Peterson happened to stumble upon the mention of him and thank this person for their support. It was nice of him to do that. It made the longtime fan very happy. It is also made me feel good to have played a small role in it. In a season such as this one it could be easy to take for granted that I get the chance to talk to many NBA players and all of the Raptors. But these events on Christmas Eve reminded me what a great thrill it is for fans to meet players and even exchange a brief conversation. If this team wins 12 games or 33 games it is still a privilege to have the chance to talk to players and know them on some small level in the context of work. Thanks for the reminder Movernie.
So regardless of how the Raptors end up doing it is a lot better to have them around than to not have basketball at all. It was a lot of fun to watch games again yesterday on Christmas. So hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and enjoyed time with the people you care about. It is time to go to work for the Raptors and me. In a season that will offer little break for either.
You can look up and down the boxscore and be hard pressed to find anyone that you could consider had a good night. The Raptors once again looked much like a Raptor squad in the Kevin O'Neil Era. In fact maybe worse as they shot as a team 24-74 for 32.4%. It is pretty ugly and it sure isn't entertaining. The Raptors may make all those people that want them to lose happy. But the NBA Lottery has no guarantees and the damage a season like this could do to individual players could be significant. For those waiting on Jonas Valanciunas to arrive the kid no matter what you think of him is not a Savior. Raptors will have an opener on Boxing Day that you have to consider a winnable game for them. An effort like we saw in Boston and no game for this team will be considered winnable.
Dwane Casey has 5 days to convince us he really has an offence to install because to this point there is no evidence that he does. Coming out of this mini pre-season it is hard to feel encouraged about anyone at this point really. Boston is not going to be the world beaters they have been in past season and Paul Pierce didn't even play in either game for them.
The long season that everyone has been warning you about is on the verge of beginning. My suggestion is go enjoy the holidays and hang on to those good memories because you will need them to get through this season. No matter what uniforms the Raptors plan on wearing the guys in them are going to be challenged to remain competitive at best. The entertainment value on most nights will be non-existent. If you want entertainment catch a lot of Clipper games after the Raptors have probably lost.
For the record the Final Score read 81-73 Boston but it was not really that close. It is an allusion like the Raptors funky 3-D logo.
We here at the Dino Nation Blog will be taking the next few days off for the holidays and will be back on Monday for the Season Opener in Cleveland. Enjoy the time with friends and family and I wish all of you that support the Dino Nation Blog a very Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays which ever applies to you.
I will be showing up for our DNB Fantasy Draft tonight though. So best of luck to all that have signed up to take part in that. If you want to sneak in and join the draft you will need to find a buddy to join you. When you have a pair of people that want to join contact me @Dinonationblog and I will send you both the info to sign up. Reason for the buddy system is so we maintain an even number of teams and it does not mess up our draft from happening.
Happy to report one of my favourite people has found employment. Reggie Evans has been brought in by the Clippers for anyone that has any ideas of pushing Paul or Griffin around they now have an answer.
Raptors will wear God awful uniforms on March 21st to honour the military. I am guessing this was suppose to happen on November 11th for Remembrance Day. Truth is this is more gimmick than it is tribute. I had a father serve in the Air Force and if he was alive I am sure he would not feel honoured. I was also stunned by the amount of attention the gimmicky Raptors 3-D logo got. I am tired of gimmicks and honestly they may think they work but they really don't. Only the stupidest or loyalist of fans don't see through this junk. It is more of a magic trick to distract from the horrible on court product.
The NEW MLSE might be just as bad as the old MLSE. Only need to look at the complete failure by Rogers in the whole Yu Darvish bidding process. The Jays did not land the Japanese star pitcher. Now post facto they refuse to even acknowledge they were trying. Again do people at the top of these companies not understand that by and large people are intelligent and not nearly as stupid as they seem to think? This is going to be half of the evil empire combined with Bell that will be running the Raptors. Should I hold any confidence that the Raptors will be allowed to spend beyond a luxury tax in the future? No not a chance in hell. In fact I read something last night that looked back to 1992 payrolls and compared it to today. Jays salaries are only 6 million higher than it was back then. The only team less was the Kansas City Royals at 2 million. How I wish a Canadian Version of Mark Cuban would come save us all. Santa likely can't provide me that gift.
That is all I have for today. Try not to kill anyone over a parking spot. Try to remember it is the holidays and good will on earth and all of that. I am going to go put on my Jack Armstrong and Eric Smith Christmas Album and try and be festive.
Your Playoff Teams in the East:
3. New York
8. New Jersey
Obviously a Dwight Howard move to New Jersey could mess up the order of this quite a bit. But think these are the 8 teams you see in the playoffs the order I could see changing based on moves and injuries could make it tough on teams the biggest of those could be Boston.
As for the Raptors they will not be in the Playoffs yet again but no one is expecting them to be. The big question for most is will they be the 15th team in the East and likely 30th in the NBA. That answer is no. Detroit will be worse than the Raptors. Think the Wizards will be as well. Also the Bobcats will not be up to snuff. So that would leave the Raptors finishing 12th with more wins than expected at 20-46. I think the Raptors will hang around in enough games to steal a few here and there. They also have the advantage of some young players that will be able to handle the grind of this crushing schedule.
Now on to the West:
4. L.A Clippers
7. San Antonio
The West is a lot tougher to figure out. I am convinced that OKC is the class of this conference now. Dallas got worse, Lakers got worse and the Thunder stayed the same for the most part but have a Kendrick Perkins that looks in fantastic shape and a year of experience at playing as an elite team. The Clippers are the real wild card with Chris Paul. Think 4th is a conservative approach as to where they will end up.
What Raptor Fans really care about is your Lottery Top 5
Now on we go to the Awards:
Defensive Player of the Year: Chris Paul
Dwight Howard has owned this award for years but with the issues of getting out of Orlando and how long that takes think it will be a Destraction and a less focused Howard. Chris Paul will rack up a ton of steals and get the Clippers running. I thought about going with Dwayne Wade or Lebron James but decided to go with Chris Paul and I am sure David Stern will be on hand to give him his award. Tyson Chandler in New York would have been a more conventional pick to make.
Rookie of the Year: Kyrie Irving
I wanted to say Tristan Thompson but that would be my Canadian Pride talking. You may say that picking Irving is going the easy route but it is not a lock the number one pick always gets the award. Irving has the opportunity and the ability to cash in and win the award. He is starting from day one and has little challenge for minutes in Cleveland.
Coach of the Year: Scott Brooks
The first time I picked him people thought I was nuts. He ended up winning the award. This time my pick will be viewed in a lot different light. Eric Spoelstra will not get the credit for the Heat dominating. While same will be true for Vinny Del Negro with the Clippers. Want a long shot? Frank Vogel will have a nice group with Pacers and they should be much improved.
6th Man of the Year- Taj Gibson
Boozer has been losing favour in Chicago and in a season that has injury issues at the forefront given the schedule it is not looking good for Boozer given his history. All this says to be big things for Taj Gibson. Think that is a good a guess as any. Want a total shot in the dark. Norris Cole the rookie in Miami. They love him and getting to play with the Big 3 in Miami can only help him wrack up some impressive numbers off the pine backing up Chalmers.
M.V.P- Lebron James
People have started to hate him a little less and he has had a extended off-season to get upset how we were all mean to him and his friends. So Game On. Kevin Durant, Rose the defending M.V.P will be in the conversation. Chris Paul could also get a serious look if he is able to make the Clippers the better team in L.A
So what is left to do? Oh right who is going to win it all? Last year I picked this and it almost happened so this year I will pick it again with the same two teams and a different winner.
The OKC Thunder will defeat the Miami Heat in 6 games.
Your Finals MVP : Kevin Durant.
You can bet that I will brag about everything I get right and hope that you all forget everything I get wrong but those are my educated guesses for this season. If you want to share yours feel free to leave them in the comments or hit me up on Twitter @Dinonationblog.
Thankfully no one has said that to me. I would also get to know someone who no one really knew much about when he came here in Sonny Weems. One of the coolest things that I have got to see in the past couple years is the special relationship between DeRozan and Weems. They had a great friendship and had fun and competed at just about anything. Weems decided to take his talents to Europe instead of waiting to see how the NBA Lockout played out. But the friendship still continues long distance.
"I have been trying to talk to him as much as I can," DeRozan said. "He has been playing well and I am trying to keep up with him and he definitely misses being here." In terms of the future this could be just a year apart for the two. The Raptors did tender a qualifying offer for Weems and would hold his rights if and when he decided to return to the NBA. That being said with the addition of Forbes and Johnson both under contract beyond this season and in addition to Kleiza it could be tough for Weems fitting in this roster. But no matter where he is playing he will always have DeRozan in his corner and vice versa.
In terms of year three for DeRozan the goals remain the same. " I got two years of experience and I am just trying to learn and understand what it takes to win and help my team win." Part of helping him do that will be Raptors new head coach Dwane Casey who DeRozan was familiar with from working with him at camps in Vegas in the off-season in prior to Casey's arrival in Toronto. "He is a hands on guy and gave me a lot of pointers." According to DeRozan, "It is just a blessing to have him as our head coach now." It obviously was a plus for Casey having two years of working with Demar in Vegas when he was considered for this job in Toronto. He also obviously has the respect of Demar and by the sound of things in training camp the rest of this roster as well.
"Everything is still the same ain't nothing changed with me just trying to get better on that basketball court." DeRozan stated. He might not have changed but everything around him clearly has. He was the guy addressing the fans at the end of last season and he was the guy that welcomed them back. There can be some debate as to who the franchise player is on the court but off the floor the face of the Toronto Raptors is clearly that of Demar DeRozan. Not to mention the fan base that have many wanting to see him take the reigns as the leader of this franchise. A lot to ask of a young man that would be a senior at USC in a different era. But in this modern world of the NBA it is all about making an impact sooner rather than later. The patience of letting a player grow and mature is not what it once was. However the Raptors have done a decent job of that with DeRozan.
DeRozan has always been praised for his work ethic and among the new things he brings to the table for year three is improved range and a better three point shot. This has always been a personal concern of mine. People have been saying about how DeRozan needs to develop that ability to shoot from long range. However, we all saw Vince Carter develop his range and fall hopeless in love with the three point shot, thus losing some of the aggressive driving nature that made him what he was. No chance of DeRozan ever saying dunking is over rated though. He feels his new found range can be a weapon to help him drive to the basket once people respect he can make that shot. "Definitely, I am just adding more weapons to my game and building on it."
Is this new focus on defence going to take some time to get their energy balanced on both ends? DeRozan doesn't think so, "Not at all, there is no way you can prepare for in game shape. It is different from practising and playing against each other all day. I think once we get in the rhythm of going up and down on offence and defence we will get the hang of it." time for that will be short with the season less than a week away. After that, this challenging schedule than kicks in and that is a challenge of it's own. But DeRozan is not looking at it any differently and plans to approach it the same way. "Everybody has been playing this game along time and you approach it as a professional and you just understand what you gotta do and you go out there," DeRozan continues his thoughts on challenge of the schedule, " I approach it like any other season, come in prepared mentally and physically ready and take on the challenge."
To be young and have energy to not sweat this schedule. I am not sure some older guys will look at it the same way. We all heard the comments of Kevin Garnett on the schedule and he seemed to have much more of a problem with it. But even if this was a normal season with a normal schedule it was always going to be a challenge for the Raptors. Demar DeRozan seems ready to accept that challenge head on. We all wait and wonder just how well he will do in his attempt. This will be a big year in terms of how DeRozan is viewed going forward. Can he take it to that next level and be considered a star and the leader of his team or will he just be a good player that continues to improve but requires some people to help him take a team to the next level. Time will tell but there is no question that DeRozan still has the potential for a lot of improvement and growth and has yet to reach the apex of his talent.
Up to this point it has been fun to have a front row seat for the ride. Demar says he is still the same and in many ways he is. But there seems to be a greater understanding of where he is in his journey and a more focused and determined approach. His connection to the fans has given him a ton of support that he openly acknowledges and seems to feed off of it. We have seen it all before with others in the past. But the hope is this ride has a much more positive ending for both fans and DeRozan.
Demar says once this season is done he wants to spend more time in Toronto this upcoming summer. He had talked about having a charity game for fans in Toronto during the lockout that he and Amir were trying to put together. It was a tradition that Vince Carter had started in Toronto and it was briefly continued by Steve Nash for a season. But according to Demar it is coming back, "I am going do it in the summer. Try give back to the city a bit. Bring in some NBA guys and have a game for the fans to watch."
Jerryd Bayless would likely be able to get an invite for that game. He has been pretty vocal about his love for the city and his happiness about being here. What did he miss about being away from Toronto? "Everything, I love the city there is a lot of things to do in the city. It is a place that I want to make my home for a long time and hopeful it is." In terms of his personal goals for the season " Just to win and if we win everything else will take care of itself. I just want to win and be a part of this franchise for a long time and that is my main focus."
The Raptors are happy to be back and happy to have the fans back as well. It was a pretty decent turnout for a pre-season game on Sunday. Part of that was the team they were playing, and the fact this was the lone pre-season home game. But still, the numbers compared to other NBA markets in the pre-season looked a lot bigger than games I saw in other markets via T.V. As an example the pre-season game in Detroit, once one of the strongest NBA markets, but is not as much anymore, it looked like a high school game was being played, not an NBA contest with Detroit and Cleveland.
Will have more on Demar DeRozan in another post. But will share this little bit now. When I asked him how he would pitch Toronto to other NBA Players if asked, he again brought up you folks that cheer on the Raptors. "It is a great city and a very diverse city and the support system from the fans is great." There is no doubt Raptor fans are some of the most passionate and supportive you can find. This is as long as they respect you and like you. When you lose that respect it can be hard to ever get it back. Jermaine O'Neal likely doesn't have the same fuzzy feelings about Toronto as Demar. Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, and even Chris Bosh have all still claimed to love Toronto, but the love for them is more in the form of boos than cheers. But for now Demar DeRozan sits in a spot that they all have before him, on the rise and becoming the "People's Choice" as the "Face of the Franchise". The hope is that the next chapter that Demar will write in the coming years has a different result. There has never been a star on the Raptors that has truly embraced fans the way he has. When he and Sonny Weems just showed up to play some ball at a basketball court it was surprising. It is hard to imagine Vince, Tracy or Chris doing that. Raptor fans have to have two hopes in terms of DeRozan. One that he continues to improve and develop into a superstar. After that and maybe more importantly he will remain in Toronto once he does. It will always be a fear in the back of Raptor fans head until someone actually does stay for the long haul.
The Raptors got little to no production from Andrea Bargnani's old position at the 5 spot. Jamaal Magloire had zero points and played less than 10 minutes. Aaron Gray has only 2 points and 4 rebounds and Amir Johnson just 4 points, 5 rebounds and a block. This is a short term concern but in the long term people will point to the fact that Jonas Valanciunas is coming to fill that void next year.
Rasual Butler is still waiting to score his first basket as a Raptor. He was 0-4 and missed all three that he attempted from beyond the arc. Making a better first impression was Gary Forbes with 5 points, 4 assists, 2 boards and a steal in just under 15 minutes of floor time. Anthony Carter did not suit up in this game for the Raptors.
Raptors last two draft choices both had good starts to this shortened NBA Season with Demar DeRozan showing off his new found range he worked on in the off-season going a perfect 2 for 2 from three point range. He was 5-10 overall with 14 points and 3 rebounds. Ed Davis had a solid performance 10 points and 10 rebounds in 20 minutes of floor time.
While Bargnani was getting all kinds of praise for his new found commitment to rebounding nad defence it did come at a cost as he only shot 4-14 for 16 points but was 2-3 from the arc and got to the line 7 times making 6 of them for a team high 16 points. But the big bold number in the stat line was the 9 rebounds. Dwane Casey said the goal was to try and get Bargnani to average 2 rebounds a quarter. He manged to meet that goal in this one.
As for the point guard controversy that we are not going to have. Hard to pick a winner out of this one but if forced to make the call the edge would go to Calderon despite shooting just 2-8 he did have 6 assists and just 1 turnover with 7 points. Bayless was 4 for 10 netting him 10 points with 3 assists but 4 turnovers. If Bayless is ever going to take the job as starter he will have to do a better job taking care of the ball.
Back to the whole K.O Comparison. In that season the Raptors as a team shot 41.8% which was 28th in the league. Raptors shot just 38.4% yesterday. You can make the argument that team K.O had has more offensive punch than this Raptor team has. Vince Carter, Jalen Rose, Donyell Marshall, Morris Peterson and Alvin Williams. Even Vince struggled to get points that season with just 22.5 points per game. The question for the modern version of the Raptors is beyond Bargnani and DeRozan where are the points going to come from consistently. You also wonder if this new found Andrea Bargnani can still score to the level of the old one that thought defence and rebounding was for someone else to do.
This is all just a first impression though. Dwane Casey still has more offence to bring into the mix and there is going to be a period of adjustment. Not that anyone will admit it but some players are using up more energy on defence than they have in the past. It is going to take time for their bodies to adjust to this added work load. You have a lot more energy on offence if you are not going at full speed on defence. So let's see if the Raptors can improve the offence back to a level were use too without sacrificing the defence that we are not use too.
If that doesn't happen you could see a lot of nights like what we saw on Sunday afternoon where the Raptors can keep it close but ultimately not close the deal. Which for some is exactly what they would like to see. After all there is a good portion of Raptor fans that are already thinking about the NBA Lottery. Wins lose ping pong balls theory of life. But at least in the locker room that is not the goal. But to get more wins they not only have to pound the rock they need to shoot it a lot better.
Still if you did not think it was possible for Dwane Casey to get this team to play and buy into defence he at least one game in proved that he can make it happen. Keeping that going through what will be the grind of a unprecedented NBA Season will be the challenge.
So the Raptors fall 76-75 to Boston coming close but falling just short as DeRozan missed on a runner in the lane and Bargnani who actually got the rebound could not get it to fall on the putback.
Had a chance to catch up with Demar DeRozan and Jerryd Bayless prior to this game and you can catch the results of that in the next couple days in the DNB as the Raptors will take on this same Celtics team on Wednesday in Boston.
Rajon Rondo will also be a nice test for this defence. Can you actually hide a Jose Calderon in this system? It is a safe bet will find out fast. Rondo has flat out owned Calderon in the past and blows by him really at will. The Celtics issues might lie at the center position. Shaq has retired and J.O is really the only true center they have left on the roster. While the Raptors may not have added quality but they do have depth at the five spot. Jamaal Magloire , Arron Gray and a bigger Amir Johnson all will see time at the five spot this year. Ed Davis might even see some minute and you have the raw Solomon Alabi as well.
Doc Rivers seemed less than impressed with his team's conditioning coming out of this lockout. The Raptors should give them a good test in that regard with their run and gun style offence. Raptors did few things well last year but one of them was fast break points. Boston will get a good run if nothing else playing against the Raptors for two games in the pre-season.
At the end of this two game pre-season we should have a good idea if all this talk has any merit to it. Andrea Bargnani has been catching praise for his new found effort on defence and on the boards. Will see what happens when the likes of K.G is on the other side of the equation.
The time for talking is almost over. Raptors will be having a practice for the fans at Variety Village in Scarborough. it gets rolling at 6:30pm but you need passes to get in that were available at the ACC Box Office so safe bet they might all be gone at this point.
I won't be there but I will be there Sunday for Raptors and Celtics. Today is my mom's Birthday so that will be the main focus of my day. If you can't make it down to ACC for Pre-Season game it will be available on Sportsnet with a 1pm tip time. See you folks Monday with lots of good stuff from my trip to the ACC.
#10 Obama's 2nd term in office
#9 Lebron James wins five championships
#8 David Stern retires.
#7 A NBA All Star Game in Toronto takes place
#6 Myck Kabongo is the Raptors starting point guard
#5 All Raptor Games are on Sportsnet 1 or TSN 2
#4 Vince Carter's number is retired at the ACC
#3 Chris Paul wins a title with the Knicks
#2 TFC wins the MLS Cup
#1 Hell freezes over and Leafs win Stanley Cup
So that is our list. You have some better ones tweet them at me @Dinonationblog and I will re-post them on Twitter. In short sorry Dwane Casey seeing is believing. First the comments about Bargnani being like Dirk and now this. Casey is setting himself up if he is putting his faith in Andrea. Many Raptors fans have done it before he got here and been disappointed.
This and about 500 other things have happened in the last week or so. Aside from Stern botching the whole Chris Paul situation to the point that Paul is thinking of suing the league in an attempt to get his freedom. I know I joke but this is actually true. He would sue for damages and a court order to allow him to be traded to Lakers or the Clippers. Problem is the season starts in 11 days. By the time a court hears this case it may well be the All-Star Break. That was a joke but to get a ruling from a court during the holidays in under 11 days? I see that as highly unlikely. Here is an idea have David Stern and Chris Paul go on Judge Judy. I mean hell the NBA has been embarrassed a ton already why not go all the way. Who wouldn't enjoy Judge Judy yelling at both Stern and Paul? I know I would.
Cory Joesph has had trouble suiting up for the Spurs. Some legal issues about working in the States. This just seems bizarre seeing as he played for the Longhorns in the same state that he is playing his pro ball. Tristan Thompson did not have the same issues as even the government is fearful of the wrath of Dan Gilbert. Once Joesph is able to play he will have a very familiar face in former Longhorn T.J Ford. This should help Joesph learn the ropes a little faster. It will also cut down on his minutes on the down side. As for Thompson for now he will be coming off the bench behind longtime vet Antwan Jamison. He makes his debut at home against the Raptors on the 26th. Be make his pre-season debut on NBA T.V on Friday vs the Pistons.
Proof not only Raptor trades fail. O.J Mayo for the 2nd time in under a year was off to the Pacers only to see the deal fall apart. This one falling apart had nothing to do with David Stern or Michael Jordan. While one of the big prizes in Free Agency has done the far from normal thing of staying with the team he was with. Nene was never coming to Toronto according to Leandro Barbosa because it was to cold. But it does snow in Denver right? Or has Tim Tebow made it a tropical island? Regardless Nene is staying in the land of Tebow with the Nuggets not the Broncos.
There is no doubt I will be talking about at least some of these things tonight on the Radio 12ish am on CJLO on The Sports Grind.
If Jay Triano came out with this whole "Pound The Rock" philosophy it would be looked at and scoffed at rather quickly. Dwane Casey has the respect of being part of a championship winning staff, that has it taken in a different light. Regardless of the messenger I think the whole concept is a bit like a college raw raw type thing. Having a giant rock in a locker room is not going to make Andrea Bargnani learn to play defence or rebound. Although having some vets who have shown they can defend and rebound elsewhere can. Ultimately if you or I buy into this latest culture change for the Raptors it doesn't matter, it will be based on if they do. Obviously at the start of a season people are on board but will they be after a long and tough January schedule?
But ladies and gentlemen perhaps the biggest news is Andrea Bargnani now knows he has to rebound. WOW it has only taken how many years for this to sink in? He also is getting his way and finally moving to his natural position with the additions of Jamal Maglorie and Aaron Gray at the Center this will move Bargs to the power forward spot. Once this move happens the excuses have basically run out for Andrea Bargnani. People hoping he will be run out of town sooner rather than later can't be thrilled he might be looking to become a Canadian. However once Chuck Swirsky became a Canadian he was gone the next season so you never really know. Coach Casey for what it is worth praised Bargnani for his leadership and work on defence in practice. Really? Leader and Andrea? Seeing is believing and if we see the same old Bargnani in pre-season games vs Boston no one will be buying it.
It seemed pretty clear by the end of last season the idea of Andrea Bargnani being the franchise guy had been thrown out. It was now going to be Demar DeRozan's team. Even though he is not wanting to say that just yet. But all signs point to DeRozan continuing to develop into the star player for this young core. Dwane Casey's job will be to groom him into a player that can play on each end of the floor. The potential is clearly there for DeRozan to make a big jump this season. When you look at big stars the likes of Kobe Bryant and T-Mac it was really year number three where there numbers took a massive jump. Although they did not have to endure the murderous schedule that DeRozan will. But if the Raptors are to be the surprise team that they claim to be it will take DeRozan being a big piece of that.
But the reality is what it is and at the end of the day this team still has a long way to go. In a perfect world could they be better than we expect? Absolutely it can happen but the chances it will remain slim. When all the positive talk ends and reality is here it will not be easy. A short training camp for a new coach with little practice time for a team trying to learn a completely different defensive system. It is hard to imagine it can work well enough to make the Raptors any type of playoff team. The time to create change will not be there to ultimately change fast enough in all likelihood.
Even though no one on media day is going to say it directly the Raptors appear to be focused on building alright but towards next season not this one. That doesn't mean this team is going to come out and go 0-66. But it takes time to make change happen. The Raptors do not have enough of it to make it happen this year. They also lack the talent pool to make it happen as well. But the veteran guys they have brought in can have a positive impact on this young core in their development. Many of these guys have come in from franchises that were based in the fundamentals of defence first. That will be the goal for them with the constant help of Coach Casey preaching defence first. In wrestling when a guy wins a championship and people expect his reign to be short he is labelled a transitional champion. The Raptors have some transitional players at the moment. But they could start the ball rolling in the other direction by their influence on the core talent that is here.
The question than will become is if this core is truly good enough to carry this team when the focus shifts to simple wins and loses and not changing cultures and mindsets. Jonas Valanciunas will be added to this core and likely a significant player in the upcoming draft. The Raptors look to establish a culture and identity for them to blend into.
The Raptors have to balance building and improving in the midst of a horrible schedule that will push them to the limit if not beyond it. The biggest thing will not be how much the Raptors lose, but how they react to it, and if they continue to work and try and build when all this talk of being a surprise team and a playoff team fades back into reality. This season will set the table for a season where all of the excuses will run out for everyone in this organization. Fans are tired of losing and desperate to get behind a winner. If the Raptors do not produce that winner beyond this season it is going to be difficult to keep people interested in them. In fact it might be impossible because a lot of fans are at the end of their rope.
If this is all wrong and the Raptors can be that surprise it will be a step in the right direction. But it will also be perhaps the wrong time to make it given the level of talent in this draft. But the good thing is that it is not a draft with just one good player it is one with many many good players no matter where the Raptors fall. I have said it and believe it, no one drafted in the top 5 in this draft class would get a sniff in this upcoming draft class in the top five.
When will we know things have started to change? When we are not talking about ping pong balls before we every tip it up to play a game. At it's foundation Media Day is all about the purist thing we have in sports....hope. All 30 teams hope to win but there are only a select few that know they can and ultimately only one that will. Raptors are still miles from being that one. Which after 16 years of hoping is pretty frustrating for fans.
First on of the reported Pietrus trade with the Suns that is now not happening. The trade that would have seen Pietrus come over for the Suns for a conditional 2nd round pick is dead. Raptors had Pietrus in and he apparently is not healthy, some issues with his knee that Raptors medical staff felt could take a month or so to get right. So that was that in terms of that deal. Down the line if Pietrus gets healthy it would be no shock if Raptors re-visited this move. But in the short term it is dead and done.
Another deal still in the waiting to happen mode is for Gary Forbes. The Raptors have signed him to an offer sheet as a restricted free agent and with the new CBA rules an answer from Denver should be coming by today or tomorrow on if they will match or not.
Jamal Maglorie was all done and signed sealed and delivered. He was saying all the right things about being the first Canadian to suit up for the Raptors. It would be some solid PR if you forget the fact he consistently has turned his back on team Canada. That takes some shine off the feel good story of the hometown guy finally coming home. In simple basketball terms he will be a help to the Raptors maybe more as a teacher than a player in terms of defence. As I said his play peaked in about 2003 when the Hornets left Charlotte for New Orleans and went to the Western Conference. He was a little used Center for the Miami Heat. He will get more use here but one wonders if he can last under the grind of this gruelling lockout schedule.
If he can't never fear the Raptors signed Aaron Gray. Yes Aaron Gray. I will wait for you to collect yourself. Gray is every bit the journeyman Center that has had to many teams to mention. His most recent stop was in New Orleans. If the first adjective used to describe a guy is he is 7 foot whatever that is usually a warning sign. You can't teach height. But you also can't teach talent and Gray has very little of it. He is another body in the mix. But what this means combined with Maglorie is it looks like Andrea Bargnani has finally got his way. Yes Andrea Bargnani you get to play your natural position at the four. So now let's hear what the excuse will be if he can't do any better there?
The Raptors attempted to address another concern with signing Rasual Butler. He is a decent defender that can make a three point shot. The Raptors despite the likes of Calderon, Barbosa and Bargnani had one of there worst seasons from beyond the arc in the history of the franchise. Butler should help out with that as well as this defensive makeover.
There is talk that Raptors are still one of four teams in mix for Reggie Evans but it is hard to see where Reggie would fit in this group. The Raptors did also add Anthony Carter who would be the 3rd point guard. That has yet to be made official but whoever the third point guard is makes little difference especially if they go the veteran Derek Martin route.
It is hard to say that any of these signings change the Raptors outlook as individuals. Even as a collective group they do little to shift the bottom line. It will be the impact they have on the existing roster that will determine their worth. If they help establish a better overall team defence and get players to buy in. If Andrea Bargnani is able to thrive with the move to the 4 spot. But ultimately Bryan Colangelo said he was only looking for guys for the short term and that is what he got. Nothing flashy but the hope would be the Raptors added some substance. That remains to be seen.
I don't think you can be all that critical of the moves made. But at same time if any of these signings do much for interest in the Raptors I would be stunned. It also likely will not mean a major difference in terms of the team's ultimate outlook. When teams are lining up to fight for the likes of Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, the Raptors are signing Aaron Gray and Rasaul Butler it just doesn't measure up on the excitement scale does it.
All this and you almost forget that training camps and free agency officially open for business in the NBA today. We already have two moves made by the Raptors. Jamal Maglorie will be coming home perhaps far to late to make an impact. But he does give the Raptors a vet and a guy that can play at the center position. The latest news is the Raptors are expected to send draft picks in the 2nd round to the Suns for Mickael Pietrus. Raptors were in desperate need for a swing man with only James Johnson ready to roll at the small forward position. I have never been one to be concerned with second round picks and Pietrus has been someone the Raptors have been rumoured to be pursuing him for a long time. Both deals are following the plan Colangelo said out in his press conference earlier in the week. Just a year left for Pietrus and Maglorie on a veteran minimum contract for a season.
It is far from exciting and the Raptors will likely add a third string point guard and perhaps another big to the mix. ESPN must have missed B.C's press conference earlier in the week. He said he had no intention to use the amnesty clause this season. ESPN seems to think he will use it and blow out his number 1 draft pick in Andrea Bargnani. I find that hard to believe. While there is lot to be critical about when it comes to him. The Raptors would be foolish to at least not give him another year or try to move him before they resort to that extreme.
So were off with a bang to the Raptors season even if much of it has little to do with hear and now for the Raptors. Maglorie and Pietrus are not going to massively change the Raptors outlook. But they could impact on a young impressionable core in the future regardless of if they happen to be here for the results of it. Time will tell on a lot of things. But one way or the other people will look back on today as the start of a new era for all of Toronto sports it remains to be seen if it will be in a positive or negative way.
This news broke late last night it followed a press conference that was truly depressing. It wasn't meant to be and it does have some excited about the future of the Raptors. But that would be starting next season and not this season. If I was a casual basketball fan and watched that it gave me no reason on earth to watch the Raptors this year. While the honesty of it all should be admired and it is better than setting up unrealistic expectations like has been done in the past. It still was a bitter pill to swallow knowing that this team has little to no desire to improve in the short term beyond internal improvement. A signing of a guy like Maglorie only drives home that point more.
There has never been a Raptor season I have looked forward to less that I can recall. If I as someone that has supported this franchise from it's birth feel that way I can only imagine how a casual fan feels about it. Expect attendance for the Raptors to take a nose dive this season. There lack of focus on this season combined with an NBA Lockout that promised competitive balance and only served to line Owners pockets while still giving players the freedom to force their way out of markets. If this plan doesn't work as the Raptors envision the countdown to Demar DeRozan leaving is on. If DeRozan becomes a star and then follows the same path as all the rest it will be a serious blow to this franchise. There will be no turning him into a villain and making him the bad guy. Something they were able to do with Chris Bosh and were given indirectly more than enough to help from Bosh's own actions.
This season has been made pretty irrelevant before it ever started. While next season might be the most important in the history of this franchise. It will be one of those fork in the road moments. If things don't go well it could be a serious blow to this franchise and it's long term outlook.
I feel for Dwane Casey who is in a tough situation with this schedule and a very short training camp. It is going to be tough to implement his system and keep this team rolling through a challenging to say the least schedule. But this is not that Adam Sandler movie where you can press the fast forward button. You can call it re-buliding, building or changing cultures. Raptor fans have heard it all before and newsflash some of them are pretty much fed up with it. The Raptors have set the bar as low as possible for this season and perhaps as high as possible for next season. So see you at the NBA lottery where we can talk about how you can rig a ping pong ball. That is always fun every year.
10. Jimmy King- He was a member of the Fab 5 in Michigan and he was the first ever second round pick of the Toronto Raptors. He started the great tradition of failed second round picks in Toronto. I would mention some but they might end up on this list.
9. B.J Armstrong- Technically he was the first Raptor ever not that he ever played for the Raptors the former NBA Champion thanks to some guy named Jordan would be traded long before the Raptors first game vs the Nets at Skydome.
8. Gary Trent- will not be making the list either. Some how Trent managed to play for four different NBA Franchises. Starting in Portland than off to Toronto and would move along to Dallas and Minny before fading into the abyss after the 2003-04 season
7. Keon Clark- It is pretty scary to hear the stories after the fact about Clark. He played apparently high or drunk for most of his time in Toronto. The fact he would end up in jail on drug related charges is not surprising given that info.
6. Alexsandar Radojevic- Was 7 foot 3. He was drafted by the Raptors. He was a complete failure and than ended up in Utah...This story sounds familiar but will get to that later. Here is proof that size does in fact not matter. The thing that is more puzzling is why 4 years later Utah would think he had gotten any better?
5. Mamadou N'diaye- Got to hang around with the Raptors for almost 3 seasons it took Dallas only half a season to pass on him. He will never go down as the 2nd greatest player to come out of Auburn since Charles Barkley. He likely in not even the best NBA Player from Sengal. But the name was cool he had that.
4 Hakeem Olajuwan- He was a two time NBA Champion in Houston. A real stand up guy that did a great deal in the community. An NBA legend and would find his place on many lists of the best centres to play the game. But the only dream shaking we saw in Toronto was the one that earned him a pay check for doing next to nothing. He was no dream for us.
3. Micheal Bradley- Was a Nova Wildcat and was at the time thought to be a steal for the Raptors in the draft. But the only stealing that was done was him earning a paycheck from the Raptors. He bounced around to 4 other teams but spent the majority of his 173 game NBA Career with the Raptors.
2. Micheal "Yogi" Stewart- If there was a man with less basketball talent that got paid more money I would like to know who it was? Adam Morrison? Maybe but still Yogi Stewart was more team mascot than he was player. The former Cal Bear spent 4 years of fun here in Toronto. If he didn't have fun he sure had the money to have fun.
Do we all know who # 1 is? You know you do so get ready to yell it out at the top of your lungs....
1. Rafael "Hoffa" Araujo- He became the poster boy of Rob Babcock's failure. He had 2 years of just pathetic performance before he was in perhaps the greatest trade of the Colangelo era sent to Utah for some bad ass and a guy that would go on to marry some girl named Kim. He also was a power forward in the NBA. Kris Humphries became famous and Arajuo is infamous with all Raptor fans. He is in a class of his own as perhaps the WORST RAPTOR OF ALL TIME. But that debate could be a long one. A lot longer than talking about who has actually been good here in the last 16 years or so.
The Toronto Raptors announced Tuesday a revised 2011-12 regular season schedule featuring 66 games from December 26 to April 26. The club will tip-off its 17 season in the National Basketball Association at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on Monday, December 26. The team’s home debut at Air Canada Centre will be Wednesday, December 28 at 6 p.m. versus the Indiana Pacers. Raptors season seats are available by calling (416) 366-DUNK (3865), while single-game ticket information will be released at a later date. The Raptors will launch a special "72 Hour" Tip-Off Pack with sales starting Wednesday at noon. Fans can call (416) 366-DUNK (3865) or visit www.raptors.com for more information. The Raptors will face 17 of their first 26 games on the road (December 26 – February 6). After that stretch, Toronto will play 12 of 15 games on its home floor (February 8 – March 7) with only a two-game set at Houston and New Orleans and a single game at Detroit being played away from Air Canada Centre. The schedule features 19 games in 31 days in January, with the 19 contests being an all-time franchise high for a month. Twelve of the 19 January outings will be on the road, including a stretch of eight of nine games from January 14-29. January also consists of the team’s lone back-to-back-to-back set with games January 9 versus Minnesota, January 10 at Washington and January 11 versus Sacramento. The Raptors will play five games in six days, January 9-14. The longest road swing is five games which occurs twice: January 22-29 and March 13-20. The longest home stand of the season is seven games February 8-22, which equals the club record set from November 30 – December 14 in the 1999-2000 campaign. Noteworthy games on the 2011-12 schedule include the lone home matinee contest of the season when the Los Angeles Lakers make their only visit to Toronto on Sunday, February 12. The Raptors will play host to the defending Eastern Conference Champion Miami Heat only once at Air Canada Centre on Friday, March 30. The Raptors will face the New York Knicks on February 14 and March 23 and the Boston Celtics on February 10 and April 13. Toronto will play its eighth season in the Atlantic Division, joining Boston, New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia. The Raptors were a member of the Central Division from 1995-2004. The schedule features 48 games within the conference: four games (two home, two away), against six teams (Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, New Jersey, New York, Washington); three games (two home, one away) against four teams (Charlotte, Indiana, Milwaukee, Orlando); and three games (one home, two away) against four teams (Chicago, Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia).Non-conference games include: two games (one home, one away) against three teams (Denver, Houston, Memphis); one home game against six teams (Golden State, L.A. Lakers, Minnesota, Portland, Sacramento, San Antonio); and one road game against six teams (Dallas, L.A. Clippers, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Utah). The busiest day for the Raptors this season will be Wednesday with 17 games on the schedule. Friday tops the home schedule with 11 games at Air Canada Centre, while Sunday and Wednesday feature a high of seven road contests. The majority of the team’s home games will fall on Wednesday (10) and Friday (11), with the combined 21 games accounting for more than half of the 33 home dates. The Raptors’ busiest month is January with 19 games followed by March with 17 contests. The busiest home month is March with 10 games, while the busiest road month is January with 12 games away from Toronto. The Raptors will have 20 back-to-back outings in 66 games, which is up two from last season’s total spread over 82 games. A high of eight contests will be a road game followed by a road game. The Raptors’ 2011-12 television schedule will be released at a later date. For the sixth consecutive season, all Raptors games will be aired nationally in Canada.
Given the schedule and the roster the Raptors would be hard pressed to match the 22 wins of last season in this shorter 66 game schedule. It looks like the schedule maker did the Raptors no favours. But the Raptors youth should serve them well. It will have to if they are to have any hope of surviving this NBA Schedule.