Tag:Andrea Bargnani
Posted on: October 3, 2009 2:39 pm

Toronto Raptors 2009/2010 Season Preview

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The 2009 – 2010 Toronto Raptors are ready to make a move up the standings after a very disappointing 2008 – 2009 season which saw injuries take their toll on the players and making them a very difficult team to cheer for as they tried to fill huge holes with sub-par talent. Many believed Jermaine O’Neal would provide a presence inside that would bring back memories of other Twin Towers such as the Spurs Tim Duncan and David Robinson, or the Rockets Twin Towers of Hakeen Olajuan and Ralph Sampson that took the Rockets to the Finals in the 80’s. Well, after losing their starting PG Calderon for a good portion of the season to an injury he never fully recovered from, that team fell apart by February 13th when he was traded to the Heat with Jamario Moon for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks. On July 9th, Shawn Marion signed a free agent contract with the Dallas Mavericks. That began an off-season of moves that can only be described as fantastic by Bryan Colangelo who showed his worth and why he is considered one of the top GM’s in the game.

Here is a list of the transactions he was able to complete as the off-season progressed after drafting DeMar DeRozan with the 9th overall pick. Losing Anthony Parker to free agency opened up the need for some SG players who could step in and provide strength and consistent scoring as well as opening up a spot for us to develop some young talent. So here is the list of what transpired over the summer:

4/13 Quincy Douby G Signed for the Rest of the Season, Signed through 2010
6/23 Reggie Evans PF Traded, For Jason Kapono
7/8 Andrea Bargnani FC Contract Extended, Five-year contract
7/9 Devean George GF Traded, part of multi-player four team deal
7/9 Hedo Turkoglu GF Traded, Part of multi-player four team deal
7/9 Antoine Wright GF Traded, Part of multi-player four team deal
7/9 DeMar DeRozan F Signed as Draft Pick
7/14 Jarrett Jack G Signed/Offer Sheet
7/21 Jarrett Jack G Signed as Free Agent
7/30 Marco Belinelli SG Traded, for Devean George and cash
7/30 Rasho Nesterovic C Signed as Free Agent
8/18 Amir Johnson F Traded, Part of four-player deal
8/18 Sonny Weems GF Traded, Part of four-player deal

As the list reveals, BC was intent on providing not only scoring, but some grit at both ends of the court acquiring combo guard and college team mate of Chris Bosh, Jarrett Jack who can provide solid minutes at both PG and SG positions. As I continue through my preview, I will provide more details as to what I see this team able to be heading into the season. From what I can see, IF last seasons team of scrubs was the best team he had ever assembled, I can’t wait to see this one perform!

I will provide a player by player analysis of each man on the roster, then provide some thoughts on the starters and bench roles and then an overall assessment of where this team could be come May 2010.

Marco Belinelli#0 Marco Belinelli – SG – Acquired July 30th from the Warriors who saw no use for him but can bring a lot of energy and outside shooting to this team and is a skilled playmaker. In 42 games last season, he averaged 21 mpg and 8.9 ppg as well as 2.1 assists on 1.4 turnovers. He shot a respectable 44.2% from the floor and nearly 40% from outside the arc. Some have him as a starter while some have him as a minor role player in the 10 minutes per game range. I see him being used as a main backup in the SG position to start the season allowing him to contribute scoring and defense to the second line. I believe that he is able to create his own space and will be able to offer a solid outside shot that will open up the floor for guys like JJ and Quincy to attack the paint.

Jarrett Jack#1 Jarrett Jack – PG/SG – Signed as a Free Agent July 21st from the Pacers who would not match the offer sheet.  In JJ, the Raptors have acquired a true combo guard who can start at either, provide solid play at both spots and provide defense at either spot. Being Chris Bosh’s college buddy and team mate helps with the locker room and on the floor as well providing a level of comfort to both players. Coming off a season where he played all 82 games averaging 33 minutes per game, he brings 13.1 ppg, 4.1 apg and 3.4 rebounds per game to this season. If he can keep those numbers up this team will reap huge rewards at both ends of the floor and give us depth at both positions that we have not seen for years. Backing up Jose, he will have the ability to attack, make plays and give him the rest he needs. Backing up the SG position will give him the opportunity to create and score from the off-guard position and with him and Jose on the floor together they immediately become one of the top back-courts combos in the league. I really like this guy and thought he should have gone a lot higher than 22nd in that 2005 draft that produced Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants and newly acquired Antoine Wright. It’s no wonder he fell so far! He was 6 behind Joey Graham that season for those keeping score! I love Joey, but we could have had this guy 4 years ago! Roko Ukic was drafted 41 that year as well. Coming in at 56 is another new Raptor, Amir Johnson. I look forward to JJ providing solid play at both ends of the floor as well as finding a place to grow as a scorer in this up-tempo Raptors offense.

Marcus Banks#3 Marcus Banks – I won’t spend much time on Banks as I am not convinced he will ever see the court as a Raptor. We took him to get Marion and he is now a waste of cap space. Next!

Chris Bosh#4 Chris Bosh – PF – Many consider him a top 10 player in the NBA and in the top 4 or 5 as a PF at this point in his career. Shooting 48.7% from the floor and 81.7% from the line scoring 22.7 ppg while grabbing 10 rpgs in his best season as a pro gives solid evidence of those claims and show that he is an elite player at this level consistently. The biggest question facing him this year circles around a max deal. I won’t go into that too much, but will say that there are many aspects of his game that lend one to conclude that he is worth a max deal as LeBron James is for the Cavaliers and Dwyane Wade is for the Heat. To me, there are a few reasons why he shouldn’t just be handed a max deal. The biggest knock against Bosh is his consistent inability to guard his position. It is no secret he is terrified of Kevin Garnett of the Celtics, yet both have similar games and body types. Mental strength is a huge aspect of the game, and one that Chris has plenty of room to grow in. By bringing in the talent that was acquired this season, BC has told Chris that it is 100% up to CB4 as to whether or not the max deal will be offered. Making long term commitments to Andrea Bargnani and Hedo Turkoglu tell me that BC is ready for a transition if Bosh leaves. At this point, the offense won’t be plodding through Bosh 80% of the time like it has in the past few seasons due to the new transition players that we have acquired. IF Bosh wants to stay, the max deal will require him to play defense inside, run the floor and own the glass at both ends of the court. He has put on some weight, but enters the season with a nagging injury! (OMG IS THIS A CHANNELING OF Vince Carter???) To me, the max deal is not automatic and the gauntlet has been laid out for him to pick up. Let’s see if he is the team leader many claim he is. I love the guy, but he is not the go-to guy on this team anymore, and should never be that guy on any team. All the teams serious about him want him as the second guy. The Heat, the Cavaliers, the Pistons, the Bulls, all see his value as the second guy! We need to see him as that now as well. It should be a very telling season. IF his numbers go down, I think he will not get a max offer from anyone else in the league. But that is for another thread!

Quincy Douby#5 – Quincy Douby – SG – I see him as a role guy, coming in way deep down the bench! With JJ, Antoine Wright, DMDR and Beli ahead of him at the 2 spot, and Jose and JJ holding down the 1 spot, I can’t see him getting much floor time. He did show some offensive skills in the summer league, but I don’t see him entering the game much.

Andrea Bargnani#7 – Andrea Bargnani – C/PF – BC’s first overall pick, given a 5 year extension, and has improved steadily over the past 2 seasons under Smitch and then Jay as he has a soft touch and loves to run the floor. Plays his best game when he is able to step out and take advantage of bigger slower centers who can’t move as quick as he can. Averaged around 18 ppg the last 3 months of the season and played some solid defense with a lot of multiple games with more than 2 shot blocks. Shooting 45% from the floor and 40+% from beyond the arc and 83% from the strip, he will provide this offense a lot of options as they transition from outside to inside. The biggest knock on AB is his lack of rebounding, especially on the offensive end of the floor. This can be corrected as he focuses more on playing in the mid or low block. He has worked on his game as his back is to the hoop, but his strength is the mid range game and transition work as a deadly option from outside. Even if he doesn’t improve his inside play, his strengths are well suited to this Raptors team. I can easily see him averaging around 20/10 this season which would be fantastic in the context of this offense. The confidence shown in him should be rewarded with new found confidence on the floor. With a solid front of Bosh and Turk, teams will have a tough time keeping an eye on AB which will allow him to find open spots to use that shot of his. Growth is the word for him as he continues to learn the game and push himself past where he was. I don’t think his ceiling has been reached yet, and neither does BC.

Jose "Ocho" Calderon#8 – Jose Calderon – PG – Jose played most of last season injured with a nagging hamstring injury, yet he was able to record personal bests in FTM at 98.1% after going around 100 straight without a miss to start the season, averaged almost 9 assists per game and nearly 13 ppg. Many consider him to be a top 5 PG in this league and I agree. He is able to play a controlled game and is very good at facilitating his team mate’s success. The injury slowed him down and kept him from attacking the hole as fearless as he would like. At 100%, Jose will again provide that spark this offense needs and with much more effective weapons in his arsenal, I look forward to the headaches opponents will face nightly! With JJ backing him up, there is little drop off in style or leadership. With 3 solid SGs, this backcourt will be tough to defend most nights and I look to Jose to continue his growth as a top level PG in this league.

DeMar DeRozan#10 – DeMar DeRozan – SG – Drafted 9th overall this year he has shown a lot of skill with the ball and has been saying all the right things about playing defense. This summer he played summer ball and has been touted as the starter by many who seem to know about these things. He has been given an early shot at rookie of the year as well. Not bad for a 20 year old kid who has yet to play a real NBA game. I love the skills he brings and I believe he will be a solid 12 to 15 point per game SG though I believe he could bring more. What we are looking for at the SG is defense! He has stated that he is working hard on his defense this summer and with that level of dedication, I am sure he will find many ways to contribute to this team and make an impact in most games this season. A slow start would not bother me, but a weak finish after a slow start would! From what I have seen, his work ethic won’t allow that to happen! Good for us!

Rasho Nesterovic#12 – Rasho Nesterovic – C – Beginning his second tour with the Raptors, this 11 year veteran is a fan favorite as he works hard every minute he is on the floor and is fearless in his defending against even the toughest Centers like Dwight Howard and Shaquille O’Neal. He won’t wow you with his skill set, but what he brings is intensity and desire, which were sorely missed while he was gone! He will be the first backup to AB and will provide much inside game defensively. He is one of those guys that a team won’t trade for, but will ask for to be a throw in as a part of any deal that is made. Signed as a Free Agent, we will appreciate his game as the season goes on. Great signing for a team that is still lacking a true Center, but a true Center is rare in the new NBA.

Patrick O'Bryant#13 – Patrick O’Bryant – C – Not much to say other than a work in progress that has yet to arrive with an NBA quality game. I don’t think he will see much floor time this season either.

Amir Johnson#15 – Amir Johnson – PF – Brought in to back up either Hedo or CB4, Amir is still labeled as “having potential” but not delivering. Not known as an offensive threat, he does bring intensity to the floor and is not afraid to work for tough rebounds. Projecting his 3.8 career RPG over a 25 minute game, one finds him possibly adding around 7 rebounds per game and 7 or 8 ppg. That would be acceptable to many and I can see him getting that level of minutes at either the PF or SF position. Athletic and fearless, he will be a welcome addition to this front court.

Antoine Wright#21 – Antoine Wright – SG – Acquired as a part of the multi-team, multi-player deal, Antoine will be looked to as a stopper primarily. Offensively weak, he brings a nose for defense to a team that needs one. Many think he will start for a few games until DMDR gets his feet wet. I am not sure that will happen, but if it does, it will be for limited minutes as both Beli and DmDr will play the bulk of the minutes as the scoring is what the SG is one position we need consistent scoring from in this new offense. Where I see him filling a role is as a bench guy who comes in late in the game in an offense for defense sequence of substitutions until we find a guy who can bring both to the floor every night. A welcome addition who will have to step up his offensive play to stay in the game.

Sonny Weems#24 – Sonny Weems – SG – I can’t say much except that he looks a lot like Joey Graham, but is much more athletic. I hope he can play defense, because I don’t see him getting in the game a whole lot.

Hedo Turkoglu#26 – Hedo Turkoglu – PF/SF – The jewel in BC’s off-season crown. Hedo proved his worth in the Magic’s playoff run to the finals last season as he hit tough shot after tough shot and allowed the Magic to not miss Jameer Nelson as much as he was able to push the ball up the floor when it became obvious Nelson couldn’t. Once the Magic brought Vince Carter to the team, Hedo wanted out! Our fortune as we stole him away from the Trail Blazers after it seemed he would sign there. Completing last season with 16.8 ppg, 4.9 apg, 5.3 rebounds per game while shooting 41.3% from the floor, he joins a very formidable front court that will create headaches for many teams in this league. He will not have to score more, but I suspect he will find plenty of room and opportunity in this rotation. I expect his rebounding to improve a bit as well as he will be able to attack the weak side glass more. So many upsides to this signing! I look forward to seeing him run the floor and sink daggers into someone else heart for once!

Reggie Evans#30 – Reggie Evans – PF – A rebounding PF who will see limited play, but will be expected to be an impact player while on the floor. I think he is up to it, but I don’t think he will see much playing time unless we need aggressive defense. I hope he can prove me wrong, but he won’t contribute much to the offense, but could make his value increase as he attacks the glass.

Many project this team to end the season as low as 10th in the Eastern Conference and missing the playoffs yet again. I don’t believe any of those reports. I am on record stating that this team could win as many as 53 games and end up as high as the 4th seed in the east. As I see it, these guys are a much better defensive team than last season, the bench is much deeper and Jose Calderon is healthy. His health cost us probably 10 games last season and the lack of a bench cost us probably at least that many. IF we only improve our defense by 10%, which would be about 10 points allowed per game that would keep us in pretty much every game we play this season. Sure we may still be blown out, but I don’t see that happening too often. I see a lot more balance on offense which is one factor to a blowout! It will be tough to shut this team down with so many weapons on the floor, and on the bench.

The coaches are committed to defense and the guys are buying it! That is a very good thing! With a full off-season and training camp, we will see a much more prepared team entering the season, and we will see what a very good coach Jay Triano really is. Call me a dreamer, but I think that teams will have much more difficulty containing our starting front court nightly. We may still have trouble with guys like Shaq and DH, but over all, I see this team in a much better position to challenge night in and night out. The keys to a successful season will be committing to defense first, moving efficiently into and out of transition at both ends and bench production, both defensive and offensively.

I am looking forward to a very good season. I know you won’t all agree with me, but that is why we love to write! Please reply your feelings and thoughts on this new season. Opinions are always welcomed and respected! Sometimes, they are challenged, and sometime we all learn from each other!

Go Raptors Go.

Posted on: April 16, 2009 11:26 am

Raptors Post Mortum - 2008 - 2009 Season Review


Raptors Post-Mortum


The 2008 – 2009 season started with high hopes for this Raptors team. Trading T.J. Ford for Jermaine O’Neal sending a shoot first PG to the Pacers and allowing Jose Calderon the reigns to this team gave us a sense of hope as the team would become the central issue and the focus of the offense, not one guy deeming his team mates worthy of touches.


The year started with a quick 3 win streak as the Raptors came out fast with wins against the Warriors, the 76ers and the Bucks. Tough losses against the Pistons and the Hawks followed by two wins against the Heat brought us eventually to an 8 – 8 record and the firing of Sam Mitchell. Jay Triano inherited a team that featured Chris Bosh scoring at a 26+ ppg clip and a struggling Jose Calderon working with Jermaine O’Neal and an emerging Andrea Bargnani. It became obvious very early that Jose would struggle physically this entire season as his hamstring just never seemed to recover and he never seemed comfortable on the floor and the team suffered through a long period where the PG position was handle by a platoon of Roko Ukic, Will Solomon and Anthony Parker who was perhaps the most under rated Raptors player this season and is often the focus of derision from fans because he isn’t a 20+ ppg SG like Kobe Bryant or Dwyane Wade.


To me, the toughest loss of the year and perhaps the franchise, was the December 19<sup>th</sup> loss to the Kevin Durant led Thunder, who had 3 wins at the time. From that point, it was clear this was a season in trouble. Jermaine went down with a knee injury and we signed Jake Voskuhl to provide some depth at center. During this time our back court struggled as Jose reinjured his thigh in a game against the Heat in November and he missed 14 games to that injury, the Raptors would win only 5 games in which he didn’t play.


As the new year turned to playoff run, this team was pretty much finished in late February, yet they made a deal that sent O’Neal and Jamario Moon to the Heat to bring Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks to the team February 13<sup>th</sup>. We acquired Patrick O’Bryant, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, and Quincy Douby to fill the roster for the year. Since that trade, we finished 12 – 14 with 2 wins over the Bulls who would love either of those back as they now face the Celtics in the first round. The new guys came in and offered us energy and some depth on the bench that had been lacking all season. With 3 wins to end the season, 2 against playoff teams in the 76ers and 1 against a Wizards team that easily could have won 35 games this season, hope has not left the Raptors dressing room.


Here are my assessments of the roster at this point. I will speculate on off-season moves after the playoffs.


Chris Bosh – lead the team with 22.7 ppg, ending up 8<sup>th</sup> behind Carmelo Anthony of the Nuggets by .1. As the franchise player, Chris provided a level of play that was steady and consistent most of the season. When the team struggled in December and January, Bosh bore the brunt of the criticism – unfairly in my opinion as the team was not able to find a way to overcome injuries and compete with a poorly constructed bench. He ended up as one of 3 players in the league to average more than 20 points and 10 rebounds per game – the other two being Dwight Howard of the Magic and Dwyane Wade. Pretty elite company if you ask me. He has been consistently ranked in the top 10 at his position all season and ended up one of the top 10 players over all for the season. He is ranked only behind Dirk Nowitzki of the Mavericks as a PF, ahead of Antawn Jamison, David West of the Hornets and Al Harrington of the Knicks and Pau Gasol of the Lakers. He IS the leader of this team and as such, offers a great many skills to the team. He was put on the FT line 607 times – 4<sup>th</sup> behind LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard and ahead of Devin Harris of the Nets,  shooting at an 81% clip making him a very difficult forward to guard by most opposing players and better than the four ahead of him in that stat. His 771 rebounds, good for 7<sup>th</sup> overall, and 2.5 assists per game make him a well rounded player and hopefully, will remain here a long time.


Andrea Bargnani – A slow start under Smitch brought calls for him to be moved out of Toronto, that he was a waste of a 1<sup>st</sup> overall pick in a class that gave the Trail Blazers LeMarcus Aldridge with the 2<sup>nd</sup> pick and Brandon Roy with the 6<sup>th</sup> pick and Rajon Rondo to the Celtics late in the first round, fans were beginning to wonder what this kid had to offer. Well, we began to see him play in the 4 spot with success as he is a deadly shooter from outside finishing the season at 40.9% from outside the arc. He finished the season ranked 50<sup>th</sup> in the league at 15.4 ppg but was closer to 20 ppg for the last third of the season. Under Jay, he was given the minutes he needed to develop both and low post game and a mid post game stepping out when needed and was not out of place on the break either as the team began to open up the offense, he was there with the finish. He led the team not only in 3 point attempts, but blocks as well finishing with 97 on the season. He seems to have found his place in both the offense and the defense and has been given the confidence of the coach. A very deadly combination for a young man looking for a place to belong!


Jose Calderon – The speculation of what might have been this past season had Jose been 100% for the entire year will be fuel for many forums. Aside from setting the FT% record hitting 151 of 154 FT’s for a 98.1%, he finished 6<sup>th</sup> overall with 607 assists behind only Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Steve Nash, Jason Kidd and Rajon Rondo. When listed by assists per game, he ends up 5<sup>th</sup> as Gilbert Arenas moves up and Jose passes Rondo and Kidd. Among the starting PG’s, Jose ended up first overall with 4.2 a/to ratio on the season. Jose shot 40.6% from outside and 49.7% over all while averaging 12.8 ppg. As Jose returned healthy, this team instantly began playing at a much higher level offensively and defensively he was much more able to keep his man in front of him and make opposing guards take bad shots and make bad passes. He has a long way to go to be a lock down defender, but a healthy Jose can become a very tough matchup for a lot of guards in the league.


Shawn Marion – Averaging 14.3 ppg, and more than 8 rebounds per game, Shawn has been a favorite of mine since his days in the high octane Suns teams he played on. Wallowing in irrelevance with the Heat he has found a team here that he can bring his skill set to that can allow him the freedom to run the break, defend 3 or 4 or 5 spots, attack the weakside glass and create havoc in the paint on defense as the help defender. These are all skills that this team has sorely missed all season. I hope the Raptors can find a way to make this man a part of the future of this team as he is one of the best complementary players in the league. He has no need of plays designed for him as he is always lurking and always in position when the ball seems to find his hands. A great trade for us and the promise of next season, should he stay, is growing.


Anthony Parker – to me, he is one of the most under appreciated Raptors player on the team. He can play SG, and PG when needed. He nightly takes on the toughest players in the league and usually holds his own. When he is discussed as not being the SG this team needs because he isn’t one of the best in the league, I shake my head! AP is 22 in scoring amongst SG’s, but when you look at the list of those ahead of him, you can understand why. Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Brandon Roy, Joe Johnson of the Hawks, Vince Carter of the Nets, Ben Gordon, Andre Iguodala, O.J. Mayo, Ray Allen and Jason Richardson top the list at this position. AP’s job with us isn’t to score at a 20+ ppg pace, but to offer solid defense against guys like those on the list, score when he can and provide an option on the floor that distracts teams enough to have to keep an eye on him, and he does all of those night after night after night. He is 10<sup>th</sup> amongst SG’s in rebounds with 317, and 12<sup>th</sup> in apg with 3.4. while shooting at 39% and is 18<sup>th</sup> on the list. As a free agent, he might leave and if he does, this team will have to look very hard as to how to fill the void he will leave. Be careful what you hope for, if it comes true, and he walks, he will be picked up by a team that can see the value of his steady hand and extensive knowledge of the game.


As for the rest of the team, Jason Kapono has had a good run as 3 point champ, but I fear he has little marketability at this point as he is very much a one-dimensional player at this point. Joey Graham seems to be finding a place on this team, but he has not developed a consistent game that would warrant further investment. He will be at best a 7<sup>th</sup> man on any team he plays, including this one, and he will want more money than we are willing to pay. I look for him to be traded before he is signed. Roko Ukic looks like a solid prospect, but he is not the backup we need for Jose. He could be traded as well. I like the new group that BC brought in and hope that we can find places for them allowing our bench to become stable again, and offer us the option of either by trading our draft pick this season and acquiring another piece of this puzzle or blow the team up and start over. I am not sure I like that option at this point but will offer more thoughts as the playoffs unfold.


Thanks for all of your support this season and I hope these musings have been enjoyed and appreciated.




Posted on: February 11, 2009 2:31 pm

Raptors - Week 15 Catch up Review

Week 15 – Catching up with the Raptors

Well, let’s see, we lost Chris Bosh for a few games, lost to the Magic, the Cavaliers, the Lakers, the Hornets and the Grizzlies, but we recovered to beat the Al Jefferson – less Timberwolves, but barely. This team is now 20 – 34 and they play the Spurs, then have the All-Star break to rest, though they should have training camp at this point and start over! Then they have the Cavs again and the Knicks a couple of times, then the Wolves again, then the second game against the Suns to end the month. Not much to look forward to at this point.

The Magic game – Jameer Nelson and Dwight Howard had huge games as the Raptors offered little resistance. Jose Calderon lead the team with 16 points while Chris Bosh had 9 rebounds. Joey Graham had the first of a series of solid games this past week. Lost by 23 and it was flattering at best!



The Cavaliers game – LeBron James – 33 points, monster block on Chris Bosh, Wally Szczerbiak – 16 points, Daniel Gibson – 18 points off of the bench. The Raptors looked awful again as the Cavaliers toyed with them the whole game after opening a 22 point 1st quarter lead. For the Raptors, Chris Bosh had a good game with 29 points while Jermaine O’Neal offered 20. Anthony Parker was solid with 8 assists. Lost by 18 but really had no chance after that first quarter as LeBron sat a lot of 2nd half.


The Lakers game – Kobe Bryant – 36 points, Pau Gasol – 31 points, Lamar Odom – 13 points and Derrick Fisher had 12 points as the Lakers continued the season without Andrew Bynum, but just keep rolling on. The Raptors played an ispired game and kept within reach for most of the game but couldn’t climb all the way back as Jermaine O’Neal, Joey Graham and Andrea Bargnani all had more than 20 points each in the loss. Chris Bosh added 12 and left with a sore knee. Anthony Parker started for the ailing Jose Calderon and added 18 points and 9 assists. Jamario Moon scored 2 points as Joey G started. Roko Ukic added 8 points and 2 assists off the bench. Loss by 8.


The Hornets game – No Chris Paul should bring joy to the hearts of opposing coaches, but the Raptors could not find a way to stop Peja Stojakovic who scored 28 points and David West, James Posey and Rasual Butler all added 17 points. The Raptors held an 83 – 75 lead with 6:52 left and held an 11 point margin, but still lost. The key to the game was the 3 point scoring of the Hornets who hit 15 while the Raptors could only manage 7. Loss by 9



The Grizzlies game – Probably the worst NBA game I have seen in the past 10 years or so, it should be removed from all highlight packages as game not played and the fans should all be refunded and offered therapy. Two bad teams playing badly. Only 6 players score 10 or more points – Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo and Hakim Warrick for the Grizzlies and Jose Calderon, Joey Graham, and Jason Kapono for the Raptors. With a combined score of 148 points, it was painful to watch. Marc Gasol played ok, but looked like a very old man all game, while the Raptors just keep fading. Loss by 8.


The Timberwolves game – The Raptors played a bit better, but without Al Jefferson, this Wolves team is bad. Randy Foye dropped 33 while 5 other ‘wolves scored double digits – Mike Miller, Sebastian Telfair, Kevin Love, Ryan Gomes, and Rodney Carney, while the Raptors were lead by Jermaine O’Neal with 22 and Joey Graham playing well with Chris Bosh down scoring a season high 24 points. Jason Kapono scored 18 as did Andrea Bargnani. Win by 8.



Raptors close the week with a 20 – 34 record second last in the Eastern Conference, but only 5 games behind the Bucks for 8th overall. With the Bobcats, the Pacers, the Knicks and the Bulls and the Nets between us and 8th, the prospects are not good for this team. At least the Wizards are in worse shape than we are at this point. Thank goodness the all-star break is on now.

Posted on: February 2, 2009 11:36 am

Raptors - Week 14 in review

Well, here goes another attempt at trying to figure out the enigma that is the 2008/09 Toronto Raptors. With wins last week against the Bulls, the Kings and the Nets for their first three game win streak since opening the season 3 – 0, stopping a 7 game losing streak in which they lost 2 to the Celtics, as well as one to the Bulls, to the Pacers, the Suns, the Hawks and the Pistons, they find a way to let the Bucks, playing without Michael Redd, beat them and then they get embarrassed at home by the Magic.


Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Raptors – 107
Nets – 106

With Jose Calderon back in the lineup, the Raptors needed his 17 points and 11 assists to hold off the Nets who were again lead by their solid back court of Devin Harris, who had 25 points, and 10 assists and Vince Carter who had 27 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists. This was one of the first games in a very long season that the Raptors found a way to make a couple of stops down the stretch as Devin Harris missed the winning shot at the buzzer to give the victory to the Raptors. At times the Raptors had excellent ball movement and worked the ball around with a balanced attack, but Anthony Parker was the player of the game for the Raptors with his 21 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists while Joey Graham and Jason Kapono offered some solid work off the bench adding 15 points from JG and 10 from JK. Though Chris Bosh was pretty much a non-factor in the game, Andrea Bargnani struggled with only 8 points, his lowest game total since December 29th against the Warriors, ending his streak of 10+ points per game streak at 15. Keyon Dooling, Brook Lopez and Bobby Simmons were solid for the Nets who were just outplayed a bit by the Raptors bench.

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Raptors – 85
Bucks – 96

A terrible game by the Raptors who looked disinterested the whole night. Charlie Villanueva dropped 26 points and collected 13 boards as he out played a bored Chris Bosh. Andrea Bargnani scored 16 as did Jermaine O’Neal, Jose Calderon scored 7 to go with his 11 assists. Andrew Bogut and Charlie Bell combined for 24 points off of the bench while Richard Jefferson and Luke Ridnour scored a combined 32 points while the Raptors could offer little resistance to a team missing it’s go to guy with Michael Redd out. The Raptors coach offered this summation of the game “I give them credit because they outworked us”. That pretty much sums up the game.

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

Raptors – 90
Magic – 113

AND it wasn’t really even that close after half time. With double – doubles from Jameer Nelson and Dwight Howard, this Magic team showed how you play a team that has no desire to show up. The Magic were quite content playing Dwight Howard off Chris Bosh turning him into a jump shooter, ending the game 4 – 11 with 11 points on the game. Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, Courtney Lee and Mickael Pietrus all ended the game in double figures while Jose Calderon, Joey Graham, Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh all were in double figures, but no one had more than 16. The team looked tired and gave a terrible second half performance after being down only 6 at the half.

With games coming up against the Lakers, the Hornets and the Cavaliers, the Grizzlies and the red-hot Timberwolves, this Raptors team seems to have given up at this point. Let’s hope they can find a way to play some inspired ball rather than the lack-luster effort they have shown most of the year. The issues go far beyond chemistry and bonding, there are some serious issues with the heart of this team as the players don’t seem bothered by the losses any more. That can never be a good thing.

Posted on: January 28, 2009 12:09 pm

Raptors - Week 14 in Preview

Week 14 on the Raptors schedule offers them the opportunity to move back up towards the .500% mark and take a couple of steps back to the playoff race. With games against 2 teams within 4 wins of us at this point. After last weeks losses to the Suns, Hawks and the Pistons, the Raptors are coming off of two wins against the Bulls and the Kings as Jose Calderon and Jermaine O’Neal both return to the team, with Jermaine O’Neal coming off the bench as Andrea Bargnani has earned the starters job with his very solid play in the past month, but more on that later.


Wednesday night the Raptors are travelling to the Nets to complete the season series which the Nets hold a 2 – 1 edge in. Coming into the game, the Nets are 3 – 7 in their last 10 games and lost 3 of 4 games last week on a 4 game swing through the west losing to the Hornets, the Spurs and the Thunder while beating the Grizzlies. Tonight they will be looking at beginning a bit of a run up the eastern standings as they have fallen to 9th overall behind the Bucks, who the Raptors play on Friday. Vince Carter turned 32 on Monday and here is a very nice touch from a teammate – “He started his career with the Raptors, now he's technically a dinosaur." -- G Keyon Dooling joking about "old man" Vince Carter. No matter how old he gets, he seems to love playing his former team and tonight will be no different. With Devin Harris playing at a very high level, this Nets team has one of the best back court duos in the league. Vince Carter averages 21.3 points and 5 rebounds and 5 assists as the SG, while Devin Harris leads the team with 21.5 points, 3 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game. I am not sure, but I would be hard pressed to find a more productive starting back court in the league right now. The Nets will put Ryan Anderson, Bobby Simmons, and Brooks Lopez on the floor as well which should offer the Raptors the opportunity to work the ball inside against the smaller Nets front line with Yi Jianlian out of the lineup. The Raptors will have to find a way to slow this back court down to give them the opportunity to work the ball to Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh who will present many challenges to this young front court and with JO off the bench, the balanced front court attack we offer needs to be augmented by solid back court play from Jose and Anthony Parker as well as their backups Roko Ukic and Jason Kapono or Will Solomon. To me the X-factor in the game tonight will be Jamario Moon on Bobby Simmons. If Jamario can win that battle all night, we have a very good chance of keeping this game in our control.

Friday night, the Michael Redd – less Bucks come to Toronto as they begin the next phase of the season without their leading scorer. Last week they beat the Mavericks and the Kings, but lost to the Trail Blazers and the Hawks and the suddenly hot Timberwolves. Tonight they visit the Pacers before we play them. With Andre Bogut still listed as doubtful, this team has lost 33 points and 13 rebounds a game so guys like Richard Jefferson, Charlie Billanueva, Luke Ridnour, Ramon Sessions and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will have to step up every part of their game if they are to remain in the hunt as a playoff team in the east. Sitting in 8th place in the east right now with the Nets, Knicks, Bobcats who beat the Lakers in a thriller Tuesday night and the Bulls as well as the Raptors within 4 wins, they will be hard pressed to stay there if this team doesn’t find a way to elevate their games. The Raptors will be looking to take the game straight at this team from the guards moving the ball up tempo to take advantage of our quicker big men. This game will show us if the Raptors have figured out how to beat teams that they should and beat them when they are weakened. I look forward to seeing what all these losses have taught this Raptors team as they prepare for a very tough week next week.

I feel I must write a small bit about the play of Andrea Bargnani today. Since Jermaine O’Neal went down December 29th against the Warriors and the team started the huge slide downward, we have seen Andrea raise his game to a level we had been promised, and perhaps go beyond them. During the Warriors game on the 29th, he scored 7 points and grabbed 6 rebounds. As a starter since then, he has played 15 games, scored 318 points or 21.2 points per game, grabbed 19 offensive boards and 81 defensive for an average of 6.7 rebounds per game and has recorded 2 double doubles as well as 4 games with 8 or more rebounds. He recorded 5 blocks in the game against the Nuggets on December 31st. Over those 15 games he has shot 111/223 from the floor or 49.8% including 50% from beyond the arc at 36/72. His only game he failed to make a 3 point shot was against the Hawks and we lost by 3. He was drafted ahead of LeMarcus Aldridge, Adam Morrison, Tyrus Thomas, Sheldon Williams, Brandon Roy, Randy Foye, Rudy Gay and a kid named Rajon Rondo who few thought would be where he is, but playing with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce on the Celtics will make you pretty good. Expectations were very high for him as Bryan Colangello presented him to the Raptors fans as a 3 or 4 year project to grow with. I guess he saw his chance to show some of the skills he has developed here and has finally earned his place as a starter on this team. Well done Andrea, for the work, I would have to him the Raptors player of the month.

After the Bucks, we have the Magic, the Cavaliers, the Lakers, the Hornets so this week is critical in developing that balance again with Jermaine off the bench and Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson, LeBron James and Mo Williams, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, Chris Paul, Peja Stojakovic and Tyson Chandler on the way, this Raptors team might surprise some teams who are looking for an easy Win at this point of the season.

Posted on: January 26, 2009 2:24 pm

Raptors - Week 13 - Jose Returns

Week 13 saw the return of both Jermaine O’Neal and Jose Calderon as the Raptors wallowed in the midst of a 7 game losing streak. Since I have discussed the Pistons game and the Hawks game, I will focus on the Bulls and the Kings games which saw Numero Ocho return and remind us of what was missing from this lineup.



Friday, January 23rd, 2009 Raptors @ Bulls

Raptors – 114
Bulls – 94

Jose Calderon returned to the floor and quickly provided this team some much needed balance and a steady hand in the back court. He was able to connect all of the pieces of this team that looked very unsure of what was to happen next on offense. With 23 points, 10 assists and 0 turnovers, he lead this team to a 20 – 2 run late in the game to pull away. Jermaine O’Neal played again and looked a lot stronger and more sure of himself playing off the bench behind Andrea Bargnani who has been brilliant this last month while starting for the injured O’Neal. On the game, Joey Graham scored 16 off the bench while Chris Bosh had 17 points, 6 steals and 6 rebounds in a game controlled by Jose and Andrea, who had 22 points on the night. Anthony Parker had 14 points and 7 assists as our back court was just a bit better than the Bulls who’s starter, Ben Gordon and Derrick Rose scored 19 and 12 points with Kirk Hinrich adding 17 points off the bench. The game was taken over by our front line who were no real match for the Bulls smaller front court. Jamario Moon had 6 points and 5 rebounds and 2 steals on the night. Overall, a very solid team effort against a Bulls team struggling to play a consistent level of basketball every night. We needed to win, and the guys went out on the road and got one.


Sunday, January 25th, 2009 Raptors vs. Kings

Raptors – 113
Kings - 97

I know, many of you will say “It’s just the Kings, everyone can beat them” and to a large extent, that is very true. We have seen this Raptors team struggle against the “weak” teams like the Thunder and the Wizards and the Clippers this season as their lack of defensive desire seems to allow teams to hang around all game and that lack of killer instinct has been sorely missed this year. Sunday, the Kings came to town 0 – 17 against the eastern conference with a road trip that will take them to games with the Cavaliers, the Celtics and the Bulls. The first quarter the Kings came out on fire hitting 6 – 9 from outside the arc, but only went 5 – 16 the rest of the way as they seemed to play the game far away from the basket while the Raptors pounded the ball inside all evening long and were rewarded with 29 free throws hitting 25. Chris Bosh scored his 11th 30+ game with 31 points and 8 rebounds while Jermaine O’Neal had 11 points and 10 rebounds off the bench behind Andrea Bargnani who continues to play at a much higher level at both ends of the floor scored his 15th straight 10+ point game with 24 points and 7 rebounds. The Kings were lead by John Salmons with 21, Francisco Garcia with 18 points, Brad Miller with 15, Kevin Martin and Jason Thompson with 12 each. For the second straight game, the Raptors shot over 50% from the floor as Jose Calderon found open guys who were hitting shots and attacking the rim all evening. Jose has recorded 18 assists and 0 turnovers in the past 2 games. Welcome home Numero Ocho! We missed you.

This week, the Raptors have games against the Nets and Vince Carter and Brooks Lopez and Devin Harris as well as the Bucks who are without Michael Redd for the rest of the season. The still have Richard Jefferson, Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions on the floor, but these are two games we must win before next week’s murderer’s row of games against Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson and the Magic, LeBron James and the Cavaliers, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, Chris Paul, Tyson Chandler and the Hornets and the Grizzlies the following week. It should be interesting to watch this team as they look to begin the climb back up the ladder in the east. Parts of the game are still missing, but not correctable. At 18 – 28, we are not out of the playoffs yet, but unless team play improves, the playoffs will be little more than fund-raising dates.

Posted on: January 13, 2009 12:45 pm

Raptors - Celtics - Back To Back reviewed

I think at this point in the week, I need to pause and do some reflection on the two games we just witnessed with the Celtics. The Celtics came into the game Sunday having lost 4 straight games to the Knicks, the Bobcats, the Rockets and the Cavaliers and were looking to turn around the play of the team to where it was when they were 27 – 2 and winners of 19 straight. The Raptors were coming off a week which saw them beat the Magic, the Wizards and the Grizzlies, but lose to the Bucks. Both teams were looking to show signs of life but are at very different points in their seasons. The Celtics seem to have been deflated by the loss to the Lakers on Christmas but are still a top 3 team in the league but are struggling to maintain consistent energy and focus during the long season. The Raptors were looking to show that the gains made as a team last week despite the injuries to Jermaine O’Neal and Jose Calderon were not just blibs on the radar of this below average season of hope.

Sunday, January 11th, 2009 Celtics @ Raptors

Celtics 94
Raptors 88

Ray Allen was allowed to hit 5 open 3’s in the first after the Raptors had opened up a brief lead and never allowed the Raptors to hold the lead again as this game was not close for the majority of it. The Celtics were without Tony Allen and Kendrick Perkins but got huge defensive games from Kevin Garnett and Brian Scalabrine to shut our interior game down. Glen Davis had 11 rebounds off the bench to add to the pressure the Raptors felt inside all afternoon. The Raptors did battle back from 20 points down to a point where they could have tied the game late, but shooting under 30% for most of the game and finishing at 37% from the floor, they were just unable to hit the shot they needed to complete the recovery.

Monday, January 12th, 2009 Raptors @ Celtics

Celtics 115
Raptors 109

Paul Piece scored 39 points as the Raptors found some defense, but were just not able to stop one of the best wing men in the game. Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen were held 12 and 9 points and were bothered all night as the Raptors Jamario Moon and Roko Ukic played solid defense and gave them a chance to win with Andrea Bargnani leading the team with 23 points including the game tying 3 point shot with about 1 second left. It was a game in which the Raptors had a lead going into the 4th quarter but allowed the Celtics to make a couple of quick 3’s by Scalebrine while committing turnovers and allowing them back into the game. Jason Kapono and Joey Graham played well but could not make a shot late in the game. Will Solomon was replaced by Roko Ukic down the stretch after turning the ball over 3 straight possessions costing the Raptors the game in the Overtime.

Here are a few things that I saw over these past two games that I think will bode well as this team moves on after going 0 – 4 against the Celtics for the season.

Play of the Point Guards

Roko Ukic and Will Solomon combined for 32 points, 14 assists, 6 rebounds and only 6 turnovers over these two games. As I see it, Roko has moved closer to becoming the full time back up with his poise and his ball control making better decisions in the overtime than Will while facing a Celtics team who were pressing him at every spot on the floor. His 16 points last night were a large part of the reason we had a lead going into the 4th and why we should have won that game if someone could make a stop on Paul Pierce.

Play of the 3 position

Jamario Moon had 15 points and 7 rebounds on Sunday, but had only 8 points – most coming very early in the game and 1 rebound Monday. I wish I could say he was playing tough and that Paul Pierce was just too much, but he was often lost in the key or caught out of position helping weakside while Pierce was planted at the 3 point line waiting for the ball. Jason Kapono had 12 points and 2 rebounds Sunday but was held to 7 points and 1 rebound last night. He did have the sense to get the ball to Andrea Bargnani for the tie, but he has become a liability on defense night after night. Joey Graham had 12 points and 8 rebounds Sunday, but was held to 7 points and 3 on Monday as he was unable to provide the same intensity defensively as he has shown and Paul Pierce was feeling it. This has been and will continue to be the Achilles heel of this team. Wing play has been spotty at best and when we play teams like the Celtics or the Hornets or the 76ers who have athletic wing players, our guys just can’t compete.

Play of Chris Bosh

Many will say that he disappeared last night or faded down the stretch or cowered in the face of Kevin Garnett. All have merit, but none speak of the heart he has brought these past two games. 33 points and 22 rebounds playing perhaps the toughest PF in the game are pretty good numbers. KG over these two games had 30 points and 23 rebounds, including a couple of offensive boards that kept the ball out of the hands of the scrappy Raptors. To say Chris was outplayed by KG is not accurate and unfair. Of those 45 rebounds combined, Bosh had 6 offensive boards including the one that lead to the game tying shot last night while KG had 5 over the two games. Sure KG brings an intensity that we all wish CB4 had, but there is only ONE KG and he has played the game at a very high level since his days with the Timberwolves. That is not how Chris Bosh plays nor does anyone else in the league. Bosh battled KG for the past two nights and held himself to a standard that no one else on the floor had to battle. I for one was thoroughly impressed by his performance and his leadership and hope this is a sign of what could be over the rest of the season.

Play of Andrea Bargnani

Since the injury to Jermaine O’Neal, Andrea has been the starting Center on this team and has begun to blossom into a much more able scorer, a tough defender and a gritty player. Soon, the refs will stop calling those stupid touch fouls on him and he will begin to draw more contact calls as he has begun to show what Bryan Colangello must have seen before he drafted him. In the games against the Celtics, he scored 40 points, grabbed 17 rebounds including 3 offensive boards, handed out 6 assists on 4 turnovers. All of these are aspects of his game that have been improving this season and we are seeing an Andrea Bargnani who has confidence in himself and has won his teams respect and his coach’s confidence as well.

With games against the Bulls led by Derrick Rose and Ben Gordon, the Pacers lead by Danny Granger and Marquis Daniels and T.J. Ford with the Suns coming in on Sunday with Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire and a guy named Shaquille O’Neal, let’s hope the Raptors will see a lot of great things they have done over the past 2 games and keep building the momentum.

Posted on: January 5, 2009 5:05 pm

Raptors - Week 11 in Preview

Week 11 begins tonight with a game against the 16 – 19 Bucks, currently in 8th place one place ahead of the Raptors for the last playoff spot in the East. In the past 10 games, they have won six including wins over the Spurs, the Jazz and the Knicks, split games with the Bobcats and have lost to the Rockets, the Pistons and the 76ers. Following this on Wednesday, the Wizards complete a short 2 game road trip with neither Jose Calderon nor Jermaine O’Neal traveling with the team. The Wizards are struggling for consistency as well and are a dismal 7 – 25, yet were able to defeat the Cavaliers who have gone 2 – 2 this past week splitting games with the Heat and defeating the Rockets before losing last night to the Wizards. Friday brings the Grizzlies to town and their 11 – 23 record having lost to the Suns, the Spurs and the Timberwolves before knocking off the Mavericks Sunday. Here is how I see the week shaping up.

Monday, January 05, 2009 Raptors @ Bucks

With Andrew Bogut questionable for the game tonight and Malik Allen out, the Bucks will have a tough time up front with Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh both playing very solid games this past week. Starting Dan Gadzuric and Luc Richard Mbah a Mouteand and Richard Jefferson up front, the Bucks will have trouble with our inside game and should Jamario Moon continue to gather rebounds as he has been, the Bucks will be forced to beat us with Michael Redd and Luke Ridenour. Not entirely out of the question and the Raptors will have to be sure to keep the defensive pressure on as Will Solomon, Roko Ukic and Anthony Parker look to continue the guard play that has been solid this past week. Jason Kapono is set to have a big game and he should find lots of room to shoot, as the Bucks send a smaller line up to the court.

Wizards - 7 - 23 heading into the week following a win over the CavaliersWednesday, January 07, 2009 Raptors @ Wizards

The Wizards start Antawn Jamison and Andray Blatche with no real Center as Caron Butler fills the other forward position. This should give the Raptors the edge inside as Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh will look to put pressure on the interior of the Wizards all night long. With Gilbert Arenas and DeShawn Stevenson hurt, the Wizards have been starting 4 forwards with Dominic McGuire filling the 4th forward position and Mike James running the point. Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon should be able to control this lineup with speed and help defense as Will and Roko should be able to control this game from start to finish. I can’t see the Wizards winning unless the Raptors fall asleep as the Cavaliers did.

GrizzliesFriday, January 09, 2009 Raptors vs. Grizzlies

The Grizzlies bring Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo and Kyle Lowry to the game with Darrell Arthur as well as Hakim Warrick. The Raptors had best be paying attention as this team could take advantage of any attitude that might develop should they win the first two games this week. I think they will be ready after a short road trip and looking to prepare for the back to back with the Celtics on Sunday and Monday. I am confident that Coach Triano won’t let this team drift away this week.

Celtics - starting the week 29 - 6, 1st in the East and second over allSunday, January 11, 2009 Raptors vs. Celtics
Monday, January 12, 2009 Raptors @ Celtics

I will do both here as they will be hard to separate in the course of the weekend. The Celtics have been inconsistent the past 10 games winning only 6 losing to the Lakers on Christmas day then the Warriors on the 26th. Since then, they have lost to the Trail Blazers and the Knicks but are still comfortable with a 29 – 6 record and still 1st overall in the east, but second over all in the league just behind the Lakers. With Kevin Garnett playing as well as he ever has and the surging play of Rajon Rondo, this Celtics team offers depth and skill to about 10 players with Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Leon Powe, Kendrick Perkins, Glen Davis and Tony Allen leading the way. The Raptors will need to be at the top of their game but will be looking to steal one of these games and I think they might be ready to do it at this point. The Raptors have looked more confident with a lead than at any other point this season so I look for 2 very good games.

Next week brings us the Bulls, the Pacers and the Suns as this team heads to the all-star break looking to get back to or above %.500. That would be a very good recovery from what looked like a dismal season not 2 weeks ago.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com