Posted on: January 22, 2009 12:09 pm
Edited on: January 22, 2009 12:30 pm

Raptors - Week 11/12 review - late

I must admit, it has become harder and harder to write about this Raptors team that continues to struggle at pretty much every part of the game night after night. After the two losses to the Celtics in which Ray Allen and Paul Pierce took turns destroying our already thin back court defense, week 12 continued with losses against the Bulls, the Pacers and the Suns leading into week 13 which has brought us losses against the Pistons and the Hawks. Here is how I saw those games.

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009 – Raptors vs. Bulls

Raptors – 98
Bulls – 102

Having built up a 71 – 68 lead after 3 quarters, the Raptors found a way to let Derrick Rose score 17 points in the 4th to post a come from behind win on the road. On a night when the Raptors enjoyed Andrea Bargnani dropping a career high 31 points to go with 10 rebounds including 3 offensive boards, they allowed the Bulls to tally 33 assists while being outrebounded 26 – 11 in the first half finishing the game -10 on the glass. The Bulls exploited our awful perimeter defense all night and finished with 25 points and 10 assists while Kirk Hinrich added 12 points and 6 assists off the bench. Luol Deng had a huge game with 16 points and 14 rebounds and was offered little resistance on either glass and was one of the reasons this game turned in the 4th as we could not find a way to keep him off the boards and maintain ball control as the Bulls took over. One of my favorite players, Joakim Noah didn’t bite on a Chris Bosh pump fake and blocked his shot late to seal the game. 5 offensive rebounds won’t win you a game in High school let alone the NBA. Jermaine O’Neal missed his 9th straight game and Jose Calderon was out again and the back-court of Will Solomon and Roko Ukic 9 points, 9 assists and 1 turn over. Anthony Parker had a solid game with 15 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists in a losing cause. The Raptors gave up 44 points in the paint and were -18 in the paint, so much for the over-whelming front court attack the Raptors hoped to present as this has become the norm for this team as we can’t seem to consistently score inside, which allows teams to harass our shooters all night long. Simple basketball is killing this team.

Friday, January 16th, 2009 – Raptors @ Pacers

Raptors – 107
Pacers – 111

This game was over very early in spite of what the score says. The Raptors scored 39 points in the final quarter to make a run at the Pacers, but could not tie or take the lead as the closed within one point of the home team. Troy Murphy who dropped a 20/20 performance on the Raptors the last game they played settled in for a tidy 15/15 game as Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy provided 23 and 22 points for the Pacers. Jarrett Jack provided 17 points and 7 assists and T.J. Ford added 12 points to the game against his former team. Jermaine O’Neal played his first game in about 3 weeks and looked tired. I suspect he was not ready as he sat the next game, but was able to 7 rebounds and 2 points while Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh scored 20 and 25 points while Chris grabbed 16 rebounds, but committed 4 turnovers. With only 22 points off of the bench, this team just does not have the scoring second unit that it needs nightly to compete at the level expected of them with any consistency. The Raptors were down by 24 heading into the 4th quarter and looked lethargic at best most of the game. On a night when they dominated on the glass ending the game +11, the Raptors were beaten by the back court’s inability to score and defend. Ford, Jack, Dunleavy, Stephen Graham and Danny Granger combined for 83 of the Pacers 111 points, while our back court and SF’s scored 57. Jason Kapono scored only 8 points, Joey Graham added only 8 as well. The score flatters this team as it was not really that close at all, but with one quarter of play, they were able to score 39 points, but the Pacers play less defense than we do, so, take it for what it is worth.

Sunday, January 18th, 2009 Raptors vs. Suns

Raptors – 113
Suns – 117

Steve Nash brought lust to the hearts of Raptors fans everywhere with his 18 assist performance as he has stated he would love to end his career north of the 49th parallel. Amar’e Stoudemire scored a game high 31 points and Grant Hill collected a team high 9 rebounds as the Suns needed every part of their game to work as the Raptors played a balanced game and were in a position to steal a win until Nash scored with less than 30 seconds left after an Anthony Parker miss. Parker had his best scoring game in a long time with 26 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists while starting at the PG spot. Jamario Moon added 16 points Andrea Bargnani had 15 while Chris Bosh scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, but committed 5 turnovers. Kris Humphries had 6 while the entire bench offered only 14 points with the Raptors dressing only 9 players. Joey Graham had 22 points and 7 rebounds while Shaquille O’Neal was limited to 16 points and 4 rebounds, Matt Barnes had 16 and Leandro Barbosa had 14 off the bench for the Suns coming off a tough loss to the Timberwolves. Again, the Raptors were -18 in the paint and -10 in points off of turnovers as Jason Richardson added 17 to the Suns total.

Monday, January 19th, 2009 Raptors @ Hawks

Raptors – 84
Hawks – 87

Joe Johnson scored 28 points including one with 12 seconds left while Mike Bibby added a couple of late free throws while scoring 23 to over-take the Raptors and ring up the win. With only 9 players dressed, Center Al Horford, Speedy Claxton, Marvin Williams and Randolph Morris all were not dressed but they were able to battle through and secure the win while the Raptors again could not find anyone able to take the final shot and make it count. Andrea Bargnani scored 20, Chris Bosh, 22 while they both had double doubles, Anthony Parker scored 12 and collected 9 rebounds and had 9 assists for a second solid game in a row. With 17 points off the bench, this was a game we should have won, but hitting must have shots is not a strength this team has as we can’t seem to figure out who to get the ball to in that clutch situation. Overall, the game was very even, but the Raptors allowed the Hawks to settle outside and score 7/26 from 3 point range. Raptors scored only 2/18 for a pathetic 11%. Josh Smith added 22 points while Zaza Pachulia was kept off the scoreboard and played only 11 minutes the Raptors could not find a way, again to dominate the game inside with the Hawks playing small ball. This was the 6th straight loss in a row for the Raptors.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009 Raptors @ Pistons

Raptors – 76
Pistons – 95

Richard Hamilton was moved to the bench, but that didn’t seem to help the Raptors at all as they once again allowed Tayshaun Prince to eat them up off the dribble. Amir Johnson started in place of Rip and the Pistons back-court of Allen Iverson and Rodney Stuckey combined for 28 points and 13 assists while Jason Maxiell had 16 points and 11 rebounds and Antonio McDyess had 10 points and 8 rebounds off the bench. The game was close after the first, but the Pistons outscored the Raptors 59 – 40 in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. The Raptors offered little resistance and very little effort being out hustled on the glass with the Pistons using their depth to destroy our very thin second line. Jermaine O’Neal offered 11 points and 1 rebound on his second game in the past 12 or so with trade rumors swirling between the Heat and Shawn Marion, this Raptors team looks like it is waiting for something huge to happen and they can’t seem to find a way to respond to anything on the floor.

The rest of this week offers the Raptors the Bulls again, the Kings who are 0 – 16 against eastern teams and the Bucks and the Nets. Unless something happens to change the intensity on this team, they will just keep losing. 

Category: NBA
Posted on: January 21, 2009 11:12 am

2009 Free Agent Class - Overlooked and Forgotten?

I know we are all focused on 2010 when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh become free agents and the rumours that are swirling around with that, but what about next years class? looking over the list i see a lot of pieces that many teams would love to have, so, the question is do you think this season's batch of free agents will be pretty much ignored or will there be a flurry of trades and deals to secure some of these guys before 2010 which, in my opinion, is really a three team race right now.

Here is the list

Hawks -Josh Childress, Solomon Jones, Marvin Williams
Mike Bibby, Zaza Pachulia



Celtics - Glen Davis, Leon Powe
Eddie House (P)


Bobcats - Shannon Brown, Jermareo Davidson, Raymond Felton, Ryan Hollins, Sean May



Aaron Gray,Drew Gooden



Cavaliers - Lance Allred, Tarence Kinsey
Zydrunas Ilgauskas (ETO), Damon Jones, Joe Smith, Eric Snow, Wally Szczerbiak, Billy Thomas, Anderson Varejao (P)

Mavericks - Brandon Bass, Gerald Green, Eddie Jones, Jason Kidd, Keith McLeod, James Singleton



Nuggets -Linas Kleiza
Chris Andersen, Anthony Carter, Steven Hunter (ETO), Allen Iverson, Dahntay Jones


Pistons - Will Bynum (T), Jason Maxiell, Check Samb
Kwame Brown (P), Richard Hamilton (ETO), Rasheed Wallace



Warriors - C.J. Watson
Al Harrington (P)


Rockets - Mike Harris, Luther Head
Ron Artest, Ron Francis



Pacers - Danny Granger, Jarrett Jack, Josh McRoberts
Maceo Baston, Marquis Daniels (T), Travis Diener (P), Jeff Foster, Stephen Graham, Rasho Nesterovic


Clippers - Ricky Davis (P), Steve Novak, Brian Skinner
Jason Hart



Lakers - Coby Karl
Trevor Ariza, Kobe Bryant (ETO), Chris Mihm, Lamar Odom


Grizzlies - Juan Carlos Navarro, Hakim Warrick
Antoine Walker (ETO)



Heat - Stephane Lasme, Joel Anthony
Mark Blount (ETO), Shawn Marion


Bucks - Ramon Sessions, Charlie Villanueva
Malik Allen (P), Tyronn Lue, Desmond Mason



Timberwolves - Rashad McCants
Calvin Booth, Jason Collins


Nets - Nenad Krstic
Trenton Hassell (ETO), Jarvis Hayes (T), Stromile Swift



Hornets - Melvin Ely, Mike James (P)



Knicks - David Lee, Nate Robinson
Jamal Crawford (ETO), Eddy Curry (ETO), Jerome James (P), Stephon Marbury, Quentin Richardson (ETO), Malik Rose


Thunder - Johan Petro
Adrian Griffin, Chris Wilcox, Damien Wilkins (ETO), Donyell Marshall



Maqic - Marcin Gortat
Keith Bogans, Brian Cook (P), Adonal Foyle, Anthony Johnson (P), Hedo Turkoglu (ETO)


76ers - Royal Ivey (P), Andre Miller, Kareem Rush



Suns - D.J. Strawberry
Matt Barnes, Grant Hill



Trail Blazers - Ike Diogu, Channing Frye, Martell Webster
Raef LaFrentz



Kings - Bobby Brown (P), Francisco Garcia
Shareef Abdur-Rahim (ETO), Bobby Jackson



Spurs - Ime Udoko, Jacque Vaughn



Raptors - Carlos Delfino, Joey Graham, Jamario Moon, Will Solomon
Jermaine O'Neal (P), Anthony Parker



Jazz - Paul Millsap, Kyrylo Fesenko (T)
Carlos Boozer (P), Jarron Collins, Brevin Knight, Kyle Korver (ETO), Mehmet Okur (ETO), Ronnie Price



Wizards - Etan Thomas (ETO)

Posted on: November 28, 2008 10:33 pm

Raptors - Hawks - A Game in Review

The Raptors came into Friday’s game against the Hawks needing a win to close out a 4 game home stand at 2 – 2 after losing to the Celtics and the Nets. A victory over the Bobcats on Wednesday gave them a better frame of mind against a team that had beaten them once this season. With Jermaine O’Neal on the bench, the Raptors needed to find a way to contain the Hawks on the boards and control the perimeter after being torched by Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson. The Hawks were looking to return to the form that had gotten them off to a 6 – 0 start before losing to the Celtics. Since that loss they were 3 – 5 bringing a 9 – 5 record to Toronto and looking to turn the momentum early in the season.

Averaging 27.6 points per game coming in, Chris Bosh has been hot lately with 2 40+ point games and a 39 in the past week. He has been one of the top players in the league so far being 2nd in scoring behind LeBron James and just ahead of Dwyane Wade so far this season. After being stuck in his apartment’s elevator for about an hour, he arrived late to the game and missed the warm up. That is probably a very good thing for the Hawks as he opened a bit cold shooting but had 5 assists in the first half before he scored 20 in the second half ending up with 30 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocks for a solid all around game providing yet another example of why he should be considered an elite player in this league.

One of the biggest ingredients this team has been missing thus far this season has been bench play on both offense and defense. Tonight, on a night where Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon struggled offensively, combining for only 11 points, Joey Graham, Jason Kapono, Kris Humphries and Will Solomon combined for 31 points and 13 rebounds. Anthony Parker not only provided 7 points and 2 steals, but he kept Joe Johnson quiet in the first half and held him to 18 points overall. Jamario Moon had perhaps his most solid start of the year adding 10 points and trying hard to contain Mike Bibby who finished with 20 points, but had 15 at the half. Our defense looked solid though at times it still gave up easy inside shots or runners in the lane, over all, most shots, even from outside the arc were contested and that was enough to turn the game around as the Raptors had to fight back from a half time deficit.

Overall, the Raptors must be pleased with the ball control they exhibited down the stretch after the Vince Carter debacle with the Nets last week. I am sure most Raptors fans held their breath as the Raptors held on with solid defense and timely offensive boards and some well executed in-bounds plays. The team showed some character coming up with huge stops when they needed them and some outstanding rebounding at both ends. After some goofy shots on about 7 possessions in a row, the guys got it back together and held off the Hawks.

Let’s hope this can build some momentum going into Sunday’s game in Los Angeles and the Lakers. With a lineup of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum,  who is not playing and is questionable for the game, and Vladimir Radmanovic and Dereck Fisher, this team is going into Friday night’s game against the Dirk Nowitzki led Mavericks with a 12 – 1 record. This game will be a challenging game as the Raptors will again have a test of their resolve. The next few games for the Raptors will be played against some of the top teams in the league. With the Jazz and the Nuggets up next, it could be a difficult week for the Raptors.

Posted on: November 27, 2008 12:35 pm

Raptors - Hawks - A game Preview

Friday night, the Raptors welcome the Atlanta Hawks to the ACC. A team that has been hot and cold this season with a hot 6 – 0 start only to go 3 – 5 in the next 8. Since injuring his ankle against the Raptors early in the season, Josh Smith has not returned to the lineup. The Hawks are 5 – 5 with him out of the lineup and miss his leadership and his 12 points per game.

What they do bring to the floor is an array of young and old talent with Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson working with Acie Law, Al Horford, Ronald Murray as well as a mix of guys like Marvin Williams and Maurice Evans. Besides Josh Smith, the Hawks have a very balanced offense with 5 other players in double digits nightly with Evans at just over 9 as well, this team will challenge weak defensive teams all over the court. With winning 3 of the last 4 against the Wizards, the Bucks and the Bobcats, the Hawks are coming into Toronto looking for a win to kick start a week of games with the Knicks, the Wizards and the Grizzlies, they look to continue a series of winnable games.

The Raptors are coming off a hard fought win against the Bobcats where Gerald Wallace and Emeka Okafor lead a spirited game against a short lineup with Jermaine sitting for the Raptors. He will also miss this game leaving Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani to start up front with Joey Graham likely to start at the 3 spot. Sam Mitchell will look to Joey to tighten the defense around Joe Johnson who, along with Mike Bibby, torched the Raptors the last game. With Jose Calderon looking much better, the offense is starting to look more consistent again, but taking only 72 shots against the Bobcats is barely what I would call purring along. When the Raptors decide to watch Chris Bosh score as they did last night until Joey stepped up and scored 17 off the bench, it was hard to watch as they stagnated several times and kept the Bobcats in the game with poor shots.

The keys for the game against the Hawks will be a combination of ball control and ball movement. 12 turnovers last night allowed the Raptors to keep the pace where they wanted and keep the ball moving on offense. Aside from Jason Kapono and his pump fake travel, the Raptors made much better decisions with the ball. I seem to recall most of the turnovers were having the ball ripped out of the hands by more aggressive defenders. Jamario Moon has got to become more involved defensively as he has not done much on either end of the floor. Should Joey have another good game both offensively and defensively, we may not see Jamario for awhile. Roko Ukic will be called upon to spell Jose off and if he continues to progress in his ability to maintain the ball and keep the offense running both in the open court and in the half court, this team will succeed. Defensively, we still have work to do as a team as more than a few times someone would make a great play only to have the ball return to a Bobcat as no one rotated to help on the ball. That will have to change against a much better front court that the Hawks will bring. One good thing that I did notice was how many times the Bobcats made a very tough shot with :00 on the shot clock. It was good to see guys jumping lanes and rotating on defense to limit the open looks.

With the Lakers due up on Sunday, Jermaine will rest again. The Raptors, as a group, will have to be committed to team play to win this game. Can they do it? I think we can. Who will provide the second and third option this team will need to compliment Chris Bosh? Who will step up and shut down Bibby and Johnson? We have the players who can do it and I think Kris Humphries will factor hugely into this game. Enjoy the game. Comments always welcome.

Posted on: November 8, 2008 12:06 pm

Raptors - Hawks! Am I glad that is over!!

"There was just nothing we could do to stop them," said Raptors coach Sam Mitchell. "We just couldn't guard them tonight. Almost everybody was off. It happens."

This was Sam trying hard to explain how this team with so much talent could be beaten so badly by a team that just wanted to win more! It will be hard to express my thorough distaste of how this team seems happy to score their 93 or 94 points a game while letting opponents run them into the ground.

A couple good things about last night, the Hawks had come into the game averaging 15 offensive boards a game and only had 7 last night! I think that when you seem to make 55% of your shots, there isn’t much need for offensive boards! The Raptors came into the game averaging 35.5 rebounds a game and finished the game with 32 LOWERING their league worst average to 34.8 boards a game! That one fact should scare Sam and Bryan to their core! Again last night we were – 9 on the glass. I am not sure of any team that is good enough to be out rebounded every night and win more than they lose. From what I saw last night, this is NOT one of those teams! Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal were a combined 43 points and 12 rebounds which was a bit better than the Hawks front of Al Horford and Marvin Williams who had 21 points and 13 boards with Josh Smith adding 6 before he left. Off the bench, which some consider the Raptors strength this season, the Hawks offered Solomon Jones with 6, Ronald Murray with 16 and Maurice Evens with 15 with a combined total of 15 rebounds! The Raptors provided Jason Kapono with 14, Andrea Bargnani with 9 and Kris Humphries with 5 and a combined total of 6 rebounds. Our second unit provided us a total of – 9 points and – 9 boards!

What killed us was the back-court!

--Toronto's guards and small forwards were out-scored 81-35 by Atlanta in Friday's loss.

Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson destroyed Jose Calderon and Anthony Parker both inside and outside! We had no way to stop them as Sam Mitchell so expertly mentioned! He would know, he taught them how to play that way! With absolutely no clue how to stop driving guards as we saw with Tayshaun Prince and now Joe Johnson! This had better change quickly as most of the teams in this league have quick guards who can shoot!

--In four of their first five games, Toronto has given up at least 10 more shots than they've taken, a fact directly attributable to their lack of defensive rebounding prowess.

As I mentioned earlier, we are the worst team in the league on the glass! Jamario Moon has all but disappeared off the glass and out of the offense. He has his moments on defense but not consistent enough to warrant the PT he receives. That being said, Jason Kapono would be out played by most of the great athletes the league has playing on the wings night in and night out! A very difficult place to be for Bryan Colangelo after he put all his eggs into Jermaine O’Neal’s injury prone body!

Here are a few thoughts on the season that has just begun.

Team defense MUST become the number 1 priority on this team as they can’t stop anyone from the outside at this point. Teams are all well aware of how to attack this team as we are slow on the perimeter or seem to have no desire to pay the price to win.

The promising start has quickly given way to fear and trepidation! The Pistons and the Hawks have exposed our weak underbelly! We MUST become a team that wants to take the ball to the hole! We MUST commit to team defense as a priority and not an after-thought! We need to find another scorer to provide 10 to 15 points a game. With Chris Bosh at 26 and Jose now at 16,  JO and AP both around 11, we are at the middle of the pack offensively but giving up more points than we are scoring after just 2 losses!

There is much room for improvement and this next week will show us if Sam is able to do what it takes to move this team up the rankings or down the chart! The Ball is in their court now!


First, I could be wrong and I hope I am, but it is time to start looking for something other than Andrea Bargnani! He has some talent and a great touch for a big man, but he looks over-whelmed most games and has never developed the heart needed to play against some of the men in the league nose to nose! In his 3rd season now, he should be able to hold his own at both ends of the floor night after night, but he can’t seem to find a rhythm from night to night as teams just let him shoot knowing if he misses the first couple, his night is over! He has had success driving the ball to the hole, but seems very reluctant to commit his body to that kind of pounding night after night!
Jermaine O’Neal looks slow and out of place most nights. His 17 last night were great to see, but 4 rebounds just won’t cut it at some point. He is averaging 5.8 rebounds a game, while Jose Calderon is averaging 4! Surely your C/PF can average more than 2 more boards a game more than your PG? Is that too much to ask? Let’s hope that he can find his place and step up to the challenge and provide more rebounding as being – 9 or 10 every night is not a good plan to win games!
Category: NBA
Posted on: November 3, 2008 11:00 am

3 games, 3 wins - a good start for the Raptors

So, after the first 3 games of the 2008-09 season, we find the Raptors at 3-0 tied with the Lakers and the Rockets and the Hornets with the same record. I know it is early and that we beat “weaker” teams in the 76ers and the Warriors and the Bucks, but it is still a good start to a year that was to see them fall down the Eastern Conference standings with the rise of the Hawks and the 76ers and the recovery of the Bulls. This was the season that the Cavaliers were to dominate the East with LeBron James over-powering every team he played. So far, we see in the East that the Raptors are 3 – 0 and the Hawks are 2 – 0 as are the Pistons, who were supposed to be too old to compete!

I think one thing we are seeing this year is a general upgrade in the over-all play of all the teams! I have seen a trend toward tough interior defense and forcing teams to shoot outside. That has been the formula the Raptors have used so far this year. The game against the Warriors showed us that this team can run with teams and wear them down even with an 8 man rotation, this team does not lose a lot with the “second unit” on the floor. Well, the second unit has at times shown us Andrea Bargnani, who is scored 19 against the Warriors, but is averaging 5 rebounds a game and a little better than 2 blocks a game off the bench! It was his play in the 4th quarter of the Warriors game that helped tie the game with a couple key blocks. He did the same in the Bucks game! Should he continue to score and get closer to 10 or 11 points per game off the bench, this team will be very hard to match up with. Sam Mitchell has become fond of sticking either Jermaine 0’Neal or Chris Bosh in with the rest of the second wave with Joey Graham or Jason Kapono and Roko Ukic who has quickly become a solid presence on the floor. These minutes he can play and develop his calm steady play will only help this team in the spring as Jose Calderon can keep his legs fresh! The play of Jamario Moon and Anthony Parker has been welcomed to say the least. It is good to see Jamario not drift when he is not scoring and has been rewarded with 10 points, 2 assists, 2 blocks and about 2 steals a game. Anthony Parker has been playing some of the best ball he has played in a Raptors uniform dropping 14 points per game and averaging 2 rebounds, 2 assists and nearly 4 steals a game. Against the tough inside game of the Bucks on a night when Jermaine could not get moving, Calderon and Parker combined for 36 points and 12 assists. The margin of victory was 4 points and the Jose and Anthony out scored Michael Redd and Ramon Sessions by 5!!!

This team so far this season has focused on team defense! Sam and Chris Bosh have committed themselves to this style and we saw in the overtime win against the very short benched and very tired Warriors that this style can and will wear opponents down! A 6 – 0 run to start the OT with 3 steals by the Raptors sealed the win!

This week, we face the 2 – 0 Detroit Pistons who are coming off a 117 – 100 win over the Wizards and the not too surprising Atlanta Hawks who are 2 – 0 after beating the Magic in Orlando and the 76ers at home. The Hawks play the Hornets on Wednesday night and that should be a fun game to watch with Chris Paul, Tyson Chandler and David West hosting them. The Hawks offer Joe Johnson averaging 30 points a game, Mike Bibby and Josh Smith averaging 15 each. Al Horford is young and should be a very active presence underneath giving our front court all they can handle!

The Pistons bring their starting 5 of the past 4 or 5 seasons I think of Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Chauncey Billups and Antonio MacDyess or Jason Maxiell. Walter Hermann I think is playing good right now, but I think they will present Rodney Stuckey, Arron Afflalo and Kwame Browne and suddenly, the team that is too old is 10 or 11 deep! I would love to see the Raptors win both of these games and they could, but they will have to play spectacular team defense and NOT turn the ball over 19 times!

So far this year, the Raptors have played steady ball control ball. That has proven very successful. This week we shall see how committed this team is to the team game at both ends of the floor! After the Hawks, we will see the Bobcats, the Celtics and the 76ers again, this time at home. This young season starts with some critical divisional games and so far they are on top with the Hawks. This next week will be very much a litmus test for the conference.

Here are my thoughts on the play of the team so far!

Chris Bosh – averaging 42 minutes, 26 points, 10 rebounds and almost 4 assists per game! I am beginning to agree with the MVP threads I have seen on these boards! He has played unselfish ball leading the team in all aspects of the game. He has made some tough plays on defense, has distributed to the open man after he gets the ball where he wanted it keeping his team mates playing at both ends, he has played well when on the floor with the so-called second line which is a term I am beginning to look to replace! His intensity at both ends has allowed Jermaine O’Neal room to move again. Over all, Bosh’s play should be considered among the elite in the league.

Jermaine O’Neal – averaging 11 points and 7 rebounds as well as 3 assists a game. He has brought a breath of life to this front court by creating 2 double team options low. He is struggling a bit on offense, but he has averaged 2 blocks a game and is a defensive force to be sought when entering the key. He has provided the presence we were looking for to off-set Chris Bosh in the front court and he has given us a very tough interior defense that has allowed the team to tighten up outside which killed them last year!

Jose Calderon – Jose has become a solid point guard in this league! I would consider him a top 10 guard at this point as he does not focus on his own scoring, but as we saw against the Bucks, can step up as he needs to! I believe that we shall see this team rewarded by making him the starting PG! His steady demeanor on the floor has a calming effect on everyone out there. He leads with his heart and his team responds very well to his leadership! With Roko Ukic off the bench giving him some solid minutes of play while he rests, this team looks very good at the #1 spot! Averaging 19 points and 9.7 assists, he is off to a flying start. As he continues to score, teams will not be able to collapse or they will pay the price!

Anthony Parker – Jose’s back-court mate is off to a great start averaging 14 points and 2 assists and 2.3 rebounds and 3.33 steals. A very solid option off the wing as he is often guarding the other teams top scorer, he has acquitted himself well not letting anyone out play him so far this season! Whether he is on the starting rotation or the other rotation, he continues to play consistent intense defense and has been a pest to the 3 back-courts we have faced this season.

Jamario Moon – I feel he still can be a major contribution to this team, but he will have to figure out how to offer at least 15 points a game to stay in this lineup with Jason Kapono on the bench waiting! He is exciting to watch, but seems unable to consistently finish but when he does just let the ball fly, he can score in this league! He is still young mentally though at 28, the experiment has shown flashes of brilliance and some signs of concern. When he is firing from outside, this team can go on deep runs as he has stepped up his defense this year but needs to become way more active on the glass!

Andrea Bargnani – Is this the same kid who wore #7 last season? Where did he get the tough from? What a joy to watch him score 19 against a quick strong Warriors team, only to see him vanish against the Bucks! If he can continue to play solid defense, then the Raptors can find scoring, but if he can find a way to drop 10 a night, this team would be very hard to match to 8 or 9 players. I would love to see him grab 5 or 6 boards a night and keep his head in the game in the paint. That would allow that step out game he has to flourish.

This week should show us a bit more of the heart of this team! the games will be against 3 teams expected to be at or near the top of the Eastern Conference! Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce will give this team all they can handle! enjoy the games!

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