Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Some Downtime and a Frustrating Weekend

So this was a frustrating weekend to be a Raptors fan. One game they gave away, and another game where they just couldn't get over the hump. I wanted to hold off on commenting about the Memphis game until I saw them against Orlando, but now after back to back L's, I am very disappointed.

The Grizzlies' game hurts the most in my opinion. Coughing up a 8 point 4th quarter lead is indefensible. Given the Raptors level of talent, they should have been able to control the end of the game, and close out what would have been a very nice comeback on the road. Instead, we have multiple turnovers on offense that led to multiple OJ Mayo step back 3's, which ended any chance the Raptors had at the W.

Orlando hit 17 three pointers, many of which were wide open and uncontested. No team in the NBA can win when they give up that many treys. I did find the fact that the Raptors battled back to get the game to 5 somewhat encouraging, but giving up 25 to JJ "the frat boy" Redick is even more discouraging.

So what did I learn about this Raptors squad this weekend?

1) Bosh, Andrea and Hedo are good for at least 68 pts a game. They are the offensive bedrock of this Raptors team, and I think they have proven that they can get their points.

2) Jose's 3 point stroke is MIA. This was a HUGE problem on Sunday against the Majic as Jose had multiple opportunities to close the game to 1 possession if he had knocked down wide open 3 point looks. This has to change. Am I confident that Jose will start to shoot the ball better? Yes, but he needs to find his stroke immediately.

3) The Raptors' inablity to guard the 3 point line is killing them. This problem is completely related to Jose's inablility to keep the opposing PG out of the lane. Right now, in both of the Raptors' losses, dribble penetration by the opposing PG has been the key to breaking down their defense. This was surprisingly less of a problem against Cleveland since Wright was about to slowdown LeBron.

I think finding a solution to point 3 will be key to the Raptors season, and here is what I think is the best way going forward.

I am about to link to something I thought I would never do since I hate Dave Feschuk more than anything else in the world, but he brings up a very valid point. The Raptors need to seriously consider starting Jarrett Jack (http://www.thestar.com/sports/basketball/nba/raptors/article/720221--feschuk-solution-to-raptors-weak-defence-start-jack).

From my vantage point in the ACC on Sunday, it was clear that Jose had no hope of stopping Jameer. However, Jameer was compeltely unable to stop Jose offensively as well, so its not like Jose is untalented offensively. I think Triano has a very important adjustment to make, and that is to play Jose and Jack together. Jack's ability to stop dribble penetration will prevent the complete defensive breakdowns that we are seeing. Jose is about 6'3, but I think he has the size to slow down opposing 2 guards. Having Jose's ability to shoot the ball, and drive it to the basket is a perfect fit at the 2, and his defensive short comings guarding quicker PGs would be somewhat hidden. Jack's defensive ability against other 1's should take the pressure off of the Raptors interior defense, and restore balance to the overall defense.

I am defintitely interested to see if Jay makes this adjustment, even if he just implements it in the 4th quarter.

I think Raptors fans need to chill out a bit since we are only 3 games into the season. All is not lost (yet), and this squad still has a lot of talent and potential!

Next up: the Pistons.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

View from Above the Tunnel: Game 1

I must say tonight was unexpected.

Well, I'll be the first to admit that I was totally expecting a double
digit blowout loss to the Cavs tonight. The Raps completely surprised
me on multiple fronts.

1) Andrea scoring 21 in the first half, and was well on his way to 30 plus if the refs had not nailed him with multiple dubious fouls on the "Big Fossil". His willingness to attack the rim, and taking full advantage of his mid range shot was very Dirk-esque. I was very impressed by Andrea's work on Shaq as well. He gave up a lot of bulk, but he was still able to control Shaq without much double team help. If Bargnani plays like this every night, I'll elated.

2) Relatively solid FG% defense, and they protected the paint fairly well. The Cavs got hot from behind the arc in their 3rd quarter run, but overall they were able to do a good enough job on LeBron to keep him from penetrating at will, and setting up the Cleveland shooters. Let's hope that the Raps will keep working hard on the defensive end, and keep this up.

3) They DIDN'T FOLD when the cavs made their run. I was totally expecting the Raps to pack it in when the Cavs got it to 69-69. Instead they go on a 21-6 run. What the hell? Who are these guys? That run after the Cavs tied it up was HUGE. I had mentioned to a friend the other night that the Raps big problem the last couple of years was their inability to bust a game open with a big run. I think a big reason for that was the horrific defense, but I think another major component was the fact that none of the Raps really seized the moment. Hedo (more on this below) and Jarret Jack definitely stepped up and attacked the basket to extend the runs offensively, Wright was excellent on the perimeter defense, and Bosh hedged every pick and roll extremely well and hovered up every defensive board he could get his hands on.

4) I didn't think Hedo did much, but he hit some very big shots down the stretch. His left handed layup to get the Raps back to an 8 pt lead was huge. I definitely thought the Raps were still in the danger zone, but Hedo settled the team down with that bucket. I think this might be indicative of what we will see out of Hedo this year. Not
huge numbers, but when the game is on the line, he will know what to do with the ball.

5) Bosh took his game down on the low block tonight, which was vital to the Raps victory. In fact, the Cavs made their run right when Bosh decided to be a jump shooter again. I don't think CB4 can keep this up because his body will breakdown, but if he does, the Raps are legit.

6) I am TBD on Antonie Wright, but there is definitely man crush potential.

So its game 1 of 82, so I am going to keep it all in perspective, but I think the Raps definitely showed me something tonight, especially when I fully expected the King to spank them coming off his loss to Boston. I think the key for the Raptors is to build on this win by keeping up their intensity. Friday is a big night, the Griz are terrible, the Raps need to come out and rip their hearts out in the first half.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pre-Game Meal

Uh oh, LeBron dropped 38 and lost to Boston at HOME! Tonight is going to end badly for the Raptors. My hope is for them to keep LeBron under 50 and the game within 5 at the end of the 4th quarter. I have a feeling I might be setting my expectations too high.

Things I will be watching for tonight:

1. Shaq is a borderline statue at this point, so the biggest thing I'll be looking for is how Andrea will take advantage of his speed and quickness over the "Big Fossil".

2. Hedo is going to have to guard LeBron, and I think this is going to end very very badly. However, if the Raptors are serious about playing a total team concept on defense, Bosh should be able to rotate off Sideshow Bob or Big Z fast enough to prevent LeBron from breaking the defense down completely. Tonight is going to be a very interesting game to see just how committed Bosh is to stepping up his game, especially on defense.

3. Will Demar Derozan be able to take AP off the dribble. Demar has shown a very welcome willingness to attack the rim off the dribble when the ball swings to him. AP is old and slow, and it will be a HUGE bonus for the Raps if Derozan can get to the rack and start drawing some fouls on the Cavs.

Finally, I would like to point out that Danny Ferry is probably the worst GM in all of the NBA. Watching the Cavs play the Celts last night, I realized that former Raptor's senior citizen, AP, and former Raptors migraine, Jamario Moon, are in the Cavs top 7. In fact, AP is a starter because Delonte West is bat shit crazy, and Jamario Moon is the 2nd guy off the Cleveland bench. Danny, are you seriously telling me that in the season before LeBron can bolt for LA or NJ, your biggest signings to get you to the Finals are 2 guys that weren't good enough for the Raptors to keep? REALLY? Jamario Moon? I know Toronto is in Canada, but there is still game tape of Moon chucking ill advised jumpers at critical moments of EVERY SINGE GAME HE HAS EVER PLAYED IN. I can't disrespect AP, I loved the guy in TO, but you do realize that he is 35 right? Just so you know, if he gets more than 25-30 mins a night at the beginning of the season, he will be totally useless by April. By the way, you coach is still Mike Brown, and after coaching LeBron for the past 4 years, his best 4th quarter offense is still, give the ball to LeBron will I bury my head in my hands and hope LBJ can bail me out.

Season starts tonight fellow Raptors fans, I am looking forward to it, even if its going to start on a low note.

View from above the Tunnel will be back after tonight's game!

Random Musing

Looks like Rondo didn't sign an extension with the Celtics! Apparently he wants top 5 PG money. Can we all dream of a Rondo S&T for Jose this summer?


Before you call me crazy, a Jose S&T isn't completely out of the question. The Celtics have a ridiculous about of money committed to Paul Peirce, KG, and Ray Ray. Since Rondo knows that he is one of the best up and coming PGs in the league (and he's already got a ring) why is he going to take a hometown discount just cause old man KG has to rack up close over $200 million in career earnings. If I am Rondo (or Rondo's agent), the only words that the Celtics would hear out of my mouth is, PAY ME! PAY ME LIKE YOU PAY THE SENIOR CITIZENS ON THIS TEAM! What is Danny Ainge going to do? He has no leverage on Rondo whatsoever, worst case for Rajon is for him to sign a 1 year qualifer and hit the open market (when the Celtics may not get anything at all for him).

So here is where I think BC could make yet another bold move. If he steps up after the season, assuming that Bosh gets traded or walks, and offers to sign Rajon to a max deal, why wouldn't the Celtics be willing to take Jose (or Jarret Jack) back instead of losing Rondo for nothing. Now to execute this type of coup, BC would have to offer Rondo Brandon Roy-type money, which means something in the ranage of 5 years for $66 million. I would do it because Rondo is the type of PG that would completely change the makeup of the Raptors. He would be able to prevent unchallenged lane penetration that our beloved Matador Jose likes to to give up, and if you pair a drive and kick PG like Rondo with Andrea and Hedo, the Raptors half court gets very dangerous. As an addeded bonus, Rondo and Derozan would be monsters on the break.

I know, I know, Rajon Rondo as a Raptors is a completely ridiculous thought, but next off season (if Bosh doesn't re-sgin) is a one that is full of possibilities for the Raptors. Let's all try to look at all of the angles.

Friday, October 9, 2009

We FINALLY Get to See the New Guys Play!

The summer has finally ended, and Raptors basketball is back! You can paint me every shade of excited right now.

This isn't my official season outlook post since we are only 2 preseason games in, and I still haven't had the chance to actually watch Hedo and Bosh play. I'll be posting every couple of preseason games as we get a better understanding of how the Raptors training camp battles shake out.

For now, here are my VERY early impressions of how the Raptors have done so far:

1) Andrea Bragnani seems to be building on last season

Andrea Bargnani is without question the best Raptor out there right now. I don’t know if this makes me very afraid or very excited, but I do know it’s good to see that he doesn’t look completely lost on the court anymore.

I have really liked how he has taken advantage of Sammy D’s over eager defense in the first 2 games, and really attacked the basket off his mid range pump fake. Barney also looks like he is making quicker decisions with his passing, and he isn’t in love with the 3 ball anymore. I am very impressed with the way he is playing so far into the preseason.

2) Jose’s defense is still atrocious.

Apparently, Jose took the summer off to rest his body to get ready for the season. I think this story was a lie to coverup Jose’s secret training as a matador. It’s the only reason I can think of to explain how Lou Williams has torched Jose over the last 2 games. I mean, Jose isn’t even close to stopping Williams off the bounce. I am hoping that this is more a product of Sweet Lou’s skills rather than Jose being more pylon-like then I suspected. I blamed his poor defense on his injury woes last year, but I am worried that he really is this bad.

3) Where’s Demar?

I went out and bought this guy’s jersey the day after the Raptors drafted him! What the hell, he’s been almost invisible the last 2 games. Right now, I am going to chalk it up to a rookie trying to get his sea legs, but I am really hoping he starts to assert himself more. I don’t want to be too harsh, so there were a few nice things that I saw out of Double D. I especially liked the one handed tomahawk over Sammy D off the break, but Demar has to be more aggressive in traffic!

4) Reggie Evans has to stop shooting!

I have loved to watch Reggie’s hustle the last couple of games. His ability to get after loose balls and generate steals is definitely something NONE of us have seen around these parts since, well, never. However, Reggie’s gotta stop trying to be actually score after he gets the ball. I have always been a big believer that players should go up with the rock when they are close to the basket, even if it is just to draw a foul, but in Reggie’s case, every time he takes a shot, it’s like a turnover. I really hope this is Reggie thinking that it’s preseason, so he has to get all of his offense out now because once the season starts, he better not be hoisting up any ugly jump hooks!

I am going to hold off on comments about Marco since I want to see him off the bench rather than as a starter. As for Sonny Weems and a few of the other the end of benchers, I need to get a better understanding of where they will fit in overall before I start to make any definitive decisions.

The season officially starts in 3 weeks, so I really hope we start to see Bosh and Hedo start to run with the starters. With this many new guys in the starting lineup, practice time together will be key!

My Views from Above the Tunnell series will be back this year as well. As you can all tell, I am super excited for the season!!!!!!!!

The Hedo Signing Just Got Better

Looks like the trade will officially be a 4 way S&T with Dallas, Orlando, and Memphis. Fermat's got a rule, "If a trade involves Memphis, its probably good for you".

In this case, I think I will have to agree!


If you assume for a second that Jack ends up in TO, then I don't think its a good idea to bring back Delfino (maybe they can work a S&T?). With Wright as the starter at the 2 spot, and Demar coming off the bench, there is no need for another SG in the rotation. The biggest need would be to find a guy to play behind Turk, unless the Raps ran a really tight wing rotation of Hedo, Wright, and Demar (I am not opposed to this at all).

Billy Bee's Got Hedo's Back!

A response to the people who are angry at the Raptors for signing Hedo!

1) I know most of you watched the playoffs this spring, so I don't
know how any of you can say the Magic would have made it to the Finals
without Turk. He was the heart and soul of a Finals team, and that is
kind of "killer" mindset that Toronto has been missing.

2) For the last month I had to listen to how Steph Curry should be the choice for the Raps because of his college production, bball IQ, shooting ability, and that is lack of athleticism wasn't an issue because he was a "good enough" athlete. Well isn't Turk a bigger better version of Steph Curry? He's 30, the exact same age as
Marion! At the end of contract, he'll be 36 not 96.

3) Turk's game isn't based on explosive athleticism, so it can age well.

4) Marion turned down a 5 year $30 million earlier in the day. The
Raps had to make a move, so they wouldn't be left holding their nuts
since Matrix was leaving. Also, 35 year old Turk is going to a
billion times better than 36 year Matrix.

5) The Raps did not overpay for Turk, the Blazers set the market, and
the Raps just matched it. This is completely different than the
Alvin, Antonio, JYD contracts because NO ONE else would have given
those guys that kind of money and years.

All I am saying is to give this move a chance!