Off the Wall with the Raptors

October 12, 2009

by Gerald Flemming… I’ve been awake all night and am crazy-high on caffeine and infomercials. And as I was drifting in that infinite space between sleep and buying a juicer, all these very strange thoughts came to me. So I scrambled as fast as I could, tripping over the large plaster bust of Raptor Elvis, and just started tip tap typing away

…my psycho predictions for the Raptors in 09-10:

1) This team will go 0-82. Jay Triano will become the new zen master of the NBA and will instill in his guys that winning just isn’t important. There will be prayer chanting and a lot of incense burning, a drum circle, and all the cheerleaders will be dressed up like hot hippie chicks.

2) Bosh’s obsession with technology will pay off in a big way as he sneaks off mid-season to an underground laboratory and has himself cloned. Then, the next year, he signs three max contracts; playing for the Raptors, Lebron’s Knicks and with Dwayne Wade in Chicago. This ends up in the best seven-game series the east has ever seen…with the Raptors watching on the sidelines.

3) Demar Derozan breaks both his legs…as he becomes the first NBA player to jump right over the backboard and in to the crowd.

4) The Raptors Mascot finally snaps.

While trying to get the lifeless suits in the first ten rows to look up from their Blackberry’s, he pulls out two big cans of mace and starts spraying everybody.  Afterwards in jail, he repents and devotes his life to charity and the Michael Crichton Home for Wayward Dinosaurs.

5) In the middle of a game with the Celtics, Garnett tries to chump Bargnani with a dirty foul, releasing the inner Italian in him. He grabs Garnett and gives him a big kiss on both cheeks. Garnett then shows him the gracious American way by punching him in the face. They’re both issued techs.

6) All of a sudden Calderon’s pin point passes start hitting another level. He starts bouncing the ball off of opposing players heads into the waiting hands of his compadres.  Everybody is amazed…until he does it one time at the free throw line and it goes in.  Again, he’s issued a tech.

7) Hedo Turkoglu starts taking the reference to him being the Turkish Jordan a little too seriously. He tries one game, to dunk it from the free throw line…and he looks a little sheepish when he lands and realizes he’s only about two feet past it.

8) ESPN finally starts covering some Raptors games when Colangelo convinces Triano to put in a few Globetrotters tricks during the game…

9) The Raptors Merch department goes a little over board with Raptors Condoms. With the unfortunate slogan, “Dunk a few today!”

10) Colangelo gets his $4,000 check from Obama, after trading in last years clunkers for cash.

Yep, that’s pretty much it. I think, maybe I should sleep a bit before I actually, you know, talk to anybody.

I have this weird ringing in my ear…

Raptors Ninth? Where’s the Red and White Love?

September 24, 2009

by Gerald Flemming… The trolling experts have weighed in over at

They’ve all consulted their tea leaves, grabbed their balls (crystal, that is), and had a one on one confessional with their psychics (aka bookies), and after all of that we have the list of Eastern Conference predictions.

1) Cleveland Cavaliers 2) Boston Celtics 3) Orlando Magic 4) Atlanta Hawks 5) Miami Heat 6) Chicago Bulls 7) Philadelphia 76′ers 8) Washington Wizards  9) Toronto (WTF?) Raptors 10) Detroit Pistons 11) Charlotte Bobcats 12) Indiana Pacers 13) New York Knicks 14) Milwaukee Bucks 15) New Jersey Nets

There it is. The steaming pile of p-p-predictions from the cornerstone of sports journalism.

There are screams from all over the blogosphere about these, from all different sources and all different teams.

The Magic fans feel dissed because they feel they got better this year, (and they did) and there’s still no love for them.

Washington fans think that they will be better this year.  Everybody thinks their team is a little bit better than it’s showing here…except of course for the faithful in Cleveland who are planning the parade as we speak.

I am here to rant as a Raptors fan. And to point out a few of the concerns I have with the math that they seemed to be doing with their broken crayons over at ESPN.

9th…Ninth…NINTH?!!!!!  Are you freaking kidding me?!  (shot of oxygen from tank). That’s better.

Ninth? Really. A team that got markedly better at every single position, including the depth positions.

Ninth. In a year where our franchise player is entering his contract year.

Ninth. You say were only going to win six more games then last year regardless of the fact that last year we had no bench, our ONE point guard was injured for three quarters of the season, and our star player was embroiled in a controversy which took his head completely out of the game.  Ninth…really?!!!

According to the tiny pole (intentional sp.) of ESPN experts, the Raptors will only win 39 games.

So apparently two time Executive of the Year Bryan Colangelo worked his butt off this summer for naught. Apparently grabbing two starters from other teams to come off our bench, including a point guard who put up career numbers last year after only starting for part of the season…apparently that might be worth an extra game.

Add in the fact that they might have gotten one of the big steals of the draft in Derozan, who could be ranked as high as fourth in this draft class. That might only be worth an extra half a game.

And it’s Chris Bosh’s contract year where he’s added about seven pounds of solid muscle, and is working harder than he ever has in the offseason.  Let’s give you a game for that. After all he was the go to big man over Howard on the Olympic team receiving kudo’s from coach K, Kobe, Lebron, and Wade as being essential to the cause.

But hey, that’s just an Olympic Gold Medal, it’s not real basketball. It’s more like an EA sports video game. So let’s toss, oh, maybe two games on the pile for that.

Bellineli who was used and abused by Nelly over in GS, a team known for destroying more rookies than drugs and fast woman combined. We got Bellinelli for Devean George, a player they’re probably going to have to build wheelchair accessible ramps in the dressing room for.

Well hell ESPN, let’s throw another half a game on the pile!

Isn’t this fun! I’ll have another Xanax please!

Let’s talk about the front court, where we added depth that the Raptors just didn’t have before.

Nesterovic, Evans, Johnson…all three of these guys are quality bench guys with Johnson being the x-factor. He could end up being a real steal considering that we got him by trading a player who had become completely redundant after Marco got here.

So we get toughness and rebounding with Evans and we get experience and IQ from Rasho. Hell, you know what, ESPN all popped happy pills with this one so they gave us another half a game for that.

And the last one here that I’m going to mention is the signing of Turkoglu. That was an ugly process which left a bad taste in the mouths of most of the West Coast. How could any non-alien choose Toronto over a vastly superior AMERICAN city.

I mean do they even have flush toilets up there? I hear they have one TV station that plays bad sitcoms and news all day. It’s like Russia, that way. Oh my God, THEY’RE COMMUNISTS!

Well…that Hedo, I mean sure he was one of the main pieces of the team that almost won it all last year.  Sure he has an IQ off the charts and can play the rarest of all NBA positions, point forward.

Sure he has an excellent three point shot that for some reason gets even more accurate when the game is on the line. But there has to be something wrong with him if he is going to choose that god-forsaken place, so we’ll begrudgingly give them one more game for that.

There, six more wins. I guess they’re right. It’ll be another season filled with hope that gets dashed before the year even begins, regardless of the fact they’ve never been very accurate at predicting where the Raptors will finish.

Exqueese me? What did you say? In the 15 year history of the team, they’ve rarely been accurate with the Raps. They’ve been close. Last year was one of the first years they actually thought the team would do better than it did.

And I think this list is just…what did you call that when you were a kid? Oh yeah, a makeup. That’s it.

You see, deep down they know the Raps are going to hit the playoffs (unless they all contract swine flu and we have to put the coaches out to play), but there is just too many ways that they consciously and unconsciously undermine their own opinions before they even set pen to paper.

Let me state this before I finish…every single one of them over at ESPN knows exponentially more about basketball than I do.

And if that’s the case, how can I write this article, and cling to these opinions so vehemently? Because I see something that they refuse to see—a bias that’s based on an ethnocentric point of view.

It skews what they know, and doesn’t allow them to render anything approaching a reasonable and objective opinion.

Could I be accused of the same thing? Could my opinions be skewed and biased?  Absolutely, but I’m a fan. THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO BE! Hello? McFly?!

So I guess I’ll write another article at the end of the season, where I either say…

“Hah, I told you so you liquid-lunch-swilling, basket-weaving-minor in college wannabes!”

Or I will respectfully apologize and climb back under my rock.

Either way, I can’t wait for this season to begin. It just got a whole lot more interesting.

Colangelo’s Cure For The Neurotic Raptors Fan

August 23, 2009

by Gerald Flemming… As Toronto Raptor fans we hope for the best and expect the worst. It’s almost as if the stench and neurosis of being a Maple Leaf’s fan has permeated our blessed hardwood.

The last serious taste of success we’ve had as T.O. sports fans was when the Blue Jay’s were unstoppable at the beginning of the nineties. Since then, we have been lied to, cheated, mistreated and have basically become the victims in a country song.

We’ve become the b*tchy chick at the bar who treats guys like crap and then complains to her girlfriends about how crappy guys are. We fall for silly promises and at the end of the season we wonder why we’re staring at ourselves in the mirror with smeared eyeliner and a f*cking bus ticket.

And every GM that comes along…we pray he’s different. We take the smooth talk and the magic show.  We look at the shiny new whatever and believe the hype. We’ve been naive and now we’re cynical.  We’ve been “gee golly,” and now “we’re what have you done for me lately…”

I just read the scrambled mess of an article over at Raptors Republic about not knowing what this team will be. Are they bad or good? Are they going to do it or not going to do it?

To me these are useless questions. Good questions are, are we being lied to? Are we being sold a bunch of hype? Did this guy Colangelo do everything that was humanly possible to make this team a winner?

What we need to know is that Colangelo is the real deal…RELAX!! He is.


This is the dude. The hombre. The gunslinger. The guy who, when he messes up, fixes things because it’s his mission.

Did you ever see his face during a Raptors loss last year? It was like this grim darkness was invading him. You expected him to punch the next cheerleader he saw. This guy takes losing personally. This guy doesn’t shy away from the criticism. This guy walks his talk and will try anything to make us better…

Not only is he trying, he did it. Bench sucks? Welcome to a deep bench. No athleticism? Boom here’s athletic players. Soft? Tougher.

Rebounding? Well all right, that’s still a work in progress, but it’s certainly better.

The reason we have no idea whether this team is going to be great is because it’s based on a relatively new basketball paradigm that is still being worked out. The “everybody can play multiple positions, pass and shoot” model.

We saw the 2.0 version of this in Phoenix. You could argue that we saw the 1.0 version of this on Turks first team, the Sacramento Kings.

Again a team that wasn’t very athletic, but could spread the floor with great shooters.  Had big men who could pass the ball extremely well. Defensively challenged. Not a great rebounding team. But they were a match up nightmare for any and all teams.

And if Chris Webber hadn’t gone down with his knee at the beginning of that last playoff run…sigh…

In business, the people with the greatest successes are the people that make the biggest mistakes, learn and then fix them.

Remember the Jordan commercial where he missed this many shots, and that many game winners, he did this wrong and that wrong and that’s why he was who he was. I believe Colangelo has that kind of drive and that kind of integrity.

The four-team trade he pulled off this season had the finesse and unparalleled fire of a Jordan dunk from the free throw line.

We are a work in progress and it’s time to be patient again T.O. sports fans. We were a lottery team last year and this year we are projected in to the playoffs as high as fourth, and that you have to lay at Colangelo’s feet.

Remember, it’s the Leafs that haven’t won a Stanley Cup in 50 years, not the Raptors.  And how many Leaf articles have you read in the last few years saying that they want their own Colangelo?

Gobsmacked: What If Your Team Ends Up Sucking?

August 18, 2009

by Gerald Flemming… Your GM has shored up the bench. He’s traded for that potential All-Star and gotten the okie dokie from the ESPN Gods. Life couldn’t be better.  Right?

And in the light of day you throw down every gauntlet you can.  Somebody questions any of those moves you call the upstart an idiot.  You ask questions about what their Mother bred with to make them, or whether they were dropped on their head during the All-Star Game.

You say that not only is your team going break the Bulls record, each member of your team is actually getting invited to MJ’s house for beer and cookies. But they aren’t listening.  They keep trying to make you look at some far fetched bit of minute detail.  Blah blah this and blah blah that.

The rhetoric gets vitriolic, spitting bile with the comments flying back and forth.  It’s a competition to see who can use more exclamation marks.  You can’t wait to jump on every ridiculous and unfounded thing that idiot says because…

…everything they’re saying is your greatest fear.

We don’t want to hear it, but there is no team in the NBA that couldn’t suck this year.  And by suck I mean play far below expectation.  The Lakers look good to repeat this year, but do they even get past the first round of the playoffs without Kobe?  I dare say not.  They are one meniscus tear, or hamstring hernia (I don’t know) away from possibly not even making the post season.  (You could argue that they’d still sneak in with everything they have).

Balance of power is indeed a delicate thing.  But you wouldn’t know it right now with how people are talking about their teams.  I’ve seen more one-eyed, faith over fact predictions this last month because…well, it is after all, the crazy season.  That all encompassing, mind numbing silence before the storm.  It’s almost like we all believe that before the actual sweat and blood is spilled, that a little mindless optimism couldn’t hurt.

Any time I feel tempted to do that, I remember times when I did that and brought on bad b-ball Karma.  That’s right!  Like last year when my Raps looked good and because I got on some kind of high horse and screamed from Mount Olympus…”FROM THE POWER OF GREYSKULL I COMMAND YOU!!!”, that Death from that Family Guy show came out and kicked Jermaine O’Neal, Jose Calderon and CB4 in their collective Basketball jewels and we sucked!

Now I’m not saying that the Raps were expected to be great last year, but everybody thought the front court of O’Neal and Bosh would dominate.  So much so that our front office gutted the bench.  Yeah, that was a good idea.  I mean it’s not like anybody gets hurt in this game.  A little iodine and a Holly Hobby band aid and you can shove them right back on the floor.

So, there it is, it’s my fault that the Raps sucked so bad last year.  It was me burning up the phone lines telling my Dad that they were gonna make some noise in the playoffs.  They finally had someone that could bang with the bigger centers in the league.  And with Bargnani playing a little three, they would be the match up nightmare no team could contend with.  Man, it was like calling Mother Nature a b*tch and then wondering why my house got smashed by a tornado.

So knowing this, I make a plea to all of you huge homers out there (and you know who you are).  Stop now! While you still can!  Don’t be the reason that your team engenders a string of bizarre and unrelated accidents.

Don’t be the mouthy fool that causes Dwight Howard to trip and lose an eye on a little girls ice cream cone.

Don’t be the squealy dude who causes Paul Pierce’s headband to catch on a nail, giving him a lobotomy.

Or the girl who gets Kobe caught by his wife with the whole cheerleading squad.  She borrows the Slap Chop from Vincent Shlomi and…you just don’t want to know.

I’m begging you.  Stop now, before it’s too late.  Don’t be like me.  The guy who walks around his own city with a tightly drawn hoodie, hoping that nobody sees me and dribble penetrates me with a knife in the alleyway.

But you know, I still got to say, the Raps are looking pretty sweet this year.  Oh yeah, baby!

Fool’s Gold: NBA GMs Should Beware of Inflated Stats

August 5, 2009

by Gerald Flemming… Deadly daggers from beyond the arc.  Good hands in the lane with a baby hook that swishes the twine.  Ankle breaking dribble drives from a man that leaves the boy behind. Posterizing dunks that seem to come from the free throw line, stepping on the faces of the other team on the way to the basket.  The perfectly timed swat from the hands of a defensive Ninja, complete with the Mutumbo finger wag!!

Ah yes, contract year.  The year when most of the middling talents put it all together for one crazy run at the big check.  Getting Paid!!  Who knew money could make mere mortals TEMPORARY Gods.

We’ve all heard the stories of the devoted mothers who are in a horrible car accident.  The only thing you can hear above the flames is the sound of her baby crying.  She instantly turns in to the She-Hulk and somehow flips the car over and gets her baby out.

Except in the NBA the baby is an eight figure contract.  Enough money to set up their next 10 generations with diamond encrusted toilet seats and the latest TV laden Ferrari.

As we all sit here and imagine the worst excesses of an episode of MTV’s CRIBS, let’s ponder for a few seconds what can make players themselves, fool’s gold. The player who guilds our imagination with what could be but never will be.

Sometimes players are living off the benefits of being in the right system at the right time.

There must be a secret hate for players like Steve Nash.  He’s so good at making other players look good, (Quentin Richardson, Shawn Marion) that he sets other GM’s up. Both of those players never came close to the stats they had in Phoenix, but they both got paid like they did.

Other times a player is acutely aware of the contract year and puts in an incredible amount of work in that one offseason.

Mike James when he played for the Raps put up 20 points and seven assists, the year he manned the point.  The Raps GM smelled the fool’s gold, and let him sign big somewhere else.

He never touched those numbers again, and has become arguably a mediocre second string point. Yeah, living in a beautiful mansion and set up for life. Did you see the episode of NANNY 911, with the James family?  Yeah, whatever.  My wife made me watch it!!

A lot of people are saying that Ariza could be that player this year.  The guy who looked so good in the post season that he parlayed it in to a sweet contract.

Did he really give us a glimpse on the biggest stage in the world about the hidden potential that he possesses? Or did he just have a great few weeks, benefiting from being way open by playing next to the most dominant offensive force in the game today? What happens when defenses zone in a little tighter on his corner threes, or can body up on him better for those dribble drives?

Is Ariza moving to Houston right now, giggling to himself, acutely aware of the theft he pulled off?  Is he crapping his drawers afraid of being subjected to expectations that he has no hope in hell of fulfilling?  Or is he believing his own press and thinking, yeah I got this?  Maybe he does, but his future remains unwritten.

Every time a GM acquires a player, he’s throwing himself at the mercy of the fates.  He’s a professional high stakes gambler.  Just look at the Buss/Odom situation.  Each of them staring over their cards, cigar clenched tightly between their teeth.  Trash talking through the smoke.  Both of them bluffing each other over multi-million dollar pots.

And you get a sense that when Buss went all in, he got up from the table and walked away because he knew that he had Odom right where he wanted him.

Could Odom be a bad bet?  Probably not.

He’s a proven, multi-dimensional player who has a rare collection of skills and athleticism.  No history of major injuries…but you know that Buss is still praying to whatever God he believes in, that when all the chips fall, and he throws it all on the table next fall, that he’s not the ring-less guy left holding the bag of fool’s gold.

Because the only shine that matters to real men, players and GMs alike, is from the gold in that trophy, and the gold in those rings.

The Best And Worst The Toronto Raptors Could Be

August 4, 2009

by Gerald Flemming… Like a new strain of disease, or biological warfare, the GM’s in the off season are trying to concoct the deadliest Basketball weapon known to man. All of these Basketball scientists stare at the photos, watch the tapes, consult with their teams, see who else they can add that will bolster the sheer killing power of their lineups.

I’m watching the fandom from some teams that are doomed to the bottom fifteen.  They’re screaming at the walls because their GM’s seem like they are in a South Island somewhere getting greased down by beautiful almond-eyed women.

Maybe occasionally checking their pagers to make sure that their TiVo is still recording the summer reruns that they missed during the season.

The scribes and fans that line the streets in these cities are getting angry. Some of this animosity that I’m seeing is channeled towards the Raps. Some of it is obvious jealousy because MyColangelo, is taking a finger painting and turning it in to the Sistine Chapel (not really but I couldn’t resist the metaphor).

The truth being that he has created some really interesting things out of thin air, and people are noticing.

Almost every article I read is screaming at their own monitor about how the Raps will suck because they have to suck…because they’re CANADIAN! That’s part of it. And the fact that a lot of the Raptors players are European in origin.

“Those damn Europeans are soft, and they make the Raptors softer.” Don’t get me wrong, some of these articles make very valid arguments about how the Raps have been a defensively deficient squad ever since the yawning year of Kevin O’Neill (let’s never do that again).

They very validly point out that a lot of the Raptors players aren’t very athletic, and don’t spend enough time attacking the basket. They point out that for the lion share of last season, Calderon couldn’t have defended against a girl scout pulling a wagon of cookies, because he had the lateral quicks of Roseanne Barr.

You can hear their microscope focusing purely on the Negative potential of the team.  Every now and then they will begrudgingly give some ho hum credit to Bosh. But never leave that point before stating they think he’s overrated. And then two sentences later talk with baited breath about how Bosh will leave Toronto for their team next year.

The Raps will be better next season.  But how much better.


Chemistry Meltdown

Regardless of the fact that Colangelo has gone out of his way to construct a team of solid citizens, it’s always a crap shoot to see who will get on board and constructively contribute to the identity of what’s being created.

Does Jarret Jack decide in his heart before he gets here that he wants to supplant Calderon in the starting line up?  Maybe Bosh has made up his mind that he will test free agency next summer and worries only about his personal stats, creating a culture of resentment on the court. How will rookie Derozan find himself, not being the offensive center piece of a team?

There are a lot of scenarios where meltdowns become inevitable.  Like any team that is creatively restructuring itself.


Calderon’s hamstring.  Bosh’s knee.  Bargnani, Turkoglu…anybody can go down in a single moment changing the momentum of a season. Again, just like any other team out there.

The Raps will be far more capable to withstand those injuries because the bench is so much deeper this year. Last year the bench was a bit of a farce, particularly at point guard(arguably the most important position on the floor).

But if we have a reoccurence of last year, where we lost our big three for extended time then regardless of the depth we’re fighting for eighth, with some of the teams that didn’t do much this off season.

And Bosh leaves…and the suicide watch begins.


Pure Chemistry

Jack and Bosh played and roomed together for a year in college and are great friends.  Bargnani and Bellinelli have played together for four or five years on the Team Italia.

Turkoglu is a glue guy who seems to define himself by his high IQ and ability to make everybody better on the floor. Rasho has lived and played here before and will find his role comfortable as a back up defensive center and teacher of Bargs.

Triano, after being the great facilitator of chemistry for the young bucks of team USA, brings a little of that home. He plugs into what he has and tempers his vision accordingly. With his unbeatable knowledge of the international game, getting the most out of those players should be easy.


If this team is lucky enough to stay healthy for a large part of the season then they have a real chance of developing an identity which could create nightmare scenarios for other teams. I just look at all the match ups this team can throw out there. It becomes a very versatile series of weapons because of that.


Toughness, and hungry competitive drive. The Raps have become the nice guys of the NBA. Oh please come in to our building and kick our asses. Then we’ll laugh about it and get a drink later.

I want to see a team that takes losing personally. Who has they’re collective eye on the prize. Who spends a little less time shaking hands and hugging and a little more time incurring the occasional technical because they knocked somebody out of the paint.  Not dirty plays, but hard plays. Get Don Cherry in there for a practice or two (not really).

A team that hasn’t played together needs to develop a playoff mentality on the fly.  They need to risk the fouls by playing with a playoff intensity during different parts of the regular season. There’s no way this team will just be able to turn on that type of intensity during the playoffs. It will not happen.

They need a few of those scramble for the ball, Sam Mitchell exercises, where the occasional bloody lip and swollen eye happens while grabbing a rebound. Ah, rebounds, those would be nice.

If they can exhibit that kind of toughness, they will surprise a lot of teams that will expect the exact opposite.

Colangelo has done a masterful job of resurrecting this teams potential. But as the great sports guru Forest Gump once said, “Potential is, as potential does.”

I agree with a lot of the points that the critics have with the new Raps. I also think that some of the time they are choosing to be cynically myopic. Deciding that a statistic is a defining characteristic of a player without applying any context whatsoever.

And their glass half empty analysis can sound like weird, culturally-based spilled milk.