By James Borbath…
Hello T.O Sports it has been a long time. There seems to be lots more
folks writing about basketball here. That is great the more people talking basketball the better in my view. I write on the Raptor daily in the Dino Nation Blog part of The Score Sports Federation in case you forgot? So much for the re-introduction of myself. So let’s get to it.
This was going to be a big summer for the Toronto Raptors. It was also going to be a big summer for Bryan Colangelo. The first thing to decide was who would coach this team. It was not much of a surprise that Jay
Triano was named the head coach. Equally not shocking was the announcement
that Mark Ivaroni would join the staff. Alvin Williams would also get a
job with the staff and that was something that will warm most Raptor fan
hearts. Alvin played with much heart in his playing career as a Raptor
and tough as nails too. Late in the season Williams would make an
appearance at the Air Canada Centre and would get an ovation worthy of a
The next phase of Raptors summer would be the draft. The people’s choice
would end up being the Raptors as well was Demar DeRozan. In the end when
pick #9 came up DeRozan was there. I was live blogging the draft on The
Score.com and the Live Blog went NUTS!!! Prior to the draft there was some
talk DeRozan may not have wanted to come to Canada or workout for the
Raptors. But these stories would be shot down when DeRozan did show up to
work out and since. I had talked to both Justin Walsh of Slam Magazine who
has interviewed DeRozan several times and Holly Mackenzie who covered both
Demar’s workout in T.O and was at the draft covering it for The Score.
They both tell me how great a kid he is. Also that he really and truly
likes Toronto. Referring to it as a mini-NYC.
DeRozan as of right now could be the starting shooting guard for the
Raptors. He has drawn comparisons to Vince Carter in terms of his athletic
abilities. When he tweeted from @demar_derozan- Air Canada is back. Well
that would only add to the comparison. Derozan was a fan of Carter and
followed him in his time in Toronto. He also has another T.O connection
from USC. He played ball with Lil Romeo who is the son of Master P. You
might remember that Percey Miller was giving a tryout by the Raps one
pre-season. It was more publicity stunt than anything. But it was
something Miller has never forgotten and has warm fuzzy feelings towards
So what would the Raptors do when Free Agency came. Shawn Marion, Anthony
Parker, Joey Graham and Pops Mensah-Bonsu were all free agents to be dealt
with. But the Raptors seemed to have looked elsewhere first. They would
first target Trevor Ariza. The Raps were rumored to offer more than 9
million more than the Houston Rockets were Ariza would sign. I found this
to be disturbing to me Ariza would have been my first choice to sign if I
was the Raptors. But the old things about players not wanting to play in
Canada rears it’s ugly head again. It is something that just never seems
to die. I feel the Raptor MUST find a way to get past this.
Bryan Colangelo has always had a plan B that he has used to mixed results.
That is look to Euro talent and Euro based players. That is why Hedo
Turkoglu and the Raptors had been linked together from the beginning of
free agency. A trade for Vince Carter (Remember him? ) on draft day to the
Magic mad it clear Hedo was on his way out of Disney World. When the
market would get rolling it was clear that there was 2 front runners for
Hedo. Portland and Toronto. It was said at first that Turkoglu had signed
with Portland for 5 years and 50 million. But after a chat with his wife
he would re-consider and sign with the Raptors. There was a rumor that it
was for 60 million but as the smoke cleared the deal was for 53 million
dollars. The Raptors to make this deal happen would have renounce all the
players above in Marion, Parker and the rest. Along with the restricted
free agent rights to Carlos Delfino. Who left the Raptors for a big money
contract in Europe.
The Raptors have basically but all there eggs in Hedo’s basket. He is a
good player and if you watched the finals and playoffs leading up to them
you already know that. But at the age of 30 on a 5 year deal is troubling.
What is also troubling as well is the fact the Raptors had to give up so
much to make this happen. The in addition to all that has already been
mentioned will more than likely have to forfeit their Mid Level Exception.
Only way they don’t is if they can work out some sign and trade deal for
Shawn Marion that would need to involve the Magic. Seems remote at best.
These leaves the Raptors with some serious questions of depth. Not unlike
the spot they faced last year with the O’Neal trade. What they are
banking on is that free agents will fall through the cracks and they sign
players to Vet Minimum contracts. They also might have a few options on
the summer league roster in Smush Parker, Brent Petway and Canadian Carl
English. But it really leaves you nervous after the train wreck that was
I am willing to wait to pass final judgment on the final product. That is
something we all must do or at least should do. But from what we know so
far it has not made me optimistic. When you consider what other teams have
done I don’t think the Raptors can be thought of as a contender. A playoff
team in range of 5-8 is possible. But is that good enough?
Because of course there in the Raptors Ultimate Question of this
off-season. Chris Bosh!!! Colangelo has seemed to been doing all he can to
keep his superstar. Bosh would confirm his intention to opt out of his
current deal at the end of this upcoming season. But he has never ruled
Toronto out as far as a place he would sign. He also has at least
suggested he will be looking for a max deal. Can the Raptors come to some
kind of place where they can feel confident they can resign Bosh. Do they
think he is worth Max Money? Good questions but we don’t know the answers.
Colangelo in spite of a firestorm of speculation has said the plan is to
keep Bosh. Not going as far as saying he will not even listen to offers
but that he was not out shopping his superstar.
Speaking off Bosh if the goal was and is to make Bosh happy by this
signing by his comments on Twitter seems clear the Raptors accomplished
that goal. It is going to be an on going drama that will hang over this
season until Bosh were to state he is going to resign with Toronto which
is not going to happen during the season unless something changes
drastically. If this move works the chances to keep Bosh increase greatly.
If this blows up like J.O deal did the Raptors may be on the path to
losing the 3rd face of the franchise with no obvious 4 th one in place. It
all makes for a real restless summer and fall for Raptors fan. Oh and just
in closing there have been several references to Twitter you can follow me
on there @dinonationblog,.
I will say this if the Bosh situation goes bad not only will be Bosh be
gone I could see Colangelo being not that far behind be it if he walks
away on his own or MLSE were to let him go. It would be more likely the
former than the ladder. I believe on Colangelo’s deal has 2 more years
beyond next season. Don’t quote me on that but I think it is right. The 15
th season of Raptors basketball seems to be the most important of all.
Check out James at his blog, yes I’m talking about Dino Nation Blog
by James Borbath…
With the Raptors struggling midway through the season, it’s time to take a look at some of the changes on the horizon.
Perhaps the team’s biggest concern surrounds Chris Bosh’s contract, which expires after next season. However, unless Bosh whispers in Bryan Colangelo’s ear that he’s leaving, he’ll be staying in Toronto through the end of 2010. That hasn’t happened, allowing Colangelo to shift his focus to a potential Jermaine O’Neal trade, which could allow the team to gain cap space this summer. That scenario would be a smart fallback for the GM, who would get one more chance to rebuild the team and convince Bosh to stay. Though the 2009 free agent class isn’t as hyped as next season’s, there are some players out there that could make a difference for the Raptors. Also, with 2010 looming, other teams may back off and save their money.
Other players that will likely survive moving forward are Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani. Calderon, signed to a five-year deal last summer, is locked in. An injury-plagued first half hasn’t changed Colangelo’s plans to build around him, and he remains one of the East’s top point guards when healthy. Bargnani’s emergence has given the Raptors the option of dealing O’Neal, as he’s finally shown the upside Colangelo envisioned when he made him the top pick in the 2006 draft. He’s here to stay, and the fact that he’s stayed in the starting lineup with O’Neal back proves the team has faith in him.
Another likely change this off-season will be at head coach, as a big second half turnaround is the only thing likely to keep Canada’s Jay Triano at the helm. With seven coaches fired already this season, there will be several looking for jobs this summer. Jeff Van Gundy, Eddie Jordan, Avery Johnson and Marc Iavaroni are names likely to be on Colangelo’s list, with talk he could even look to Europe for the team’s next bench boss.
Two things are likely to happen with the Raptors in coming months — they’ll miss the playoffs and change will ensue. With a decent draft pick and potentially money to spend, Colangelo will have his work cut out for him.
By James Borbath…
There have been a lot of things different this Raptor Season. The team is
sure a lot different on the floor. But the most noticeable change for the
average fan is no more salami and cheese. Chuck Swirsky caught everyone
off guard when Chuck had announced on his own radio show that he was
leaving the Raptors and returning to Chicago to take a job with the Bulls
doing radio broadcasts. When Chuck first came to Toronto he was hired to
do radio broadcast with Jack Armstrong. Both he and Jack would expand from
the radio to move into T.V. Even if you are not a media person it is not
hard to understand people in T.V in general make more money. So, if anyone
thought Chuck left for more money that is not true. The reason he would
give is family reasons and he would not say anything beyond that. It all
seemed strange as Swirsky had become a citizen of Canada in early 2008. In
fact in my first conversation with Matt Devlin who has replaced Chuck with
the Raptors. He had said to me that he figured Chuck would remain here for
a long time and was as surprised as anyone that he made the move to
Raptors fans at the time and since have had various reactions to Chuck
leaving. Some were glad to see him go and had grown tired of his homer
approach to broadcasting games. Others truly loved Chuck and have not been
able to accept that he has left. Some were sad and others felt that they
had been personally screwed. It has been a wide range of emotions for
sure. Matt Devlin meanwhile has been the guy that has had to come in and
replace Chuck or at least do his job. Matt is a very different style
commentator from Chuck and has worked on both a national level for TNT as
well as for organizations in the NBA in Charlotte and Memphis. Some fans
have embraced that change and enjoy Matt’s different style and others miss
the days of Chuck and his salami and cheese and long list of chuckisms. It
is going to be a very strange scene when Chuck Swirsky comes back to
Canada. I have talked with him about it and am going to be having that
interview in the Dino Nation Blog as the game with the Bulls approaches.
Chuck pointed out he is still a Canadian Citizen and he looks forward to
the return to Toronto. In his 10 years in the city no one can deny he
became a big part of the city and a true promoter of the Raptors and
basketball. I did get the sense that he was very much the same person I
use to interview on the radio a long time ago. He is a good person and is
a class act in every way. I never did asked the question that most people
want to know which is why he left. I respect the answer he has given that
it was a family matter. Instead of wondering why he left, Raptor fans who
loved him should just be thankful for the memories they have and move on.
You will still get to see Chuck twice a year and NBA now offers radio
feeds for free if you are in desperate need to hear Chuck do his thing. He
just will be doing it for another team.
The debates over Chuck and Matt I find to be a pointless waste of time. I
have the fortune to have got to know both on a small level. I can state
that both are great people. They are different people and do their job in
a different way. That is the same in all things though. People are
different and that is what makes the world the place it is. Matt Devlin
was aware it would take time for fans to make the transition and he is
truly happy to be here in Toronto with the Raptors. He had family in the
area and has really embraced his new life here in Canada. He has become a
fan of Tim Horton’s coffee and he is doing his best to get to know Raptor
fans. I am glad that a lot of folks have been welcoming to him and given
him a chance to let us get to know him. He is never going to be the same
as Chuck and to his credit he has never tried to be. Chuck also said what
a great person Matt is and that he was an excellent hire for the Raptors
to replace him.
So maybe when folks get the chance to say hello to Chuck on January 14th
when the Bulls and Raptors meet up for the first of 4 games this season it
will allow some closure to all of this. However this is the same city that
still boos Vince and even Tracy McGrady at times so maybe it won’t. Bottom
line of it all is Chuck whatever you think of him as a broadcaster is a
great person and it was nice to talk with him. I have also enjoyed getting
to know Matt and have had fun getting to know him. All I know is both have
been very kind to me and are always willing to reach out to fans and make
time for them. I think that makes them both good people. In a sports world
that sees headlines of people in trouble with the law and all kinds of
other bad things. We need all the good people we can get. So I welcome
Chuck back the same as I would an old player that I liked in his time
here. Matt Bonner, Morris Peterson and for me personally T.J Ford. But I
move on and continue to be a Raptor fan. It is not like if anyone leaves
it is going to change how I feel about the Raptors. Chuck in his time here
made a lot of fans of the Raptors and I hope that is the legacy he left
us. He certainly did his best to do just that.
By James Borbath…
The Raptor season is on the verge of being defined one way or the other. There is lots of talk of trades in the air but many that don’t make a lot of sense. The next move made by Bryan Colangelo will be huge to his reputation with the Raptor fan base. Colangelo once had the full trust and faith of the entire Raptor Fan base. But the days of him being the Raptors Savior have given way to people questioning his every move. This next move will be the one that defines him in the minds of the fans.
So no pressure at all. You also have the star player losing his spell over the Raptor fan base as well. Chris Bosh who is still untouchable according to Colangelo is no longer that to some in the Raptor Fan base. They have let fear of him leaving in 2010 combined with a drop off in his play make it seem he is expendable. The argument is that if Bosh where to leave in 2010 the Raptors would end up with nothing. But that is not exactly true. They would gain a ton of cap room that can be used to find a new star if they are forced to go that route. The truth is that Bosh has not given anyone reason to turn their back on him. He has busted his butt for his entire Raptor Career. It has been a true joy to watch him grow into the player he is today. He is being tested though to lead this team back from
a terrible start.
Colangelo needs to find a way to help his star do that. It is up to him to convince Bosh that he can provide him the support. Together they will need to lead this team back to respectability. Colangelo has not exactly been made to look good by his firing of Sam Mitchell. Jay Triano is a popular move in the sense of he is a Canadian and people are pulling for him to have success. But Colangelo saw what we all did and that was that Mitchell had lost the attention of his team. It is not that Mitchell was as bad a
coach as his detractors would have lead you to believe. But if a coach has lost the attention of his team it is over.
So together Triano and Bosh with the help of Colangelo have to try and save this season from going very wrong. Can they do it? It will not be easy. The Raptors Schedule does not get any easier till March. So this team will face a really tough challenge to remain in the race. One thing is for sure the Raptor Fan base is running out of patience fast and who can blame theme. They were promised a team that would be a contender in the Eastern Conference and what they have got is far from that to this point.
By James Borbath…
The first month of the season may have been the best of Chris Bosh’s
career. You would think that many Raptor fans would be happy about that. But some look at the team’s record and worry that CB4 will be MIA in 2010. The NBA 2010 Arms race, as I referred to it in the blog I write daily, is in high gear. All the talk of Lebron James and heading to New York to
become a Knick. Lebron has done nothing to stop the talk. In fact he is
adding to it with some of his actions. But Chris Bosh has made little to
no mention of 2010. He is focused on getting in the M.V.P conversation and is not concerned about all the 2010 talk. None of us can read the mind of Chris Bosh and know what he is thinking as relates to 2010.
Instead you should focus in on how he is playing right now. Because beyond a couple of efforts against the 2 best teams in the league, Bosh has played fantastic and is in that M.V.P conversation. But to win the award the Raptors around him will have to be much better. Bosh knows that and is trying to do all he can to lead this team. Some have in the past
questioned if Bosh is a franchise player. Well as far as I am concerned
that question has been answered. The question now is to me is Chris Bosh is he among the elite players in the NBA. He played with a lot of those names in the summer for Team U.S.A. Bosh not only proved he belonged in that group but he proved to be a stand out at times. He has a gold medal that he can feel he was a big part of winning.
Bosh now thinks that he belongs in a conversation with guys like Lebron,
Kobe and other league greats like them. I think he does as well. So
instead of focusing in on a free agent period that is 2 years away. I
suggest to you that you are missing out on what is a truly great point in
the career of Chris Bosh. I also think that Chris is not like the guys in
the past that have left Toronto behind. I think Bosh is a guy that
understands he has a good thing in Toronto. I think he feels that he wants to play his career with the same team for his whole career. He is a bit old school in that way. The truth is this is just my views from watching
him through out his career. If I am right or wrong the answer will come in
2010. But I am not going to let that hang over me like a dark cloud and
allow me not to truly be amazed at how good Chris Bosh is playing. I am
humbly saying you should do the same.
Chris Bosh is not thinking about anything beyond how he can make his team and himself a winner. I am truly proud of Chris and see him as a
tremendous person and an example of what a athlete should be. It is Bryan Colangelo’s job to worry about 2010 and I have no doubt he has a plan to keep Chris Bosh here with the Raptors. I have faith that Bosh will remain with the Raptors. Even if you do not agree and think he will be gone it is all the more reason to watch this guy at every chance you can because he is truly special and his number 4 will hang in the rafters of the A.C.C some day I guarantee it.
Dino Nation Blog part of the score sports federation
by James Borbath… Hello T.O Sports. It has been awhile since I have wrote here. But it was for a good reason. The Dino Nation Blog that I write has partnered up with The Score.com’s Sports Federation. So I really was in a spot that I could not let anyone know until this had been made official. But now it has and I am able to write here again. Thanks to T.O Sports for being understanding about all of this. With that bit of news out of the way on to the Raptors.
Seems that the Toronto Raptors have reached a cross road in the season that will ultimately define it. After an off-season that offer a lot of promise that has not exactly turned out after 13 games. The cries of frustrated and angry fans is evident. The boos at the A.C.C after a sub par effort from the Raptors could be heard by everyone. A mood for change of any kind is in the air.
Some people want to see Sam Mitchell fired. Some people want to see a trade made. But what everyone wants in general is better basketball and a team that was like the one that was advertised to be a contender.
So why has it not worked out. Basically every risk that the Raptors took in making the Jermaine O’Neal trade has blown up in the face of Bryan Colangelo. By moving Ford it left a lack of depth at the point guard position. It made the health of Jose Calderon of huge importance. So Jose gets hurt and is still not at 100%. Is back up was suppose to be Will Solomon who was going to hold the job until Roko Ukic was good enough to take his spot. Well aside from a great performance from the Heat he has been a walking turnover machine. It has not been good at all.
J.O and his health were a major concern and on Friday night concern became reality. He tried to go on Sunday and basically gave all he could till he was on the ground on A.C.C floor with nothing left. So now people worry with just cause about if J.O can remain healthy,and if he is going to be able to be the factor he needs to be to help this team.
Chris Bosh based on all that has been going on seems very frustrated. That is going to cause alarm bells ringing that will have everyone worrying about 2010 and if Bosh will remain in Toronto. I tend to think that may not be the concern of most. At the end of the day the contract that offers Bosh the most money is here in Toronto. He is a smart guy and could easily do the same thing Vince Carter did. He can re-sign and if things do not improve in a much more quiet way ask for a trade. That would give Colangelo one last chance to convince Bosh to stay by bringing in another superstar to be along the re-signed Bosh. Maybe D-Wade? There is a case to
be made for it. Bosh and Wade have same agent. They played together on Team U.S.A. Wade even said after the last game vs Toronto he like the direction the Raptors have taken. It is just speculation but there is at least a base to think it could happen.
As for Sam Mitchell he really is in trouble in a lot of ways. While there is speculation about his future it really is unclear what will become of him. Colangelo has to take some of the blame for what is going on. But when is coach can’t draw up an inbound play with 2 chances to get that right it is not good if you are that coach.
Bottom line of it all is the Raptors much like after the injury of T.J
Ford last season, they stand at a cross road for the season. Will they be able to respond after to terrible loses for totally different reasons. Can they take this bad start and some how turn it around? The Cap is pressed right up to the limit and trade options and assets to move are really low. So it may come down to sucking it up and making it happen for this Raptor team. If they do not we may be heading down the road to a very disappointing season that may even make it a challenge to make the playoffs let alone advance. If that happens Sam Mitchell is likely coaching his final season in Toronto. It all makes you just sick inside if you are a Raptor Fan. I feel your pain I really do. The answers are not simple ones and it really is a crushing reality after all the optimism that was in the air heading into the season.
by James Borbath… One of the major themes of our chat tonight I am guessing will be about the high expectations for this Raptor Basketball Team. There is always a big risk attached to that. I take you back to the season after the Toronto Raptors had made it to one Vince Carter shot away from the Conference Finals. The summer that followed saw the Raptors re-sign all of the main players of that team and the addition of Hakeem the Dream. The dream would become a nightmare for the Raptors. They would over pay for guys like Antonio Davis, Jerome Williams and Alvin Williams. An off-season of high expectation turned into a season that was not anything that looked like an Eastern Conference contender.
The Raptors our considered by even outsiders as a contender in the East this year. But the doom that happened the last time around should not happen again. The Raptors our not locked into long term deals with players that could blow up in their face. J.O if health or if not is only under contract till 2010. So if things to not work out the Raptors get a huge amount of cash to be used in what most NBA experts have said will be the key off-season in the NBA. It will have Lebron James, Chris Bosh and many other big names able to hit the free agent market. The fact the Raptors will have money for that time is something that you can feel safe about. So no matter what happens between now and than it will not have that same impact that it did back in the early 2000’s.
If you want to put it in stock market terms. Glen Grundwald took a high risk in the moves he made. Bryan Colangelo has taken a low risk that could hope lead to a high reward in the short term. Grundwald was forced by the team’s success to make long term contracts to players that in retrospect were not wise moves. It was all done in the hopes of keeping the Raptors biggest commodity Vince Carter. The same can be argued about the move to acquire J.O was made in part to give Chris Bosh reason to have faith in management of the Raptors. But the reality is this move does make a statement to no only Bosh but the entire league that the Raptors our indeed players in this NBA as far as doing what it takes to try to win.
But what all this means at the grass roots level of the average fan is that they expect results. So this is a pressure on everyone in the organization to produce results. But understand that what’s happens this season good or bad the Raptors are in a much stronger spot than they were back then. It was a risk worth taking for Bryan Colangelo. The person that is under the most under the gun if anyone is would be Sam Mitchell. This is a team that most reflects the type of team that is a “Sam Mitchell” type team. It will be important that same gets the most out of what Bryan Colangelo called ” The best team on paper since he has been here” so that means Sam needs to bring home results that match that statement.
There’s more James here at his Dino Nation Blog
by James Borbath… The Toronto Raptors head into this season looking very different than the team that lost in 5 games to the Orlando Magic. It was clear to anyone that watched that series that changes were needed and were coming to Toronto. Some of the media suggested that the first change that would come would be the firing of Sam Mitchell. But that was not the case. Bryan Colangelo instead decided to re-build the team that Mitchell had to coach. If anyone questioned that Bryan was behind his head coach it should be a clear message that is the truth. Colangelo has decided to stick with Sam despite a lot of speculation on a couple of occasions.
So, with coach Mitchell remaining the question became how do you address the flaws in this Raptor roster? The answer would be the trade for Jermaine O’Neal. If this move works out it is a pretty brilliant one. This is one of those trades that will be highly successful or a complete failure. There really is no in between. But in the view of Bryan Colangelo it was a risk worth taking. There is also the fall back of having a huge amount of cap space in 2010. Despite what people thought about T.J Ford in Toronto the rest of the NBA did not seem to share that opinion. Five offers according to Colangelo came his way for his unhappy point guard. He said the O’Neal offer was the best of the bunch and he and the Raptors made the move. It would also cost them Rasho Nesterovic and seldom used Maceo Baston and trading down into the second round from the number 17 pick in the 1st round.
Jawai vs Hibbert
This would produce the other gamble of this deal that is not talked about as much. Nathan Jawai instead of Roy Hibbert or someone else the Raptors could have selected at number 17. Jawai is a raw talent from Australia that has about 5 years of experience playing basketball at all. He could turn out to be a steal of the draft. The Raptors historically have had little to no success with picks from the second round. It will be another second round pick that will be the back-up point guard behind Jose Calderon. But as far as Nathan Jawai he will not have the pressure to contribute right away at least not from the Raptors. But the people in Australia have higher expectations for Nathan and most important of all he does for himself. When people look back on this trade how Jawai does in comparison to Roy Hibbert will also be a factor to consider in who won this trade between Pacers and Raptors.
When you compare Hibbert and Jawai it is interesting. Some of the skills people question about Hibbert are strengths in the game of Nathan Jawai. I have no doubt that Roy Hibbert is going to have a productive NBA Career. But based on my own personal opinion and the great amount of research I had done on Hibbert leading up to the draft, I do not think he will ever be a star in the NBA. I also did a tremendous amount of research about Nathan Jawai. Based on that and my own opinion I think there is a chance that Nathan could be something special. You have to take into account how young in his basketball life Jawai is in comparison to Roy Hibbert. In Roy’s time at Georgetown I learned in my research how much he developed in his time there. He is much closer to the max level of what he can be as a basketball player than Nathan Jawai. The gamble that Jawai can become that special player is a small part of the larger gamble that Bryan Colangelo is taking. This is part of this deal that most will overlook but it could be a key to evaluating it in the future.
Can J.O Have A Rebirth In Toronto?
But the thing that will be the focus for most is can Jermaine O’Neal be healthy and productive for the Raptors. He says that he was a man playing on one leg with the Pacers for a year and a half. He says that he is healthy and ready to put the Pacers behind him. The Raptors did their homework and seem to agree that he is indeed healthy and ready to go. There is also the mental aspect of what went on with the Pacers. O’Neal who was the leader of that franchise watch it explode on his watch. The Ron Artest brawl that happened in Detroit was the start of the Pacers fall from grace. A team that was thought to be a contender prior to that night fell from contender to not even in playoffs. The blame for that fell at the feet of O’Neal. In Toronto the buck stops with Chris Bosh and that should be a good thing. O’Neal can focus on helping someone else lead rather than lead himself.
The Reason Why Was D
The whole reason for the gamble that the Raptors have taken is the need to get better on defense. A healthy O’Neal is going to go a long way in doing that. A big body like Nathan Jawai could also impact down the line. Not to mention the star player of the team just won a gold medal and it was based on a new found defensive intensity on his part.
More D = Less O?
The question becomes how much offense have they given up to get better on defense? Jose Calderon no matter what you think can not produce the combined numbers with Roko Ukic that he had with T.J Ford. What Raptors fans can expect from Roko Ukic is a real unknown and that is part of this gamble as well. Jose Calderon is not super human and there will be points that this offense will be in the hands of a player that has not played a single minute in the NBA. A fast learning curve for Roko Ukic is going to be needed. In fact he must out perform what Claderon did as a rookie for the Raptors to feel confident they have their point guard situation on solid ground. The fact people are wondering if a Marbury reunion with both Bryan Colangelo and Sam Mitchell is being talked about says not everyone is convinced in the fan base. The artist formerly known as Starbury is expected to be bought out by the Knicks by the end of the weak. If Colangelo is still in gambling mood that would be a big one. But there has been no indication that the Raptors intend to do anything to it’s roster prior to the opening game vs Sixers.
The real thing that may decide the amount of success on offense is the guys on the wing. A new look on the inside should give more open and easier looks from the outside. This should mean more chances for Jason Kapono and Anthony Parker from the outside. While guys like Jamario Moon and maybe even Joey Graham to drive to the basket. You also have Hassan Adams as part of this group and combo guard Will Solomon. Who ever steps up to the challenge could become a guy that will see his point totals rise. The smart money goes on the shooters in Parker and Kapono. The Raptors Offense should look more like the one Kapono played in with another O’Neal in Miami. While Anthony Parker can have a chance to be a bigger part of the offense to if he steps up to the plate. There is also that Bargnani fellow. He may even play some time at the 3 spot according to Bryan Colangelo. Sam Mitchell was not as willing to say that.
Regardless of where he appears on the floor, this is a key season for perhaps Colangelo’s biggest gamble of all Andrea Bargnani. Jermaine O’Neal said that Bargnani will be a key to this team being successful. He has worked with Andrea a bit in Las Vegas. It seems pretty clear to almost everyone if Andrea Bargnani breaks through this season the Raptors chances at success take a dramatic rise. He is truly the ultimate X-Factor in all of this. He is said to be bigger and worked on some basic post moves to add to his key weapon of long range shooting. After last season I really have no idea what to expect from Andrea. But for those who want to see the positive side of the fence, the pressure to perform should be less on Bargnani. He also will get to see a lot second team units from the Raptors opposition on a consistent basis. These are all good signs for Andrea to rebuild his confidence. That has been a very fragile thing over his first couple seasons in the NBA.
The Health Question
There are a lot of gambles for the Toronto Raptors including the reduced number of bodies. Only 13 players makes you very worried if the injury bug enters into the Raptors this year. A injury to Jose Calderon would be a death blow for this team. For as much as the talk is about the health of O’Neal the health of Calderon will be key. Thankfully Jose has had a fairly good run in the NBA as far as that goes. But the injury in the Olympics at least for me brought the fear that if Jose is not healthy this team is in serious trouble. But that is a bridge we all will hope this team does not have to cross. I am looking forward to seeing how all this looks on a basketball court. That day is fast approaching. CAN’T WAIT!!!
There’s more James here at his Dino Nation Blog
by James Borbath… It is time to face the facts Toronto. Your only legit shot at success is the Toronto Raptors. They are the only franchise that is heading in the right direction. Look around and you to see that it is very true. The Leafs are a joke and are still searching for a new general manager that is Bryan Colangelo like. That must mean Bryan has done a good job if you are looking for his hockey equal. J.P Ricciardi is on his way to getting fired or should be. The Blue Jays have been the classic middle of the pack team doomed to failure. If you want to include the Toronto Argos in the mix they are also a disorganized mess. The QB that was the CFL M.V.P turned into a pumpkin when he put on the double blue. The Raptors have bottomed out and made the changes that were needed to climb out of the whole they had created. They went out and spent the cash to get a high profile and intelligent basketball mind to guide the Raptors. They have had Sam Mitchell as the longest serving coach in this city as well. Sam has his critics but he has managed to win the Coach of the year in his league. When was the last time the Leafs, Blue Jays or even Argos be able to say that? You have a superstar player that is focused on winning and having success in Toronto. Chris Bosh with no Mats Sundin to be found is the clear #1 athlete in Toronto. All of the hockey people can scream and shout all you want the fact is that it is true. Another fact is that it shouldn’t have taken so long. Sundin won nothing in his time with the Leafs. The team he lead were massive under performers. While Bosh has lead the Raptors back to the playoffs. I know this is a concept that has become just a memory for Leaf fans. But that is where the Raptors will be again this season for a 3rd year in a row.
The Raptors have yet to make it out of round one but are now looking to extend their playoff run beyond early May into Late May at least. When you talk playoffs the Toronto Blue Jays can only look back on flashback Fridays to remember what that experience feels like. Toronto Raptors are able to make news and make major moves and take risks with the ultimate goal to be to win a championship. When was the last time you can recall any Toronto Sports Franchise making a solid trade that build towards that goal beyond the Raptors. You only need to look around Major League Baseball to see a number of guys that the Jays gave away or traded away that have went on to have success elsewhere. Toronto Maple Leafs have not made a good trade since the Pat Quinn Era, have they?
Yes I am a basketball guy and as such you can say that I am totally bias. That is cool with me I would even agree with that. But it has been clear to me for a long time that the Toronto Raptors our the only hope for Toronto to have a champion in the future. You can go in to Leaf Nation denial if you choose to do so. But the hard reality is Toronto’s really hope at success is the Toronto Raptors. They are doing the most to attempt to reach that level of being a championship contender. Jermaine O’Neal is a big time name that they brought in to help in that regard. It is a risky move for sure. However the Raptors are willing to take that risk and do what all fans want out of the team they support…TRY TO WIN.
Can anyone convince me that any other team is trying as hard as the Raptors to make it to that Championship level? I highly doubt it. That is why I am a proud fan/journalist of the Toronto Raptors. I can go to sleep at night with the knowledge and belief that the people running and playing for my team are trying hard to win a championship. Can you Leaf Fans, Jays Fans and Argo Fans feel the same way. I don’t envy you trying to have to believe that your team cares as much about winning as you do. So if you have never been a basketball fan or a Raptor fan maybe the time as come that you consider it. We already have a lot of folks on are bandwagon but there is always room for a few more.
There’s more James here at his Dino Nation Blog
by James Borbath… We all have those Ex-Raptors we love and those that we hate. Emotion is the enemy of any good fantasy player. You must leave your feelings at the door be they good or bad. You may in fact think “V.C Sucks” but if he is the best player on your draft board you need to pick him regardless. You may have been on the Jose side of Calderon vs Ford debate. But if T.J is on the board and you need a point guard you may need to take him. Same goes in reverse. Most Raptor Fans love Morris Peterson but you can not turn that love into a selection of him to early in the draft. These are just a few examples of choices you may face in your fantasy draft. So let’s break it down and give you some logic to use instead of that nasty emotion.
Vince Carter: Carter is a very interesting fantasy choice. On the one hand Vince Carter is the lone remaining member of the Nets “Big 3″. From a fantasy perspective you would think this should be a good thing. However as Raptor Fan you do know how Vince has dealt with being the man. Vince will have the chance to increase his numbers but will he take advantage of it? Oh and let’s not forget the fact the Nets are a team that is rebuilding. Anyone that knows Vince’s history has to be very careful if you are going to risk a high pick on him. It comes down to the question of do you believe that Vince Carter has changed and matured from his time in Toronto. If you do he might be worth the pick. If you don’t it is buyer beware. One last thing is the fact Phil Jackson threw Vince under the bus. This may provide motivation for Carter to show Jackson was wrong. But even though all signs may lead you to think Carter could have a big year it is taken away by the track record of the player that tells a much different story.
T.J Ford: I am still a fan of T.J Ford. But the fact I see him having a bounce back year this season is not as much about being a fan as coming to grips with the fact T.J had the worst season of his NBA Career in a lot of ways. So you can expect a better year from T.J Ford. Despite all the injury concerns that come with Ford the truth is the risk of taking Ford remains the same. Medically his condition is the same as it has been. But if T.J can remain safe and avoid hard hits he should be fine and have a very productive season. High assist totals and a improved number of points for Ford should be a lock.
Tracy McGrady: McGrady is highly talented but is always an injury concern. His back may never be good enough to have any confidence in him playing through an entire season. He may also need to play peace maker between Yao Ming and Ron Artest. The good news for T-Mac with Artest coming to Houston will mean a easier defensive assignment on most nights. It could mean a little less wear and tear and more chance to do his thing on offense. But a bad back is always a worry. This is why personally I am not someone who wants to take Tracy in my first round. If you do it is a gamble but one that could pay off. But it also could blow-up in your face.
Marcus Camby: A whole new team for Marcus. He was not exactly thrilled about it. But Camby and what he does and who he is from a fantasy perspective remains the same. If healthy he is one of the best fantasy players in the league. He fills a stat sheet like few players in the game. He has been injured plaqued through his entire career. But last season was one of the better ones for Camby from an injury prospective. The older you get the healthier you are? That goes against logic. This is why I always take a pass on Camby. But if you want to go against the logic and take him it is not a bad move. Even with slight injury concerns throughout the year when he is in your line-up you get a lot of blocks points rebounds steals the whole fantasy package.
Morris Peterson: In his second year with the Hornets Morris Peterson should be a bit better. He had a very slow start last year. But this season he should be feeling more at home as a Hornet. The key is how much of a factor can he be on a New Orleans team with a lot of weapons. Morris Peterson should give you a guy that can shot a decent number of 3’s for a good percentage. But there are a lot of those guys in the NBA these days. A late round guy in any case and someone that may even make his way to wavier wire. Moe can be a guy that gets on streaks and picking him up when he is hot can help you get a few wins along the way in head to head leagues.
Mike James: A one year fantasy stud. With the Raptors and that was about all. The same reasons the Raptors didn’t resign him have proven to be true. Mike James has never produced the numbers he did as a Raptor and I don’t think that changes any time soon. If this was an American Idol draft he is a first round pick. We all remember him rocking the Raptor exit interviews with R Kelly tune ” I believe I Can Fly”.
Rafer Alston: The problem child former street ball star. He has had his issues with the Law and is to unpredictable both on and off the floor to expect much of anything from him. Who knows what will happen with Rafer he once announced in Toronto he was giving up the game altoghter and he is a wildcard not worth the risk.
Rasho Nesterovic: How bout some love for Rasho. He is a excellent pick in the late rounds as a big. He should do very well with the Pacers and have the chance to likely start. But everyone sleeps on Rasho. So unless Tim Ducan (Cause he think’s Rasho is Awesome) is in your draft you can expect Rasho to be around late and make a nice pick up for you. We saw first hand what Rasho can do with the Raptors when he got chance to play and I think for the Pacers he will play a lot as Roy Hibbert learns the ropes of the NBA.
Hoffa… um… Actually I read in a blog he may not even be in the Russian League he played in last year. I wonder if anyone ever drafted Hoffa in a fantasy league ever? If you did NEVER ADMIIT THAT. In fact take up a new hobby. That would go for anyone that drafted Yogi Stewart, Michael Bradley, Chris Jefferies and the list goes on. But as Raptor fans these names seem to live on longer than guys that were average players on the Raptors squad.
Check out James at his Dino Nation Blog
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