by Malungu Vincent… Based on the recent run of matches that Real Madrid have played in, it’s safe to say that this new-look team could beat out Manchester United as the best club in Europe.
Manchester have recently started their season, and already there are growing concerns about the makeup of the team after their disappointing loss to Premiership newcomers Burnley on Monday.
On the other end, Real Madrid have been tearing up the field with consecutive victories, but it was the manner of their victories that has supporters and football pundits alike buzzing.
It’s very early in the football season, but Madrid are already looking like a team that could do major damage in the upcoming campaign, thanks in part to new signings Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, and Benzema.
So far, all three players have managed to gel perfectly in attack, and under Pelligrini’s watch, the club have gone on to dust their opponents away with a goals galore and a rabid style of play.
Arjen Robben, thought to have been on the outs earlier this summer, has so far turned himself into the role of a super sub, so much so that his recent play has led Pelligrini to even consider Robben into his plans for the upcoming season.
Raul, the veteran and mainstay of the club, continues to draw in impressive performances for the club night in and night out, with a goal scored against Dortmund further increasing his exhibition tally.
Karim Benzema is looking more at home as the club’s newest forward, and many would expect Higuain and Benzema to form a solid partnership in the attack. So far, based on the early prognosis, such a partnership appears likely so.
The situation at Manchester however is not as valiant as that of Madrid’s. Their recent loss to a newly promoted club has some already questioning Alex Ferguson’s decision to not spend the 80 million pounds taken in from the Ronaldo sale.
Antonio Valencia has so far been the club’s biggest signing, and Michael Owen, who came to Old Tradford on a free transfer, is yet to have established himself as a scoring threat. It’s only very early in the season, but if Owen and Berbatov continue onwards with average efforts, than Sir Alex would have reason to worry.
Wayne Rooney looks like the only legitimate scoring threat for the Red Devils, with Berbatov’s struggles (since his wretched transfer from White Hart Lane) already drawing calls of him as a bust, something which Rooney recently stated that Berbatov is determined to prove otherwise to his critics.
Ferguson would be wise in signing at least two more quality midfielders (especially considering the age of both Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs), and another top class striker, but Ferguson’s stubbornness could also be the club’s own downfall.
Ronaldo’s and Tevez’s departure from the club would surely hurt United’s chances this season, much to a certain amount of supporters who doubt Sir Alex’s assertion that the club are good enough with the latter.
Meanwhile, United’s crosstown rival Manchester City are on an upswing of sorts with the signings of Adebayor, Tevez, and Santa Cruz, which has led many to claim the Citizens as having one of the better attacking set-ups in the Premiership, much so to the chagrin of Alex Ferguson and United supporters.
Of course, as said before it’s only early in the season, so there’s lots to happen before we can all declare that Madrid are true compianatos and United are simply, well, ordinary.
by Malungu Vincent… When the dust finally settles, the Toronto Raptors would come across as perhaps the most improved team in the entire Eastern Conference.
Newly hired coach Jay Triano finds himself in a situation where he’ll inherit a team comprised of twelve new players, most of them acquired through trades.
The Raptors were able to address a number of issues that had affected the them last season; with Colangelo going out of his way by dramatically remaking the face of the team from the fourth man to the fifteen on the bench.
Colangelo was able to address the rebounding issue by acquiring both Amir Johnson, a young and athletic big man who can run down the floor and play under the hoop, and Reggie Evans who provides his defensive intensity and hard-nosed approach.
Antoine Wright is another player who also brings in his defensive specialties to floor; and he, along with newly signed backup point guard Jarret Jack can provide an excellent defensive cover on the perimeter.
The biggest catch of all for the Raptors this season was the addition of Hedo Turkoglu, known for being a big-time type player who creates his own situations plus is known for making the last shot.
All other additions would also fit in nicely into the fold, but the most exciting aspect of the Raptors is that of their coach, Jay Triano.
Jay Triano is entering his season as a full time coach, and Colangelo is thrilled about his new coach who received high praise from USA Basketball for his work in their summer program, and is known to be an admirer of the up-tempo style of play.
Fans alike can expect a Raptors team that runs on the fast-break, creating open space and utilized it’s offensive potential.
They can expect a Raptors team that would surely be one of the most exciting to watch, and one that could potentially cement Colangelo’s reputation as an executive who plays his cards right when assembling newer talent.
by Malungu Vincent… Talk about an off-season of dramatic change for the Toronto Raptors. In just a span of about two months, Bryan Colangelo has remade the Raptors in a way that wasn’t expected.
Coming into latest fold from Milwaukee is power forward Amir Johnson, a young and athletic big man with a ton of upside and potential and little known guard Sonny Weems.
In return, Colangelo ships out Roko Ukic and Carlos Delfino in a sign and trade with the Bucks, but with the talk of the trade mostly centered around Colangelo makeover of his team.
When the dust finally settles after the offseason, one of the first things you’ll notice about this new-look Raptors team is something that has eluded them: vast potential and athleticism.
DeRozan, Johnson, Jack, Wright, Bosh, Douby, and Bargnani are prime examples of a team loaded with youth, potential, offensive upside, and athleticism. As a Raptors fan, you’ll have to excuse yourself if you can’t help but feel overly excited at the changes.
In regards to Amir Johnson, it’s quite possible that the Raptors may have a steal in this player. Amir’s career so far only spanned in Detroit, where he was used sparingly by the Pistons despite his potential.
It should be noted that Colangelo is known for having craved young athletic players, and in Triano’s new offensive system, Johnson would flourish with his athleticism.
Sonny Weems is a virtual unknown, and one would have to speculate that Colangelo would eventually waive his contract while trying to rid the services of Marcus Banks.
This trade, along with the transactions made earlier, are shaping the Raptors to become a team to watch out for in the future.
by Malungu Vincent… The Toronto Raptors are putting themselves in position to be direct challengers for the Atlantic Division. Of course, the squad would have to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Philadelphia and New Jersey.
The Raptors now look like a 45-win team, a nice improvement from that of a team that languished in the gallows last season.
Bryan Colangelo recognized his mistakes, and in the process, remade the entire coaching staff with the hire of Jay Triano, the first full-time Canadian head coach in the Association, and one who’s work was given rave reviews by USA Basketball officials.
Triano has already shown he can coach at the professional level, and his extensive international experience and seven years as an NBA assistant make him a more than qualified candidate for the head-coaching position.
The additions of Reggie Evans and Jarret Jack, along with Belinelli, Turkoglu, athletic wing DemarDeRozan, Nesterovic, and the core of Bosh, Calderon, and Bargnani would give the Raptors the chance to be a contender in the East.
Like Colangelo, Triano is a big proponent of the fast-break basketball; something of which the Raptors hope will carry the team to greater heights, but also develop a basketball brand of Colangelo’s vision.
Boston have still maintained their core, and added Rasheed Wallace to the equation, the 76ers are returning to their old roots with the uniform change, but much would have to be expected of Elton Brand, who hopes to return to form after going another injury-plague season.
Boston is expected to challenge for the Atlantic Division once again with the core of Allen, Pierce, and Garnett.
However, with Philadelphia, Toronto, and New Jersey all sporting younger and faster lineups, Boston knows that its window of opportunity may be closing sooner rather than later.
The Raptors are hoping that their summer overhaul at least gives Chris Bosh the re-assurance that the team is serious about contending.
Toronto would be looking to make a fast start to the season, but would have to do so with the likes of Cleveland and San Antonio within their early part of the schedule.
There is hope among the Raptors faithful that the Raptors could eventually repeat the success of the 2006-2007 season, where the team posted its best record of 47 wins, and helped itself to winning its first division title in franchise history.
However, that will depend on the success that Toronto gains on the court, and more importantly, if the new eight additions to the team can find a way to gel quickly while develop a winning formula successfully.
It will also depend on Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon continuing to put up the kinds of numbers, and Andrea Bargnani further improving his play from the last half of the previous season.
As a full time coach, Jay Triano would have an opportunity to finally stamp his mark on the team come training day, and all signs point to Triano possibly picking up from where he started when he inherited the team early last season.
by Malungu Vincent… Make no mistake about it; Bryan Colangelo had rebuilt this basketball team for the long haul. So much so that by the time the season starts in late October, the Raptors could have as many as eight new faces in the locker room.
Not to mention an entirely new coaching structure and a new style of play that will emphasize tough defense with a more fast break style of play.
What excites Raptors fans most is the amount of positive change that has transpired over the last few weeks during the summer.
It is welcome news for Raptors fans that Jarret Jack, Antoine Wright, Reggie Evans, and Rasho Nesterovic, all character guys with good locker room qualities, are happy to be in Toronto, but more importantly, that the core of the Raptors is still intact.
Chris Bosh would be wise to re-sign for Toronto next season, but if not, then the Raptors know that they can either sign and trade Bosh in the offseason, or hope to swing a deal or make a push for another coveted high quality player.
The Raptors now look like a team capable of winning anywhere between 45 to 50 games in a season, but more importantly, have a ton of depth at the 2, 3, and 4 positions that they lacked last season.
Players such as Marcus Banks, Patrick O’Bryant, and Roko Ukic would possibly be third stringers on the team, but at least compared to most third stringers around the league, the Raptors may boast depth at the strings as well.
Colangelo is known for wanting his teams to play the fast break, and players like DeRozan, Belinelli, Wright, and Turkoglu can spread the floor and shoot the ball, not to mention Bosh, Calderon, and Bargnani all capable of scoring at least 60+ points a night as a trio.
It’s a wonderful ploy for first-time full time head coach Jay Triano, who hopes to continue on the success his team gained towards the end of last season.
Triano knows he would have to utilize the offensive output in his newly assembled squad, but also find a way to accommodate everybody who wants his share of the ball.
He would have to emphasise the importance of teamwork and unity, defense surely would be the focus coming into training camp, and Jose Calderon may finally have a worthy point guard challenger in Jarret Jack, who comes across as the team-first type of player, and locker room personality.
The Raptors could finally reach the mark of being a 100 point scoring team in the league, but all of that would depend on the shoulders of Bosh, Calderon, Belinelli, Turkoglu, DeRozan, Bargnani, and Jack.
In other words, the Raptors could give teams such as Phoenix, Lakers, Golden State, Knicks, and the Mavericks a run for their entertainment value money.
By Malungu Vincent… You have to admit that Bryan Colangelo is by far the most popular sports executive in Toronto, and perhaps throughout the National Basketball Association.
The amazing trade that he pulled off with Memphis, Orlando, and Dallas was simply pure guts and instincts.
Colangelo has done the impossible, and now, the Raptors find themselves with perhaps one of the best starting lineups in the league with Turkoglu, Calderon, Bosh, Bargnani, and Antoine Wright on the perimeter.
Not to mention the fact that the Raptors have not one, but two mid-level exceptions that they can utilize to bring in a couple of quality players.
The Raptors suddenly find themselves with a formidable starting lineup of Bosh, Bargnani, Calderon, Turkoglu, and DeRozen.
Their bench would comprise of Reggie Evans and Deavon George, Roko Ukic, and Marcus Banks, Carlos Delfino (a possible signing by the Raptors) and Antoine Wright.
Mensah Bonsu would provide the spark and energy he’s shown flashes of during his time in Toronto, and Patrick O’Bryant would still be a work in progress.
Colangelo still plans to add in at least two more bodies to round out the roster, and players such as Rasho Nesterovic and former Atlanta swing man Josh Childress or Boston’s Mikky Moore would provide a good cover on the bench as well.
However, the questions that still linger for the Raptors is whether the improvements that Colangelo made would help the Raptors get over the hump, and develop a more defensively sound style of play that can help compliment their new-found offense.
Newly appointed assistant coach Mark Iavaroni, a defensive guru, would help provide his expertise and mechanics to the Raptors in hopes of improving the team’s defensive capabilities.
Alex English returns as the offensive co-coordinator, a role in which English would thrive in, considering that during his time he was one of the most feared scorers to have played in the league.
Former Raptor Alvin Williams returns as a first time assistant, this time to provide his experience and knowledge in the field of player development.
It surely is going to be an interesting Fall for Raptor fans, and Colangelo now feels he’s set the foundations for a Raptor squad aiming to challenge for higher honors in future seasons to come.