Tag:Anthony Parker
Posted on: April 16, 2009 11:26 am
 

Raptors Post Mortum - 2008 - 2009 Season Review

 

Raptors Post-Mortum

 

The 2008 – 2009 season started with high hopes for this Raptors team. Trading T.J. Ford for Jermaine O’Neal sending a shoot first PG to the Pacers and allowing Jose Calderon the reigns to this team gave us a sense of hope as the team would become the central issue and the focus of the offense, not one guy deeming his team mates worthy of touches.

 

The year started with a quick 3 win streak as the Raptors came out fast with wins against the Warriors, the 76ers and the Bucks. Tough losses against the Pistons and the Hawks followed by two wins against the Heat brought us eventually to an 8 – 8 record and the firing of Sam Mitchell. Jay Triano inherited a team that featured Chris Bosh scoring at a 26+ ppg clip and a struggling Jose Calderon working with Jermaine O’Neal and an emerging Andrea Bargnani. It became obvious very early that Jose would struggle physically this entire season as his hamstring just never seemed to recover and he never seemed comfortable on the floor and the team suffered through a long period where the PG position was handle by a platoon of Roko Ukic, Will Solomon and Anthony Parker who was perhaps the most under rated Raptors player this season and is often the focus of derision from fans because he isn’t a 20+ ppg SG like Kobe Bryant or Dwyane Wade.

 

To me, the toughest loss of the year and perhaps the franchise, was the December 19<sup>th</sup> loss to the Kevin Durant led Thunder, who had 3 wins at the time. From that point, it was clear this was a season in trouble. Jermaine went down with a knee injury and we signed Jake Voskuhl to provide some depth at center. During this time our back court struggled as Jose reinjured his thigh in a game against the Heat in November and he missed 14 games to that injury, the Raptors would win only 5 games in which he didn’t play.

 

As the new year turned to playoff run, this team was pretty much finished in late February, yet they made a deal that sent O’Neal and Jamario Moon to the Heat to bring Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks to the team February 13<sup>th</sup>. We acquired Patrick O’Bryant, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, and Quincy Douby to fill the roster for the year. Since that trade, we finished 12 – 14 with 2 wins over the Bulls who would love either of those back as they now face the Celtics in the first round. The new guys came in and offered us energy and some depth on the bench that had been lacking all season. With 3 wins to end the season, 2 against playoff teams in the 76ers and 1 against a Wizards team that easily could have won 35 games this season, hope has not left the Raptors dressing room.

 

Here are my assessments of the roster at this point. I will speculate on off-season moves after the playoffs.

 

Chris Bosh – lead the team with 22.7 ppg, ending up 8<sup>th</sup> behind Carmelo Anthony of the Nuggets by .1. As the franchise player, Chris provided a level of play that was steady and consistent most of the season. When the team struggled in December and January, Bosh bore the brunt of the criticism – unfairly in my opinion as the team was not able to find a way to overcome injuries and compete with a poorly constructed bench. He ended up as one of 3 players in the league to average more than 20 points and 10 rebounds per game – the other two being Dwight Howard of the Magic and Dwyane Wade. Pretty elite company if you ask me. He has been consistently ranked in the top 10 at his position all season and ended up one of the top 10 players over all for the season. He is ranked only behind Dirk Nowitzki of the Mavericks as a PF, ahead of Antawn Jamison, David West of the Hornets and Al Harrington of the Knicks and Pau Gasol of the Lakers. He IS the leader of this team and as such, offers a great many skills to the team. He was put on the FT line 607 times – 4<sup>th</sup> behind LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard and ahead of Devin Harris of the Nets,  shooting at an 81% clip making him a very difficult forward to guard by most opposing players and better than the four ahead of him in that stat. His 771 rebounds, good for 7<sup>th</sup> overall, and 2.5 assists per game make him a well rounded player and hopefully, will remain here a long time.

 

Andrea Bargnani – A slow start under Smitch brought calls for him to be moved out of Toronto, that he was a waste of a 1<sup>st</sup> overall pick in a class that gave the Trail Blazers LeMarcus Aldridge with the 2<sup>nd</sup> pick and Brandon Roy with the 6<sup>th</sup> pick and Rajon Rondo to the Celtics late in the first round, fans were beginning to wonder what this kid had to offer. Well, we began to see him play in the 4 spot with success as he is a deadly shooter from outside finishing the season at 40.9% from outside the arc. He finished the season ranked 50<sup>th</sup> in the league at 15.4 ppg but was closer to 20 ppg for the last third of the season. Under Jay, he was given the minutes he needed to develop both and low post game and a mid post game stepping out when needed and was not out of place on the break either as the team began to open up the offense, he was there with the finish. He led the team not only in 3 point attempts, but blocks as well finishing with 97 on the season. He seems to have found his place in both the offense and the defense and has been given the confidence of the coach. A very deadly combination for a young man looking for a place to belong!

 

Jose Calderon – The speculation of what might have been this past season had Jose been 100% for the entire year will be fuel for many forums. Aside from setting the FT% record hitting 151 of 154 FT’s for a 98.1%, he finished 6<sup>th</sup> overall with 607 assists behind only Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Steve Nash, Jason Kidd and Rajon Rondo. When listed by assists per game, he ends up 5<sup>th</sup> as Gilbert Arenas moves up and Jose passes Rondo and Kidd. Among the starting PG’s, Jose ended up first overall with 4.2 a/to ratio on the season. Jose shot 40.6% from outside and 49.7% over all while averaging 12.8 ppg. As Jose returned healthy, this team instantly began playing at a much higher level offensively and defensively he was much more able to keep his man in front of him and make opposing guards take bad shots and make bad passes. He has a long way to go to be a lock down defender, but a healthy Jose can become a very tough matchup for a lot of guards in the league.

 

Shawn Marion – Averaging 14.3 ppg, and more than 8 rebounds per game, Shawn has been a favorite of mine since his days in the high octane Suns teams he played on. Wallowing in irrelevance with the Heat he has found a team here that he can bring his skill set to that can allow him the freedom to run the break, defend 3 or 4 or 5 spots, attack the weakside glass and create havoc in the paint on defense as the help defender. These are all skills that this team has sorely missed all season. I hope the Raptors can find a way to make this man a part of the future of this team as he is one of the best complementary players in the league. He has no need of plays designed for him as he is always lurking and always in position when the ball seems to find his hands. A great trade for us and the promise of next season, should he stay, is growing.

 

Anthony Parker – to me, he is one of the most under appreciated Raptors player on the team. He can play SG, and PG when needed. He nightly takes on the toughest players in the league and usually holds his own. When he is discussed as not being the SG this team needs because he isn’t one of the best in the league, I shake my head! AP is 22 in scoring amongst SG’s, but when you look at the list of those ahead of him, you can understand why. Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Brandon Roy, Joe Johnson of the Hawks, Vince Carter of the Nets, Ben Gordon, Andre Iguodala, O.J. Mayo, Ray Allen and Jason Richardson top the list at this position. AP’s job with us isn’t to score at a 20+ ppg pace, but to offer solid defense against guys like those on the list, score when he can and provide an option on the floor that distracts teams enough to have to keep an eye on him, and he does all of those night after night after night. He is 10<sup>th</sup> amongst SG’s in rebounds with 317, and 12<sup>th</sup> in apg with 3.4. while shooting at 39% and is 18<sup>th</sup> on the list. As a free agent, he might leave and if he does, this team will have to look very hard as to how to fill the void he will leave. Be careful what you hope for, if it comes true, and he walks, he will be picked up by a team that can see the value of his steady hand and extensive knowledge of the game.

 

As for the rest of the team, Jason Kapono has had a good run as 3 point champ, but I fear he has little marketability at this point as he is very much a one-dimensional player at this point. Joey Graham seems to be finding a place on this team, but he has not developed a consistent game that would warrant further investment. He will be at best a 7<sup>th</sup> man on any team he plays, including this one, and he will want more money than we are willing to pay. I look for him to be traded before he is signed. Roko Ukic looks like a solid prospect, but he is not the backup we need for Jose. He could be traded as well. I like the new group that BC brought in and hope that we can find places for them allowing our bench to become stable again, and offer us the option of either by trading our draft pick this season and acquiring another piece of this puzzle or blow the team up and start over. I am not sure I like that option at this point but will offer more thoughts as the playoffs unfold.

 

Thanks for all of your support this season and I hope these musings have been enjoyed and appreciated.

 

Takman_777

 

Posted on: February 2, 2009 11:36 am
 

Raptors - Week 14 in review

Well, here goes another attempt at trying to figure out the enigma that is the 2008/09 Toronto Raptors. With wins last week against the Bulls, the Kings and the Nets for their first three game win streak since opening the season 3 – 0, stopping a 7 game losing streak in which they lost 2 to the Celtics, as well as one to the Bulls, to the Pacers, the Suns, the Hawks and the Pistons, they find a way to let the Bucks, playing without Michael Redd, beat them and then they get embarrassed at home by the Magic.

 

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Raptors – 107
Nets – 106

With Jose Calderon back in the lineup, the Raptors needed his 17 points and 11 assists to hold off the Nets who were again lead by their solid back court of Devin Harris, who had 25 points, and 10 assists and Vince Carter who had 27 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists. This was one of the first games in a very long season that the Raptors found a way to make a couple of stops down the stretch as Devin Harris missed the winning shot at the buzzer to give the victory to the Raptors. At times the Raptors had excellent ball movement and worked the ball around with a balanced attack, but Anthony Parker was the player of the game for the Raptors with his 21 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists while Joey Graham and Jason Kapono offered some solid work off the bench adding 15 points from JG and 10 from JK. Though Chris Bosh was pretty much a non-factor in the game, Andrea Bargnani struggled with only 8 points, his lowest game total since December 29th against the Warriors, ending his streak of 10+ points per game streak at 15. Keyon Dooling, Brook Lopez and Bobby Simmons were solid for the Nets who were just outplayed a bit by the Raptors bench.

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Raptors – 85
Bucks – 96

A terrible game by the Raptors who looked disinterested the whole night. Charlie Villanueva dropped 26 points and collected 13 boards as he out played a bored Chris Bosh. Andrea Bargnani scored 16 as did Jermaine O’Neal, Jose Calderon scored 7 to go with his 11 assists. Andrew Bogut and Charlie Bell combined for 24 points off of the bench while Richard Jefferson and Luke Ridnour scored a combined 32 points while the Raptors could offer little resistance to a team missing it’s go to guy with Michael Redd out. The Raptors coach offered this summation of the game “I give them credit because they outworked us”. That pretty much sums up the game.

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

Raptors – 90
Magic – 113

AND it wasn’t really even that close after half time. With double – doubles from Jameer Nelson and Dwight Howard, this Magic team showed how you play a team that has no desire to show up. The Magic were quite content playing Dwight Howard off Chris Bosh turning him into a jump shooter, ending the game 4 – 11 with 11 points on the game. Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, Courtney Lee and Mickael Pietrus all ended the game in double figures while Jose Calderon, Joey Graham, Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh all were in double figures, but no one had more than 16. The team looked tired and gave a terrible second half performance after being down only 6 at the half.

With games coming up against the Lakers, the Hornets and the Cavaliers, the Grizzlies and the red-hot Timberwolves, this Raptors team seems to have given up at this point. Let’s hope they can find a way to play some inspired ball rather than the lack-luster effort they have shown most of the year. The issues go far beyond chemistry and bonding, there are some serious issues with the heart of this team as the players don’t seem bothered by the losses any more. That can never be a good thing.

Posted on: January 28, 2009 12:09 pm
 

Raptors - Week 14 in Preview

Week 14 on the Raptors schedule offers them the opportunity to move back up towards the .500% mark and take a couple of steps back to the playoff race. With games against 2 teams within 4 wins of us at this point. After last weeks losses to the Suns, Hawks and the Pistons, the Raptors are coming off of two wins against the Bulls and the Kings as Jose Calderon and Jermaine O’Neal both return to the team, with Jermaine O’Neal coming off the bench as Andrea Bargnani has earned the starters job with his very solid play in the past month, but more on that later.

 

Wednesday night the Raptors are travelling to the Nets to complete the season series which the Nets hold a 2 – 1 edge in. Coming into the game, the Nets are 3 – 7 in their last 10 games and lost 3 of 4 games last week on a 4 game swing through the west losing to the Hornets, the Spurs and the Thunder while beating the Grizzlies. Tonight they will be looking at beginning a bit of a run up the eastern standings as they have fallen to 9th overall behind the Bucks, who the Raptors play on Friday. Vince Carter turned 32 on Monday and here is a very nice touch from a teammate – “He started his career with the Raptors, now he's technically a dinosaur." -- G Keyon Dooling joking about "old man" Vince Carter. No matter how old he gets, he seems to love playing his former team and tonight will be no different. With Devin Harris playing at a very high level, this Nets team has one of the best back court duos in the league. Vince Carter averages 21.3 points and 5 rebounds and 5 assists as the SG, while Devin Harris leads the team with 21.5 points, 3 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game. I am not sure, but I would be hard pressed to find a more productive starting back court in the league right now. The Nets will put Ryan Anderson, Bobby Simmons, and Brooks Lopez on the floor as well which should offer the Raptors the opportunity to work the ball inside against the smaller Nets front line with Yi Jianlian out of the lineup. The Raptors will have to find a way to slow this back court down to give them the opportunity to work the ball to Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh who will present many challenges to this young front court and with JO off the bench, the balanced front court attack we offer needs to be augmented by solid back court play from Jose and Anthony Parker as well as their backups Roko Ukic and Jason Kapono or Will Solomon. To me the X-factor in the game tonight will be Jamario Moon on Bobby Simmons. If Jamario can win that battle all night, we have a very good chance of keeping this game in our control.

Friday night, the Michael Redd – less Bucks come to Toronto as they begin the next phase of the season without their leading scorer. Last week they beat the Mavericks and the Kings, but lost to the Trail Blazers and the Hawks and the suddenly hot Timberwolves. Tonight they visit the Pacers before we play them. With Andre Bogut still listed as doubtful, this team has lost 33 points and 13 rebounds a game so guys like Richard Jefferson, Charlie Billanueva, Luke Ridnour, Ramon Sessions and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will have to step up every part of their game if they are to remain in the hunt as a playoff team in the east. Sitting in 8th place in the east right now with the Nets, Knicks, Bobcats who beat the Lakers in a thriller Tuesday night and the Bulls as well as the Raptors within 4 wins, they will be hard pressed to stay there if this team doesn’t find a way to elevate their games. The Raptors will be looking to take the game straight at this team from the guards moving the ball up tempo to take advantage of our quicker big men. This game will show us if the Raptors have figured out how to beat teams that they should and beat them when they are weakened. I look forward to seeing what all these losses have taught this Raptors team as they prepare for a very tough week next week.

I feel I must write a small bit about the play of Andrea Bargnani today. Since Jermaine O’Neal went down December 29th against the Warriors and the team started the huge slide downward, we have seen Andrea raise his game to a level we had been promised, and perhaps go beyond them. During the Warriors game on the 29th, he scored 7 points and grabbed 6 rebounds. As a starter since then, he has played 15 games, scored 318 points or 21.2 points per game, grabbed 19 offensive boards and 81 defensive for an average of 6.7 rebounds per game and has recorded 2 double doubles as well as 4 games with 8 or more rebounds. He recorded 5 blocks in the game against the Nuggets on December 31st. Over those 15 games he has shot 111/223 from the floor or 49.8% including 50% from beyond the arc at 36/72. His only game he failed to make a 3 point shot was against the Hawks and we lost by 3. He was drafted ahead of LeMarcus Aldridge, Adam Morrison, Tyrus Thomas, Sheldon Williams, Brandon Roy, Randy Foye, Rudy Gay and a kid named Rajon Rondo who few thought would be where he is, but playing with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce on the Celtics will make you pretty good. Expectations were very high for him as Bryan Colangello presented him to the Raptors fans as a 3 or 4 year project to grow with. I guess he saw his chance to show some of the skills he has developed here and has finally earned his place as a starter on this team. Well done Andrea, for the work, I would have to him the Raptors player of the month.

After the Bucks, we have the Magic, the Cavaliers, the Lakers, the Hornets so this week is critical in developing that balance again with Jermaine off the bench and Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson, LeBron James and Mo Williams, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, Chris Paul, Peja Stojakovic and Tyson Chandler on the way, this Raptors team might surprise some teams who are looking for an easy Win at this point of the season.

Posted on: January 5, 2009 5:05 pm
 

Raptors - Week 11 in Preview

Week 11 begins tonight with a game against the 16 – 19 Bucks, currently in 8th place one place ahead of the Raptors for the last playoff spot in the East. In the past 10 games, they have won six including wins over the Spurs, the Jazz and the Knicks, split games with the Bobcats and have lost to the Rockets, the Pistons and the 76ers. Following this on Wednesday, the Wizards complete a short 2 game road trip with neither Jose Calderon nor Jermaine O’Neal traveling with the team. The Wizards are struggling for consistency as well and are a dismal 7 – 25, yet were able to defeat the Cavaliers who have gone 2 – 2 this past week splitting games with the Heat and defeating the Rockets before losing last night to the Wizards. Friday brings the Grizzlies to town and their 11 – 23 record having lost to the Suns, the Spurs and the Timberwolves before knocking off the Mavericks Sunday. Here is how I see the week shaping up.

Monday, January 05, 2009 Raptors @ Bucks

With Andrew Bogut questionable for the game tonight and Malik Allen out, the Bucks will have a tough time up front with Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh both playing very solid games this past week. Starting Dan Gadzuric and Luc Richard Mbah a Mouteand and Richard Jefferson up front, the Bucks will have trouble with our inside game and should Jamario Moon continue to gather rebounds as he has been, the Bucks will be forced to beat us with Michael Redd and Luke Ridenour. Not entirely out of the question and the Raptors will have to be sure to keep the defensive pressure on as Will Solomon, Roko Ukic and Anthony Parker look to continue the guard play that has been solid this past week. Jason Kapono is set to have a big game and he should find lots of room to shoot, as the Bucks send a smaller line up to the court.

Wizards - 7 - 23 heading into the week following a win over the CavaliersWednesday, January 07, 2009 Raptors @ Wizards

The Wizards start Antawn Jamison and Andray Blatche with no real Center as Caron Butler fills the other forward position. This should give the Raptors the edge inside as Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh will look to put pressure on the interior of the Wizards all night long. With Gilbert Arenas and DeShawn Stevenson hurt, the Wizards have been starting 4 forwards with Dominic McGuire filling the 4th forward position and Mike James running the point. Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon should be able to control this lineup with speed and help defense as Will and Roko should be able to control this game from start to finish. I can’t see the Wizards winning unless the Raptors fall asleep as the Cavaliers did.

GrizzliesFriday, January 09, 2009 Raptors vs. Grizzlies

The Grizzlies bring Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo and Kyle Lowry to the game with Darrell Arthur as well as Hakim Warrick. The Raptors had best be paying attention as this team could take advantage of any attitude that might develop should they win the first two games this week. I think they will be ready after a short road trip and looking to prepare for the back to back with the Celtics on Sunday and Monday. I am confident that Coach Triano won’t let this team drift away this week.

Celtics - starting the week 29 - 6, 1st in the East and second over allSunday, January 11, 2009 Raptors vs. Celtics
Monday, January 12, 2009 Raptors @ Celtics

I will do both here as they will be hard to separate in the course of the weekend. The Celtics have been inconsistent the past 10 games winning only 6 losing to the Lakers on Christmas day then the Warriors on the 26th. Since then, they have lost to the Trail Blazers and the Knicks but are still comfortable with a 29 – 6 record and still 1st overall in the east, but second over all in the league just behind the Lakers. With Kevin Garnett playing as well as he ever has and the surging play of Rajon Rondo, this Celtics team offers depth and skill to about 10 players with Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Leon Powe, Kendrick Perkins, Glen Davis and Tony Allen leading the way. The Raptors will need to be at the top of their game but will be looking to steal one of these games and I think they might be ready to do it at this point. The Raptors have looked more confident with a lead than at any other point this season so I look for 2 very good games.

Next week brings us the Bulls, the Pacers and the Suns as this team heads to the all-star break looking to get back to or above %.500. That would be a very good recovery from what looked like a dismal season not 2 weeks ago.

Posted on: January 5, 2009 2:18 pm
 

Raptors - Week 10 Review

Week 10 in the NBA for the Raptors provided an insight to this team long overdue. With games against the Warriors, the Nuggets, the Rockets and the Magic, we faced 3 teams with 20+ wins and a team that pushes the tempo any chance it gets. Starting week 10 with a 12 – 18 record after losses to the Clippers and the Trail Blazers and a victory over the Kings on the road, this team finished its 6 game road trip in Sacramento before heading home to face the Warriors. Here is how I saw the games last week

Monday December 29th, 2008 Raptors @ Warriors

Raptors 111
Warriors 117

With Corey Maggette and Monta Ellis out with nagging injuries, the Raptors looked to stem the tide of losses with a trip to the bay area. Stephen Jackson and Marco Belinelli had other ideas. With 55 points between them, this game was not settled until late into the 4th when C.J. Watson dropped a floater over Chris Bosh in the last minute. On a night when 6 Raptors had 10 or more points with Chris Bosh with 30 and Jose Calderon with 21, Kris Humprhies with 10, Jason Kapono and Joey Graham with 11, and Jamario Moon with 12, this was a very solid game offensively for the Raptors as Jose dished out 16 assists against the quicker Warriors. The difference in the game was points off of turnovers where the Raptors were -10 for the night. Though they lost a tough game, this team played tough grabbing 20 offensive boards on a night when Andris Biedrins scored 13 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and had 5 blocks after losing Jermaine O’Neal early in the game and we could find no answer for him. For being the last game of a brutal road trip, these guys played well enough to win in most aspects of the game, but allowed the Warriors to shot 50% from the floor and from outside the arc, and we won’t win many games when we allow those to both happen.

Wednesday December 31st, 2008 Raptors vs Nuggets

Raptors 107
Nuggets 114

The Nuggets came into the game after beating the Knicks but losing to the Hawks and looked to continue to be a force in the West and showed the balance that tends to happen when your coach has 899 wins heading into the game. Tonight, the Nuggets had 7 players with 10 or more points with Nene scoring 21, Carmelo Anhthony adding 20, Kenyon Martin, Chauncey Billups and J.R. Smith added 15, 18 and 16 respectively, but he damage was done by Carl Anderson with his double double off the bench and Linas Kleiza with 10 as well off the bench. Known for their love of transition ball, the Nuggets were held to 10 fast break points as the Raptors were able to control the tempo only giving up the ball 12 times on turnovers, but were quick to recover on defense to slow the Nuggets down. With Jermaine O’Neal out however, the Nuggets pushed the ball inside and attacked the rim at will and were +16 in the paint for the game. Anthony Parker had a very solid game as he started again for Jason Kapono with 12 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists in one of his best games in a couple of months. Chris Bosh had another solid game with 24 points and 11 boards while Jose Calderon struggled with 11 assists but 5 turnovers and 18 points. Andrea Bargnani started at center and scored 26 points and grabbed 6 rebounds and was huge defensively with 5 blocks. Will Solomon put in 11 off the bench while Jamario Moon contributed another solid game on the boards, with 7 rebounds and 10 points on the night. The Raptors had opportunities to get the game back to level, but struggled with their outside shooting in the second half. All in all, they played well, but again allowed this team to shoot 51% from the floor. After watching Jay Triano burn a time out as they refused to push the ball inside after getting the Nuggets in bonus early in the second and they didn’t get free throws until late in the half, he yelled at the guys and sat down to let them figure out why they keep settling for jump shots in transition. As I watched, I could sense the guys finally were ready to listen to the coach. Though they lost the game, this team played hard and I think attitudes were adjusted that night, finally.

Friday, January 2nd, 2009 Raptors vs. Rockets

Raptors 94
Rockets 73

Too many people will say that this was a game that the Raptors won only because the Rockets are playing bad basketball right now having lost to the Bucks on New Year’s Eve. They came into the night after finishing December with a 9 – 5 record, beating teams like the Jazz and the Nuggets and the Nets, but losing to the Cavaliers and the Hornets and the Wizards. Still, they are a playoff team in the West sitting in 7th spot behind the Mavericks and still ahead of the Trail Blazers. The Raptors were missing starter Jermaine O’Neal, but welcomed Jason Kapono back to the floor after missing a couple games with a leg injury. The new starters included Andrea Bargnani in his second straight start at Center and Anthony Parker returning to play the 2 spot and Jamario Moon looking to solidify his spot at the 3 after a few good games rebounding, he looked to become more consistant at the offensive end as well. Chris Bosh played well scoring 19 points and grabbing 5 rebounds, but Jose Calderon went down in the first and left in the second quarters requiring Will Solomon and Roko Ukic to step up and provide the court leadership we would need on the night. Will Solomon responded with 8 points and 7 assists while Roko Ukic added 3 assists and 2 points. Jake Voskuhl was huge off the bench again with 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 points in 18 minutes on the floor. Kris Humphries and Hassan Adams both added 4 points as the team responded with solid offense and tough defense. The Rockets were held to just 34% shooting on the night while committing 22 turnovers which the Raptors took full advantage of turning those into 27 points. Andrea Bargnani looked very solid in the Center spot and had a very good game with 19 points and has begun to look like he belongs on the floor night after night finally. A much needed win by the Raptors as they not only built up a huge lead, but were able to hold on and beat a team that they should not beat. Happy New Years all around.

Sunday, January 4th, 2009 Raptors vs. Magic

Raptors 108
Magic 102

Any time Dwight Howard comes to town, the Raptors seem hold their breath and Sunday was no different. With the first 9 points of the game for the Magic, he seemed on a mission to show Chris Bosh and the Raptors why this team has gone 26 – 5 since dropping the first two games of the season. 39 points were not enough to secure the victory as he was unable to make the free throws the Raptors were more than happy to surrender to him as he missed 7 from the line. The Raptors were 23 – 24 with Chris Bosh making 13 – 14 while collecting 23 points for the game. The Magic were 17 – 24 and lost by 6. There is not a lot of other reasons why this game was won or lost as the teams were pretty even though the Raptors were +6 in the paint despite 39 from Superman. Rashard Lewis scored 20 and Jameer Nelson added 15 while Hedo Turkoglu had only 9 on the afternoon. The Raptors were +8 rebounding and +2 in turnovers while Roko Ukic scored 12 and offered up 7 assists on the game, Will Solomon starting for the injured Jose Calderon had 11 points and 4 assists and was able to control the flow effectively. Anthony Parker had 26 points as he spent the afternoon scoring at will as he took the ball strong to the rim and shot 13 – 16 on the day and seems to have returned to the offensive form having had a good week at both ends of the floor. His return to form is critical for this team as the new year begins. Andrea Bargnani making his 3rd start at Center scored 18 points, grabbed 5 rebounds and added 3 assists to a balanced offense that again saw 5 guys with 10+ points.

Coming up this week are the Bucks, the Wizards and the Grizzlies, it will be interesting to see how much momentum we can carry from this week.

Posted on: December 22, 2008 11:20 am
 

Raptors - Week 9 In Preview - Christmas Week

The week that is ahead offers the Raptors some hope as we arrive in Los Angeles to play the Clippers tonight before having a few days off before Christmas to re-group, then they play the Kings and the Trail Blazers on Friday and Saturday before finishing this 6 game road trip against the Warriors on the 29th. With the Mavericks, the Spurs and the Hornets behind this trip, the return home will bring the Rockets, the Magic and the Nuggets to town. This week appears to be our best chance to record a much needed victory, especially one or two on the road, and maybe 3.

The Clippers come into the game tonight with an 8 – 19 record after a week in which they went 2 – 2 with victories against the Thunder and the Pacers and losses to the Bulls and the Bucks. The Clippers are lead by Zach Randolph who is averaging 22 points and 11 rebounds a game and Marcus Camby who is averaging 11 points and 12 rebounds per game. With Baron Davis and Al Thornton averaging 18 and 17 points per game and Eric Gordon averaging 9.1 points per game, even with Chris Kaman out, this team has a solid front court with a very active back court and will provide Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Bosh and Jamario Moon fits at both ends of the floor. Tonight I look for Jose Calderon and Jason Kapono to carry the game as our guard play will have to step up and provide some consistent scoring as our front court will be challenged all night by two very good defensive forwards. I look for the tempo to be calculated and to not be pushed as this team would love to get Baron Davis in a running game against our much slower back court. Turnovers will be critical and we will need to work hard to take advantage of every rebound we can acquire as they will be looking to control the game on the boards against one of the weakest rebounding teams in the league. I think the Raptors can pull this one off, but they will have to desire and attack every ball and every rebound and out hustle this Clippers team at both ends of the floor.

On Boxing Day, the Raptors head up the highway to Sacramento to take on the struggling Kings. Tonight they play the Spurs in San Antonio where Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan will be ready to play this Kings team who are 7 – 19 and last in their division. With a starting lineup missing two key players in Kevin Martin and Beno Udrih, the Kings will send Brad Miller, Spencer Hawes or Mikki Moore, John Salmons or Francisco Garcia and Bobby Jackson to the floor. This should be a game that Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Bosh could do a lot of damage in the front court with Andrea Bargnani adding some out side scoring from the 4 position, the Kings are just a bit too thin to compete with our active front including the new kid, Jake Voskuhl who looked good in the short time on the floor scoring 4 points over Tim Duncan. Jamario Moon and Jason Kapono I think will have a lot of opportunities to showcase their games should they chose to step up and play. Salmons will be a good match up for Jamario and Kapono will be a valued outside shot should the Raptors stay inside the flow of the offense. Jamario Moon and Jose Calderon should be able to push the ball, but I think Roko Ukic and Will Solomon with Joey Graham will push the tempo on this team that is a bit thin due to injuries.

Saturday finds the Raptors playing in Portland to play the Trail Blazers. Since they beat the Raptors on December 7th, the Trail Blazers are just 2 – 3 with wins against the Kings and the Suns and losses against the Magic, the Jazz and the Clippers. This week they are busy with a back to back starting in Denver tonight then facing the Nuggets in Portland tomorrow and then hosting the Mavericks on Christmas Day. At 17 – 10, they are tied with the Nuggets for 1st in the Northwest division with the Jazz behind with a 17 – 12 record. The Trail Blazers will be a very tough match up for the Raptors, and the memory of the 1 point loss looms large still. The lineup for the Trail Blazers has been solid all season with Greg Oden, Brandon Roy, LeMarcus Aldridge, Steve Blake and Nicolas Batum with Travis Outlaw and Rudy Fernandez both averaging 10+ points a game and have been starters at various points in the season, this team is balanced and deadly in the open floor. Being the 5th game of the 6 game road trip, I suspect the Raptors will be ready to get home as they will have been away for nearly 2 weeks, which is not a bad thing at this point in their up and down season. Against the Trail Blazers, our perimeter defense will need to be at top form to keep the ball out of the hands of their shooters. That has been a struggle all season but it can be done. We will need balance on offense with our shooters needing to turn in good games to pull this team out from the paint and force them to open some room up for our guys up front. It worked the first game had Blake not hit that Vince Carter like shot over Anthony Parker for the win.

With a few days of rest and some valuable practice time before Christmas, this week should allow the team to do some coming together under coach Jay Triano. Since December 3rd, the Raptors have had little time to practice and have shown a more willing attitude on the floor. That will have to continue to grow as the new year brings some tough games early in January. January 11th and 12th offer us a home and home with the Celtics, with 2 games against the Bulls and one against the Pistons, the Suns, the Nets and the Bucks twice. A couple of wins before the end of 2008 would be a great way to ring in the new year and perhaps offer a stimulus to turn this season around.

Posted on: December 7, 2008 8:58 pm
 

Raptors - Week 6 in Review - Transition Week.

This past week in the Raptors schedule saw the end of an era, the beginning of a new one, and 4 games this team will need to quickly forget to begin to build some sort of success with the rest of this season. Here is the week in review as I saw it!

After wins against the Bobcats and the Hawks, the Raptors embarked on a road trip which had stops against the Lakers, the Nuggets and the Jazz who are all at or near the top of the western conference and at or near the top of their game. Though they were coming off two wins, the Raptors had begun to develop nasty habits on both offense and defense that teams had begun to exploit. Defensively, the team was struggling to maintain leads and maintain any sort of consistent effort in the area of perimeter defense. Heading into games that feature some of the premier perimeter players in the league right now, the Raptors needed to find someone to step up and take that role to heart or find a way to play better team defense. With Jermaine O’Neal still nursing his sore ankle, prospects heading west were ominous at best. With the inconsistent play, it was clear that Sam Mitchell’s job was hanging by a very thin wire and he was on a very short leash at this point.

Heading into Los Angeles the Raptors started the tough 3 game trek against the Lakers looking to see if they could elevate their game to a new level. The first quarter was exciting and with a shoot out looming, the quarter ended 34 – 29 for the Lakers. After that point, the Lakers pulled away and over powered the short handed Raptors leading 61 – 51 at the half. The Raptors showed a lot of heart outscoring the Lakers 30 – 29 in the third, but the Raptors were never really able to mount any kind of sustained scoring as the Lakers would create a turnover or grab a rebound and run the floor scoring lay up after layup on the slower Raptors. The Lakers score 18 fast break points to the Raptors 7 and with Kobe on the bench for the 4th quarter they pulled ahead for good with their bench out playing the Raptors all over the floor.

Lakers game stats

Kobe Bryant - 23 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists
Pau Gasol - 24 points, 8 rebounds
Andrew Bynum - 18 points, 10 rebounds
Trevor Ariza - 14 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists
Lamar Odom - 3 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals

47/92 - 51.1%
15 offensive boards - 54 total
34 assists
10 steals

Team Rebounds - 10
Defensive 3-second violations - 1
Points Off Turnovers - 13
Fastbreak Points - 18
Points In The Paint - 58
Second Chance Points – 30

Raptors game stats

Chris Bosh - 12 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 turnovers
Andrea Bargnani - 14 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks
Jose Calderon - 12 points, 6 rebounds, 12 assists
Anthony Parker - 19 points, 2 assists
Jamario Moon - 11 points, 3 assists, 3 steals
Jason Kapono - 11 points
Joey Graham - 7 points, 4 rebounds - 3 offensive
Roko Ukic - 7 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal
Kris Humphries - 3 rebounds, 3 steals

34/88 - 38.6% - 11/25 - 44% 3 points
36 rebounds - 11 offensive
23 assists
13 turnovers
11 steals
6 blocks

Team Rebounds - 7
Defensive 3-second violations - 0
Points Off Turnovers - 17
Fastbreak Points - 7
Points In The Paint - 32
Second Chance Points – 10

As we can see, this game was lost on the glass with the Raptors ending up -18 for the night but a more telling -4 on the offensive glass. We were -11 in assists, and -26 on points in the paint. The Lakers ran the ball at will and scored on open shot after open shot in transition. This game was a good effort, but it was very obvious to most observers that this Raptors team had no clue defensively both in transition and on the perimeter. It was too much to ask our thin front line to compete with the solid and deep Lakers squad who seemed to play as hard as they needed to until they got up a few in the 3rd, then let the very talented bench take over and finish this game.

Next up for the Raptors, the Nuggets were waiting. With Jermaine O’Neal set to return, this game offered a hope that the Raptors would have some strength inside again. Though he provided 12 points, it was no where near enough to slow down the Nuggets and this game was over very early and was the last game in the Sam Mitchell era for the Raptors organization. Here are the game stats.

Nuggets game stats

Carmelo Anthony - 23 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks
Chauncey Billups - 24 points, 14 assists
Nene - 19 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks
Kenyon Martin - 11 points, 4 rebounds
Linas Kleiza - 12 points, 4 rebounds
J.R. Smith - 14 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals
Dahntay Jones - 5 assists, 9 points

49/82 - 59.8% including 13/24 or 54.2% from 3 point range
46 rebounds - 5 offensive
37 assists


Team Rebounds - 11
Defensive 3-second violations - 1
Points Off Turnovers - 16
Fastbreak Points - 27
Points In The Paint - 50
Second Chance Points – 10

Raptors game stats

Chris Bosh - 24 points, 12 rebounds - 5 offensive, 5 assists
Jose Calderon - 9 points, 7 assists
Jermaine O'Neal - 12 points, 3 rebounds
Roko Ukic - 13 points
Andrea Bargnani - 9 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals
Joey Graham - 10 points, 5 rebounds, 4 turnovers
Kris Humphries - 4 points, 8 rebounds - 3 offensive
Jason Kapono - 0 points

34/93 - 36.6% including 5/17 - 29.4% 3 point shots
39 rebounds - 12 offensive
21 Assists
10 turnovers
6 steals
4 blocks

Team Rebounds - 7
Defensive 3-second violations - 1
Points Off Turnovers - 8
Fastbreak Points - 17
Points In The Paint - 28
Second Chance Points – 9

The Raptors were outplayed all over the floor and the lack of both creativity and any defensive pressure at all cost Sam his job, signaling the beginning of the Jay Triano era. We did see a vast improvement in the play of Roko, but again, this Raptors team was out rebounded by 7, but on a night when the Nuggets shot almost 60%, they had no real need to rebound to control the game. This game was ugly early and most turned it off by half-time, I watched Amadeus!

Friday took us to Utah to take on the Jazz who were as vulnerable as they have been all season long. With Carlos Boozer out and Andrei Kirilenko recouping from an ankle injury, the Raptors had an opportunity to control the game inside. That never happened. Mehmet Okur showed why he is considered one of the best shooting Center in the game today. He scored from inside and from outside, short jumpers, fade away, off the dribble and off the break. Jermaine O’Neal had no ability to stop him as he had no help any where. When Bosh was on him, he had shots from 7 to 10 feet and very little pressure from the weakside. I guess defensive bad habits and bad attitudes take more than 1 or 2 practices to correct. Most of the time teams that have a coaching change seem to take to the floor with a bit more energy and a bit more focus in response to the firing. This was not the case for the Raptors. They looked listless and helpless all night long. Not the type of response Bryan Colangelo was looking for and I am sure Jay expected more from his guys, but I guess we can excuse them for not wanting to compete, but the effort they played with was awful. Here are the game stats.

Jazz game stats

Paul Millsap - 17 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 blocks
Mehmet Okur - 21 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks
Deron Williams - 14 points, 5 assists, 2 steals
Ronnie Brewer - 10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals
Andrei Kirilenko - 7 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks
Matt Harpring - 14 points, 7 rebounds including 4 offensive
Kostas Koufos - 10 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal

49/95 - 51.6%
13 offensive rebounds 52 overall
31 assists
12 steals
8 blocks

Team Rebounds - 6
Defensive 3-second violations - 0
Points Off Turnovers - 25
Fastbreak Points - 9
Points In The Paint - 66
Second Chance Points – 15

Raptors game stats

Chris Bosh - 18 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 4 turnovers
Jose Calderon - 10 points, 8 assists, 2 steals
Joey Graham - 13 points, 5 rebounds
Jermaine O'Neal - 10 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks
Andrea Bargnani -7 points, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks
Roko Ukic - 7 points, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
Jason Kapono - 5 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal
Jamario Moon - 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
Will Solomon - 7 points
Anthony Parker - 8 points, 4 assists, 1 steal

36/82 - 43.9% - 4/17 for 23.5% from 3 pt range
38 rebounds - 3 offensive
23 assists
23 turnovers
8 steals
10 blocks

Team Rebounds - 3
Defensive 3-second violations - 0
Points Off Turnovers - 15
Fastbreak Points - 16
Points In The Paint - 44
Second Chance Points – 2

Allowing 66 points in the paint is inexcusable at an NBA level. The Raptors were beaten by a very good team, and they looked unable to run simple plays out of an offensive set. The coaching staff has a lot of work to do.

Sunday, the Raptors hosted the young Trail Blazers featuring 2 players that Bryan Colangelo MIGHT have drafted rather than Andrea Bargnani. With both the 2nd overall pick after Andrea, LeMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy drafted 6th in the lineup, one can only wonder what might have been. Here we have yet another game that the Raptors opened up a 16 point lead only to see it disappear as yet another team exploits this teams inability to guard on the perimeter. Steve Blake looked like Steve Kerr out there and the Raptors had no way to hold on to the lead. This game will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of many Raptors fans as we seem to be seeing the beginning of a Chris Bosh meltdown underway. During a very tight third quarter that saw the Raptors recover from a 10 point deficit to take a lead, we saw Chris Bosh decide that he was the best option from outside the arc with Jason Kapono open to his left. Jay Triano seemed to bench him after that selfish play and he was on the bench for the first 8 minutes of the 4th while Joey Graham and Jason Kapono and Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon and Jermaine O’Neal were able to build a 5 point lead with 3 minutes left. Chris Bosh came in and although he did manage a block late, he scored only 4 points in the second half, was blocked twice and turned the ball over and took fade away shots over a much smaller defender too many times to consider it coincidence. I have never seen him play for himself so much and on the final inbound pass, he tried to dribble from outside the arc with a wide open Jason Kapono and Jose Calderon in his line of sight, he threw up a horrible shot over LaMarcus, looking for a foul I guess. I have not often seen him play so poorly when the team needed him to compete. I hope that they can work things out as he is too valuable to this team to watch him play this way. I hope this is not an indication of any more unrest within the walls of this locker room. Here are the game stats

Trail Blazers game stats

Brandon Roy - 15 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists
LeMarcus Aldridge - 20 points, 8 rebounds including 6 offensive, 2 blocks
Steve Blake - 19 points including 5/8 3 point baskets, 7 rebounds, 4 assists
Greg Oden - 10 points, 10 rebounds - 5 Offensive, 2 blocks
Rudy Fernandez - 16 points, 8 rebounds - 3 Offensive

36/82 - 43.9% including 12/24 - 50% 3 point shots
48 rebounds including 18 offensive
19 assists
3 steals
5 blocks

Team Rebounds - 6
Defensive 3-second violations - 0
Points Off Turnovers - 12
Fastbreak Points - 2
Points In The Paint - 24
Second Chance Points – 20

Raptors game stats

Jermaine O'Neal - 24 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 6 blocks
Chris Bosh - 19 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block
Jose Calderon - 15 points, 13 assists
Jason Kapono - 10 points, 2 rebounds
Joey Graham - 10 points, 2 rebounds
Anthony Parker - 8 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals
Andrea Bargnani - 5 points, 4 rebounds

38/77 - 49.4% including 8/17 - 47.1% from 3 point range
31 rebounds - 4 offensive
26 assists
8 turnovers
7 steals
8 blocks

Team Rebounds - 3
Defensive 3-second violations - 0
Points Off Turnovers - 15
Fastbreak Points - 8
Points In The Paint - 34
Second Chance Points – 10

I think there were a few things that I really liked from this game and a few things that concern me greatly. Once again, the Raptors were -17 on the glass with only 4 offensive boards while giving up 18 offensive boards to a very active Trail Blazers team. Offensive boards reflect the heart of a team and the Raptors played this game with no desire to attack the offensive glass. That one fact alone keeps them in a very small window to grow as a team offensively as they could have sealed this game late with a couple of tough rebounds and a couple of loose ball plays that the Blazers seemed to be the only team wanting the ball most of the game. We gave up 12/24 or 50% from 3 point range to a team that is known as a good shooting team. Steve Blake, like Vince Carter, killed us with a huge 3 point shot on a very similar play that the Nets ran on us, maybe the Raptors are the only team that doesn’t dissect game film to figure opponents tendencies out before the game is played. Jay did a great job with the rotation after the team had lost the lead. They continued to work the ball around and a balanced offense was the result with 5 guys in double digits scoring. Watching the last 3 minutes and the meltdown of Chris Bosh as he was very much in the way the second half, was difficult after watching them battle hard to put themselves in a place to be one rebound away from beating this very good team. We did only have 8 turnovers which was great but our lack of perimeter defense killed us again.

As I started this by saying, it was a very difficult week for the Raptors and we played 4 very good teams and perhaps the western conference champion and we struggled in every aspect of the game. Some interesting facts I found this past week by the numbers.

1) 49.5 – average number of points in the paint given up in the past 4 games. This means that over the past week we have given up a lot of very easy baskets. With the Raptors averaging only 34.5 points in the paint a game, that is a huge disparity and one of many reasons why we struggle so much from game to game.
2) 181/351 - 51.5% - the combined opposition field goal percentage. You can’t let teams light you up every night. Not only are the Raptors getting beat inside, our lack of solid perimeter defense is reflected in the high shooting percentage. For a team like the Raptors that struggles on offense, we can’t continue to let teams score 1 out of every 2 shots they take.
3) 50 rebounds given up per game with 12.75 Offensive boards per game allowed. We can not expect to succeed on any kind of consistent basis giving up those kinds of numbers on the glass. Rebounding reflects the heart of a team defensively, from the numbers shown here, we have a long way to go.


Though it was a tough week, I think that the move to Jay was a step in the right direction and the game Sunday showed that the team does have the talent to compete should they chose to, but I am afraid the tendency towards mediocrity this team has displayed so far this season has become systemic in nature and will be very tough to overcome from the top to the bottom of this roster.

This week we also saw a much improved Joey Graham begin to reveal some character and some heart. I think he is ready to start as what we have had just isn’t good enough and we have some very tough games coming quickly. Roko Ukic has begun to show us the skill he has and as a young guard, has provided some much needed rest for Jose. Anthony Parker and Jason Kapono had some good minutes scoring this week as did Jamario Moon. Here’s hoping that those guys continue their improvement on both sides of the floor. Andrea Bargnani is becoming a force defensively but has paid the price offensively. It is a very difficult thing to balance, but this team needs him to score as well as provide tough defense, but the improved defense will provide him opportunities to score in transition more as the tempo of this team improves offensively and in transition.

If you made it through this, thanks and I hope you enjoyed the read.

Posted on: December 6, 2008 10:50 am
 

Raptors - Jazz - Review of a team in Turmoil

Turn out the lights, the parties over! Jay Triano started his coaching era with the Raptors Friday night with a game against the Jazz. To say it wasn’t a good start is an understatement. The Raptors came into the game after losing to the Lakers and the Nuggets and then losing Sam Mitchell as coach on Wednesday. After a short practice day Friday, the Raptors had to quickly regroup and play the Jazz without Carlos Boozer. Usually when a coach is replaced, the team responds with some passion or emotion or some sort of spark for the new coach for whatever reason, but usually the players will respond and step up their play for at least 1 game. As has become the norm with this group of Raptors, there was no passion to be found anywhere.

On a night when we found out what a big baby Glenn Davis really is after Kevin Garnett called him out for playing lousy defense while his Celtics were UP 25, we watched a team fall deeper into a pit of mediocrity. After an opening play dunk by Andrea Bargnani, the guys looked good moving the ball up the floor looking for the break a few times, but after getting a 10 – 5 lead, the Jazz ended the quarter on a 28 – 13 run. Deron Williams scored 10 in the quarter running past Jose Calderon at will. Mehmet Okur used every trick in his vast array of tools to school both Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Bosh from the inside out ending the game with 21 points in only 29 minutes of playing time. The Jazz early attacked the basket and found absolutely no defense being offered up by our inside guys at all. Anthony Parker and Joey Graham offered a little bit of resistance, but it was no where near enough to stop any of the Jazz players. Paul Millsap ended the night with 17, D-Will ended with 14, Andrei Kirilenko had 7 off the bench, Matt Harpring dropped 14 and added 7 boards, Kosta Koufos had 10 as the Jazz offered their consistently balanced attack to which the Raptors could offer NO defense at all.

To a man, the Raptors looked emotionally drained and showed no emotion as the Jazz just kept taking shots in the key all night long. Whether it was a layup, or 7 footer, the Raptors just stood there helpless. What I saw last night has little to do with coaching. First, the few highlights for the Raptors. Joey Graham continues to show he deserves more time on the floor with a solid game and 13 points and 5 rebounds. He picked up 4 fouls, but at least he was engaged defensively and showed some intensity. If he continues his improvement and can cut down the fouls, he should keep the pressure on to put him on the starting lineup soon. Roko Ukic seems to grow with each passing minute on the floor. He looked more composed and very comfortable on the court and his 7 points point to his improvement as he scored most on layups or breaks. His bringing an up tempo style to this team will be critical as we look to over haul the team from the top to the bottom. Will Solomon added 7 and seems to have begun to control the ball with only 1 turnover. I am not saying he is ready to play heavy minutes yet, but I think he knows what it is he needs to do to play at the NBA level.

As for the starters, well that is another story. Chris Bosh has probably heard the last of his MVP calls this season as he has developed a nasty habit of not playing defense at all. He is considered the leader of this team and if that is the case, he needs to leave it on the court every minute he is on the floor. He is NOT a 3 point shooter. His game is taking the ball to the hole and creating mismatches and causing defenses to over rotate on him and kick the ball out. He has lost confidence in his team mates like Jamario Moon and Jason Kapono who look lost at both ends of the floor and have given up playing on the defensive end all together. Jamario was a shot blocker when he entered the league and with his talent and overall athleticism, he should be a much more able defender, but he has stopped attacking the hoop and has begun to stand around the 3 point line hoping the ball comes to him. The problem is, teams leave him alone because they know he offers no real threat anywhere on the floor in a set offense. He looked much better when the tempo was pushed and as that becomes more a part of our offense, I hope to see him return to form as he can be a real asset to this squad running the floor. Andrea Bargnani continued his solid play on defense and was truly the only real bright spot defensively with 4 blocks and 6 rebounds on a night when we got destroyed on the glass, again. We know he won’t have many 3 – 12 shooting nights so right now, I feel he is our most consistent player at both ends over all. Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon have decided that defense is no longer an aspect of the game they have any desire to contribute to and Jermaine O’Neal has become a sideshow on this team offering little on offense and not much on defense. IF he is hurt to that extent, then keep him off the floor and let the other guys figure out what to do without him. The problem is, he was brought here to provide that solution and he has not been able to perform at a level required to do so the past 3 weeks. The Raptors have struggled greatly since that Nets game and that horrible foul he suffered the injury on. Anthony Parker seems unable to defend anyone at this point and grabbed no rebounds and only 8 points against the Jazz. An over all terrible effort by him at both ends of the floor last night that can’t continue from here going forward.

So, what do we do now? Jay Triano and Bryan Colangelo have a huge amount of work to do with this team. It won’t be easy to fix without a major over haul and perhaps some player movements that won’t be popular. Right now, all of our resources were moved when we gave up Rasho Nasterovic and T.J. Ford to the Pacers for Jermaine. It is becoming clear that the plan has not and will not provide the solutions it was designed to bring. That leaves us very little resources to make any real trades with that don’t include what most would consider our “untouchables”. I will discuss this issue in my week in review to come later.


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