Archive for November, 2008

NBA’s upper echelon begins to emerge

November 28, 2008

The NBA’s regular season schedule is now in full swing with each team having played a minimum of 13 games.

As was mentioned earlier in this space, there are three tiers of teams in this League that reveal themselves on an annual basis:

1. HIGH END [above a .549 Win %]
2. MIDDLE-of-the-Pack [between a .450-.549 Win %]
3. LOW END [below a .450 Win %]

At this point, here’s what each team’s W-L record is, in conjunction with their respective Rebounding Differential Ranking [which regular readers here know is a crucial factor towards playoff success]:

HIGH END

1 LA Lakers 12-1/.923; +5.00/#3
2 Boston 14-2/.875; +3.43/#7
3 Cleveland 12-3/.750; +4.33/#5
4 Phoenix 11-5/.688; -0.25/#14
T5 Detroit 9-5/.643; +0.92/#11
T5 Atlanta 9-5/.643; -0.42/#16
T5 Orlando 12-4/.643; -0.37/#15
T5 New Orleans 9-5/.643; +0.07/#13
T9 Utah 10-6/.625; +3.50/#6
T9 Portland 10-6/.625; +4.37/#4
T9 Houston 10-6/.625; +2.06/#9
T9 Denver 10-6/.625; -0.43/#17
13 San Antonio 8-6/.571; -2.28/#24 *

MIDDLE

T14 Dallas 7-7/.500; +3.07/#8
T14 New Jersey 7-7/.500; +0.21/#12
T14 Toronto 7-7/.500; -2.14/#23
T17 Miami 7-8/.467; -5.26/#28
T17 Philadelphia 6-7/.467; +6.33/#1
T17 New York 7-8/.467; -7.20/#30

LOW END

20 Chicago 7-9/.438; -1.31/#19
21 Indiana 6-8/.429; +1.00/#10
22 Milwaukee 7-10/.412; +5.58/#2
23 Golden State 5-10/.333; -3.20/#26
24 Sacramento 5-12/.294; -1.64/#20
25 Memphis 4-11/.267; -2.40/#25
26 Charlotte 4-10/.286; -2.07/#22
27 Minnesota 3-10/.231; -1.30/#18
28 Washington 2-11/.154; -3.46/#27
29 LA Clippers/2-13/.133; -5.53/#29
30 Oklahoma City 1-15/.063; -1.81/#21

* Have played mostly without Ginobili-M and Parker-T, thus far.

Opportunity Lost … for the Toronto Raptors

November 27, 2008

The Raptors’ team that beat the Bobcats last night … Box Score … was indicative of the roster Toronto SHOULD have been playing with from the opening tip this season … minus, of course:

* Rasho Nesterovic
* Rodney Carney
* Royal Ivey
* Jorge Garbajosa
* Carlos Delfino [depending on his interest in returning]
* the 2008 No. 17 [overall] Draft Pick [e.g. Roy Hibbert, CDR, Joey Dorsey, Luc Richard Mbah A Moute]

That line-up … right there … is a top 6 contender in the Eastern Conference, with a legit shot at winning a 1st Round Playoff series this spring and enough flexibility moving forward to become a perennial contender for a spot in the NBA’s FINAL FOUR annually for the balance of Chris Bosh’s career.

That’s the type of line-up a TOP NOTCH President/General Manager would/could/should have been able to put together heading into this season on behalf of the Toronto Raptors given the list of assets which this organization had at its disposal the day before the 2008 NBA Draft.

When this speaker talks of Opportunities Lost, on behalf of this organization, over the years … i.e. since the transfer of ownership from Mr. Steve Stavro to MLSE and the subsequent dismissal of Lenny Wilkens & then Glen Grunwald … this is the type of situation that is being referenced.

* THE problem with the current Raptors
* Of scorpions, frogs, GMs & coaches
* Staying the course in Raptorville
* More Smoke & Mirrors
* 20/20 Vision of the Toronto Raptors
* The next step for the Toronto Raptors
* Understanding Bryan Colangelo’s method of operation [good & bad]
* Toronto Raptors Player Roster 2008-2009

OH, WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN, IF THE PEOPLE RESPONSIBLE FOR RUNNING THINGS AT MLSE HAD JUST KNOWN WHAT THEY WERE DOING IN TERMS OF BUILDING A CHAMPIONSHIP CALIBRE PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL FRANCHISE.

It’s enough to make a knowledgeable NBA observer sick to his/her stomuch.

What you’ll see tonight is just how little the Raptors need their new $21 Million Man

November 26, 2008

It’s half-time of tonight’s Raptors [6-7] vs Bobcats [4-9] game, and this is what the Box Score looks like:

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Bobcats
  Field Goals   Rebounds  
  pos min fgm-a 3pm-a ftm-a +/- off def tot ast pf st to bs ba pts
E. Okafor F 11:13 1-2 0-0 2-2 +1 1 5 6 1 2 2 0 1 0 4
G. Wallace F 16:57 5-8 0-0 7-11 -2 0 3 3 1 2 1 1 0 1 17
A. Ajinca C 04:00 1-4 0-0 0-0 -3 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 2
D. Augustin G 21:18 1-2 1-2 3-3 -5 0 0 0 2 0 1 5 0 0 6
R. Felton G 20:01 2-5 0-1 0-0 -2 0 1 1 4 0 1 1 0 0 4
J. Dudley   12:00 3-3 0-0 0-1 -6 1 1 2 1 1 1 0 0 0 6
A. Morrison   08:50 0-4 0-3 0-0 -6 1 1 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
M. Carroll   06:41 1-4 0-2 1-1 -3 0 1 1 1 1 0 1 0 0 3
N. Mohammed   07:29 0-1 0-0 0-0 -2 0 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 0
S. May   06:25 2-2 0-0 0-0 +5 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 4
R. Hollins   05:06 0-1 0-0 0-0 -2 1 1 2 0 2 0 0 0 1 0
S. Brown   00:00 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
 
Total   120 16-36 1-8 13-18   5 14 19 12 10 7 9 1   46
  44.4% 12.5% 72.2%   Team Rebs: 4 Total TO: 9
Raptors
  Field Goals   Rebounds  
  pos min fgm-a 3pm-a ftm-a +/- off def tot ast pf st to bs ba pts
C. Bosh F 23:07 9-10 0-0 6-6 +1 1 3 4 0 2 1 1 2 0 24
J. Moon F 12:06 1-3 1-1 0-0 +3 0 0 0 0 2 1 0 0 0 3
A. Bargnani C 20:49 2-9 0-1 1-2 +2 2 4 6 2 2 0 2 2 1 5
J. Calderon G 16:52 1-5 0-2 0-0 +4 0 2 2 4 1 0 2 0 0 2
A. Parker G 18:02 2-3 1-2 0-0 0 1 1 2 2 0 2 2 0 0 5
K. Humphries   08:49 0-3 0-0 0-0 +6 0 2 2 0 1 0 1 0 0 0
J. Kapono   07:28 1-1 0-0 0-0 +3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
R. Ukic   07:08 1-2 0-0 0-0 +1 0 1 1 3 0 0 0 0 0 2
J. Graham   05:39 2-2 0-0 4-4 +5 1 2 3 0 2 0 0 0 0 8
H. Adams   00:00 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
W. Solomon   00:00 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
J. O’Neal   00:00 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
 
Total   120 19-38 2-6 11-12   5 15 20 11 10 4 8 4   51
  50.0% 33.3% 91.7%   Team Rebs: 2 Total TO: 8
 Technical Fouls
TOR 2nd Qtr5:39 Chris Bosh
 Scoring
Lead Changes : 16
Times Tied : 12
ARENA STATS

 

Arena:
Air Canada Centre, Toronto, OT
Officials:
#50 O. Poole, #10 R. Garretson, #51 L. Richardson
Attendance:
Duration:
0:58

 

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Tonight marks the first game this season, the Raptors will be without Jermain O’Neal in their 12-man line-up.

Since their blockbuster trade with the Pacers was consummated this past summer, this corner has repeatedly said that the Raptors did not NEED to make this acquisition at this point during their attempted climb up the Eastern Conference standings.

Well, with O’Neal in their line-up, this team has performed at a .461 pace so far this season.

It says here & now that as long as O’Neal is not healthy enough to play for the Raptors this season … and, instead, their other younger and/or more athletic players [i.e. Andrea Bargnani, Kris Humphries, Jamario Moon, Joey Graham & Roko Ukic] get those available minutes of floor time … this team will perform in a similar or slightly better way as they’ve done to this point with JO as their Starting Center.

THAT’S how little this Raptors’ team actually NEEDS Jermaine O’Neal on the floor.

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UPDATE:

  • The Raptors are up by 5 points with 4:58 remaining in the 4th Q.
  • They are being hurt right now by keeping Kapono on the floor with Calderon, Parker, Bargnani & Bosh. J-Killa is simply not athletic enough to play beside Calderon and Parker and Bargnani, none of whom are High End NBA Athletes in their own right.
  • Returning Graham to the game, for Kapono, or going with Moon, instead, will address this problem.
  • Graham returns for Kapono.
  • Raptors now ahead by 3 pts.
  • Okafor with a hoop, Raptors now ahead by 1pt.
  • Bosh hits a jumper from the TOTK. Raptors ahead by 3 pts.
  • Calderon to Graham at the front of the rim for a dunk. Raptors ahead by 5 pts. Time-out [Full] Charlotte.
  • Felton, offensive foul. Drawn charge by Bargnani.
  • Augustin misses with a runner. Shot altered by Bargnani & Bosh in the lane. 
  • Calderon makes a dribble left pull-up jumper over Felton. Raptors ahead by 7 pts.
  • Steal by Graham.
  • Raptors win, 93-86.

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Here’s the final Box Score and the in-game Play-By-Play for you to examine for yourself.

Symptoms or Cause for the Raptors’ illness

November 25, 2008

[Part One] When the Raptors trade away three of their most marketable assets in a single transaction …

* TJ Ford [back-up PG]
* Rasho Nesterovic [back-up C]
* No. 17 [overall] Draft Pick/2008

in return for an oft-injured player with a $21 million/yr price-tag …

* Jermaine O’Neal

and a 2008 No. 41 [overall] Draft Pick, with an existing heart condition …

* Nathan Jawai

and, then …

[Part Two] Orchestrate a non-essential contract buyout for a player like Jorge Garbajosa, who was their starting PF/SF during the bulk of their wins in the 2006-2007 season, when they won the Atlantic Division and finished 47-35

and, then …

[Part Three] Make the decision not to sign a reliable, veteran PG, as one of their 15 Players Alottment, for the 2008-2009 season … because they are $1,100 under the League’s Luxury Tax Threshold at-present, with only 13 players under contract, and would like to remain in this position, as long as they can also field a ‘competitive’ team, in the NBA,  

it can create all sorts of interesting and unexpected deficiencies/vacancies in their everyday 12-man line-up …

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The Raptors need a shooting guard. Now.
The average PER of the opponents shooting guards is 19.9. The Raptors’ shooting guard PER is 11.0. There are only two teams who are at that much of a deficit at any position: The Washingto Wizards, who are down 11.2 at point guard and the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are down 9.0 at centre. Combined they are 2-23 and have fired two coaches. Oh, one other team is worse off, sorry. That’s San Antonio, who are down 12.4 at small forward, thanks to injuries, and they’re a potential Finals team struggling to stay in the playoff race out west.

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the Domino Effect of which can lead to a rampant mis-diagnosis of what actually ails their team, treating only the symptoms … which are readily visible … but not the ILLNESS itself.

Yes, overall PER at the #2 position is down for the Raptors, thus far, this season … but, according to this corner of the internet, THIS is NOT the PRIMARY CAUSE of the Raptors current set of problems.

Q1. What is?
A1. Part One, Part Two and Part Three … in combination with one another.

Long time passing

November 23, 2008

If this most recent bit of news is, indeed, accurate …

—————————-

Time running out on MLSE’s Peddie

The winds of change are blowing at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., and Richard Peddie soon may be swept out the door.

The change involving Peddie may not necessarily have anything to do with the impending hiring of Brian Burke as president and general manager of the Leafs — maybe as soon as late this week — but it’s likely. And Peddie likely is on his way out at the end of the season.

Peddie has been under fire for failed sporting decisions — primarily the hiring of Rob Babcock and John Ferguson as inexpensive and inexperienced general managers for the Raptors and the Maple Leafs — and has been put on notice with a changing and more aggressive board of directors. And while he has clung to the job on the basis of the financial strength of the company, there are those who look at failed television networks and other problems within MLSEL and figure the time is right for change.

This won’t happen quickly. Peddie has been a marvellous survivor, but time is running out.

THIS AND THAT

Name to know: Erol Uzermeri, the newest board member of MLSEL, and unlike his fellow Teachers’ Pension Plan flag wavers, isn’t happy just to get a parking pass and dinner at the directors’ lounge. He, not chairman Larry Tanenbaum or Peddie, is considered the power broker on the board and not interested in the status quo …

—————————-

then it’s a godsend for the dedicated and beleaguered fanbase of the Maple Leafs and the Raptors.

An unequivical Halleluiah! … should be the Word of the Day, in Raptorville & Leafs’ Nation, if this specific action ever comes to pass, and a coronation ceremony planned for Erol Uzermeri, should he truly be able to clean house at the very top of MLSE.  

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Oh, when will THEY … ever learn?

Player Leadership defined, in the NBA

November 21, 2008

Filed precisely under the category of … Not [really, truly] knowing what you’ve got [exactly] until it’s gone

A tremendous piece by Steve Aschburner, On the Man, the Mission, and the Meaning, of KG.

Garnett gone from the Wolves without a trace

[Randy] Foye, in overlapping with [Kevin] Garnett for one season here, says he learned plenty from the veteran. It goes beyond the seating protocol on the team’s charters that he mentions at first, or a pecking order of who eats first or last on those flights. It’s the sort of stuff that, if Foye preserves it and pays it forward, truly can be a Garnett legacy within the Wolves. Right now, though, the guard from Villanova mostly pines for it.my rookie year,” said Foye, who has sputtered in the season-plus since. “No matter what happened, if I made a mistake, I’d look at him and he’d go [Foye balls up a fist and pumps it], like ‘It’s all right. Keep your head up.’

“One thing I miss about him is, he just let me go. That’s why I was so successful

“It makes you feel better. It’d be like that for anyone in their work, if there was a legend who pumped you up. For a young player, that just boosted my confidence. Sometimes, in my rookie year, I felt like an All-Star out there because he let me do what I wanted and when I got it going, he let me go.”

In games, Foye said, it was like having your big brother there to hold your coat in a schoolyard fight. “There was a swagger,” he said. “KG would come out and hit a shot, and it was like, ‘Everybody, we’re in this together. I’m patrolling it, but everybody who’s got a white jersey on, we’re in it together.’ ”

——————————–

From Farragut Academy, in Chicago …

——————————–

It is going to be a bitter-sweet moment this evening, for one and all, at the Target Center.

THE MAN has come back to his birthplace, in the NBA … this time, Fully Certified.

—————–

One of the Professionals, in the NBA

November 21, 2008

Mike Wells has a solid article today on what it means to be Rasho Nesterovic, hard at-work, in the NBA.

———————————

Litte-known Nesterovic plays key role in offense

[from a teammate]

“He’s what you call a good pro,” said point guard T.J. Ford, who is in his third season as Nesterovic’s teammate. He’s been in the league for a long time. He carries himself the way a professional should. He’s a hard worker. He’s just a smart player. He doesn’t have a big name. He never has. But if you ask around the NBA, they know he’s a solid player.”

[from his coach]

[Jim] O’Brien stopped a practice during the first week of training camp and told his team, “Get the ball to Rasho and good things will happen.”

“I would say his basketball IQ,” O’Brien said when asked to name Nesterovic’s best attribute. “I think he understands the game of basketball. He understands in particular what we’re trying to accomplish offensively. He understands the strengths of his teammates. He understands the weaknesses of his teammates. He’s a very, very good communicator.”

[from the man, himself]

He doesn’t waste time breaking down the box score. You won’t catch him patting himself on the back for what he did right or grimacing after a woeful shooting night.

“I don’t like it,” he said. “There are a lot of guys that play for just stats. You don’t want to play for just box scores.”

“During the game, you just try to make every pass good, every shot good, every defense good,” he said. “You are just in the flow of the game.”

——————————–

Tells you all you need to know about a player whose team has never missed the playoffs, over the course of his 10-year career, and what it takes to develop a Reputation for Success, in the best basketball League in the World.

To one of the Good Guys: Peace, Brother.

Worthwhile analysis of two NBA games

November 21, 2008

When Kelly Dwyer [BDL] gets the fat part of the bat on the ball … which is generally acknowledged to be the single most difficult action to do proficiently in all of team sports … there’s a good chance that said sphere is going yard.

Without an excessive reliance on hard & fast empirical statistics, i.e. either ‘new-age’ or ‘old school’, when he simply conveys what he sees happening on the floor, in a general sense, from each of the participants, and his arrows’ strikes are true … as they are in these two specific instances, concerning last night’s Celtics/Pistons & Suns/Lakers match-ups, respectively:

——————————–

Behind the box score, where the C’s don’t let up and Detroit does
Exhibit A
Coaching matters. Stern decisions have to be made, and a lot of that “buck stops here” nonsense actually helps. It helps drive away excuses, and it helps to make you cringe should you have to spit out “we’ll get ‘em next time” after the game. If it hurts to say that, you’re on the right track. If you’re shrugging your shoulders, then something is missing. And I don’t care that the season is 82 games.

So when you see the Piston reserves acting like pampered former All-Stars, or Detroit failing to close out on shooters, or stepping into open lanes in order to make sure that the open lanes cease to be open lanes, you have to wonder when the buck is ever going to be able to stop.

This isn’t to say that Detroit played the same poor way the entire night, far from it. They just did it long enough to lose handily again. That’s the difference between a pretty good team that occasionally plays great and … the Celtics. The Celtics are just about always there.

Exhibit B
Winter is the architect of the Lakers’ offense, and likely the strongest principle of his famed Triangle offense is the way players are supposed to penetrate the defense. With a pass (preferably, because that means there is an open player somewhere in the teeth of that defense), a drive, a shot, or a rebound.

The last two may not seem like the best moves overall, because shots over the top of the D and ugly offensive rebounds don’t seem to go hand-in-hand with the spacious and aesthetically-pleasing Triangle offense.

But these things are important, especially when the player creating the penetration is among those (like, say, the Laker youngsters that come off the bench) who might not be the most structurally-sound Triangle denizens. There’s a reason Derek Fisher starts, you know.

So there LO is, shooting the ball, or getting into the lane for a lefty runner or hook that might not fall. Not only is his per-game numbers way down from last year, but his per-minute numbers have taken a dive as well. Even with all those chances to pad his stats among the bench corps. And yet, he’s helping. So, so much. Don’t let them convince you that he isn’t.

——————————–

it’s a pleasure and a treat to read the man’s prose about the game, and how it works at this level of competition.

First-rate stuff, right there, by the one, the only KD.

Wade or Bosh … Which one would you choose?

November 20, 2008

Inspired from a specific comment [#29], at RaptorsRepublic.com

Please feel free to supply your own rationale for your choice in the comments section of this blog.

GAME REVIEW: Raptors at Heat [Nov 19]

November 20, 2008

Primarily using their Bigger Line-up [i.e. with Bargnani, O’Neal & Bosh] for the 3rd consecutive game … this time with Jose Calderon [PG] back at the helm … the Raptors were able to:

1. WIN the Battle of the Boards [Tor +2: Tor/43; Mia/41];
2. PROTECT the Paint with 3 Shot-blocking players on the court simultaneously [BS/4; surrendering only 11 Made Layups/Dunks];
3. Control/limit the damaging effects of DRIBBLE PENETRATION by Switching vs Pick Action with their 3 Bigger Players;
4. Break Even in the Turnover Battle [Tor/10; Mia/10]; and,
5. Shoot a HIGH PERCENTAGE on their 3FGM-A [9-13/.692].

——————————–

FINAL SCORE: Raptors 101, Heat 95
Game Info

——————————–

When the Raptors employ THIS specific Style of Play … i.e. with 3 Shot-blocking Bigger Players on the court, simultaneously; Jose Calderon at the helm [32+ MP]; Andrea Bargnani [3-4, 3FGm-A] as a PERIMETER Shooting Threat [not as a Post-up Player]; and, Anthony Parker going 5-5 on 3FGM-A/1.000  … this is a team which is capable of finishing among the Top 6 of the Eastern Conference this season.

Over the course of their second set of 10 games, it will be interesting to see how this 5-man Unit plays together for Toronto [6-5]:

Game 9 – v Mia – W
Game 10 – @ Orl – L
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Game 11 – @ Mia – W
Game 12 – vs NJ
Game 13 – vs Bos
Game 14 – vs Cha
Game 15 – vs Atl
Game 16 – @ Lal
Game 17 – @ Den
Game 18 – @ Uta
Game 19 – vs Por
Game 20 – @ Cle

============================

PS. The defensive steal & twisting, driving, wrong-footed left-hand layup, in traffic, that Jose Calderon delivered last, in the final minute of the game is an example of Clutch Play by an elite level PG.
Thus far, this season, Jose is 2-3 in Clutch Play situations.
1. Big 3-ball vs Milwaukee. [solid]
2. Missed contested J2 vs Boston. [poor]
3. Big Steal & tough Driving Layup vs Miami. [solid]

For those who still doubt El Matador’s mettle … keep an eye out for these types of situations as this season develops.