Oct. 29, 2010, 11:00 AM
Raptors (0-1) vs. Cavaliers (1-0): Air Canada Centre - Toronto, 7 PM, TSN2
It's an intriguing matchup of two teams in similar situations in Game 2 of the regular season, as the Cavaliers make their first of two visits to Air Canada Centre this season.
Matchup To Watch: Reggie Evans vs. J.J. Hickson
The athletic forward had a strong performance at both ends on Friday with 21 points (8-11 FGM-A), six rebounds and a block. Hickson is going to be even more of a focal point up front tonight with Anderson Varejao not playing (see blow).
Varejao's absence also means roughly 10 extra rebounds up for grabs tonight, which must seem better than a giant bag of Skittles to Evans.
The Big Story: Coping With Loss (To South Beach)
Much like the Raptors, the Cavaliers are beginning a new era based on a need for total team play in the absence of a superstar and they received just that in an eye-opening 95-87 opening-night win over the Celtics.
Former Raptor Anthony Parker drilled a crucial three-pointer with 2:29 to play that Cleveland the lead and momentum for good. Parker (10 points) was among six Cleveland players to score in double-figures.
Parker won't be the only Raptor returning to Air Canada Centre. Forwards Jamario Moon and Joey Graham will also be back tonight.
Some change on the Ed Davis front, as Jay Triano revealed at Thursday's practice that the rookie forward has stepped up his participation in five-on-zero non-contact drills. Still no word on an estimated date for full-contact drills.
Joey Dorsey is available today as he returns from a league-imposed, one-game suspension for taking a preseason swipe at Chicago's Brian Scalabrine.
The Cavs won Wednesday without high-scoring guard Mo Williams (groin injury, persona reasons). He remains questionable for tonight's game.
Energetic big man Anderson Varerjao did not travel with the team as is listed as doubtful for tonight's contest. He has remained in Cleveland to be with his father, who is scheduled to have heart surgery today.
Last Time They Met
The last time these two teams met on April 6, Chris Bosh was dropped by an inadvertend elbow from Antawn Jamison that ended his playing days with Toronto. The Raptors went on to lose that game 113-101.
Cleveland took three of four matchups in last season's series, but you can throw those numbers out the window with both teams now markedly different, most notably the Cavs' addition of Byron Scott as head coach. It's been about a full year to the day since the Raptors last defeated the Cavaliers at Air Canada Centre -- a thrilling 101-91 opening night win on Oct. 28, 2009.
Akil Augustine and I discuss all of the action in our LIVE CHAT tonight, beginning right before tip-off at 7 PM. Hope to see you there.
||Game #1: Raptors vs. Knicks
Oct. 27, 2010, 10:00 AM
Raptors (0-0) vs. Knicks (0-0): Air Canada Centre - Toronto, 7 PM, TSN2
The Raptors are (finally) ready to tip off regular season number 16 when they host the Knicks at Air Canada Centre tonight. In somewhat of a unique situation, the Raptors are facing the same team they saw in their preseason finale back on Oct. 22. Toronto aims to continue their recent dominance over the Knicks after a 4-0 season sweep in 2009-10.
Matchup To Watch: Linas Kleiza vs. Danilo Gallinari
It's a matchup of sharpshooting forwards in the season opener. Kleiza has looked solid for the Raptors in the preseason, scoring a team-high 13.6 points per game on 55.9% shooting from the floor, with four rebounds, two assists and 1.29 steals per game. The newcomer led the Raptors in scoring in three of their eight preseason games.
Gallinari returns to the lineup after missing the preseason finale in Montreal. He's struggled shooting the ball (33.5% in six preseason games) but was second on the Knicks in scoring at 11.7 points per game.
The Big Story: Talk Is Cheap
It's been a longer offseason than most and I can't begin to tell you how great it is to put it all aside, throw the ball up and start playing. Yes, this team is without a clear cut star, but there were just as many encouraging signs in the preseason as there were sobering stretches of poor play.
Whichever team they resemble more this season likely determines if they overachieve and contend for a playoff spot or live up low expectations set by so many this season.
Leandro Barbosa (who spoke very candidly at Tuesday's practice) decides today if he can go with a sore wrist suffered after a fall against these same Knicks in Montreal. Rookie forward Ed Davis continues to recover from right knee surgery for a torn meniscus.
For the Knicks, Gallinari and Toney Douglas are back in the New York lineup, but forward Anthony Randolph has been ruled out with an ankle sprain suffered in Tuesday's practice. He may be joined on the sideline by starting centre Timofey Mozgov, who suffered a hip contusion and has been listed as questionable.
Last Time They Met
The Raptors held a lead a 17-point halftime lead and were up by a dozen heading into the fourth quarter at the Bell Center in Montreal on Oct. 22. But some solid defensive pressure from the Knicks reserves helped them cut the lead to 92-86 after a three-pointer from Roger Mason Jr., with 6:28 to play.
Sonny Weems managed to right the ship for the Raptors with a running banker that sparked a 9-0 run, which also included a rare three-pointer from the swingman. The end of the Raptors bench played late and successfully broke the Knicks' press several times to preserve a 108-103 win.
Akil Augustine and I will be discussing all of the action in our LIVE CHAT tonight, beginning right before tip-off at 7 PM. Hope to see you there.
Oct. 26, 2010, 6:24 PM
Big media turnout for Raptors practice today on the eve of the team's regular-season opener at ACC against the Knicks on Wednesday. We've got all the video below, but a few quick hits first.
Leandro Expects To Go
A sore wrist has kept Leandro Barbosa out of practice for the last two days, but he was back at it on Tuesday, sporting some tape on the wrist but knocking down three-pointers with ease in drills.
The Blur says he expects to be in the lineup against his former coach Mike D'Antoni and his old teammate Amar'e Stoudemire on Wednesday.
"The way I felt the last game, it really bothered (me)... but I think I can go now. There's no ligament over here. My ligament is done. It's torn. So we'll see what happens."
Yes, you read that correctly. Barbosa says he discovered yesterday that he now has no attached ligament in the same area where he had surgery performed last season to remove a cyst while with the Phoenix Suns.
Barbosa says that when he consulted with a specialist on Monday, it was revealed the ligament that was damaged due to the cyst has since detached. Friday's fall has caused some soreness in the same area, but Barbosa added that he's been told he runs no risk of doing any further damage to the wrist by playing through it.
Speaking of Stoudemire, I asked Reggie Evans (his likely defensive assignment Wednesday) about what the biggest challenge is in facing one of the game's premier fours?
"Just a person who wants to shoot the ball all the time. By any means necessary," said Evans of Stoudemire. "It ain't nothing really finesse about it, but he gets the job done. You want to be aggressive, but sometimes things may not work out in your favour. He draws a lot of fouls so it's kind of pick your poison."
Evans might also be the exception among East Conference forwards who's actually looking forward to more games against the five-time NBA All-Star.
"It's definitely good to have him over in the East, cause when I was in the West I had him four times (a season)... Now I get to focus in even more and see what I can do to make myself better and to see how I can prevent him from doing some of the things that he does."
Stoudemire's been thinking about the matchup with Evans as well, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News on Twitter.
Individual strategy aside, Evans says for this young Raptors team to be successful on Wednesday and beyond, it's going to boil down to attention to detail.
"Some of those things may show up in the stats, some of them may not... but we've got to take care of those little things," said Evans. "Weak side help, communication on defence, making sure we run the offence correctly, making sure we just focus in and pay attention.
"We can't let the little things add up to one loose screw, then another loose screw, then another loose screw. The next thing you know, the whole motor is gone. So we've got to make sure everything is all screwed in."
Lineup Changes For Knicks
The Knicks are expecting to have small forward Danilo Gallinari and guard Toney Douglas back for Wednesday's opener, but they will reportedly be without forward Anthony Randolph -- who sprained his right ankle in Tuesday's practice.
It's also being reported that New York's starting centre Timofey Mozgov could also miss tomorrow's game after hitting the floor and bruising his hip at that same practice. He's listed as questionable.
We've got more video of Jay Triano, Amir Johnson, Jarrett Jack and DeMar DeRozan below.
Don't forget that we'll have a LIVE game day chat with Matt Devlin tomorrow afternoon before Akil Augustine and I host our live in-game chat that carries through right until the conclusion of NBA TV Canada’s Raptors Post Up.
||Quick Hits From Monday's Practice
Oct. 25, 2010, 6:55 PM
The Blur Sits On Monday
Leandro Barbosa attended Monday's practice at ACC, but didn't participate for a second straight day due to a sore right wrist suffered against the Knicks on Friday. The lightning-fast guard left practice early for further evaluation. According to head coach Jay Triano, the team is just being cautious with one of their key acquisitions this offseason.
"I think it’s more precautionary. I think he's getting looked at again today and we just want to make sure there's nothing serious there and nothing that's going to stop him from being effective all year."
Ed Davis Update
Triano also provided an update on Ed Davis, revealing that the rookie forward is "a ways still" from full contact drills, but is starting to do more with the team in practice. Davis is reportedly running up and down the floor now, shooting more and even participated in non-contact drills at Sunday practice.
Jack's Media Blackout
The end of the NBA's preseason has ushered in a new wave of power rankings and prognostications that have generally been less than kind to the Raptors.
Eric Smith commented today on some of the less informed pieces out there and Triano has also made references to the current perception of his team during training camp and the preseason. But Jarrett Jack said Monday that he doesn't think his teammates are tapping into that bulletin board material.
"I don't know any of us that actually read the paper," Jack said about predictions for his team. "So we aren't aware of any ... expectations or even if there are any at all."
Jack however, is among the half of the Raptors roster that's not active with social media. We'll have to follow up with players like @DeMar_DeRozan, @DinoWright14 or new tweeter @JoeyDorsey9 to see just if and how they avoid reading about those expectations online.
||Game Preview: Raptors vs. Knicks
Oct. 22, 2010, 10:55 AM
Raptors (3-4) vs. Knicks (3-4): Bell Centre - Montreal, 7 PM, TSN2
The Raptors round out the preseason and get a preview of their opening night opponent when they "host" the Knicks in the team's first-ever visit to Montreal. It’s also the eighth (and mercifully last) preseason tilt, before the ball gets thrown up for real against the Knicks at ACC on Wednesday, Oct. 27.
Matchup To Watch:Amar'e Stoudemire vs. Reggie Evans
Reggie Evans has taken a much more simplified approach to his game of late and it's paying substantial dividends on the glass. Evans has grabbed 28 rebounds his last two games, with 10 of those generating extra possessions on the offensive end.
He'll face an all-league talent in Stoudemire however, who's off to a flying start with the Knicks to the tune of 26.0 ppg and 6.2 rpg.
The Big Story: Tougher Triano
We've seen the stories so far during training camp regarding head coach Jay Triano and his "less kind, less gentle" approach to his team this season. With the final tune up game almost here, it appears that Triano is living up to that reputation both in words and deeds.
First, les bons mots. Go back to the Raptors' disappointing effort against the Bulls on Wednesday and Triano wasn't especially impressed with one of Andrea Bargnani's better offensive performances of the preseason, saying "his game isn't where it needs to be."
Fast forward to Thursday's practice and Triano took things one step further when speaking specifically to Bargnani's help defence at about the 3:30 mark.
Moving to the other end of the spectrum with the starting lineup, there's Jose Calderon, who has certainly had his share of struggles both defensively and shooting the ball so far. Triano hasn't been very vocal regarding the preseason play of the longest-serving Raptor on the roster, but according to Doug Smith of the Toronto Star, it's Jarrett Jack getting the nod tonight.
Injury Updates: Rookie forward Ed Davis continues to recover from right knee surgery for a torn meniscus and did not travel with the team to Montreal.
Last Time They Met: The Raptors dropped the Knicks 131-113 in last season's finale on April 14, which momentarily kept their flickering playoff hopes alive. Those hopes were crushed just minutes after that win, as the Bulls secured the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
We'll be discussing all of the action in our LIVE CHAT tonight, beginning right before tip-off at 7 PM.
Amusez-vous ce soir mes amis!
||Canada Basketball Makes Structural Tweaks
Oct. 19, 2010, 10:53 AM
From left to right: Maurizio Gherardini, Wayne Parrish, Leo Rautins, Allison McNeill, Renato Pasquali, Michele O'Keefe.
It was a day of extensions, returns and reshuffling for Canada Baskbetall in Toronto on Monday, as the program announced updates to its organization structure.
Michele O'Keefe moves over from the Ontario Basketball Association to assume the role of director of basketball operations, while Renato Pasquali, previously an assistant coach with the Senior Men's National Team (SMNT), assumes the unfilled position of technical director.
The head coaches for both the senior men's and women's programs, Leo Rautins and Allison McNeill respectively, earned contract renewals through 2012.
For Rautins, a long-serving Raptors broadcast analyst who is coming off an 0-5 finish at the recent 2010 World Championship in Turkey, the move offers him the opportunity to complete what he set out to accomplish as head coach when he was appointed to the role in 2005.
"I think that if you're around our program and you see what we're up against and what we're trying to do, I think we're kind of all on the same page," said Rautins. "Everybody kind of understands what the task is so it's a great honour and for me, there's certain things I want to do taking this position. There's certain things that need to happen and I want to see it through.
"After that? As long as I leave a healthy, strong program, I'll be happy."
Rautins represents just one of several ties to the organization we cover here on a daily basis and they served as an undercurrent to Monday's announcement.
The most direct link you can find lies with Raptors senior vice-president of basketball operations Maurizio Gherardini, who also serves as the senior men’s national team managing director.
For Gherardini, the Raptors' ongoing involvement with the national program is simply a natural fit.
"By being associated with the Raptors, you realize that on one hand you have a very unique position, which is the team of the country basically and on the other hand, that comes not just with opportunity but also with what has to be feeling the responsibility of having to play such a major role," said Gherardini. "The major role is not just trying to win as many games as possible as Raptors on the floor, but it's trying to do the right thing and as much as possible to help the game grow throughout the entire country because when you do something for the game and for your own country you somehow reach two goals.
"That's why we have been feeding more and more of a commitment to Canada Basketball and that's why we've been working in that direction."
You don't need to look any further than Pasquali to see how Gherardini's connections have benefited the program. When the SMNT had an opening last summer, Gherardini felt that a European perspective would prove invaluable in FIBA tournaments and facilitated the meeting between Rautins and Pasquali, who has previously served as an assistant to head coaches like Ettore Messina and Mike D'Antoni.
One year later, Pasquali takes on a more critical role -- that of teacher to young players across the country.
"He has been a great coach, but he's also been a great basketball teacher and right now, we're trying to get the most out of him not just as it started, which was a simple unique opportunity to have him as an assistant on our senior men's team, but also to use him in what, in my opinion, he does best, which is teaching basketball," said Gherardini.
It's the loss of a valuable voice on the sideline for Rautins, but a move that should have a more significant impact on the future of the game in this country.
"We've taken it a little bit further with him being a technical director for us in terms of teaching kids around the country the right way to play," said Rautins. "I think the FIBA international style and the technical aspects of it, that's what we have to develop (with) our kids."
From connecting the program to basketball minds like Pasquali's, to a three-year financial commitment to the program, to things as simple as using the practice facilities at Air Canada Centre, it's just a small way for the Raptors to continue to help grow the game in the country they call home.
"The technical level of your performance, the young prospects growing up, the interest of media and fans growing up. The sponsors more and more as an opportunity to help us," said Gherardini.
"The involvement of basketball executives, of coaches, players and clubs all over the country, again, it's a process that is moving forward and that has to be your priority feeling in a situation like this."
||On Pianos And Glass-Crashing Bulls...
Oct. 18, 2010, 7:53 PM
Coming off perhaps their best all-around performance of the preseason, the Raptors were back to work on the adidas practice court and we've got video below.
First up is Jay Triano, who commented on the Raptors' poor start on Sunday and Wednesday's rematch with the Bulls. You'll also hear some interesting remarks regarding Reggie Evans and his role offensively (a "piano carrier" rather than a "piano player") and some high-volume shooting from Sonny Weems, who had 20 attempts from the floor against the Suns.
Jarrett Jack followed and admitted that Sunday was probably the Raptors' best all-around team performance, but was more concerned about the early hole the Raptors dug themselves in the game's opening quarter.
"I though top to bottom everybody cam out played hard," said Jack. "We still allowed Phoenix to come out and jump on us right away, which we can't do."
"We know they're a high-powered offensive team and they're going to be some games where teams are going to jump out the gate and never look back and we can't just dig ourselves a hole at the beginning of the games and try to climb out way out of it. There's a lot of teams that once they get you down, it's over... But I thought the guys did a good job of responding."
You can see more of Jack below, including his interesting high school connection to Linas Kleiza.
The Raptors received possibly their best overall team game on the sum of several strong individual performances and among them was Amir Johnson (17 points, 8/9 FGM/A, 11 rebounds). Check him out below to hear his thoughts on the role of the second unit, applying defensive pressure to opposing point guards and more.
Finally, Evans talks defence, composure, playing at the same time as Johnson and a head-to-toe description of a "blue-collar player".
We'll have more from Team Canada's restructuring announcement tomorrow...
||Big Day For The Broadcast Side...
Oct. 14, 2010, 12:30 PM
Just a heads up that Friday is going to be a big day for Raptors NBA TV, starting off with the organization making a big announcement about the channel's transformation into NBA TV Canada at around 3:30 p.m.
It's not particularly surprising if you saw the new mics or graphics used in Wednesday's Raptors-Sixers broadcast, or any of the advertising in and around Air Canada Centre, or watched commercials on the channel of late.
But you can get officially introduced to the new look tomorrow at 3:30 p.m., streamed live right here at Raptors.com. You'll want to keep watching after that announcement, as a panel discussion on the evolution of technology in the NBA with follow. With Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo, assistant GM Marc Eversley and former Raptor Charles Oakley all scheduled to attend, the organization will be well represented.
You'll be able to enjoy an awesome premiere after the official launch of NBA TV Canada, as the Raptors Behind The 2010 Draft special makes its debut at 5 p.m. I know it's always in high demand at this time of year and you can catch a sneak peak of it below.
We then return to Air Canada Centre for our hour-long pregame show including Gate 5 Live and Raptors Game Day at 6 p.m. The Raptors then host the Celtics on NBA TV Canada at 7 p.m. with Post Up to follow on both the network and online.
Dorsey Docked A Game
If you tuned in late to Tuesday's game, you probably saw Joey Dorsey get teched and tossed for a pretty hard swing at Chicago's Brian Scalabrine with under 10 seconds to play.
Well the NBA took notice too and late on Thursday, the league handed Dorsey a one-game suspension. He'll be in the lineup for the remainder of the preseason however, as the suspension reportedly must be served in Dorsey's first eligible game of the regular season.