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  Can Solo Help In The Middle?

June 28, 2011, 4:23 PM

There has been a lot of talk in recent days about the Raptors top pick in last week's NBA Draft, Jonas Valanciunas.

It's not yet known if Big V will be in Toronto in time for next season but if his buyout cannot be negotiated in time, Bryan Colangelo has said that he's comfortable leaving Valanciunas overseas for at least a season or two to work on his game that much more.

And in the meantime, it's not like the Raptors are thin in the front court. Amir Johnson, Ed Davis, and Andrea Bargnani will continue to get the bulk of the minutes at the four and five and there's nothing stopping Colangelo from going out and snagging a center (in spite of drafting Valanciunas) via trade or free agency.

However, a name that has flown under the radar a bit is Solomon Alabi.

After being used sparingly in his rookie season, there may be an opportunity for Alabi to do more in T.O., in year two. In fact, many fans have messaged me on Twitter and Facebook, referencing David Thorpe (from ESPN) and his comments that Alabi has the chance to be better than Miami's Joel Anthony (for example).

I recently caught up with Alabi and asked him about his off-season and what he's working on to get himself ready for next season.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

Thanks folks. Sorry I haven't been around as much of late! I'll try to check in again before the end of the week and do a better job of keeping in touch in this space throughout July and August too!

All the best ,

E. Smith
Raptors Radio Analyst
twitter.com/eric__smith
 



  Random Thoughts After The Finals...

June 16, 2011, 2:35 PM

Before I get into anything else today, I simply have to say what a shame it was to see so many people (idiots) in Vancouver react the way they did last night. Thousands of hooligans -- in Canucks jerseys and t-shirts -- ruining one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

It was nice to watch the folks in Dallas celebrating with confetti and balloons earlier today (during their parade in Big D) as opposed to the tear gas and looting we witnessed in the aftermath of the loss last night in Vancouver.

Let's use that debacle to kick off the latest edition of Random Thoughts ...

1. No, last night's disgusting events will not have any impact on whether or not the NBA ever goes back to Vancouver. Comments like that are completely baseless. If the league decides it wants to retry Van City, it'll be based on the growth of the sport and the growth of the economy, not an isolated (albeit, pathetic) incident that following a hockey game.

2. I had to sit back and wait for a couple of days; let the feeling of reeeeally want to gloat subside for a bit. I called the Finals: Dallas in six. As it turned out, my hunch about the point guards, forwards, size (i.e. Chandler vs whoever) and bench strength proved to be right. And I also spoke before the series about what a great coach Erik Spoelstra is, but his 'experience' is lacking when compared to Rick Carlisle (who has been to Conference Finals and multiple post-seasons in the past). Carlisle pressed all the right buttons in tweaking his line up throughout the series and the Mavericks certainly in that Championship win.

3. What does Dallas do with Tyson Chandler now? The almost-Raptor was one of the primary reason why the Mavs became one of the better defensive teams in the league (a club normally known for its offence -- that's it). Mark Cuban can't let him walk away in free agency, can he?

4. How great was it to see Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph -- local kids -- IN TORONTO yesterday for a workout with the Raptors? Though Joseph is likely destined for the second round, he's almost sure to get drafted anyway. And if projections like Draft Express' pan out, Thompson could wind up as a lottery pick ... maybe landing in a place like Phoenix or Houston (alongside fellow Canadian Steve Nash would be a huge bonus, I'm sure).

5. While 'mock drafts' are undoubtedly an inexact science, if you believe what's out there on various sites -- and talking to / listening to NBA scouts as well -- it seems like Jimmer Fredette is climbing the charts. Hailing from BYU, he'd be a natural fit for the Utah Jazz but I don't know if Fredette will get THAT high -- to #3. If he does, it really jams up the PG position at the top of the Draft, with Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight, and Kemba Walker as well.

6. Do I need to say anything about LeBron James? Probably not. But I'll go with this anyway: forget about his on-court performance (or lack there of), his post-game comments after Game 6 were a slap in the face to many/most NBA fans out there that pay their hard-earned dollars to watch him and the Heat play. Granted, James apologized after the fact, but the damage was done.

7. I'm going to give you back-to-back videos now ... If you haven't seen this one, check out Funny or Die's spoof of Gatorade's old "Be Like Mike" campaign.

8. And video #2 is the NBA Champs appearing on Letterman last night -- bringing folks Dave's famous Top 10.

9. On draft night next Thursday, be sure to check out the Fan 590's "Hoops" show, broadcasting live from the Real Sports Apparel store from 10pm-12am. Paul Jones and I will be joined by a number of players, coaches, and members of the front office during our two-hour post-Draft exclusive.

10. Still no word on the Raptors search for a new head coach but word is Dwayne Casey was in town for an interview earlier this week and I'd expect a decision to come down shortly from Bryan Colangelo. The President and GM said he wanted to have someone in place before the draft and we're a week away from that mark.

Have a good one folks ... I'll try to check in again tomorrow

E. Smith
Raptors Radio Analyst
twitter.com/eric__smith
 





  Number Crunching Before Game 5

June 9, 2011, 3:47 PM

As we all get ready for Game 5 of the NBA Finals tonight, I thought it was time to do a little "Number Crunching" ...

LeBron James is coming off the worst post-season game of his career and, arguably, one of the worst games of his career overall. Though he tried to make an impact on the glass and with his distribution and ball handling, King James was all but a no-show on the offensive end of the floor. In fact, his scoring totals have been dropping with every game that has passed in The Finals:

LeBron James' PPG:

Game 1 - 24
Game 2 - 20
Game 3 - 17
Game 4 - 8

Credit Shawn Marion for his defence on James as well. The veteran forward has been all over LBJ ... showing shades of what earned him the nickname "The Matrix" during his early days in Phoenix.

One of the things James has been great at over the course of his career is getting to the free throw line. And for many (most?) players, the charity stripe can also be used as a way to get out of a funk; to get a couple of easy looks at the line and get the confidence going from the field again. But even that theory or option has been n/a for LeBron as his attempts and makes have been nothing to write home about during this Championship round.

LeBron James' FT:

Game 1 - 2/2
Game 2 - 2/4
Game 3 - 4/4
Game 4 - 2/4

Luckily for James and the Heat, Dwyane Wade (and to a lesser extent, Chris Bosh) has been there to save the day.

Wade has been spectacular during the Finals and though his turnover at the end of Game 4 may have cost Miami a chance at tying (and eventually winning?) the game, his scoring and decision-making (and rebounding) in Games 1, 2 and 3 were outstanding.

Wade has talked about asking his Heat teammates to lean on him; he's not only been to the Finals but he has a ring, thus, he knows what it takes to win it all.

And this long playoff run has D-Wade climbing Miami's franchise charts in so many different categories:

HEAT Career Playoff Games:

1. Wade - 85
2. Alonzo Mourning - 82

And as a result of those 85 post-season games, Wade sits alone atop the following lists (and more):

- Total Points
- Total Assists
- FT Made

The Marquette man also has 29 playoff games of 30 points or more and 69 playoff games of 20 points or more.

----------

Finally, though I didn't give you a ton of numbers on the Mavericks ... there's really only one that matter right now:

Home court advantage.

The NBA Finals carry a 2-3-2 format -- unlike the opening rounds that are 2-2-1-1-1.

Thus, Dallas will be playing at home for the 3rd straight game, looking to take a 3-2 series lead back to Miami for Games 6 and 7.

While every game is important in the Finals, this Game 5 tilt is huge. If the Mavs win, they put pressure on the Heat to HAVE to win Game 6 at home. And Dallas is carrying momentum right now -- or they should be. Not only did the Mavericks come back with a massive win in Game 2, but they came within a couple of inches of stealing Game 3 as well, and they rallied yet again for the Game 4 victory. In spite of lackluster play at times from just about everybody not named Dirk Nowitizki, the Mavs have stood tall against the Heat.

This will be the final home game of the season for Dallas, and that home court advantage should be massive. The Mavericks have sold out 399 straight regular season games and 57-straight playoff games. That total of 456 games in the longest streak in the NBA.

Dallas was 29-12 at home during the regular season and they're now 8-2 at home in the playoffs.

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Enjoy the game tonight folks!

Have a good one

E. Smith
Raptors Radio Analyst
twitter.com/eric__smith
 



  More Change For The Raptors

June 2, 2011, 4:15 PM

CHANGES

It's always tough to see someone lose their job so it's nice to know that Jay Triano will still be employed by the Raptors -- in an consulting role alongside Bryan Colangelo.

Triano should not take all of the blame for what went 'wrong' in Toronto last season. He's still a very skilled and respected basketball mind in NBA circles and his work with the Canadian and U.S. (currently) national teams speaks for itself as well.

I hope that he gets another head coaching opportunity one day but either way, I know he'll be a 'lifer' in the game of basketball in some way, shape, or form. And for the time-being, the fact that he'll still be in T.O., is a bonus (heck, Colangelo didn't even rule out the idea of Triano being back on the bench as an assistant if the new coach, whoever that turns out to be, is open to the idea of having the Niagara Falls native on his staff).

Colangelo emphasized a desire for wanting to find a defensive-minded coach with a good pedigree and resume.

----------

THIS IS IT

Lost in the flurry of activity that was going down in T.O. yesterday was the news that one of the greatest players in the history of the game announced his retirement.

After 19 seasons, Shaquille O'Neal is hanging up his sneakers and leaving the NBA.

I can't imagine he'll be going very far though. One of the major broadcasters - like ESPN or TNT - is sure to gobble him up and I wouldn't put it out of the realm of possibilities for Shaq to show up in someone's front office some day as well.

O'Neal is, arguably, one of the 10 best players the league/sport has ever seen and he's easily one of the most dominant. In his prime, Shaq's sheer force, power, and skill was second to none and when you stack him up against the all-time great big men, he has to be in the same conversation as Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell (again, just based on domination of their opposition, etc).

The man with a million nicknames walks away with 4 NBA championships and 1 MVP trophy and a guaranteed spot in the Naismith Hall of Fame. And the LA Lakers have already said (not surprisingly) that they're going to retire O'Neal's #34 jersey at Staples Centre.

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FINAL STAGES

During his Triano conference call, Colangelo mentioned that Toronto's list of potential draftees for the number five pick sits at about eight players right now. But the president and GM admitted that that list is a little large right now and he'd like to trim it by a couple of names at the very least in the coming weeks (and obviously, before the June 23rd Draft).

And shaving down that list of candidates may become easier for the Raptors now that they'll get a chance to see some of the players up close and personal at the ACC. The Raps announced the following dates for pre-draft workouts:

June 7
June 15
June 16
June 20

The dates are subject to change and the list of invited players has yet to be announced.

There are some rumblings that Brandon Knight could be one of the first invitees coming to town next week but that has not been confirmed by Toronto.

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TROPHY TALK

For those that have been asking, I made my 'prediction' for the NBA Finals on Fan590.com earlier in the week. But in case you missed it, here's who I went with:

Dallas in 6.

I spoke about the strength/advantage the Mavs have at the point, in the middle and at the power forward slot and how their bench should be much deeper and talented than the Heat. Miami clearly has the edge at the 2 and 3 but I wondered if that'd be enough in the end.

Well, in Game 1 that advantage at the 2-3 was certainly enough, as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade turned in outstanding performances. But the biggest difference in that Game 1 win for Miami was their second unit. They completely out-played the Mavericks' reserves (and starting unit at times).

We'll see if that holds true again tonight in Game 2.

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Don't forget to tune in to the HOOPS show tonight on Sportsnet Radio, The Fan 590.

Enjoy the show and Game 2 of the Finals,

E. Smith Raptors Radio Analyst

E. Smith
Raptors Radio Analyst
twitter.com/eric__smith