Nov. 30, 2010, 4:35 PM
With apologies to Ed Davis, if he is the deciding factor in the Raptors-Wizards game at Air Canada Centre Wednesday, something will have gone seriously amiss.
There are just too many angles to cede the story arc to Davis, who will be asked to come off the bench and supply length and rebounding to a Raptors team staggered by the loss of power forward Reggie Evans.
Coach Jay Triano said if Davis is able to do dissuade Washington players from hitting the rim like a sportswriter at a free buffet, he will have earned his keep in his initial NBA game.
Evans meanwhile, was the NBA’s third-most effective rebounder with an average of 12.1 boards a game, but that stat did not reflect the whole of his contributions.
“He helps us with his defence and how he sets screens,” said Jose Calderon “He contributes in a lot of different aspects of the game beside rebounding."
He is also gone with a broken bone in his foot and there is no way of knowing how long he could be out.
And thus the challenge. Even with Evans, the Raptors were 16th in the NBA in rebounds. Davis arrives at an opportune time, but no one should make the mistake of letting a player in his first NBA regular season game, especially a player coming off a knee injury, shoulder much responsibility.
“That’s sports,” said Linas Kleiza. “We’ve got to find a way to overcome that injury. Reggie did so much that other people could get complacent. Now we have to figure it out for ourselves.”
The Wizards romped to a 25-point lead and ended up pasting the Raptors 109-94 when the two teams last met in mid-November.
“Of course we remember that game. We had an awful second half, “Kleiza said. “Now we’ve got to get them back and do to them what they did to us.”
How much luck they have in that endeavour should be largely influenced by gifted rookie point-guard John Wall who missed Monday’s game with a bruised right knee. Wall also missed the first Raps-Wiz encounter with injury.
Gilbert Arenas started in place of Wall and finished with 23 points in the win over the Raptors. Forward Andray Blatch led the Wiz with 26 points. Seven-footer JaVale McGee is delivering 9.8 points per game and 8.7 rebounds a night. Veteran Kirk Hinrich has contributed 10.9 points and five assists a night.
Triano said McGee’s length and energetic play diffused the Raptors attack.
“I thought McGee changed the game with his shotblocking abilities,” Triano said. Indeed, McGee owned four of the five Washington blocked shots that night, but it was the guard play that derailed the Raptors.
The team will find out at the shootaround whether Peja Stojakovic will be able to play. Stojakovic is out with a slight leg injury.
“It depends on the swelling tomorrow,” Triano said. “If it hasn’t gone down then he won’t play.”
The Raptors meanwhile need a return to form by Andrea Bargnani. After scoring 20 or better in seven of eight games, Bargnani has turned in 14 and 11-point performances. Shut out in a loss to the Celtics that ended a four game losing streak, Sonny Weems finished with just eight points in a loss to Atlanta on Sunday.
Amir Johnson scored just four points in the Atlanta game but his rebound total has been consistent at around five a night.
||DeRozan Adjusting To Increased Attention
Nov. 29, 2010, 5:35 PM
It’s the consistency of the inconsistency that tells the tale.
On Nov. 12, DeMar DeRozan scored 26 points against Orlando. His point total declined in each of the following three games: 21 points, 12 and four.
DeMar scored 24 on Nov. 1. His totals slumped to 16 and five in his next two outings.
Such is the life of the NBA sophomore. This could be DeRozan’s third season at USC and the dissection of opponents through video scouting means as soon as a player establishes a pattern of success, he and his methods are systematically targeted. Imagine the law of the jungle where the lions have smart boards and scouts at every watering hole.
“In the NBA, they take away your go-to move pretty quickly,” said Raptors coach Jay Triano. “You better have a good one to back it up.”
DeRozan has been hampered by a sore hamstring he suffered when he slipped on the floor at ACC against the Celtics last Sunday.
“I was kind of timid playing on it but now I’m feeling better,” he said after practice, Monday. The Raptors face Washington on Wednesday at Air Canada Centre and the game will feature two struggling teams. The Raptors have lost two straight. The Wizards are winless in seven road games but at 5-10, they have just one fewer victory than do the Raptors.
If there is one lesson he has absorbed over a season and a bit, it’s to never look past an opponent, DeRozan said.
“I’m learning every night,” he said Monday at practice. “This time of the year, the best team or the worst team in the NBA can play you tough. You can’t get down. It’s going to come.”
These are the dog days for a young pro. DeRozan’s minutes have mushroomed from 21.6 per game to 30.8. Bigger minutes and a more prominent profile might fatten the scoring average (at 11.9 per game, up from last year’s 8.6) and the recognition quotient, but they also heighten the physical and mental toll. Add the fact that DeRozan is often guarding the team’s best player at shooting guard and you can recognize the demands.
“It’s just part of the growing process,” Triano said. “They have to play on back-to-back nights. They have to play when they are hurt. DeMar has to guard the best position in the NBA and he also has to score on a consistent basis.”
The key to DeRozan’s game is in his legs. When he is rocketing to the basket he is a highlight reel waiting to happen, but when his youth shows itself, he doesn’t attack the basket enough to garner fouls. That lethargy in turn works its way into his defensive game.
“We will keep working on it,” Triano said. “We will show him video tape and show where he could make a defensive adjustment or find more space on the floor.”
Things will be a little tougher for the Raptors with the foot injury to Reggie Evans, one of the NBA’s top rebounders. Evans’ injury, incurred against the Celtics, will lock him out for an indeterminate length of time and the club has reached to the NBA D-League where Ed Davis has been recalled. The Raptors first round choice averaged 10 points and five rebounds in two games with Erie.
||Seven Truths About Andrea Bargnani
Nov. 26, 2010, 3:35 PM
Addition by subtraction works.
Hold up three fingers. Drop one back into your palm.
What have you got?
See what I mean?
But if the number of fingers doesn’t lie, neither does the number of points on the stats sheet. Some equations are only true when you add either human beings or baker’s yeast.
Which brings us to Andrea Bargnani.
Let’s have some fun with the numbers and extrapolate them into either obvious or subtle truths.
We’ll call it Seven Truths About Number Seven.
Fact number one: In his fifth NBA season, Bargnani is dramatically better, at least as far as scoring goes.
Bargnani is averaging 21.9 points a game, up from 17.2 last season. That’s a 4.7 point per game improvement.
That’s pretty high cotton. Bargnani is 15th in the league in points per game and he can look south on Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Rudy Gay. Last year, he finished 36th.
Fact number two: the departure of Chris Bosh hasn’t been the main contributor.
Yes, Bargnani’s attempts are up. So far this season he has attempted 17.3 shots a night. That’s up 3.1 attempts from last year and while that bump should account for another basket and a bit, it doesn’t explain an improvement of nearly five points. There is some logic to the idea that without Bosh, Bargnani has more room in the low post but that has never been his game.
Fact number three: The real difference is a far more assertive Bargnani and acknowledgment by NBA officials that Bargnani is a legitimate property. Here is the most staggering statistic behind Bargnani’s improvement. He is shooting twice as many free throws per game, 5.8 this season than last (2.95) while attempting three more field goals a night.
Fact number four: While he isn’t exactly asserting himself under the basket, Bargnani’s progress isn’t coming from the arc. His attempts are down significantly, from four to three a game roughly.
Fact number five: Bargnani’s improvement has had a more evolutionary than revolutionary effect on the Raps offence. While the club boasts a far more athletic, attacking style the Raptors average of 100 is four points shy a game of last year’s offence.
Fact number six: While his production is still vulnerable to some dramatic fluctuations, Bargnani has toughened himself for road games. There is only a one point dip in Bargnani’s production when he leaves Air Canada Centre where he has averaged 22.4 points a night.
Fact number seven: The single biggest factor outside of Andrea Bargnani for the improvement of Andrea Bargnani is Reggie Evans. Evans is the third most prolific rebounder in the NBA this year with 12.6 a game. Evans presence has allowed Bargnani to face the basket more often. While Bargnani hasn’t exploited the havoc wrought by Evans to snare more rebounds (Bargnani’s rebounds have flatlined), Evans has created more possessions and kept the ball alive for Bargnani. Let’s put it this way. So far, Evans has ripped down 62 offensive rebounds. Bargnani has just 19. Which player do you think has converted more of those stolen possessions into points?
||Different Realities For Newest Raptors
Nov. 23, 2010, 5:00 PM
They are as different as different as two situations can be.
Jerryd Bayless and Peja Stojakovic were unveiled at Raptors practice Tuesday and the contrast between the two was striking.
Bayless was absolutely giddy at the prospect of finally having a team to manage after playing behind Brandon Roy and Andre Miller in Portland and the great Chris Paul in New Orleans.
The 22-year-old Bayless as well as Stojakovic came to the Raptors in a deal for point guard Jarrett Jack, David Andersen and Marcus Banks.
In his third NBA season, Bayless is a terrific on-the-ball defender with unproven ball distribution and shooting skills.
Stojakovic, meanwhile, is one of the all-time kings behind the three-point arc and a player who has scored nearly 13,500 points in the NBA during stops in Sacramento, Indiana and New Orleans.
Clearly, Stojakovic’s experience in New Orleans where he was shuffled off to the bench as the Hornets went high tempo, did not sit well and he arrived in Toronto clearly unsure of what his role would be.
“I really don’t know what to expect out of this situation,” he said. “Personally I feel good. It’s up to the organization how they are going to use me. Which direction we are going, I still don’t know.”
There is some reason for Stojakovic’s caution. The Raptors are looking to play the same uptempo style employed by New Orleans and are well-stocked at small forward. Andrea Bargnani fills much of the need for perimeter shooting so it’s not immediately apparent where Stojakovic will fit.
Stojakovic’s major asset may be his expiring contract. A team looking to fortify its shooting in the spring would find his experience a terrific asset.
But while the lanky Serb is clearly on the final lap of his career, Bayless had the vibe of a kid who was being handed the keys to a performance car.
“I can’t be more excited. This is an opportunity of a lifetime playing with these young guys and growing with them, it’s something I have wanted to do since I have been in the league.
“I’m just a point guard. I am going to be the one to run the team, me and Jose. It will be about earning and giving them the ball where they like it.”
The son of a forensic psychologist and a counselor/teacher, Bayless’s basketball reach still impressive.
He has known Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo since he was a young teen and played many of the same tournaments as swingman DeMar DeRozan.
“It’s definitely going to be a great situation and hopefully a long one,” said Bayless.
||If You Can't Stand The Heat...
Nov. 12, 2010, 11:00 AM
Schadenfreude is a powerful thing.
Schadenfreude is taking joy in the misery of those who deserve it.
Imagine the guy who stole your patent going to jail for tax evasion. Imagine the feds cuffing him at a board meeting. That’s Schadenfreude.
It is small, narrow and miles away from mature. God, it’s fun.
The Raptors are in Florida for a tilt against Orlando tonight and then Miami on Saturday. The Heat have tinkered with their lineup over the last few months. Perhaps you’ve heard.
You need to know Heat is the new Hate. Hate is a very strong word. That’s why I use it.
Ever notice all the Harley-Davidson stuff out there? Mud flaps and gas caps and leather jackets, all manner of stuff designed to make the owner feel he is making a distinctive, hard-ass statement.
If you hate the Heat, you are like the typical Harley merch consumer. Of course you hate them. Everyone hates them. There are just countless ways of doing it.
Heat hating is as common as freckles.
Schadenfreude makes Heat hating unnecessary. Pity is much, much better.
Into a world tired by the craven antics of billionaire athletes strode LeBron James and Chris Bosh, tweeting all the way and preening in their pyrotechnic introduction as if they had something more than a combined single championship delivered by Dwyane Wade.
Say what you want about the words: ‘I am taking my talents to South Beach.’ It’s less obtrusive than sticking your finger down your throat.
We have moved on. That the Heat bus isn’t blockaded by angry mobs of basketball fans every night speaks to the frantic pace of everyday life that somehow squeezes even the most grievous behavior out of our consciousness.
But then the season started and we found out… everything is going to be all right, just not for the Heat.
The Heat are 5-4 but soft as pudding offensively and the present highlight reels aren’t quite what they had in mind. Thursday night, Ray Allen had 35 and Paul Pierce 25 more as the Celtics dropped the Heat for the second time this season.
Let’s try these numbers: Paul Millsap, 46 points in an overtime win over the Heat. Yep, 46.
Perhaps even more telling, Emeka Okafor 26 points.
Do you think opposing coaches get nervous when they see Zydrunus Ilgauskas working under the basket? The Heat are a donut masquerading as a team: lots of sparkle on the outside, Bo Diddley inside.
Bosh has fewer points than Andrea Bargnani. He has 40, 40 fewer rebounds than Reggie Evans.
So much for 25 and 10. Can’t remember, where did he used to do that?
Just nine games in, I am happy to report we are past hate.
We are into Schadenfreude and it may not last forever. It wouldn’t be a surprise to Bosh light up the Raptors, Saturday night.
I know exactly why he wants to.
Nov. 11, 2010, 9:00 AM
Mourn the blood spilled on Flanders Fields and the blood red poppy that speaks to the dead.
A Canadian WWI commanding officer named John McRae witnessed the death of a 22-year-old friend.
His poem, In Flanders Fields, calls all who would come later to pick up the fight.
The poem is inspiring and devastatingly sad. McRae would die two months later, killed by the pneumonia that swept through the battlefield. Among the traces of his life were In Flanders Fields and two doctors he tutored back home. They would become two of the first female physicians in Ontario.
Mourn the 64,000 Canadians killed in World War I.
Mourn the White Rose campaign, a cell of students inside Germany who resisted the Nazis. Hitler had the half dozen ringleaders decapitated. Later, Allied Forces would drop their writings as leaflets over Berlin. Where there is evil, courage inevitably flowers.
Mourn for Private Mark Graham of Hamilton, killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2006. Mourn the 42,000 Canadians killed in the WWII, but make room in your grief for the 20 million Russians and civilians killed in the same conflict. The Russians thrust their own toward the German troops. A machine gunner stood at the rear of the phalanx, ready to shoot down those who hesitated. It’s been said that a familiar tactic of the Russians was to randomly execute one of their own soldiers, the better to terrify the men toward combat.
Mourn the circumstance that prompted some of our WWI soldiers to execute 23 comrades who refused to fight.
Mourn the residents of Nanking, China, the site of a massacre by the Japanese. The Chinese said 300,000 were killed.
Mourn the 700,000 Americans killed by their own countrymen in the Civil war.
Mourn the evil a world away that prompted us to rename a stretch of Road the Highway of Heroes.
Mourn 200,000 killed in Nagasaki and Hiroshima and the 25,000 incinerated at Dresden in Germany.
Mourn six million Jews killed by the Nazis and the couple that jumped to their death hand-in-hand from the World Trade Centre.
Easily lost in the poppies and the Last Post and the flyovers is the message of Lest We Forget.
Remember the bayonet wielded throughout history for it is within all of our reach, cloaked in the ether between patriotism and nationalism, ambition and ruthlessness, redress and revenge. One of the most cultured countries in the world produced Hitler.
There has been no higher cause than the heroic desire to stop Fascism, to unshackle the horrific clutches of the Taliban, to resist Stalin. The wisdom of those sentiments is usually amplified by time. How many lives were lost because of the American reluctance to enter World War II? What about the 1,000,000 people said to be killed in Rwanda, partially because of our inaction?
But the rueful corollary of Lest We Forget is ‘Dare to Remember’ before we send our men and women into harm’s way.
Our people in the armed services deserve our reluctance and our caution before we wave a lit candle near the thread that is their legacies. We owe them that.
The fact that we have had so many people we call heroes is a tribute to our country. That there had to be is an indictment of our kind.
As long as there is wrong, there will be people willing to risk everything to set things right.
That is the best of our human nature. And it will be forever tested by the worst.
Lest we forget.