Category Archives: Raptor Rants

Raptor Rant – Never Underestimate an Athletes Will to Win (Race to 50K)

cb4 V/S cv31

These are the dog days of summer when it comes to the NBA. You are trying to get excited about next season and summer league ball just isn’t cutting it.

Enter twitter…

I joined twitter about a year ago (@Nat77) and used it primarily to connect with other sports bloggers and fans. It was different from facebook because it lends itself to discussions. Slowly it began replacing my RSS reader and before I knew it I was addicted. Twitter has become a primary platform for athletes to connect with their fans and several athletes on twitter have echoed my sentiment, admitting the addiction.

Sometime last week, Charlie V(@cv31) challenged Chris Bosh(@chrisbosh) to see who could amass 50 thousand followers first. It’s not uncommon to see athletes conversing over twitter and this was a chance for fans to take part. The wager was that the loser would have to star in the winners video on Youtube. CV wanted Bosh to do the Shane Mercado and Bosh left it up to his “twitter army” to decide CV’s fate if he came out on the losing end of this. Bosh started off the challenge behind Charlie by about 2k followers but with the help of some major twitter spam, live chats and a entire country backing him – he managed to take the lead. The two started pulling out all the stops. Bosh pulled out the free stuff card and CV raised using the charity card.

This was all meant to be in good fun but at some point along the way it started to annoy the diehards. These guys were straight up begging – Charlie V even offered up $3100 worth of diamonds if he won! At any given time my entire twitter feed was taken over by the two, lost in the mix were tweets from people that were actually offering up intelligent material to ponder over. It came to a point I just wanted one of them to win quickly so my twitter could return back to normal. I found it amusing at times to see these athletes showing how bad they wanted to win even though this duel wasn’t going to be settled on a basketball court. No one likes to lose, especially two guys who play a sport for a living – winning is everything.

Late Tuesday night,  Bosh was down about 500 followers with under 1000 to go. It was the 4th quarter, it was go time and for a change Bosh came through in the clutch. He thanked his fans, CV gave him a virtual pat on the back and the world was spinning again.

In other news…

Lets NBA! – Trading away Jawai and Humphries suddenly left the Raptors lacking depth at the 5 spot. It has been widely rumored that the team is interested in bringing back Rasho Nesterovic using their bi-annual exception ($1.9M) Rasho has openly stated that he has always loved the city and the feeling is the team would welcome him back with open arms. The reunion will happen, the only question remains is – when?

Jacked Up – We are at the halfway point regarding the waiting period to see if the Pacers are going to match the offer sheet signed by Jarrett Jack to join the Raptors next season. Multiple sources have mentioned they don’t believe that Indiana is in a position to match but as we have seen this summer (See: Marcin Gortat) it ain’t over till the clock strikes 12. For what its worth, Bosh did have Jack as a guest on one of his live chats where the two spoke about Jack coming up to Toronto soon to find a place to stay – that is if bosh doesn’t plan to set up the bunk beds in his home. The two were roommates in college and from listening in on the chat, they seem to have maintained a solid friendship. I wanted the team to draft this guy in place of Joey Graham in 2005 and getting him now with the experience under his belt would be so much sweeter.

D Squared – The heir apparent in Toronto coming through “As Advertised” at NBA summer league. In 4 games, he has averaged 16.3PPG and 4.5RB (DD stats) He has been aggressive in all the games, his jump shot has been falling and aside from the production at the FT line, DeMar DeRozan is already proving to be just what this team needs. He has not shied away from having the ball in his hands in late game situations and the coaching staff have trusted him to make the correct decisions on the floor. With just 1 game left to go, he knows what he has to work on for the rest of the summer. There has been nothing but praise about this guy from the day he got drafted – check out this interview by Holly MacKenzie from the score – and we are still a few months from seeing him take the court in Toronto, but I believe this rookie will be in ROY conversations by mid January.

Delfino – $5 million? Apparently that’s what its going to take to get the former Raptor to return to the ACC. News came out yesterday that he was offered $4million a season and he was none to thrilled by that number. Personally, $4 million is still too much for a guy who didn’t show us enough the first time around and I would be hesitant to bet the bank on him. Sure he fills in some of the leaky spots in the rotation but I would much rather have Jack split time at the 1 and 2 and sign a Matt Barnes or Linus Klieza to fill the holes at the backup 3 spot. Either way we probably wont see any movement on this issue until the Jarrett Jack deal is finalized.

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Raptor Rant – Draft History = Epic Fail?

draft The NBA season wrapped up earlier this week and now the only thing people are talking about is the draft. It’s that time of year when the possibilities are endless and we get a major overdose of the words “upside”, “potential” and “athletic”. Workouts and interviews, teams want to know what the prospects can bring to the team on and off the court.

Every team wants to improve and most go the best player available (BPA) route, but I am convinced that the Raptors rank towards the bottom of the list when it comes to draft success. I have been following the team closely since 1997 and each year I cringe when the commissioner reads out the selection. Things started off well for the franchise with solid picks including Damon Stoudamire, Marcus Camby, Tracy McGrady and Antawn Jamison (that became Vince Carter). You can knock Isiah Thomas for a lot of things he did while GM of the Raptors, but drafting players is not one of them. Since then it has been more of a hit and miss affair. When Glen Grunwald came on board as the GM, he brought along Jim Kelly as the head scout. Fans of the team often express their rage on draft picks and all fingers point to Jim Kelly who remains employed by the Raptors to date under the title of Senior Director, Player Personnel.

1st round picks since inception (1995): 15

Isiah Thomas Era (1995 – 1997): Damon Stoudamire, Marcus Camby, Tracy McGrady
Glen Grunwald Era (1998 – 2002): Antwan Jamison (Traded-> Vince Carter*), Jonathan Bender (Traded), Aleksander Radojevic, Morris Peterson, Michael Bradley, Kareem Rush (Traded-> Chris Jefferies*) Chris Bosh
Rob Babcock Era (2003 – 2005): Rafael Araujo, Charlie Villanueva, Joey Graham
Bryan Colangelo Era (2006 – 2008): Andrea Bargnani, Roy Hibbert (Traded)

The Raptors have never picked lower than 21st in the Draft and 9 of their 1st round picks have been of the top 10 variety. All that said, the names in the list above are far from stellar and there have definitely been some questionable picks along the way. I question why the team loves to draft based on a position they need to fill rather than the BPA. I question why the team is so caught up in character they overlook the pure talent of the player. I question the method to their madness! Of their 15 picks, the Raptors have pretty much blown 5 of them…
– Jonathan Bender was traded for Antonio Davis and that worked out better for the Raptors as Bender never lived up to the hype.
– Aleksander Radojevic played all of 12 NBA games and was the first of many big man busts to don the Raptor uniform.
– Michael Bradley managed to stay in the NBA 5 years but totaled only 173 games due to perpetually being on the injured list.
– Chris Jefferies had TMac’s sleepy look with no skill to go along with it. He made it through 2 years and a total of 72 NBA games
– Rafael Araujo somehow managed to suit up for 139 NBA games but to date this pick brings out the most rage from Raptor fans.

Every single one of these picks were made when Jim Kelly has had a major role in the scouting/draft process. I know its not fair to pick him out from what is probably a team but he has been the only constant during the time in question.

2nd round picks since inception (1995): 11

Isiah Thomas Era (1995 – 1997): Jimmy King
Glen Grunwald Era (1998 – 2002): Tyson Wheeler, DeeAndre Hulett
Rob Babcock Era (2003 – 2005): Remon Van de Hare, Albert Miralles (Traded-> Pape Sow*), Roko Ukic, Uros Slokar
Bryan Colangelo Era (2006 – 2008): P.J. Tucker, Edin Bavcic (Traded), Giorgos Printezis, Nathan Jawai

Looking at these names, there is not a single player drafted in the second round who has played at least 82 games in the NBA. That in itself is pretty telling number, because even though it’s not uncommon for players drafted in the 2nd round to never make it, a 0% success rate is sad. This information on its own may not mean much, but when you look at the percentages compared to overall draft results it gives you a clearer picture.

# of 2nd round picks – not including the Raptors (1995-2008): 400
# of 2nd round picks who have played** in the NBA – not including the Raptors (1995-2008): 136

This shows that 34% of players picked since ’95 have played at least 82 games in the NBA. The second round of the draft is where teams take that stab in the dark and the players picked are raw experiments, or as of late, cap decisions.  Bleacher Report and Hoop Doctors have covered the topic of some of the best players to come out of the 2nd round.

This information may seem like a loose end but I will be back later in the week with part 2 of this series to tie it in with players who were passed on by the Raptors. Part 3 of this series will involve comparing the draft success of teams who have enjoyed a similar level of success to the Raptors over the past 15 years.

(*) Statistics of player acquired were used for this analysis
(**) Must have played at least 82 games to qualify

All data was collected from NBA & Basketball-Reference

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Incoming: Reggie Evans – Grabs Rebounds and Everything Else in Sight

trade
Action – The Toronto Raptors traded Jason Kapono for Reggie Evans
Reaction – I can’t believe the Raptors actually rid themselves of that contract and got something the team desperately needed in return!

What we gained: It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the Raptors have lacked toughness and rebounding over the past few seasons. That problem is less of a concern now with the acquisition of Reggie Evans who brings both the qualities along with some heart. Calling him the next coming of Charles Oakley may be pushing it, but Evans has been in the top 10 in rebounds per 48 in minutes over the last 6 years. He is one of those guys you hate playing against but would love to have on your team. On the offensive end one can’t expect much. He doesn’t demand touches and when he does throw up the occasional shot you are sure to cringe. This actually works out better for the Raptors as he meets their defensive needs while not coming in the way of their offensive plan (see: Jermaine O’Neal). Colangelo has gone as far as saying Reggie will be the first man off the bench and we should be getting about 15-20 minutes of burn from him. The fact that we save about $1 million a year helps – Financial flexibility, toughness and rebounding makes this a match made in heaven for the Raptors.

What we lost: A pure spot up shooter who never seemed to be able to get his shot off. The thought of a guy to spread the floor was great but it never panned out and at almost $6 million a year Kapono’s price tag outweighed everything he brought to the floor. When the Raptors signed him to that huge contract they were expecting more than a 3 ball trophy from an All-Star game. One can blame the offensive system but in essence, with all his offensive abilities, an average of 7.7 ppg is just not good enough. Throw in the poor defense and the frequent traveling calls, Kapono was redundant on this roster.

Moving forward: Bryan Colangelo keeps to his word. The fact that he is fearless is the reason he is touted as one of the best in the business. As the Raptors season came to an end, he said there will be changes and this is just step 1. While all the media and fan chatter is around the future of Chris Bosh, you can bet Colangelo doesn’t plan to sit back and watch. He hates to lose and while the rest of the world speculates, I fully expect him to execute his plan to make sure his star player remains in Toronto next season and beyond.

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Inked: Jay Triano – New title… same guy!

jayt

Hardly a surprise, the Toronto Raptors made it official by signing long time assistant coach and most recently, interim head coach Jay Triano to a 3 year contract (final year is not guaranteed). Dropping the interim tag he becomes the first ever Canadian to be named a head coach, ironically for the for the lone Canadian team in the NBA.

A little history: Triano is the 7th head coach in franchise history. He joined the Raptors as an assistant under Lenny Wilkens in 2002 and served 7 years as an assistant (with Wilkens, Kevin O’Neill, and Sam Mitchell) before taking over midway through the 08-09 season. He also served as an assistant coach with the USA Basketball Select Team in 2007 and 2008 to go along with his international experience as a former head coach of the Canadian National team.

My take: This was a safe signing for the Raptors pure and simple. After dishing out a ton of money to Sam Mitchell,I don’t believe the organization was willing to go out and reel in a big ticket coach. Names like Avery Johnson, Eddie Jordan, Jeff Van Gundy, and even unknown Ettore Messina were floating around amongst the media and fans, but I think it was pretty much carved in stone at the end of the season that  Jay Triano would become the head coach of the Toronto Raptors long term. Was this the right route to take? Questionable. But the man with the plan, President and GM Bryan Colangelo, thought it was. My initial reaction to this signing was that it had to be financial decision, but after hearing BC in the presser and knowing how much he hates to lose -a fact that has been well documented- it seems to be a choice he really believes in. There are no more excuses now, he had the option to go out and get his own “guy” and chose to stick with Jay. Triano seems to be “co-operative” and probably has shown more willingness to carry out  Colangelo’s vision than former coach Sam Mitchell did. His coaching record from last season was far from stellar but I believe that has as much to do with what he had to work with than it did his abilities as an NBA coach. He has been doing all the right things since he got placed in this position and I give Kudos to Jay for sticking to the plan and in return he is rewarded with the job security he wanted.

Moving forward: Jay has been around the players on this roster from day 1, every single one of them has joined the team after he started with the Raptors so there is no excuse of familiarity. He is known to have a good working relationship with our “franchise” player CB4, and has played a big role in developing our future cornerstone, Bargnani. It is expected that Triano will get to put together his own coaching staff and early rumblings have names like Alvin “Boogie” Williams in the mix to come on board in some capacity. What happens from there lies not in his hands but in Colangelo’s, I believe a coach can only do so much at this level. He needs a better roster to work with and that is where the real work starts.

Colangelo has always been known to be able to shake up a team and have them do an about turn in record time- he has hardware to prove it.  If he believes that Jay Triano is the right man for this job, then as a fan I am going to put my faith in him. If this all works out, BC will once again be heralded as a “genius” and if it doesn’t, we can just “BLAME CANADA

Raptor Rant – Cuckoo for Coco POPS!

cocopops119,000 + fans jumped out of their seats yesterday as they watched Pops Mensah-Bonsu throw down his 3rd dunk of the day. You see, Toronto Raptor fans have been involved in a game of Tug-of-War with the team over the past year. Being a fan is all about give and take and the team hasn’t been giving them much to cheer for. These days more often than not,the fans in the stands are heard booing the home team and cheering visiting players.

It was about a year ago that Chris bosh called out the fans in a video asking them to get behind the team and in return he received his fair share of backlash. What gives the player the right to tell the fan’s how to react at the game? Raptor fans have been bashed around the league for lacking basketball knowledge, cheering the visiting team and on most nights chanting for pizza in a loss but one thing no one ever should question is the passion of these Raptor fans… just ask Bill Simmons or Charlie Rosen.

Keeping the core intact, Bryan Colangelo pulled off some risky moves in the off-season that were to help the team get to the next level – GM FAIL! Luckily, its never been about winning or losing but rather about heart and hustle that will rally Raptor fans to get behind the team. Call it “The Hockey Mentality” or whatever – Toronto fans can bring it… they have proven it in the past. The talent may be lacking from this team, but more so on any given night there is no passion displayed by the team to win and I can’t help but point my finger right back at the leader of the team for setting examples. The same guy who called out the fans for not getting behind the team has me questioning what he has brought to that team this year. In the 30+ games atended this season there has not been a single instance where I was convinced that Bosh was trying his hardest. There are lots of excuses – Olympics, injuries and off nights but bottom line you want us to cheer? give us a reason to do so. This is not the worst season record wise for the Toronto Raptors in their short history, but this is the first time as a fan I felt I was being robbed by the team.

All these thoughts went through my mind as I cheered through the game v/s the Indiana Pacers yesterday at the Air Canada Center. I have not seen that much hurt being put on a rim at the ACC by the home team since the days of #15. There have been games the Raptors had no business winning and some they threw away but on this day the fans rose from their seats not for the dunk or the win, but for the man who gave us a reason to cheer. In no way do I think Pops is the “Messiah” and will lead the Raptors to go 15-0 for the rest of the season, but for one day I walked out of the arena smiling knowing that the game of tug of war had been called off (for now!!).

Raptor Rant – Ball is in my court…

Forget about playoff talk  and end of year awards, as a Raptors season ticket holder it’s that time of year again where I evaluate my ROI and wonder… will it get better? Multiple E-Mails and Phone calls from my account rep triggered off this open response to MLSE and the Toronto Raptors.

The Toronto Raptors are a business first and foremost and I understand that… my issue here is you need to keep your “investors” happy in order for them to keep funding your operation. I have been a STH for 8 seasons and hope to be again next year but all the flashbacks of the ’05-’06 season are making the decision much harder. I need a clearer idea on my return on investment before I fork out another 11 grand towards your product. I have heard your sales pitch one too many times and I need some answers before we move forward with this union

  • You want the Fans to get behind your team, you want to reach out to a National audience, you want to fill your arena and get us to buy your $4 Cokes… What are you going to do that should make me believe next season will be any better?
  • This year you don’t have the playoffs to use as a reason for us to give you our money in March you really think being in a lottery for a free TV is enough to lure me to re-up this early?
  • How do you want me to maintain my loyalty to the team when you as an organization made a deal that eventually led to me not being able to watch 1/3 of the Raptor games?
  • A discount on tickets is not going to cut it… what happened to all the other perks?
  • As a team 9th in attendance and in the top tier when it comes to renewal rates do you not have money in the bank to provide us with real half-time entertainment anymore? Watching two guys miss dunk after dunk is only amusing the first time around…

Bottom line, I am emotionally invested in this team, but there comes a time when you have to separate emotions as a wise investor would and re-evaluate your position. For now the ball is in my court and I don’t appreciate being hounded by you every March when come October you are already coming up with excuses for why the season was a disappointment.

Signed,
Heels on Hardwood

PS: I spent the first 10 games of the season staring up at that HD setup you boasted about all summer long, unfortunately it was not in awe that I looked at it each time but rather I kept checking to see when it would actually work!!!
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Raptor Rant: Clutchness revisited

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As you know by now I am all about the numbers. I know they don’t tell the whole story but you can get a pretty good idea how the game is going to go if you just look at the … Continue reading