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Preview: Raptors' Lair

Raptors' Lair

Updated: 2018-03-02T10:41:39.571-05:00


Meet Hassan "Hot Sauce" Adams


(image) (Hassan Adams, right)

The Toronto Raptors announced yesterday that they have signed Hassan Adams to a two-year contract. Financial details haven't been released yet, but the deal's expected to resemble the one Jamario Moon signed last year, paying the league minimum in the first year, with a raise in the second year. Here's what the internet says about him:

  • Nicknamed "Hot Sauce".
  • His favourite player growing up was Magic Johnson.
  • Completed a sociology degree at the University of Arizona
  • Was a college teammate of Andre Iguodala, Luke Walton, Salim Stoudamire and Channing Frye.
  • When not playing basketball, he enjoys bowling.
  • Is only current Raptor with a criminal record, with charges of disorderly conduct and DUI, both coming in 2006.
  • In 61 games, has career averages of 2.9 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 0.2 APG, 55.6 FG%, 66.7 FT%, 0.3 SPG, 0.1 BPG.

Adams will be on the Raptors' Las Vegas Summer League team, playing from July 12-19. Joining Adams will be a motley crew including fourth-year "prodigy of talentlessness" Joey Graham, the third part of the John Lucas trilogy, John Lucas III, and Chris Bosh's brother, Joel Bosh. Once the T.J.-O'Neal swap is made official, look for the Raptors' second-round pick, Nathan Jawai, to be added as well. Win or lose, Graham promised the guys major pig outs at the buffet and the craziest pillow fights EVER in Vegas!

Good Riddance to Bad Garbage


According to Spanish media reports Jorge Garbajosa and the Raptors have come to an agreement to terminate his contract, begging the question, why does the Spanish media know about this before the Toronto media? Details are still scant mainly because I can't read Spanish, but it seems like the agreement is a straight-up termination, as in no buy-out fee. I believe that Garbo's contract will still count against the cap, although if he agreed to pass on next season - which is his final year under contract and which would have paid him $4.35 million - the Raps will at least be spared the actual, physical cash.

While you can't view Garbajosa as particularly malevolent, you've got to view him as obstinate to the point of stupidity. He mutilates his leg contesting an Al Jefferson lay-in that even Bill Russell with a horse's lower body couldn't have blocked. Then he refuses extensive surgery so that he could spend the summer with his chums on the Spanish national basketball team (who had already qualified for the Olympics!). The Raptors ask him not to play for Spain, he does anyway, further injuring his leg. He tells the Raps he's ready to play in the regular season, but he's not. He finally agrees to - and has - further surgery, after which Bryan Colangelo sends a message to Garbo's pager: "You've had the surgery, Garbo, there's no way you're playing for Spain in the Olympics." Garbo rushes to a payphone, drops the dime, calls BC and says, "Yes I am." Buyout negotiations begin.

No one will miss his three-point shooting (career 34%) which was his only offensive "weapon", but he was tough. More importantly, though, that toughness is very replaceable, particularly now that the Raptors might not owe Garbo a penny for this season.

The only thing I'll miss is his shaggy-haired, feigned naivety. The kind that, upon discovering that he was named T-Mobile NBA Rookie of the Month for December 2006, spawned the comment, "If I am the best rookie in this league, then this league is shit."

Boshton vs. Bosh Angeles - Bosh is There!


Since Stephon Marbury didn't return his calls, Jay Leno hired Chris Bosh to be his NBA Finals Correspondent spawning what might be the most inaccurate cartoon rendering in history (above).
Good luck, Boshasaurus!

Sweet Seventeen?


(image) On June 26th Bryan Colangelo and Maurizio Gheradini will sit in a green room in New York, sipping macchiatos, listening to 16 teams draft amateur basketball players. Then it will be their turn. What are their prospects and precedents?

In 2001, the last time the Raptors picked 17th, they chose Michael Bradley who, last I heard, couldn't make a German league team. In 2005, Indiana got Danny Granger, and the year before that the Hawks chose Josh Smith. Rasho Nesterovic (1998) and Doug Christie(1992) were 17s, as was Jermaine O'Neal (1996) and Shawn Kemp (1989). But never forget about former 17s Zarko Cabarkapa (2003) and Leo Rautins ((Pictured above) 1983).

Below are several sources' narrowly educated guesses at who the Raptors will select with their 17th pick. I expect most mock drafts to change over the next month of private workouts and draft camps (All links to player profiles are from Draft Express):

Draft Express, and Yahoo!: Nicolas Batum, SF, Le Mans Sarthe Basket (France) - 6' 8", 214 lbs, Age: 19 (Chad Ford): Robin Lopez, C, Stanford - 7' 0", 245 lbs, Age: 20

RealGM: Javale McGee, C, Nevada - 7' 0", 237 lbs, Age: 20

Sports Illustrated: Donte Greene, PF/SF, Syracuse - 6' 10", - 220 lbs, Age: 20

And out of nowhere, Anthony Parker had surgery on the middle finger of his right hand.

Rasho Nesterovic Makes Easiest Choice of His Life


I saw Rasho Nesterovic at the bank today and he was doubled over in laughter. When I asked him what was so funny he told me he picked up his player option for the 2008-09 season. Nesterovic will make $8.4 million next season, making him the second-highest paid Raptor, and while he was, sadly, the Raptors' second-most reliable player over the final 20 games of the season, even his baby son, Nikola, is wise enough to admit that Rasho's overpaid.

What's most interesting about this move is that it comes very early in the offseason. Nesterovic had until June 30 to pick up the option, a deadline which falls after the NBA draft (June 26). Toronto has been rumoured to have interest in moving up in this year's draft and Nesterovic's contract might be an attractive addition to any trade package.

Now let me tell you everything that's wrong with the above paragraph from the bottom up. First, I dislike it when sports writers use the word "attractive" to explain an expiring contract. It sounds like the equivalent of masturbating to a comic book. Second, expiring contracts are generally dealt closer to the trade deadline, when a franchise has at least given the illusion of making an effort that season. Even Colangelo's famous Marbury-Hardaway dump came in January of 2004. Also, any possible trade that the Raptors could make would be hugely contingent on the order of the draft (which will be decided on May 20) and would probably involve either Jose Calderon or TJ Ford. Problem is, TJ Ford can't be traded until July 1 because of his base-year compensation status. Finally, if you were Rasho Nesterovic and you were given the choice to make $8.4 million or explore free agency wouldn't you avoid putting it off?

Jamario Moon No Longer Lowest Paid Player In NBA


The Raptors shocked no one on Wednesday by picking up Jamario Moon's option for next season. The former Harlem Globetrotter and Albany Patroon will make just over $700,000 in '08-09, which I considered making fun of before looking at my pay stub today. But, just for perspective, consider that Darrick Martin made nearly double that last year in 17 games and he didn't even make the 2008 T-Mobile NBA All-Rookie Second Team.
Inexcusably, Moon started 75 games for the Raptors last year. This isn't a slight against Moon's talent, but rather a comment on the paucity of talented wingmen on the Raptors. Moon also broke a team record by recording at least one block in twelve consecutive games.

STATS!: Moon averaged 8.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.0 spg, 1.4 bpg, 48.5 FG%, 32.8 3P% in 27.8 mpg.

Thanks, Chuck


Best of luck, Chuck. See you in Chicago. You gave moments like these part of their magic:

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Oh Right, Basketball!


(image) That's me in a genuine London phone booth, in London. It was all part of a study to find out if Raptors losses hurt as bad if you don't actually watch them. My research has shown that, yes, they do (hence the middle digit), particularly when those losses come against the Nets and the Plopcats. I could have dashed off a few thoughtless, vitriolic lines about my disappointment, but there would've been no point as I didn't see the games and I was surrounded by people whose idea of sport begins and ends with soccer.

So, as the Raptors say they have no excuses for this year before pointing to Bosh and TJ's injuries, I have no excuse for the hiatus except for being off the continent in a country that probably doesn't even know who native son John Amaechi is, or his importance to the NBA.

Wanna know how excited I am for the post-season? I'm actually watching the Raptors-Bulls game right now. And there will be a preview of the Raps-Magic series posted soon. Hopefully somebody other than me and my girlfriend reads it.

Seventh Place!!


Earlier this year I referred to the Philadelphia 76ers as "middling," which may still be true, but the Raptors are now officially more (less?) middling. With their win over the Celtics last night the Sixers moved one spot ahead of the Raptors for the sixth seed in the playoffs. If the playoffs started today, the Raps would play the Pistons who would sweep over us worse than ex-Raptors coach Gene Keady did his hair.

In the meantime, the Raps play - oh shit - the Pistons tomorrow night. Considering the only team that Toronto's managed to beat in all of March (and remember this is the 25th) is the Chris Quinn-led Miami Heat, the Raps should have no trouble getting ground into 'Sheed snacks.

After that nightmare, however, nine of the Raptors' final 11 games are against teams with sub-.500% records. The absolute best that the Raps can do this year is equal last year's total of 47 wins. More realistically they'll get 43 wins. But if the Raptors have shown us anything this year it's that they're adept at underperforming.

Without Chris Bosh I Am Nothing



You might have guessed the reason(s) for the dormancy lately. After a hardy month of convincing myself that the Raptors are well-alligned for the future they started sucking the fat bag, losing five straight and eight of their last ten. I still believe that the team's salary flexibility over the next two seasons is a massive asset, but some of the personel, including a coach or three, might be doing a less-than-adequate job. And at some point the future has to become the present, which has shown no signs of happening in Toronto.

Most disappointing has been the play of T.J. Ford and Andrea Bargnani. It's getting more difficult to have confidence in the potential of Bargnani when he's passed up, or just plain flunked, his opportunity to contribute at his natural position while Bosh is out with a knee boo-boo. Meanwhile, as evidenced by the above clip, T.J. Ford has gone apeshit. He's eschewed passing in favour of taking inscrutable circus shots, ignoring his teammates and handing the ball to opposing teams.

A friend and I have been dreaming up possible trade scenarios involving Ford and, sadly, a suggestion from a Blazers fan on a Yahoo! board seemed most realistic: Pryzbilla + Jack + filler for Ford. It leaves me breathless. Remember, the Raps only gave up Charlie V for the Little Engineer of Doom.

On the positive side, Washington's only one win away from tying Toronto for fifth in the East. The Raptors would be much happier dropping to sixth to face the Magic in the playoffs than staying in fifth and drawing the Cavs. Chris Bosh loves playing the Magic.

Here's a great piece by Tim Chisholm for TSN which is a bit discursive - since it begins by questioning the basis of the NBA's Coach of the Year Award - but makes some nice points about how Sam Mitchell is failing, and the challenges of making a good team an elite team.

Oh, and Rogers Sportsnet won't be televising Raptors - or any NBA - games next year.

Bosh is back tomorrow!

Building the Raptors, Part Three


Rarely are assets viewed as "problems," but to the hyper-neurotic community of Raptors' fans, having two quality point guards in Jose Calderon and T.J. Ford has become a dilemma, especially with Calderon's impending free agency. How much money will he command? Which teams will be offering him nosegays and confections, courting our inscrutable Castillian star? Bryan Colangelo catches a break, since the only teams that look like they'll be under the cap next season are the Sixers, Sonics and possibly the Clippers. It's safe to assume that someone will offer AT LEAST the mid-level exception ($6 million) to Calderon, but given that the Sixers have Andre Miller under contract next year for $10 million, and that they have to re-sign Andre Iguodala who wants big dough, it probably won't be them. The Sonics recently (moronically) re-signed Luke Ridnour and Earl Watson to more than $5.5 million each (for full figures see below), so their hands are tied, albeit loosely. The Clippers have too many variables, such as Elton Brand exercising his player option and Corey Magette not exercising his, which is a near certainty. Of all the teams waiting to steal the Spanish Fly, I think the Clippers have the best shot, but a few things have to happen before they even make an offer.And, historically, teams are reluctant to make an offer to a restricted free agent unless they know they can sign him, since the offer is counted against a team's cap, restricting its ability to sign other free agents. It may not even matter given that Colangelo has the ability to match any offer, something which he's publicly said he will do. Currently T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon make a combined $10.5 million (T.J. - $8 million; Calderon - $2.5 million). This makes them one of the most inexpensive point guard combos in the league, cheaper than the Timberwolves' consortium of clowns ($10.7 million). Considering the market and the situations outlined above, I expect Calderon to sign a three-year, $22.5 million deal ($7.5 million per season). I can mask it behind cap facts and trends, but realistically it's just a guess. If Calderon does sign as I expect, it would put the Raptors PG tandem at $15.5 million per season, which sounds like a lot for one position but isn't; Keep reading for an explanation why.Stephon Marbury alone makes $20.1 million this year and will "earn" $21.9 million next year. When you add back-up Nate Robinson's $1.2 million this year and $2 million next year you get totals of $21.3 million and $23.9 million. Imagine if the Knicks still had Steve Francis.Below is a team-by-team point guard payroll. I've only included teams that are comparable to the projected PG payroll of the Raps and others that I found interesting. You won't see teams like the Jazz or the Hornets on here because their kids are still on rookie contracts even though they're playing like future hall-of-famers.The Well-Managed:Detroit Pistons = $12.3 million + ?Chauncey Billups - $10 million + $11 millionLindsey Hunter - $2.3 million + FAPhoenix Suns = $17 million + $18.4 millionSteve Nash - $11.4 million + $12.3 millionLeandro Barbosa - $5.6 million + $6.1 millionI realize Barbosa isn't a true point guard, but he's what they go with while Captain Canada's lying on his stomach in a carapace of towels.San Antonio Spurs = $11.7 million + 12.8 millionTony Parker - $10.5 million + $11.5 millionJacque Vaughn - $1.2 million + $1.3 millionThe So-So:Atlanta Hawks: 2008 = $19.8 million; 2009 = $20.2 millionMike Bibby - $13.5 million + $14.5 millionSpeedy Claxton - $6.3 million + $5.7 millionChicago Bulls = $14.3 million + ?Kirk Hinrich - $11 million + $10 millionChris Duhon - $3.3 million + FADallas Mavericks = $20.3 million + at least $21.3 millionJason Kidd - $19.7 million + $21.3 millionJose Juan Barea - $600,000 + FA[...]

Building the Raptors, Part Two


The Raptors beat the 2005-06 NBA Champion Miami Heat tonight! Only Haslem missed the game for "personal reasons," Shaq and Kapono were traded, White Chocolate can barely lift his elbow, let alone pass off it, Posey signed with the Celtics, Mourning shredded up his leg and Dwyane Wade is coming off body reconstruction surgery. Still, a win is a win.Or is it? Because a loss isn't just a loss. When the Raptors lost to New York and Indiana over the last two weeks, I found myself reading the RealGM boards and, with a hood-eyed, mouth-breathing Bargnani nod, vaguely agreeing with a few "fans" calling for the firing of Sam Mitchell. Luckily, a sapient contributor from Orlando noted: "The sky is falling Toronto. You're 32-27 and you've lost a few games in a row without your star player." Then I remembered that the Raptors were 27-55 just two years ago. Loren Woods played regularly and a guy named Eric Williams - who we acquired as part of the Vince Carter package - was in street clothes thinking, "If I can't even dress for this team, maybe my career's over."Also, I remembered that the Pistons were beat by the Knicks (by 25 points), and lost all three of their meetings with the Chicago Bulls this season. My heart rate steadied and life went on.Patience. It should be written on centre court at the ACC; it should have been the 2007-08 Raptors' marketing slogan; it should be the word most often used by Sam Mitchell. But sports fans aren't patient (I'm not patient). Here are a few reasons Raptors fans should be, though:As stated in "Part One," the Raptors have $21,719,184 in expiring contracts next year, here's how they break down:Rasho Nesterovic - $8.4 millionAnthony Parker - $4.5 millionJorge Garbajosa - $4.3 millionJoey Graham - $2.4 millionMaceo Baston - $1.9 millionThis doesn't put them under the cap by any means, but it does give Bryan Colangelo flexibility as Doug Smith mentioned here. BC knows more than anyone that the Raptors need an above-average two or three that can slash and temper the team's current rebounding deficiency. A team may be tempted to take an expiring contract + a guy like Moon or Kapono because of their skills and upside before the season starts. Of all the names that Smith mentions, I find Josh Smith, Richard Jefferson and Jason Richardson the most intriguing (and least likely to pry away).Barring a pre-season trade, expiring deals look more and more attractive as teams near the trade deadline. What got the Lakers Pau Gasol (other than Jerry West's corruption)? Hint: it wasn't Kwame Brown's tiny hands.If you'll indulge me, and pretend, like I do every time I talk to my friends or post on this meager blog, that Bryan Colangelo loosens his collar at night in front of the Raptors' blogosphere and thinks, "Let's see what Andrew has to tell me tonight,"allow me some words of advice: Don't get too patient with Bargnani.Part Three will explore why having Calderon and T.J. under contract is completely tenable and how much Delfino might command this off-season. In the meantime, here is Vince Carter being a total fucking idiot.[...]

A Test of Hoops Allegiance


There I was, with a fresh sheet of paper in my typewriter, ready to bash out the second part of my "Building the Raptors" series when I decided to watch The Game. It's since ended, and after a vigorous tooth and body scrub and several wretches over the sink I've decided to abandon part two of my "Building the Raptors" series (until the next win).The point of this blog has never been about game recaps (check The Dinosty for that, he does it better than some guys who get paid for it) but occasionally a game is so disheartening and painfully honest in its depiction of the Raptors that shock alone inspires me to make little point form notes of hate:Our franchise rests on the tender, geriatric knees of Chris Bosh. Did you see the play that he was injured on? I played ball today, set a few picks, but oddly my knee held up. Every time I watch Bosh's two spandex-braced legs stagger up court I worry about him turning into Shareef Abdur-Rahim.Sam Mitchell's understanding of a sensible rotation has evaporated with Bosh hurt. Nesterovic was killing the 'Cats with 13 points in the first. What does Mitchell do for the rest of the game? Go small and let Charlotte beat the Raps 50-37 on the glass.Is it that hard to get Jason Kapono a shot? I realize that he's a defensive liability, but he was 3-3 in 17.5 minutes. He has also won the NBA's three-point contest two years running.With each reminder that Toronto beat Charlotte without Bosh earlier this year, Chuck Swirsky illustrates that, yes, he is an employee of MLSE.Calderon and Ford don't share the court well. Stop the experiment, Sam. The pair allied on the floor with 4:30 left in the fourth and the Raps down 98-89. The game ended 110-98.Before the Raptors play LeBron or Kobe there's a feeling that most fans get, punctuated by a turn to whoever's sitting next to you and the words, "He's gonna get 40+ tonight, guaranteed." I had a similar feeling, only this time it was that Bargnani was going to have a decent game with Bosh out of the line-up. Instead, he did nothing to warrant any playing time - scoring six points on 2-8 shooting (0-3 from three) in 18.5 minutes. One could be excused for thinking that Barney didn't start playing RECREATIONAL basketball until last year. I checked, and he seriously has two left feet, both sets of toes jutting awkwardly to the right. It must be tough for him. Explains a lot, though. Mr. Colangelo, if you catch wind of this, please turn Bargnani into something. Listen to the tear-infused pleas of your coach and trade him for a man who can rebound. He's not Dirk Nowitzki and he never will be; he doesn't have the drive or the work ethic. He must have been too popular as a child, or something, he seems genuinely content with the way things are. Before Travis Diener and his mighty Indiana Pacers beat the Raptors there was talk that, if they went 16-10 the rest of the season, the Raptors would win 50 games. I actually thought it was reasonable. That figure now sits at 16-8 after losing to two of the least-watched franchises in the league (Indiana really does have the lowest home attendance, averaging 12,203 fans per game). Not happening. Part of me believed that Toronto's trying to meet Orlando in the playoffs for match-up purposes but then I remembered that this is professional sports. [...]

Building the Raptors, Part One


(A Raptors fan (left) takes exception to a Calderon-doubter)Below is an email that I received today from a good friend and longtime Raptors fan; a guy who landed us playoff tickets to game two of the Nets-Raps series last year; a guy who has the most profoundly unintelligible personalized Raptors jersey on earth (look for him some day, it's jersey number one and the name reads "TMSIBIT"):dude,just wanted to tlel (sic) you that there's no way i'm going to a playoff game this year. i probably shouldn't go, but this team doesn't make me want to go either. season's been a total drag. they're such pussies and. (sic) yeah, that's what they are. they're pussies.I don't blame him. This came after a thoroughly unconvincing win over Indiana - a game in which Toronto made Marquis "Delinquent" Daniels look like an athletic chessmaster and a game in which the Pacers pulled a 14-year-old kid from the East York YMCA and asked him to start at point. Prior to Indy, it took the Raps one-and-a-half games to make adjustments against the New York Knicks. These adjustments included actually getting up on Jamal Crawford's shot and Bosh learning how to pass out of a double-team. No, the season hasn't been a total drag but, yes, the Raptors are "such pussies."Except for Bryan Colangelo. It took a man with Alec Baldwin-like brass balls to not make a major move before last week's trade deadline. Not quite two full seasons removed from a 27-55 season, Raptors fans are accustomed to miracles. They've already cultivated an image as "Truthers" drawing their halberds at the mere thought that Jose Calderon didn't deserve to make the all-star team. They seem to believe that this team is one slashing small forward away from a championship. For that reason, and several billion others, they are not NBA general managers. Our general manager, however, has a plan as predictable, yet clever, as a teen horror film.The entire Raptors' payroll is designed around the post-trade deadline 2008/09 season. This isn't to say that the Raps will have cap space next year, because they won't, especially after re-signing Jose Calderon and (probably) Carlos Delfino. When you're an above-average team in the NBA you will never have cap space; your mission becomes less about signing new pieces than upgrading on existing pieces. Pieces like Anthony Parker, Jorge Garbajosa, Rasho Nesterovic, Joey Graham and Maceo Baston, all of whom have expiring contracts next season that total $21,719,184. It's hard to believe that Joey Graham and Jorge Garbajosa would look good to anyone, but when you're a team that's saddled with a slightly overpaid veteran while needing to rebuild, those two men will look like ice-cold motherfucking beers. * * * * * * Part Two will follow soon, looking at Calderon and Delfino's relative worths.[...]

Meet Primož Brežeć


(image) (the guy with the drink in his hand)
  • A 7'1", 255 lbs centre, born in Sezana, Slovenia.
  • Cites his father, Hilarlj, who played for the Slovenian national basketball team, Michael Jordan and Dr. J as his hoops heroes.
  • He smelled Dwyane Wade's scrotum a couple of summers ago.
  • Speaks four languages: Italian, Slovenian, English and "Yugoslavian."
  • Enjoys playing tennis in the offseason.
  • Has career averages of 7.7 PPG and 4.2 RPG.
  • Suffered a cycling injury when he was 12 that nearly left him paralyzed.
  • Fancies himself "a shooter."
  • Will have no impact with the Raptors.

Welcome, Primoz


Bryan Colangelo made a seemingly inconsequential move at yesterday's trade deadline, sending Juan Dixon to Detroit for Primoz Brezec and "cash considerations." But I like this move for reasons outside of basketball.

If, like me, you can remember when the Raptors were freshly hatched from the NBA's womb in the mid-to-late 90s, you'll remember a time when no one wanted to play in Canada. There were many reasons for this. It was a benighted period in the league's history; a period when players weren't required to spend a year in a post-secondary institution before joining the NBA; a largely pre-European period; and a period when Steve Francis could refuse to join the Vancouver Grizzlies because of something he called "God's will." Even when the Raptors seemed poised for success, Antonio Davis grudgingly accepted a huge, long-term deal to play centre for Toronto, whining about it - and Canada's insistence on using the metric system - whenever he had the chance.

But you don't hear that anymore, thanks largely to the nous of Bryan Colangelo. Like BC said after dealing Dixon: "It's important to have players that want to be here. Juan and his representatives made it pretty clear that he wasn't content with his role."

And the gorgeous thing about a move like yesterday's is that it gives the illusion that the player (Dixon) is getting what he wants. There's about as many player agents managing NBAers as there are banks in Toronto. As sad as it sounds, you've got to keep the agents happy and Colangelo did that by granting Dixon's request for a change of address. In future, the same agent, or one of Dixon's pals, might get some kind words recommending the Raptors. And this isn't smokescreeing, it's honest god-damn business.

Colangelo managed the same trick last year while rectifying his own pre-season boner by trading a disgruntled and thoroughly horrible Fred Jones FOR Juan Dixon. "The circle of life...the wheel of fortune."

So join me in welcoming another Slovenian centre to the Raptors. But more importantly, join me in welcoming a high-profile free agent in the future thanks to Bryan Colangelo's alleged benevolence.

Side note: The link to the Star's story on the Ben Wallace three-team deal reads "LeBron finally got some help to win an NBA title." "Finally"? James is 23 years old. And I love how Seattle just snuck in on that deal, dumping Szczerbiak's contract on Cleveland. The Sonics' management turned Ray Allen into three first-round draft picks and their roster is set for grotesque cap space in just two years. Too bad they won't be in Seattle.

City, and Bosh, on Fire


(image) This isn't a photo of Chris Bosh leaving the ACC tonight, it's a photo that I took outside of my house at 5:30 this morning. I would normally whine about not sleeping but, given the circumstances, I'm just happy that my place isn't smouldering, although the neighbourhood smells exactly like you'd expect it to.

But fuck all that, the Raptors won tonight!

Chris Bosh loves playing the Magic like David Blaine loves feigning magic, or like Cookie Johnson loves Magic (Johnson). In Bosh's last five games against Orlando he's averaged 33.8 PPG. The reason: Dwight Howard can't guard him, as evidenced by CB4's free throw stats in those five games (11-11; 14-14; 15-17; 14-16; and 14-15). Those are HUGE, Dwyane-Wade-in-the-playoffs numbers. True, Bosh can't guard Howard either (Dwight had 37 tonight), but the Raptors have more weapons than Orlando, namely an actual point guard. I'd rather play Orlando than Cleveland in the playoffs, but it's starting to look inevitable; the only debate being who will have homecourt.

Friday and Sunday will be a home-and-away against the Knicks, who lost by 40 tonight to the Sixers. Consider the Knicks' coach, general manager and season, then watch this and tell me that the team couldn't be the subject of a horrifically compelling reality show. Add the Knick girls and a Sheraton and you've got the best season of Paradise Hotel ever.

I keep hearing about Dixon and Joey going to the Warriors for Pietrus, but given TJ's fragility and our glut of swingmen I can't see this happening unless Colangelo's feeling especially generous towards Juan and his 11.9-MPG trade request.

The Raptors' All-Star Legacy


It's that time of year when Adam Sandler sits next to that guy from King of Queens to watch an utterly inconsequential game of basketball. Where a simpering David Stern looks over his empire of tall men who wear the contents of a west African cave on their ears while lesser stars try to impress them with dunks. It's All-Star Weekend and the Raptors have history here.With a week until their next game and their guts full of Kidd-less New Jersey Nets' innards, the Raps have time to reflect before moving on with the season. And I'll help jog their memories, but first I want to get distracted by the Nets game. Congratulations to Jay Triano for becoming the first Canadian to coach a regular season NBA game. He should feel better than I used to when my dad asked me to hold the steering wheel while he reached for his wallet, but it's essentially the same principal. Even the outcomes are similar: I would get a sense of the road and a fiver from dad whereas Triano got a 109-91 win over a team that showed what happens when you remove a hall-of-fame point guard from the laziest consortium of athletes in the league.That hall-of-fame point guard is Jason Kidd, not Marcus Williams, and Kidd's trade to the Mavericks for Devin Harris, Jerry Stackhouse, DeSagana Diop, Devean George, Maurice Ager, $3 million and two first-round draft picks is on hold thanks to George alone. Devean must have paid attention at Augsburg College, because somehow he convinced Mark Cuban to give him a no-trade clause when he signed with the Mavs this off-season. This ensures George a place in history and perpetual hostility with his current teammates and Kidd. I'm sure the teams will find a way around this, but for now it's nice to know that Kidd can't just punch a woman in the face and make everything work. ALL-STAR MEMORIES 2000 - Vince Carter (starter) - 12 points in 28 minutes. Carter also won the 2000 Slam Dunk contest. Here are the highlights which someone assembled over R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" and then posted on youtube. If you can get past the music it really was one of the top three sickest collections of dunks ever displayed. And he didn't take a Nate-Robinson hour to complete them, most were one-and-dones. 2001 - Carter (starter) - 16 points in 24 minutes; ANDAntonio Davis (starter) - eight points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes. The NBA would rather forget this, but, yeah, Antonio Davis started an All-Star game (because Alonzo Mourning was out with kidney disease).2002 - Carter was the leading vote-getter for the entire NBA but didn't play due to a marginally overcut fingernail.2003 - Carter - nine points in 25 minutes. Even though Carter was voted into the game, in an atypical gesture of class, he gave up his starting spot to Michael Jordan, who made his final All-Star appearance (Jordan shot 9-27 in that game).2004 - Carter (starter) - 11 points in 16 minutes. This was also the year that Jamal Magloire was selected as an All-Star, scoring 19 points.2005 - a member of the New Jersey Nets, after playing 20 games with the Raptors.2006 - Bosh - eight points and eight rebounds in 16 minutes. A lovely first appearance for CB4.2007 - Bosh (starter) - 11 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes - The day before this game I bet a friend that Bosh would score in double-digits. CB4 was sitting on the bench with four points going into the fourth, but with 6:30 left in the game he checks back in. In a flurry of lay-ins and free throws Bosh goes on to score seven additional points - the final two coming on a dunk with 18 seconds left in the game - to secure my five dollars. The East lo[...]

Raptors Digression


The most frustrating thing about the Raps since Colangelo took over, for me, is their inability to string wins together. Last year's team managed a six-game win streak, while this year's longest string is four.

That frustration is tempered only by the fact that the team's longest losing streak this year is three. We're the NBA's Even Stevens. Could be worse.

Sorry for the dormancy lately, but I've got a nice post simmering that should appear mid-week. Until then, I'll be at tomorrow's game, not just because I'm a Raptors fan, but because my girlfriend is a Spurs fan. She has a crush on Tim Duncan, which seriously makes me question my own comeliness. She likes The Big Fundamental for the same reason she liked Pete Sampras: because he seems like a "nice guy," which is some consolation.

In 1998 I saw Tim Duncan walking into Sears at the Eaton Centre with Antonio Daniels. No one asked either of them for their autograph. Tim's a big man, there's no way anything in Sears would fit him, but there he was, none the less. Maybe he wanted a fragrance for Amy?

The State of the Raptors 2/5/08


On my way to work yesterday I checked which bobbleheads were still available at Centresports. Sadly, they're down to Garbos and Swirsks. I imagine there are millions of Swirsky dolls and Fred Jones figurines sitting in the ACC basement which Chuck arranged to mirror the Terracotta Army of Qin. I've got Bosh, Swirsk and the Raptor set up at work, right next to my Dominique Wilkins Starting Lineup figure. If anyone's got an extra Calderon sitting around I'd love to negotiate something.

But in relevant news, T.J. Ford is back, and looking good, albeit against the Heat (how bad is that team? So bad Ricky Davis actually wants to STAY there). Ford's bullet pass in the fourth proved just how easy it is to fool Kris Humphries (nice recovery, Hump), and six seconds after I said "You can tell he's still afraid to go to the rack," Ford actually dunked, hard, off a broken play. Well, butter my ass!

Still, there will be several collective covered eyes and flinches every time Ford goes to the cup, takes a charge or even receives a pat on the dumper. Are there League regulations against playing in a carapace of bubble wrap? Something to consider.

Bargnani's back too, only he wasn't injured for 24 games, he just forgot how to play. He's scored, 22, 28 and 19 in his last three games with a 56 FG% (24-43) and 60 3PT% (9-15). The 11 boards over those three games gives weight to the theory that he's not a competent mult-tasker, but after weeks of nothing, thanks for something, Il Mago.

Jamario Moon and Joey Graham collaborated on a dunk-contest teaser. This may not have been the best move for Joey, considering that an embarrassing number of RealGM posters believed that Graham's boner was "for reals." I pity those who were fooled, but honour them as the hard working men and women that, someday, will keep Canada running.

Finally, the Rapors' game against the Clippers on Friday will be the franchise's 1,000th game (their all-time record is 414-585). And let me say a quick word about the Clips' Cory Maggette, whose name has been linked to the Raptors for years. I OWN him in my fantasy league and he just missed four games in a row with the flu. My friend, the M-ster - himself, a potent mix of heart and testicles - had an appendectomy in high school and was back representing the Newtonbrook Northmen the next week. The school's mascot has since been renamed "the Vikings" for reasons of sexual inclusiveness.

For What It's Worth...


We're more than half way past the mid-way point of the season, so before teams hit 50 games played, I'd better get this down so that I can still say "I called it." MVP - Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets - I can actually see LeBron start to hum in the second half of the year and stealing this from CP3, but I'm saying Paul wins it just in the hope that writing it will actually make it happen. Paul's steals have dipped of late (2.5 a game is still good), but if he can stay over 20 PPG and 10 APG (he's currently at 20.7 and 10.9) and his team can stay in the top four in the West, Paul should win. If he does take it and the league announces it before his May 6 birthday he'll join Wes Unseld (1968-69) as the only player to win the MVP at 23. Moses Malone was the last 24-year-old to win it in 1978-79 (for those of you wondering, MJ won his first at 25 in 1987-88). Rookie of the Year - Kevin Durant, Seattle SuperSonics - I'm pretty sure Stern sent the award to the engravers as soon as he heard that Oden was out for the year. Along with Executive of the Year (see below) this race was won before the season began. Durant's finally got his FG% up to 40% while averaging 19.5 PPG on a team that - seriously - gives him the ball and stands around waiting for a rebound. Note: I thought that Seattle officially dropped the "Super" from their name a few years ago but, apparently, they're still the SuperSonics.Most Improved Player - Chris Kaman, Los Angeles Clippers - Without Elton Brand the paint belongs to the Caveman for the other LA team. He's doubled his blocks from 1.5 last year to 3.0 this year and added seven points a game (10.1 to 17.2) and six boards (7.8 to 13.9). Plus he finally cut those threads of string off of his head and returned them to the Yarn Barn. The last Clipper to win this award was Bobby Simmons, who has gone right back to being shit with the Bucks. Which makes me wonder, can one player can win the MIP award more than once?Defensive Player of the Year- Marcus Camby, Denver Nuggets - Camby currently has 40 more blocks than his closest competitor, Josh Smith, as well as 628 boards which puts him second behind Dwight "baby-daddy" Howard. Anyone who doesn't own Camby in a fantasy league knows how infuriating it is to see 11-block, 24-rebound lines like the one he posted against Utah earlier this year. Barring injury (Camby didn't play more than 63 games in any of his first seven NBA seasons, remember Raps fans?) Camby will be the repeat winner.Coach of the Year - Byron Scott, New Orleans Hornets - A decent case could be made for Nate McMillan of the Blazers but I think that the Blazers will come back down to earth in the second half of the year. Yes, Phoenix has already passed the Hornets for first in the West, but New Orleans (Oklahoma) were 39-43 last year; they're already 32-14.Sixth Man of the Year - Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs - This is finally the year for basketball's own Roberto Benigni. In fact, the only reason Ginobili probably hasn't won it before is because everyone knows that his "bench" status is entirely perfunctory. When does he enter games, three minutes into the first? Whatev, career highs so far in points (19.5), assists (4.2) and rebounds (4.8) per game should do it with 1.7 steals to boot.Executive of the Year - Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics - ...Then one morning, Ainge awoke to find Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen standing at his front door saying, "Can we play?" And all the veterans in the league wanted to join them...What kills me every time I think about the C[...]

Raptors vs. Luckiest Team in the NBA


(image) Tipoff - 7:00 p.m. EST

If you haven't heard, the Lakers have just acquired Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for a vintage Garfield Happy Meal toy depicting the cartoon cat riding a skateboard and a tin of kippers (Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton and the Lakers' first round picks in the '08 and '09 drafts.). There's also curious speculation that the Lakers will include Pau's brother, Marc, in the deal. This would be unfortunate, as my buddy Mike pointed out, the two Gasol's on-court together would make a good GEICO caveman commercial.

It's impossible to believe that the Grizz couldn't have gotten more for Gasol. You've got to figure Colangelo would have shipped Bargnani, Rasho, Joey Graham and his picks over the next two years to instantly make the Raptors Eastern Conference contenders and take some pressure off of Chris Bosh.

True, Brown's $9.1 million contract expires at the end of this year, but Crittenton has showed nothing in his rookie year, albeit in 7.8 minutes per game, and the Lakers' picks are going to be insignificantly high over the next two years. Gasol will have to undergo physicals before the trade becomes official, but you've got to wonder if the Grizz know something more about the big man's back problems of late. And it is worth mentioning that Gasol played only 59 games last year and 56 games in 2004-05.

What makes this stink worse than Gasol's gym bag is that Jerry West, the current interim GM of the Grizzlies, has publicly said that he will return to the Lakers as a consultant next year.

Luckily for the Raptors Gasol, who has three years left on his $49-million contract, will not be dressed tonight.
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EDIT: The official trade: Pau Gasol to the Lakers for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, the Lakers' first round picks in 2008 and 2010, cash considerations and the rights to Pau's brother Marc - the first time in league history that brothers were included in a trade for one another.

No Way, Jose


(image) No one except Chuck Swirsky expected Jose Calderon to make the Eastern All-Stars, and on Thursday the league confirmed that the "Spanish Fly" won't be joining his bud, Chris Bosh, in New Orleans on Feb. 17.

Even if you're the type of hoops fan that only watches Raptors' games you might have heard of Joe Johnson, Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton, all of whom were - deservedly - selected ahead of Calderon. Those guys are All-Stars, and although a cogent case could be made for Calderon, the East, and those in attendance, probably aren't so interested in a conservative, pass-first point guard to steady the ship in the third quarter while Kidd's deciding which cheerleader he wants to plough, consensually or not.

Plus, Calderon's been averaging 39 minutes a game over the last 15, even logging 54 minutes against Portland on Jan. 13. So relax, Jose, invite Garbo over for a cream soda and enjoy the game in your home.

Colangelo's Biggest Mistake?


Legend has it that in April of 2006 Bryan Colangelo made an innocuous call to Milwaukee Bucks' general manager Larry Harris about the availability of Maurice Williams, when Harris responded with the question, "How do you feel about T.J. Ford?" By March 1, Colangelo agreed to send Charlie Villanueva to the Bucks for Ford and cash.Although the deal was debated at the time, largely because Villanueva was a fan-favourite simply for looking like Shrek, Ford was a young, true point guard who would bring stability to the position that apeshit Mike James and batshit Rafer Alston occupied the two previous seasons. To this day, based on the play and ceiling of both Villanueva and Ford, I think that Colangelo fleeced Harris.However, on Tuesday, October 31, 2006, the Raptors signed Ford to a four-year, $33-million deal (the fourth year being a player option) without ever seeing him in uniform. That Tuesday was the last chance they had to sign Ford before the end of the season. Had they not, he would have made $2.93 million in '06-'07, the final year on his rookie contract, before becoming a RESTRICTED free agent. What had he done to warrant $8.25 million annually, apart from being born in the same state as Chris Bosh? He averaged 9.9 points, 6.5 assists, 1.2 steals in 127 games with the Milwaukee Bucks. This, Raptors friends, is the worst move that Colangelo has made with the Toronto Raptors.[His worst move ever? At the 1998 draft, Colangelo traded Steve Nash to Dallas for Martin Muursepp and Bubba Wells. This move would have landed him in Babcock territory had he not reacquired Nash six years later after dumping the human albatross, Stephon Marbury, on the Knicks, where he remains eternally.]There's nothing wrong with using money to generate confidence, which, I'm sure Colangelo was trying to do with Ford, but T.J. had a history of neck and spine injuries, not the least of which is a congenital narrowing of the openings of the vertebra housing the spine, known as spinal stenosis. Michael Grange does a great job summarizing the history of Ford's spine here, including Ford's removal from hoops for a year-and-a-half after colliding with Mark Madsen in his rookie season.But, ultimately, it's the success of Jose Calderon that makes the Ford deal even more pitiful. Calderon is averaging 12.3 PPG and 8.6 APG this season, while shooting over 50% from the field and on pace to break the NBA's assist/turnover ratio record. No Raptor since Damon Stoudamire (see below) in 1996-97 has averaged more than eight assists per game over a season. Calderon is a restricted free agent at the end of this year and he'll certainly command more than the MLE from the Raps, not to mention the possibility of losing him outright. Can the Raptors afford to pay two point guards a total of $15 million per season, considering that Ford's injury history has rendered him untradeable and unable to even take a charge? Not when you consider the liability of Ford's health.With Juan Dixon playing exactly like an out-of-position point guard (see a talentless Mike James) and the back of Darrick Martin's neck looking exceedingly more like a pack of hot dogs, Colangelo has said that he's looking for a third-string PG. But who are the candidates?Ex-Raptor Stoudamire who was just bought out by the Grizzlies? He would be nice insurance for the Raps at the veteran's minimum, but given the choice between Phoenix, Boston and Toronto, who would you sign with?Luke Rid[...]

Cool It!


Confronted with the “Bargnani Situation” a Raps blogger gains a morbid appreciation of what paid journalists face every day. This story is filthy after weeks of being dragged through the mud by the Raptors trolley. A trolley full of disheartened Leafs fans and 16-year-old boys who like Moon’s hang time and the occasional audible Sam Mitchell swear. Yeah, Bargnani’s playing poorly. And, yeah, we could’ve had Brandon Roy, but so could Minnesota who, apparently, liked Randy Foye better.

Anyone who’s followed sports for more than five years knows that all professional franchises are full of “could have beens.” We could have had Andre Iguodala (who thinks he’s worth more than $12 million a season despite leading his team to a 16-26 record)! We should have gotten more for Vince Carter (whose equivalent is now Zach Randolph)! We could have held on to TMac (who just can’t stay healthy and hasn’t won a playoff series in his career)! Didn’t happen. Mop the floor and play on.

I’m not a Bargnani apologist, but I am an advocate of patience. Here’s What We Know Part I: Bargnani began the season nicely, scoring 21 points on 7-11 shooting in the opener. Then things went tepid, his performance could be illustrated by a clichéd high school line graph with peaks and valleys. Then things went ghastly. In eight games since dropping 25 points on the Pistons (which followed a 17-point game against the Hornets) Bargnani is averaging 17.5 MPG, 4.1 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 0.1 BPG, 26 FG% (12-46), 14 3P% (2-14).

Here’s What We Know Part II: Bargnani’s 22 years old. He averaged 11.6 PPG in a very raw rookie year. He was arguably our second-best player in last year’s playoff series. His shot is indisputably gorgeous. He’s better than Adam Morrison. He didn’t play centre professionally before this season, and the Raps have finally conceded that he might need some special attention to ease his transition to the five.

The kid has skills. And although I’ve never especially bought the idea that Il Mago and CB4 can coexist, I still believe that a good coach (paging Sam Mitchell) can figure something out. Bargnani will, at the very least, be an above-average asset to a team and if Toronto traded him now for a matching salary Raps fans would eventually add another chapter to the “could have beens.”
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EDIT: In the Raps’ WIN over the Celtics tonight Bargnani scored 20 points on 7-14 shooting, adding seven dimes and seven boards (and a block).