Get Free Shots from Toronto Raptors Ramblings: November 2006

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

That’s how you do it. That’s how you win on the road.

The Hornets may have been missing key players, but were any as critical as missing the former Iron Man, Mo Pete? I think not. And the bottom line is the road losing streak is done like Grant Hill’s 3rd ankle.

Five Raptors were in double figures again and the surprise player of the night was A-Parker. He hit his shots (minus his 3's. Can someone tell Jones and Parker they aren't 3 point shooters please? Parker is shooting 29% on the year, 1-5 tonight). Anyways he hustled (as always) and played solid all around ball. Tied going into the second half the Raps managed to hammer the Hornets in the third and fourth to pull away. If every team shot as poorly as the Hornets we could always play the zone! Then again we were missing Mo Pete.

Play of the game honours goes to Rookie of the year candidate, Andreas Bargnani.
With 3:03 to go in the third, Raps up 4, Jose passes it to Nani, who’s foul line extended and zlam, Bosh puts it home. Oh you missed that? So did everyone else, as Bargnani fired a touch pass underneath to Bosh between two defenders, and really right over one. I’m talking Magic Johnson style touch pass. That’s Amore. It was even more exciting that the little beard he’s throwing on there. Although that is pretty exciting too. It's no Morrison stache but it makes him look like he could at least get into a bar in Hull.

(look at the clock! was that ball even in his hands! man that was a toight pass)

MoPete’s injury means more experience for JG. He sure was all over tonight. Another good game with a few airballs mixed in. His second airball of the second half was greeted with an amazing “airball’ deep voice-over machine that the Hornets announcer clearly has access to. It started to make me wonder if his first shot counted as an airball. You decide, he’s a few feet off the baseline, tries to go glass and banks it off the far side of the glass, airballing it by about 7 feet. So no rim (not even close) but all kinds of backboard. Airball or no airball? I didn’t hear the airball horn so tough to say.

Chuck and Jack did the game tonight and Chuck couldn’t get off this Salami and Cheese story (as in the game is over crack out the Salami and Cheese). Jack brought out the Ham and Cheese which pissed Chuck off but not as much as when Leo took a shot in the post game, only to get a “You can bite this Salami Leo”.

Yikes. Chuck better stick to his meatballs and pasta comments and stay away from Leo, Norma and the salami talk. He’s just right out of his league there.

The game got out of hand in the fourth when Nani tried to shake himself open just inside the three..couldn’t do it but pulls up anyways and drains a shot. Toight. Raps up 19. Nani blocks a shot moments later on a reverse attempt. The kid ends up with a big night, dropping 16 in 23 minutes. A couple blocks, a couple threes, a few assists etc.

Other nidbits….Bosh is back to his old tricks. A little peach fuzz, a lot of boards, a mini fro, the perfect look......We even had our white towers in the game together in the fourth..... Anthony Parker HUGE dunk off a Calzone miss. Wow. Picked the miss off the rim and reversed it. Okay, a huge dunk for Parker...... HA HA. Jack just compared Chris Paul and Jose Calzone. I love Calzone but Jack….come on now. “Playing at the same level right now?” presumably he means right this second. Which is a diss on Calzone, Paul is not doing anything tonight. ..... Game continues to get out of hand and the Raps get to rest their ‘starters’ down the stretch. P.S. we still can't shoot 3's (7-22, brutal...although above our average).

Dallas. Boston. New York. Could we get on a roll here? Stay tuned Raptors fans.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Nani Time

It's tough to talk about losing to the Hawks. Luckily I waited it out and we can talk about sticking it to the Pacers. And off we go. The games we've been winning recently have an interesting trend. The other team shoots below 40%. Is that because of our new trend to challenge shots or is it luck? Are Terri Hatcher's boobs real or not? Does it really matter? Challenge shots, hope the other guys miss and grab some boards.

But the story of tonight was the continued emergence of our two top rookies, Andreas Bargnani (Nani) and Garbajio. The story could be JG and Calzone but they've already been the story. We have two rookie of the year candidates all of a sudden!

Nani is getting play time so scoop him up now for your fantasy squads. If you have a really deep league. Bargnani showed aggression this afternoon for consistent minutes. He didn't have the Araujo in the lights look on his face anymore (although he does have trouble closing his mouth), and he was showing some quickness at that.

Last night I was playing some NBA 2K7, dropping bombs with Nani, some spin moves and the likes. Today he lived up to his video game potential. It was a pleasure to see. And with word on the street that Colangelo is lobbying to get him more PT things are looking up for the rook. Bosh led us in numbers but didn't have a great Bosh game again. Amazing to see us win even when Bosh isn't on top. Incidentally i'm not a big fan of the GM telling the coach what to do, but when you're coach is Sam Mitchell and your GM is Colangelo I guess it is what it is.

Depth came through and our two rookie of the year candidates looked great.
37 wins to go.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Raptors Win. Raptors Win.

From a box score stand point Bosh appeared to be the hero once more. His 25 pts, 14 rebounds, 6 assists and solid shooting percentage seem like a golden soiree after all. What you don't get were his 5 TO's and lack of big play down the stretch were not the key to our win.

Nope, it was the 16pts, 8 rebounds, 8-9 from the line performance dropped in from Joey G that qualified as the TSN turning point. From near bench warmer to Mo Pete (left elbow) shoe filler Meat played huge minutes and helped to power the raps to a win. He didn’t hit the game clinching shot or have the biggest numbers but he made those plays that aren’t numbers. The extra jump to tip a ball and force a Cav to tip it out of bounds. The hustle plays. The heart stats. Joey showed heart tonight.
p.s. Calzone once again played huge minutes down the stretch and showed why he deserves minutes.

Nani was another bright spot for the Raps, playing with more and more confidence. With Rasho logging zero minutos (benched 8 million dud?), Life is Beautiful had a fearless (offensive) performance.

Mascot of the Night.
Mascot of the year.
The Raptor not only dawned his sweet
Bobblehead Blow Up Man but he
rigged himself up to a giant slingsot and
rollerblade fired

himself to a top quality dunk attempt.
Barely missed
but what an attempt.

Fred Jones on the other hand should NOT feel the need to shoot 3’s. Only ridiculous I’m feeling my groove and I’m wide open 3’s, should Fred be taking. We need a guard who can shoot. A shooting guard per se.

We watched those three bombs (3-17) from the joy of the Sprite Zone, which is always a treat. Our tickets at $14.90 (after tax) cost almost the same as a dog and brew ($13.90). But the “Zone” pays for itself on most nights and tonight was no exception. As you can see from these shots we sat with some home made versions of Garbajio and Nani. That's called good luck.

The Sprite Zone geek was taunting the crowd with a BargNani jersey up and down the aisles. He sees our friends in their home made Jerseys and gives an acknowledging nod to the home made Nani. Then he gives it to some dud little kid. A large jersey. Half the crowd is wearing Lebron jerseys? Give this guy the damn Jersey man!

And last but not least what about Lebron? Lebron could score at will but got caught up passing to guys who couldn't convert in big moments. It must be tough not to become Kobe in these moments. But booing Lebron....I didn't think that was in the cards and it was a pleasure. We cheered him at the intro and so many tiny kids had Lebron jerseys I really got my Bosh pride going. But back to the booing. Cheering and general Bron love was in place until he got a couple of questionable calls followed by a flop. That was it. It was no Vince or TMac boo. Obviously. But everytime he touched the ball he was booed for the last 18 minutes. How many arenas does that happen in?

(Lebron drops a deuce
after shoving Calzone
to the ground. Future MVPs
get calls)

But all and all, great job Raptors fans! Stick it to Lebron...while packing the place to see him. Could Lebron join the ranks of Vince and TMac? Doubftul. But we busted out of our losing streak and the counter hits 38.
Go Raps Go.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Coulda beat the Jazz....another good sign

A lotta coulda's going on during this tough road swing. Tonight was a beautiful example. Jazz making big plays down the stretch and the Raps not matching them. This game came down to the last minute and our favourite Garbo had a chance to be the hero.

Down 93-90 a Raptors turnover leads to a Boozer 18ft straight on bank, whilst being fouled. Ouch. #15 back with a big 3 and the Raps are within three. Off a miss Rebound to #15, saved to TJ who produces a head down bull charge. Next possession TJ brings it up...finds a wide open #15...misses. Back down at our end Garbo comes up with another rebound off a miss and saves it to a streaking TJ. Wisdom meltdown. TJ inexplicably shoots a quick 3, with 14 seconds to go and no rebounders. Parker tips it out though, Fred Jones has it, another three to tie it....clank...nothing doing.

Hey but guess what did happen? More than just Nani struggling on D (2 blks). He showed up! 27 minutes tonight. He was active (4 fouls), he was sharp (6-6 FT), he was shooting with confidence (15 pts). Best Andrea we've seen this year.

Even though Nani played well I couldn't help but show this picture. Check out that defence! He's single handedly causing a flailing wave. Amazing. The Nani is going to have to tighten up that footwork, but who cares. For one game we saw 27 minutes of potential.

We hit our three's for once, shot only 74 shots for once, and played a tighter game all-around, we just couldn't execute down the stretch. And the road trip weary troops head home.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A shift in strategy?

Some good news coming out of the Denver game. Of course, we lost and made most of the same mistakes as always, but let’s take a look at good for a change….

Shortening the bench.

Mitchell decided to give a core group of guys most of the minutes tonight, which represents a new direction. Our run and gun, and play 9-10 guys mentality has quickly been replaced, at least for a game. It seems like we are still supposed to run and gun, only now we are doing it with a lot less guys. The ‘wearing the other team’ down plan won’t work in this scenario unless we are convinced these guys can run for 82 games.

A look at the numbers: Only 5 guys played 15+ minutes. Bosh, Ford, Garbo, Slam Dunk Champion all played 37+ minutes. On the flip side the entire team played with nobody logging less than 5 minutes. As much as he might have wanted to, Mitchell couldn’t keep the Hump off the floor. All he does is hustle, score and run the floor. Meanwhile Mo Pete logged 15, Calderone only 10, and the 8 million dollar man just 9.

I’m not sure what to make of the strategy, but you know Mo Pete aint going to like it. Mo's going to have a tough time making the All-Star team at this pace. Maybe it's a wake up call, maybe they're positioning him for 6th man of the year! Regardless, this strategy made for some interesting individual achievements, much like clicking the 'per 48 minutes' button.

TJ Ford’s 18 dimes, 26 points, 5 rebounds (10-16 shooting). In the first 7 minutes of the game TJ had 8 assists and with 7 minutes to go in the 3rd, he was at 15, breaking his own career high. You hate to see the wasted individual effort, forcing players into the inevitable “it’s a team game, I’d rather have the “w” and 2 assists”.

#15’s best game. I won’t say that #15 has been much better since I stopped talking about him, we’ll just take this one game at a time. But 39 minutes, 17,10,6 and no TO’s is well on the way. He couldn’t hit a ‘big shot’ down the stretch and his 3 ball is still nowhere to be found, but it’s a start.

The bad stuff….if you are are internal optimist like myself, then don’t bother reading on. But a look at a few of the problems.

Melo domination. This guy is dominating everybody so no real surprise that Parker / Jones couldn’t shut him down. He hit shots and he hit big shots. Beats the buzzer to end the 3rd, to take their lead from 2 to 5. Late in the 4th he goes for a steal and forces a turnover. Raps had a chance to get within 2 or 3, and whammo, Melo drains a 3 and we’re down 8. Like I said, big shots.

Bosh goes nuts on Ford. At the end of the game you game a nice shot of Bosh yelling at TJ at centre court. Why? Although Leo and Chuck have no clue, I’m going to say it was because of one late game play (plus a lot of anger boiling over). Game nearing closure, Raps have maybe one last chance. Ford gets the ball and passes it into the corner to Parker for the 3, when Bosh was at least as open in his 3 point office. I believe Bosh was saying "Give ME the ball at the end of the game ace. I don’t care how many assists you have, this is my team”.

Leo reminds us that “that stuff has got to go back to the locker room, it’s not for public display.” Good point Leo. Bosh doesn’t seem to like losing, I wonder if this is how it started for KG.

The rest of the ugly stuff, like getting out rebounded by 20, shooting 25% from the three point line (while attempting 24 3's) is not really worth digging up. And yes, I watched the Laker game but I was hoping the glory of pulling one out in Denver could overshadow that brutal game. Instead it's two "L's" and two games that could have been.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

0 for Eight

Started the game 0-8, went wild in the second and at present moment (3:30 to go) Jorge misses a three that makes us 0-8 this quarter from downtown. Down 14. Tough times. This game showed some promise. Bosh was again insane on the glass with 22 boards and screaming at Bargnani as required. We outrebounded them, we got to the line more and converted. we had a nice run. But what went wrong....

The Brent Barry treatment went to....Mike Dunleavy! (honourable mention goes to Baron Davis). Baron controlled us all around and Dunleavy enjoyed the no defence policy. We attempted 28 treys and dropped only 25% of them. As Paul said "who are we? last year's Raptors?". No, last year's Raps could hit open three's. With Bosh operating at will down low it's unclear why we didn't continue to hurt them with Quatro. They triple him and get into trouble. Why go away from this?

Maybe it's cause Hump was out, but i doubt it. It wasn't the Nani to blame, he did his thing. Garbage man did much better but Mo Pete off the bench looked like crap. Fred Jones starting in his place did fine but no better. The Slam Dunk Champion had one brutal double down on the ball, leaving Baron Davis all alone, and it was all too reminiscent. Why do that, why? Just never do that. Sam, yank guys out of the game when they do that, 'reminder, don't do that'.

Davis also swatted a TJ shot right out of the arena. It was amazing. You could hear the crowd oohing and ahhing after the replays in the stadium. We certainly did.

Norma Wick, doing the analysis with team Leo, is coming up now postgame and had the accidental joke of the night. At halftime they were showing a little ditty on Graham cooking and Leo replies to a comment
'oh no, i can't cook'
Norma chirps in
'maybe not in the kitchen'.

And by joke, i meant slip up. Advantage Leo?.

The fourth quarter wasn't as good from any perspective. I watched in on 15 inches less and rounder television and we stunk. 0-2 on the trip with lots of work to do.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Gettin to know you....getting to know all about you

Somewhere near the 5 minute mark of the second quarter it became clear a heavy diagnosis of this game was not going to be required. The Raps are down heavy and showing no life of bringing it back. If you can't hit open shots or stop the other team, overcoming a 20 pt deficit is going to be an uphill battle.

A quick summary of what happened tonight before i get too distracted....out rebounded, not boxing guys out, Mike Bibby is living the Brent Barry dream, we can't get our own misses, TO's, we love jump shots but sadly we can't hit three's. More on this later. We can't hit three's. This is disturbing trend #3.

So where are we? Getting to know our team is about where. TJ, despite some awful turnovers got his shot selection under control tonight. Lots of kicking out to Fred Jones, who has decided he's a three point shooter. I think Fred needs to take a step or two closer in order to get the D up in the air. He's sitting out there in Mo's office hucking up bricks. Pass it, pump it and drive it. He pumps it but he's so open there's nobody to jump at him. A career 35% shooter from downtown has got to play smarter.

At least he's not John Salmons. This guy 'screwd us over' by accepting and then rejecting our 5 year $25 million dollar offer. It's old news but let's all take another joyously deep sigh of relief. Ahhh. Down 20+ all game you have to look forward to something. I look forward to 5 more years of not having John Salmons on our team.

What we do have is Garbajio who's supposed to be able to shoot. In pre-season I was over excited about not only his look, but his casual way of droping bombs and not looking back even when he started slow. Now? Well now he's quickly losing PT to Chris Humphries and his confidence is sinking fast. I think I have to stop talking about him and he'll bounce back. It's just a slump. A big long early slump.

Mo Pete is the benefactor of the Garbajio early season jitters, as he's throwing up more three's than I even predicted (I've got him down for 8/game). Tonight he's 4-11 and the team is 6-24. If we can't shoot three's we are in big trouble. Bargnani can hit three's (maybe) but it doesn't matter if he's not on the floor. Bosh can shoot three's but that's just a nice to have. Parker and Garbage man have to knock it down. This is going to get real ugly real fast if nobody can hit wide open 3's.

The last nugget to note from the early season is Chris Bosh's FT shooting. Bosh went from
03-04 -> 70%
04-05 -> 76%
05-06 -> 82%
06-07 -> 66%

I know it's early but how did Bosh get better every year? One would assume by spending a lot of time on the line. And now we hear he spends a lot of time working on his 3's. I can't help but wonder if we are sacrificing FT% for 3Pt%. If so, we're in trouble. Hopefully it's a 'blip'. Nobody is talking about it because we all know it's early and he'll be back up to 82%.

The last piece of Raptor insight that we can only hope starts to become obvious is that the Hump doesn't pass. The Hump is out there working hard, taking charges, going for blocks, leaving his feet when he shouldn't, and just working hard with limited thought. But you have to know your team. When Hump gets an offensive rebound (or a pass) his mind immediately starts cycling through his three plays. None of those plays involve passing. Everybody knows this, so why stand around? Why set a screen? GO TO THE HOOP! GET A REBOUND! If you are going to accept who he is, take advantage of this nugget and head to the boards. It will just make everyone happier all around.

So the road trip is off to a rough start, but as always it's early and these guys are still geting to know all about each other.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Notorious D

The Raps don't play D, and that much has been made clear again this year. We've got better defensive players, just no team defence at this point. The Hawks were Brent Barry open vs. the Raps and it showed in their 50% + shooting. Of course our inability to box anybody out giving the Hawks free layups on their misses didn't really help either.

The raps came out with a huge Bosh dunk, then went 0-7 and we never saw the lead again. It was one of those games where we get close, and then the other team hits the big shots to pull back away. Joe Johnson and Josh Smith had the answers for every run we put on, and that was that.

We played decent, but give Atlanta credit they played better. Open or not, they hit the shots, crashed the boards and stuck it to us.

Disturbing Trend
Garbajosa's inability to shoot has led to him passing when he should be shooting. Having brought the game to within 5, midway through the 4th, Garbajio got the ball wide open in Mo Pete's office and didn't even consider shooting. He stared down TJ, threw a turnover and whammo, breakaway layup, down 7 and then 9. That was the story of the game. Rumours have it that the Garbage man isn't exactly working through this rough patch, choosing not to stay after practice and get his shot going by actually practicing. A disturbing bit of news if my new favourite work horse turns out to be lazy.

Disturbing Trend 2
Is it too early to call TJ's 1 on 3 drives a 'trend'? No, it's not. He loves the 1 on any number of peole and much like a young Elvis Stojko, gets especially excited about shots with a high degree of difficulty. It's nice that he challenges himself with low percentage shots, so when the day comes he'll be ready. It's just too bad he does it during games. He's not half bad at crazy layups, it's just painful when he misses. How about a little more of the old 1 on 3, take all the defenders down low, DON'T SHOOT, and kick it out to wide open guys who just ran the floor with you? He started doing it a bit in the second half, but every point guard who is on a running team, a la Steve Nash, has got to have that in their playbook. Though TJ had good numbers, the Raps made most of their runs tonight with Calzone on the floor.

Great trend that isn't a trend that i wish were a trend...
Josh Childress is a cross between the cover boy from NBA Street Vol 2. and Fletch. If you can grow and afro like that why wouldn't you? I would. Too much head shaving and not enough afro wearing. You can shave your head anytime, but one day that afro might prove elusive. Plus it's only a matter of time before David Stern goes all Steinbrenner on us and institutes mandatory hair styles.

Superstar on the rise?
Joe Johnson just dominated us. Does this guy miss? He's actually looking like the guy Atlanta thought they signed last year. I'm surprised, but since he's on my fantasy team, i'm pleasantly surprised. Otherwise I couldn't care less. More some other day on what happens when your fantasy team plays your real team.

Play of the Game...the reverse alley oop. Not one but two. TJ to Bosh and Calzone to The Slam Dunk Champion. A couple of pretty reverse dunks that fired up the crowd and were both snuffed out by Atlanta's ability to score at will.

Nidbits and Nugents
Bosh had 17 rebounds and given nobody else goes to the glass, he might jus lead the league in rebounding this year.....Calzone was once again playing great ball when he was on the floor. A couple of brain farts, but he's certainly looking like the smartest point guard on our team.... Speaking of brain farts, Jack (Armstrong) was calling tonight's game along with Swirsky and he had me longing for Leo. "I think having Calzone and TJ on the floor would cause some real matchup problems for people". Huh? By people i can only assume he is talking about us. Let's see, two short, not tough, not long range shooters who play adequate defense at best on the floor at once. Yes, i could see how that would generate panick and confusion out there. At least he's not Rod Black. Remember those days? And can you believe Rod shaved his mustache!? Doesn't he know that guys who become famous with a mustache can never ever shave their stache?

Reality Quote of the Night...'We never, ever, put a string of stops together' - Chris Bosh

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Hey Meat. Don't Think. Just Shoot.

The Raps Win, Bosh dominates and we're 39 games away from the playoffs. I'd love to write about only the nuances of this game but let's quickly look at the Bosh line.
36 min. FG: 9-18. 3Pt: 2-2. FT: 9-10. Reb: 14. Pts: 29. Blks: 2. TO: 1.

What you didn't see, until you watched the highlights was Bosh jacking up a a crazy three to end the game. In fact let's recap the last 2 minutes before getting to the finer points of the game.

2:00 - Bosh takes it strong. Raps 96-95.
1:50 - Iverson ties it.
1:34 - The Slam Dunk Champion takes us up by two
1:10 - Dalembert ties it
:53 - Bosh crazy spin move fade away with right hand and the foul. Raps up again.
:42 - Iverson ties it
:34 - TJ Ford takes us up by 2.
:20 - Webber ties it (p.s. Webber stinks, this is the worst contract in the league)
:6 TSN TURNING POINT- Bosh collects loose ball near half with 7 seconds to go, choses not to pass to a an open an streaking TJ Ford who's dying to give Dalembert his 6th block (great decision). Bosh dribbles up to the arc and throws the Bosh Rainbow, a Bainbow, nothing but net. Sam Mitchell's face tells it all.

Nuances you don't get from the stat sheet.

Hump. I call him Humpty but I heard Sam call him Hump in the post game. I can go with that. Hump plays huge minutes tonight. This guy is active, keeping balls alive, running the fast break (honest to God), just doing things. I can't stress how important having bigs who can run and jump are. Fantastic game and that means Bosh plays just 36 min.

Meat. Joey Graham who is either making a run at the D League or 18 minutes a game showed us the good Joey tonight. The high energy, highly athletic, drivin' and shootin' guy. Much like Ebby Calvin "Nuke" Laloosh, Joey is at his best when he's not thinking. That's why the run and gun, reactin' and jackin' Raptors are a great fit for good Joey. No time to think. The guy tried to dunk over Dalembert tonight! Beautiful. Don't think Meat, just shoot. Joey Graham just earned himself a nickname...finally.

Joke of the night
Iverson goes flying on a little TJ Ford push and gets the call. The warbird (my girlfriend) pulls the the "Iverson. Pff. Try Diverson". Not bad. Of course she loved it and repeated it numerous times. "Diverson...ha ha ha. You can use that babe. That's pure gold".
Thank Jerry. And yes, i just used it as my joke of the night.

Sam Mitchell going with what works. With Meat and Hump playing well he sticks with them. With TJ making bad decisions he brings in Calzone to push TJ. note: TJ really makes bad decisions out there. Not all bad decisions...but lots of them. Let's hope Triano can work with him on this problem. Point guards have to be smart and know what is working and what is not. His shot is often not working, and you really have to recognize that in yourself. I'm the same guy who predicted he could be an all-star...I just need to see some smart games from end to end.

Last Nuggets and Notes....
Webber is done, despite what his stats say.....Raps mustered up 93 shots tonight....we barely missed a free throw until crunch time when TJ missed 3 of 4.....our final five does not look like our starting five....Anthony Parker is calm, cool, likes to play D and takes well needed drives...Iverson is still sick, this guy really really needs to get traded so we can watch him play with some talent...Iggy dunked one on Hump that will make the highlight reals for a while, Hump even tried to hide his face from the pictures (see, he's smart too).....

Question of the night...does Paul Pierce's 35 points, 13 rebounds and 12 Turn Over's (pre-overtime) count as a triple double? It should. Image Ricky Davis throwing a few end of game TO's just to hit the triple doubles.

Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. And rains.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Back to Life. Back to Reality.

Back in the $12.50 Sprite Zone it was just like Old Times. Loud kids games, an aerial view that's better suited for scoping out second half seats than watching hoops and of course Matt Bonner doing everything to get us the 'W'.

The Raps look like you might think three games and 9 new players into the season. A bit disorganized, guys not filling lanes, ghost passes into the stands and most unfortunately no crunch time response to Duncan and Parker.

What we learned for round two with the Spurs is: Double team Duncan down the stretch, see if Parker can beat you with his shot and stop leaving Brent Barry wide open.

We also saw that Bargnani is not afraid to shoot, he can finish and his defence is just something we should stop talking about for a while. Ford meanwhile showed why some people think we got rooked in the Charlie V swap. His shot selection was poor, as was his shot. His numbers were not bad, but they didn't tell the story of his decision making. We saw Bosh chirping at him for a few minutes so let's hope he had some constructive advice. Unlike Brandon who let his best friend cruise around in jean shorts, let's hope Bosh is working with the TJ program.

note: we saw the chirping from a nice pair of gold's in row 15. Which begs the question at what oint in your life should you stop moving to better seats? At some point am I supposed to feel guilty? Pay for top grade seats? Bring kids that i have to 'set an example for'? I'll keep you posted.

76 shots.
One thing to keep in mind with this whole running and gunning and shooting 100 shots is that it only works if you can set the pace or the other team is willing to run with you. The Spurs set the pace, and the Raps slogged it out. We saw a great example of pushing the floor, sadly it was with 4:14 left in the fourth. It'll be a while before we set the tone against a team like the Spurs, but when we do.....

Other notes....Bosh is sweet and his 17 boards make him fantasy sweet too....Joey Graham is playing himself into the development league, although he's hustling, he's just not there yet.....Garbajosa still hasn't found his shot but he's going to be some great glue....Our current starting five will not last till 2007 as the starting crew....Matt Bonner is still a hometown hero, this time doing all he could to help us to victory by going 0-4. Bonner got a sweet ovation from the crowd and responded by throwing those bricks on purpose. One last bit of love before the full transition.

A rough ride but nothing to get worried about.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

1 Down. 40 To Go.

Hope is alive in Raptorland once more and 41 wins is the target.

The expectations for a healthy Raptors team is the playoffs, regardless of the pessism that is generally 'out there' (I'm talking to you Bruce Arthur). This team has quality role players, a lightning fast guard and a superstar big skinny man.

25 games to 'come together', get in shape and find out if Bargnani is going to play any non garbage time minutes and then it's go time.

(Quiz: Who makes the most money in this picture? Wrong. If you look closely (really really closely) you can make out Samuel L in the first row, far left).

Last night's home opener was a glorious affair. You could feel the nervous first-date excitement in the crowd, a desire to be able to actually hope again. And we can. Right out of the gates the Raps were all over the now leotard-less Bucks. Good times and $12 brews were once again rolling at the ACC. Stern was in the crowd to promote international ball, and while on Stern let's applaud him for banning the wearing of tights by grown men, who should just instictively know not to do this. Although there are endless heckle opportunities when Bogut struts around in leotards, it's just plain disturbing to look at.

So what did we learn from our home opener:

The World Championships were HUGE for the Raptors

Calzone has some swagger
. If the Zone can provide that kind of game off the bench TJ is
a) going to have to stay sharp and
b) holy crap we have not one but two actual point guards

The Blue Chip is ticked.
Bosh screemed right at me last night when a ball was tipped out of his hands underneath the hoop. Not your Vince anguish noise but a loud, angry, KG-esque i'm going to destroy you sound. That's the chip this team needs and I'm pretty sure getting benched on team U.S.A. got this thing going (note: I can't be sure he was screaming at me. I think it was more with me).

Bargnani is either slow, has slow reactions or both. Hopefully it's just deer in headlight syndrome that will pass with time. But when Bogut (not the need for speed kind of guy) blows by you it's gut check time. Even if it's game two. I'm hoping it was some front row eye candy that distracted him so let's let it slide for now and prepare to rejoice when his offence and reaction time make the flight over from Roma.

Other random nuggets....
This looks like a team. 7 players scored in double figures....Rasho and Garbajio can cover big men, so Bosh is free to swat away from the help side...Fred Jones lined up a monster dunk and instantly sold 500 jerseys.....Parker, Jones and Mo fill lanes and have no problem hoisting it up...Mo actually thinks he has a shot at the all-start team, which means he's cocky this year too....Mike James is gone and the extra pass is alive and well, maybe passing is contagious...Charlie V came back to a loud ovation (louder than TJs)....the mini dance pack gets me every time....and last but certainly the most useful nugget from last night is that a dirty pouter (poutine) tastes better when the Raps are laying the spank down.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Why Bryan Needs To Ink Me ASAP

A) I'm willing to wait around like a crazed fan to take a blog picture and hand over ideas.

B) These ideas are gold. With a little TLC and execution, they could even be done.

C) I work for the love of the first. I've got to be worth at least 1/30th of Fred Jones, despite the fact I can't dunk.

D) I'm willing to pretend i'm European and speak in broken french just to keep the exciting dynamics of the team going.

F) Buy low sell high. You can't get much lower than this.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Season Opener Running Diary

12:00 - Here we go, Raps ready to rock their 9 new faces. #15 is again my favourite Raptor and yes there was a rumour in today's paper that Vince was making inquiries about rejoining Toronto. Low prof, under the radar ' think this could work' kinda stuff. More on that when I recover from the thought.

Chuck Swirsky is announcing with Leo Rautins tonight. Leo coached my high school team a few times so i have a soft spot. All said though he knows his hoops and he isn't annoying. Advantage Leo. Chuck is just Chuck. Love him or hate him. I love what he tries to do. High energy high fun. Sometimes he comes up short in execution....but A for effort.

9:46 - Bosh has shown a couple of tight moves, a little reverse. Vince rams home a reversal. Screw you Vince

4:47 - Nutbar gets a foul. Nutbar?

4:42 - note. the raptors have 3 white guys on the floor right now. They've tried to replace Matt Bonner in numbers alone. It might work.

4:40 - Swirsky just said "nutbar" again. beautiful.

3:30 - OUCH. Bargnani gets the ball underneath, nobody between him and the rim. Oddly enough decides he's got no shot, he's disengaging. "I'll fire when i'm god damn good and ready". Moves back two steps, now two defenders are in front of him. He goes up and...misses short. Way short. Grabs his own rebound and tips it in. That did not look comfortable. At

Although this possession was a success I think we've shown it as an example of what not to do.

3:19 - Garbage man just got a rebound without jumping. The name Garbage Man is not an accident. This guy is going to get some Garbage stats. Also known as the right place at the right time. Down the court he misses a three...good thing he's on my bench. oh yeah. I drafted the Garbage Man in my fantasy pool!

2:12 - 'Passing is contagious' - Leo. Don't you love hearing that? It gives me hope. I really hope it is.

1:39 - Calzone drops a floater! Not just any floater the knee up at the defender one. Man you gotta love those. When you actually take one of those shots you almost feel as if you are cheating. Sure...stand in my way. My knee is flying at your chest, if you get in the way it's
just not my fault. Like when kids flail their arms and beat the crap out of siblings with the whole 'you walked into it' theory.

FLAGRANT FOUL. BOSH GOES DOWN. Where the freak is Garbage Man right now? Hit somebody! Okay...just rewound the PVR, Garbajosa gave him a look. Step 1. Next is the huge elbow. Wait for it. Patience. It's coming. Garbage Man just added #24 to his hit book.

Leo: If i had to describe Garbajosa i'd say think about going to a men's leagues around town. You see that old team. The guys who win, year in year out against the young college studs. That's who he is. I call this guy "Mens' League".

Love the fact that leo is thinking about a nickname for the Garbag man. Garbagio. Men's League. hm. not gonna stick.

End of one NJ 28, Raps 27.

2nd Quarter
11:30 - Humphries just tried a very panicky shot. At least he's not Araujo. I hope i don't spend the entire year saying it. but then least he's not Araujo.

10:32 - Chuck said Nutbar again. That's about 6 of them. Over under in this game is set at 24.

10:22 - "Fred jones with a charge on Nutbar. Nutbar was moving wasn't he? That was a flop"`(quickly appproaching 24).

9:23 - 'Kaboom' goes Chuck! Humpty just finished a dunk. He's already better than Araujo. Can you feel the love of all Raptors fans. Not only does this guy not have to be good, he only has to be better than Araujo. This is gotta be one of the best situations for a guy in the league. Can you say Free pass?

(by the way, in the time it took me to write that there were 3 more Nutbars! This is great).

Now that we are on ads, maybe i should point out that 'a nutbar' is also a crazy person where
i come from. i.e. 'what a nutbar'. Think Emily Valentine. Oh...and Nutbar is actually Bostjan Nachbar.

We're back. The Score has decided to let us listen in on the Italian cast of this game. Really is this necessary? 1 minute, no clue what they said. Wow, except Leo just translated it. They basically said Toronto is better than U.S. cities because Canada is more like Europe. ha ha. They aren't translating that on TNT.

7:38 - 5 more nutbars in the past 2 minutes. over under is now at 60.

6:38 - Humphries on the ground stealing us a loose ball. Have i mentioned he's got a free pass this year? Chuck took this moment to let us know 'we call him the Hammer'. Not sure why yet but okay.

5:44 - "The bank is open" claims Chuck after Parker drops a deuce off the glass. That's Chuck making it work. Parker is playing his best game of the year, game 1. Carter just came back for his 3rd dunk. Screw you Vince.

4:57 - despite our decent play the Raps have now given up about 14 points on layups. This is awfully familiar territory we are heading into here.

4:15 - Raps just showed their first signs as a run and gun team, T.J. moves it quick, Mo
finishes with the foul. Great movement, quick pass instead of extra dribbles. Fantastic. unfortunately there's 4:16 to go in the half. Baby steps.

3:00 - P.J. Tucker. 30 seconds in the game. 2 rebounds. Blocked once. Fouled. Chuck just threw out his nickname for Tucker. "Nails". That's right. Hammer and Nails. He's about to break out the toolbox. Can you feel it? Nah...he's saving that for the third quarter.

Wow. Tucker just threw one over his head. And by 'one' i mean a shot from 6 feet. These Raps are all over the place right now. Great, bad, ugly.

1:15 - Leo riding Chuck, telling him he isnt going to be get his hair back. Chuck on the other hand thinks that bald is back baby! Chuck also let's us in on a the secret 'Swirsky Bobblehead Night'. Get ticketmaster on the phone...stat.

1:00 - TJ Ford hit a three. Savour that.

37: Garbage Man is cold. Missing everywhere. Good thing he does a little of everything.

Halftime Score: Nets 53, Raps 49.

Half Time
Raps hoisted up 54 shots by the half. Wow. Apparently 100 shots might happen from time to time. Unfortunately we are not finding the 3 point love from last year. 3 - 13.
Garbage Man: 0-2
Mo Pete: 0-4

Well at least my prediction of Mo Jacking 8 three's a game is on track. Raptors are 21-54 (38.9%) for those counting. Which is actually good news for the second half. Although 10 of those shots were impossible throw over my head in desparation i'm crapping my bed they'd never go in. Well with only 5 Turnovers and 54 shot attempts you need to be winning. Not playing defence will do that to you.

Excited to note that I'll be at game 1 and 2 this Friday and Sunday. The Charlie V home opener
and the return of Matt Bonner. Can't wait for Bonner to enter the game. Crowd to go nuts.
Charlie V, not as exciting. Nobody too thrilled to boo him, nobody really interested in cheering him.

Third Quarter - computer crash
Fourth Quarter - computer crash
Funny Quips -computer crash

Well the good news is that this post just got cut off by 1000 words. Unfortunately my computer crashed, nothing auto saved and voila. Glad I published the first bit at half.

The second half was not pretty. Raps shot just as bad if not worse, couldn't get to 100 shots (but 94 was pretty nice) and Vince stepped it up and we didn't play over. The over under on Nutbar finished at 54, smashing the early line. Mo Pete with 7 three point attempts was one under my 'season average' prediction of 8 per game.

My girlfriend also announced the reason i was so cold was that she has the heat on at 60. She thinks we can tough it out. I don't work 10 hour days to tough it out on my couch. The War on the thermostat has begun.

Anthony Parker was the highlight for the Raps, doing all kinds of Euro League MVP moves. The Bargnani era was welcomed in by 6 minutes of confusion and fouls. A rough start for our rookie so the keyword this year is patience.

All in all lots of good signs, lots to learn for the Raps from this one and lots to talk about. 41 wins still to go. As mentioned I'll be at this Friday's home opener sitting in row G, so get ready for some trash talking. If you have a message for any Buck's let me know.