In this conversation with Matt it was more along the lines of topics as opposed to individual questions. The first topic we got into was Andrea Bargnani. Jack Armstrong has been firm in sticking with Andrea and feeling he can be a productive player. I started this topic with Matt's general impressions of Andrea as of late (This Interview Was Conducted Prior To Last Night's Game )
Matt Devlin-" I think that over the last two games you have seen the flashes that we talked about. Number one he has scored in double figures in back to back games for the first time since November. That is certainly significant. Ultimately for Andrea it is up to him. Forget about the pressures, forget about everything. It is up to you, it is your 3rd year. While there has been coaching changes and position changes, he really just has to come to grips with things and let it go. I got to be me and just play. I think if he does that and tries to play free and easy that will really benefit him."
I went on to ask Matt if there is concern in moving Andrea because he may finally get it. There is also the fact that on another roster that Andrea could be able to play as a 4. Which has to been to me what Bargnani sees himself as in terms of a position.
Matt Devlin-" That is a good one, I don't know if you have an answer for that. That answer is for Andrea. I think one of the most difficult things to do is figure out why someone is struggling. Why are they doing this when it appears that they have the ability to do special things. How do you get inside Andrea's mind? You can ask him the questions but is that ultimately how he is really feeling? I don't know.
It is like one of the great unknowns in sports and in life. When gifted talent.... Jack and I talked about this... you are gifted and everyone knows you are gifted. There is another part to that and that is putting it altogether and that is part of the gift. Do you have the ability to put it altogether? That is an unknown right now when it comes to Andrea. Bargnani is in my opinion extraordinarily talented, he has the capabilities to do a lot. But can he do it I don't know."
It is the same type of situation with a guy like Joey Graham. However people expect more from Andrea based on where he was selected and perhaps they should. But that may be part of the problem as well that Andrea Bargnani will always be judged by that first overall selection. In a recent conversation with Paul Jones we had talked about the idea of a sports psychologist being on staff. It could benefit a number of the Raptors you would think with all that has gone on with this team as individuals and as a team. I asked Matt for his take on the idea.
Matt Devlin " This is the third organization I have been with and they have all the resources. Bryan Colangelo is first class at everything that he does. He has surrounded this team with the best of everything. If it is needed it is there.
Technically they do not have one on staff but they have the resources for that. There is technically no team in the league that has one on staff full time. But if they feel or a player feels they need something like that they get it. From my understanding with the people that I have spoken to that they have that ability. If anybody on the team want to go to someone that is there. Everybody now uses like these "life coaches". They will tell you to unleash the power with in. Those things are important for people to reach their potential for any player or in life. But I think it comes down to the individual themselves and do they want it. Do you want to be the best? Michael Jordan said he wanted to be the best and he was gifted and made himself the best. Kobe Bryant is gifted but still puts the time in on the floor. There is a lot of people that say they want to be but then they don't back it up. There is the odd person that is just truly talented and doesn't have to work that hard and take it for granted."
I can only speak for myself but if this losing keeps up I may need a psychologist. I mentioned to Matt that Jay Triano is a big believer in this kind of thing. It was mentioned in the interview with Paul Jones how he used that resource with Team Canada in 2000. The record has not been good for Jay Triano since taking over the team. However it seems the team is buying into what he is trying to but in place. I asked Matt to talk about Jay and how he thinks it is going with him and the players as far as their relationship and faith in him
Matt Devlin " I think all the players have reacted positively towards him. That is one of the things that I think everyone notices. He is somebody that has earned his stripes that has been around the organization. Players and people respect his opinion and his approach cause they see the amount of hard work he has put in. Those are important things. You have to have that and that is something that Jay has provided. So from an environment standpoint that has been a big bonus for the team.
From a philosophical standpoint everyone has already talked about what he has been attempting and trying to do. There are times in which those things are getting done. From the players perspective I think they all understand now what the approach is going to be game in and game out. That is extremely important. Jay has a respect of the players based upon his work with them, his scouting of other teams and the fact that he has put it his time. Those are important and they help build a positive environment to help build together as a team. This team is very close to putting some things together but unfortunately for them it has just be a very difficult schedule. They just have not had that break in the schedule to catch their breath. You also have to take advantage of chances like they had in Oklahoma City."
Golden State may fall in that same column of chances not taken advantage of. The other thing that has been an issue is getting Chris Bosh and Jermaine O'Neal firing at the same time. Last night was another example of that chemistry and the chance to build on it lost. I am not blaming O'Neal he gave it a try and looked every bit the part of a guy that was sick. But even when both have been healthy Bosh and O'Neal have had few nights where they both have been a force. I asked Matt for his thoughts on that relationship and if it was working on the floor?
Matt Devlin " They had it together the other night and that is important. But it just takes time obviously. I think that it is working but it just takes time. It is a lot easier said than done. When you look to the other night they played well together. But I think key now is they just need some help. In that game the other night the need Kapono to knock down some shots and that didn't happen. They combined for 46 points in that game what more can you want?"
But it just seems that those nights have not been the norm to me. There is still times where you see Bosh and O'Neal not on the same page where one will pass to the other and catch that person off guard. Small minor details that just have yet to come together.
Matt Devlin " I think there is some validity to that. They are still trying to find what works for both. I think both have a bit of different styles. That is just something that takes time to sort out. I know what your saying and it is not easy. You say that if one is able to get it how come the other can not. But when you look at the last game that is more representative with the exception of rebounds from O'Neal. That game was more representative of what you want to see, Bosh had 29 and J.O had 17, from shot distribution standpoint and getting to the line. "
But in that game against Portland the Raptors did not win. They have not been able to find a way to win over quality opposition this season. They have at times struggled even against lesser teams. But to be able to get on the type of run they are going to need to breath back life into their season they must find a way to beat the better teams. I asked Matt for his thoughts on how the Raptors can break through.
Matt Devlin " That is all part of the process. I remember Hubie Brown always talking about, one of the steps is being on the road with 4 minutes to go and being in the game. That is a huge step for a team in the process. For the Raptors they need to get there. The other thing and I have talked about this with a lot of people around the NBA. There is no natural progression. Just because you make it to the playoffs one year or the Eastern Conference Final or The Finals does not earn you the right to get back the next year. There are other teams out there looking to do that same exact thing."
Matt had said he was chatting with assistant coaches with Portland and they were saying how many losses it has taken for the Blazers just to get to where they are at in being considered a team in the playoff mix. But the difference with the Blazers and Raptors from my perspective is look at how young the Blazers are. The Raptors have a lot of established players. Bargnani would be the exception but everyone else beyond Roko and Nathan Jawai are experienced players. The Raptors took a risk to get better and to this point that risk has failed. One of the keys is that reforming of the Raptors was Jose Calderon. Fans had high expectations for Jose Calderon. A night like he had last night is what some were expecting from Jose on a more regular basis. He was talked about has the best point guard in the Eastern Conference. I asked Matt if Jose had not matched the expectations.
Matt Devlin " I'm trying to put this in perspective. I mean he is third in the NBA is Assists. From an expectation standpoint I don't know. It is a new role for him and you look at his number the are solid numbers. So I think that he has done a really good job. He has had two different coaches that want to do things differently so that chances how you approach the game. Also the understanding of who you need to get involved and when you need to get them involved. So I think he has done an excellent job. But I understand when people take a look at it and say that from a fan perspective that we want more. I think from a defensive standpoint people are always going to say that he may be a little bit limited. I think against Portland he did a excellent job and was taking some shots, his shooting percentages are down and his shots are up but yet he is still 3rd in the NBA in assists ."
But Jose was expected to be an Eastern Conference All-Star and a top point guard in the East. The guys on TNT have said that the expectations were to high for the Raptors. Kenny Smith even went as far as to say that Calderon was not good enough to be a starter in the league. I am not going that far myself. But I think people wanted more. I asked Matt about the fact that some folks saw Calderon as an all-star and it is not likely to happen.
Matt Devlin " Right, that will be up to the fans and the process of it. When you look in the East you have Rajon Rondo, Devin Harris and Jose. Also a guy like Jameer Nelson with the Magic. There is a core group of young guys that are pretty talented."
When you look at the seasons that a guys like Rajon Rondo and Devin Harris have had it is hard to say that Jose Calderon is better than ethier for me. I just would not be willing to say it and mean it. Matt does bring up Jameer Nelson as well who along with the Magic have gone highly without fanfare this season. Can Jay Triano bring some of what he brought to Steve Nash in his time with team Canada in 2000. Make Jose take a bit more of a risk taker approach at times. T.J Ford in the past was the guy who would take that chance in the past and sometimes it was great other times not. But Ford still managed to stay among the better players in assist to turnover ratio in the league. Can you change Jose at all to add some risk?
Matt Devlin " I think and recently had this conversation about Jose, that is just not who he is. I think from a system standpoint and the way he has been coached his entire career that is just not who he is. He is not a Steve Nash and honestly how many people in the history of the game have that. Very few from a point guard position winning back to back M.V.P's. There style of play is just completely opposite ends of the game. For Jose , will that eventually develop? I can say that through time because Jose really trusts jay and they are picking more spots to run that Jose will take that chance. But ultimately he has been taught to play the game a certain way and that is not to turn the basketball over. From a point guard perspective that is not a bad thing."
I have to admit last night Jose was one of the best players on the floor. But I can't help but think fans expected much more than what they have seen. The increased work load and lack of production from the back-up position has not helped matters as well. That is a wrap for Matt. I thank him as always for making time for the Dino Nation Blog. It is lots of fun to talk about the team when times are good. But when times are rough it can be rough to do it on those days. All the best in 2009 for Matt and I look forward to talking with him in the new year.
The Blogger M.V.P and R.O.Y Rankings
It is time once again to hear what bloggers from around the league have to say on the M.V.P and Rookie Races. I was able to add some thoughts and some of them made it into the comments as part of the rankings. I am sorry to all T-Wolves fans but I had to say it. Who is leading the ROY and MVP race. Check out the link below to find out.
M.V.P and R.O.Y Rankings
With that it is all over for today just one more day in 2008 left to go. Yippie!!!