Plyometrics - A Burst of Energy
When I worked at WTSN, I was waiting for a source at the training facility in our broadcast center and had a chance to see how some NHLers do their off-ice training. In one exercise, the trainer set up the treadmill at a sprint speed and had the player do one lap of the track at an easy pace first. Once he reached the treadmill, he would straddle the sides, then jump on with a burst of power for about 30 secs to a minute (the average length of an NHL shift). This exercise was designed to mimic the motions and power it would take to fully utilize his time on the ice. Now, this will obviously be similar but remarkably different for NBA athletes since they still need that burst of energy for steals and fast breaks but different since their shifts are much longer and different skills are needed. Some coaches and trainers consider plyometrics training as high on their list of priorities since having the power to go from zero to a hundred in the shortest time possible will give you that edge over an opponent, especially on that fast break or vertical jump for a rebound. I liked how the book used Doc Rivers (as a playing member of the New York Knicks at the time) to show how plyometrics can affect all aspects of your game. In the three months of off-season training, Doc Rivers drastically improved his on-the-court performance by giving extra attention to plyometrics training. This season watch how the players perform in transition or on a fast break. When the camera zeros in on their expression, see if you can tell if they are showing signs of fatigue or a "ready to get back out there" mentality. When you see steals on the fast break or especially in transition, this may be as a result of fatigue which causes the silly mistakes like turnovers. This book tries to show how plyometrics training can help correct this.
Speed - Getting From Point A to Point B
It is as simple as that. How fast you can drive to the basket can mean the difference between points up on the board, change in possession and momentum. In Condition The NBA Way, it explains that for basketball, speed doesn't only mean sprinting straight ahead. It includes: "the defensive shuffle; the back pedal and change of direction". And while sprinting straight forward can affect all of these movements, speed is measured by how often you repeat your stride times your stride length. I was a little concerned in this section since they named Kevin Johnson, Tim Hardaway and Muggsy Bogues and how if you have a goal to be as fast as they are, "you can do it". As much as I appreciate what this book did for me personally, in no way shape or form can you be NBA ready after reading this book. I think that would discredit all the work professional trainers and coaches are doing to prepare their athletes for games. This book is really meant to give you some tools you can use in your own training to improve your game or give you some fresh exercises to provide you a more motivating work out. I agree that by breaking down each sprint action into parts, practicing each part and bringing it back together will definitely improve your speed - it's just like reading and breaking down each chapter and each sentence. But to suggest you can be "just as efficient and explosive" as an NBA player after doing these exercises, is doing a disservice to the strength and conditioning coaches who put this book together. Oh wait, that's who told us we could be just like them. Hmmm.
Agility - Stop on a dime and Give Me Nine Cents Change
"For every level you go up in competition, your weaknesses will be magnified another degree" (Condition The NBA Way). This is true. I think if the average high school or college player picks up this book and takes some of the exercises in it seriously, they will definitely improve on those magnified weaknesses - but not erase them. Training with a team coach or team trainer and the book as an added bonus, is a better way to look at it. The book breaks down the actual definition of agility in basketball terms: "...being able to change your body direction quickly, explosively, efficiently and in balance (under control)". And again, just like any other skill, your agility improves with practice. Picture this: I'm in grade eight, a point guard with a lot of promise. Insert important tournament, nerves and oh yeah, and eye glasses. So as I am about to pivot and turn to guard my player and doesn't someone flip me a pass square in the face? Clearly, agility and the ability to read the direction of the play was an issue for me and my teammate. Incidentally, we laughed about it afterwards and how I had to wear black electrical tape to keep the arm on my glasses for the rest of the tournament. I now know better and wear contacts. (Another reason to advocate for all basketball players to wear mouth guards). Aside from this, the book actually breaks down the agility work out with individual and team exercises. I think this is important given my personal example. You can train as an individual until you are blue in the face but until those skills are put into practice in a team situation, you can't really judge what level you are at - especially when you will be competing against basketball players with varying levels of agility.
Flick Pick of the Week
I know I have mentioned it before in "Jiggly Bits" here on the DNB, but I am officially making it this week's Flick Pick of the Week. You need to watch "Into The Wind" produced by Steve Nash and his cousin Ezra Holland. It's a documentary on ESPN's 30-30 right now and is about Terry Fox and his Marathon of Hope. There are a few documentaries out there about Terry Fox and I have seen just about every one of them so you will understand why I kind of thought "oh no, here we go again" when I heard about this one. Kudos to Steve Nash and his cousin for this outstanding documentary and interviews with Terry's parents, friend Doug and how all the footage was put together. You will learn Terry Fox was a great basketball player and it was his basketball coach who brought him an article about an amputee and how he ran a marathon. Really well done and worth watching.
For next week, we are going to look at two "how-to" basketball books for the younger player. I am even going to enlist the help of some age-appropriate helpers to gauge their opinion on the material. I picked up The Young Basketball Player by Chris Mullen and Basketball: How to be a Star Player by Matt Parselle from my local library - where I find many of the books we've discussed here on "Basketball on the Floor". See you on Tuesday here on the DNB for "Jiggly Bits" and until then, happy reading.
- PG: Jarrett Jack
- SG: Demar DeRozan
- SF: Sonny Weems
- PF: Amir Johnson
- C: Andrea Bargnani
Many may not agree with this. I also doubt this is what we see on opening night. However, this is what the starting line-up should be. In part, because with the exception of Sonny, the Raptors have long team commitments to all of these players. I would expect after this season the same will be true for Mr. Weems. This is an athletic line-up as well. In addition, to me, playing the Young Guns as a unit makes a lot of sense. Jose Calderon in a second unit with Barbosa also makes sense. We all know by now that Jose can not defend his position right? So Barbosa can guard the quick guards that Jose can not stay in front of. Kleiza can be a bigger scoring option in a second unit as well. Ultimately Andrea Bargnani should be playing at the 4. But unless Erick Dampier or some journey man center comes along that is not happening. You could also shift Kleiza to the 4 and give Wright some minutes at the 3 spot if he deems worthy of them. Also he can play at the 3 once Ed Davis is healthy and worthy of minutes. Which being a first round pick he will get unless he is a complete bust. All this talk of what Kleiza did at the World Championships is nice, but this is not that and he is not an NBA starter to me. Besides if you watched Summer League at all, it was really amazing to see what Demar and Sonny were doing on the floor together as a duo. It would be foolish to break that up.
CB4 Is Dead Let Him Rest In Peace
I am very tired of the Raptors constant attempts to spin the whole Bosh leaving thing in their favour. This talk of what kind of a leader Chris Bosh was or wasn't from Jay Triano serves no purpose. I say this with all due respect, Jay has enough to worry about without fighting a losing PR battle. This is also a double edged sword if you think about. So if everyone knew this about Chris, then why was a true leader not brought into this team? J.O is not one if they are going to try to sell that. The fact they traded him in less than a season says all you need to know about that. Jarrett Jack can be a leader but with his best friend? No not so much. In addition the fact as much of a leader as he can be, Jack has less playoff experience then Bosh. He has never made the playoffs. Where was Chris Bosh's Charles Oakley? A guy that had the respect to lead without being the man.
Also this talk about the offence is now some how better without Bosh in it makes me laugh. At least that is what is being implied. The point was made (by Triano) about when Bosh took jumpers that was one of the weakest plays for the Raptors. Which is factual, but what is also fact is the reason for that is because your # 1 pick out of position center can't rebound. The Raptors can choose to downplay their former star all they like. However the proof is in the Raptor record book. Bosh owns a lot of the records in that book.
Are the Raptors happy about how he left them and bolted for Miami? Obviously not. I am not happy about it and the way he left did not reflect the guy that was here for 7 years. All of that being said if fans want to hate on the guy that is their deal and they are entitled to do so. In doing these things to devalue Bosh's Legacy in Toronto the Raptors are making a mistake. How on earth will you ever get a star player to stay when the last 2 star players you have had, you threw garbage on as soon as they were out the door. Is there a lot of stuff on both sides of this we don't know. Sure there is. Chris Bosh could be a class A jerk in how he treated the organization when he left. It doesn't matter you don't say anything. Bryan Colangelo knows how to do that. He did it with Hedo Turkoglu who didn't deserve it. Colangelo has had less toxic things to say about him than Bosh.
I will make one last point about this. Both Vince Carter and Chris Bosh ultimately left for the same reason. No it isn't that they hate Toronto or Canada. It is the failure of this organization to produce on the management side of things. As the franchise players do Carter and Bosh own some of the blame for why their teams failed. Yes they do, but ultimately when you look at it from their prospective it is hard to blame them. Vince Carter had seen a number of coaches and G.M's come and go in his time here. He grew frustrated and said enough is enough. He literally quit on the Raptors. However his ultimate point that pushed him over the edge was the hiring of Rob Babcock. Guess what V.C wasn't wrong about him. Babcock was awful and the fact Vince Carter was able to force him into a trade ironically proved his point.
Bosh has also seen his share of coaches and management changes. He endured Colangelo makeovers year after year. Was he suppose to stay and wait for re-build number 4? Bosh also made a very valid point that you as Raptor fans should all embrace. The fact that in his time here the Raptors never were a tax team. Bosh feels that you must be that to be a championship team. I agree with him. It is not like MLSE can not afford the tax right? If the NHL was run under the NBA system does anyone doubt that the Maple Leafs would be a tax team? Factor all of this with a once in a lifetime chance to play with 2 top 5 players in the league on you team. Hell in some senses he would have been insane not to go. I think I would seriously question his desire to win championships if he stayed.
Speaking of championships what ever happened to that? Now this is a franchise that would be thrilled to be 7th or 8th in the East? That sounds like the hockey team not the basketball team. I understand that the Raptors got to go out there and say they can make the playoffs. However the chances of that happening are pretty bleak. Colangelo was brought here to make Toronto a contender not the warm-up match for the Magic, Celtics or Heat. Not to mention what exactly is his future? If he is not staying for the long term, is this who we want running the show heading into an uncertain future for the Raptors, and the NBA for that matter with a new CBA on the way. I think Colangelo is a professional and will do right by the franchise. That being said he felt he was doing right by the franchise drafting Bargnani, Signing Jermaine O'Neal and Hedo Turkoglu. Not to mention re-signing Jose Calderon to his awful contract.
Bottom line is that CB4 is dead and everyone in the Raptors Organization should leave it that way. It serves no purpose to slag this guy for the franchise and does nothing good for it's reputation. Sure people in the media are going to ask the questions. That being said there is no law that I am aware of that they have to answer them. If they are asked something about Chris say something like, I really enjoyed his performance on Entourage.
So It WAS LEO!!!
A little note that Canada Basketball likely didn't want you to know. Seems Leandro Barbosa confirmed something that many speculated to be true in fact is true. He said, that if not for the firing of Jay Triano from Canada Basketball, that Nash would still be playing for Canada. Would he lie about this? What possible reason would Barbosa have to do so. Jay Triano can say to Canada Basketball how you like my gold medal from the World Championships. Well he could if coaches got medals which I am pretty sure they don't. After an 0-5 performance at the Worlds for Canada this latest revelation is likely not what they needed. But as much as I support the program and the players that make up the program, this is something the people in upper management of the program that fired Jay brought on itself. Note to Canada Basketball, if the Raptors season goes as bad as some are predicting it to be....Jay Triano might be available.
Trying this Chat thing again tomorrow at 4pm (Eastern). I will be there for sure this week. We can talk all the Raptors and NBA you like and we will try to build a tradition with this Thursday Chat.
Guy Smiley is Reincarnated
So you are at a Christmas party and get stuck in a convo-circle with a bunch of people you don't like. What do you do? Make conversation and put on a happy face. This is what Carmelo Anthony did on media day trying to address the "should I stay or should I go" story. You could tell he didn't want to be there and was wearing his Denver Nuggets uniform like a kid wearing his Sunday best - uncomfortable. Think back to early this summer when he was offered a 3 year, 65 million-dollar contract extension. He still hasn't signed that little piece of security and instead offers up the "keeping my options open" excuse. He claims he never wanted to be traded but wants to leave some options open until the end of this season when he'll sit down with the Denver Nuggets Management and go from there. "I'm here, man. I'm here today. Whatever the future holds, it holds". Does this sound like a guy who just wants to get out there and play some ball? Look at all the issues the Nuggets have to face this season. George Karl is coaching on a one year contract - though his health issues are behind that one. Chancey Billups has a team option for 2011-2012 and Kenyon Martin along with Chris Anderson are nursing injuries. Not a good way to start the season, boys. Not a good way.
Just Rip the Band-Aid Off
Seriously. How painful is it going to be this season for a third of the teams in the NBA? We have 30 teams, 8 of which have a new coach which means a whole lot of dip testing going on trying to figure out team chemistry. Here are the list of Head Coach newbies: Monty Williams of the New Orleans Hornets; Tom Thibodeau of the Chicago Bulls; Keith Smart of the Golden State Warriors; Avery Johnson of the New Jersey Nets; Larry Drew of the Atlanta Hawks; Doug Collins of the Philadelphia 76ers; Byron Scott of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Vinny Del Negro of the L.A. Clippers. The two I am most concerned about are the last two on this list. Not so much for Del Negro, though he's coming off a tough coaching stint with the Bulls and I hope it works out for him with the Clippers. Remember that other club Byron Scott wanted to offer his coaching services, to? As a former Laker, Scott wanted to coach his former team and continue his legacy in the purple and gold. But Phil Jackson wasn't ready to give up his seat yet so Byron Scott was forced to make a decision and he decided to move to Cleveland. I know you know this story but doesn't it sound a little suspicious to you? I called it here on the DNB in a "Jiggly Bits" piece after the Lakers won the 2010 NBA Championship. I had a feeling Phil was going to retire as Head Coach of the Lakers since he missed the Championship parade and gave the "doctors appointment" excuse. Unless you are hooked up to tubes and lying in a hospital bed, you don't miss something like that, especially as a Head Coach and especially when a routine doctors appointment can be rescheduled in light of winning an NBA Championship. I am sure stepping down after 20 years of coaching is a hard decision to make and is a reason why he took the summer to do it. Or maybe he didn't want to hand off his 'baby' to Byron Scott and wanted him to move on to another team. Phil Jackson has admitted to saying he would like to promote one of his coaching assistants, Brian Shaw to the position. I know Phil is almighty powerful but remember, he doesn't have the power to do that. If he did, why would he waste it on Brian Shaw? Why not use it to bring back Red Auerbach from the dead in his Head Coaching prime or reincarnate himself because really, who IS going to replace the great Phil Jackson. Man, this season is going to be pure bananas. I am looking forward to every minute of it.
You Can't Blame Him
Imagine you have a bunch of microphones in your face and you own the Toronto Raptors. What would you say to the media given what you have? Of course, you are going to use phrases like it "feels better" when describing your current team or ride the positivity train. That is what Brian Colangelo did on Media Day and that is his job. I think it was interesting he was all cool and collected when talking about Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu leaving and how the Raptors are not "held hostage" by certain contracts now and how they finally have some "financial flexibility". Ok, I get it. But when you start answers with, "No knock on Chris, but he tended to hold onto to the ball a lot" or "No knock on Hedo, but I think (Linas) Klieza will give us more than Hedo" how could you not think there was even a little resentment there. Granted, it will be hard to replace the average 24 points and 11 rebounds Chris Bosh gave the Raptors each night but at least Colangelo is realistic in thinking it is not going to come from one person. Maybe he is right. Maybe some of the other Raptors 'hiding in Bosh's shadow' will be given a chance to perform. Maybe we will see some great things from this team now that they are able to make a fresh start. Or maybe we shouldn't get our hopes up and try our best to get behind a team who is clearly rebuilding again. I'll go with door number three.
Basketball Beyond the Floor
Remember to join me on here on the DNB this Thursday when we will be discussing Condition The NBA Way. It's a strength and conditioning book published in 1994 and written by 14 strength and conditioning coaches in the NBA at the time. It's funny and you do actually learn something from it. See you Thursday and until then, happy reading.
I am trying to get excited as the season is almost here. That being said the expectations for this group are so negative it is hard to get excited. I am not good at faking it. So check in throughout the day for updates to this blog. I will post times for all the updates as we go along. Media day in many places around the league today including Denver where they wonder if Carmelo Anthony will even be there? If the Mello Trade to Nets happens that makes the outlook for the Raptors slightly more bleak.
You know you wait and wait for Media Day but honestly there isn't a lot to it. I mean it is what it is to a point. There has been lots of positive talk from everyone. But do we expect anything less? I think the most interesting to this point has been Jarret Jack. I have made the statement in the blog before...Jarrett Jack has shown more leadership in his time here than Jose Calderon has in his entire career. The point guard position is going to be interesting. Jose Calderon and if he can deal with being 2nd on the depth chart and deal with a fan base that isn't 100% behind him. Probably just do one more update with some final thoughts.
So Media day is in the books. Lots of talk of team chemistry and other stuff to try to give people hope. But when you get down to the reality of things, this Raptor team is going to be in serious trouble unless they make some moves. Not just minor ones, like the rumours out there. I am not ready to declare them last in the East. I think Pacers, Pistons and Philly all will contend for that. After that thought it is tough to say. Also with a Mello to the Nets possibility that would make the Raps division that much more of a challenge.
What I did like was hearing Demar DeRozan. He seems much more at ease talking to the media and I think ultimately he is the major key to this season. Team work and all of that is one thing. But in the NBA you need a few guys to lead the charge. The Pistons model of play the right way and actually having success with it seldom works. One of the best teams in the NBA in terms of a team concept is the Utah Jazz. How many titles have they won? You needs some stars to make it happen. Demar needs to be that star if the Raptors are to do anything this season. At the end of the day it goes against logic and good sense to imagine this team wins more games without CB4 then they did with him. I grow tired of the constant references of what Chris didn't do for this team. Here is a newsflash for everyone. Chris Bosh left the Raptors because they failed him in his eyes. Not that he failed in their eyes. There is no way I would believe anyone that says this team would not love to have him on the roster. Whatever he lacked or didn't have. They had 7 years to figure out how to add it to this team around him. They had 7 years to choose to be a Tax team and go all out to win. Those things didn't happen. While the Raptors want you to blame Chris for leaving the fact is they should be the ones taking the blame for not building a team good enough around him. You can run and hide from that fact all you like but if the grim reality that many feel is coming happens, there will be few places to hide.
Oh and one last thing. If I hear one more time that this team is going to play exciting basketball but likely lose 50 games, I may have to puke. I coached little kids at the start of the year I had a talk with them that went like this.
Me: So who has ever seen a team say...YEAH WE LOST.
Team: no response.
Me: That doesn't happen right?
Team: nods of agreement.
Me: So we are going to do are best to win and that will mean some people will play more than others but the goal will be to win because winning is fun.
Team: Cheers of agreement.
So if I can make 9-10 year old kids understand that simple concept, how come some people covering the NBA and fans of the NBA don't get it? By the way those kids never did lose as our team went undefeated and won the Championship. Losing no matter how you go about it....IS NEVER FUN...IT IS NEVER ENTERTAINING TO LOSE. It is about WINNING. Like Herm Edwards said coaching the JETS...YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME!!!. Can the odd time you except a lose and say that was a hell of a game. Absolutely but to lose consistently is NEVER FUN.
Sadly I am not confident the Raptors can do enough of that this season. Anyone who thinks that will be enjoyable along the way.....call me in January and tell me how much fun your having. I won't expect many calls.
The Fan 590 has all of the interviews from their 2+ hours of coverage this afternoon. So check it all out if you missed any of it.
Jay Triano was on the Fan 590 this morning. Had a few things of note to say. He said he expects the defence to be more aggressive. Gone will be the guarding the house defence that was torched last season. The offense will not be based around any one player. He said it was extra sweet to win with U.S over Turkey in Turkey in terms of Hedo being part of that team. Triano thinks the lack of respect from media for the Raptors will help motivate this team.
I like Jay Triano but the challenge in front of him is a rather large one. I mean if Phil Jackson was going to coach this group of Raptors I am not convinced he could make them a playoff team. Does this give Jay Triano yet another free pass this season? I sure hope not. Eventually you have to be judged on your results. The W-L record of Jay Triano is not a great one. The jury is out on if he can be an effective NBA head coach. He has more then proven himself as an assistant. However sometimes assistant coaches do not make great head coaches. This is an opportunity for Jay to show us what he is made of in terms of being able to re-design the offence and defence and start with a clean slate pretty much.
Canada's women are at the World's by the way and have a 1-1 record with a win and loss to start. Good luck to the ladies they are already ahead of the men's team having won a game. Enjoy your weekend as I will be deep into football for The Score Boise State and Oregon State Saturday and Cowboys and Texans on Sunday.
See you Monday!!!
Giving Credit where Credit is Due
According to Rick Pitino, the purpose of Rebound Rules is to give the reader tools to mount a comeback when previous methods of overcoming mistakes or tragedy don't work. He says when we are afraid, fear takes over and we make bad decisions. Further, he says being "relentlessly positive" can be the only way to defeat the power of negativity. Blah. Blah. Blah. We have heard this story before. But to give him credit, he did what a lot of coaches today might never do: admit to his mistakes. As a coach, Rick Pitino says he made 3 key mistakes:
(1) He made too many spontaneous decisions about players.
(2) He took shortcuts. He said if he didn't have the talent he wanted on the team, he should have persevered with what he had.
(3) He beat himself up about mistakes.
These are three key points to remember this season when following the Toronto Raptors or any other team in the NBA for that matter. Some of the greatest NBA coaches of all time handle #3 very well and I think this is the key to their success. Look very carefully at the answers coaches and players give this season and how they evaluate their successes, failures and who gets the credit. One of the handful of things I liked about this book is Rick Pitino's take on honesty as a coach: "One thing you must do in the face of adversity is to be honest with yourself, and with the people you are trying to lead. Acknowledge the difficult spot you're in and commence digging out of it". Note to self: Buy Brian Colangelo a shovel for Christmas.
Going Beneath the Surface
This is the single most line in the book which stood out for me: "Don't work as if you are overqualified for your job". In other words, don't think certain tasks are beneath you like changing your role on the team to beat a certain opponent, even if it means less glory or less playing time. The perfect example of this is when we have agents advocating on behalf of their clients for more playing time. Instead of thinking of what it takes for the team to win, the individual player is looking out for number one. This is the point we were discussing last week with The Gold Standard. Players should fight for more playing time by their actions on the court, not by their words. In Rebound Rules, Rick Pitino describes a former college player of his, Edgar Sosa. Rick Pitino said Edgar had a few powerful nights in scoring, but then just rode the wave after that thinking scoring was the only means to success: "I told him that after being involved in eight NBA drafts, pro coaches, scouts, and general managers did not discuss scoring averages when evaluating players...(instead) Does this player make other people better, and would he make our team better?" This is true but I am sure the fact a player consistently puts points up on the board has some bargaining power.
Corruption is the Rotten Apple
"The steps toward improvement generally require seeking and accepting feedback from colleagues and superiors - that's why we watch film of every game and every practice, for feedback on our performance and how to better it" (Rick Pitino). Now, if everyone on the team buys into this practice, it works. However, there's always the chance of one rotten apple spoiling the whole bunch. This is wear Rick Pitino discussed team chemistry and what corrupts it: (1) Jealousy; (2) Cynicism; (3) Inflated Ego; (4) Inflexible Personality; (5) Discipline Deficiency; (6) Lack of Passion; (7) Excuse Making; (8) Front Running. These are all key points, again, to keep in the back of your mind this season - especially when evaluating the Miami Heat. This team is expected to win because of The Big Three and I would hazard to guess if any of these issues come up if they hit a bad patch and what excuses they will give if the NBA Championship eludes them. Just something to think about.
Flick Pick of the Week
I'm giving you a "good laugh" flick pick this week. If you haven't already, watch "Semi-Pro" starring Will Ferrel and Woody Harrelson. It's about the owner/coach/player of the ABA's Flint Michigan Tropics (played by Ferrel) and how they join the NBA. It might be a stretch for those who aren't huge fans of Will Ferrel but I think he's hilarious and enjoyed it.
Next week we will be discussing Condition the NBA Way written by 14 strength and conditioning coaches of the NBA. It was published in 1994, so it will be interesting to see how relevant it is for today's athletes.
Also, there are only a few weeks left for "Basketball Beyond the Floor" then it will hibernate until next summer. A new feature, "Behind Enemy Lines" will take its place here on the DNB. This new feature will take a look at the Toronto Raptors' opponents for the coming week. We'll discuss everything from strategy to news makers to things to watch for. So mark down Thursday, October 21 on your calendar since this is when the new feature will begin. Until then, we will continue our "Basketball Beyond the Floor" discussions. See you on Tuesday for another serving of "Jiggly Bits".
If we are correct in assuming the Raptors will struggle this year, then it becomes important that you keep your fan based engaged. Well that is hard to do when over half your games are buried on secondary cable networks. While these networks claim they are giving sports fans more. What they actually are doing is creating a class system for sports and allowing the monster that is hockey coverage to grow.
Raptors on all levels will need to build bridges and not burn them this season. No matter how hard they work it is likely that we see a dip in attendance. If the losing happens that is expected there is nothing you can do. Unlike the Leafs, in terms of basketball, the fans will not show if the team isn't winning. Letting the product get buried is not a good idea. People find other things to do these days. It is becoming harder and harder to get people to come out to games. I am not sure that having you product hidden away on obscure channels is the answer. Ask the NHL how that whole VERSUS. thing works for their product in the U.S.
I grow frustrated and tired with the broadcasters of this country. They have no vision or plan other than to expand on the only thing they know that sells which is hockey. It is pretty sad and even more sad is people watch the stuff. It is hard to be a fan of a sport not called hockey in this country.
Tomorrow will try this chat thing again and maybe will try an earlier time? How about 4pm? See you then. DNB CHAT OVER ON THE RIGHT>>>
Unloading and Reloading
Let's pretend DeMar DeRozan, Andrea Bargnani and even Ed Davis proves to be everything the Raptors need and more. It won't matter because a little thing called the Traded Player Exception will hang over this, meaning it could make the Raptors' situation better or worse. Allow me to explain. When Bosh went to Miami, the Raptors got a bargaining chip worth $14.5 million and has about a year to use it. This means the Raptors can get salaries from other teams up to the face value of the exemption without sending any players or salaries back to match. But with this $14.5 million, there are some NBA salaries that are too big to be taken on by the team because then any NBA player could be signed on without any sacrifices being made. For example, look at what Utah and Minnesota did this summer. Al Jefferson was sent to Utah so he could replace Carlos Boozer. So Utah is all happy to get a 20-10 power forward to replace an out-going 20-10 power forward and Minnesota is happy to dump $13 million from the Timberwolves' books this season - AND a cool $32-million over the course of the rest of his three year deal I might add. So now, Utah can look forward to a possible Western Conference final. The Raptors can make a move like this one at any time this season but making sure they do it before the trade deadline. I know - this is all enough to make your head spin but things we need to think about going into this season.
Artest at his Best
I know he got knocked for it but I think it was cool Ron Artest thanked his psychiatrist for relaxing him during last year's playoffs. It takes a pretty strong person to admit they are seeking professional help and the fact that Ron Artest did it on a national stage will certainly help lift the stigma. But he wants to do more. He wants to give his championship ring away and not just to the highest bidder, either. He has had some celebrities and investors offer him some serious cash but he wants to raffle it off so that an everyday fan can have a chance to own it. The price of these raffle tickets? Between one and three dollars. All the proceeds from the sale of the ring will go to programs helping families and kids with mental health issues. He took advantage of a program when he was 13 years old but funding for the program was dropped so he never saw it through. He is even helping push for the passage of a Mental Health in Schools Act which would support funding for schools across the U.S. to set up mental health programs for students. He's still looking for investment partners but he wanted to make sure the fans were taken care of. For someone who sometimes comes across as from another planet, he brings us down to earth with a project like this one. Kudos to Artest.
Davis wins an Emmy?
So another Davis is making headlines in the NBA lately. This time it is Baron Davis of the Los Angeles Clippers. Next Monday, the Emmy awards for news and documentaries are handed out in New York City. Why should this be associated with a point guard from L.A.? Well, it just so happens Baron Davis served as executive producer of "Crips and Bloods: Made in America" which is up for best documentary. His money and expertise went into it as he escaped from the world the documentary describes - through basketball. The documentary focuses on the root causes of gang life and why some kids choose this life. I want to see it just for the narration alone. Academy Award winner Forrest Whitaker lends his voice to the piece and it includes interviews from actual gang members and NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown since he works with inner-city kids. Davis has also started a production company called Verso Entertainment and hopes there are more documentaries to come. So now there's two more NBAers looking past the end of their careers. Just wonder who's company will make more of a name for itself - Steve Nash's or Baron Davis? Time will only tell.
Good News for Paul Allen
This guy has fought the good fight with cancer. Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma last November. Twenty years ago, he also battled another cancer Hodgkin's Lymphoma. But now, he said on the team's official website his follow-up cancer test came out clean. His secret? He said attending basketball games helped take his mind off of his health issues. Basketball saving lives. Love it.
Basketball Beyond the Floor
Be sure to tune in this Thursday for Basketball Beyond the Floor when we discuss Rick Pitino's Rebound Rules: The Art of Success 2.0. Until then, happy reading.
Needless to say this is a set back in his development and he missed a good part of last season with UNC for an unrelated injury but you have to wonder is this just one of those guys that has bad luck in terms of injuries. See Greg Oden who is the poster boy for this type of thing. While the Raptors have plenty of depth to handle the lose it is more a case of the setback in the development of the rookie.
Paul Marks the Raptors team medical director and orthopaedic surgeon performed the procedure. Raptors will have Media Day a week from today on the 27th and open camp in Toronto for a few days before heading out to camp in Vancouver. It would seem unlikely Davis would make that trip with the team. Just another blow to what has been one of the worst off-seasons in franchise history.
I can not recall a season that I had such low expectations. The U.S media has the Raptors dead and buried as a favourite to win the Draft Lottery. While I think they are low balling the Raptors slightly, they still are in the right neighbourhood. Raptors without more moves made to this roster will not be a playoff team. In fact even with moves they may not be enough and they would have to be bold ones.
Speaking of moves what about the guy making them? His future is still very much up in the air. Just 1 year left on his deal and no real idea on his future. Does he want to stay? Do the Raptors want him to stay? Do all of you (Not that you get a vote) want Bryan Colangelo to stay? Also if Colangelo future is in doubt that would mean so would Jay Triano's as well you would have to figure. If this Raptors team struggles as most expect, this will be the big topic of conversation. What becomes of Colangelo and Triano? Safe to say that despite his struggles in Toronto that Bryan Colangelo can easily find another job. The job with the New York Knicks could be there for the taking. It is funny how things have changed. When Colangelo first arrived he was like a saviour for this franchise and yet now there are many that would not be sorry to see him go. Reminds me of one of my favourite Jack Armstrong expressions "Peacock Today, Feather Duster Tomorrow". I am not even sure Colangelo can dig himself out of this self made pit. Did he totally miscalculate his ability to bring back Chris Bosh? Was he blown out of the water that he could not get a reasonable sign and trade for him? These are things only Bryan knows. But it is safe to say that based on his actions of the summer he is not exactly sending Bosh a Christmas Card.
Camp will be shifting out to the west coast this season. After a few days in Toronto, Raptors will be Vancouver bound. So that rules the DNB out for camp this year. A drive to Vancouver is slightly longer than one to Ottawa. So like all of you I will be watching from a far for camp. It was a great experience being there last year though. If Raptors did camp in say Montreal, I would love to go again. Safe bet they are not returning here to Hamilton for camp anytime soon. Raptors first ever training camp was right here in Copps Coliseum. I doubt anyone on the Raptors had any idea where Hamilton was at the time.
Lots of questions to be answered at this camp and pre-season. Who is the odd man out as Raptors come in with 16? Starting point guard is? Shooting guard? Small forward? Think we know our 4 and 5 is Amir and Andrea? Unlike in years past I am not sure if anything is set in stone. The days of being able to just place people in the starting 5 are over at least for the short term.
I will just be happy when we can establish a team and not be having constant make overs being done. Remember that old expression about team chemistry? Do people still believe in that anymore? Raptors have had little of that in the Colangelo Era. It may not be the best season on the court but the future of this franchise moving forward is going to be dramatically impacted by the results of this season be they good or bad. At least it should.
Obviously signing someone off the summer league roster is not exactly exciting or changes your outlook for the Raptors for this season. In the previews for the upcoming season the projections for the Raptors are truly scary. The lowest number I have seen is 22-60 for the Raptors. That is challenging for the 1st pick in the lottery type stuff. It is epic failure almost to the level of New Jersey Nets like performance.
When you examine the Raptors early schedule it is hard not to see them being below .500 after their first 10 games. They play a lot of good teams early and only soft teams in the first 10 would include the Kings, Knicks and Cavs. So even if they get all 3 of those that is a 3-7 start. They have a 4 game west coast trip in that first ten games that could easily be 0-4 if they do not get a win over the Kings.
It is very hard to be optimistic when you look what lies ahead for the Raptors. I am not convinced yet that they will be the epic type failure like the Nets. That being said they are likely looking like a low 30 wins team and can not see them getting close to the 40 wins of the last season that left them just shy of making the playoffs.
I think it is no secret to anyone that the Raptors to be a playoff team, still would need to make more moves to even be in the hunt. Signing guys from the Summer League roster does do that. It is kind of a strange feeling to be heading into a season with everyone pretty much expecting the worst with a view people holding out hope for the Raptors to surprise.
Normally the start of a Raptors season is something to be excited about. This season, I think it is something that if we all are honest, we fear it. Some how for the people in this organization they need to find a way to believe in where not many outside of it will. the fact there was new buzzing on Twitter that Ed Davis had an MRI is not exactly inspiring. People don't just go have MRI's for the heck of it. Oh well, ready or not the season is coming and it is coming fast.
Have a great weekend and see you all Monday.
Take the time
This was the underlying thread which ran through the book. Take the time to choose your people, understand context, gain perspective, form relationships, develop a support system, establish standards, cultivate leadership, learn the language, adapt internally, practice, for self assessment, get motivated and last but not least, game time. This is how he lays out each chapter - a sort of 'good coaching techniques' checklist. One of the first Krzyzewski techniques that stood out for me was the notion of 'selfless service'. Coach Krzyzewski wanted to see if his 2006 Olympians had a capacity to feel at a deeper level than looking out for number one. So he brought in a former player of his, who was a General in the United States Army, Bob Brown and 3 wounded soldiers, to give the players a pep talk: "What makes teams great is the selfless service - It's putting the needs of someone else before yourself. On the basketball court that might be diving for the loose ball or taking a charge. On the battlefield it may be running into a wall of bullets or putting your life on the line for someone". Clearly fighting for your country and fighting for Olympic Basketball gold are two very different things. But the point was made. I agree. It is OK to have an ego and be driven, but the ego cannot be bigger than that of the team.
The 'moment' which exemplified this point was my absolute favourite. Captain Scott Smiley was one of the wounded soldiers and was permanently blinded by a piece of shrapnel in his eye. USA Basketball staff got him a set of earphones which were connected to the lav mics on Dwayne Wade and Gilbert Arenas. With Wade and Arenas doing the play-by-play, Captain Smiley could experience practice. Well, doesn't Dwayne Wade pause to express his pride for wearing the Team USA jersey to Captain Smiley but acknowledges people like the Captain were the real heroes? There are a few players I can think of which need this lesson - to think beyond the end of their nose.
Knowing when to "me" and when to "we"
"The best leadership your team can have is a combination of your strengths and theirs" - Mike Krzyzewski. You may or may not know, as Head Coach of the Duke Men's Basketball program, Krzyzewski recruited Kobe Bryant to come play for him. Had he not decided to got straight to the NBA, Krzyzewski says in the book Kobe would have played his college days with him. This is what I find interesting. Krzyzewski saved an email from Kobe and in it Kobe describes his vision for the Olympic team: "...I think our team should be filled with players who are willing to play for you. Guys who want to be coached so that you can do what you do best with no worries of communication between pro players and college coach". This was my concern back in April of 1989 when FIBA voted to allow pro basketball players to play in international competition or for a national team outside the NBA. Olympic players and coaches are not paid so what is the draw for these players? Some come from teams where they are catered to, so how does a college coach get these guys to listen to him? By getting players with Kobe's mindset to model that type of behaviour. Krzyzewski also touches on this when he talks about adapting within the team: "When leaders make clear their willingness to change, it establishes an environment in which everyone can be comfortable adapting". Again, it is OK to have an ego and be confident in yourself but you can't see yourself as above the team. Let's face it, we all have egos and if someone tells you they or someone else doesn't have one, they are clearly delusional. The idea here is, keep the ego in check.
Throw away the rulebook - sort of.
Instead of a list of rules, Mike Krzyzewski believes in establishing a set of standards. He believes once a group agrees on a set of standards, they unite and become focused to a single purpose. In the book, he lists a set of 20 standards his Duke team needs to live by. Here are the ones which stand out for me:
(3) Confront Immediately - Let nothing linger.
(12) Flexibility - We don't complain.
(17) Unselfishness - We make the extra pass. Our value is not measured in playing time.
(18) We are This Duke team - The time is now - not the past.
#12 and #17 kind of go hand in hand since the one thing you hear players complain about is playing time. However, I am not sure it is OK to be satisfied with, say, 5 minutes of playing time. Sure, you don't complain and realize your contribution might have been helping your team gain possession in the transition let's just say, but I think the 5-minute-a-game player needs to continue to work hard and improve his game to show why he deserves more playing time. More playing time means more time on the floor to become better. Something which can't be accomplished in 5 minutes. But I think this is what Krzyzewski is trying to say: work for more playing time, don't try and complain to get it.
Flick Pick of the Week
See if you can find the made for TV movie "Final Shot: The Hank Gathers Story". It's a true story about a college player named Hank Gathers, who collapsed and died during an NCAA Tournament game. Keeps with the theme of keeping things in perspective.
To follow this week's discussion, I thought we would read Rebound Rules - The Art of Success 2.0 by another NCAA coach, Rick Pitino. You will also know, Rick Pitino was Coach and President of the Boston Celtics. I want to see how this compares to The Gold Standard. I will see you on Tuesday for another serving of Jiggly Bits. So until then, happy reading.
So this young group of Raptors have little expectations to live up too. It is more people have a lot of hope that Young Guns and others can step up and surprise. If that is going to happen here is some things that must happen for that to occur.
1. Demar DeRozan must have a break out sophomore season. If he is not playing for the Sophomores in the Rookie Challenge at All Star Weekend something has gone wrong. He had a respectable first season as the 4th or 5th option in the starting line-up for most of the season. This season he has moved up the food chain and should have the chance to score more. He also needs to improve on the other end of the floor and defend better than he did last season.
2. Jarrett Jack must be the clear starting point guard for this team. If he leaves any doubt and Jose Calderon remains part of the fold you could have an ugly point guard controversy the whole season long. Jack must come out and prove he is the best point guard and the easiest way to do that is to play well on the defensive end of the floor. Jose Calderon can be better on offense than Jack but if Jack can defend well that makes him the guy.
3. Amir Johnson must find a way to solve his foul issues. He is aware of the problem obviously as proof he made this funny video.
Seems Johnson got into the funny video game like Bosh. However like Bosh he needs to stay on the floor and produce. He obviously is not going to produce the same offensive numbers but he can bring the same things on defense if not more. That being said he has to be able to stay on the floor to do that. At the end of last year you saw a glimpse of what he can do when he does and it was scary good.
4. Sonny must be money. At this time last year if you are honest you were asking who the heck is Sonny Weems? He came to the Raptors with Amir Johnson and for many was thought to be some throw in. He was far more than that. Improving his range but not abusing it is the biggest thing for Sonny. The odd 3-ball added to the mix can make him even more effective. if he can prove he can make that shot people will not be able to play off him and that means he can take people to the hole and make them pay. Also as with everyone Mr.Weems must be part of the defensive effort. The same jaw dropping athleticism we see on offensive end needs to be seen on defensive end as well.
5. Colangelo needs to be 3 for 3. What are the 3? Barbosa, Klezia and his draft picks. If all contribute and do more then most expect it is a win for Bryan Colangelo. Signs look good based on World Championships. Klezia and Barbosa looked good representing their countries at the Worlds. Unlike Hedo let's hope they do the same for the team paying their checks. If Ed Davis and Solomon Alabi can be part of the rotation that will be great. For that to happen they will need to earn it. Both are going to be counted on for defense and rebounding. That will be how they can help this team the most. Any offense ether provide is a bonus.
6. Andrea Bargnani will be defined by this season. He must prove he can defend and rebound in this league. Andrea also will face the challenge of the occasional double team on offense with no Bosh around. This is something in the past with Bosh injured he has not dealt well with. Colangelo has stuck with Bargnani and not given up on him. If the Raptors are going to be successful Colangelo needs to be rewarded for that faith with a solid season from his 1st overall pick. It will be more about his blocks and boards and less about his points that defines success.
Aside from those six things the Raptors need to be healthy and get off to a good start which will not be easy. The X-Factor in all of this is Colangelo does not seem to be done with this roster. He does have that huge chip of the trade exception from the Bosh sign and trade. How this team performs could impact on how that is used. If it becomes clear this team is going no where it may make the desire to use that exception during this season less desirable. There is also the future of both Colangelo and Triano in question as we enter this season. If the Raptors can exceed expectations it likely paves the way for both to remain. If they don't what that will mean is for the MLSE board to determine.
A reminder that tomorrow night at 7pm we will be having our first official DNB Chat over there on the right>>>.
Show up here on the site then and we will talk Raptors, NBA or whatever you like with in reason. This will be a weekly occurrence from now on. The time might be subject to change but at least till the season starts we will keep it at 7pm. Hope to see a bunch of you come out and be a part of the chat. I have always considered it a privilege for me to get to know as many of you that read the blog as humanly possible.
U.S.A Ends a Drought
As sad as I am to see our Canadian National Team flop at this year's Worlds, I am really happy for Kevin Durant and the rest of Team USA. Durant really carried this team, especially in the 81-64 win over Turkey to take the 2010 World Championship title when he racked up 28 points. They went a perfect 9-0 and won their first World Championship since 1994. I remember watching an interview done with a US network and Kevin Durant part way through the Worlds. Durant had a baseball cap on, a backpack too and was leaning on the kitchen counter with both elbows as if talking into a web cam. It's interviews like these that remind you how young some of these players are and how much they are expected to accomplish. So Durant was named MVP of the Worlds averaging 22.8 points per game, shot 55.6% from the field and made 91.2% of his shots from the foul line. Just amazing. USA Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski I am sure was pleased with how his team fared. He's been the Head Coach of the Duke University men's basketball team for about 30 years and over that time has acquired a taste for championships. I just hope Jay Triano, an Assistant Coach to Team USA, took home some notes of wisdom and applies this winning streak to the Raptors.
Allen Iverson Heading to Retirement?
Very sad if he does. So if you are in the NBA, not as strong as you once were and have issues off the court and no club comes calling for your services, what do you do? Head to China. That is a serious option Allen Iverson is considering. As you know, he played three games for Memphis last season before he came back to the Philadephia 76ers for a second run with this club. He averaged 13.9 points per game before taking a leave of absence to take care of some family issues. Remember Stephon Malbury? He was also not considered worthy by the NBA and played last season for Shanxi Zhongyu of the CBA - Chinese National Basketball Association. So maybe Iverson should give him a call and ask for some advice. Remember, Iverson also hasn't ruled out retirement. With a few weeks left to go before training camp starts, he better make up his mind.
Basketball Beyond the Floor
Maybe a little part of me was giddy Team USA won the Worlds was because the book we are discussing this Thursday was written by Team USA Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski (with Jamie K. Spatola). I am sure The Gold Standard will provide some golden food for thought. Until Thursday, happy reading.
The NFL is perhaps the most hyped up sport there is in pro sports. Watching all of the stuff going down yesterday made me think about things here with Raptors and the NBA in general. Now one of the real shockers of week 1 was the Seattle Seahawks giving a beat down to the 49ers. It was suppose to be the opposite. The Raptors have been picked to finish dead last in the East by ESPN but it is just that a pick. Till we start playing games for real it is an educated guess at best. So just keep that in mind over the next month.
Some other lessons from the NFL week 1? Lebron James was in the house to watch our favourite football team- "America's Team". Dallas Cowboys are a lot of peoples pick to go to the Super Bowl. Not mine by the way even though I am a Cowboy fan. Well the Washington Redskins didn't get the memo and beat the Cowboys who looked anything like a championship team. Miami Heat have been pretty much crowned as Champions by many. That being said you still have to go out and meet expectations.
The last lesson for all teams is you never know what can happen. For that you only need to look at the Eagles game for the example. For the entire off-season Eagles fans and NFL experts have debated how Kevin Kolb will do replacing Donovan McNabb. Well a concussion and it is hello Mike Vick and suddenly the story changes. Injuries do not know who are good teams and who are bad teams. They have no idea who is a starter or who is a bench player. They just happen.
While Leboron James was chilling in a luxury box watching the Skins and Cowboys. Earlier in the day his replacement as the NBA's new hero was putting in work. Kevin Durant and team USA defeated the host Turkey and take home a gold from the world championships. Full marks to Kevin Durant for leading a team that was B or C listers in terms of what the U.S could actually have and still winning. Congrats to Jay Triano as well who was on that staff for team U.S.A. Does anyone doubt if Triano was coaching Canada we would have been better then 0-5?
Believe it or not NBA training camps will start opening up in a couple weeks. It has been one of the most eventful summers in league history and we are about 6 weeks away from the start of another NBA season. So GET READY.
It is always great having Paul come be a guest with us. He makes it worthwhile and always has some interesting thoughts on basketball. We talked prior to this interview about how much things have changed for basketball fans from when we were younger. Still there is a long way to go for basketball in this country. Paul Jones has always been one of the soldiers on the front lines of the battle to get more basketball coverage here in Canada. It is a battle that we all share as fans of the Raptors and the game of basketball. Hopefully, trips to Vancouver for training camp and Montreal for an exhibition game, are steps in that direction for people from coast to coast who love basketball in Canada. I am grateful to have Paul as a guest as always it has been a great experience getting to know him as I have many of the other people that cover this team.
Apples and Oranges
When Red Auerbach coached and Bill Russell played for the Boston Celtics, it was a different era in professional basketball. For one thing, Red Auerbach was white and Bill Russell was black. In today's day and age, it's not a big deal if there are friendships between whites, blacks, indians, chinese and the list goes on. But in 1956 when Bill Russell joined the Boston Celtics, he was still dealing with segregation and racism. As Russell describes in the book, he came from the deep south of the 1930s and 1940s, so he grew up in an environment where being friendly to whites was not cool. And all his life he dealt with 'unfriendly coaches', as he puts it. So when he was teamed up with Auerbach, he wasn't expecting much. But how quickly that changed. In the book, he describes the team travelling to Lexington, Kentucky in the early 60s. Russell and some of the other black players on the team tried to get food at the hotel restaurant and as it turned out, the restaurant didn't serve blacks. Red Auerbach called the owner and got them a private suite to eat in. When that wasn't good enough, he called again and convinced the owner to change his ways and the restaurant no longer segregated the establishment. This was huge. This was just a fraction of who he was off the court. After reading this, it makes you glad you didn't meet him on the court. A pretty close comparison? A volcano waiting to erupt.
Go to War with Me
Red Auerbach shows his coaching prowess when he talks about NBA referees: "I can't expect my players to fight for me if I don't fight for them. Besides that, if every time they make a tough call against us I raise holy hell, they might think twice and change their call because they'll know I'll be right up their ass". I don't necessarily agree with this line of thinking regarding referees but the part about fighting for his players, I do. The one thing Red Auerbach had going for him was his sense of respect above anything else. Bill Russell describes in the book what he calls a turning point in his career. It came in the 12th game of his rookie year. Bob Cousy was asked what play to call by Coach Auerbach during some point in the game. Cousy called a play that would get everyone out of position. So during the next huddle, a similar play was called and Russell sat down (Everyone stood in the huddles back then - so this was a way of silently protesting). When someone asked why he was sitting, Bill Russell replies "I play center. Everybody else is playing center tonight. I don't need to be in the huddle to know how to get out of their way". Auerbach then says, "Okay, nobody plays center but Russell". And that was that. This is not to say Russell threw a hissy fit and got his way. He was not feeling like he was a part of the team and voiced his concerns. As a rookie in his 12th game back then, to do that took guts. If that were today, you would get chewed out and sent to the locker room.
Be Careful Where you Tread
"All of us have this dark place inside us where we don't allow anyone else to go. Yet all our lives, we seek to let someone get a glimpse of that place and maybe reach inside and touch us. Just a touch - anymore than that would be too much to bear. The closer the friendship, the more often they get a glimpse, but it always remains our private sanctuary" (Bill Russell in Red and Me). Red Auerbach died on October 28, 2006. Bill Russell describes in the book, first hearing the news and later attending the funeral. He really had an interesting way of looking at life and death, I think. In Russell's eyes, a funeral is meant to celebrate the deceased person's life. He says he tried to be strong for Red Auerbach's children but when you loose someone that close to you, it's hard to prevent the tears from falling. In the days after, Bill Russell played golf and tried to do everything that he normally would have. I need remember this philosophy for next funeral I need to attend. My defense mechanism is joking around. I was at a funeral once and made a comment about someone who should clearly not be wearing leather pants (sorry, not a fan of them). I was quiet and the ceremony hadn't started yet, but a family member felt the need to remind me it was a funeral and I need to show respect. True. But it's not as if I took the microphone from the priest during the ceremony and called out Miss Leather Pants. My sister defended me by saying everyone deals with death in different ways. So there. I took a page out of the Bill Russell book of philosophy and showed you a glimpse of the dark side. If you wear leather pants, my apologies and I hope I didn't offend. I was grasping at straws then, in more ways than one.
What Bill Russell and Red Auerbach accomplished as colleagues and friends, transcended basketball. I don't think I will ever see another tandem like this in professional sports in my lifetime.
Flick Pick of the Week
This weekend, look up "Amazing Grace and Chuck". It's a movie about a boy quitting little league to protest nuclear weapons. NBA star Alex English who plays a fictional Boston Celtics Star, Amazing Grace Smith, joins him in protest by quitting basketball. I picked this one because of the Celtics connection and Red Auerbach makes a cameo.
Next Thursday, we will be discussing The Gold Standard: Building a World-Class Team By Mike Krzyzewski with Jamie K. Spatola. Some inspiring words from another great coach? I hope so. See you on Tuesday for another serving of "Jiggly Bits" and until then, happy reading.
In a new season you always are suppose to feel optimistic. Hard to feel optimistic given the summer it has been for the Raptors. Even harder when you look south and see the monster in Miami that awaits the entire Eastern Conference. I guess for season it is about optimism in certain individuals for lack of having much for the team. Demar DeRozan is at the front of that list for me. A young Chris Bosh was given the responsibility of being the franchise player when Vince Carter was shown the door. No one his handing Demar the keys to the franchise. However they are on the table for whoever wants to take them. If the Raptors are to have any hope of surprising anyone it begins with Demar DeRozan. If Demar does not have a break out sophomore season the season for the Raptors will be even longer and more painful.
Andrea Bargnani should be thrilled that the Young Guns with DeRozan have in a sense as group taken over that spotlight that was left open with Bosh leaving. Bargnani has not exactly been a shining star in that spotlight. This is a make or break year for Bargnani. He is going to have all the chance in the world to be successful. If he isn't that will be it. Not that his career will be over but any delusions that is able to be a franchise player will be. Given how he has performed in the past when Bosh has been injured I am not all that optimistic personally.
The point guard situation remains the same despite attempts to solve it in the off-season. Jarret Jack comes in as the man at the top of the depth chart. Calderon comes in injured from playing for Spain yet again. Not to mention most people are not exactly thrilled to see him back. If he thinks that he was booed last season, something he didn't like to much, that will be nothing compared to this year if he fails to cut it. Jack showed more leadership in one season here than Calderon has in his entire career as a Raptor. Jack helped be somewhat of a mentor for Weems and DeRozan.
That is a question to be answered who exactly leads this team? For about 5 years the answer was pretty simple it was Chris Bosh. It will be a question that needs an answer and quickly. Jay Triano has a real job ahead of him if he is going to be able to keep the Raptors heads above water. The bar has been set very low in terms of expectations for this team. Triano will not have a team full of superstars like he currently has as an assistant on Team USA. He will have a lot of work to do to keep the Raptors offense productive and figure out a way to make this team not a defensive nightmare. In a sense the low expectations give Triano even more rope to save his job. It still seems hard to imagine he can do better than the 40 wins he had last year with Bosh.
The one unknown factor for the Raptors is what if anything can they do with the trade exceptions they acquired over the summer. Will they even use them this season or wait till next off-season to play that chip? That likely gets determined by how this team performs early on. If this team is so far from the playoffs it makes no sense to use it than the Raptors likely will not use it. However if the crowds at the ACC grow smaller the temptation will be there to use it.
Other things to keep an eye on is the players with expiring contracts. We already saw Reggie Evans almost be traded along with Calderon. Marcus Banks also has one of those expiring deals as well. However, Colangelo himself seems to want build some cap space for the Raptors heading into a new CBA that promises to be even tighter and make cap space even more valuable.
In the end the season is more about laying the foundation for the Raptors future. The results of this season are not as important as the results of the next 5-7 seasons. Which seems ironic when you have a coach and g.m coming to the end of contracts. What success for the Toronto Raptors will be measured by is more in the individual pieces and what they can do. While everyone would like to believe the Raptors could some how catch lightning in a bottle and make the playoffs. It really is about getting a foundation that can make the playoffs consistently. Something that Raptors have never been able to accomplish.
While everyone talks a good game about Raptors needing to rebuild and start over. It is another thing to endure a season in which it will not be measured as much by wins and losses. It is hard to get pumped up and excited when making the playoffs are a distant memory in January. It is hard to watch your team loss and look for improvement in a Demar, Ed or Sonny. This season is a season that will establish who the hardcore fans are and who are just fair weather fans. It will be tough for those folks to endure watch Chris Bosh win while they suffer waiting for brighter days. But ready or not training camp is only a few weeks away.
A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing?
If I told you a current member of the Phoenix Suns roster scored 20 points at the Worlds, in front of a near capacity crowd of 15, 000, who comes to mind first? Well, if you said Hedo Turkoglu you must either be a fan of Turkey or a dream weaver. After all he has said about and done to the Raptors, the fact that Hedo is putting up some great numbers for Turkey make sme wonder if the NBA is just not the place for him to shine. Sure, you'll tell me to flash back to his time in Orlando and his flashes of brilliance with the Raptors. But who would have thought we would see this kind of play from him as we've seen from the Worlds so far. "Turkoglu drives around the defense.." Drive? Having some drive period is a real accomplishment for him. Think to your own workplace. Is there someone who is cranky and constantly complaining? Chances are they are not happy in there surroundings. So with this being said, we should take whatever they say with a grain of salt. In Hedo's case, he's experiencing some success so maybe this taste of winning some basketball games will cool the jets a little. He and his teammates play next on Wednesday when Turkey takes on Slovenia in the Quarter Finals.
Another game to keep an eye on is Russia versus U.S.A. on Thursday. Just giving you some options considering Team Canada's fate. They had five chances to win a game - a single game - and still came up short leaving the tournament with a 0-5 record. Some feel with Leo Rautins as Head Coach, they won't have a chance of making the cut at the next World Championships let alone another win. Just looking at the stats alone, some players who didn't really produce much were given a good chunk of playing time but I think there was more than really meets the eye in this department. In the week leading up to the tournament, Team Canada wasn't even at full strength yet dealing with illnesses and injuries. So Head Coach Leo Rautins was playing the players he had who were healthy and hoped for the best. So really, the fact that Canada was not successful at the 2010 World Basketball Championships cannot rest soley upon the shoulders of Coach Rautins. Incidentally, I have even heard some calls for Jack Armstrong to coach our national basketball squad. Very interesting.
"Canada Raptors for Sale"
Before you get all excited, the Toronto Raptors are not being relocated. In an attempt to jump on a few sites to see whose face is the franchise stamp for the upcoming season, I came across this website selling Raptors - as in the bird. Look at this description from one owner: "Flies free but hasn't killed...Feather Perfect. I don't need him anymore. $1,000 within Canada, 1200 to US. Includes shipping". Think about it. The Toronto Raptors are flying free without Bosh - free to make a fresh start. They haven't"killed" as a club yet...I know, I know. It's a stretch but it made me laugh thinking about shipping the club for $1200 US - in a really bad Looney Tunes episode, maybe.
I checked out the websites of the top four teams I'll be keeping an eye on this season: The Toronto Raptors, The Boston Celtics, The Miami Heat and of course, The Los Angeles Lakers. This is not to say I am ignoring all the others but in the interest of time and space and our current discussion, I'm sticking to these four.
For the Toronto Raptors, their slogan is: "Raptors + You = The perfect equation with DeMar DeRozan at the end of it. Maybe a play on the whole back to school thing but he's buried under a story on what the Raptors Dance Pak have been up to. DeMar and the Dance Pak are cool but the only thing this says is there's not much going on..yet.
For the Boston Celtics, they have Rajon Rondo tagged on the end of "The Boston Celtics - The official site of the 17-time World Champions". Good choice for the face of a franchise. Shaquille O'Neil is more recognizable but he's only going to be there for 2 years, if that and then it's retiresville for Mr. Shaq vs. I think it's funny how they are bragging about the 17 Championships and the Lakers are on number 16. As far as success, the Boston Celtics have accomplished more than any other club in the NBA and in professional sports for that matter. It will be a while before the Lakers or any other NBA team rack up 8 consecutive Championship titles.
For the Miami Heat, they have no real slogan but a photo of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh with their backs turned to the website viewer. You can only see #6 and James on one jersey and the other two are clearly Wade and Bosh. So all the Heat have to do is show these three and they're done promoting? Not even having them facing forward and only acknowledging LeBron name and number. Not too cool in my books.
For the Los Angeles Lakers, they have a simply stated "The Official site of the Los Angeles Lakers" and a scrolling through of photos from various members of their roster, not just Kobe Bryant. It's not until you click on one of their articles do they brag about winning the 2010 NBA Championship in a title banner. The Celtics site is more up to date because they had the signing of Delonte West to talk about but the Los Angeles Lakers take the prize for having the best site in my books. Course, this may change as I visit every site. I just wanted to know how some clubs are putting they best face forward this season.
Basketball Beyond the Floor
I am very excited about this Thursday's edition of "Basketball Beyond the Floor". You need to be in on this one. Red and Me is clearly the best book of the season, for me anyway. See you Thursday and until then, happy reading.
1. What is more depressing the lack of expectations for the Raptors or the fact this time next year we could be talking about a lockout?
2. Form the isn't in ironic files, Chris Bosh says loyalty is a bonus in pro sports, wonder if he feels the same way about marriage as it was announced he plans on marrying his current girlfriend. The same girlfriend that was on Entourage with him.
3. Keeping on the Entourage tip. Who would it be more fun to be for a day? Mark Cuban or Ari Gold. It is a tough call.
4. Canada basketball is my pain and frustration. But just like your family you can't pick where you are born. I am proudly Canadian and will always support the people that choose to represent this country. That being said new coach? YES PLEASE!!!
5. Ti-Cats and Argos again. Enjoy when my hometown can stick it to the Argos. @Lenito on twitter does not as much. If you are not a fan of the CFL give it a shot this weekend. Labour Day weekend is a lot of fun in the CFL.
6. Am I putting far to much pressure on Demar and totally under value Bargnani? Perhaps but I am not convinced the Bargnani can shine in the spotlight. Demar has the swag to go with a work ethic that I think he can be special.
7. Sport Media is going to hell. I mean TSN 2 now Sportsnet 1 it really is becoming a joke how the major sports networks have run out of ideas and resorted to simple cash grabs and the hell with the viewers.
8. Based on #7 will I ever work for TSN or Sportsnet? On my side of things you never say never but if they follow this blog or my Twitter account they are not likely a fan.
9. Myck Kabongo who was in the blog this week really gave me hope for the future in a lot of ways. Young man seems nice and as his head screwed on straight. May that never change for him because it has for a lot of others.
10. Have I ever had less expectations for a Raptor season than this one? Can't think of one. Maybe I have become more jaded over the years. 16 years to be a Raptor fan it's a long time.
That is all I got feel free to react to any of these or leave some comments of your own. It is free flow Friday so let it flow and go. Everyone have a happy holiday weekend and I will be back Tuesday with hopefully a guest. Be safe and take care as you enjoy the end of unofficial end to summer.