Just like the Raptors he coaches Sam Mitchell will not die or go away. The fire Sam chants get louder and he finds a way to quiet them. People have many issues with Sam and they feel he is not the coach for this team to reach that next level. I think the jury is still out on that. But I admire Sam Mitchell and respect his never say die attitude. It would be easy for a team without Jose Calderon to come up with a poor effort. But Sam Mitchell in his entire time here has never used any injury as an excuse. He also will not allow his players to use it as an excuse. Sam is famous for saying the last time he checked everyone still got a paycheck on the 1st and 15th. Which means that everyone is expected to do their job when called upon. When you cut to the chase Sam Mitchell is a guy with "Old School" values that I respect and admire. While many cheer and rant to see Sam Mitchell fired. I have always cheered for Sam to prove them wrong. But I have said and I believe this will be the year that will define and end this debate one way or the other. I wrote a blog on this topic and still think everything in that is true. Sam needs to have success in the playoffs and if he does not I think he really is going to be hard pressed to return. But whatever we all think it is what Bryan Colangelo thinks that will count in the end.
3 Big Experiment
So that worked out pretty well as the Raptors busted out the big 3 line-up of Bosh, Bargnani and J.O. Sam Mitchell had only used it in extreme cases prior to this. It reminded me of when all was lost Sam would throw out T.J and Jose together. I had called it the break glass in case of emergency move by Sam Mitchell. But this time it seems to be a case to send a message to the under performing wing players. Not just the starting line-up changed but the entire rotation. Good news for Kris Humphries fans and bad news for Joey Graham fans. The Miami Heat were the perfect test model to give this a shot. They lack the size to match up and it improved the Raptors rebounding and defense overall. The Raptors were dead last in the league in rebounds. Something needed to be done.
Andrea Bargnani has really made a great effort to improve his game and is showing signs that he is getting it. The biggest change is in his overall attitude and effort. It has been far better and you see the results on the floor. Jermaine O'Neal is starting to round into shape and understanding his role on this team. His contributions on defense are getting better and more often. There was a point in the 4th quarter that every shot he could challenge and try and block he did. He already is making goals. He said that he asked what the franchise record is for shot blocks in a season is?(Marcus Camby-230) That is his goal to beat. Meanwhile Chris Bosh is having the best season of his NBA career by far. He has just looked fantastic. His 4th All Star appearance is about as close to a lock as you can get. Putting these three players on the floor together makes a ton of sense from an offensive point of view. What will define it and determine the long term future of it will be the D. How these guys play on defensive end will determine if this can be a long term solution or a short term one that can be used in certain match-ups.
Raptors Face The Reason
The Orlando Magic are the reason. It was how they took like a hot knife through butter as to why the Raptors made the chances they made. Orlando exposed all the weak points of the Toronto Raptors and that is why they took only 5 games to send the Raptors packing. So in the first match-up since that series the changes will be put to the test. The Magic's only major change in the off-season was the signing of Mickael Pietrus. But the roster is much the same as the one the Raptors faced in the playoffs.
But the Raptors have now two options to throw at Superman. Both Bosh and J.O can take turns at taking on Superman. The Raptors also have a shot blocking answer for Howard in J.O. But when it comes down to it the Raptor perimiter defense needs to improve and it will be tested by the Magic who are a team like the Raptors that has a number of shooters that can take advantage of the 3 point line.
The other thing that will have to change is at the point. Both Jose Calderon and T.J Ford were out played by Jameer Nelson and he opened a lot of eyes with his performance in that series. If Jose is going to be the All Star player that everyone expects him to be he needs to be better than a guy like Nelson. The one thing about Jose that has always been a major disappointment to me is his defense. As gifted a player as he is on the offensive end, his defense is almost as bad on the other end of the floor. He is to many times easily picked off by picks that are set. His on the ball defense needs a lot of work. That is were Jose needs to improve his game the most and I think he still has a long way to go. But it will not be easy with more minutes and the concern for him to remain healthy.
Time To Make A Move...Not A Trade...In the Standings
The Raptors have a record of 5-4 and are part of a log jam in the Eastern Conference that sees a lot of teams in and around the .500 mark. The Raptors if they are serious about being a contender need to step up and make a move. They have some games ahead that you would class as winnable games and they must take advantage of those chances. If the Raptors want to be concerned about playoff position and not just making the playoffs in April they need to take advantage of these points in the schedule.
The big thing that cost the Raptors last year was losing Chris Bosh at a time when they had a number of games that were of the winnable variety. They were not able to win without Chris and it cost them playoff position and it really sent the season off course. If the Raptors want to be that contender they think they are the time is now to make a move in that direction. That may be why we saw the changes we did on Sunday. There was no time to endure an early season slump. Besides the East is better and some teams are suprising early. Like the New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks even the Bulls and Heat are holding their own.
No Good News For Nate?
It really is not looking good for Nathan Jawai. His problems could cost him his career. The future for him is in serious doubt. The Toronto Sun had an article that was picked up on Real Gm on the Nathan Jawai heart issue. Here is a link to it.
Raptors Comment On Jawai
Maverick in Trouble
Just a quick note on this. I was watching CNN and they are reporting that Mark Cuban is being investigated and charged for insider trading. It involves an internet company that he sold stock in. This is some real high brow economic stuff. But what it could mean for the Mavs and Cuban is not clear. But Insider trading can get you put in jail if convicted I do know that. Here is an article on this issue. It deals more with the business angle of this story and not basketball. But if you are interested check it out.
Mark Cuban Article
ESPN also has an Article on this
As I have read more and found out more on this it seems that Cuban even if convicted would not be looking at Jail time of any kind. This is a civil matter and would only impact him in sense of reputation and cash wise. There was a very interesting segment on this on Prime Time Sports on the Fan 590.
Tomorrow I will get you set for the Magic and Raptors from sunny (No Doubt) Florida. 2 More Days to Change. It is busy times for Dino Nation Blog. But exciting ones. I will be here in the cold typing. But I will think warm thoughts for the Raptors.