For weeks now we had been hearing about how this team was getting close. After every lose you would hear players and head coach Jay Triano talking about it. There would be a lot of talk about how few practices this team had under Triano. It honestly sounded like a party line to explain the failure. Jay Triano a couple games ago would call a time out and the team came out and did not follow his advice. He quickly called another time out and gave his team a quick and firm message after which he walked away. Chris Bosh would follow that up with his own form of verbal abuse. The Raptors seem to have got the message. One of my points had been I did not see any emotion from anyone and that this team seemed to accepting and to easy to find excuses. Well in the last two games when this team had some really legit excuses in that they had no Jermaine O'Neal or Jose Calderon they would play well with no excuses required. O'Neal and Calderon may not even go on this mini two game road trip to Milwaukee and Washington. But after wins over Houston and Orlando maybe it will not matter as much as we would have thought a few days ago.
I seriously would have bet my house the Raptors would have gone 0-3 for this homestand and sit at 12-22. But instead they have a couple unexpected wins and sit 14-20 and have moved out last place to 3rd in the Atlantic Division. The Raptors have done it by playing with a lot more effort and energy on both ends of the floor. Triano has got this team running more on offense and playing harder on defense. The win over Houston did not impress me personally as I chalked it up to Houston looking bad as much as the Raptors looking good. The win over Orlando I walked away stunned and impressed. The Magic came into Toronto on a serious roll and had won 9 of their last 10 games. I have been very impressed with them this season and think they have been over looked in favour of the Celtics and Cavs. Once is an accident and twice is a trend. So if the Raptors can follow up with a win tonight over the improving Bucks we may just have something. Until the year 2009 came around the Raptors lacked a quality win on their resume. These type of wins get a lot of talk in college basketball. When teams are trying to get into the NCAA tournament one of the things people look at is quality wins and toughness of schedule. The Raptors had the tough schedule but no quality wins to speak of. Now to start 2009 they have back to back quality wins. When all hope was starting to fade in this fan base, the Raptors have given life to the flame of hope in Raptorland.
B.C On The Mic
When Bryan Colangelo does an interview everyone stops and listens. It is like those old investment advertisements for E.F Hutton. When the guy would speak in the ad the entire room would go silent to hear what he had to say. I get that feeling for ever Bryan Colangelo interview. He talked about a number of issues in his halftime interview on CBC. There were lots of interesting things said and lots of lines to read between. Colangelo seemed to down play what expectations they had for this team at the start of the season. He said the the goal was just to advance further into the second round. The question was asked about being expected to be contenders in the east that prompted this response. Colangelo is truly great at spin and staying on message. He would make an excellent political candidate or advisor/spokesman for one some day. Maybe he could run the Barkley Campaign in Alabama in 2014. Although with Charles recent issues that would be tough to spin but if anyone could do it B.C would. In case you have been living under a rock of late, Barkley had been picked up for DUI and was on his way according to him to have some "fun" in his SUV with a woman that was not his wife. But back to Bryan and what he had to say about the Raptors.
The topic of Carlos Delfino came up. Colangelo stated the fact that the Raptors indeed still have his restricted free agent rights. He seemed to suggest that he did not get the impression that Carlos would be coming back to the league as fast as others have suggested. Although if you are a hockey fan you will recall how easy it is to break a contract with a Russian Team. The labour rules in Russia only require you give two weeks notice same as if you managed the Moscow McDonalds. So these things can change quickly. Colangelo did say the Raptors would be interested in having him back and suggested the Raptors would match any offers that came his way be it next year or this season. He did seem to suggest he felt it would be next year as opposed to this year. So for those of you that think Defino could make a difference you should be happy to learn about that.
What would a Bryan Colangelo interview be without some talk about Andrea Bargnani. He talked about how Andrea had been shifted around playing at different positions. Which I would like to point out was greatly encouraged by Bryan at the start of the year. He would go on to talk about him being young and growing and learning. It was pretty much your standard Andrea Bargnani defense speech. It sure did not seem like a man that was read to trade Bargnani anytime soon. Bargnani has been playing out of his mind since replacing J.O in the starting line-up. The question wasn't asked that I would like to know. Which is what happens when J.O is healthy? Will Andrea end up back on the bench despite all of this and J.O just return to starting line-up. The one thing that is true if teams are calling for Bargnani and Bryan would consider moving him he has reason to play hardball now with the recent performance of Bargnani. I got no such impression from Colangelo that he is all that interested in moving Andrea. However being the smart guy that Bryan Colangelo is, that is likely exactly what he wanted me to think as well as every other G.M in the league.
Speaking of that idea. Bryan talked about all the rumours that include his name that seem to be in almost every city in the NBA these days. He suggested that it is people speculating and seeing blood in the water after a slow start for a team that had higher expectations. He said although he is active in looking to improve this team that there are lots of factors that go into making trades happen. He was in no means looking like a guy who was in a rush or panic to get something done. When asked directly if he would consider trading Chris Bosh the answer was a flat no followed by a detailed explanation. When he was asked about the fact that Bosh could leave in 2010 he talked about it being his job to convince Bosh to stay and he was going to work to build the team into something that Chris will want to be a part of. When he was asked if it was accurate that the only players he would not consider moving were Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon he did not answer that question in a direct way and it makes you wonder why. He answered the question about Bosh directly why not Calderon? There was a rumour that Steve Nash could be moved for Calderon in a package to the Suns. Nash in talking about being a free agent in 2010 did express a desire to play in both New York and Toronto as well as returning to the Suns.
Roko Ukic did look very good yesterday. Steve Nash has had back issues in recent days and is getting to the point he may not have many years left. But if you think Roko could end up being a started down the line it might make sense. There has been quiet talk that Nash is not happy with the system under new coach Terry Porter. It would be a bold move for sure if Colangelo was able to make that kind of trade. Jay Triano and Steve Nash have a great relationship and he would fit in quickly in Toronto you would have to think. But Colangelo was not talking about any of this kind of speculation. Honestly that is what is as well. But it should be noted how well the Raptors defense has looked without Jose Calderon in the game over the last 7 quarters of basketball. I am not thinking that is an accident.
Just like all Bryan Colangelo interviews it was interesting and he did not say a lot but he gave hints and lots of lines to read between. Sometimes the things he does not say are just as important as the ones he does say. The one thing that has been clear since the firing of Sam Mitchell is that the spotlight is firmly on Bryan Colangelo and what his next move will be. That is one thing that was not talked about was the coaching position. It is safe to assume that Colangelo is still comfortable with giving Jay Triano the rest of the season to audition himself for being a candidate for the job.
Can The Raps Continue To Roll In Milwaukee?
The last time the Raptors won 3 games in a row the team they beat was the Milwaukee Bucks. It was at the start of the season when the Raptors had stormed out to that 3-0 start. The last of those wins was against Milwaukee. The Raptors would go on to lose to the Pistons after that and it would be the last time and only time this team has won 3 in a row all year. If the Raptors are serious about getting back in the playoff race they will need to put together winning streaks and longer ones than just 3 games. The Bucks have shown signs of improvement lately.
The 16-19 Bucks have managed to go 9-5 at home so far this year. One of those 5 loses as mentioned to the Raptors. They have had a real balanced approach with 6 players averaging double figure scoring and none of them over 20 points. Michael Redd leading the way with 19.4 per game. If Andrea Bargnani is a bust as a number one pick what does that make Andrew Bogut? He has not lit the world on fire with his play for the Bucks in his career. But this season averaging a respectable double double of 11.5 points and 10.5 rebounds. There is also Charlie Villianueva the former Raptor who is averaging 12.3 points and 6.4 rebounds. The Bucks made a big trade for Richard Jefferson and I think they were hoping for more than 17 a game from him. But that is what they are getting. The Bucks also let Mo Williams go to the Cleveland Cavs and he has been having a great year playing with Lebron.
The reason that they let Williams walk was the up and coming talent of Ramon Sessions. He is paired with Luke Ridnour as the PG combo for the Bucks. The other player that they are excited about in Milwaukee or they should be is this guy:
Not saying that Luc Mah A Moute is going to be a household name. It doesn't roll of the tongue as easy as James or Jordan. He is not going to be those guys by any stretch of the imagination. What he is though is an exciting young player that seems to add a spark to the Bucks and can grow into being a solid role player in this league.
Despite having yesterday off the Bucks are playing their 3rd game in 4 nights. They enter this game coming off a disappointing loss to the Bobcats in the road end of a home and home set that they won the front end in Milwaukee on Friday. The Bobcats took advantage of the fact the Bucks were without Andrew Bogut who missed the game and is listed as day to day with back spasms. Raptors with no Jermaine O'Neal would still have a massive size advantage on the Bucks without Bogut in the line-up. The Raptors just need to understand despite a couple wins they have long given up the right to overlook anyone. If they every do the rest of the season if I was the coach I would pop on a DVD of the Thunder game just to make my point.
So the Raptor will look to make it 3 in a row and this is a rare Raptors T.V affair from Milwaukee on a Monday. So if you are not a Raps T.V subscriber your welcome to see what happens here in the Raptor Rewind. It may be possible I may end up live blogging this game. If it happens check back and I will have a link for you to that. Raptors Rolling? I know it just seems to strange but it is the most recent reality in a wacky season.