Here Come The Bulls
As shocking as it was that Chuck Swirsky left to take a job on Bulls radio. If anyone had said the Bulls, upon the his return to Toronto, would be in front of the Raptors in the standing you would have thought they were nuts. But that is the case as the Bulls sit a half game in front of the Raptors in the standings in the Eastern Conference. Derrick Rose is the first overall pick from last year's draft and thus far he is up to the hype that goes along with that. Andrea Bargnani can relate to the pressure that goes along with that moment that David Stern calls out your name first. Chuck Swirsky is a big fan of Rose as you could hear in his interview yesterday. He is a talented young man there is no question about that. But just like Brandon Roy is the best player out of his draft class. I think O.J Mayo will be the same for his. However the gap between Mayo and Rose at this point is small. In case of Roy and Bargnani until the last 8 games it was as wide as the Grand Canyon. However Bargnani is on fire and showing confidence that we have just not seen from him. Making big shots and being as clutch as it gets. The shot to close out regulation in Boston I would argue, despite the final result, was the biggest shot of his NBA career. Any plans to trade Bargnani may have been put on ice if there were any at all. Bryan Colangelo has made every suggestion in his interviews that it was not in the plan.
Some recent rumours suggest that the Bulls might be though. Andres Nocioni is the name that seems to be a part of that talk. A tough minded player that would in theory address the Raptors issues at the wing spot. But didn't we already have a guy like this? Carlos Delfino...who is still an option should he return to the NBA. Colangelo is on the record saying that the Raptors would likely match any offer that he were to get should he return to the NBA. But despite what many have suggested Colangelo seems to feel that won't happen till next year. I think Nocioni is an upgrade in comparison to Delfino but enough to give up what is being suggested when you could likely get Delfino for cheaper? I am not sold on that personally. Tyrus Thomas name has been floated as part of a package as well. But he has been a big disappointment like Bargnani had been until recently.
Here is the bottom line on all of this trade stuff. I am not sold that we have heard the real deal that will end up being made yet. Bryan Colangelo has done very little to put out trade speculation. He is on the record saying only one thing for certain. That he has no plan to move Chris Bosh in any deal. He has strongly suggested Bargnani would likely not be moved if it were up to him. Most have figured that Jose Calderon is also safe to stay on Raptor Island. But Colangelo has never real made a strong statement to that point on the record that I have heard. The fact Jose is a BYC player based on signing his new contract makes it seem unlikely. What BYC means in simple terms is that only half the amount of the contract can be counted in calculating a trade. That is why we needed to wait so long for the T.J Ford and O'Neal trade to be made final. Ford had a BYC on his contract that needed to come off and that was the reason for the hold up. The CBA is a complicated thing. They need a book CBA for idiots. This is not that, but if you ever have CBA questions that you need answers to. Here is a link that can help you.
FAQ ON CBA
Calderon and J.O Returns Help Or Hurt?
It has been like the other shoe that is waiting to drop. The Raptors have been playing some of their best basketball of the season with out 2 of what was being billed as the Raptors Big 3 prior to the season. Which I said at the time I was not buying into as I felt nothing had been proven. Well I think that is still the case as I sit on a cold January morning. I am not a Celtic Fan by any stretch of the imagination. However they have the best big 3 and in my mind that was proven in spades over the last 2 games. Based on injuries and just a overall lack of chemistry. I had hoped that Jermaine O'Neal would have an impact like K.G did in Boston and make the Raptors a better defensive team. But at this point I am not convinced even K.G could make a solid defender out of some of the people on this roster with Calderon and Kapono at the top of that list.
Most believe and I tend to agree that the best thing for the Raptors would be to leave Andrea Bargnani in the starting line-up at the Center spot. He was shown a fragile confidence over his Raptor career and to send him back to the bench after his play of late runs the risk of shattering that confidence that he has displayed in the last while. This all is logical and makes a lot of sense but the problem is will Jermaine O'Neal agree and accept that logic. That is a question that only Jermaine knows the answer to that. If he does not it also makes Bryan Colangelo's job harder and likely would force his hand to move O'Neal sooner rather than later. I have suggested in this blog that I believe that it is in Colangelo's best interest to hold on to the O'Neal contract for as long as possible. The closer 2010 gets the more likely teams will over more that have dreams of getting a player like a Wade, James, Bosh or a number of other big name free agents. The pressure from all sides will grow. So trading J.O at this point to me would not get you the same as it could down the line. But if he has a negative impact on Bargnani and the team as a whole what else can Bryan Colangelo do? Jermaine may surprise everyone and be a total team player and accept a roll as the Raptors 6th man. Given his history I am not sure if I want to bet a lot on that happening.
When it comes to Calderon he has to get better as a defender and that is just the bottom line. To earn all that candy (as it says in the funny Raptor kids ads) he needs to start doing things to improve his effort on defense. It really has a negative impact on how the Raptors play defense with Calderon playing the way he does. The point guard is key to any defense and is for lack of a better term the first line of defense. If Jose breaks down and gets beat by his man it sets off a chain reaction that leads to open shots like we saw Ray Allen making at the ACC on Sunday. Help defense is all based on a chain of moves and the quicker that chain is forced to act the more likely it will break. Also we have seen Roko Ukic show some ability to get into the paint on offense and make some of the things happen that we did when T.J Ford was here. People compare Ukic to Calderon but there is more Ford in Ukic then there is Calderon. The only thing Roko and Calderon share is common experience in coming from Europe to the NBA. But from a game standpoint the are very different players.
Kobe and Cabbie Coming To The Score.
I would like to close today by saying how much I look forward to the next chapter of the Kobe Bryant and Cabbie story coming to The Score. Sure the blog is part of The Score Sports Federation but if this was any network I would feel the same. Cabbie and Kobe have done some truly funny stuff over the years. I hope some day to have him (Cabbie Not Kobe) visit us here. Not that Kobe would not be welcome but I am being realistic. So I give you a look back on the touching moments between Cabbie AKA Cabrel Richards and The Black Mamba AKA Kobe Bryant:
Coming to The Score in February is the next chapter of the saga of Kobe and Cabbie. When will the Dino Blogger go 1 on 1 with Cabbie? I do not know but I am throwing out an invite to Cabbie. I think it would be a lot of fun. Cabbie has talked to a ton of guys in the NBA and really and truly has a gift of bringing out the lighter side in them. I enjoy his work a lot and he has brought me many laughs as a viewer over the years.
Just a reminder that I am not going to be doing a Raptors Rewind tonight. I am doing some Live Blog Work for the Score. So I will get some form of recap up late tonight or early tomorrow. But I will be pulling for the Raptors in spirit. I will be working on the Duke vs Georgia Tech game and hoping for CB4's old school to pull of what would be a major upset over Duke.