Raptors Rewind- Game Notes Edition

I was working for The Score tonight doing Boston and the Bulls. So I am checking out the game in an hour of Raps and Grizz. So that means staying up till 2:30am and also makes it hard to write a regular recap with little to no breaks in action. So I came up with the whole game note version last year. Hopefully it at least gives you some idea of my thoughts on the game. I do my best not to know the result but in today's world that becomes pretty impossible. In talking with Paul Jones prior to this one we mentioned the whole concept of "Trap" game. Seems that is what happened tonight in Memphis. Raptor fans may not even be able to take the frustration out by booing V.C because in case you missed it Vince went down with an injured ankle and did not return in a win over New Jersey. In 15 years now of Raptors ball there has just been things that don't make sense. Raps traditionally have had some unexpected wins and some equally puzzling loses. The one that stuck out last year was a loss in Oklahoma City in December. It was the lowest point of the Raptors season that had many to choose from. Hard to imagine the second game of the season being a low point. But this sure will not be a high point.

1st Quarter
  • Bosh missed on a dunk makes up for it on D with a steal
  • Bosh gets the putback bad transition D Grizz score
  • Hedo makes a jumper answered by Randolph
  • Jose makes a nice jumper.
  • Bosh missed a jumper as he was being doubled
  • drive does not fall for Bosh and Raps D not looking good early (8-8)
  • Raps shooting is bad as Calderon misses
  • Gay with a nice turn around ( Grizz lead 12-9)
  • Raps can buy a bucket and D is awful (Grizz 16-9)
  • Calderon scores out of time out.
  • Bosh great move in post to score trail by 5
  • Mayo hits and lead is 7 Raps score and Mayo makes it back to back scores
  • Rasho to Bosh nice pay.
  • Score on break with Jack in the game (Grizz 23-20)
  • Raps get a bucket and the lead just 1
After One Grizzlies lead 23-22

1st QTR thoughts- Not the same energy on D. Bosh looks good Calderon too but no one else really stepping up. Where is Andrea as he has been the invisible man in the first quarter.

2nd Quarter
  • Gay scores to open 2nd, Jack to Bosh and the score like the chemistry
  • Marco off target as a lot of Raps are on this night.
  • Bosh is a one man show with 19 and Raps up 6
  • Jack out of control on drive and steps out.
  • Gay scores and draws a foul.
  • Williams ties it up for Memphis.
  • Rotations and reactions on defense seem slow and a step behind.
  • Hedo a 3 from the corner and Raps jump on top by 1
  • Bargnani fumbles pass and Memphis cut through a see of Raps in the paint like butter
  • B.C in stands does not look happy and he has reason not to be.
  • Bosh has 23 and is bringing it, needs more to join the party.
  • Bosh is a beast on the Offensive end, Randolph getting it done on O but not D
  • Bargnani on bench with 3 fouls and he has done little.
  • Jay Triano does not look amused on the bench.
  • Grizz showing more effort and hustle and score couple easy ones off turnovers (6 in QTR for Raps)
  • DeRozan drives and has it knocked out of bounds.
At Half Grizzlies 53 Raptors 49

2nd Qtr Thoughts- Bosh looks good on offense. No hustle on D beyond the big block by DeRozan at end of half

3rd Quarter
  • Turnovers, Turnovers Turnovers (11 of them )
  • Grizz just look hungry and Raps struggling to match that
  • Calderon drives and draws foul
  • Corner 3 wide open look for Grizz
  • DD flies in for 2.
  • Steal and leads to break and a foul called on Calderon
  • Bosh count it and a foul.
  • Bargnani good for 3 and game is tied.
  • Another 3 and Bargnani is 4 for 4 in the QTR
  • DD gets blocked by Mayo
  • DD gets up and throws down on the putback.
  • Randolph is killing it.
  • Bosh with answer (30 point in 3rd)
  • Rasho missed a chippy
  • Rasho gets the putback
After 3 Raptors 79 Memphis 76

3rd QTR- A little improvement but not much. DD came alive that Quarter that block at end of half seems to have got him going, Grizz still giving the effort.

4th Quarter
  • Rasho scores again on the inside.
  • Gay on putback and he let's you know about it
  • Jack hits jumper.
  • Rasho checks out with 8 and 6...Bosh returns.
  • Bosh denied by Randolph and score in Transition Memphis
  • Calderon a miss offensive board leads to a Bosh score.
  • Bosh Draws foul (91-91)
  • Turnover and Memphis push it and draw foul on Bargnani.
  • Gasol scores and Bosh called for the foul. (Grizz lead 98-94
  • Randolph running and scores as trailer on the break
  • Gasol has been a beast on the glass.
  • Mayo big 3 extends lead to 5.
  • Raps offense gone cold at bad time
  • Turnover and easy score
  • Jose make a big shot cuts lead to 6.
  • Hedos shot rolls out
  • Bosh scores make it 37 but in an L
Final Score- Grizzlies 115 Raps 107

Raptors did not have the complete team effort the needed. Beyond Bosh everyone else played in spurts. This was just not good enough and Bosh deserved more from his team tonight. If Raps want to be a contender or even a playoff team these are losses you can't have.


Mr.Jones From Memphis, Tennessee

It has been awhile since we have had the Radio Voice of your Toronto Raptors in the Dino Nation Blog. However had a chance to track down Paul today as he gets prepared for the Raptors and Grizzlies to get it on in Memphis Tennessee. Paul always is great to talk with and has been one of the guys that has been a guest here on a regular basis. So who better to help us preview the Raptors and Grizzlies. This game can be a (Bear) trap game for the Raps stuck in between the Cavs and Magic. Let's hope the Raptors can bring the same level of effort that they did against Cleveland. A.I status was up in the air. But Paul tweeted earlier today no A.I. God will be disappointed about that as he told A.I to go to Memphis. You can follow Paul on Twitter @Paul__Jones. A.I sat out in the Memphis opener in which they lost to Detroit. Rookie Hasheem Thabeet from UConn did not score a point in his NBA debut and had just 2 rebounds. That is not good news for Grizz fans and Demar DeRozan playing at the shooting guard spot had 5 boards in his debut for the Raptors. Speaking of Demar a very funny cartoon of him in Heels on Hardwood today. Go check it out for a good chuckle. Always good for a laugh and dropping some serious basketball knowledge on us is Paul Jones so away we go with Mr. Jones.

Great to talk with Paul as he mentioned we have been trying to get our schedules to fit together. I have seen Paul in person twice in between his visits on the Blog. He is always helpful in not just doing interviews here but in giving me some added knowledge which is always appreciated. It was great to talk Raptors ball with him and he will always be a welcomed guest here at the Dino Nation Blog, he is one of my favourites for sure. Paul is going to hitting the airwaves with Eric Smith an 8pm tip time from Memphis,Tennessee on the Fan 590.


The Morning After Glow

If you are a Toronto Raptor fan and did not wake up with a huge smile on your face, I got a question for you. What the heck is wrong with you? Last night was an incredible performance and really shocking for anyone that paid the least bit of attention to the pre-season. I am reminded how Sam Mitchell talked about not knowing what guys had until the lights came on for real. Well last night was the real deal and the Raptors answer the bell in a major way. The most shocking of it all was the way this team played on the defensive end of floor. Shaq last year had called out Bosh and along with calling him the Rue Paul line, he said that he made him quit. Well there was not quit to be found in Bosh or any of the Raptors last night. Last season there was always talk about playing a full 48 minutes. A dip in the 3rd quarter that saw Cleveland battle back to tie the game at 69 the Raptors gave that effort. I am only a sports fan of one team in Toronto but for those who are not they finally have a winner. The Argos, Leafs, Blue Jays and Toronto FC all have had disappointing seasons to date. This Raptor win was like a shining star in a very dark time on the T.O Sports scene.

As good as everything went last night, it all can be washed away with a loss in Memphis. The Raptors must have continued effort and not let up against the them. Memphis is a mess and Allen Iverson has yet to suit up for the team God told him to go to. Thabeet in his NBA debut did not have as good a time as Demar DeRozan. His team lost and he did not score a point in his NBA debut and only had 2 rebounds. Demar had 5 playing at shooting guard. I have been very disappointed in Thabeet's progress after being drafted second. O.J Mayo and Rudy Gay and the rest of the Grizzlies seem doomed for a very long season. The Raptors would lose everything that they gained from a win vs Cavs if they stubbed there toe and lost to Memphis.

If you were one of the people that doubted Andrea Bargnani... please join me in saying sorry. I was one of many that doubted if Andrea Bargnani could ever be great. Well if you don't consider him great yet, you have to at least admit he is on the verge of greatness. The one player that from when I was in Ottawa until now, that has looked solid to me has been Bargnani. He is adding tools to his game and was showing some of them last night. A very nice up and under move in the second half was something Andrea never had even a year ago. He now has a running mate from Italy in Marco Belinelli who actually struggled in the pre-season but had a great debut himself.

The Raptors in fact announced just today, that they are picking up the 4th year option on Belinelli's contract. Which will keep the 2 players together through 2010/11 season. Andrea of course signed his extension in the summer for 50 million. Which if you base it on last night may end up looking like a steal moving forward. It is a tandem that should be good for both players going forward. Andrea seems a lot more comfortable on and off the floor and adding Marco just adds to that.

Antonie Wright last night reminded me of Morris Peterson on the defensive end last night. He was taking charges and hitting the floor. We had all heard the praise of his defense from his former coach in Dallas and it seems that talk was genuine. When Reggie Evans gets back in the mix this team can improve more potentially. The effort we saw last night brought a smile to Reggie Evans face on the bench. He was not alone in that smile as one of the biggest concerns for most fans. Jay Triano had said a few weeks back that the defense was process and that he was not concerned with the lack of perimeter defense we had seen that was so glaring in the pre-season. Well I guess he knows what he was talking about. Although Cleveland did make some 3's to get back in that game briefly in the 3rd.

Chris Bosh had a hard night in terms of shooting. However when you get 16 rebounds and do a solid job on the defensive end that can be forgiven. Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack marriage looked to be working well. Calderon also had a terrible night shooting and even missed 2 straight free throws. However he had 10 assists and worked well with both him and Jack on the floor. In terms of Jack you saw a few glimpses of the chemistry he had and has with Chris Bosh. The two former Yellow Jackets looked solid on the floor together. The easiest way to put all the Bosh talk of 2010 to the side is for this team to win. If this team is a success that is the best selling point to keep Chris Bosh here going forward.

So the 15th season of Raptors basketball got off to a very positive start. Here is hoping that it will continue moving forward. There is still a very challenging schedule that lies ahead but a much more positive outlook for fans when they look ahead at it. The Raps did start 3-0 last season but they did not beat a team to the level of the Cavs in that stretch. This is a new team and a very different attitude and look. Have to say after the debut..I like it and I like it a lot!!!


Raptors Rewind Returns Shaqtastically

A brand new season of Raptors Rewind on the Dino Nation Blog. The Cleveland Cavs with Shaq, Lebron and a couple ex-raps provide the opposition. The Raps limped into the season with a 2-6 pre-season record and a terrible loss to the T-Wolves. Major concerns about the Raptors defense and Reggie Evans out of the opening day line-up. While the Cavs rolled into Toronto off a loss to the Celtics that had to have left a bad taste in their collective mouths. The Cavs early in that game looked like a team on a mission and made me feel very secure in picking them to win the NBA finals. It all seemed to look like the perfect mix for a Raptor loss in the home opener. Well will see if it is or it isn't. Demar DeRozan win or lose is going to make his NBA debut as a starter with his family on hand at the ACC to take it all in. I really have become a fan of Demar. So much so that beyond Bosh he has become my second favourite player on the squad. What can he do in his debut? Going to find out that as well. There are about 100 other questions that need answers but I don't think there is enough time to list them all. How will the defense do against one of the top 3 teams in the Eastern Conference? Will Hedo Turkoglu hear the bell go off for the start of the season? Wright has hardly played what can he bring to the table? Those are just a few off the top of my head. Time for answers is here it is game time in Toronto. Well it will be after this over the top intro to kick off season number 15 of Raptors Basketball. It is opening night, but man this is a little much for my tastes...Maybe I am just getting old. I think Shaq is the only guy playing in this game that is older than me...NEVER RETIRE SHAQ!!! You make me feel young. Like Shaq is reading the Dino Nation Blog right? But if you know Shaq please pass along the message. So here is hoping this will not be a painful experience. Oh and also tell him that Rue Paul comment was MEAN!!!

1st Quarter

Here we go time to tip it up in the T-dot. I forgot to mention really nice response for AP and well deserved. Like I said time to get this show on the road. Bosh and Shaq on the tip and Bosh wins it. Andrea Bargnani before you can blink with a throw down and it's 2-0 Raps. A couple failed trips for each and a foul on Bargnani on Shaq. Shaq's free throw form is still the same as a Cav...Bad. He misses both. Shaq takes it through a double team from Bosh and Bargnani for the score. An ugly hook as Bosh took it at Shaq likely not a wise idea. Cavs score on the following possession and take the lead. Demar DeRozan takes it from the corner straight to the bucket and draws the foul. He goes 2 for 2 at the line and store that in your memory banks as that will be the first points of many for him in his NBA career. After a Cavs bucket Demar scores again on a jumper. This is followed by a 3 from Bargnani and a steal and another score for him on the break. Raptors lead 11-6 and Cavs along with yours truly are stunned and need a timeout.

James jumper does not fall and on the other end it does fall for CB4. Raptors are flying around like a pack of crazed dogs. This is nothing like what we saw in the preseason at all. Bargnani fouled and goes to the line and drains a pair. Raptors lead 15-6 and this is a perfect start for the Raps. Bosh scores and it is a 13-0 Raps run. O'Neal finally stops the run with a basket. A block and a attempt for 3 for Bargnani no dice. But he would get a 2 the next time down the floor. Andrea Bargnani has come out on fire and so have the Raps. The effort on both ends of the floor has been fantastic. Bargnani scores again and the Raptor lead is 10 at 21-11. Bargnani got a steal and he missed a open dunk. I guess he is human tonight. Lebron James a score and a foul as well he gets the Cavs closer as the lead it cut to 21-15 with a foul shot to come. Andrea takes a seat with 13 points in 9 minutes out of the time out. Lebron remains in the game and hits the and 1. Bosh taps in a basket to get the lead back to a half dozen. Mo Williams for 3 and Raps are on the ropes but still ahead by 3 points. No free throw streak this year for Jose as he missed 2 at the line. Cavs score and get the closest they have been in a long time down just 1. Bosh draws a foul and heads to the line. He makes both and Raps lead back to 3. Raps are up 5 after one and this is pretty surprising but I am not complaining. Raptors lead 27-22 after 1.

2nd Quarter

Both teams not shooting it great but Raps at 39% is better than Cleveland at 33%.Big Z starts the second and gets the score as he now comes of the bench. Heir Canada back in game and scores no nerves for Demar in his big debut. Mo Williams fouled and to the line. He makes a pair. Demar a jumper that did not look good and it did not fall. Basket for Shaq as both he and Big Z on floor together. A foul as well on Bosh his second. Shaq can tie the game but no on the free throw. Bargnani gets an open look for 2 and he makes it. Belinelli draws a foul on Shaq then on the other end hits a jumper off a Bosh pass. Hedo fakes the shot and drives and scores and the Raps lead is back to 7 with the score 35-28 and a time out on the floor.

Jamario Moon with that ill advised 3 that will all know so well. Just like with Toronto it does not fall. Meanwhile Andrea Bargnani is a new man and a scary one at that. Drives to the lane and takes the contact and is back at the line. Makes both and has 17 and the Raptors lead 37-28. James answers with a jumper as he just had checked back in. James with a pretty move and score and Andrea Bargnani answers with a nice up and under move adding tools to his game. Marco Belinelli drives down a wide open lane for a dunk...Time OUT CAVS!!! Down 41-32 to the Raptors was not something to many folks expected.

Out of the time out Leron James drives and draws the foul trying to get his Cavs back on track. He makes both at the line and the lead cut to 7. However Marco Belinelli who struggled in pre-season is not tonight as he takes and makes a 3. The lead expanded to 12 as Hedo was fouled and made 2 at the line. We are not done as Belinelli scores off a curl. Raptor lead it 48-34 and I am starting to wonder if I am watching my X-Box and if this is actually real? Bosh fouled and makes a pair and Raps are 14-16 from line. Ironically the lone to misses by Calderon. Wright in the game and draws a charge and that leads to a Bargnani dunk and he has 21. Raptors lead is 52-36 and this is truly fun to watch. Reggie Evans is enjoying it having a laugh on the bench. Welcome back Rasho Nesterovic as he hits a jumper and the crowd is going crazy at the ACC. Raptors are up 20 and Mike Brown calls a time out. Lebron James has the ball knocked away from his hands and Cavs end up with a shot clock violation out of time out. Belinelli to the line and splits a pair but has 10 off the bench. James gets fouled and heads to the line. James splits a pair at the line and a turnover and a score for Lebron. However the Raptors are up 57-39 at the half. Wow that is all I can say.

3rd Quarter

So can this continue? The Cavs Locker room could not have been a happy place. The ACC on the other hand was a party and the Cavs were only shooting 30% at the half in comparison to the Raps at now a 47% clip. Mo Williams take the ball to the hoop and draws a foul on Bosh and that is 3 for him. Bosh on the other end taking it right at Shaq. Rue Paul that Shaq!!! Bosh had said it was in the past but Brett Favre also said playing the Packers was not about revenge. Bosh missing on a jump shot and Williams (who replaced an injured Bosh in All Star Game Last Year) nailed a 3. Lead has been cut to 14. James drives scores and gets the generous call on the continuation so count the basket. Hedo hits a 3 and gets the Raps offense going again. Score is 61-46 Raptors. Jose drops a dime for Bargnani and Raps have built lead back to 17.

Hedo short on a 3 that would have made the lead 20 again. Gibson makes a 3 ball and that is a 6 point swing in favour of the Cavs. Hedo would get fouled and go to the line. He has a bit more jump to him after a very sleepy preseason. Illegal defense call against the Raps then an AP drive and score and Cavs cut lead to 13. Bosh having a roughing night so far from field just 3 for 11. He missed a short jumper in the lane. Parker nails a 3 and is leading his new team back against his old one as the score now is just 65-55 Raps. Bosh fouled and makes a pair from the line. Wright is the new Moe P as he draws his 3rd charge something Peterson use to do a lot for the Raps back in the day. Cleveland showing signs of life have cut the lead to 65-55.

Mo Williams hit a 3 and the lead is now just 7. After that Bargnani gets called for offensive foul and crowd hates the call as do the Raps. Mo Williams hit a runner and here come the Cavs. Bosh fouled as he was being double teamed. Bosh goes 1 for 2 at line but Raps get rebound but James steals it away and finds Mo Williams for 3 and he nails it and the lead in just 3. Cavs have been using a small lineup with James actually playing at the 4 spot. The Cavs score again and the lead that was once 20 is now just 1. Bosh fouled but misses his first and makes the second. Bosh has 12 rebounds despite the average scoring night so far. James is fouled and can tie the game at the line. He can only get 1 of 2 and Raps lead is just 1 again. Thank you Jamario Moon as he jacks up a terrible shot that is an airball. Just thinking out loud but Moon and his future in Cleveland may not be long based on his play in pre-season and first couple games.

Bosh has the ball stripped by Lebron James and he takes it the other way James is fouled by Jose and he has 4. Enter Jarrett Jack and Lebron with a chance to take the lead can only manage to tie it. Jack finds his fellow Yellow Jacket for the easy 2. Raps back on top 71-69. Wright a pretty spin move and a score. Demar DeRozan make a very long 2 from the corner to make the lead 4 again at 75-71. The Raptors would add 3 more and an AP jumper at the buzzer find only air. Raptors taking a 78-71 lead to the 4th Quarter and honestly who saw this coming? If you did go buy a lotto ticket now.

4th Quarter

Can this Raptor team hold a lead and close this game out? Jack drives and misses to start the 4th. Moon gets fouled and is at the line. If I am Mike Brown he would be glued to the bench by now. He makes second and the lead is 6. Cue Andrea Bargnani who has had a quiet second half but nails a 3 and lead is back to 9. Jack a drive and score and the lead is back to 11 and you know what the Raps may just win this thing. Big Z gets a score out of a time out. He should have been called for a foul but a quick make up call and all is right. Bargnani scores and he has 28 that is 4 touchdowns all converted.

Bosh sneaks out on the break after going for a block and he gets the pass and G-Tech memories as Jack and Bosh hook up again. Raptors lead 87-76 with 8:06 to go. Shaq draws foul number 5 on Andrea and Rasho checks in for him. He does a good enough job to stop Shaq. DeRozan missed on a shot but Rasho there to clean it up for 2. Jack got the ball to the hoop on the drive and it is 91-78. Chris Bosh hits a step back jumper and the lead is 93-78 and under 6 to play.

Time was quickly fading on the Cavs and what I said seemed unthinkable is suddenly becoming very realistic. The Cavs starting 0-2 is rapidly looking to be a reality. Raps have outscored the Cavs 24-9 since the Cavs tied the game at 69. Jack with a bit of an over aggressive play draws a foul. Just 4:32 to play after the fouls shots the score would be 93-80. Gibson hits a 3 and the lead is 10 and Cavs are making one final push. Wright hits a huge 3 that extends the lead back to 13. Put from Parkerville court AP answers with a 3. How good is this? Raps lead 96-86 and there is more excitement in the ACC than there had been all last year. Bosh has a hook fall out but the Cavs fail to score and there is 2 minutes left. Loose ball and Jose tried to call time but it will be a jump between Gibson and Jose. Gibson wins the tap and James drives and gets a call on Bosh for a block and he was clearly outside circle and had position. Really bad call send James to the line. James would make first and miss the second. But Cleveland got the board and James nails a 3 and the score is 96-90. James despite his teams struggles has a triple double. Raps get to line and split a pair. The lead is 97-90 and Raptors trying to hang on. James get fouled and again splits a pair this time Bosh grabs the rebound on the second that he missed. Hedo gets fouled with the lead at 97-91. He splits a pair and Raps get the ball off a steal Jose the basket and the foul call on James. This game is over as Jose hits the and 1 and the Raptors shock the Cavs and send a LOUD MESSAGE TO THE NBA and all Raptor Fans.

Final Score- Raptors 101 Cavs 91 .

Chris Bosh had 21 points and 16 rebounds and a fantastic start to his season with a win over the Cavs. Bargnani had 28 points to lead all scorers. Lebron James as I mentioned had a triple double in defeat with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists. For the Rookie Demar DeRozan he had 8 points and 5 rebounds along with a block, an assist and a steal filling up that boxscore.

I really sit here totally stunned and in shock. The Raptors never showed anything close to this in the preseason and this was totally unexpected from my point of view. However the Raptors remained confident as they went along in the preseason. There was a lot of doubt and uncertainty heading into this game. Now you just hope this team does not show any let up as the head to Memphis with a very realistic chance to start 2-0. After that back to the ACC for Vince and the Magic. If game 1 was any indication of what is to come this season it is going to be a fun year.

The defense really showed up like it had not all preseason. There was still some open looks from 3 at times but the overall effort was off the charts. The Raptors win and this is a win that will cause a lot of folks to take a second look both north and south of the U.S/Canada border. The crowd was off the charts and no fans in the NBA deserve a good team than Raptor fans. Finally fans may have a team that brings the same effort that you all do. It is just 1 game of 82 but what a game it was.

Game 1 Is Here

Well the last time we talked about a basketball game that truly meant anything was likely some time last January. Sure the Raptors played games in February through April last season but the writing was on the wall. They take on the team this blog predicted to win the NBA Title when June rolls around. Early on last night the Cavs looked ever bit that champion as they were kicking the Celtics all around Cleveland. It was pretty scary to think the Raptors had to play this game. However in the next 3 quarters the Celtics would come back in a major way and pull out a win in impressive fashion. That might make the job even more of a challenge for the Raptors as there is no question an 0-2 start is not in the plans for the Cavs.

Some Keys To The Game:

Lebron James has had some of his best performances in the NBA against the Raptors. In fact if my memory serves me his career high is vs Toronto. The most scary thing for not just the Raptors but the entire NBA is that Lebron was bringing it just as hard on defense as he does on offense. Make sure you check over your shoulder on the break or you may just have flight 23 coming to block your shot.

On the offensive end how will the Raps guard him? When you consider they have a big option in Shaq on the inside and shooters like Anthony Parker, Williams and Gibson to name 3 guys that can take and make a 3. If you are looking for an answer from me...keep looking as that is why they pay Jay Triano the big bucks.

Bosh says that the comments from Shaq last season calling him the Rue Paul of big men has been forgotten. I love Chris but are we really suppose to believe that? Bosh wants max money and he wants to be considered one of the NBA's elite. Good chance to be about it taking on a guy that basically called you out. He called Bosh a quitter as well. Bosh needs to prove him wrong on both ends of the floor. 20 and 10 is nice....17 points 9 rebounds 3 blocks and 2 steals is just as nice.

Welcome to the NBA kid met Lebron James. Demar DeRozan will in fact hear his name called tonight at the ACC. There will not be much time to let that sink in. LBJ the leagues MVP will be waiting to welcome him to the league. Demar must defend and run. Do the best he can on the defensive end and just get out and run in transition whenever possible. Antonie Wright is now healthy and it may not be a huge shock if we see a lot more of him than Demar on opening night. But for every second Demar is on the floor he must be thinking D first and everything else second. That might not be a bad mindset for everyone on this team come to think of it.

Other Things I Wonder:

Parker will get cheers from ACC Crowd. How about Jamario Moon? I have a feeling the boos will rain down on him.

Will Hedo have his alarm clock go off and let him know the season is here?

if this game is close who is the PG down the stretch? Jose or Jack...the answer will be in Jose's effort on the defensive end of the floor.

Who Guards Shaq? Raps may need to call on Rasho to play some minutes as Bargnani or Bosh on Shaq is not a good match-up for the Raps.

Final Thoughts

As much as I would like to tell you different, I think it would be a minor miracle if the Raptors can get a win tonight. But before you hiss and boo at your computer screen. May I remind you this team started out 3-0 last year and how did that work out? This start to the season is going to be a challenge and is likely going to crush a lot of optimistic feelings heading into the year. When you look at the Raptors schedule with an objective eye you understand that wins early on will be very tough to come by. My hope is the Raps can survive that and learn from it and move forward better for it. The comparisons to the team that won the Atlantic Division Title had been out there. Well let's not forget that team went 2-8 before shocking this very Cavs team after coming home off a long west coast trip. It is highly unlikely the Raptors are going to provide you instant gratification. Which in a world that is based on that may cause more than a few to lose hope fast. The Raptors goal till the end of the year realistically is to stay in the hunt and not fall out of it. The number one reason why that can't happen is cause if it does we are likely watching the last season for Chris Bosh as a Raptor. I for one am not ready for that.


Let's NBA With Andre Aldridge From NBA-TV

It is a great thrill for the Dino Nation Blog talk with Andre Aldridge from NBA-TV about the upcoming NBA season. We talk a little on the Raps and Demar DeRozan is a former Trojan as is Andre Aldridge so he talks about his fellow Trojan. We also talk about all of the top contenders in the NBA. We talk about former Raptor V.C teaming up with Superman in Orlando, Shaq and Lebron in Cleveland and Rasheed Wallace with the Celtics. In addition the Ron Artest joining up with the Lakers. How about OKC and Kevin Durant? They get some mention as well. If you are not already following Andre on Twitter you are missing out....@NBATVAndre is a must follow for anyone on Twitter. It was great for Andre to make time for us just prior to going to air for the first night of NBA action on NBA TV. Up here north of the border you can often catch his fine work on Raptors NBA TV. We hope to have Andre back as a guest going forward giving us some insight from the U.S point of view and his own.

Thanks to the people at Turner Sports for helping set this up and to Andre for taking the time to talk with us here at the Dino Nation Blog. It is a great to have someone who has covered the NBA for so long as a guest here with us on the Dino Nation Blog.

Awards Predictions

O.K at the 11 hour the DNB gets it's picks on the NBA Awards. Welcome to a brand new NBA season. Here we go with our awards predictions.

6th Man- Rasheed Wallace (Boston) He seems like a safe bet to win the award on a Boston team that should be on a mission all year long. Kendrick Perkins remains the starter and that will allow Wallace to qualify for this award. What would DQ him is if he goes off and gets more techs and misses games as a result. If I had faith Manu could stay healthy he would be a contender for this award. Lamar Odom from the Lakers as well in the mix. If you want a Raptor name I will give you a couple. Jack and Belinelli given the rolls they will have if the Raptors were more successful than anyone could imagine they might get consideration.

Rookie Of The Year- Jonny Flynn (Minnesota) While everyone else pick Blake Griffin (By the way could be out 6 weeks not joking) I will go with Jonny Flynn. I think he will deliver on a team where he will get all the minutes he can handle. Why not Blake? When is the last time a Clipper won anything? I still believe Griffin is not as good as everyone thinks and not winning this award will be the first sign of that. Toronto has a serious contender for this award in Demar DeRozan if he starts as expected he should have the chance to shine. James Harden is also a name worth considering in you ROY talk. Maybe even a Brandon Jennings may have a shot. But I think Flynn is the guy. I see a path to the award much like the one Damon Stoudamire took as a Raptor.

Defensive Player Of The Year- Lebron James (Cleveland) With the security of Big Shaq behind him Lebron will be making steals and blocks and is going to fly off in transition and throw down dunks at an alarming rate. Lebron James is on a mission and you only need to look to the end of last season as to why. Dwight Howard and Ron Artest re-born in L.A will also be contenders to this crown. But the King is the thing and the man to get it done.

Most improved Player- Anthony Randolph (Golden State) This kid is ready to explode and I think will have a breakout year on the Warriors despite all the drama there. Want a couple other names? Roy Hibbert and Gilbert Arenas. Hibbert is going to be a beast for the Pacers and if Gilbert can just play 82 games reguardless of production is he not the most improved Wizard?

Coach of the Year- Scott Brooks ( Oklahoma City) No this is not a joke. If you read my season preview yesterday you know I picked the Thunder to squeeze in the playoffs in the West. So if that happpens how can Brooks not be a huge contender for this award? Right or wrong this award in recent past has seemed to go to the coach that has had his team improve the most. That leaves Phil Jackson, Doc Rivers and others on the sidelines. If Jackson can keep Ron Artest sane and get the Lakers back to top spot in the West that deserves an award.

M.V.P- Lebron James (Cleveland) The King will make it back to back M.V.P awards and add a couple other awards after the season as well. Other contenders for the King's Crown are the usual suspects. Kobe and D-12 at the top of the list. Chris Bosh will not come out and say he wants to be the M.V.P this year. He could be an extreme dark horse if both he and the Raptors stunned the NBA. Also throw Kevin Durant in the mix as a more realistic dark horse.

That is it for now. I may have a couple guests today and depending on how all that goes some interviews for your enjoyment. Who is coming...wait and see. But it all get's started tonight with 4 games on the sked...SO LET'S GET OUR NBA ON PEOPLE!!!



Not to many people can claim they predicted last year's NBA Final. This blog can proudly say that we called it and said the Lakers would beat the Magic last year prior to the season. I will tell you right out of the gate it is not going to be a Finals Re-Match. So let's start to beak it down.

The Pacific Division

There are very few sure things in life. But the Lakers winning the Pacific Division is one of those things. They basically traded Ariza for Artest and out looking to defend their title. This division may only put one team in the playoffs that is how far ahead of the pack the Lakers. If any other team is going to challenge for the playoffs it will be the Suns. At least they were able to get Nash signed to an extension but the post Bryan Colangelo era with Suns has been a mess. Speaking of mess that leads up to the Clippers and Warriors. Clippers were tied with the Lakers at 6-2 in pre-season. Some say they will challenge for Playoffs. Blake Griffin is not as good as everyone thinks he is and the Clippers are the same. Warriors are a dis-functional mess. To imagine this group some how coming together and getting on the same page is just not possible. Oh and the Kings...Almost forgot about them. I think they are already the front runners for the first pick in the NBA lottery. Evans will be good at some point unless the losing will crush his spirit.

1.L.A Lakers

2. Phoenix Suns

3.L.A Clippers

4. Golden State

5. Sacramento

Northwest Division

An exciting Division is going to get even better this year with a young and improving Oklahoma City team. But the young Thunder are not going to be considered in picking a winner for this Division. The 3 main suspects would be Denver, Portland and Utah. I had picked Denver on OFF The Bench Radio program. But I have been thinking it over. I like the Blazers and Andre Miller is going to help this team. Greg Oden will still be a bust. But hey the Blazers have not needed him to be a big success to be good. Roy and Aldridge both just getting extensions done. I will say Denver is a close second. But here is a little surprise for you. Utah should be 3rd right? Maybe not. OKC if everything goes right for them and wrong for Utah can be 3rd. I am thinking that may just happen. Minnesota has the basement already decked out with some nice furniture. Jonny Flynn will make a push to be rookie of the year but that is about only thing going on for Minny this year.

1. Portland

2. Denver

3. Oklahoma City

4. Utah

5. Minnesota

Southwest Division

Another interesting division where Texas teams dwell. Along with the Hornets from New Orleans and those former Vancouver Grizzlies now calling Memphis home. The Spurs at least on paper seem the class of this division. I am not sure why I think New Orleans will do well. Maybe I am confusing them with the Saints. Mark Cuban thinks Steroids are ok. I suggest his team will need some if he thinks they are going anywhere. Houston has major problems and will have no Yao and no hope. Speaking of NO HOPE that sums up your Memphis Grizzlies even with Allen Iverson who God instructed to go to Memphis and sell basketball tickets.

1. New Orleans

2. San Antonio

3. Dallas

4. Houston

5. Memphis


Here is who is in and who is out:

1. L.A Lakers

2. Portland Trailblazers

3. New Orleans Hornets

4. San Antonio Spurs

5. Denver Nuggets

6. Dallas Mavericks

7. Phoenix Suns

8. Oklahoma City Thunder

I know really OKC? Maybe I am jumping the gun. But in the end the 7 teams below that team in the one spot are window dressing anyway. Here is how it plays out.

Lakers over OKC in 4

Portland over PHX in 6

Hornets over Mavs in 7

Spurs over Denver in 6

Lakers over Spurs in 6

Portland over Hornets in 5

Lakers over Blazers in 5.


Eastern Conference

Central Division

If this division was a horse race you would have the Cavs a big lead, The Bulls would be in second all alone and a pack of 3 teams battling at the back. Cavs have Shaq and Lebron and as Shaq said he is there to win a ring for the king. Well the King was an angry man when he excited the playoffs and I expect that to fuel him all year long. Bulls will be playing to get a home playoff spot and not a division title. The Pacers and Pistons have slim hope of getting in the back end of playoff race. Detroit made some big signings in Charlie V and Ben Gordon but that will not be near enough. Pacers already have injury concerns heading into the year not good. If they were healthy they might be interesting. Bucks are one of those teams with little hope. But they do have a player to start over with in Brandon Jennings.

1. Cleveland

2. Chicago

3. Detroit

4. Indiana

5. Milwaukee


Last year I loved the Orlando Magic they were my pick to win the East last year. This year I am going to pick them to win the Division. While some folks have now all the sudden fallen in love with Magic this year. They got on the ride to late and this year the Magic will not improve and actually take a step backwards. Vince Carter is a horrible fit on this Magic team and he will be camped out jacking 3's more than he ever has before. Vince even going near the paint will be an event in Orlando. But they are still good enough to win the Division. Atlanta slots in at second again. They made a couple tweaks but are not ready to take a step forward. Washington was a sexy pick as a team who improved. But injury bug already is in full effect. Bobcats have Tyson Chandler and are young and up and coming. While the Miami Heat did nothing this off-season and they are going to pay for it.

1. Orlando

2. Atlanta

3. Charlotte

4. Washington

5. Miami

Atlantic Division

Raps and the rest. Just kidding it is Boston and everybody else. Raptors if you don't know what I think about them by now not much more I can say. I really like what I saw from Philly in the Pre-season. The Knicks are a little better but not much. Nets will much like the Raps had to need some time to recover from the Post V.C experience. Celtics are the clear cut favourites in this Division. So much so to see them go 14-2 in the Division would not be so crazy to think. Boston is focused on the Conference and not the division and they should be.

1. Boston

2. Philadelphia

3. Toronto

4. New York

5. New Jersey

I know some will be like is he serious? Yeah I am serious. Sixers have looked good and Raps have yet to look good and have a challenging schedule and will be trying to make up ground the rest of the year.


1. Cleveland

2. Boston

3. Orlando

4. Chicago

5. Atlanta

6. Philadelphia

7. Toronto

8. Charlotte

No Miami, No Washington and No Detroit. That makes my picks likely different from most. But how it plays out likely will be the same at the end.

Cleveland Sweeps Charlotte

Boston in 5 over Toronto

Orlando in 5 over Philadelphia

Chicago in 6 over Atlanta

Cleveland over Chicago in 6

Boston over Orlando in 6

Cleveland over Boston in 5

So it is the Puppet Show Finals a year later than advertised. Kobe, Shaq and Lebron...OH MY!!! So who wins it? Drum Roll PLEASE!!!

.....Cavs over Lakers in 6 to win the NBA Championship.

You all may think I am wrong but just remember a lot of folks did last year and I was not. Although what are the odds I could be right 2 straight years? While I try to figure out the math for that...I will remind you that I will have your Award Winner Picks later tonight or tomorrow. Wish I saw a brighter outlook for the Raptors but I have a hard time seeing them win more than 44 games on the high side. I was very wrong about Raps last year and we can hope that trend continues as well.


Some Post Pre-Season Thoughts

I really would like some reason to believe that the U.S media is out to lunch and sleeping on the Raptors. Mainly because as they predict the Raptors being a borderline playoff team they also add the fact Chris Bosh will leave after this season. If you are to believe that Raps will be life and death to make the playoffs as most south of the border have been saying it's hard to argue if that comes to pass that Bosh will remain. He gave you a small look at what you will be losing last night, 27 points and 14 rebounds there is not a guy on this roster not named Bosh that can do that. Some might say Hedo Turkoglu but he has really been a concern and not looked anything like the guy that played for Magic last year. Andrea Bargnani is able to get the 27 points on a given night but 14 rebounds would be a dream that likely never comes true. Ultimately I have been saying this for a longtime now, this season is all about CB4. If the Raptors are not successful enough to keep Bosh in Toronto it is a major step backwards for the franchise. Only Chris knows what it will take for him to stay with the Raptors in terms of performance as a team. I am confident that he will do more than his share to make this team a winner. But will the team around him do enough and be good enough to be a success. In terms of Chris the biggest thing he can do help his team be successful is bring more on the defensive end. Blocks, steals and stops are all going to be vital for the Raptors. Chris will average 20 and 10 again without a doubt. However it will be what he does on D that can help his team the most ultimately. Jack Armstrong has said in this blog and many other places he thinks Bosh has another level to his game and we need to see that level this year. I think you will see it but that alone will not be enough to make the Raptors a success.

The 2-6 pre-season and the lack of defense was disturbing for Raptor fans or at least it should be. When the lights come on for real the Raptors will be seeing a number of the better squads in the NBA. Opening with the Cleveland Cavs is just the start of a challenging October/November schedule. This team needs to find itself on the defensive end in a hurry or they will be staring at a record that is similar to the one they produced in the pre-season. It is going to be a real test for Jay Triano to get this team off to a respectable start to this season. I really like Jay as a person and even had a chance to met him and talk with him at training camp. He is a true Canadian success story. If you got a chance to watch the special on Jay on Raps-TV done with Matt Devlin you understand what I am saying. It really looked at how Jay has grown to the point he sits at now. So as a person who loves the sport in this country and wants to see all from Canada be a success, I root for Jay to be just that. However as a Raptor fan I still remain concerned and need to see Jay have some success before I will be convinced. There is no questioning how hard Jay works and how much he knows about the game. USA Basketball would not keep having him comeback if that was not the case. However the challenges that are in front of him this season are huge and the future of this franchise really hang on what he can do. He needs to get this team on the right path in a hurry to match the significant challenges that this schedule is going to provide.

Hedo Turkoglu is happy to be in Toronto and why wouldn't he be given the money he is making. The question will be will Toronto be happy to have him when all is said and done. I had a conversation with a Magic fan who saw some video of Hedo and he commented how tired he looked. Otis Smith Hedo's former G.M had made a statement that Portland should be happy they lost out on Hedo. Some could say Smith may have been bitter but it seems clear his man was V.C and not Hedo. On behalf of all Raptors fans good luck with that Otis. However given how Hedo has looked out of gas from the start here in Toronto it does not inspire confidence for the next 5 years. Maybe when the lights come on Hedo will suddenly get it together. The Raptors have about 10 million + a season riding on the fact he will.

If Jose and Andrea want to continue to play basketball with Chris Bosh beyond this season they will need to fill their rolls as core players of this franchise. In terms of Jose the defense has to be better. You can be as talented as you like on offense, shoot 99.8% from the free throw line, break the league record for assist to turnover ratio but bring your defense or get out of the way. For as great an asset as Jose can be on the offensive end he is an equal liability on the defensive side of things. THAT MUST CHANGE!!! What also needs to change for Jose is to take more chances and to his credit I have seen some evidence that it is. Calderon needs to understand that taking chances can lead to easy points for his team. Even if he makes the odd mistake it will be worth it if he can get Demar DeRozan and others easy points in transition. What also will be different is with Jack and Hedo it will not always leave the responsibility of running the offense in his hands. This could and should help Jose become more of a scorer than he has been in the past. If Jose does not get it together on the defensive end of the floor he can call up his former teammate in T.J Ford and swap stories on how Jarrett Jack took their starting spots away. If you think that is crazy consider that Bosh and Jack are close, and if Bosh thinks Jack can be a better option to win, you all the sudden have a real situation to deal with. In a contract year and being the franchise player he may not have the final say in it but make no mistake in that his voice will be heard. Jose can avoid all of that by just doing all he can to improve on defensive end and doing the things I have outlined in this paragraph.

Andrea Bargnani recent came out talking about wanting to be an All-Star. Wanting and doing are not the same thing but it is the first step in a process to realizing what he can be as a player. The Raptor struggled last year but Andrea improved under Jay Triano. That is perhaps on of the best accomplishments for Triano in his short time as Raptors head coach. If Andrea is to continue down the path to being a good to great NBA player he must build on what he did last year. What did he do? Improved his defense on a team that did not play well as a unit. Also he started to develop the basic elements of a post game. This year both of those areas need to improve and if he can find a way to grab a few more boards on a nightly basis that would be ideal. There seems to be a much more aggressive approach on both ends of the floor from Andrea. On offense in almost every game I have seen Andrea play this pre-season, from the opening scrimmage in Ottawa to game 8 of pre-season, you have seen a fake and a drive and a massive throw down jam. It is fun to see and great to see if you are pulling for Andrea to take his game to the next level.

Demar DeRozan is likely going to be a starter and I think that will help in his growth and perhaps speed up the process in his development. Demar will have a huge learning curve to get use to life in the NBA but the rewards should come down the road. Demar seems to be determined to learn all he can and is becoming a true student of the game. In this pre-season chasing around Ray Allen, trying to match up with Andre Iguodala and others, every night will offer a huge challenge and it goes for 82 games. If Demar is not worn out from that on the defensive end he will get a chance to fly and sky in transition for the Raptors. One thing that will be interesting is what the impact of the real refs return be on DeRozan. Demar has done and excellent job of getting to the line. Will a rookie still be ale to get those calls when the lights come on and the real referees are back on the job? If the calls do not come will Demar continue to drive it? Questions to be answered for sure. However in terms of answering the question of if he deserves to start on this team, I think Demar has answered that challenge and should hear....Starting Guard from USC....Demar DeRozan. He has earned that right in how he has preformed. But he will need to continue to work just as hard to remain in that starting role.

I will be putting together my Western and Eastern conference previews but that is a look at some of the things I see for the core of this team heading into the season. Other guys will be a factor as well. I will talk about those role players in another blog before we tip it up for real. But those are some thoughts as we head towards the season. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself? I am not sure about that the guys wearing 23 and 33 for the Cavs would scare me a little.


Sioux Falls, Memphis and Raptors...Oh My!!!

Today given the location of the Raps last pre-season game I thought it would be fun to get to know a bit about Sioux Falls, South Dakota. So are you ready to know all you wanted to about Sioux Falls than you every thought you would in life?

For starters the population of Sioux Falls is approximately 154, 997. It was founded way back in 1856 long before the game of basketball was invented. It is about 15 miles from the Minnesota border. The crime rate in Sioux Falls is about half the national average in the U.S. The Cities Motto is "The Heart of America". It is in the Central Time Zone. It is also the home to the D-League Sioux Falls Skyforce. Amir Johnson has you may have heard spend some time there. Here is what Amir had to say about Sioux Falls from his media scrum yesterday. If this is not enough info on Sioux Falls for you here is a link to the Wikipedia on Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

No matter if this game is played in Sioux Falls or Kalamazoo Michigan the goals for the Raptors are pretty much the same in their final pre season contest

1. STAY HEALTHY...Above all else that is the most important thing. The Raps have already seen Reggie Evans go down and do not need to see anyone else get hurt as the Regular Season is now under a week away. So for goodness sake be careful out there.

2. Improvement On Defensive End. It has to happen in this final tune up because the Raptors will be playing several teams that are no joke early on. So they need to show they are at least heading in the right direction on that side of the floor.

3. Extend those minutes and set some rotations for the season. Bosh and Turkoglu especially have yet to get to a point where they can handle the normal work load they will have in terms of minutes thus far. Bosh and Turkoglu I would expect will be called on to log heavy minutes during the season despite the depth that most feel this team has.

If you still believe the shoot guard starting spot is up for grabs than that is something that needs to be decided. However I think that this was always Demar DeRozan's spot to lose and he has not done anything that would make you think he can not play in the role of starter. The hope is that DeRozan can be similar to Lee in Orlando last season. I think it is the right call and should give Demar the confidence and allow him the thrill to here his name called.

The Raptors at least record wise have not had a pre-season to remember. As much as it really doesn't matter it would be nice to see them finish strong with a win. The talk out of practices this week has been how hard and intense they have been. So let's hope that is illustrated on the defensive end of the floor in Sioux Falls.

Also my my radio appearance out in B.C has changed from Monday to Wednesday. I am going to be pre-taping it as that of course is the debut for the Raptors that night. The ESPN Keeper League is set to draft today and is still not full so if you can get an e-mail to me by no later than 3pm TODAY. I will try to get an invite to you. All invites must be excepted by no later than 5pm. As I need to finalize things for the draft.

One last not one the power of Twitter. It seems Eric Smith who covers the Raps on radio for the Fan 590 will not be elected mayor of Memphis anytime soon. Eric tweeted a blog he wrote on Vancouver for Memphis being the worst trade in NBA history. Well a re-tweet from J.E Skeets of Yahoo and the Basketball Jones and another from someone working for a New York Newspaper and word got to Memphis. I have offered my services to Eric as a personal bodyguard as I want all my guests for the DNB to be safe. The Raps first road game is of course in Memphis if you did not know.


Thursday DNB Grab Bag

So the NBA Season is fast approaching and I still have yet to make my fearless predictions for the season. I will don't worry. I think it is required by some obscure law that if you right a blog or cover a team in anyway you must make them. Maybe I am holding out to finally see the debut of Antonie Wright. Well seeing might have been the wrong term. For the second time this preseason the Raps will take on the T-Wolves and to the best of my knowledge again it will not be broadcast. This will hopefully be the last time I have to say that this year.

I would say the number of times Patrick O'Bryant has been mentioned in this blog are few and far between. It is not that he is disliked or not appreciated. Just never someone that makes it into the topics of conversation. But there is good reasons to mention him today. He is trying to increase his Twitter followers. I know who isn't right? However if POB hits 2000 he is going to give away tickets to the Raps Home Opener. Not only that both POB and some fellow Blogger's, Scott from AltRaps @altraps and Nat from Heels on Hardwood @nat77 along with @Liston loyal raps fan, are all giving cash the Raptors Foundation as well. There may be others doing this but those were the ones I knew about. I would consider doing it to but I am flat broke from paying my way to Ottawa at the start of the month. The Charity part is if he reaches 2500 by Halloween but avoid the rush and follow the guy today. For about 1 minute or 2 out of your life you can help people out. So here is the link to POB on Twitter. Raptors Foundation for the most part does a lot of work with charities for kids. POB currently sits at about 1300 hundred and change as this is being written about half way to the goal.

No charity in this. But it will be fun and that is our ESPN Keeper Draft. Ironically all of those folks with the exception of Patrick O'Bryant are taking part in this league. We have 8 or 9 spots open for the draft tomorrow at 6:30 pm. So if you want in you need to send me an e-mail marked ESPN DRAFT INVITE to me @ Dinoblogger@gmail.com . It is first come first serve so don't wait to do it. I need to have the draft all full by an hour prior for it to happen. So if you are in are PASPN League or Yahoo League you are welcome to join. If you are not in those leagues this is YOUR LAST CHANCE to get in a DNB Fantasy league.

You may have heard last week the Leafs played dodge ball at practice last week. Well this week the Raptors went bowling. It was done as one of those team bonding things and happy to report it appears no one dropped a ball on their foot. It does seem that everyone had a good time with it though as the Raptors were not aware that they were going to be doing this. They showed up for practice and found out they were going bowling. I don't think any of them will be leaving the NBA for the PBA ( Professional Bowlers Association) any time soon but least the guys had some fun. Let's just hope they get off to a better start than the guys playing dodge ball who have still yet to win a game. I would bet the Raps have a win before they do. The Leafs were talking about being a playoff team which was a joke in my view. The Raptors talk of playoffs is a much more realistic one.

I am going to be doing some additional radio stuff this coming Monday. Going to be on Jacked In with Jessica out in B.C. I have appeared on the show a number of times and I will hit you up Monday with all the info as I am going on to talk NBA and Raptors and preview the season. It should be a blast. I will be making my regular visit to Off The Bench show in Montreal on Friday or early Saturday depending on where you live. We are scheduled to preview the Eastern Conference. They have been having some issues with the website for that station but you can try CJLO.com at 12:15am and give me a listen. I am always happy to come on any show or blog as a guest. I have been told I make a decent one. I do not doing weddings or birthdays though. But if you are getting married...Good Luck or if it is you Birthday...Happy Birthday.

This was a historic DNB as it was the first written on my new wireless Internet connection. After 10 months I finally got the stupid thing to work. I am slowly growing in technical ability...REAL SLOWLY. So that is all for today as the Raps continue to prepare for the final pre-season game tomorrow than it all gets going for REAL on the 28th.


From Summer Of Optimism To Fall Of Fear?

I think everyone was feeling hopeful this summer. Every time you thought Bryan Colangelo was done with this over haul of the Raptors roster he would have another trick up his sleeve. You could not help but be impressed. It helped wash a way what was a painful and forgettable season in Raptors history. It was an impressive list of new Raptors lead by Hedo Turkoglu and Jarrett Jack along with 7 other new faces. Chris Bosh was coming back for perhaps the most important season of his NBA Career. There was even some talk to be optimistic that he may stay in 2010. It was a much better summer than anyone expected or hoped for.

When the schedule was released some form of reality kicked in for me. The start of the Raptors Season is no joke at all. Here is the first 10 games of it to illustrate the point.

Oct 28th Cleveland

Oct 30th @Memphis

Nov 1st Orlando

Nov 4th Detroit

Nov 6th @New Orleans

Nov 7th @Dallas

Nov 9th @ San Antonio

Nov 11th Chicago

Nov 13th @ L.A Clippers

Nov 15th @ Phoenix

7 playoff teams last season and a Suns team that had they been in the East would have been one as well. If you can find 5 wins out of those 10 games you truly are someone the sees the glass half full. If you expand this to the first dozen games Raps have a road back to back with Utah and Denver. If the Raptors have a winning record after those first dozen there may be reason to start the parade.

Also I know it is just the pre-season and we are all programmed to say that it is only the pre-season and it doesn't matter. However even though it may not matter the Raps are 0-4 vs Atlantic Division and 2-5 overall. In contrast the Sixers under Eddie Jordan are 5-2 losing by just one to the Wizards last night. That you may be able to say so what it is just the pre-season. The Raptors have played half the games without Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu. But the defense has been a major concern and guarding the perimeter most of all. Jay Triano says that Raps are focused right now on guarding the paint and not to worry as the D will be addressed on the outside. To late for me as I am already in a panic over this as it has been a theme for years now. I would rather give up the odd dunk than an open 3 any day. The basic math supports me in this as 3>2 will always be true.

The fact Hedo has had a very slow start also is of great concern. Unlike some I was not doing back flips (O.K your right not that I could) over the signing. The contract greatly concerns me. But I did think at least in the short term it would be o.k. Well maybe not so much. Hedo has looked like a guy who needs so gas put in his tank. His extended rest in training camp and into the pre-season was needed but hurt in the development of this team as a whole. Riding a bike and being in meetings is great but it is not getting out there. This could be a case of De Ja Vu all over again next year as well with the World Championships in Turkey and Hedo being front and center in that. You have heard my rants on international basketball many times if you read this blog on a regular basis, so I will just assume you know I am not a fan of NBA players playing internationally in the summers in most cases.

We still have yet to see Antonie Wright this pre-season as he was expected to be one of the guys that was going to help on that defensive side of the ball. Reggie Evans going down in the pre-season was also something you could have done without seeing. It is encouraging to see Andrea showing signs of improvement in his defense. In terms of Chris you have to hope that we start to see the Bosh that we saw in China playing hard on D in the Olympics. I did briefly talk with Chris as he was exiting the Raps locker room on Sunday. He said that he is only concerned about getting W's this year and is not concerned with his own personal stats. If Chris is going to get those W's that he wants it is going to take finding that defense he played in China to help make it happen. He is trying to get back up to speed as a bad hamstring coming into training camp has had him playing catch up a little bit. He is bigger and hopefully that will mean better on the defensive end of the floor.

Based on what we have seen to this point the start of the season could prove to be very challenging for this Raptor team. Many comparisons have been made to the last time Bryan Colangelo over hauled this roster and the Raptors won their only Division Title in franchise history. The difference is that the East in the time since as become a much better conference in that time. The Atlantic Division itself has change in a major way with the make over the Celtics made with the big 3 and now they have a ever improving Rajon Rondo and vet in Rasheed Wallace to compliment that. I already mentioned the Sixers who look good but will be challenged with a huge whole at point guard. The Knicks are still not there and the Nets may struggle in major ways.

I still despite my concerns and fears think the Raptors are a playoff team this year. However I am not sold on them battling for a 4th seed and a home playoff series. Everything is of course subject to change but as of right now I am not prepared to say the Raptors are that good. Eventually I will do a season preview and tell you where exactly I see the Raps fit in the mix in the East. I am leaving to the end as I always do. Last season I was able to predict that NBA Finals so why break a system that works. But I did also think the Raptors would win a playoff series over Cleveland. So it was not a perfect prognostication on my part. I will say this no 49 wins for the Raptors will be coming from me this season.

But safe to say all the warm fuzzy feelings of the summer have been replaced by a real nervous feeling as we head in to the fall and the start of the season. At least I won't be complaining about how bad replacement Refs are as it looks like they will be back on the job when we throw it up on the 27th as a league and the 28th hear in Toronto. I heard the happy news watching a Knicks and Celtics game on NBA League pass VIA MSG. Confirmed by this post on NBA.com this morning. So welcome back soon Dick Bavetta I have missed you.


The Raptor New Number 15 In DNB

There is no mistaking Amir Johnson for Vince Carter. They don't look alike and they play the game of basketball in a totally different way. Had a chance to have a brief conversation with Amir prior to the game on Sunday. Never did ask him about wearing the infamous number 15 for the Raptors. He seems to be enjoying his new situation here in Toronto though. I asked him how things were going in terms of getting to know all his new teammates?

Amir Johnson- " It's going good. We are getting better and better every game. It's just a learning process with a whole new team. I think were looking good right now. "

I also asked how things were going for him personally.

Amir Johnson- " Pretty good, I think I have done a lot of positive things and a few wrong things and I am working on it, learning the plays. I am learning coach Triano's style of play. I think that I am doing pretty good."

Amir of course spent the bulk of his career in Detroit with the Pistons and on Sunday got to match up against former teammate Rasheed Wallace who is getting use to a new team as well in the Boston Celtics. I asked Amir if he was looking forward to going up against him.

Amir Johnson- " It is going fun playing against him talking smack. It's going be pretty cool playing against Sheed."

In terms of them both being on new squads.

Amir Johnson- " He has done this for what 15, 20 or 30 years. So he is probably use to it. It's no big thing for him. It will be fun to go against him. We use to always go at each other in practice. So it will be fun to go at it in games on different teams. It will be pretty exciting."

It has been well documented the concerns about the Raptors defense. When I asked Amir about what were some of the things the team and himself were working on in this last stretch before the season starts that is what came up in his answer.

Amir Johnson- " As a team we really need to work on our defense . That is basically it, defense wins games. For myself a little bit more hustle go a little bit harder. There were some plays were I could got the ball or could boxed out a little bit more. So those little things I need to do. As a team we just need to work on our defense a little bit more on the defensive end. "

Everyone to a man seems to understand the D needs to get better for the Raps. There is just a bit more calm and optimistic outlook in the Raptor locker room than in the fan base. However a lot of fans were excited when Amir was acquired to come to the Raptors and have been since. I asked Amir what he thought of all of you crazy, passionate Raptor fans.

Amir Johnson-" They are awesome. Everywhere I go people really notice me. That doesn't usually happen. It's kind showing a little bit more love, I wouldn't say than Detroit but just right away they are showing me love. So the fans are great and I really appreciate them. "

If Amir can bring it on the defensive end of the floor, like Reggie Evans has, both are going to develop more and more fans as the season rolls along. We had a nice conversation about the passion of the fans here and he is truly impressed by the love and passion for the Raptors in Toronto. Here is hoping Amir is able to impress all of you in return. Oh and the match up with Wallace? 8 points for Rasheed and 4 for Amir but Johnson did win on the glass with 5 rebounds to just 3 for Rasheed in more minutes than Amir. As for the smack talk battle I was way to far from the floor to know who won that battle.


Double D Back In The DNB.

Yesterday when I was down at the ACC, the first person I went looking for was Demar DeRozan. I enjoyed meeting him up in Ottawa. I wanted to check in with the Raptors rookie and see how the learning process was going for him. I started by asking him what he feels he has improved on from the start of training camp.

Demar DeRozan " I think every game I have been getting better with defense on that end of floor. Just trying to establish myself there. Just trying to get a lot of easy points running up and down the court from the defensive end of the floor."

One of the things that I had heard Demar mention in an other interview that I had read was the differences in rotations from college and the NBA. He said that was the biggest difference. So I asked how that was coming along in terms of learning that aspect and if he was starting to get it now.

Demar DeRozan" Yeah, a lot of stuff is different from college. Understanding there are longer games, a longer season. Just trying to get use to it."

No question there was a lot of learning being done chasing around Ray Allen at times yesterday. Allen is no joke to defend for anyone. It has still to be determined if Demar is going to be starting but it is looking like that will be the case. So every night he is going to have some great players to match up against on a nightly basis if that does in fact become the reality. In terms of the offensive side of things it would seem that if Demar is going to get points a lot of that is going to come from the transition game. Demar seems to see that as well.

Demar DeRozan " I love running and getting up and down the court. Ready to get a lot of fast break points and get fouled and get to the line. A lot of hustle stuff like that. "

That is something that is interesting. Demar has really been driving it to the basket and getting a lot of calls going his way in the pre-season. There has been the issue of replacement refs through out this pre-season for all of the NBA. When the regular officials come back to the floor can Demar still get all of these calls is a question without an answer to this point. I have been impressed with the way he can get up and throw it down. I told Demar how I had been impressed with his hops and a couple of his dunks in this pre-season.

Demar DeRozan " Thank you. I try to go out there and bring excitement to the floor. Really get my team going. Really get some rhythm off fast breaks. That's the type of stuff I like doing."

There has been a natural progression in Demar throughout the preseason with the odd bump a long the way. But for the most part it has been positive for him as he gets ready for the regular season. I asked him how he is feeling about his progress in general and how things have been going for him.

Demar DeRozan- " It feels great. I have been going out there learning everyday. Just trying to add more to my game and mature at this level."

The regular season is just around the corner and I asked Demar if he was excited for the season to get started for real on the 28th.

Demar DeRozan- " Yeah, I am really excited. I can wait to get out there. Really get out there, when every night matters. "

That being said Demar still is happy there is just over a week left to learn more and get prepared for his NBA debut. Demar is always talking about learning and growing. Talking about it is one thing but he puts the words to action as you can see little things each game as he goes along improving. But even if you are a rookie getting ready for your NBA debut you still got to make time to watch your school play some football. I asked Demar if he caught USC game vs Notre Dame on Saturday.

Demar DeRozan-" I watched the whole game. That was a really good game. I miss going to the USC football games they are really exciting."

Demar is a proud former Trojan and thinks his football team is the best. But he is clearly focused on doing the best he can to represent the Trojans and himself well in the NBA. In having the chance to meet him now a couple of times I am hopeful he can do just that. I don't think he will make me a Trojans fan anytime soon, but a fan of a former Trojan wearing number 10 for the Raptors is a safe bet. Demar ended up with 7 point in 26 minutes yesterday and got to the line 7 times. Taking steps forward and learning as much as he can along the way.