Jack is Back in The Starting 5

It is still always a thrill to talk with Jack Armstrong here in the Dino Nation Blog. He has been a guest here now on many occasions, but it never gets old talking ball with him. Today we talk about Canada Basketball and the program and it's future. Obviously it has been disappointing in terms of results in Turkey, as Canada lost today late in the 4th quarter coming unglued in a loss to France. Andy Rautins was not able to go for Canada in that one. We also dive head first into the Raptors off-season, and what is to come for the Raptors in this upcoming NBA season. Thoughts on some of the new faces and some of the old ones as the season draws near. All of that and some thoughts on what this summer will mean for the NBA as a whole. Has this summer helped or hurt the NBA? Jack says it will come down to one thing. To find out what that thing is and a lot more have a listen to our conversation.

It is always a pleasure to talk with Jack and he is always great to add some insight and opinion on all things basketball. He may never end up on Twitter, but some how I don't think it matters much. I am grateful to have got to know Jack through the Dino Nation Blog and he has always been supportive to me and helpful. What lies ahead for this season still remains to be seen. The one constant we have with the Raptors is great people covering the team like Jack. We are very fortunate in that regard as fans. You only need to listen to broadcasts from other NBA markets to know that. If you are missing Jack you can catch him covering Canada's final 2 games at the worlds on TSN 2 if you are able to get that network. He does just as great a job breaking down Canada B-Ball as he does with the Raps. Hope you enjoyed his latest visit to the DNB and look forward to him being back in the future as I do.

"Jiggly Bits"

It has been 16 years since the United States have won a World Championship in Basketball. Kevin Durant, Chancey Billups and Derrick Rose, members of this year's US squad, are being compared to the 2008 US Olympic team which brought home a gold medal. Durant and Rose are no Kobe and LeBron but they are much better for this team and selling the sport at the this level. Don't get me wrong, I respect Bryant and James but I don't think Kevin Durant is given enough credit for his leadership skills. During this tournament, Durant has been given a chance to play aggressively and put points up on the scoreboard- in some very close games, I might add. I think it is good the US are not dealing Brazil and other clubs blow-outs. It shows there is more talent out there beyond the NBA which will only help the game grow. Right now, Durant and company have 4 days off before meeting the number 4 seed from Group A on September 6th. As for Canada, they sit at number 5 in Group D and are taking on France later today at 6:30pm. I would have expected Canada to at least squeak out a win in their first game against Lebanon - not loose by 10 (final score 81-71 Lebanon). I had my reservations considering the injuries and illnesses Team Canada had been suffering leading up to this tournament. However, the fan in me hopes they turn things around. I am really looking forward to Jack Armstrong's take on the Worlds so far. He'll be visiting the DNB tomorrow chatting with James about everything basketball. Jack is one of a handful of broadcasters out there who is honest and credible and keeps things real. I am really looking forward to tomorrow's interview. As a coach, I would love to ask him his take on charging students to play basketball at the gradeschool and high school level. That's a proposal on the table in Charlotte, believe it or not. Let's chat about this, a restructured NBA this year and Patrick Ewing back with the Knicks.

Paying to Play

Hmmmm. Use my allowance or part-time job earnings to have fun this summer and enjoy my youth or save it to play basketball? What to do, what to do. This is what gradeschoolers and high schoolers in Charlotte, North Carolina are being forced to think about right now. Charlotte schools cut $125 million from athletic programs this year. So now school officials have announced a plan to actually charge elementary school students $50 to play basketball while their friends in high school may have to pay $100. This is crazy. One of the attractions of playing for your school is not having a fee to pay like in Rep or House League outside of school. This is supposed to be a chance for students to be active and participate in sports without the monetary obstacle. Getting an education doesn't only mean going to school, listening to your teacher and coming home to tackle homework. It means broadening your horizons and getting involved in your school. The option to play basketball or any other sport for that matter should be there without question. Putting a fee on it may mean the difference of a student becoming active or involved. Lucky for Charlotte area students, Michael Jordan and the Bobcats are in town. According to the Charlotte Observer, Michael Jordan and the Bobcats organization will donate $250, 000 to Charlotte area schools to help boost their athletic programs. This is a part of the commitment MJ made when he took over the Bobcats earlier this year - to be involved in the Charlotte community. Wonder how MJ would look in a Santa suit? What a gift to give.

Talk about Pressure

Forget about the big three in Miami trying to win a championship this year or the Lakers and a three-peat. This is nothing compared to the pressure Patrick Ewing Jr. will be playing under this season. This is because he will be playing for the New York Knicks as a free agent - the same team his father played 15 seasons for and 11 All-star games with. Talk about playing under someone's shadow. Patrick Ewing Jr. was the 43rd pick of the 2008 NBA Draft by Sacramento and ended up with the Knicks after some shuffling. In 2008-2009, he spent some time honing his skills in the NBA Development League and missed last season because of a series of injuries. My goodness. I hope for his son's sake, Patrick Ewing Sr. stays away from Madison Square Garden for the first few games - Junior will have enough on his plate.

This is going to be an interesting year. Not just for the Knicks, but for the entire league. It seems like the NBA is getting nipped and tucked across the board. There are new coaches in Cleveland, Chicago, New Orleans, Atlanta, New Jersey and with the L.A. Clippers. New General Managers are in the mix as well and we don't need to discuss the amount of player movement (or the drama involved) to prove change is on the horizon. All in all, I am really looking forward to this season and I hope you are, too. The DNB will be the place to be to get your Raptors-and-everything-basketball fix.

Basketball Beyond the Floor

Remember to join me here on the DNB this Thursday when we will be discussing Can I Keep My Jersey? Until then, happy reading.


Myck Kabongo in The Starting 5

While Canada is not off to a great start in Turkey, they as mentioned already have 2 bronze medals this summer. The one on junior men's side had a lot to do with Myck Kabongo. He was a big part of the team that brought home a bronze medal. He is already heading to Texas next fall to play for the Longhorns. He would be joining potentially two other Canadians down there who will be starting there this season in Tristan Thompson and Corey Joseph. These three young players are all highly thought of and have bright futures that could include NBA careers. I was so impressed by Myck's performance in those championships... he is very talented. I had heard his name before but this was my first time watching him play beyond clips here and there. I reached out to him and asked if he would like to come talk to basketball fans and Raptor Fans here in The Starting 5. He was more than happy to do so. I really enjoyed talking with him about a number of subjects and it turned out to be a pretty fun and enjoyable interview. He is a nice young man that has big goals for himself and a work ethic to match. Who knows what the future holds but Myck Kabongo starting point guard for the Toronto Raptors has a nice ring to it. It does for him as well as you will hear in the interview. Have a listen and enjoy.

Hope you enjoyed that and I look forward to having him back in the future. While Canada is not having success at the moment know the future is bright still, with a lot of young talented kids coming up. Who knows maybe some day Canadian kids will be growing up saying I want to be like Mike...make that Myck. The Raptors being part of the landscape has had an impact on a generation of kids in this country. Myck, Corey and Tristan are some of the products of that. It is no longer unrealistic to think of Canadians playing in top level U.S programs. While they are excited about 3 guys down in Miami, Canada should be excited about 3 guys in Texas and what they can become in a few years. Here is hoping Myck and others in this country can help make us proud to be fans of basketball and have some pride in the players we produce for the sport we invented.

Doh!! Canada

I have a great deal of passion and love for the Toronto Raptors. That being said, my passion for Canada to succeed internationally is likely more. There are lots of great folks that work hard to cover Canadians in B-Ball. Ray Bala at Raptors HQ does a fantastic job at it. From time to time I try to do some Canada Basketball talk here as well. Today is one of those days. Raptors wise I will be talking with Jack Armstrong tomorrow and that interview should be out late Tuesday or Wednesday.

I will start on the positive in that it sure was nice to see on Twitter that a lot of people were watching Canada playing in their first 2 games at the worlds. It did not turn into lots of people in the stands in exhibition games at the ACC which Canada won over France. But when the lights came on for the Worlds it was Canada losing to Lebanon 81-71. The next day against a much more talented team from Lituania who won 70-68. For Raptor fans Linas Keliza had 18 points and 10 rebounds in that game by the way.

Now granted this is a banged up group for Canada. That is what we are going to hear and it is fact. That being said Canada was life and death to make this tournament in the first place. While the program as a whole is having success, the senior Men's team has had limited success. Both Jr. programs won bronze medals earlier this summer. In terms of the men's team if they make it out of group play some would call that a success.

Canada has some real talent coming in the next few years and it is important that this team has a solid foundation to be ready for that. Andy Rautins no question belongs on team Canada. In fact you can say that he is the best offensive player they have and it would be hard to argue that point. That being said I am pretty sure he plays even if his dad is not the coach. Leo Rautins is just not the guy to lead this program to the next level. I give him a ton of credit for his efforts and his passion for the program. However his lack of ability to get top players into the fold is a concern. Why has he not been able to convince Canada's greatest basketball player to suit up for Canada? Why was he not able to come to a better conclusion with Sam Dalembert? Why did he even bother trying to recruit Jamal Maglorie?

Leo's lack of coaching experience is a concern and it shows in the lack of execution on both ends of the floor. Canada seems doomed to not make it out of group play now with the 2 losses on the weekend. It is time for a change, and a new coach to take this team to the next level and to try to floor a team in the Olympics in England.

Canada needs to get this right and start to produce in basketball. If you want to have the money to succeed you need to win. But the talent is there to produce and it is time to have the coaching match this level of talent.

So, I am back after a mini-break and back with Jack tomorrow or Wednesday.


"Basketball Beyond the Floor"

"I came into the league making $5, 200 and left making $15,000 - that's after 10 years. I was afraid to hold out and ask for a real raise...If I ask for too much, they might just tell me to stay home" Al Bianchi, a former guard turned NBA Scout on money and having no agent. Things were different back then. Tall Tales: the Glory Years of the NBA, in the Words of the Men Who Played, Coached and Built Pro Basketball by Terry Pluto touches on the very real and important events which have shaped the pro game we know today. I will have to admit, I was a little skeptical going into this one because the market is so saturated with basketball history books claiming the last one missed something. Plus, I bought this book in the same bargain bin as A View From Above by Wilt Chamberlain as discussed last week. Since that book was a colossal disappointment, I was a little hesitant about Tall Tales but as always, kept an open mind. It is by far the best historical account of the pro game in its infancy to the creation of the National Basketball Association. It comes from the same author as Loose Balls about the ABA (American Basketball Association). Each section begins with the background of each stage in history (including why the pro game was created - believe it or not, it came from hockey roots) and ends with commentary from the players, coaches, scouts, owners and even referees of the that time period. Let's dive in and look at the book's main highlights: where the game came from (not the James Naismith connection), the rule change which revolutionized the game and the trade which changed the course of the NBA.

We're going to shove it down their throats

The book starts off by explaining the NBA was formed for three reasons: (1) Young men were making money from hockey and owning arenas. But hockey couldn't fill every gap in the schedule, so they needed something else; (2) College ball was super popular at the time and (3) World War Two was over, the men were home and had money to spend on sports. They weren't exactly demonstrating in the streets to bring in a pro basketball league "but they were going to give it to them whether they liked it or not". So really, it was all about making some more money from the owner's standpoint. And since some of these players were former soldiers or rough-housers, fighting was huge for the game in the late 40s, early fifties until they created the 'fouling out' rules, according to the book. In 1953-1954, players were allowed only two fouls in a quarter. Anymore and they were turfed from the game. I think it was funny because of all the fighting, the league actually considered creating a penalty box like in hockey and make them play 4 on 5 or whatever the situation called for. This never happened. After reading this book, I really wish I had a basketball time machine so I could go back and see players like Jerry West, George Mikan and especially Bill Russell because before he came into the game, nobody was really blocking shots. And it's interesting to watch some of the old tape because you wouldn't see a Steve Nash bringing the ball down court and conducting the play by going in 1-on-1, trying to drive it up the middle to one of your teammates. They spread out all over the place and ran.

Canadian Roots but an Italian Influence

This part I loved. Before the invention of the 24 second clock, if a team was up, they would just hang onto the ball until their opponent fouled them in an attempt to gain possession. They actually played for 9 whole seasons without a shot clock until Danny Biasone's idea changed the game. I think this is the most important rule considering where the game started and how it changed the game: "The amazing thing about the 24 second clock is that it started at 24 seconds and is still 24 seconds today. No one has seriously considered changing it" (Play-by-Play guy Chick Hearn). It was all so simple, too. Danny Biasone had owned a semi-pro football team before World War Two and since there were not enough players after the war, he decided to get into pro basketball. He owned a pro basketball team from 1946-1947 and according to the book, became frustrated with the game and the number of fouls. So get this. Danny Biasone figured out each team took 60 shots, totalling 120 over the course of the game. He divided the length of the game which was 48 minutes at the time (2, 880 seconds) by 120 shots to get 24 seconds per shot. Before this rule was created, there was actually a score of 19-18 between Fort Wayne and the Minneapolis Lakers. Unbelievable.

Trading for draft rights..what?

"Before the start of the [1965-1966] season, I said I was quitting. I told the Lakers, The Sixers and anyone else that this was their last shot at me. I didn't want to be accused of going out while I was still ahead. They had one more chance to knock me off" (Red Auerbach in his last year of coaching the Celtics). Red Auerbach wanted to win and so did everyone else. Trades were made all over the map but the one that changed how things were done in the NBA, according to the book, was when St. Louis agreed to trade the draft rights of Bill Russell to Boston for Cliff Hagan and Ed McCauley. No one had a clue the impact Bill Russell would have on the Celtics but they took a chance. Some people in NHL circles think the Toronto Maple Leafs don't have a clue for this reason because of making trades and taking a chance on the wrong people. (Let's hope that this year is different because Toronto sports fans need to get excited about something). But the Boston Celtics had a history of making good decisions. I still can't even imagine one single team winning 8 consecutive championships - the longest championship streak in North American sports. But that is was the Celtics did under Auerbach as their coach. My god, that guy was brilliant both on and off the court. Breaking down colour barriers and the opposition with defence and fast breaks - this book made me really appreciate Red Auerbach and Bill Russell a little more and what they did for the game.

Flick Pick of the Week

I know you are going to think I am outside my mind with this pick because I know some of you have told me this before with previous picks. I guess I should be used to it. I love Whoopi Goldberg so I want you to watch 'EDDIE' starring Miss Whoopi. This flick also includes other appearances by Rick Fox, Greg Ostertag, John Salley, Mark Jackson and Marv Albert as himself. Whoopi plays the newest coach of the New York Knicks. I think it's funny and entertaining. Apparently, home games were actually filmed at the Charlotte Coliseum, home to the Charlotte Hornets at the time the movie was made.

For next week, I picked up an interesting read from my local library: Can I Keep My Jersey? 11 Teams, 5 Countries, and 4 Years in My Life as a Basketball Vagabond by Paul Shirley. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a friend who played in the NBA? This book attempts to answer this question. Unbelievable really, how he did it. I will see you on Tuesday for another serving of Jiggly Bits. So until then, happy reading.


"Jiggly Bits"

The 2010 World Basketball Championships are upon us and starting August 28th, teams from all over the world will be competing for the title. So why is it when I try to strike up a conversation with someone about the tournament, I get a "What tournament?" or a "Who cares?" Look at the World Cup of Soccer. I knew people who couldn't tell you what an offside was or never really followed soccer much less played it, but they still cheered for their favourite team. Why? It was mostly a cultural affiliation kind of thing but it was highly promoted as THE tournament to watch. The second reason? They had the sponsors to back it up. This is where FIFA has done a better job than FIBA in promoting the game internationally. It was really sad to see the juxtaposition of the Canadian National Basketball Team asking us to text in donations to send them to the Worlds at the same time Haiti was asking for monetary donations to save them from disaster. Not a good situation to be in. I really hope people take notice and put all the hoopla aside and pay attention to this tournament. The Canadian National Basketball team has some great talent on its squad and if they overcome injuries and a team-affected stomach bug, they can do really well. Let's talk about the tournament with it's own share of controversies, Jordan reuniting with Kwame Brown and LeBron finally responding to Gilbert Brown without the smoke and mirrors.

The Worlds - An Uphill Battle

From August 28th to September 12th in Turkey, national basketball teams from around the world will be competing in the World Championships. Most see Spain as favoured to win and Team U.S.A doesn't seem to mind the focus is put on Spain to repeat so as to take the pressure off the Americans to produce something. Team U.S.A hasn't won at the Worlds in 16 years. Plus, no one from the gold medal team will be returning for the Americans. Pau Gasol will not playing for Spain because he thought after helping the Lakers win an NBA Championship, he needed a break. And rightfully so. The same argument James made in his comments about the Curse of Calderon could be made in any professional sport, including the NHL. Gary Bettman and other NHL officials have contemplated not allowing NHL players to compete in the Olympics. Sidney Crosby was criticized for not playing in an event right after the season ended and after winning gold for Canada in the 2010 Olympics. He was just thinking like Gasol: not wanting to injure himself and rest up for the coming season. Something I bet Brian Colangelo wishes Jose Calderon should have done.

With all he is doing to promote the NBA, even as far as India, I highly doubt NBA Commissioner David Stern would prevent the league's players from participating in the World Championships. It's not like in the NHL where they have to shut down the league for two weeks to accommodate its players competing in the Olympics. As long as the World Basketball Championships continue to be held in the summer, in the off season, it really should be the up to the player to compete in the Worlds as long as it doesn't interfere with training camp with the NBA team which employs him. Now, let's insert Jose Calderon. He was supposed to play for Spain but now out with a leg injury and expected to take 4 weeks to recover. Not a good situation for Brian Colangelo who was looking to unload Jose Calderon before training camp. I can see the attraction to compete in the Worlds, especially for players like Calderon who have not garnered the attention of other NBA stars either in the league or this tournament. The Worlds are a chance for these players to shine and get some exposure or media attention they normally wouldn't because of the A-players so-to-speak stealing the limelight. However, I would have to side with James and the Calderon Curse argument if this continues to happen. At least in Calderon's case, it proves participation in the tournament affects the team he is employed by.

Incidentally, Canada will play Lebanon to open the tournament on August 28th. Lebanon is ranked 24th and has most of its players actually playing with clubs in Lebanon. They actually have a Canadian-born player on the roster in Ali Mahmoud. Canada is ranked 19th and has players in clubs spread out over the world. This is the same thing that has plagued the Canadian National Soccer Team because when you have players in all parts of the world, it makes it harder to gel as a team and have access to practice. Plus, the Canadians have been battling injuries and a stomach bug that has gone through the entire team. Head Coach Leo Rautins has his work cut out for him when two NBA players on his squad Joel Anthony (Miami Heat) and Andy Rautins (New York Knicks) are not 100% yet due to injury or illness but he has until Friday to figure it out - that's when rosters are due. I'd like to say Canada is a sure thing but with Lebanon as a wild card they are hungry to win, too. They had a chance to qualify for the Worlds against China in the Semi's of the 2009 FIBA Asia Championship but fell to Jordan. I hope the Canadians don't go into this Saturday's contest overly confident or things might not end in their favour. Spain (ranked #3), Lithuania (6th), New Zealand (13th) and France (15th) are also in this pool (Group D).

Jordan and Kwame Together Again

I know most people are shaking their heads at this move but think about the man behind the decision. Michael Jordan the player was an intense guy who would rather have a million root canals without anesthetic than loose a basketball game. So nine years after he picked Kwame Brown number one in the NBA draft when he was with the Washington Wizards, he picks him again. Kwame Brown has been bounced around the league with little success in any particular club. He was drafted right out of high school when most thought he wasn't ready for the NBA. So when Jordan picked him then he was labelled as another superstar who can make a Head Office type of decision. So I think the decision to bring Kwame Brown into the Charlotte Bobcats family was more of a righting past wrongs kind of thing. Brown was only offered a one year contract worth $1.3 million, the minimum given to NBA veterans. So while Jordan seems to be at least attempting to redeem himself with Kwame, he also knows Kwame needs to prove himself. If he doesn't, Jordan will not be able to come out from under that cloud.

A Summer of Love and Hate

I know his jersey was burned by Cleveland fans in protest of his departure and I know he was labelled the ultimate 'douche' for the TV special 'The Decision-2010'. I still believe those who believe in these two scenarios are not seeing the big picture. In a recent interview with GQ magazine, LeBron James said he isn't sure Cleveland Cavs owner Dan Gilbert ever cared about him: "My mother always told me: you will see the light of people when they hit adversity. You'll get a good sense of their character". Considering the nastiness of his reaction to LeBron leaving to Miami, some might agree with LeBron's statement. In the same GQ article, he responded to comments made about 'The Decision-2010" which questioned his motivations. When LeBron James found out the $2.5 million dollars made from the tv special would be given to Boys and Girls Clubs, he felt it was a "no brainer". If you really, truly support someone without the facade of a happy face, you will have the ability to take a step back and see a particular decision was made from a good place and not meant to offend. Sure be upset, but don't lie and say you supported someone from the beginning because really, you only supported them when they fit into your ideal. I really hope when the season starts, we can all move on from this.

"Basketball Beyond the Floor"

Remember to join me here on the DNB this Thursday when we will be discussing Tall Tales by Terry Pluto. Until then, happy reading.


The Calderon Curse Continues

It was bad enough that the Raptors have failed to be able to trade Jose Calderon. But now he gets injured, in a exhibition against the United States in preparation for the World Championships that start this week. The estimated recovery time according to the story in The Toronto Star is 4 weeks, which would be right around the time the Raptors will open camp in Toronto. This will kill any hope that Bryan Colangelo can move Calderon prior to training camp. It would appear, he was not having much success at it anyway.

I will not give my whole speech on how international play is having a negative impact on the NBA for the 100th time. Clearly this is just another example that people can use as evidence to support that case. This is now the 2nd time Calderon has been injured representing Spain and not the Raptors. It just never ends and as much as the World Championships benefit from the NBA being a part of them it doesn't help the Raptors any right now. The World Championships actually could have served as a good way to showcase Calderon for trades. But forget about that now as Calderon may not even be in camp for the Raptors.

This injury to Jose's leg is also not going to help his now infamous terrible defense any. An overpaid and injured back up point guard just what ever team wants. Calderon at full health has questionable speed to begin with. Each time that leg gets injured the questions just become bigger and bigger. After all you don't get quicker by injuring your leg consistently. It is safe to call Jose injury prone now. I got slammed by some the last time I did so in the blog. I will let this latest injury be my version of I told you so.

The larger picture of this Raptor off-season just gets worse. It is becoming increasingly more likely this may actually be it. The Raptors you see now likely are the Raptors you will see open camp. If that is the case this team has some serious issues. I love the Young Guns but even if they all played out their minds, it still would not be enough. Andrea Bargnani in playing for Italy this summer is not exactly showing much improvement on the defensive end. Not that playing internationally is the same type of defense we play here anyway. A move to the 4 spot for Bargnani seems highly unlikely given the Raptors current roster. That was about the only good thing about Bosh leaving was that Bargnani could move to his natural 4 spot. But so much for that.

I hate to think a team is dead and buried before they ever play a game. That being said, if I started working on my eulogy on the Raptors season would anyone blame me? I had been working on my Jose Calderon is no longer a Raptor eulogy and sadly it has been put away once again.

Jose Calderon honestly is at the root of a lot of the problems this team has faced. Things starting falling a part, when the point guard controversy with him and T.J Ford started and from that point on the Raptors have been a mess. It was the spark that led to a long list of bad moves that have left this franchise without much hope and without a true star player. It makes you wonder if Calderon actually makes that pass to Bosh vs the Nets would the would the Raptors situation be entirely different?

We will never know but that pass getting picked off was just the start of the Curse that Calderon has become. I was talking on Friday about the lack of a rival and that is in part a lack of tradition. Well how about a curse....The Curse of Calderon.


Raptors Need A Rival

Today, the Ti-Cats play the Argos in the CFL. It is one of the largest rivalry games in the league. I am, as I have mentioned, a Dallas Cowboys fan and they have a number of rivals the biggest being the Redskins. Michigan and Ohio State is one of the biggest rivalries in NCAA. In the NBA you have Lakers and Celtics as the major rivalry in the sport. But the Raptors have always been a team with out a real rival.

When they started in 1995 they had a rival in another conference with the Grizzlies. However, that ever really turned into much as the franchises went in different directions fast. The Raptors were always the better of the 2 teams, for basically the entire run of Grizzlies in Vancouver. There was a brief time, when the Raptors first made the playoffs, and the Knicks were actually in them, where they faced each other in back to back seasons. The Pistons seem like a logical rival but have always owned the Raptors until recently with the Pistons collapsed.

Once T-Mac left, Orlando became a rival. The two teams also met in the playoffs once and now Vince Carter is there. In fact where Vince goes has turned into the Raptors rival by default. I don't think the Miami Heat are going to be the Raptors rival in any sense. You need to have it be competitive to be a rivalry right?

It is the one thing that has never really developed for the Raptors. Some would say Boston is a rival but again over the history that has been far to one sided to be considered one. I guess part of having rivalries, if not done based on geography, you need a playoff history, or play in same division and battle for first on yearly basis. As much as the Raptors franchise is heading into it's 16th season their are still some things that you would have expected to happen by now. Having a constant rival would be one of those.

Why don't we make the Cavs are rival now. The two teams are in same situation having their stars bolt to South Beach. Both are expected to struggle and be in a rebuilding process. Cleveland kills us in the bitter department about James leaving them. The attitude here has been kind of like we have seen this movie before. I have yet to see a Bosh jersey in flames. Not that I am endorsing that you go out and be the first to do that.

So as I sit down tonight and root against Toronto in the CFL it just got me thinking, the Raptors are the only team I support that really has no rival. After all rivalries are part of what makes sports fun. Be it Ti-Cats/Argos, Leafs/Habs, Michigan/Ohio State or a hundred others you could mention. When those rivalries happen it means something beyond the records of the teams and it really doesn't matter what season it is. If you mention those two teams together their is a built in reason to watch. The closest thing you get to a playoff atmosphere in the regular season.

Sure everyone will watch when Bosh and Raps hook up, but that isn't really a rivalry it is more of a side show. We need someone to hate beyond just players that have left us. That kind of feeling that the idea of being a friend of someone that likes that other team turns your stomach a little. Sports is about passion after all and rivalries are a huge part of that.

So....Go Cats Go and enjoy your weekend....unless your an Argo Fan....just kidding.....kinda.


"Basketball Beyond the Floor"

Two years ago, I ran the Around the Bay Race - 30 kilometres of blood, sweat and tears. During some of it I was flying by and in others, it was a real challenge. This is how I would describe reading A View from Above by Wilt Chamberlain. The difference between the race and the book? I would rather run 30 kilometers than read this book again. This is the first book we have discussed in "Basketball Beyond the Floor" which I did not like. I am glad I read it because I learned a new perspective on some things and got to know Wilt a little better. However, it was very hard to read and his thoughts were all over the place. It was only until the chapter he dedicated to sex and love (yes, there was a chapter on this) did he even sound coherent. You know what's funny? Not so much the cheesy "Wiltisms" throughout the book as if he was some great philosopher, but how he also dedicated one chapter to "Things that Piss me Off" when that was really what most of the book was about. It was supposed to be a collection of his thoughts on on his life, life in general and a little basketball sprinkled on top. But instead, it left you wondering why he didn't stop at Wilt (the first book he wrote). Let's discuss the parts that made sense and yes, the part about his "legacy" aside from basketball.

There's no one like me

"...you have to understand that when I played basketball, I was in my opinion, one of the best players in the game...one of the best players who ever lived" (Wilt Chamberlain). Yes, when Wilt the Stilt took to the floor, everyone noticed. But he hasn't played a professional basketball game since 1974, so to argue he was one of the best players who ever lived, some might challenge this argument. He was talented and confident in his abilities but if we are going to make a list of the greatest basketball players of all time, there's needs to be a definitive list of attributes. One of them has to be overall skills set and not just the player's proficiency at one particular skill. I will give him one thing, though. Wilt admits in the book to his one downfall: being a lousy foul shooter. He talks about how he used to have a deep knee bend but after his knee injury, he had to change his shooting style a few times.

We all have opinions on what makes a great basketball player but is there a way we can spell out when said player should retire? Wilt Chamberlain makes a valid point in the book: "...many ex-players are simply not ready to deal with the world as civilians, without the pomp and pageantry they experienced most of their adult life as stars in college and in professional sports". Is this why Brett Favre keeps changing his mind about retiring from the NFL? Why other players like him crave the locker room camaraderie and find it hard to leave their respective games? This is why it is so important for today's players to plan for life beyond the NBA and how to handle their money properly. Sure, as fans it is hard to relate to the amount of money an NBA rookie might make in a year, but believe it or not poor investing and spending habits have put many an athlete in the red, not just in basketball.

Wimps and Jerks

"In my opinion, most of the coaches in the NBA are wimps. They let superstars get away with murder, too terrified to take things into their own hands because their job is at stake" (Wilt Chamberlain). Some might argue this is true. Is this why majority Cavs owner Dan Gilbert threw a fit when LeBron James left for Miami? They spent seven years catering to LeBron's needs, not planning for the future and when LeBron finally left, Gilbert is left with the guilt of not standing up to him? Who knows. But I agree with Wilt in that it is much harder to be a hero today with the lack of imagination left up to the fan to be able to even choose their own hero. Right out of college, players are being marketed as a package and sometimes, their life off the court is not taken into consideration. There's nothing wrong with admiring someone for their basketball skills but you learn more about their character from what they do off the court and realize what kind of a person they really are. That's why we shouldn't be so quick to choose our heroes based on their stats.

In their defense though, the athletes are taken advantage of because of their "hero-like status". In the book, Wilt describes how a woman claiming to be a movie star wanted to meet with him about the possibility of collaborating on a project. One thing leads to another and Wilt engages in a sexual encounter with this woman. In the throws of passion, she talks about how easy it is for her to get pregnant and he bolts. He later finds out she and her boyfriend were targeting players in the hopes of catching them in a paternity suit and then cashing in on it. This doesn't mean I feel sorry for Tiger Woods, not in the least. But at least Wilt wasn't married with children.

Yes, I slept with THAT many women

"...don't be shocked to hear that if I had to count my sexual encounters, I would be closing in on twenty thousand" (Wilt Chamberlain). He even refers to this number as a drop in the bucket. Really? I know some people like to brag about the number of notches on their bedpost so-to-speak but this is a little much. I will give him credit, though. He loves women and will defend them. He lists Jackie Joyner Kerse as one of his top five athletes and argues women are more logical when it comes to choosing something of real value. I agree with the example he gives on how women are talked down to at car dealerships and I agree with him that showing emotion is not necessarily a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. But part of me questions his loyalty to the opposite sex when he starts chapter one of this book with "Recently, I was out with a young lady...". It makes you wonder if this supposed loyalty is misplaced.

Flick Pick of the Week

This weekend I want you to watch 'Conan the Destroyer'. Guess who plays Bombaata, a character in the movie? Yes, it was Wilt Chamberlain in his first major role. Don't get too excited at the level of acting since his real skills are definitely on the basketball court.

So for next next week we will be reading Tall Tales: The Glory Years in the NBA by Terry Pluto. Remember to join me on Tuesday for another serving of "Jiggly Bits". Until then, happy reading.


Mello? Heck No

Carmelo Anthony now becomes the latest disgruntled NBA star to be rumoured to want his way out from his current franchise. The thought is that the Nuggets will not go the route of Cleveland and Toronto and watch it's franchise player walk for nothing. When we look back on this summer it may well be looked at as the summer the NBA changed. Easy to say in retrospect that Cleveland and the Raptors should have traded their star players. But how realistic is that? The Raptors at the time of the deadline were firmly in a playoff position. How do you sell that to your fan base? The Cavs were a favourite to make the NBA Finals. The other argument would have been you make a trade last summer as it is being rumoured the Nuggets are considering now.

In reality, there is no good way for this situation to work for a team losing a franchise player. It is just different levels of pain. If the Nuggets do decide to trade Carmelo does anyone think they can be better for it? Taking players back in a trade is not always the answer. Every team in the NBA is well aware that you are in a desperate situation. Has there every really been a good trade in which a superstar wanted out? I can't think of one of the top of my head.

The larger issue in all of this is that players are starting to control the game at levels we have never seen before. In the end players are individual contractors that happen to play a team game. They have only their interests at heart not the interests of franchises or the league as a whole. The whole concept of loyalty on all sides of sports is getting to the point or being rare to nonexistent.

I love the CFL and my hometown Ti-Cats. When I was a kid, it was easy for me to tell you almost every starter on the Ti-Cats Roster. Now more and more that becomes a difficult task in all sports leagues. The Raptors are a great example over the last few years with a constant turnover of the roster. It makes you go back to the whole Jerry Seinfeld comedy bit of people are actually cheering laundry. It becomes all about the logo on the jerseys and not the name on the back.

It is kind of like, the whole college sports fan experience being brought to pro sports. In the NCAA, you go into with the expectation that players will come and go. Which has only increased over the years with players leaving for the draft after even just one year in basketball. College Football is the same type of assembly line make-up. You cheer for the school be it Michigan, Florida, Texas or any other school you care to name. Sure great players roll through the program but they are only there for a short time. The pressure to win now is great in college sports in the U.S. Every season is do or die and recruiting each off-season is about getting guys to win now for that next season.

We live in a world, that is total based on instant results and instant gratification. It is said, that sports often acts as a reflection of society as a whole. Well maybe that is what is happening. No longer to many players want to stick it out and win with a team. No longer do franchises have patience with coaches if they don't win. It is always about winning now. The process of team building has been lost in terms of this instant win now mentality. The days of watching a team grow and build seem almost gone. I always use to hate people that said things were better when they were younger, but maybe it was. I remember watching the Pistons build and the Bad Boys eventually topped the Lakers. The Bulls having to get through the Knicks and Pistons, prior to their 6 championships. There was a natural progression. The Miami Heat, if they in did are successful it will not have been done that way. I don't want the NBA to have a lockout next season, that being said I don't want to watch this league be run by players, that only care about their own interests. That is only good for the them and, not necessarily for the league and definitely not for the majority of NBA fans. Will it pull in a ton of fringe fans? Yes it will, but for the hardcore fans of many franchises this has been a dark summer.


"Jiggly Bits"

We all knew it was going to happen. But not quite like this. The Boston Celtics have officially waived Rasheed Wallace after apparently coming to an understanding and after which, Wallace plans to retire. So he signs with Boston as a free agent in 2009, works his green behind off to help the club make it to the NBA Finals and gets a "Sorry, Rasheed. We can't use you or realistically get anything for you" speech and a "good luck to you and your family". Really? I know what you are saying - me of all people defending Rasheed Wallace's send off into the great NBA sunset. But when a player like him retires, it should be him going to his employer and saying, "it's time" not debating with them while trying to squeeze out whatever is left. This guy has been around the league. In 1995, he was selected fourth overall by the Washington Bullets (now the Wizards), traded to Portland and made it to the Western Conference Final in 1999 and 2000. Then he gets bumped to the Hawks for one game before he is traded to Detroit, then eventually leaves as a free agent for Boston. Remember, over the course of his career he's been an all-star rookie and beyond and has contributed a lot to the league over last 15 years. Sure, he'd probably trade in his 'all-time leader in technical fouls' record for a couple of championship rings but the way he's hanging up his sneakers is taking away from his legacy a little. Let's hope Shaquille O'Neil fairs better this year. Yes, the retiree rumour mill is swarming him too. Let's chat about this, Tracey McGrady in Detroit and the major scandal brewing in Indiana. (I'm leaving that one to the end on purpose).

The Shaq attack in Boston

I love Shaquille O'Neil. I have enjoyed following and covering his career since his days in Orlando. I remember when someone gave me a free poster illustrating his "you can't fake the funk on a nasty dunk" move and not thinking I'd ever see him in a Celtics uniform. But stranger things have happened in the NBA and while this move did not garner as much attention as the three kings in Miami, I think the Celtics are going to be the team to watch this season. Remember, no one expected them to go as far as they did in the post season against the Lakers and with Shaq's size and presence, the Celtics could have another stellar season. What I think is kind of funny in all of this is his desire to win one more championship before he retires. Really? Who would have thought that a talented player with a lot to offer would want to leave one team for another, to be in a better situation in which to win a championship? And why should he or any other player be prevented from doing so? If you have always wanted to work with certain people or a certain organization and you can see the end is coming, why not switch gears? Remember, he's been in the league so long he played against Hall of Famer Kevin McHale so he gets where the Celtics came from. So since he's asking for help from the fans for a new nick-name, what should the Shaq vs. star be referred to? Not sure but I know the rumours surrounding Steve Nash and Shaq on the idea for the show still mount. I have watched the show many times - not anything to really write home about but Shaq makes the show (not sure if Nash would make it any different or better).

The Pistons welcome Tracy McGrady

It's official - Tracey McGrady signed a one-year, $1.3 million dollar contract Monday with the Detroit Pistons. At 31 years old, he's played 65 games over 2 years battling knee and back injuries. My opinion? He should be glad he's got a job. I am sure the Pistons will enjoy having him in Detroit but signing him to a one-year contract and expecting him to lead a bunch of young players? Let's just say it seems their confidence in him and his health are not 100% full proof. Even in the interviews he's done after the announcement was made, HE doesn't even sound 100% full proof about himself. More of a cautiously optimistic attitude and glad someone took a chance on him. He's admitting he can't dunk like he used to and discussing other faults before the things he knows he's capable of. This tells us he is still plagued by injuries which way heavily on his mind and for us not to expect too much from him. Just be happy he's still here.

Please say it isn't so

I really hope this isn't true. Indiana Pacers draft pick Lance Stephenson allegedly pushed his girlfriend down a flight of stairs, then grabbed her head and hit it on the bottom step. He was charged with assault and released without bail late Sunday night. According to witnesses at the scene, Stephenson's girlfriend Jasmine Williams was coming home with two friends to find Stephenson waiting for her at 5am. He allegedly said, "Are you kidding me?" and proceeded to push her down the stairs in a jealous fit of rage. When police arrived, he claims she fell all on her own. When asked for comment, Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird said it was disappointing to the franchise and to him personally but is still waiting to hear all the facts. Although part of me wishes this weren't true, experience and evidence say otherwise. What worries me the most is not so much that he was released without bail (the prosecution was asking for $7, 500) but the safety of the victim and those witnesses. I'm glad Larry Bird took it personal because in my mind, if Stephenson is found guilty and this is all true, he should not be allowed to play. And if he is allowed to play? A REAL reason to burn someone's jersey.

Basketball Beyond the Floor

Remember to join me here on the DNB this Thursday when we will be discussing A View from Above by and about Wilt Chamberlain. Still working on a flick pick for you as well. Until then, happy reading and see you on Thursday.


Couple Minor Raps Moves

The Raptors made a couple of announcements today. The first being they have waived Dwyane Jones. Who? He came to the Raptors as part of the Hedo for Barbosa deal and was going to be moved on to Charlotte as part of that second trade that never happened. So basically, Dwyane Jones was a Raptors for about the same amount of time as Roy Hibbert. Difference being, I wish we had Roy Hibbert. It would seem logically to see Jones pop up on the Charlotte roster one would assume.

The other news of the day is the Raptors have added to the coaching staff. Adding Scott Roth to the staff. He is familiar to Triano as the two actually playing ball at the same time in Turkey. Roth has stops with Mavs, Grizzlies as an assistant and most recently with the Bucks as a scout and advisor. He also has international head coaching experience as the head coach of Turkey in 2000-01 and the Dominican Republic in 2007-08. Shame we have no Hedo or Charlie V anymore who played for those countries.

Triano has this to say on Roth in the press release from the Raptors:

Jay Triano “Scott and I have a long history dating back to playing professionally at the same time in Turkey,” said Triano. “He is a coach who brings to us experience from many different levels of basketball – International, D-League and the NBA."

Mark Iavaroni had left to join the staff with Vinny Del Negro in L.A with the Clippers. While earlier in the off-season the Raptors added P.J Carleimo. Another person familiar with Triano. It was said at the time that P.J was not being brought in to replace anyone. So it would appear by this move the Raptors wanted to add some depth to the coaching staff and with Ivaroni leaving they were left with the same number they had in the past. It isn't to the Mavericks level of coaching depth. I think Mark Cuban built a staff large enough the water boy in Dallas as a coach. So will see what becomes of this and what Roth's role will be.

Took me a few minutes to realize this, but Roth was actually a guest with us when he was coaching the Jam in the D-League. He came on to talk with me about recently (at the time) acquired Patrick O'Bryant. It is a small world. Here is a link to that interview.

All Bow Down To Heir Canada?

Sure, Demar DeRozan has a long way to go. But he sure seems to be adjusting nicely to a role as the face of the franchise in waiting? Not that he is ready to take wheel and drive the car yet. However, when Vince Carter was shipped to New Jersey in one of the worst trades in NBA History neither was Chris Bosh. But unlike Bosh he already has some back up with Sonny Weems and Amir Johnson as his Young Guns(z) running buddies. Demar was in town and made an appearance at the Canada vs France game on Friday. Shame people didn't know, it might have drawn some more people down to the ACC, as attendance for those games was pretty awful. DeRozan is starting to talk like a guy that can grow into the franchise leader. Granted talking and doing are to entirely different things. But it is a start at least.

The Raptors have yet to have a superstar buy into being the man in Canada in terms of basketball. Well maybe the man, after that guy Steve Nash, to be honest about it. But Might Mouse saw a brighter future going home to Portland. Which never actually happened. Vince Carter wanted out of Toronto and has never really turned that into the success he desired. T-Mac has never won a playoff series ever, that he was dressed in an NBA uniform for. Chris Bosh will likely break that curse of failure with Miami. But the futures of Toronto stars leaving in terms of winning has not exactly worked out as they expected.

So why would we believe that a kid from Compton California won't one day want to return to the bright lights of L.A or some other U.S Destination eventually. The simple fact is that you shouldn't believe it. That is the challenge for Demar DeRozan to convince you of it. He is also has to convince people that he can be a superstar in this league as well. That being said DeRozan, Weems and Johnson really have embraced this fan base and the city. The Raptors are hitting the road for Montreal and Vancouver this pre-season and the hope would be that they embrace the country as well. The Raptors have a lot of growing to do and make no mistake about the fact this team on paper is not better off without Bosh. But his departure has left the door wide open for someone to walk through it and take hold of this franchise. Demar DeRozan without saying it directly seems to want to be that guy.

He is a hard working young man and many times I have written how much I respect his level of work ethic. He is a nice kid as well and really seems to be genuine in what he says and does. I am not going to lie in the fact I privately root for him to walk through that door. This from a guy that wanted Jonny Flynn to be a Raptor in his draft year. But in meeting DeMar and prior to that talking with people that knew him I started to like this young man. His desire to provide something better for his mother touches me personally. So to say I have some personal bias in this is totally fair and accurate. However, I am not blinded completely by that. There is a long road to climb if DeRozan is ever going to become Heir Canada or the Raptors next one.

Raptor fans have every right to feel jaded and disappointed at all the events of this summer. If you have been reading this blog over summer, I may class as both of those. That being said do you let yourself invest and believe in Demar DeRozan or the Young Guns(z)? It is kind of like asking someone after they have been through a lousy relationship if they will date again. Sure at first they will say no. But eventually the majority of people allow themselves to move on and love again. Demar, Sonny and Amir have recognized that they have an opportunity here. That is step 1 of making it happen. There are a lot more steps to take and not all of them will be successful.

In having spoke with all 3 guys at various points, they seem like genuine people and have a real love and respect for all of you. It grows harder and harder to buy into believing in athletes, and the lack of loyalty on all sides of sports is disturbing. However, that being said, I perhaps stupidly want to believe that Demar can take this chance and run with it. I want to believe that these 3 guys will get it and make it work here in Toronto. But to just believe in something isn't enough. It takes time and work which seems to be part of what this group is all about.

For those who say what about Andrea Bargnani? I remain unconvinced. While DeRozan still has a huge amount of potential, the story of Bargnani has been failure to achieve potential. I just see more desire and hunger in DeMar DeRozan to be successful. There is confidence mixed with a humility in this kid that makes me think he can do it. The trick is when the success comes will he remain that same person. After all, Chris Bosh started off as a hard working and some what shy guy. He evolved into a person that craved bright lights and stardom as much as he does an NBA Championship. I mean who thought Chris Bosh would ever be on Entourage? Just the latest in the never ending Bosh media circus.

I will say this to Demar DeRozan, you have a chance to be a hero, and for the sake of all Raptor fans I hope you are able to be one. After all, from Mighty Mouse to CB4 our heroes have not exactly been able to last. Here is hoping that Heir Canada becomes more then just a cool nickname and more a case of reality for all Raptor fans across this country.


The Long Wait To The Season Is Underway

Well the schedule for both regular and pre-season is out and now the wait to season begins. Despite having a full roster, the Raptors sure do not seem like a finished product at this point. If you have hope for them winning more than 30-35 games it better not be. The point guard situation remains the same with Jack and Calderon. It is not a situation that is desirable, if it doesn't change. If we base things on the actions of the summer, it seems pretty clear Jarrett Jack will be the starter. Just based on salary alone that makes Jose Calderon not fit. This is not to mention, he has been being shopped the entire off-season. Clearly he has to be aware that he is not the Raptors choice. The fan base for the most part want him gone as well. He never lived up to the hype of being a potential All-Star as he was built up to be. I said, long before it was fashionable to do so that it was just insane to think that. Calderon is a one dimensional point guard, and for his detractors his lack of defense far out weighs anything he provides on the offensive end. The honest answer is he just can't defend at the NBA level.

The other major issue on this roster is the center position. It was always believed by many, that if Bosh left prior to Bargnani, that he would shift over to Bosh's power forward spot. However, it sure seems given the lack of depth at center right now, that is unlikely to happen. Solomon Alabi the Raptors second round pick and David Andersen acquired from Houston, are no where close to being starters, and might even be suspects as back-ups. Bargnani and his lack of rebounding at the 5 spot is a major concern. Amir Johnson at the four spot can rebound, but can he and the people behind him make up for the loss of Bosh's 10-12 rebounds a game? Meaning that above and beyond what we expect from individuals, is there 10 more rebounds in this team? Bargnani also seems over matched at times playing against his fellow 5's on the defensive end.

Clearly Colangelo has more work to do if he is going to turn this thing around. Since the ill fated Charlotte trade, the Raptors have not been able to do much. They tried signing Matt Barnes and that failed. They traded a 2nd round pick for the aforementioned Andersen. Then this week, the Belinelli for Wright deal which did at least adds some depth small forward spot. Questionable depth for sure, but depth none the less.

Even if the Young Guns all play beyond expectations and Bargnani does actually take the ball and run with it. Is that honestly enough to make this team a playoff team? I am not convinced it is. The one addition I do like a lot is that of Barbosa. He is not going to improve the defense though. Klezia for me is not exactly my dream small forward. Some peg him to be the starter. If it were me... I say we see DeRozan at the 2 and Weems at the 3. If this is going to be the Young Guns team why not have them play together in the starting 5. For anyone that watched summer league both Weems and DeRozan played like starters. Which the next line is true, in that "It is only Summer League".

I think the one thing we do know, regardless of who remains and goes prior to October 27th, is that this team is going to run. The Raptors are looking more like the Suns East, in terms of philosophy, than they ever have under Bryan Colangelo. While the Raptors talk about improving defense, it seems in reality that the want to run and outscore people. Which would require creating more turnovers to get out and run in transition. However, the question for the Raptors becomes how will they react to how people react to them. No longer do you have a player like Bosh that automatically demands a double team. So, if teams shift those double teams to a guy like Bargnani, can he still score at same level? That is a question to be answered. Can Demar DeRozan turn into a guy that could be worthy of teams considering double teaming him? I think for me he is the key part to this puzzle. If he can grow into a viable second option to Bargnani that would be huge for the Raptors. That is expecting a lot from a kid that had a decent first year. A year that for many despite being good fell short of expectations.

Lots of questions and few answers, and all we can do at this point is wait. But unlike in past years, for many it is like a kid worrying about what punishment his parents are going give him for smashing the car. It is not like in years past where people expect much from the Raptors. In fact, in the U.S there is no expectations for the Raptors. ESPN ranks them dead last in the East with just 27 wins. Nice stuff for Jay Triano to stick on a bulletin board, but can this team take that motivation and do anything with it? Again, only time will tell.

Enjoy the weekend and see you all Monday as we continue the wait.


Raps Pre-Season Schedule Released

Raptors Pre-Season Schedule includes visits to Vancouver and Montreal here is the complete sked released today by the Raptors.





Time (Eastern)

October 6


Rogers Arena


10 p.m.

October 10


TD Banknorth Garden


6 p.m.

October 12


United Center


8 p.m.

October 13


Air Canada Centre


7 p.m.

October 15


Air Canada Centre


7 p.m.

October 17


Air Canada Centre


1 p.m.

October 20


Air Canada Centre


7 p.m.

October 22

New York

Bell Centre


7 p.m.

"Basketball Beyond the Floor"

"Their failures were my fault, their successes my responsibility" - Pat Summitt, Raise the Roof. If you have been following "Basketball Beyond the Floor" since its inception, you'll know how important I think reading is. Reading is knowledge and knowledge is power. Even if I don't agree with the arguments an author makes, I believe reading opens your eyes to a different way of thinking, opens your mind to realize there's more to the world than just you and your beliefs. With this being said, there are only three books I have read in my lifetime I can read over and over and still be totally engulfed in its pages: Hoop Dreams, The Monster at the End of this Book (starring Grover from Sesame Street) and now I am adding, Raise the Roof by Pat Summit (with Sally Jenkins). I had a few chapters left to read last night around suppertime and I was literally stirring the meat sauce with one hand and holding the book in the other. Only when the pasta pot overflowed did I think to put the book down. I related to this book on so many levels. I never had the chance to play basketball past high school other than fun leagues, but the effect Pat had on her players and what she accomplished throughout her career, is amazing. The book focuses on the 1997-1998 season of the Tennessee Lady Vols and what they went through to have a 39-0 season, win the Final Four and be called by so many, 'the greatest Women's College basketball team ever'. Let's dive in.

"I don't like that word, 'girl'" - Pat Summit

When most books are written about great teams and great coaches, the focus is on the control the coach has over his or her players. In Raise the Roof, Pat Summit describes how she lost control, how the team changed her and not the other way around. She describes the word 'girl' as something someone calls you when they really mean 'nice little girl' or how nice you are supposed to be. It's funny there was actual debate surrounding the referral to her team as the 'Lady' Vols. To Pat, it at least showed these young athletes were adults. I've said this before in "Jiggly Bits" before the NBA trade deadline, in that when you evaluate how a traded player will fair on a new team, you must look at the system the coach runs on that new team before anything. For athletes even at the collegiate level, its all about buying into the system and even when you think your coach is full of it, make it work. "I was learning that a coach is far more than a strategist or a disciplinarian. You are a peculiar form of crisis counselor and interim substitute parent...The more trusting my relationship with the players, the better teacher and coach I could be with them". Do you believe this woman started at Tennessee in 1975 as Head Coach when she was 22 years old? To make matters more challenging (and also proving her determination) 4 players on that team were twenty-one and it would be 14 years before Tennessee won it's first championship. She has been compared to the late great coach, John Wooden. I think this is not so much for her success and longevity in the game, but for her ability to see and treat her players as people, tap into their backgrounds and personalities to help her players gel as a team. Sure, she yelled just like many coaches, but her heart and soul was in that team and developed a team mantra all players had to buy into:

1. Respect yourself and others.
2. Take full responsibility.
3. Develop and demonstrate loyalty.
4. Learn to be a great communicator.
5. Discipline yourself so no one else has to.
6. Make hard work your passion.
7. Don't just work hard, work smart.
8. Put the team before yourself.
9. Make winning an attitude.
10. Be a competitor.
11. Change is a must.
12. Handle success like you handle failure.

Words to live by. She would do anything for her team. (This next part is not for the squeamish). She describes in the book how she found a lucky penny in the lady's bathroom. In the toilet. When she couldn't fish it out with a plunger, she rolled up her sleeves and dove in with her bare hand to get it. Turning to the Lady Vols' ticket manager who was right with her, Dara Worrell, she says, "This is it. We're going to win a championship. You remember this". Oh, did they ever.

"Does the drive on this team come from so many players raised in single parent homes? 'Yes' - Kyra Elzy, sophomore guard, Tennessee Lady Vols.

This is the part which struck me most about the book. Nine of the twelve players on the '97-'98 Tennessee Lady Vols were raised in single-parent homes at some point, including all 4 freshman and half the coaching staff. This is a huge deal since they all left these families, came to Tennessee to play basketball under the guise that no one has had it like them. It wasn't until Coach Pat Summit held what she called 'family night' where each player came to the gathering with pictures or stories about where they came from and who their families were, even the coaching staff. This is when they really started coming together as a team: "...basketball was no game to us. It wasn't just a way to earn a varsity letter or eventually a better living, although that was important motivation for us. [For Kyra it was] a form of requital. 'I'll show him what he walked out on." Basketball was a chance to really prove themselves and perhaps, give new definition to the word family. I think it was important for Pat Summit to describe Kyra Elzy's story and Kyra's stalker since it showed how even at the collegiate level, high profile athletes are vulnerable. This man would send her letters that were passed off as jokes but then he started showing up at games and harassing her. She couldn't go anywhere on her own, campus police got involved and eventually he stopped bothering her. Campus life is unique. For any college or university student, the focus should be on getting an education and not worrying about a stalker or your safety to this extent. Kudos to campus police departments of college and universities everywhere for creating an environment for students to study and play basketball (or any other sport) with peace of mind.

"This was the team I worked twenty-four years for" - Pat Summit.

The women's basketball program at the time was growing and still continues to grow. It was finally being written about in newspapers and given air time on live television. In 1996, two new pro leagues launched: the WNBA and the ABL. The ABL didn't last very long and merged with the WNBA which meant fewer spots for lesser known college players. This certainly did not refer to Tameka Catchings or Chamique Holdsclaw who currently play in the WNBA for the Indiana Fever and San Antonio Silver Stars, respectively. They got their start with Tennesse, though and went on to great things after that. Pat Summit describes this process in the book: "They are with you for four long years. You teach them, you shout at them, urge them on, hear their deepest confidences, feed them from your own kitchen...and then you let them go. How?". I remember broadcasting the PWHL Final Four and describing the emotion felt from the Stoney Creek Sabres coaching staff, especially Head Coach Stacey Monarch. She's as tough as nails on the outside but really has a heart of gold when it comes to her team. I chatted with her just before her team took to the ice for a pre-game skate and she talked about how the bulk of her team were graduating and how tough the tournament was for her emotionally, going through the same things Pat Summitt describes in letting go. It is a powerful and wonderful thing to experience the support of teammates and the love of a coach. I only wish more could be so lucky. I have and it really changed my life. (Thanks to my ladies (and coaches) - you know who you are).

Flick Pick of the Week

Ok. I know some of the regular followers of this feature and those who know me well are going to laugh at the movie I want you to watch this weekend. Ready for it? Blue Chips. Not just for Nick Nolte and Ed O'Neil starring in it but for Shaquile O'Neil, Bob Cousy, Penny Hardaway just to name a few. Definitely not a movie with academy awards won for its stellar acting but a fun movie nonetheless.

Tune in next week to "Basketball Beyond the Floor" when we will be discussing A View From Above by Wilt Chamberlain. Some people say he made up all those stories about sleeping with a gazillion different women but lets hope there's more basketball than his personal exploits. I bought this book a while ago and haven't got around to reading it yet - a case of 'too many books, so little time'. Believe it or not, I found it in a discount bin for a couple of bucks. Yes, I know - very "16th Round" of me (a reference for those of you who have watched The Hurricane, a movie based on the life of Rubin Hurricane Carter). Until we meet again, happy reading and see you on Tuesday for another serving of "Jiggly Bits".

Calderon Still A Raptor.... Again

It would appear that Jose Calderon for the second time this summer almost was a Bobcat. While the Raptors did see Marco Bellinelli get dealt to New Orleans there was another trade being talked about. Apparently the Raptors were willing to take back T.J Ford if it meant getting rid of Jose. How ironic is that. But the fact Ford's contract ends after this year at a price tag of 8.5 million would be the motivation. It was suppose to be part of a 4 way trade that would have seen to 2 former Raptors back court mates involved. But it never happened. The Pacers have been trying to move Ford for the entire off-season. It has even got to the point that the Pacers have been trying to buyout Ford. However according to Mike Wells, Pacers beat reporter, he says Ford is having none of that.

Things have gone just as bad for Ford since he was voted off the island here in Toronto. He once again will be relegated to a back up roll if he is lucky in Indiana. You can't help but wonder, if Al Horford doesn't send him crashing to the ground what might have been. Not just for T.J but the Raptors. It is safe to say Jose Calderon doesn't have his over priced contract for a start.

I had joked about Ford coming back in a straight up trade for Calderon. This wasn't that, but we almost saw Bryan Colangelo reverse his decision on the point guard spot. Well not exactly, because the one thing that Ford and Calderon share other than being on same team in Toronto, is that Jarrett Jack beat out both for their starting jobs. When you consider part of that Ford trade also gave up Roy Hibbert for Nathan Jawai it looks even worse. When you add in the fact, J.O and his expiring contract contribute to the cap space in Miami you just want to scream. Some how acquiring Julian Wright doesn't make me forget all about that.

In fact for everyday Calderon remains a Raptor, it only reminds people more of the deal that Colangelo was not able to close with the Bobcats. In fact everything Colangelo does from now until that starting of the season is going to be overshadowed by that. It was really such a fantastic trade and in the end it was to good to be true. That now becomes the bar that Colangelo has set for himself thanks to some help from M.J and or Larry Brown. It is a bar that at least for me is going to be hard to top.

It also doesn't help that everywhere I turn I see Chris Bosh. He was on Regis and Kelly this morning and he is going to be on one of my favourite shows Entourage this Sunday. If leaving Toronto was about getting attention Bosh is getting it ten fold. Bosh having his effort called into question by Colangelo was not a wise move on B.C's part as well. It really served no purpose other than to attempt to deflect attention and blame away from himself.

I thought the summer T.J Ford was traded would be the worse off-season that I would personally have to endure. I was wrong about that, as this summer has been far worse for a variety of reasons. Even if T.J Ford was coming back to Toronto, I am not even sure if that would bring a smile to my face at this point.

Closing things out today, if you are in the Toronto area and have 20 bucks you can afford to spend, go tonight or tomorrow night to support the Canadian Men's National Team taking on France at the ACC. A couple years ago I went to games in Hamilton and the crowd that turned out for those games was pretty depressing. Especially when a good third of the crowd was cheering for the other country they were playing against on that occasion. Canada Basketball is developing some talent and on the youth levels has enjoyed some success. Support them and support the sport. If you need motivation beyond that, the Raptors Dance Pak is going to be in the house I am told. Whatever it takes to get people to go support Canada Basketball, I am down for doing it. To bad the people in our government are not the same. Matt Bonner is still not a Canadian Citizen as he remains tied up in red tape. He should have lied on his application and said he played hockey.


Raptors Shuffle Deck- Trade Marco For Wright

ESPN's Mark Stein is reporting the Toronto Raptors have traded Marco Belinelli for Julian Wright. Marco Belinelli was deep in the Raptor doghouse for most of last season and had fallen out of the rotation for the most part. Wright has spent his career with the Hornets and averaged just 4 ppg and last season played in 68 games and started 14 for the Hornets. In his 3 years with New Orleans has averaged just 12 minutes of floor time.

This is a minor move and nothing really to start jumping up and down about. But it does at least give the indication that the Raptors are still searching to make moves and improve the roster for next season. It does not address the issue at Center. Wright at 6 foot 8 can play at the small forward and add some depth that is lacking at that position though.

The Raptors announced that they indeed will be holding training camp at campus of UBC in British Columbia from October 1-6. This is the first time the Raptors have ventured west for camp after 2 years of holding training camp in Ottawa. Raptors will also be taking on the Suns in an exhibition game during their stay out west. Raps will officially start camp in Toronto at ACC from September 28-30th.

So a little news for you to chew on during these dog days of August.

Breaking It Down

The old standard line of the Raptors will play 41 games at home and 41 on the road almost didn't apply. But the 2 games in London in March will both be New Jersey home games. The Raptors play a game just 3 days prior to going to England and just 4 days after. March on the whole is a terrible month for the Raptors not only the long trip across the Atlantic Ocean, but a 5 game road trip that starts in Oklahoma City and winds it way to L.A to end playing the Clippers.

The Raptors open up their 16th season at home vs the New York Knicks on October 27th. It is part of a quick 2 game home stand to kick off the season then a challenging to 4 game west coast swing. Sacramento, Utah, L.A Lakers and Portland does not look promising.

The games that you are likely to want to know the most about are the returns of both Hedo Turkoglu and Chris Bosh. February is your chance to get your BOO on if you choose. On the 16th the Miami Heat hit Toronto with Lebron, D-Wade and the former CB4. Then a couple weeks later Hedo Turkoglu will visit with Steve Nash and the Suns on 25th. The Heat will return for the final game of the regular season which is kind of a gut shot to the Raptors as the Heat should be preparing for the playoffs and likely the Raptors to pack up for another season.

As for the nuts and bolts of the schedule of schedule it features 18 back to backs. It also features an unusual 9 Saturday dates for the Raptors. Basketball Night in Canada is never usually a great thing in this country. All are road dates, and likely when T.V schedule comes out are destined to be on TSN 2 or Sportsnet 1. If you are looking for a day to live your life. Thursday is that day as the Raptors will not be playing on Thursday night. Charles Barkley and his theory of TNT being bias against Canada lives.

The Raptors could fall behind the 8 ball early given this schedule and may be challenged to ever see .500 in 2011. This looks to be a challenging year for the Raptors and the schedule maker has not exactly been all that helpful to them. Even if more changes happen it seems at this time hard to imagine that Raptors can be a playoff team.