Raptors Halloween Costumes

I thought for Halloween I would put on my thinking cap and come up with Costumes for various people on the Raptors and connected to the Raptors. So lets start with an obvious one. Amir Johnson already did a video for his costume awhile ago.

Let's stick with music for the other Young Onez. Sonny and Demar can go old school and be Kid and Play.

Now for my man Reggie Evans will go Old School WWE and Bad News Brown seems to be a good one for Reggie.

Were not just doing players how about Raptor Broadcaster Jack Armstrong going out for Halloween as Playboy's Hugh Hefner:

Stick with Broadcasting and Paul Jones and Eric Smith. It has to be two characters that go together. This one is kind of lame but what the heck Bert and Ernie are always together so let's go with that.

Kat will represent her Dance Pak. Now I thought about going lame and obvious with Catwoman. But anyone that knows Kat, she is far to nice to be that. So let's stick with Batman theme but go BatGirl.

Jarret Jack I thought of this one, and is kind of odd one, but the guy from Clueless Murry. Check it out kinda close?

Leandro Barbosa can be the Flash because Dwyane Wade no longer wants to be him:

Jose Calderon can be Diego from Dora.

Heard this one a few times that David Andersen looks like Canadian Comic Tom Green so let's go with that:

that is all the ones I could think of. If you have some ideas and they are family friendly feel free to drop your suggestions in the comments. Have a Happy Halloween and be careful of the Kids tonight and if you are going to an Adult party make sure you act like one and don't drink and drive.


Raptors, Pizza and Cavs On Friday Night

In the battle of the two teams that were left at the alter, it was the Toronto Raptors missing Chris Bosh less at the end of the night. Cavs were due for a letdown after shocking the Celtics at home to start the season. They had a roster that not only did not feature Lebron James, but a few other players that will play for them this season. Raptors won the contest 101-81 and a late bucket to deliver the pizza for the fans did not sit well with the Cavs. The time has come to flip the script on this promotion and make it just simply, if Raptors hold a team to under 100 points pizza for all. Give the fans something positive to cheer about rather then something that can turn into a negative as it did last night. Not that the Raptors will care all that much.They are just happy to be heading on a very tough west coast trip not still searching for their first win.

Raptors did a solid job on defence holding the Cavs to under 40% with a shooting percentage of just 38.1%. The also won the battle on the glass in a big way led by Reggie Evans with 14 rebounds and 5 on the offensive end of the floor. They out rebounded the Cavs 45-33, who were without one of their glass eaters in Anderson Varejao. Reggie Evans has been a one man gang of rebound for the Raptors. Andrea Bargnani was not with only 1 rebound. However the 20 points were nice and the shooting 7-13 and 5-5 at the line were great. All totalled into 20 points to lead the Raptors who had 5 players score in double figures. The other four were Kleiza with 19, DeRozan with 14, Weems with 13 and Barbosa with 13.

Kleiza looked more like the guy that started the pre-season and had people expecting big things from him. The Young Onez or as I like calling them, The artists formerly known as Young Gunz. Whatever you call them a solid bounce back night for all 3 after a less than spectacular beginning to the evening for them to start the year. Amir had 8 points and was a perfect 4-4 with 3 boards but still 4 fouls.

Aside from the whole pizza incident not a lot went wrong for the Raptors. They pretty much had this one under control from the opening bell to the magic making pizza shot. I am even so happy that it took me till this long to point out Jose Calderon was 0-5 from the field with 0 points but did lead team in assists with 7. If you are going to get 0 points you better be dropping double digit dimes like Reggie does rebounds. In fact part of me was sad Reggie scored last night. I was wondering what record was for number of rebounds without a point. Whatever the record is, would not shock me if Reggie already owns it. But for all of those who wonder why Jose is still here, lines like that are doing nothing to make him anymore movable.

Raps now hit the west coast taking on the Kings to start then 3 playoff teams in the Western Conference last year in the Jazz, Lakers and Blazers. This will be tough for the Raptors to come home as the leave with a .500 record. But .500 sounds a lot better then 0-2 doesn't it.

As for my little secret mission last night it was a success. Once all the details get worked out I will let you guys in on what is going on. But it is something good for you as a reader of the Dino Nation Blog and something you could end up enjoying. Well a few of you anyway. It was odd going to a game that I was not covering in some form or fashion. In the last 3 years I can not recall being at a game where I was just there as fan. It was a nice change. Not that I am looking to retire from what I am doing. But it was a great way to recharge my batteries. Thanks to all the folks from last night for just a great evening. Raptors have the weekend off and do not play till Monday in Sacramento.

Tomorrow is Halloween so to all the little people like Kid Raptor hope they get lots of candy. While for all us older folks please be careful out their and be on alert for the kids. Also if you are going out yourself to a more adult Halloween Party make sure you don't drink and drive. It will be a much a happier Halloween for Raptor fans as the Raptors treat for us all was a win.


A Game Not On ESPN Or TNT.

Unlike Jose Calderon, I still remember Chris Bosh and who he is, or maybe it is was. I say that based on Chris making comments that apparently if you don't get your games broadcast on TNT or ESPN you don't exist according to him. If you are on T.V that is all that matters. Really? I mean even Vince Carter never made such stupid statements after leaving. However, Vince would have no need to say that, as when he was on the Raptors they did get broadcast on national T.V in the U.S. So even though in Chris Bosh's world the team he left and the team Lebron left won't exist, trust me the Cavs and Raptors will play a game at the ACC. The Cavs coming in with a record better then the Heat as they beat the Celtics in their home opener. Raptors in their opener came up short against lesser competition in the Knicks.

Much like the Celtics had a letdown in their loss to the Cavs, could the same happen to Cleveland on the road at the at the ACC. Raptors will hope so but should not count on it. The Raptors really need this win badly as the team is off on a early season western road swing. It is crazy to call game two of a season as must win but for the Raptors this gets as close as it can get. Given the opposition they face the Raptors would be hard pressed to even get a split on this road trip. Not to be negative but it would not shock to many people if they went 0-4. The one some what winnable game is the first one vs the Kings. After that it is the Jazz, Lakers and Blazers.

At least in this match-up with the Cavs there will be 3 familiar faces for Jay Triano to game plan against. Anthony Parker, Joey Graham and Jamario Moon all former Raptors playing for the Cavs. No one will ever confuse Joey and Jamario with Lebron. But like the Raptors the Cavs do have some pieces. The one that most people seem to be excited about is J.J Hickson. He is young and will have a much larger role for this Cavs team. He did lead Cleveland with 21 points in the win over Boston. The Cavs also got this win with no Mo Williams. Will see if he suits up tonight in Toronto.

Not suiting up, but starting the road back is Ed Davis. He practised with team in all non contact drills for the first time. It will be a long road back for Davis and a rather larger learning curve. Missing half his college season and now all of training camp and pre-season is not going to make things easy for him at all. People should not expect much from this kid right now. It is going to take a lot of time. The Raptors have depth at his position so there is no need to rush him back.

I am going to be in the building but not covering this one. Doing some research for the DNB, and if all works out you folks will hear about it at a later date and you will be happy about it. In the short term will we all be happy as Raptor fans? Hey if you can't beat the Cavs there is no way you are going to be a playoff team. So forget it Celtics you are not making the post season. But seriously, for the Raptors a loss to the Cavs means a lot more then it does for Boston. The amount of winnable games for the Raptors and Celtics is vastly different.

The only other thing I will say is the artists formerly know as the Young Gunz now the Young Onez all need to step up and be counted tonight. The opener was not great for any of them. It is great they all love the city and the fans. However fans want effort and results and these guys need to learn to do that consistently.


"Behind Enemy Lines"

I think it's hilarious how both Cleveland and Toronto started their season in the same way but dealt with it differently. Cleveland is still extremely bitter about LeBron James jumping ship and being extremely petty about it, I might add. Chris Bosh leaves Toronto, albeit in a less 'flashy' way than LeBron left the Cavs, but the Raptors basically address the loss and get down to business. This makes me respect this club more and more. By all rights, the Toronto Raptors should have beat the New York Knicks on Wednesday night since the Knicks are in more of a transition than the Raptors. The Raptors did a good job of closing in on a 16 point lead by the Knicks in the first half, going to the second quarter with only seven points to catch. The Raptors took the next two quarters on points alone with New York coming out on top in the end (98-93). It is clear they are still finding their way but have a solid fighting spirit. It's a shame Amir Johnson got into foul trouble and only played 12 minutes on Wednesday because maybe that may have been the difference. Brian Colangelo couldn't have been happy since the club just signed Amir to that 5 year, $34 million contract in the off season. So for these next few games against Cleveland, Sacramento and Utah in the coming week, the Raptors need to stay out of foul trouble, stay healthy and keep fighting.

Cleveland - What should we do? (@ Toronto Friday, Oct. 29, 7pm)

You knew this was coming. LeBron James hooks up with NIKE on a commercial poking fun at himself and the Cleveland Cavaliers were surely to respond. A little clever with a heavy dose of bitterness. The Cavaliers posted an article on their website responding to LeBron's commercial. Here's a taste: "What should we do? Should we admit we made a mistake? That we believed you? That we believed who you said you were? All the way up until the night you humiliated our city and mocked our loyalty on national television?..." The piece then goes onto brag about beating the Boston Celtics without him and how the Heat lost their first game of the season in sweet redemption. Cleveland Cavalier fans have every right to feel upset and the organization has every right to feel frustrated. But in my honest opinion, they need to take the high road and get over it already. This is reminding me too much of high school: the immature break-ups and inability to move on with your life kind-of-attitude. Sure, he hurt you but as our mothers always told us "there are other fish in the sea". Ok, celebrate the fact that you won and the Heat didn't. Carrying around all this bitterness and wasting your energy on what he's doing is no way to get over it and move on - This is what Cleveland needs to do fast before they embarrass themselves even more.

On a side note, the voice of the Cleveland Cavaliers is off preparing for heart surgery and a double bypass. Hall of Fame radio announcer Joe Tait has no specific timeline for a return but the Cavaliers want him behind the mic later this season.

Young Kings in Sacramento (vs. Toronto in Sacramento, Monday, Nov. 1st, 10pm)

When you click on most teams, their home page comes up. Not for the Sacramento Kings. The first page is a celebration, if you will, of the 117-116 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves to start the season. When you get over the splash of DeMarcus Cousins and the "Young Kings Hang on For First Season-Opening road win since 2000!" banner, you actually need to click on 'Home Court' to get to any information on the team. I guess they have every reason to celebrate because with a score like that it could have gone either way. Minnesota Head Coach Kurt Rambis blames silly fouls for his team's loss to Sacramento. To the Kings' credit though, Carl Landry had 22 points, 11 rebounds on the night and DeMarcus Cousins put up 14 points and 8 rebounds. I am sure if Tyreke Evans was in the line-up, it would have given Sacramento that extra push. Evans was serving his one-game suspension for pleading no contest to reckless driving in the off-season. He will be available to play and start for the Sacramento Kings for the remainder of the season. Good thing because the Kings are looking to keep him through to next season by extending his contract. They couldn't ignore Evans joining the company of LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson as the only rookies in NBA history to average at least 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists per game. Aside from the reckless driving charges, he really is a good kid. He purchased 13 season tickets and donated them to local youth and special groups in part with the "Kings for the Community" program. With him back in the line-up, the Raptors will need to be on watch when they meet up on Monday in Sacramento.

Not so Jazzy in Utah (vs. Toronto in Utah, Wednesday, Nov.3rd, 9pm)

The Utah Jazz and Toronto Raptors have a lot in common. They both have never won an NBA Title, they both lost big names this summer (for the Jazz it was Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Kosta Koufos and Wesley Mathews) and they are both looking for a new identity. With the veteran additions of Raja Bell and Al Jefferson, the Utah Jazz are looking to be a Championship contender - eventually. I say 'eventually' because if you look at their stats, their road record doesn't look too hot and this needs to be strong if they are going to survive the highly competitive Western Conference. Just look at their game Wednesday night in Denver versus the Nuggets. Denver took a 9-0 lead in the first quarter and never trailed after that. But the real clincher for me was the whopping 22 turnovers which lead to 19 Denver points. Not good. Not good at all. But a light at the end of the tunnel, after a 110-88 season opener loss to the Nuggets, comes in the form of reserve forward Gordon Hayward. Utah is lucky to have him. Remember Butler's surprise dance in the NCAA Final earlier this year? Well, in case you didn't know, Gordon Hayward was a big part of that. Plus, he had 9 points and 5 rebounds in his first NBA game with Utah. Not bad for a small fry - if you consider 6-9, 207 pounds small, that is.

Thank-you for joining me. Keep today's discussion in mind when you watch the Toronto Raptors this week. I hope I have provided you some food for thought and armed you with some information to help you think outside the box. Have fun and see you on Tuesday for some more NBA discussions in "Jiggly Bits".


Might Be A Lot of Nights Like Tonight

Well it was great to be back Live Blogging the Raptors on The Score.com and Score Mobile. If you want an account of the blow by blow of tonight's game you can check it out. The one thought I walked away with is there could be a lot of nights like tonight during this season. The Raptors did lose 98-93 to the Knicks. But the Raptors fought hard most of the night and had two good looks at 3's to tie the game late. They even had the lead at various points. If you are a fan that honestly thinks this team can make the post season you are likely upset. If you are a fan that felt this team was only going to win 20 some odd games or less you might be impressed. If you are a realist, which is what I class most Raptor fans as being, then you are happy about some things and not so happy about others.

Let's begin with Andrea Bargnani who addressed the fans to start the game. It was somewhat awkward but nice to see Andrea make the attempt. You are thrilled offensively how he started this game. It probably gets lost in all the complaining about his lack of rebounding and defence, but Andrea Bargnani is starting to show he has a mid-range game. Just 1 shot from 3 point line on the night and he made it. But a lot of longer shots from the 2 point range that he makes very easily. The Raptors vaunted 3 point streak almost died tonight. Not till an Andersen 3 ball late in the 3rd did it survive. But honestly during this streak, that is an NBA record, how successful have the Raps been? I would be much happier with a Raptors team that can defend the 3 point shot then make a ton of them. Andrea also scored down in the post and got to the line. Normally he is good from the line but tonight was just 5-8 when he got there. Not saying Andrea should give up taking 3's or anything but to be more economically in taking them is not a bad thing. Had a couple blocks and just 6 rebounds. A nice night for Andrea although his magician nickname was true as after he got 18 in the first half he only had 4 points in the 2nd. He was only 8-21 on the night which is not exactly thrilling. But the main thing is can he be a consistent scorer. Obviously he needs work on the defensive end but Rome was not built in a day. Or in the case of Andrea 4 seasons.

Moving along the point guard debate is over. Jarrett Jack is your starting point guard and is playing like it. I will take 16 points 6 dimes and 3 steals from my starting point guard and be happy with that. Jose Calderon is not what he once was on offence and despite the odd attempt to be a good defender, he is just not. Full marks for taking one on the numbers and drawing a charge tonight though. His 2-8 shooting night with just 4 points and 7 assists is just not going to cut it. While the desire of fans to see him traded grows his play is heading south. No not to South Beach and not to anywhere else anytime soon. It is far to risky for another team to think Jose can suddenly bounce back and be what he once was. It is also not just us that notice he can't defend. This is all without mentioning his contract that is far to high for a guy that is just no longer a starter in this league.

It is early but may I be the first to recommend we bring back the Young Gunz. The Artists formally known as that, now going by Young Onez all had rough nights. Amir just 2 points and 1 rebound to go with his 4 fouls in an unspectacular 13 minutes. Weems just 6 points shooting 2-6 with block and a couple assists in a less the thrilling 20 minutes. While Demar started looking ok late in this one, but he was lacking the OH MAN moment and only got 9 points in 26 minutes as a starter. Did get to the line 6 times making 5 though. These are the guys that a lot of fans were counting on to help this team surprise and be better than people think. I like them all but they know as much as anyone this has to get better. Gunz or Onez, whatever just start playing some ball please. I am hopefully they bounce back on Friday.

Did you hear it? REGGIE REGGIE...the chant is back. A lot of people bailed out on this guy and that was unfair. But you like him now with his 16 rebounds. He had 0 points but only 2 attempts. This is a guy that once had 20 rebounds and 0 points. Reggie is option number 6 in a starting 5. Still this is a guy that when he is right can have an impact and he is showing it. So for all you people that hated on him last year don't go changing your tune. Fact is we just never got to see a 100% healthy Reggie and now we are. This is the guy that was advertised when he came here. Besides would you really want Jason Kapono back?

The New 3. Maybe that will catch on but likely not. Barbosa, Kleiza and Andersen. For me Kleiza was hot and cold and this was not one of his better nights with 13. As for Barbosa despite the wrist trouble he seems o.k. It was not a great shooting night going 6 of 16. He also manged to put in 13 points. But I think Andersen impressed me the most, with his 8 points and 5 boards in just 13 minutes of play. That is 5 boards in 13 compared to Andrea's 6 in 35. I just like all the different things Andersen does.

Jay Triano went 10 deep in this one. I was a little impressed with the improvement in his time out selection at times. I was not impressed that he failed to find an answer for Chandler who was killing his team on this night. Jay is changing and evolving as a coach but there is still a ways to go with him. If you are waiting for the other shoe to drop and see Jay get fired, given the state of the franchise, I would see that as highly unlikely.

At the end of the day I see the Raptors in a lot of games that are a lot like this one. The difference between epic failing season and playoffs is a large gap. What will determine the Raptors future is how many games like tonight's can they win. Cavs are up next on Thursday and will be flying high after beating a team that beat the team with Lebron. Clearly by this theory the Cavs can beat the Heat. My God Dan Gilbert was right. Actually not really. I use last year's Cavs as the example. The Cavs started 0-2 with losses to Boston and Toronto and it did not exactly destroy their season. That happened in the playoffs.

A win for the Raptors will be vital with team heading out on that difficult western swing. 81 more to go and it was exciting tonight. However as Herm Edwards said " You play to win the game". As I said on the Radio in Montreal tonight it is hard remain excited if you do not get the validation that is winning. After 5 or 6 losses in a row losing gets old real fast. Ask last seasons Nets about that. Not saying the Raptors will be that but losing is never fun and seldom is exciting.

DNB @ Fan Jam

Today is the start of a new season for the Toronto Raptors. I was down at Fan Jam and talked with a lot of fans and asked them basic questions. 1. What are you most excited about for this Raptor Season and 2. What are you most fearful about for this Raptor season. There is also some stuff with Akil Augustine from NBA TV Canada and Kat and Candice from your Dance Pac on the actual event from Sunday. Like I have been saying on Twitter it was a fun event and had a great time talking with Raptor fans. This worked out well and I can see us try something like this more then a few more times throughout the season. So have a listen to all the folks we talked with at Fan Jam.

Tonight is as mentioned is the start of another NBA season for the Toronto Raptors. It also is the start for me doing basketball for another season on The Score.com and Score Mobile. I will be there probably about 20 minutes before the tip and you can join me with this link. Or hit up the Score.com or Score Mobile. I love live blogging all the sports I do for The Score but there is nothing more fun for me then Raptor games. That is in part, because of all the great Raps fans that make the halftime and during the game fly by with all of their comments. I am going be at the ACC Friday on a secret mission for DNB Fans so I won't be covering it, but more info on that as it becomes available. For now a new season is here and ready to get it rolling. Thanks also one more time to Myck Kabongo for helping out with our NBA preview. He is a nice young man and I look forward to cheering him on down at Texas next season with his fellow Canadians Thompson and Joseph who start their freshman seasons at Texas this year.

So the time for talking from me and for you is over. It is time to see what happens when the lights come on for the Toronto Raptors this season.


DNB NBA Preview with Special Guest Myck Kabongo

So here we go with another season preview. This year we have a special guest along for the ride. He is the starting point guard for our Jr. National team that won a bronze medal this summer in Texas. He is also heading next season to play for the Longhorns speaking of Texas. Myck Kabongo tries his hand at being a media guy and lays down some predictions for the NBA season. Having his prospective as a player with some great skills made for some interesting conversation. Myck goes through his thoughts on the Raptors the teams he sees coming out of the West and East and we run through the major awards. I don't offer all my picks in the interview so for those I will post them below the interview. I got to know Myck (beyond just hearing his name a lot) this summer. He has been fun to talk with and enjoys coming to be with us on the Dino Nation Blog so I am happy to have him aboard.

So my picks, let us start with the Raptors. Obviously we have talked about them a lot so I am not sure if there is anything that has not been said already in the blog. There were no really major revelations in the pre-season for me. I went into the pre-season looking for reasons to change my mind in a positive way about this team's outlook. I regret to say, that I can only see a minor tweak in what I expected heading in. I entered the pre-season not seeing the Raps having a realistic shot at the playoffs and that has not changed for me. If I was pressed to give a number of wins prior to pre-season my answer would have been 30-33 wins. I have bumped that up to about 33-35. The Raptors position wise fall somewhere between 10-12 in the standings in the East.

Bargnani is the question mark that I expected him to be. Calderon is still heading in the wrong direction. Jack of the players returning was the best overall in the pre-season. The most improved is real just back to normal in the form of Reggie Evans. This is the Reggie we were suppose to be getting last year but an injury got in the way of that. Young Gunz changed names to Young Onez but wanted to see more of a change in their play on the floor. Had high expectations and likely to high for them. However let's see what happens when the games start for real. The additions have all been good in Barbosa, Kleiza and Andersen have all been nice additions. Julian Wright, have just not seen enough of him, to have formed an opinion. My expectations for the 2 rookies in Davis and Alabi could not be lower. I have said that I feel both could be Erie Bayhawks at some point this season.

To sum it up in terms of the Raptors. I think regardless of team they are playing the Raptors will have to have max effort on both ends to win basketball games. Against the elite teams in the league even that 100% will not be able to match an 80% effort of an elite ball club. This team is going to earn every win they get. The problem being when reality sets in can this team continue to play hard and get a long with each other during the down times. Same things with the media and fans having to endure a long season. But as someone said to me at Fan Jam on Sunday, 16 years is a longtime. You will hear that comment and a bunch more from Raps fans tomorrow from Fan Jam.

On to the Eastern Conference. Love them or hate them simple fact is this Conference is the Heat's to lose. The contenders beyond them are many of the same faces from last year. The team on the rise from bottom of the playoffs to just on edge of contending should be the Bulls. Atlanta may take a step back but still a playoff team. The one playoff team from last season that might have the toughest time getting back is the Bobcats. Aside from the Cavs that is. The other team that should be on red alert is the Bucks. Some feel they have got better I am not one of those. I fear the deer less then I did last season. So here is my eastern playoff teams for this season.

1. Miami
5. Atlanta
6. Milwaukee
7. New York
8. Washington

9. Charlotte

I admit the 7 and 8 could be any of perhaps 4 or 5 teams. Nets could be better but not enough to make the playoffs. Let's put it this way I would not bet any amount of money on the teams I have slotted in 7 and 8 to get it done. John Wall is a big reason for picking Washington. He could be that good.

At the end of it all the Miami Heat are going to the finals from the East. Hate the MWO all that you want the truth is that this team is just far to talented from an offensive perspective. I have no idea how any team is going to defend this team once the chemistry is there. People thinking Boston can beat this team are not thinking clearly. If anyone derails the Heat it will be Orlando not Boston. But don't hold your breath. The crazy 70 win talk I am not sold on that this season. 65 wins is a number the Heat can realistically get.

Western Conference is tougher to call. The 2 time defending champs have to be upset about all this Miami talk. Kobe most of all. But I am not calling for a 3 peat for the Lakers because you have to make the Finals to win them. This year they won't make it. Ironically I do like a few of the off-season move L.A made but it will not be enough to stop the Team that will go.

Who is that? Oklahoma City Thunder. Many snickered at my selecting them to make the the playoffs last year, because they were to young and still a year away. They gave the best challenge to the Lakers in the playoffs. I would even go as far as saying they gave them a bigger scare then Boston. Kevin Durant is going to be the best player in this league number wise and is now in a conversation with Kobe and Lebron. Westbrook is taking major steps as a point guard. You don't have to believe me now...but you will believe. When I picked Scott Brooks to win Coach of the Year last season that raised eyebrows too. Couple years ago I picked Lakers to beat Magic in the Finals that happened as well. Point is while I screw up just like everyone else. There is always some things where I go out of the box and am right. Thunder to the Finals is out of the box for sure. But I am not along on the loving the Thunder Bandwagon. Thankfully I got a good seat near the front of the train.

The West might be more wide open then it has been in awhile. Chances to see a bit of a changing of the guard in the West. I think that is going to happen this season at least start to happen. Denver and Phoenix seem obvious choices to fall out of the playoff mix. I have little confidence in the order these will be but fairly confident in the 8 teams I am selecting to make it.

1. L.A Lakers
2. Dallas
4. Utah
6. Portland
7. San Antonio
8. Sacramento

9. L.A Clippers.

Yes the Kings. A Melloless Denver and and Amareless Suns are not good enough to finish in front of these guys. I thought for a second about slotting the Clippers at 8 but sanity kicked in and said no to me. Better but still not ready will be Golden State and Memphis. Like I said, the way the west goes that order can be pretty fluid 2-7.


Not going to go into great depth on these I will at some point but for now just getting my picks on the record here.

M.V.P- If I like the Thunder as much as I am saying the MVP can only be one man...KEVIN DURANT OKC

ROY- John Wall in a close battle with fellow number 1 pick Blake Griffin.

Coach of the Year- Stan Van Gundy if I keep picking him eventually I will be right. He was been my pick 2 of the last 3 years.

Defensive Player of Year- Lebron James. because he will not have as much of load to carry so he can make more plays on the other end.

6th Man- Fans at every Heat road game. This is an odd one but how about Steve Blake with L.A

So that is it. tomorrow some thoughts from you the people from Fan Jam and a look at the Raptors Opener vs Knicks.

Wait I forgot something....Miami vs Thunder final....Who Wins...Thunder Do in 7. Crazy? Maybe.Thanks to Myck for helping out with the NBA Preview I think he added something to the mix.

"Jiggly Bits"

Everything you hear leading up to the start of the regular season, is who is going to win the NBA Championship? Everyone has their picks right? I am not too keen on making predictions since anything can happen with injuries and unexpected breakthroughs being thrown into the mix. Look at last year's finals. No one thought the Celtics would have made it as far as they did and no one thought the Lakers would have to fight as hard as they did to win the title. With this being said, with no clear challenger in the Western Conference and barring any serious injuries, the Lakers are looking good to come out on top. In the Eastern conference, I know everyone is talking about Miami but I wouldn't rule out the Boston Celtics or the Orlando Magic. I really hope for the fans' sake, the Raptors make the playoffs because they have been showing some real signs of brilliance and playing some exciting basketball. Honestly? I think Chris Bosh leaving was the best thing to happen to the Raptors since players like DeMar DeRozen, Sonny Weems and the like, are getting a chance to really prove what they can do now without being under Bosh's shadow. They are playing more team-oriented basketball and the play no longer revolves around getting it to one person. Today, let's talk about Derrick Rose, Allen Iverson and some rookies to watch this season.

My Favourite 5 NBA Rookies to watch and why

I am sure some of you will agree and some of you will agree to disagree, but here are some rookies I will be keeping an eye this season:

TIMOFEY MOZGOV, NEW YORK KNICKS: For the same reason I liked Andrea Bargnani when he came to the Raptors from Italy, is one of the same reasons I will be watching Timofey Mozgov. Something needs to be said about a player going from one culture to another and learning a new 'basketball language' on top of it. He comes to the Knicks after playing six seasons in Russia and didn't put up stunning numbers but he has the ability to hit the long jumper which he feels his previous coach didn't utilize.

JOHN WALL, WASHINGTON WIZARDS: You have to watch this guy and the rest of the starting line-up from Kentucky for that matter. He is quick and is a strong defender - a good combination for steals. I know he was the top pick for his skills but a good player should also be judged on how he makes his team better. Remember, Kentucky had all five starters drafted in the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft, including Wall. Let's see how this 20-year-old affects the Wizards.

BLAKE GRIFFIN, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: Finally, something to get me excited about watching the L.A. Clippers. I know he was drafted in 2009 but he didn't play last season after injuring his knee in the pre-season. He's calling this his "official" rookie season. He seems to have fully recovered from his injury and is ready to play. He is hungry to show how he can bang up with the big boys of this league at 6 foot 10, 250 pounds and if his 2009 pre-season play is any indication (17.3 points, 12.3 rebounds and 30 minutes of play), he will surely bring it.

DEMARCUS COUSINS, SACRAMENTO KINGS: Another Kentucky product to watch. You know, people said this kid was out of shape and needed an attitude adjustment but he really has come into own. Look at his stats: 15.1 points and 9.8 rebounds and he is also able to bang inside to get up and under. Remember Michael Jordan's famous 'switch hands' up and under move vs the Lakers? Look for Cousins to be just as distracting.

DERRICK FAVOURS, NEW JERSEY NETS: He is the youngest player in the NBA at 19 years old and won ACC Rookie of the Year honours at Georgia Tech. Some players have made it in this league with staring out so young but I have to admit, I was a little skeptical at first about Favours. I like to see players mature a little under the tutelage of their college coach and come to the NBA prepared. He was reportedly in a deal to trade for Carmelo Anthony remember, which could totally throw a wrench into the 20 minutes he was expected to get in New Jersey. Part of me is concerned about him, the other part is looking to see him get through his first year in the NBA and watch him develop.

Options are exercised on Derrick Rose

Good news for Chicago Bulls fans. The organization has exercised the fourth-year contract option on Derrick Rose which means he'll be under contract with the Bulls for the 2011-2012 season. Good move. Also, the Bulls want to keep Taj Gibson and James Johnson on for the same season and took the third-year options on their contracts. Taj Gibson and James Johnson are good additions to the team but clearly, Derrick Rose was coming back. There was no way Bulls management could ignore the 18.7 points per game or the fact he was the first Bulls player named to an All-Star team since Michael Jordan in 1998. There's a sense of history and longevity with Rose. What happens after 2012, remains to be seen.

Let's get on with already - Iverson about to make up his mind

"You do it to yourself, you do. And that's what really hurts is you do it to yourself, just you and no one else..." - Radiohead. This was the first song that popped into my head when I read an official from Besiktas, a Turkish basketball team, is about to meet with Allen Iverson. You know, I really like Allen Iverson as a player and really wanted to see an NBA club pick him up. But the more I think about it, Iverson had a chance to play in the NBA this season but he didn't want to be on the bench. Now he's going to consider going overseas and away from the NBA where he really wants to be? He's leaving some options open to come back, but if a team doesn't want him now, only a serious injury would change their mind about his place on their roster. As a Besiktas team official, why would you hire an employee who is going to bolt the first chance he gets? Pure bananas, is all I have to say. Pure Bananas.

"Behind Enemy Lines"

Remember to join me here on the DNB this Thursday when we will take a look at the Raptors' opponents for the coming week - see you then.


On The Eve Of A New Season.

Yesterday was out at the Raptors Fan Jam and had a good time. Got to meet a bunch of people and some longtime readers of the DNB. I am putting together a feature for Wednesday with thoughts from all the people I talked to about the upcoming season. Tomorrow will be our annual NBA Preview with a special guest in Myck Kabongo. I interviewed Myck last week to get his thoughts on the upcoming NBA season and I will add in my thoughts to go along with that interview. Two seasons ago I nailed that NBA Finals and Champion calling for L.A to defeat the Magic. Last season I picked the Cavs to beat the Lakers (Thanks Lebron) and that didn't happen. What I did get right was the coach of the year in Scott Brooks. I always want to be right with my picks but to get everything right is almost impossible.

The dark cloud that is going to hang over this entire NBA Season is the lack of an agreement on a CBA. In recent days the actions of both the league office and the NBAPA do not give you a lot of optimism they will find a deal. The league throwing out words like contraction does not exactly help things. I did have someone ask me if the Raptors would ever get contracted. First of all, I think the whole suggestion of contraction is an idle threat. In the 4 major sports there has never been contraction of a franchise. It almost always is re-location of franchises. But even if contraction were to happen the Raptors would not be in danger for a number of reasons. First and foremost they are profitable. The idea of contraction is to get rid of teams that are dragging down the league as a whole. Teams that are not making money or barely scrapping by. That is not the Raptors and even if attendance takes a dip this season it won't be the Raptors. The second reason is David Stern. It was his idea to expand to Canada and the fact the Grizzlies failed is one of his great regrets. As long as he is running the league I can not imagine the Raptors not being safe. Also as much as we all may complain at times about MLSE, the fact that they are on more then secure financial ground is a reason the Raptors can last for the long term.

So here is a list of things that should be big stories this season.

Future of Mello and Chris Paul- Carmelo Anthony if Denver does nothing will become a free agent and be the marquee name on the Free Agent Market. Having a new G.M from our very own Raptors organization makes the chances of that happening pretty slim that Denver will stand pat. Many feel it is not if Anthony will be traded it is more a case of when. As the season start is now hours away, it would seem clear prior to the season is not going to happen. So the question will be when and until it happens you can expect rumours to fly throughout the season. If the Knicks get off to a slow start this will make the pressure on them to make a deal and get Anthony even more so. That is the team that most feel is on the top of the list of where Anthony wants to go. Also you have Chris Paul sitting in New Orleans and not exactly thrilled to be there. The Hornets can afford to be more picky though with Paul under contract for the next 2 seasons. However if he really is unhappy that is not going to do anything for team moral of a franchise that real needs to turn things around. You want to talk about a team in trouble in terms of being a viable NBA franchise the Hornets would make the top of that list.

Miami Miami Miami- If Lebron James sneezes there may well be a story about it. This season is regardless of if the actually win a title going to be ALL ABOUT THE HEAT. This is like Boston's Big 3 X100. Garnett, Allen and Pierce was a great 3 some but no one thought they could be contenders for a decade if they stuck together. These 3 guys can regardless of if you like it or not. The MWO is not going anywhere anytime soon. They are going to be talked about good, bad or indifferent for the entire season. Already some turbulence with an injury to Mike Miller that may see him out till January. Heat go out and sign Jerry Stackhouse. Basically losing on any night is not an option for this team. Obviously they are not going 82-0 but with ever loss will come a huge amount of drama. But when you throw a Championship style celebration before you win anything and say you are not just out to win this year, but for the next 5 or 6 years, that comes with the territory.

K.D for MVP- Kevin Durant has had a big summer and as fast as Lebron James star has fallen, Kevin Durant has watched his rise. His Thunder made the playoffs last season (I called that one too) and they gave the eventual Champion Lakers there toughest test on the road to the Finals. NBA Elite 11 with him on the cover may never see the light of day but nothing can stop K.D from making the Jump to NBA Ultra Elite in being considered one of the top 3 players in the game. The team around him is growing better as well and at the top of that list is his point guard Westbrook. I like K.D and his Thunder to do EVEN BIGGER THINGS this season. Part of that is K.D living up to the hype as a front runner for the MVP. Greg Who? Yeah Oden was worth that #1 pick wasn't he. While he racks up medical bills Durant is racking up Gold Medals and soon trophies.

Wall vs Griffin - Blake Griffin had he been healthy was the pre-season run away pick to be Rookie of the Year last season. John Wall is that guy this year. But wait a second, Griffin can win that award as well. In rare situation you have two number 1 picks and only one Rookie of the Year Trophy. If you are trying to look for an edge in this it likely goes to Wall. Clippers even if they do turn the corner are still in a tough Western Conference. While the Wizards play in the East where a playoff spot is a much easier goal to get. If the numbers are similar in case of a tie the team in the playoffs will take the prize. Both should be fun to watch and if Griffin has no issues health wise he will push Wall all season to be Rookie of the Year. The gap between these 2 and everyone else is large. The only guy that stands a chance to get in this conversation outside of these two is Cousins in Sacramento.

Kobe - Has there ever been an off-season he was talked about less? This is a guy that thrives on motivation. Phil Jackson is back as well and the chances he sticks around much longer are growing slimmer each year. So combining those two things, and the chance to 3-Peat all make you think sleeping on the Lakers might be a mistake. Injuries have been a big part of the story with Kobe and he still has not had surgery on that troublesome finger. His team also has issues with injuries or more to the point Andrew Bynum does. But the Lakers quietly added some nice parts to improve their depth. Steve Blake could have an impact on the Triangle offence like a Steve Kerr or John Paxson did with Bulls.

Those are 5 big stories that will dominate the season. However the future of the CBA and the Lockout that could happen next season will hang like a dark cloud over it all. It is hard to focus on this season with that hanging over it. Next year's NBA preview might be not about what happens when they play, but if and when they will play. That is something no one should want to happen. More NBA talk tomorrow with Jiggly Bits and The DNB's Season Preview.


Freindly Rivals- Sonny vs Demar Interviews

They make up 2/3 of the Young Gunz and they are the best of friends off the floor. Sonny Weems and Demar DeRozan compete about everything including playing time for the Raptors. I decided prior to the pre-season game with the Bulls to talk with both of them. It was fun stuff and we talk about the upcoming season, Battling at video games and how this relationship has helped both get better on the floor. First up is Sonny Weems with a little bit of Demar in the background. Unedited Sonny and Demar.

From there we head over for some retort from Demar

They along with Amir Johnson are launching a website together and they are having an announcement today at 3pm (@RealSports) to it would be assumed to officially launch this website. The Young Gunz have a chance to make the Toronto Raptors their team this year and Toronto and Canada their fans. These guys may understand better then others in the past the unique chance they have to have fans across an entire country. They have fun and work hard and that is something Raptors fans have seemed to buy into and love these guys for it.

There was a lot of talk of 2k11 in there and I will be having Zack Cooper from the Fan 590 and the host of Got Game to talk more about the game which is honestly the greatest basketball video game that has ever been produced.


Raptors Win But So Did Montreal

Over 22,000 people in a packed Bell Centre it had all the energy of a Habs game or a UFC event. No Hab Jersey or GSP to be found. While sanity has come to Raptorland with Jarrett Jack playing as a starter tonight. There were some scary moments along the way with Demar DeRozan injuring his finger. It would turn out to be just a dislocation and he would return. Then a few minutes after the exit of DeRozan it was Barbosa crashing to the ground with a thud that reminded me of when T.J Ford was injured. But the result for Barbosa was not nearly as bad as he was able to pop back to his feet. Through out it all, the fans were loud and into it. There is a lesson in that for Raptors fans here at the ACC. Maybe 16 years of having basketball has made folks forget what it is like not to have it. Cheering for pizza is silly and stupid. This Raptor team is what many people have said they wanted in some ways. This team is going to fight hard and have to scrap for everything they get. The attendance at the ACC for the pre-season was pretty sad. When the season starts will see what it looks like. But if this team struggles will the people still come. I think we learned that people in both Vancouver and Montreal would love to have that option.

As for the Raptors the talk has been all about team effort and that is what Raptors gave with 7 players in double figures. One of those the recently benched Jose Calderon with 11 points and 7 assists. Jack as the starter only 7 and 5. Will we ever get this to work in Toronto? 16 years and only years we had a clear number 1 point guard it was in the beginning with Damon Stoudamire. But still the overall battle was clearly won by Jack and he deserves to hear his name on Wednesday.

Andrea the good....15 points 6/13 and 3/4 from 3 point range. The Bad...1 Rebound in 23 minutes. Reggie Evans in 3 less minutes had 10 more rebounds with 11. As a team some good and bad as well. The good....12 Steals lead by your new starting point guard Jarrett Jack with 4. That is the biggest reason Jack deserves the starters minutes. Jack can make the overall team D better and Jose is a massive liability. The bad....just 1 block for the entire Raptors team. I know you are wondering who got the block? Joey Dorsey but the bad news in Dorsey is suspended so make that 0 blocks for the team that will play the Knicks on Wednesday.

Now as with all pre-season games it is not always just about who plays. It is about who doesn't and how much some people play. The Knicks did leave one of their weapons in the holster in Danilo Gallinari. They also sat Toney Douglas. While everyone in a Raptor uniform saw the floor at some point.

In the end the Raptors leave Montreal with a 108-103 win over the Knicks. Finishing the pre-season at an even 4-4. But the true winners on this night were the people of Montreal. I put this on Twitter and if you happen to be on twitter give this hashtag a tweet- #NBAINMTL . On a day when the NBA was talking tough and making a lockout seem almost unavoidable. Even throwing out the word contraction. When cities like Montreal, Vancouver and Seattle don't have teams with all due respect to Commissioner Stern there is no need for contraction more like re-location.

Pre-Season is over. Come Wednesday will see how much it actually meant.

Raptors Dit Bonjour Knicks, Bon Au revoir la Saison de Pre

I figured if Amir Johnson can try French so can we here at the Dino Nation Blog. So what was that in English you are wondering? Raptors say hello Knicks, good bye pre-season. Least that is what my French to English translation program says. I am not sure what Amir said in French but here is his attempt at it, rocking a Habs hat which will play well in Montreal. I know the first line is hello I am Amir Johnson after that I got no clue:

I am thinking battling Amare Stoudemire will be tougher then tackling the French language. I am also not sure how hard these teams will play given the fact they will meet again 5 days later to start the season. Safe to say there might be a little game playing by both teams. The Knicks unlike the Raptors have a lot of expectations and they did land Amare and some others. But Amare is not James, Wade or even Bosh. Raymond Felton another addition is not Steve Nash ether.

If the Raptors are going to shock the world or at least North America and contend for the playoffs in the East, this is one of the teams that they will need to beat to make that happen. I think the Knicks are a team that can be good enough to sneak in the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. What happens tonight does not matter nearly as much as what happens in 5 days. You only need to look to the NFL for examples of this. It has happened many times where teams meet up in the final week of season knowing they will face each other the next week in the playoffs. The result in that final game seldom means much. This is much the same. Whatever the result tonight I will almost guarantee the game next Wednesday will have a very different result in many aspects.

Still it will be a full house in Montreal and temptation to put on a show for both teams will be there. Also given the way these teams want to play it should have a fast pace to it and be up and down the floor. After all there is 5 days to rest after tonight so why not run. But obviously run carefully because the one thing both of these teams do not want is an injury at this late stage of the pre-season.

The real work for the Raptors starts tomorrow as they will kick things into high gear to prepare for the season. Practice may not be Allen Iverson's thing but for Raptors and all NBA Teams these last few days are pretty vital to put the finishing touches on their game plans for the upcoming season.

I think tonight will be a way to judge individuals and how they match up but not convinced we see much in terms of overall scheme from the Knicks or the Raptors. Still the best thing of all....PRE-SEASON IS OVER...after tonight.


Good Signs In A Loss To Bulls

Post game Jay Triano took some of the blame for his team not being able to close the deal vs Chicago. He brought up the fact that they have been working hard in practice (Yes Allen Iverson Practice) including earlier in the day. Still he had to be pleased at the improvement on the boards for his basketball team. Which was led by Reggie Evans. Just 2 points and 16 rebounds from the big fella. It was noticed by his team.

Jarrett Jack-" Reggie was unbelievable on the boards tonight, doing a great job giving us some type of presence down low. "

Jack himself was pretty good for a guy that was a game time decision, getting 12 points and 6 assists with a bad elbow and bit of a banged up knee. Jose Calderon was 0-6 with just 3 assists and 0 points. The point guard battle in the pre-season has been one sided and not close. If Jay Triano decides to start Jose Calderon it is not going to be based on performance, because it is clear to almost everyone that Jack has been the best point guard in a Raptor jersey.

But perhaps the most encouraging sign for the Raptors was both Bargnani and DeRozan had very good nights for the team on offence. DeRozan was 6-9 shooting with 15 points and 7 rebounds and Bargnani was 7-14 and had 19 points but only 3 rebounds. You can't have everything. But to get these guys starting to get on track, with the season a week away as of last night is a good thing.

Barbosa has been better than advertised. Tied with Deng for top scorer in the game with 22 points and he had 3 steals on the night to go with the points. People speculate on who might lead this team in scoring. Klezia, Bargnani? I think Barbosa might just be the answer when all is said and done. He seems to have fit in well and quickly with this team. He is one of the stronger defenders on a team that does not have that many. He didn't get the nickname the Brazilian Blur by accident. Speed kills someone once said.

In the end the Raptors dropped this one 110-103 but can walk away feeling they had a chance to win. The last time they faced the Bulls they could not say that. It has been nice to see the Raptors face some common opponents in the pre-season to compare how the Raptors have improved or not improved to a point. The 2 games vs the Suns were pretty much similar results. Against Boston you could argue the Raptors even regressed a bit, given the lack of players that played for Boston in the 2nd match-up at the ACC. It should be noted the Bulls had no Noah in this one last night. But that being said the Raptors were crushed on the boards in Chicago and bounced back to win that battle on last night 45-36.

Some people hold no stock in the pre-season and others think it means a lot. I fall somewhere in the middle on this debate. I think the wins and loses are far from life and death. However what you really want to see is progression and improvement. Last night at the ACC you saw a little of that from the Raptors.

"Behind Enemy Lines"

Welcome to the first edition of "Behind Enemy Lines" here on the DNB. Every Thursday throughout the regular season, we will be taking a closer look at the opponents of the Toronto Raptors: what they are up to, talk strategy and anything newsworthy. This week, the Raptors have only one regular season game against the New York Knicks in Toronto on Wednesday at 7pm. Before this match-up, the Knicks will meet the Raptors at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec and so will end their pre-season. The end of the pre-season usually signals the end of the off-season/pre-season drama and we all get down to business. I hope. There are a few things to address today about the Knicks: their roster and the possibility of Carmelo Anthony being added to it, plus things to look for when the Raptors meet them a total of 4 times during the regular season. Also, we need to discuss the NBA's ban on those 'vertical leap' shoes and if the Raptors need to worry about them.

Addition and Subtraction with the New York Knicks

So let's first take a look at the New York Knicks' roster, who they gained and who they lost. First, obviously, we mention Amar'e 'the bait that never snagged LeBron' Stoudemire. A power forward with a hefty price tag in my opinion, but let's hope Knicks Head Coach Mike D'Antoni gets full use out of him. Look for Stoudemire to spend time at the centre position like he did in Phoenix and try to take the face of this team. The Knicks have also added veterans Raymond Felton, Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf and Kelenna Azubuike to their roster pool along with the rookie talents of Landry fields, Andy Rautins, Jerome Jordan, Timofey Mozgov. Knicks management tried to give this club a serious face lift in anticipation of LeBron James coming to New York and the serious possibility of challenging for at least a division title. They shaved nine other players off their roster including Tracy McGrady and Al Harrington. So look for this team to go through some serious adjustments during the first few games of the regular season as they try to make up for a lack of continuity.

Now let's touch on the issue of Carmelo Anthony. Let's make it clear he did not demand a trade but is looking to keep his options open - one of those options is to leave Denver. Carmelo Anthony has declined to sign the contract extension that would keep him in Denver through to 2014. Also, he has put his Denver area mansion on the market this year - a move home owners do only in anticipation of relocating because clearly Anthony is not fishing for how much he can get for his mansion so he can make a quick buck. What does this have to do with the New York Knicks, you ask? Well, according to one source, the Knicks were warming up to the idea of including either forward Danilo Gallinari or forward Anthony Randolph in a deal for Carmelo Anthony. But nothing is confirmed and we literally have to wait until 11:59pm on Sunday night to know if Carmelo will be in the Knicks line-up Monday night versus the Raptors. This is because NBA teams have until the day before the NBA regular season to reduce their active list to a maximum of 12 players. Teams must also have 8 eligible players dressed and able to play in a regular season game or else they will be fined. So this is why it is important for players to be healthy and ready to go. Time is ticking away for Carmelo Anthony and whether or not he's in a Knicks uniform on Monday remains to be seen.

Things to Look for

Let's face it. The New York Knicks have not been a stable club during the past two seasons. Look at how many different players have played for them in two years: 43. With this kind of player shuffling, as a Head Coach you will also be shuffling through many starting line-ups. For Knicks Head Coach Mike D'Antoni? He's had to use 34 different starting line-ups. This does not make the 103 losses in 164 games easier to swallow. However, with Amar'e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton on the roster, this should add the stability the Knicks are looking for. The more I think about it, the more I worry about the possibility of Danilo Gallinari included in a possible trade for Carmelo Anthony. Gallinari made 186 three pointers last season, the second most in the league and in Knicks' history. Plus, Carmelo Anthony has expressed his respect for Gallinari. So this young (22 years old) Italian import's style of play will only explode by playing with veterans like Stoudemire and possibly Carmelo Anthony. Fingers crossed.

'Magic' Shoes in the NBA? No Way.

So there's a new line of sneakers which claim to increase your vertical leap. Athletic Propulsion Labs Concept 1 shoe has a spring based system which is supposed to help you get up higher for those rebounds and dunks. But don't get too excited - they cost $300 US and no player in the NBA will be wearing them thanks to the league. This is because under league rules, players may not wear any shoe during a game which creates an undue competitive advantage. According to the Los Angeles-based company, many NBA players, including about 30% of the rookie class apparently, have "expressed interest" in the shoe. The company won't reveal the names because the players have signed with other companies. I wonder if any of those players were Raptors? I guess those players expressing interest in the shoe, better just work on their game instead relying on the magical powers of footwear.

Thanks for joining me today - I will see you next week for more "Behind Enemy Lines" here on the DNB. Before then, join me on Tuesday for your NBA news fix with "Jiggly Bits". Have a great weekend.


Bulls vs Raptors-The Pre-Season Sequel.

In this pre-season the Raptors have had 2 teams they have faced twice. The result in both cases was the same each time. The Raptors opened the pre-season with a win over the Suns and then beat those same Suns at the ACC. The Raptors lost against Boston on the road and then lost to them again at the ACC. Tonight the Raptors take on the Bulls for a second time. In the first meeting in Chicago the Raptors got beaten badly and were crushed on the boards. The next night they would bounce back with a much better effort and a double OT win over the Sixers.

Tonight will be in some ways like the last game of the pre-season even though it is not. Raptors will head up to Montreal to take on the Knicks who they will face 5 days later to open the regular season. So much like when 2 teams meet in the NFL the week before the playoffs knowing they will face each other, it promises to be a very vanilla contest. Do not expect a lot of plays to be run and maybe not even the actual starting line-up the Raptors will sport. So that makes tonight against Chicago a bit more important then your average 2nd last game of the pre-season.

The one question that needs an answer is, who is the starting point guard? Jarrett Jack has clearly won the job if we base this on performance in the pre-season. However, it at least looks like we may see Jose Calderon end up the starter. But as most basketball coaches will say it is not who starts it is who finishes and that has been Jack. The relationship between Triano and his two point guards will be something to watch this season. The Raptors heading into last off-season were not sure if the 2 point guards could make it work together for another season. The Raptors attempt to trade Calderon to Charlotte is proof of that to an extent.

What does seem clear is no matter what Bargnani is going to be your starter at Center. It also seems likely that Kleiza will start at the 3. Still up for debate is who will be the starting 2 and 4 in this roster. If we base it on the pre-season alone that would mean Barbosa would be the starting 2. At the 4 you could probably flip a coin between Amir Johnson and Reggie Evans. Ultimately based on the investment they have made you would expect the Raptors would want to see Amir take that spot. The same would be said about Demar DeRozan at the 2 spot. You have to hope that even if they don't start the season as starters that they will be by the end of it. Not based on their contracts but based on their play.

One thing that has been decided is the roster as a whole. Ronald Dupree was released yesterday and honestly that is not a shock. He played well in Summer League and that was enough to invite to camp but not enough to make the team. The odds were long for Dupree and it was the obvious choice. Wright, Dorsey and anyone else that thought they were on the bubble can breath easy. The Raptors are 15 and now look to focus on what to do with that 15, as the season starts a week from today.

I will be on the hunt looking for folks to talk to tonight at the ACC. It should be fun. The game may not be though as the Bulls should still be able to have an advantage on the glass. But win or lose the Raptors need a much better effort then they had in Chicago.


Starting 5 with Zack Cooper from Fan 590

Last season, he was one of a number of people that made me feel welcome in my 1st season covering Raptor games down at the ACC. He does a little bit of everything on the Fan 590 from updates to hosting and everything in between. Zack Cooper is our guest and we talk in depth about the Toronto Raptors heading into this new season, that is not that far away. Among the topics that come up are Jay Triano's new attitude, a lot of love for Jarrett Jack and a breakdown of all the key parts of this Raptor Squad. While many don't put a lot of stock in the pre-season Zack does and feels it is even more so for this Raptor team. It was a great conversation and we manage to get in some educated guesses on where the Raps will end up, The NBA Finals and the MVP from Mr. Cooper.

Zack will be back, as it says at the end, to talk some NBA 2K11 look for that on the weekend. Thanks to Zack for making time for me and being one of the friendly faces I get to see at the ACC. Which is where I will be tomorrow for Raptors and Bulls. The Raptors last pre-season date at the ACC, before they head up to Montreal to close out the pre-season vs New York.

"Jiggly Bits"

Wow. What a Tuesday morning. Where should I begin? We could talk about Magic Johnson selling his stake in the Los Angeles Lakers and pretending they will always be best friends. We could talk about the NBA's Players Association taking legal action against the league for the change in the technical foul rule. But there's also Dwayne Wade and the issues surrounding his return to the Miami Heat line-up. Hmmm. Let's go with Gilbert Arenas, shall we? So, we all know our favourite locker room distraction faked an injury 7 days ago to get a teammate of his Nick Young, more playing time. Young subsequently scores 24 points against the Hawks and Gilbert's plan works. Really? Is this the real story? Gilbert Arenas showing such selflessness and risking being disciplined so his teammate could get more playing time? Or do we just want some attention? Trying to prove a point to Wizards' management? Not sure. But ironically enough, he didn't start last Thursday against Milwaukee but suffered a REAL injury to his groin just three minutes coming into the first quarter. I wonder what Gilbert Arenas' definition of a mentor is? By faking the injury and the drama that went a long with it, he took time away from John Wall - the Wizards number 1 draft pick. Where is this guy's head at? I hope he figures it out soon because his dramatic flair is not so endearing.

Complaining about complaining

So the players' association calls it "passion for the game" and the referees call it a distraction. This really shouldn't be up for debate but it is. There is nothing wrong with reacting to a call but there is something wrong with getting up in the referee's face to tell him about it. In the early days of the NBA, the league considered putting in makeshift penalty boxes and fining the players $25 for fighting or mouthing off. Now, the cost of a player outburst is at $2,000 for their first five. This is relative considering how much these players make today. But remember, the very first players in professional basketball came straight from the streets and from the battles of war so they were used to fighting to solve disputes. I know today is different but although I agree something needs to be done about the complaining, I am concerned about giving the referees more power. Right now the NBA has told players they will be given a technical foul what they call 'overt gestures', even if they are not directed at a referee, running up to a ref to contest a call, or other actions that don't show proper respect for the game. I think this is dangerous. Sure, be fined for getting a ref's face, another player's face or overreacting to a call. But this new rule gives the refs power to fine a player for frowning or shaking his head - a natural reaction - one that doesn't have to be directed at the referee. Depending on which referee you get, this could be interpreted many different ways and he can choose to let things go or call it. Whether it was a good or ball call, we have to live with it, true. But the referees control the tempo of the game and if they start calling every little thing, their goal of gaining more respect from players may be thrown out the window.

Magic Leaving the Lakers?

Magic Johnson used to own 4.5% of the Los Angeles Lakers. But he sold this on Monday to a Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, a 25 year Lakers season ticket holder and a guy with a whole lot of money. When I think of the Los Angeles Lakers, Magic Johnson tops the list of images. He says his dedication and support for the Los Angeles Lakers will not be affected by this decision and he will "be a Laker for Life". If this is true, that he bleeds purple and gold, why sever your concrete attachment to it? Clearly, he has aspirations to own another team. He has been known to express interest in being a part of the team buying the Detroit Pistons but the group hasn't made any public connection with Magic Johnson. Let's pretend he does buy the Detroit Pistons. He can't be a die-hard Lakers fan anymore because his job would then be to cheer for the Pistons to make sure he gets a return on his investment. Right now, nothing is set in stone. As a businessman, he has every right to invest in whatever he wants. I just don't understand why it is not the purple and gold anymore.

Wading through the Drama

This is not the distraction the Miami Heat needs but I am glad the team is supporting him. Dwayne Wade, as you know, pulled a hamstring muscle to start the pre-season and has been off since but working out separate from the team. He is involved in a custody battle over his two sons, which continues this week, and no one knows for sure if he will be in the Heat line-up to open the regular season. LeBron James was quick to throw his support around Wade describing the Miami Heat as a family that will welcome back Wade "with open arms" when he is ready. LeBron is right. When it comes to matters involving family, especially children, it becomes bigger than basketball. I am glad the team is supportive in letting him have some time off to get things settled. But remember, this is still only the pre-season and I am not so sure Heat Management will be all smiles if he misses anymore time in the regular season. I can't imagine what Dwayne Wade is going through and I hope for the children's sake, this is all over soon.

Behind Enemy Lines

Remember to join me here on the DNB this Thursday when we will be looking at the Toronto Raptors' opponents for the coming week, talking strategy and anything else that comes across my radar. See you then.


Starting 5 with The Swirsk

His Bears lost to the Seahawks, My Cowboys lost to the Vikings, so both of us were happy to talk some basketball. He spent 10 years as the voice of your Toronto Raptors and needs no introduction, the one and only Chuck Swirsky. We talk a great deal of Raptors including a couple things he tweeted about the Raptors recently. He talks about his outlook for the Raptors, Andrea Bargnani and his future, as well as how the Raptors moving forward in a post Bosh era. In addition we spend some time talking about the Bulls and their outlook for the upcoming season. In addition thoughts on the Miami Heat and who might end up being the MVP of the NBA. No Chuck did not say Rose, but he likes him a lot and why shouldn't he. So get a "Salami and Cheese" sandwich with "Onions Baby Onions" on the side and have a listen to me talk with Mr "Sick Wicked and Nasty" himself Chuck Swirsky.

As he often said in his time here it is always a pleasure talking Raptors Basketball and it is always my pleasure to talk with him. I wish him all the best this coming season and tell you from my experiences you will be hard pressed to find a nicer guy then Chuck. While I do not always agree with him on everything basketball wise he is still one of the best people I have come across. If you are on Twitter (Is anyone not) you can find Chuck @Swirsk054 tweeting about Bulls, NBA and much more.


Reggie Evans in the DNB...BET THAT

He had 7 points and 12 rebounds in the Raptors 121-100 win today over the Suns. I always enjoy talking with Reggie Evans be it in person or via Twitter. He had an injury last season in the pre-season vs the Celtics and it was the first major injury he had ever had in his career. This season he is healthy and looking to contribute to the Raptors. He almost never was here, as he was part of the trade to Charlotte that never was. But he is back and happy to be healthy and looking to contribute. So here is our chat from pre-game Wednesday.


Raps vs C's Live Blog

Join us tonight for Raptors vs Celtics for the 2nd time this pre-season Live Blog begins at 6:45 PM Local Time

DNB Talks With Demar DeRozan

Prior to the game on Wednesday vs the Sixers had a chance to have a brief chat with Demar DeRozan. It seems that Demar has a level head on his shoulders as he approaches his 2nd season in the NBA. We talk about his approach to this year, how things are going with all the new faces and his impressions of Vancouver from training camp.

This will be a big season for Demar one way or the other. He still seems the level headed, hard working kid that I met up in Ottawa at the start of last season. But the level of pressure for him to succeed has increased, as has the opportunity for him to be a big part of this franchise. Join us tonight here on the Dino Nation Blog for a Live Blog of Demar and the rest of the Raptors back in action at the ACC 7pm-Tip with the Live Blog starting about 15 minutes prior to that.


"Basketball Beyond the Floor"

I am sad. I am sad because this edition of "Basketball Beyond the Floor" marks the last one of the season until next summer. But I am also excited since a new feature "Behind Enemy Lines" will be starting next week in its place here on the DNB. Please continue to tune in every Thursday when I will be taking a look at the Raptors' opponents for the coming week, talk strategy and everything else under the sun. Today, we will be discussing two books for the junior basketball fan: Arthur and the Pen-Pal Playoff by Mark Brown and Steve Nash: Most Valuable Player by Peter Bailey. Each book does its job in attracting the potential young fan and educates as well. However, both have different audiences and targeted for two different age groups. Let's dive in.

"Arthur" Does His Job

"Arthur! I love that show!" was the reaction I got when I tested this book out on a grade one student on my street. I know some of you might be thinking the student only got excited because of the television connection first but if it got them to read it or even get excited about a book about basketball, who cares. Arthur and the Pen-Pal Playoff has a few characters on the front smiling with a net in the background. First image of the story is very important for the young reader and potential fan of the game. It is not until page 10 the subject actually turns to basketball. Arthur's class writes to pen pals across the state (yes, American based) and Arthur over-brags about his basketball abilities only to find out his pal did too. I liked how this book used basketball terminology: "Arthur slowly dribbled in from the back court. Sue Ellen was guarding him again. Arthur had to keep dribbling no matter what, because once he stopped, he wouldn't be able to start again - he'd have to pass or shoot". I loved how this related the game's rules to the young reader in a very conversational way. However, without a glossary of terms at the back, the young reader not familiar with the terminology might get lost.

Also, every kid has their likes and dislikes and what drew my test case into this book, may drive another one away from it. Not every kid likes Arthur so the fact that the cover has some characters playing basketball on it might not be enough for them to read it. But if you can get them to at least page 37, you will have them hooked: "Now, Arthur, basketball is a game of parts. None of us is good at all of them - we each have our own specialty. For Francine it's dribbling. Binky has rebounding, Sue Ellen relies on her jump shot, Buster has positioning, and I have general conditioning". A very basic way to describe the game but an important way to do it for the target age group - grade one to three maybe. Though the younger kindergarten kids would definitely be able to follow along if an adult read it to them - it has many pictures in it and big print. At this age, they need to know however small or underdeveloped their talents are, it is still a valuable contribution to the team. If they don't enjoy some sense of confidence or success, the game won't be fun for them and sadly, will not stick with the sport.

Steve Nash - Our Greatest Export

I love the quotation from Steve Nash's High school coach Ian Hyde-Lay to start chapter one: "There was a kind of sparkle in his eyes that just tells you he's a little different than most guys". In Steve Nash: Most Valuable Player, author Peter Bailey does a good job of putting Nash's life to print. This book even has a glossary of terms at the back which was lacking in Arthur and the Pen-Pal Playoff. This book is geared for the senior elementary school student and any fan of Steve Nash looking for a quick summary of his rise to fame. You'll learn about his life outside of basketball such as being born in Johannesburg, South Africa and moving to Canada before his first birthday. But the real credibility for this book and Steve Nash as a mentor for young kids, came on page 6: "It was in grade eight that Steve first played basketball, and he came home one day and told [his] mom that he was going to play in the NBA when he got older. 'I didn't doubt him' she said. 'Whether he'd make it or not, you don't know, but I knew he was going to give it a heck of a try because he works hard for what he gets." This idea that kids need to be playing ball as soon as they come out of the womb to be successful at it is ridiculous. I think there is a tendency for kids to specialize way to early with the idea they are going to have a career in the pros one day. Steve Nash was obsessed with all sports but it was that obsession that almost killed his basketball career. His grades slipped and it wasn't until he switched to a private school in Victoria, concentrated on his academics and took a year off the sport, did he really improve as a player and as a student. I like how he was exposed to all sports and how he wasn't the tallest player but because he was the hardest working, he was the best player: "The drive to be the best, to prove himself over and over again, has always motivated Steve more than money or fame". Do yourself a favour. Start your Christmas shopping today. If there is a young athlete you have to buy for, get them this book and a basketball and see what happens. You may just thank me for it.

Flick Pick of the Week

I remembered seeing this one as a kid and it is more of a short cartoon than a flick pick. Look up "Goofy-Basketball Double-Dribble" on You Tube or just google it. I love how the 'mini' goofy finally gets his chance. It was made in 1946 before Disney went really "cute" and the clip shows the referee shooting at the player's toes to keep them behind the foul line so use discretion when deciding who to show this to.

Thank-you so much for joining me today and all summer here on the DNB for "Basketball Beyond the Floor". I hope you enjoyed it and I look forward to doing it again next summer. This doesn't mean you stop reading and telling me about it. Reading is important whether it's a magazine, newspaper, internet article or a book - it keeps you sharp and in the game. So I will still say happy reading until we meet again on Tuesday for "Jiggly Bits" and after that for my new feature "Behind Enemy Lines" next Thursday. Have a great weekend.