You've Lost That Winning Feeling

Pacers have a new coach and the Raptors...yup Jay Triano is still here. Pacers new coach faces the Raptors tonight and the Cavs next. If he goes 0-2 during that he should be fired too. But in terms of the Raptors we could sure use a win. I am honestly forgetting what it is like to write about a win. Pacers smoked the Raptors in the teams only meeting this year as I mentioned this morning in our preview of this one. Weems remains in the starting line-up. All those e-mails Tom Liston sent did not work apparently.

Collison blows right by Jose after Pacers won the tap not a great early sign. But Andrea with a score plus an and one free throw was a good sign. DeRozan after some failed possession by both team got a score and it was early 5-2 lead. Collison again with a blow by and an easy bucket for former Raptor for a few weeks Roy Hibbert. Seems the new coach is well aware of the Raptors weak points on defence. But the Pacers D had it's own issues letting the Raptors come back and take a 13-10 lead. A bit of a worry as Demar DeRozan had a bit of a nasty landing but he was ok. Demar is not "some fake tough guy" he is the real deal playing ever game this year for the Raptors. But what was not ok was Mike Dunleavy then Collison connecting on 3's. Pacers built a 20-15 lead and it was time to call a time out for Jay Triano. Whatever Jay said didn't work because Pacers were up 27-17 not that long after. After 1 the Raptor D had been lit up for 32 points and Pacers lead was 11 with the score 32-21.

Tyler Hansbrough gets a put back dunk and the Pacer lead had grown to 14 and another time out from Jay Triano. The first one worked so well I am sure this one will be just as good.The second quarter is turning into a haze of terrible choices on offence and no defence at all. That combination has lead to a 43-26 Pacers lead. Raps had not yet bottomed out though as the Pacer lead would grow to 48-28 before the Raptors showed they indeed had a pulse. Raptors would get on a 7-0 run that was the good news. Bad news was that still left them down 13 points. Raptors kept rolling and were on a 13-0 run and now you were seeing why the Pacers had lost 7 of 8. Ed Davis was a big part of that run on both ends of the floor. Raptors clawed back to down 51-45 at the half.

The second half begins with a Bargnani missed jumper and Ed Davis sitting on the bench. But the Raptor roll continued with the Young Onez Amir then Sonny with buckets. Finally for the Young Onez trifector Derozan gets fouled and heads to the line with a chance to tie it at the line. But the tie would be short lived at 51-51 and soon the Pacers would have a 62-57 lead and Pacers had a bullseye on Andrea Bargnani and were exposing him on D. Finally Triano decided to place Bargnani's butt on the bench where it belonged in favour of Ed Davis. But it might have been to late will see. Amir Johnson is down and he has been battling through a lot, and you hope it is something he can battle through. Not since Alvin Williams have we seen the kind of toughness Amir Johnson has shown this season. Andrea Bargnani is back in with Amir out for the moment with a twisted ankle by the looks of it. Bargnani finally was showing signs off life on offence but the D was still non existent. Bayless with a how the heck did the go in drive and score. Raptors were down 5 when the smoke cleared after 3.

The Bargnani suck feast would continue stepping on the end line and turning it over. Good news was Amir Johnson returned back to the floor late in the 3rd. But Raptors were down 77-70 in early going of the 4th. Andrea would take a well earned seat as Bayless would score draw a foul and make the and 1 to make the lead 5 once again. Raptors just could not seem to get back to with in shouting distance. I have said this many times in this blog. But when you dig a big hole like the Raptors did in this game, getting it back to level is only half the battle. Raptors seemed to have not enough in the tank to pull off the other half. Pacers had a 84-76 lead with 8:30 to play. Nuce play by Demar to hook-up Sonny for a jumper but, the train wreck that is Andrea on D would take those good vibes away. Turnovers after that and Pacers lead thanks to 6-0 run was 93-82 with only 5:01 to play. In the end the Raptors had nothing left for the Pacers and it would be a 104-93 Pacers win. The Raptors have lost 12 straight and that has not happened since 2003 which is before many of us even knew who Chris Bosh was.

Jay Triano was made by a late 3 taken by the Pacers when they could have dribbled it out pretty much. But screw being made about that be made at your supposed star player that can't play defence. Be mad at yourself for playing him far more than he deserved. Also be embarrassed by the fact this team over has been a joke on the defensive side of floor.

K.D's Bosh Comments Video

I mentioned the Kevin Durant Comments in the blog this morning but here is the video of those comments in regards to Chris Bosh:

no retort from Chris and if he is smart...which can be debated of late...there won't be.

Pacers Starting Fresh With The Raptors

The Indiana Pacers decided they had enough of their coach Jim O'Brien. It would appear the choice to send him packing was made by ownership according to the Indy Star. O'Brien was fired Sunday after posting a 121-169 in his 3 years plus. He has been around close to the same amount of time as Jay Triano so let's compare shall we? We Shall, Triano is 78-117 in his 3 years with the Raptors. O'Brien had a .417 winning percentage while Triano's works out to be .400 winning percentage. People make the excuse that Triano has not had a lot of talent to work with. Well did Jim O'Brien have a ton of talent? The Pacers best player was who Danny Granger? I know he is not "Mr Popular" these days but Chris Bosh was more talented than him. You can make the argument that the situations are fairly similar. Pacers have had there share of injuries over the last 3 years. Frank Vogel Pacers assistant becomes there interim coach. P.J has more head coaching experience than him. Just stating the facts. Raptors will try not to see there losing streak climb to a dozen. While the new era for the Pacers begins.

The Basics: Toronto 13-35 (4-11 on Road vs East) Pacers 17-27 (Lost 7 of 8)

When Last We Saw Them: The Raptors were in Minny and got utterly embarrassed by the T-Wolves. The less we say about this game the better so we will say no more other than it was the Raptors 11th straight loss. But you already knew that.

Key Match-Ups: Well it will be interesting to see what Frank Vogel does in his debut. One of the reasons for O'Brein's demise was said to be how he handled young players and specifically Roy Hibbert. Our former Raptor for a few weeks. Also on a couple of my fantasy teams not that anyone cares about that. Andrea Bargnani will have his hands full with Roy in the paint. It would not seem likely that the Pacers would play Hibbert on Bargnani on defence. Darren Collison has not exactly taken the Pacers by storm as many felt he might. He has 13.7 points a slight improvement on his numbers with the Hornets but his assists have dipped from 5.4 to 4.8 assists through 41 games played for the Pacers. You also have T.J Ford who is always motivated to play against Jose Calderon, and sometimes that is good news for the Raptors, and other times it is good news for T.J. Calderon and Bayless will need to be better than Collison and Ford for the Raptors to have a chance to win. But the biggest issue will be on the glass once again where the Pacers should have an advantage. They average 43.2 rebounds per game to the Raptors 40.7.

Other Things Of Note: The Pacers demolished the Raptors in their only meeting this season that was also in Indy winning the game going away 124-100, and it is on a growing list of games where the Raptors were embarrassed badly. In case you missed it, I wrote a piece yesterday taking a look at where this is all going for the Raptors in terms of the future. But nothing that I wrote can top what Kevin Durant had to say about our good old buddy Chris Bosh. Seems a good time to mention our event coming up in Toronto for the Bosh return on Feb 16th.

The (Un) Welcome Back Bosh Party @ St.Louis Wings

  • Location: 595 Bay St (North of Dundas)
  • When: Feb 16th 2011
  • Time: Come early if you like. But will have game on with Heat and Raptors that tips @ 7PM
  • Details: Were working on them but you can expect a good time, some giveaways and the best place to watch the game outside of the ACC itself. We are even going to try to set up a speakers corner where you can share your thoughts on Chris Bosh and his return. It is going to be a great time so if you can't get tickets for this game this is going to be the next best thing.

The guys at St. Louis Wings had been asking me to come and be a part of a Raptor game for awhile and I said if we are going to do this let's do it big. Looking forward to hosting this event and hope to see many DNB readers come out to have some fun. It is always a treat for me to meet the people that read the blog and Raptor fans in general so I am looking forward to this.

Where Is It On? Sportsnet ( The Rumours they tried to cancel covering this game for a Post All-Star Game Breakdown show are 100% false....Honest...No Really)


What Exactly Is The Raptors Future?

My feeling was and has always been that the Raptors plan was to set themselves up to be competitive next season under the new CBA. That being said not sure they could have imagined how bad this season of limbo was going to be. You can not anticipate the fact this team was going to be ravaged with injures. The Raptors with a completely healthy roster were going to struggle to be competitive. It makes it very easy to make excuses for the Raptors but that does not explain a few things away.

One of the first things it does not explain away is the lack of development in Andrea Bargnani on defence. On offence he has at times shown he is capable of getting the job done. Although even of late on that side of the ball he has had issues. He was 5-24 and 0-5 from 3 point range in the Raptors latest loss. But the thing that draws the greatest amount of concern is total lack of effort/ability on the defensive end of the floor. When he and Calderon get isolated in a pick and roll situation defence it is as close to a lock for 2 points as a slam dunk. Something has got to give eventually. If Andrea Bargnani is to be part of the long term plan he must improve on defence it is that simple. During an 11 game losing streak it is easy to point this out when a guy is not busting his butt. People have suggested Bargnani might be hurt during all of this. Fine maybe he is, but if you put on a uniform you bust your butt and give all you have, and he only needs to look at Amir Johnson for proof. He was played banged up and still is giving all that he has every night. If Andrea is not healthy enough to play then don't play. It is not like people are going to accuse him of being Vince Carter if he doesn't. It is not like he is going to cost the Raptors a playoff spot if he doesn't. But if you say you are healthy enough to put on a uniform then you need to play like it. Standing around on defence and watching other people score and rebound is not impressing anyone. Most of all his team mates I would imagine.

All of these injuries and the lack of talent he has had to work with seem to have given Jay Triano a get out of being fired card. But honestly at some point some of these things have to fall at his feet. Injured or not this team has not played defence well as we outlined specifically with Andrea Bargnani. Right or wrong fans have made the point that Sam Mitchell was fired for far less. Should the lack of expectations give Jay Triano a free pass? I respect all that Jay Triano has done as basketball person and even more so as a Canadian doing it. But I have not seen any evidence to suggest I should feel confident in Jay Triano as an NBA Head Coach. He could be a lead assistant on other teams in this league on this level. However does anyone see Jay Triano getting a head coaching job on any other team in the NBA? I honestly don't see it. Does anyone see him as the coach for this team in the long term when hopefully they are competitive. If Bryan Colangelo were not the G.M of this franchise does anyone not think his successor would not make one of his first moves to find a new head coach? I find it hard to believe the answer is yes to any of these. After an 11 game losing streak and a total lack of effort and pride from most of this team at times, when is enough truly enough? This team under Triano on defence has been dreadful. The development of players in terms of defence has been dreadful as well.

Perhaps the one good thing is during all this losing we have seen positive signs in the development of the Raptors two latest first round draft picks. Demar DeRozan and to a lesser extent Ed Davis have shown growth despite all the losing. DeRozan is learning what it takes to be a consistent scorer in this league. Even Triano admitted of late Demar has become the number one option for this team on offence. While he is still very much a work in progress, DeRozan has been smart enough to stick to what he does best. To drive the ball to the basket and if he doesn't get calls, he is still going to keep driving until he does. Mixed in with that, he is improving his jump shot and developing some moves he can count on. It is likely not to the pace that some people would like but he is making progress. The recent game I was at vs the Bucks he did not have a great offensive night. But he kept fighting and was able to do other things to be a factor. Like having 4 steals on defence. He was scrappy to and got himself into foul trouble but found a way to play through that and stay in the game. Andrea Bargnani should take note. If your game is going south on offence you don't just pack it in. You find other ways to contribute.

While Ed Davis has surprised me how quickly he has fit in, given his injuries and missed time he had to start the year. Stephen Brotherston a fellow Hamilton guy wrote a nice feature on Davis for Hoopsworld worth checking out. You hope that Davis can continue to develop those skills of defence, shoot blocking and rebounding. All of which are in short supply on this Raptor roster. Davis in terms of offence can get a lot of it trough crashing the glass and getting out and running on the break when opportunities present themselves. What Ed Davis becomes as a defender will be far more important for the Raptors in terms of his future, then what he becomes on the offensive end. One of the best things that can help a team that lacks true skill on defence is shot blocking. Hedo Turkoglu is not any better a defender since returning to the Orlando Magic. But what he does have is what he had before in Orlando. The Defensive Player of the Year in Dwight Howard backing him up. Comparisons of Davis to Chris Bosh are not that valid. Ultimately Bosh will always be the more talented offensive player. But Davis already has shown signs that he can become a much better defender than Bosh will ever be if he stays on this path.

Jose Calderon has put up numbers on offence but numbers don't equal wins. Kevin Love can tell you that. But what is old is new again in terms of Jose ultimately he has becoming a player that looks like his best days are behind him. His defence is never going to improve to any degree. What you have to wonder is can Jerryd Bayless develop into the future point guard for this team on the other side. Bayless has had his share of struggles with some bright moments at time. He has had his minutes go up and down like a yo-yo based on Calderon's health or lack of it. As things become crystal clear as to the outlook for this season, you would hope that we see more of Bayless down the stretch. The Raptors could very well have 40 losses by the All-Star Break and if the shift for this team turns to development it would not be surprising. That is what should happen even now, you could make the case it should become the focus. It might already be when you consider that Gaines and Johnson have come in from D-League. But that was as much for injuries than trying to find a diamond in the rough.

Prior to the latest loss for the Raptors a debate broke out on Twitter upon hearing the news that Sonny Weems would be reclaiming his starting role that he lost due to his back injury. It seems a no brainer to me that this would happen. Kleiza is injured and not part of the conversation. So that leaves you with Julian Wright. While we can all respect the hustle and effort of Julian Wright he is not going to be the answer for the Raptors at the wing spot. It is unlikely that Sonny Weems will be as well I realize. But the Raptors have an important choice to make in terms of Weems after this season. His current deal comes to an end and the Raptors need to decide if he is part of their future. Weems is one of the Trio known as the Young Onez and his relationship with this teams rising star in DeRozan is well documented. This is not to suggest that Weems should not have to earn a new contract. He should have to do that, but by starting Julian Wright in front of him is only going to serve to demoralize a guy that has had to deal with an injury for an extended period. It use to be in sports you could never lose your spot to injury. But those days are long gone, but if you look at Raptors history they have had issues with this before. Anyone remember T.J Ford and Jose Calderon? Bottom line of all of this is if you are going to decide not to keep Sonny Weems, you need to be 100% sure about it. Obviously you know at least 2 guys in that locker room that want to see him back. So Raptors need to be 100% certain they are willing to do something that would not exactly be popular with those players in Johnson and DeRozan. Yes you need to do what is best for this franchise, and yes sports is a business and ultimately these two guys will accept it. However, what is lost in this modern world is the game is still about people and relationships and if you are going to destroy some of those relationships you better be certain about it.

Finally back to where we started this story. Colangelo has clearly positioned this franchise for next season. If you are expecting some move that will blow off your socks at the deadline, don't hold your breath. If Colangelo can build on the equity/cap space he will do so. But in terms of this season it will not even be on his radar. What is interesting though is Colangelo has still yet to sign on the bottom line to remain in control of this franchsie. It has been said to be a formality by all sides involved. But if that is the case why is it not done already? Rumours have been out there that Knicks may want Bryan or Bryan's dad Jerry to come in and run the Knicks. But be it Colangelo running the Raptors next year or someone else. Bryan has positioned the team well to be competitive under a new CBA, assuming the owners get some of the things they are after.

I am not sure if Colangelo shares in my dream for the Raptors future. But after the Raptors loss I took in 2 of "Canada's Big 3" playing at Texas. Cory Joesph and Tristan Thompson unlike the Raptors got a win over the Missouri Tigers in a Big 12 battle. Myck Kabongo is doing his thing at Finley Prep heading to Texas next fall. Kevin Durant thinks these 3 kids are good enough to make the NBA which is good enough for me. They also have enough pride in where they come from to want to be Raptors. One of the things that has been lacking of late with the Raptors of late is pride. Maybe it takes a Canadian or group of Canadians to understand what it means to be a Raptor. We always hear about Celtic Pride. If you add some Canadians in this franchise maybe they can spark some Raptor Pride for everyone. You can feel a lot more confident that once they get here, if they do, they are not going to want to leave. The Choices the Raptors make in terms of these 3 kids, I think might be some of the most important in the history of this franchise. A lot of pressure to put on kids who have never set foot on an NBA floor. But they are Canadians that have become basketball stars on the College and High School levels. Let's face it not many Americans at first glance were going to believe a Canadian Kid not named Nash could ball. But they have started to change minds with a ton of others in the NCAA these days.

You might think I am crazy and that is fine. But I would rather be optimistic about this idea of having Canadian Stars for the Raptors some day. It sure beats trying to figure out how the Raptors are ever going to win a game again this year. It beats worrying about if DeMar DeRozan will be the next one to become great in Toronto and get out as fast as he did. I don't want to believe that it will happen, but given the history of this franchise I find it very hard to fully invest in anyone. That is sad but that is reality. The Raptors reality of late has been very very sad.


Meltdown In Minny and At DNB HQ

Raptors had beat the T-Wolves 12 straight but as Raptor fans have learned of late no streak is safe these days. Was that foreshadowing? You are darn right it was.

Just to get the Rap fan base all riled up naturally Beasley gets the opening hoop. Raps were slugging it out and led 6-5 early make that 8 as Sonny Weems made a basket but missed on next trip on a jumper on the break not a wise choice. Bargnani was not exactly on target from 3 but decided to drive for score. Wish choice and Raps lead 14-11. Oh by the way all you Beasley fans you boy is 1-7 after making that opening score. You still want him? Maybe it is the losing streak but it is another close game with T-Wolves up 19-16. They all seem to be blending together and feeling the same. I was as dead about this game as the Minny crowd was. Bayless with a nice jumper cuts it to a 1 point game. He would blow a lay-up to take the lead but Ajinca would eventually score to give Raps the lead. But T-Wolves would end quarter with a 21-20 lead.

This game just really didn't not have a good vibe for me. No real follow to it and very disjointed. Maybe that is what you get with a team last has lost 10 straight vs team that has lost 6 straight. The team on the 6 game loser was out to a 27-23. Really this was a brutal game both teams shooting in 30% range and T-Wolves on top 34-27 at the mid point on the 2nd Quarter. Thing were getting worse for the Raptors before they were going to get better if they were. T-Wolves were up 42-32. T-Wolves were on a 9-0 run and the lead was up to 13. Raptors were 3-18 in the 2nd Quarter. Raptors were shooting just 28% and should feel fortunate to be down just 10 at the half 42-32.

So after watching some real basketball at the halftime break with Texas taking on the Mizzou and they ended up winning by the way. I was back for the 2nd half. No really I was. But I have no proof to over you as my Internet went down and somewhere floating around in Cyber space is my recap of the 3rd. What I can tell you is in the 3rd things went way south for the Raptors anyway. Being out scored in 3rd 31-20 and a 10 point halftime lead was 21 heading into the final quarter. But I still had no Internet access what to do? To the cloud!!! Nah screw the cloud to Double R aka Ryan who pitched in and summed up anything in the 4th of note as most of you let's be honest had long turned this one off. Take it away Ryan.

The only bright spot for the Raptors in that 4th quarter was the play of Ed Davis. With this game already decided the rook was getting valuable minutes in which to show the coaching staff what he can do. He would finish the game with 15 points, 10 of which can in the fourth quarter. He also had a team high 11 rebounds, which was 8 more than Bargnani’s total on the night, in 6 less minutes of playtime. Whether it was jumpers, tip-ins, layups or dunks, Davis was doing it all in this quarter and if he gets increased minutes in the future, the coaching staff would expect him to mirror if not surpass this fourth performance. The one area where he has to improve if his free throw shooting as he finished 1-4 from the charity stripe, with a couple of those misses coming in the forth quarter. Other than Davis the Raptors pretty much waved the white flag as Soloman Alabi got 7 minutes of playtime and in the end the Timberwolves ended their six-game losing skid and pushed the Raptors skid to 11 games with a 103-87 victory.

It is me again your friendly Dino Blogger aka James Borbath. It was a rough night for the DNB and a rougher night for the Raptors. But we showed more hustle in trying to recap this game than the Raptors did in it. That is the sad reality and what is also very real is the Raptors have lost 11 straight. It gets to the point is hard to imagine where the next Raptor win comes from. Someone joked with me on Twitter were better than the Cavs. Which is true but the only time the Raptors see them is not till some time in April. These are tough times and you have to wonder is there ever a point Jay Triano's job security becomes an issue? Also what do we do about Andrea and his total lack or ability/effort on defence. When teams run the pick and roll on him and Calderon it is almost as sure a 2 points as slam dunk.

No Love No Love!!!

After watching Andrew Bogut tear through the Raptors now they face Kevin Love. Minnesota has their own losing streak to worry about losing 6 straight including their own heartbreaking OT loss to OKC on Wednesday and a loss to the Jazz last night. I am sure more than one person will mention the fact the Raptors could have had Michael Beasley as part of a Bosh sign and trade with Miami. He is coming off a career high 7 assists vs OKC on Wednesday. he had 16 points and 11 rebounds in that loss to the Jazz and has really had a nice season with Minnesota the only team that wanted him it appeared. Beasley the former 2nd overall pick is averaging a career high 20.6 points and career high 2.1 assists. Retrospect is a beautiful thing but given his off the court track record the Raptors along with 27 other NBA teams were not willing to take the risk. There was also probably some thought in not wanting to help out Miami. They were desperate to unload him in order to construct their Big 3 and friends roster. Speaking of career highs Kevin Love has those in both points and rebounds. He leads the league averaging 15.7 rebounds and is averaging 21.6 points that is a heck of a double double. he is on a streak of 32 straight double doubles. They also have Darko so a lot of big bodies to deal with for Toronto and despite 10-36 record this could be tough match up.

The Basics: Raptors 13-34 (Last Win On Road Jan 5th) T-Wolves 10-36 (6-3 vs East at Home)

When Last We Saw Them: I was there live and in person to watch the Raptors fight hard to get to OT for first time this season. But the problem that was Andrew Bogut continued into overtime. The Big Aussie was far to much for Italy's finest and the Raptors went down to defeat for the 10th straight time first time since a streak from Mar-Apr of 2006. Amir Johnson had a warrior like performance worth noting with season high 24 points.

Key Match-Ups: Simple as this... the boards. Kevin Love is a beast on the glass and the Raptors minus Reggie Evans struggle to complete on the glass. If the Raptors can't rebound they are likely dead. If you don't get rebounds it is hard to get out in transition and run. Unless you create a lot of turnovers which is possible vs T-Wolves. Amir Johnson will likely draw the assignment of Love. They wouldn't put Andrea on him would they? No they can't do that. They just can't. Andrea might have enough issues with Drako who himself was a 2nd pick, one that Detroit still regrets to this day. The other concern will be Beasley who will see a combination of Sonny Weems and Julian Wright tonight.

Other Things of Note: Nothing to do with this game but I have been talking about the Raptors future being in Texas. Well read about your future as Ryan Wolstat from the Sun has a great feature on Cory Joesph and Tristan Thompson. Also of note the two latest members of team blackberry will be in the blog this week. That would be myself and Jack Armstrong. Going to catch up with Jack when the Raptors are in Atlanta. I just wanted to also say that in having access and getting to go in the locker rooms it really changes your prospective. You see how hard these guys are trying to shake this losing streak. It gives you a sense of empathy for them. That being said they know just as much as anyone that they have to break through and get a win some how some way.

Where is it on? TSN (What no post ALL-Star Draft Breakdown show? Shocking)


10 and Counting

As you already know the Raptors come into this game as the losers of 9 straight games and are looking to end this skid before it enters Cavaliers territory. The Bucks on the other hand won their last game and were looking to make it two consecutive wins. The Bucks are also the lowest scoring team in the league while the Raptors are one of the highest scoring. So in a match-up of two opposite teams, who would walk away with the victory? Hopefully Rob Base and James could bring the Raptors some luck tonight and help them put an end to this losing skid. It's also Fan Night at the ACC, so the fans would really like to see the Raptors get the win as well.

This quarter started off with both teams going back and forth trading baskets. The Raptors opened the scoring off a Bargnani jumper, but the Bucks would quickly respond with a Bogut basket to tie the game 2-2. Amir would put the Raps up 5-4 off an And-1 play, but Chris Douglas-Roberts would give the Bucks the lead once again. This would be the trend for several more minutes until the Bucks would eventually start to pull away near the end. Amir was looking great early with 5 points and 4 boards in 5 minutes, while DeMar seemed to be struggling and he would eventually have to sit on the bench for a while after picking up his 2nd foul, both of which were offensive. For the Bucks, Andrew Bogut was looking unstoppable as he was dunking like crazy and helped the Bucks pull away to gain a 10 point game at the end of the quarter. Amir led the Raps with 7 points and 5 boards while Bogut totaled 11 points on 6/7 shooting from the field. For a team that came into this game as the lowest scoring team in the league the Raptors defense was certainly making them look like an offensive force early.

The Raptors would come out in the 2nd with a lot more energy and score 10 straight points to tie the game, led by Jose, Weems and Ajinca. Bogut would stop the bleeding and give the Bucks a 2 point lead. The back and forth trend would kick in once more as both teams would once again trade a series on jumpers, before Ed Davis would give the Raps the lead once more at the 7:13 mark. The recently signed Alexis Ajinca was also making his presence felt and having himself quite a game hitting several jumpers and being a force on the defensive end. He would record 10 points in the quarter. DeMar who was struggling thus far would give the Raps a 4-point lead which was their biggest of the night, of an 18 foot jumper. This lead would get to as much as 8, but the Bucks would battle back, led by Corey Maggette and only trail by 2 at halftime.

Maggette was the Bucks leading scorer at the half with 16 while Ajinca lead the Raps with 10. DeMar and Bargnani wee pretty much silent in that first half so maybe Rob Base's performance at halfime would motivate them in the second half.

Seems like a little Rob Base was all Bargnani needed as he was first to score in the third off, while getting fouled in the process for the And-1. He would make the FT. Bogut would score soon after to cut the lead to 3 points. Once again the back and forth effect would appear and both teams stated trading buckets again. The Bucks would make several surges to take the lead, but the Raps would respond every time and stop the bleeding. Douglas-Roberts would then tie the game at 84 apiece before Amir once again put the Raptors on top by 2. DeRozan was still struggling and would pick up anoter 2 quick fouls, one of which was a questionable offensive foul, and would have to sit once more. After the Bucks once again cut the Raptors lead to one Triano would wisely call a timeout to try and get his team together as the momentum was shifting. This didnt seem to work as Delfino would give the Bucks the lead and they would go on a 14-4 run to end to quarter up 81-78. This doesn't fare for the Raptors as they are 3-27 when trailing after 3 quarters, but would it be different tonight.

Milwaukee would come out firing in the 4th and put the lead to 8 points. A pair of Weems FT's would cut the lead to 6, but Delfino would hit a 3 to push the lead to 9. This lead would peak at 10 as the Raps would always have a response to the Bucks and didn't allow the lead to reach that make again. The Bucks last field goal of the quarter would come at the 2:03 mark off the quarter on a Maggette jumper to put his team up 104-97. The Raptors would then score the last 7 points of the quarter to tie the game with 18.3 seconds left. The tying points came off a pair of Amir FT's. The Raptors had an earlier opportunity to tie the game as they had the numbers gain in transition, but Triano would foolishly call a timeout and thus that opportunity was missed. The Bucks would have to ball for the final possession and have a chance to win the game, but Delfino would lose the ball out of bounds and just like that the Raptors had a chance to win the game with 2.8 seconds left. With a chance to win this game and end the streak, the Raptors would turn to Andrea Bargnani for the final shot, but he would miss a 19-foot jumper and thus this game was sent into overtime.

So the Raptors had yet another chance to win this game and end their 9-game losing streak. OT would start off with 6 consecutive point by Andrew Bogut and ust like that it seemed like the Raptors chances were slipping away, but their resiliency kicked in and they were able to score 6 straight points of their own, 2 by Amir and 4 by DeRozan and we once again had a tied game at 110 apiece. Maggette would hit a three to give the Bucks a 3-point lead, the Raptors would then fail to score and Delfino made 1 of his 2 FT's to give the Bucks a 4-point lead and that was the end of the game, with the final score being 116-110 after a few more Bucks FT's. So the Raptors losing skid has now reached 10 games, but they have a chance to end the skid at 10 as they take on the T-Wolves tomorrow night in Minnesota.

Corey Maggette led the Bucks with 29 points and 10 rebounds, while Andrew Bogut and Ersan Ilyasova chipped in with 25 and 24 points respectively. Amir Johnson paced the Raptors with 24 points and 12 boards and Bargnani added 23.

Raptors Try To Buck The Trend

It is a Friday home game, so that means I am off the ACC and Toronto to cover this one. Raptors are in the midst of a terrible losing streak and moral is low. Eventually the Raptors will win a game again it has to happen right? The last time the Raptors lost 9 straight it was back in 2005 where the Raptors started the season losing 9 straight. In that same season was the last time the Raptors lost 10 in a row from March 26th to April 12th 2006. For a touch of irony that 10 game losing streak began with a loss to the Bucks. Raptors with those 2 huge losing streaks finished the season 27-55. This version of the Raptors is 20 games below .500. They have had 21 different players suit up for the team this year and are pushing to set the record of 24. While the Bucks have been a massive disappointment after making the playoffs last year they made a number of changes and it has not exactly worked out well. Injuries have been part of their story as well with Brandon Jennings having injury issues so much so it got Demar DeRozan into the dunk contest. Along with Jennings, John Salmons and Drew Gooden are listed as day to day.

The Basics: Bucks 17-26 (11-12 vs East) Raptors 13-33 (Lost 9 straight as you may have heard?)

When Last We Saw Them: Raptors played a good first quarter and then that was about it. Demar DeRozan continued his good play of late and Andrea Bargnani didn't play well at all. All the cast of characters you would expect to be a part of a Sixers win were. But most of all the Raptors got crushed in the paint.

Key Match Ups: Coming off a loss in which the Raptors got owned in the paint this is pretty easy. Say it with me.....Andrew Bogut. The Raptors better have a plan to stop him. Bogut and Bargnani have some things in common in the sense they both were picked first in weak drafts. But after that there is not much else that is similar. Cory Maggette has struggled with the Bucks but has had some success over the years vs the Raptors. He will hope for a Mike Miller like performance to get him going. No Brandon Jennings should mean advantage Calderon for the Raptors. Keyon Dooling is a big step down from Brandon Jennings. DeRozan vs Chris Douglas-Roberts should be a match-up the Raptors can win as well.

Other Things Of Note: It is January 28th and this is the first time we have seen the Bucks. They will play the Bucks 4 times this season. Bucks won the season series last year 2-1 for what it is worth. Ryan will be doing your re-cap of this on with myself down at the ACC. I will be in search of interviews and try and catch up with Demar DeRozan and get his thoughts on heading home for the All-Star game to compete in the Dunk Contest. It is unlikely the Raptors will be involved in the game on Sunday but Demar should be front and center on both Friday and Saturday. Rob Base is in the house for halftime. Last year it was Vanilla Ice makes you wonder what washed up 90's or 80's Rapper they will dig up next year? With Demar DeRozan being from Compton what is Eazy E doing these days? Well wait that might not be that family friendly would it.

Where is it on? TSN 2 (NHL is having their All-Star draft. OH SO SAD I WILL MISS THAT. NBA ALL-STAR WEEKEND > NHL ALLSTAR WEEKEND)


Nothing New, Despite Some New Bodies.

Really this game had all the elements I would have expected in a loss to the Sixers. Jrue Holiday played well. Andrea Iguodala had steals and slams and Lou Williams hit some big time 3's. Not even the Sixers or a 9 game losing streak can stop the development of Demar DeRozan. Sixers had 7 players in double figures including all 4 players they used off the bench. Raptors had no answer for Marreese Speights and just in general were allowing to many easy buckets in the paint.

As for the new Raptors at least on first glance I predict Trey Johnson will not last for a 2nd contract for 10 days if he plays like that. Just wasn't all that impressed but to be fair probably had a lot on of nerves for this one. He was 1-4 with 3 points and 2 turnovers in about 12 minutes and I was as I said under whelmed with the performance. As for Alexis Ajinca he barely saw the floor but it was long enough to get a dunk,steal, rebound and 2 fouls in under 6 minutes. Honestly hard to evaluate based on that but he does look big out there and like the fact he was not afraid to foul.

I think my greatest concern about this game was more the reaction to it. I live blogged it for The Score mobile and normally our audience is engaged and has tons to say during Raptor games. Last night there was hardly any of that and the result was almost expected by folks. Even myself I found that I personally have become numb to the losing. Raptors have the 2nd longest losing streak in the league at 9 games and Cleveland the only team worse as their losing streak sits at 18.

Raptors really only showed up on defence in 1st Quarter and after that the Sixers busted it wide open with easy transition points (30 fast break points) and easy points in the paint which was 56 points I believe.

Home or Away the Raptors can't seem to win anywhere of late. That was the 4th straight loss at home and it is just a case of a team that lacks the talent to compete night in and night out. The injuries have been costly with No Reggie Evans, Barbosa Klezia and until recently Weems. But still it doesn't take away from the frustration. Once the Sixers made the run to take the lead in the 2nd quarter you never had the impression that Raptors were going to win. It was the right impression as well as the Raptors didn't win losing 107-94 to Philly.

"Behind Enemy Lines"

Who do you think is the most valuable team in the NBA right now? Miami fans may say the Heat and while it is true they had the hugest jump in value percentage, they still sit in the seventh spot according to a recent report. Give up? The New York Knicks. They have jumped over the Lakers for top spot as the most valuable franchise in the NBA. Forbes magazine ranks them as number one and valued at $655 million due to an increase in ticket sales and sponsorships at Madison Square Garden. The most troubling part of their report? According to Forbes, 17 of 30 teams in the NBA lost money last season. Unbelievable. More than half the teams in the NBA? Good news for the Raptors, they sit at 10th on Forbes most valuable NBA team list. Let's hope one day that's their rank in league play. This week, the Raptors take on the Bucks, Timberwolves, Pacers and Hawks. Let's get at it.

Milwaukee Bucks @Toronto Raptors - Friday, January 28
  • This will be the first time the Bucks and Raptors will meet this season.
  • As of Thursday, the Bucks are 17-26 and 9th in Eastern Conference (5 spots ahead of the Raptors).
  • Milwaukee notable: Bucks signed guard Garett Temple to a 10-day contract. Temple, 24 years old, has appeared in 30 games with San Antonio, Houston and Sacramento over the past two seasons.
  • Milwaukee Inactive List: Brandon Jennings (left foot), Drew Gooden (left foot) and Michael Redd. John Salmons has been out with a right hip injury but was rostered against the Hawks this week but no playing minutes logged.
  • Raptors need to watch: Garett Temple. He started the fourth quarter against the Hawks this week after only one practice since being signed to the team Tuesday. He made a solid impact on their defense in the dying minutes of that game.
  • Key for the Raptors: The Bucks are putting on a happy face. They have lost 10 games in their last 15 and the Raptors need to play consistent and push the right buttons.
Toronto Raptors @Minnesota Timberwolves - Saturday, January 29

  • This will be the first time the Timberwolves and Raptors will meet this season.
  • As of Thursday, the Timberwolves are at the bottom of the West, 10 and 35.
  • Timberwolves Head Coach Kurt Rambis has been like the Wayne Gretzky of the coaching world this season. Lots of talent and experience coaching a less than mediocre team. (Rambis was 14 years in the NBA as a player, 9 seasons with the Lakers. He spent 7 seasons as an assistant coach with the Lakers beside Phil Jackson before coming to Minnesota).
  • Timberwolves Inactive List: Lazar Hayward and Kosta Koufos.
  • Raptors need to watch: Forward Kevin Love. He had 31 points, 21 rebounds and shot 3 for 3 from behind the 3 point line for the Wolves against the Thunder during their last meeting.
  • Key for the Raptors: This team is fighting stay alive but this is the kind of team that can be the most dangerous and unpredictable. They have nothing to loose. The Raptors need to make sure they do loose by sustaining a lead of at least 10 throughout the game - not letting the lead change hands.

Toronto Raptors @Indiana Pacers - Monday, January 31

  • The Pacers and Raptors have met once already this season on December 6th. Pacers took it 124-100.
  • The Raptors edged them in the 3rd quarter of this game in points but the Pacers held on in the rest.
  • During this last meeting, the starting Pacers were all in double digits: Danny Granger put up 21 points. Only the Raptors top three saw double: Jose Calderon also had 21.
  • Indiana Inactive List: Dahntay Jones, Josh McRoberts and Lance Stephenson.
  • Raptors need to watch: Brandon Rush. He had 26 points off the Pacers bench against the Raptors in December.
  • Key for Raptors: Have a stronger bench. Barbosa and Bayless both had twelve points each off the bench when they last met the Pacers. They need to be able to go the distance with this team.

Toronto Raptors @ Atlanta Hawks - Wednesday, February 2
  • The Hawks and Raptors met twice already this season. Toronto lost both times.
  • During their last meeting on November 28th, Atlanta lead the first 3 quarters in scoring. Toronto tried to rally in the 4rth but it wasn't enough. Final score 96-73 Hawks.
  • Top four Hawks in double digit points versus two in the Raptors line-up. It was Bargnani and DeRozan for the Raptors.
  • As of Thursday, Atlanta is 5th in the East at 29 and 17.
  • Hawks Inactive List: Josh Powell, Pape Sy and Marvin Williams.
  • Key for Raptors: Don't let them have the lead for more than one quarter if that. On their first meeting of the season on November 28th, Atlanta lead the scoring in the 1st and 4rth quarters and lead the first three in the second meeting. The Raptors need to pace themselves, no costly turnovers and be strong in the fourth.

As always, thank you for joining me. Please keep your comments and suggestions coming on Twitter (@ddegraauw) and on Facebook (Danielle de Graauw, purple jacket/red microphone). Have a great weekend and see you again on Tuesday for more NBA coverage in "NBAz in 7 Dayz".


Good Bye Gaines, Hello Johnson

As Doug Smith had suggested has become the reality of things Gains has been released in order for the Raptors to sign Trey Johnson. Calderon's health seemed to be the reason Gaines was able to pick up another 10 day contract. But with Calderon expected to play that gave the green light to send Gaines packing in favour of Johnson. Here is all the details from the Raptors Press Release:

The Toronto Raptors announced Wednesday they have signed guard Trey Johnson to a 10-day contract. He is the sixth GATORADE Call-Up of the 2010-11 NBA Development League season. To make room on the roster the Raptors released Sundiata Gaines early from his 10-day contract. Johnson, 6-foot-5, 215 pounds is the leading scorer in the D-League this season averaging 25.8 points for the Bakersfield Jam. He has scored in double-digits in each of his 26 games, posting 20 or more points on 22 occasions and 30 or more in five games and a season-best 43 on December 15 at Austin. Johnson is also averaging 4.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists while shooting .510 percent from the field. Johnson is in his fourth season with the Jam. He owns career D-League averages of 20.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists in 36.2 minutes. His head coach during the 2007-08 season was current Raptors assistant coach Scott Roth. A product of Jackson State in Mississippi, Johnson played four games with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2008-09 campaign totaling four points and one rebound. In October he went to training camp with the Los Angeles Lakers.Gaines was signed to a second 10-day contract Monday. He appeared in six contests with the Raptors averaging 5.8 points, 1.8 assists and 15.0 minutes.Toronto’s roster stands at 15 players.

So Johnson becomes the 21st new names to be added to the list. The last season anything like this one was 97/98 where Raptors had 24 different faces in their line up. That gem came to me from Zack Cooper via twitter @ZCooperstown. Our DNB Guest always lending me a helping hand. Speaking of Gems here is a recent post game interview with Johnson talking about ironically the chance of being called up to the NBA. Interview was post game after a D-League game about a week ago.

So welcome to the latest Raptor will see if he sticks around. Raptors take on the Sixers tonight and I will still be doing it for The Score.com and ScoreMobile.

DNB Top Ten: Power Forwards

This week we'll be taking a look at the top 10 PF's in the NBA currently. This season we have seen several PF's take their game up to another level, some have seen their starts decrease, but still continue to produce efficient, while others have maintained the level of play we have seen from them in the last few years. There has also been a rookie PF who has taking the NBA by storm, and is giving us all a glimpse of the future of the position. But when it is all said and done, just who is the best PF in the league and who will be left out of this top 10? Let's find out.

1. Dirk Nowitzki ( 24.3 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.7 BPG)
Probably the most efficient and consistent of all current PF's, Dirk has once again shown that he's amongst the NBA's elite players. In his 13 seasons in the league he has averaged 21+ points in 11 on those season and has helped lead the Mavs to 10 straight seasons of 50+ wins. He is also one of the most clutch players in the league, first amongst PF's, and a annual All-Star. This season he is looking to lead the Mavs to another 50+ win season and their first franchise NBA championship. With his efficient play and the assistance of Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Tyson Chandler and Caron Butler(if he's back in time), the Mavs could be a solid contender come playoffs time, if they don't underachieve again.

2. Amar'e Stoudemire ( 26.1 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 2.7 APG, 2.3 BPG)
After leaving Phoenix in the offseason to sign with the Knicks, many questioned whether Amar'e would be able to play without Steve Nash or be as efficient without him. Those questions have quickly ceased because Amar'e has stepped out of Nash's shadow and shown that he doesn't need him to be a great player. Averaging career highs in points, assists and blocks this season, Amar'e along with Felton, Gallinari and Chandler have helped make the Knicks relevant again and have pushed them into playoff contention. Though they are a long-shot from being a title contender with the level of defense they play, or don't play, at least Amar'e has given Knick's fans something to cheer about again, that isn't the NBA draft.

3. Pau Gasol ( 18.6 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.9 BPG)
Since the Lakers acquired Gasol in the 2007-08 season they have gone on to win two NBA championships and have made three straight appearances to the NBA finals. After being called soft in that first finals appearance Gasol has responded and shown that he can be a physical player and a huge part of the Lakers success. With Kobe leading the way, Gasol and the Lakers are looking towards completing a 3-peat this season and the franchise's 17th championship. Who would have thought that in 4 seasons, Gasol would have been a 2-time NBA champion and on his way to being a 3-time champ.

4. Tim Duncan ( 13.6 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 3.1 APG, 2.0 BPG)
A 4-time NBA champion, 3-time Finals MVP, 2-time regular season MVP, 12 time All-Star, just to name a few of his accolades, Tim Duncan is as good as it gets. He can score, rebound and most importantly play defense. He is also the master of his patented off-the-backboard jumpshot. Even though he is currently averaging career lows in both points and rebounds, Duncan still remains a crucial part of the Spurs offense and along with Parker, Ginobli and a a huge supporting cast, plan on leading the spurs to their 5th franchise NBA title. Currently with the best record in the entire NBA the spurs are poised to doing just that, unless a team out West finds a way to get past them in the playoffs.

5. Kevin Garnett ( 15.1 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.7 BPG)
As the backbone to the Celtics defensive intensity, KG is probably the most intimidating PF to go up against. With his death-stare, ferociousness and well-known potty-mouth he can get under the skin of any opposing player, whether it be a PF or PG (just ask Jose Calderon) and it is this trait that makes him one of the bests at this position. And did I mention that he possesses a great offensive game. Though it seems like Shaq may be softening him a bit off the court and on the sidelines, he still remains a beast on the court on a nightly basis. The one thing that may hinder the Celtics hope of claiming another NBA title will be his health. If he can stay healthy they are almost a shoe-in to win the East, if they can get by the Heat and Magic that is, and head to the Finals once again.

6. Chris Bosh (18.6 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1,9 APG, 0.7 BPG)
Yes his stats have dropped significantly from last season, but what did we expect when he decided to take his talents to South Beach. Though some may say that he's just riding the coattails of Wade and Lebron, Bosh has been producing efficiently and is still one of the best at the PF position. With a lethal jumpshot that extends to three point range and the ability to use his quickness to get to the bucket and the FT line, Bosh is a match-up nightmare for many opposing players. If his rebounding numbers were in the 10+ range maybe he would have cracked the top 5 on this list, but for now he'll have to settle for 6th.

7. Carlos Boozer ( 19.9 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.4 BPG)
After missing a good portion of the first half of the season, Boozer has returned to show that he is indeed a top-notch PF in this league. In the 27 games he has played, he has recorded 17 double doubles and has proven to be a great compliment to Derrick Rose. With the Bulls off to their best start in years, Boozer, Rose and Noah plan on leading them to the NBA finals and winning the franchise's 1st championship since the MJ era in Chicago.

8. Blake Griffin (22.8 PPG, 12.9 RPG, 3.5 APG, 0.6 BPG)
After being out all of last season with an injury, this kid has shown this season that he is gonna be a star in this league. With the Rookie of the Year award already guaranteed to be his and already talk of him being an All-Star this season, Blake has a pretty bright future ahead of him, even if he does play for the Clippers, who have been playing better as of late. Currently 2nd overall in the league in double-doubles with 36, ahead of the likes of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, he has also shown that he can be a dominant rebounder in this league and has a pretty good offensive game which includes a jumper. If he keeps improving and the clippers keep that core of him, Gordon, Baron and the other young guys, it won't be too long until the Clippers will be known a a playoff contender and not "that other LA team."

9. LaMarcus Aldridge (21.1 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.2 BPG)
With the injuries to Brandon Roy and Greg Oden, just to name a few, the Blazers needed someone to step on and help carry the load and Aldridge did just that. Currently averaging career highs in points, rebounds and minutes, he has become a key part to this Blazers team. Like many of today's PF's his game revolves around his jumpshot, but he has the ability to get in the post and to the FT line with his quickness. With this only being his 5th season in the league he can still get better, and if Roy and Oden can regain their form, this Blazers team could make some noise in the West once again.

10. David West ( 19.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.0 BPG)
As a key part of the Hornets team, West is also starting to show that he can be a clutch player also and hitting several game winners this season with the most recent coming against OKC on Monday. Though his defense is not the greatest and there are nights when he can disappear in games, he is still a tough match-up for opposing PF's. Along with CP3 he has helped lead the Hornets to 9 straight victories in which they moved into the 5th seed out West. Come playoff time we'll see if he can keep up his performance, but as for now he remains one of the top PF's in the league.

We'll there you have it, the top 10 PF's currently in the NBA. Whether they are the go-to guy of just a complimentary player, these guys have shown that they can produce efficiently and effectively for their teams and play a huge role in the success of their respective teams. Stay tuned for next weeks installment.


After awhile you just forget what it was like when your team wins a game. If this happens you are in the middle of a long season. In case you forgot last time it happened it was against the Sacramento Kings on January 9th 2011. Since then the Raptors have not made it to the winner's circle. Although they have had some great efforts in attempting to do so. Tonight's opponent can relate to how the Raptors feel. The Sixers limped out of the gate but have battled there way to a playoff spot in the pitiful Eastern Conference. Doug Collins has been known as a guy that can make teams instantly better. He has never been a guy that has been able to lead a team to ultimate success though. But if you want a good coach to change the culture of your organization he has an excellent track record. The Raptors roster for tonight will be a bit of mystery and that is not new. Alexis Ajinca the latest Raptor did not practice with his new team yet and then you have you long list of injured, sick and recovering Raptors. Toronto does have a 2-0 series lead on the season. But those games came early in the year and roster is much different both in terms of health and the Raptors roster moves since.

The Basics: Philadelphia 19-25 (5-18 on Road) Raptors 13-32 (1-9 in Last 10)

When Last We Saw Them: This Happened (Be Advised Language in This Clip)....

Some how that makes this loss sting a little less. As you saw Rudy Gay hit a game winner and sunk the Raptors. It was the 8th straight loss and 3rd straight at home. Normally I will not post things with profanity but that was just to funny not too post f-bombs or not.

Key Match-Ups: Thankfully for the guy in that clip...no Rudy Gay to worry about. But there will be Jrue Holiday to deal with for Bayless or Jose depending on the status of Calderon. I admit I am surprised and how Holiday has developed. I remember he was one of the guys that got a lot of talk for the Raptors to select in his draft year. I was not a fan of the idea of him as Raptor. But he has proven me wrong. He may not be Russell Westbrook but he is pretty good to decent in his own right. Andre Iguodala has had a down year by his standards but he always seems to show up when he sees those Raptor Jerseys on the other end of the floor. Again depending on who is healthy they will have a tough time with him passed on his history against the Raptors alone. Also beware of Lou Williams coming off the bench he gets hot shooting and he could go off like a Mike Miller did to the Raptors.

Other Things Of Note: Sixers come in off wins over the Suns and Jazz after dropping a contest to Bobcats who sit just behind them is the Eastern Conference Playoff race. Sixers unlike the Raptors have had the good fortune of health having only 29 man games lost due to injury or suspension. After a 3-13 start the Sixers are 16-12 since.

I will be Liveblogging this game for The Score.com and ScoreMobile and you can join me by clicking this link as we will get rolling just about 10 minutes before 7pm. At that time will have all the roster news for this one.

Where Is It On? TSN 2 (Wayne Gretzky's Birthday is a National Holiday for TSN so this is understandable....Happy B-Day Wayne)


Why You Should Be Happy The Streak Is Over

It is an old expression by now in basketball and it goes like this "You live by the 3 and you will die by the 3". Many of us are not old enough to remember that the 3 point shot has not always been a part of the sport of basketball. It something you need to keep in mind when you evaluate the players of today. For instance Vince Carter recently passed 20,000 points. He has 1,368 made 3 pointers 681 of those as a Raptor. If the shot did not exist you could minus that 1,368 from his point total. But more to the point in his career he is 37.5% from behind the arc and 44.5% overall. Almost any player your care to research will have a higher FG% than 3% and it is just common sense. The closer you are able to get to the basket the more likely you are to make a shot. Also if you think back to his Raptor career what was one of criticisms of Carter. Well yeah his overall toughness and heart. But he was also taken to task for not driving as much as he did early in his career and settling for 3 point shots.

So why have we applauded this team for basically doing the same thing in keeping this streak alive? I did the research last night and shared it on Twitter. The Raptors record during this 986 game streak is 445-541 that is only a .451 winning percentage. Overall below .500 and yet it is celebrated like it means something. Yes it is an NBA record but where does it rank in significance? I would suggest that it is not to high. Do you think Mark Cuban will make such a big deal if his Mavericks eventual pass the Raptors and take over this streak? Mark Cuban only wants one thing and cares about one thing and that is an NBA Championship. It always should be about winning. Records of any kind are insignificant if they are not attached to winning.

While many have lamented at the fact that Demar DeRozan is not a capable three point shooter it is something that concerns me far less. In his career he has only attempted 41 times from 3 point range and converted just 6 times for a percentage that is 14.6%. I will admit that needs to improve but it is not life and death. Here is what you should be excited about in terms of DeRozan. Last season he got to the free throw line 194 times and already this season just past the half way mark has got there 225 times. He has converted 323 times overall when getting to that line. That adds up to 77.1% free throw percentage. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out. Making a free throw is far more likely than it is making a three point shot. Sure DeRozan eventually will need to be able to make a 3 point shot but the fact he can consistently get to the line will serve the Raptors far more than even if he became a respectable three point shooter.

The Raptors for years have become dependent on the 3 point shoot and this streak for me was a symbol of that dependence. When you look at the limited amount of success the Raptors have had you can say they have died many more times by the three than they have lived by it. Even in terms of guys like Kleiza and Bargnani we should want to see them post up more and take quality shots. While the 3 point shot can be and effective weapon in the sport of basketball it should be used more economically in terms of offence. Less attempts and more quality attempts. That is a path to consistent performance and ultimately more wins.

Some have said that this streak was all the Raptors had and represents some form of accomplishment. Sorry but look up next time at the ACC and find that one Division Championship banner. That is an accomplishment that is based on winning. This three point streak is more like having perfect attendance in school. It is great you showed up for school everyday. But if you don't learn anything when you are there does it mean anything? That is in essence what this 3 point streak is and was.

"NBAz in 7 Dayz"

Some people just don't get it. A migraine is different from your average headache. I've heard people equate it to going into labour- when the pain starts, everything else stops. This is why it amazes me Dwayne Wade worked out with the Heat Monday and sat out wearing tinted glasses for the rest of practice. Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said Wade "looked fine" in the workout. 'Looked Fine'? I have had some migraines so bad, someone called 911 because they thought I was having a stroke. During the winter, I even have to wear sunglasses to answer the front door due to the glare off the snow. Well, lucky for Dwayne he works in sun-filled Miami. He still has to deal with the glare of the spotlight on him, his team and from the general public. Speaking of spotlights, there will be one on Blake Griffin, Serge Ibaka, JaVale McGee and now DeMar DeRozan since these are the guys competing in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest on February 19th. Let's talk about this, some All-Star coaches and the Hornets hanging on for dear life.

A New Take on the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

Some people get the February blahs. Me? I love February - NBA All-Star Weekend. Last year it was on Valentine's Day - the most overrated so-called holiday in North America. But nothing is going to be overrated about the 2011 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Originally, it was going to play out like this: Los Angeles Clippers' Blake Griffin, Oklahoma City Thunder's Serge Ibaka, Washington Wizards' JaVale McGee and the Milwaukee Bucks' Brandon Jennings. However, since Jennings has missed 14 games with a broken foot, DeMar DeRozan gets the invite. Both seem cool with the switch since they were all over twitter patting each other on the back. Quite honestly, I thought DeRozan should have been invited to the contest in the first place. He refers to himself as a "finesse dunker" and thinks he has what it takes to take on Griffin, the odds-on favourite. Last year, DeRozan lost the Slam Dunk contest to Nate Robinson. And although DeRozan thinks he should have one that one, it was all Nate. I was a little disappointed though when DeRozan was interviewed about getting the nod. DeRozan mentioned how he was going to possibly use teammate Amir Johnson in his dunk presentation to represent "home" - not Toronto and the Raptors but L.A. where he and Amir are from. Still, he is representing the Toronto Raptors and that says a lot.

This year is going to be interesting. Each of the participants in the Slam Dunk Contest will be paired up with a dunk coach who will work with each respective player and practice leading up to the big day. Blake Griffin is working with TNT analyst and two-time Slam Dunk participant ('90, 91') Kenny Smith, JaVale McGee will work with 5-time NBA All-Star and TNT/NBA TV analyst Chris Webber, Serge Ibaka will prepare with Thunder teammate and '09-'10 NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant and DeMar DeRozan will be with the self-proclaimed "Chocolate Thunder" Darryl Dawkins. DeRozan has the best coach in my opinion. Darryl Dawkins, the former Philadelphia 76ers centre, set the standard in powerful NBA dunks. In 1979, he became the first man to shatter two glass backboards in a month. Best name he gave a dunk? "The Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam, Glass-Breaker-I-am Jam". Wonder what he and DeRozan will come up with - a finesse dunker paired with a power dunker? Can't Wait. We will also get to see a series of videos documenting the dunk preparations each participant leading up to the event. Should be good.

Who is the best Coach from Coast to Coast?

With Slam Dunk 2011 preps underway, who is coaching the East and West teams are almost decided. San Antonio Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich will coach the Western Conference All-Stars for the 2011 NBA All-Star Game which, by the way, is on February 20th at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Look at Popovich's record so far this season: he leads the Spurs to the league's best record, gets Western Conference Coach of the Month honours twice and is seriously looking at another NBA Championship to add to the 4 Championship titles he already has with the Spurs. He has coached the West before - in Denver in 2005 - but lost to the East 125-115. The coach of East All-Stars will be decided by the team with the best record in the conference through games played up until February 6th.

This has got me thinking about who was and will be passed over Coach All-Star honours and who remains in the running for coach of the year. I realize any coach of the year discussions for this season has to begin with Gregg Popovich. Last year, San Antonio ended the season with 50 wins and the 2011 Spurs are 15 games away from that only half way through the season. Some might say L.A. Lakers Head Coach Phil Jackson should be thrown in for posterity and experience but he has more competition this year. What about Stan Van Gundy? Call me crazy, but as Head Coach of the Orlando Magic, he hasn't won an NBA Championship but the Magic play well together as a team and continuously perform at a substantially high level. How about Vinny Del Negro? The Clippers may have once been the but of everyone's jokes in the NBA but as a Head Coach this year, Del Negro has lead his squad to a respectable level of wins after a horrendous start to the season - and it does help having Griffin in the line -up putting on a show. However, given all of the above, if I had to vote for Coach of the Year right now it would be...(drum roll)...George Karl, Head Coach of the Denver Nuggets. He is the consummate example of what it means to battle back from adversity. Think of the daily "Where's Carmelo going?" updates he's had to deal with. Coach Karl has kept his team focused and ready to contend for a division title. On top of everything he's had to deal with concerning his health this year, he deserves it. I'm not saying he deserves it for that reason alone but look at what happened to Pat Burns and being passed over for the Hockey Hall of Fame - cancer took his life and now they are talking about a Hall of Fame induction the next time around? Coach Karl is doing well now, but he deserves it for what he has built within his squad and for the amount of respect he commands from the organization. Hands down.

Hornets are Hangin' On

Those who care about the NBA in New Orleans are celebrating today since attendance benchmarks were met which will prevent the Hornets from leaving New Orleans after this season. The Hornet's lease runs through 2014, but if less than an average of 14, 735 fans show up to games for a two-season period, the team has the choice of opting out of the lease. The period for calculating the average ends at the end of January, hence the early celebrations. But they have the Saints of the NFL to thank for the thread of support they are clinging to. The spike in attendance just happened to fall during the period the Saints would have been in the playoffs and since the Saints were not playing football, New Orleans turned to basketball. Plain and simple. It's a shame, really. New Orleans is third n the West and won 9 straight games from January 9 - January 24th. I wonder why some people don't know what they have until it's about to skip town.

Thank-you for joining me today. As always, keep your comments coming on Facebook (Danielle de Graauw) and on Twitter (@ddegraauw). Join me again on Thursday for more Raptors' opponent analysis in "Behind Enemy Lines" right here on the DNB.


The Streak Is OVER!!!

If we went through all the roster moves today we may not get to the re-cap. But it appears in the coles notes version Gaines is back on his 2nd time around 10 day contract but will be released for Trey Johnson to sign tomorrow. Why is that? Jose Calderon is a no go with the flu, a cold or something like that. We can only hope he gave it to Chris Bosh. Anyway Sonny Weems is back from his back but Julian Wright will get the start and so will Jerryd Bayless with no Jose.

Well decent start as DeRozan and Bargnani both had buckets and Raptors had an 8-2 lead and Bayless had an assist on every bucket. Grizzlies got back in the hunt and cut the lead to just 1 at with score 10-9. Bayless would stick a jumper and he was doing an amazing job running this club. The Raptor had built a 18-11 lead with J.B (Not me) at the controls. Mayo would hit a 3 and get the Grizz going pushing back in this one. A time out with score Raptors 22 Grizzlies 18 so far so good at the ACC. Grizzlies kept coming and O.J Mayo who has had his struggles was a big part of the comeback to even this game up at 24. A Bayless turnover late and the Grizz would have a chance to take the lead after 1 at the line with 2. They would make 1 and take a 25-24 lead into the 2nd Quarter.

Sonny Weems first time on the floor in 2011 came near the start of the 2nd Quarter. He fires up perhaps an ill advised shot but least he is back on the floor. Raps were still fighting from behind 36-30. Derozan and Bargnani were carrying over their performance from in Miami with a combined 22 points. Raptors were in a battle with the Grizzlies and it was 38-37 for Memphis. Raps had a chance to take lead back but Bargnani misses and Ed Davis gets offensive rebound but can't do anything with it. But Davis would get a 2nd chance at it after an empty for Memphis and he would score and draw the foul to put the Raptors back in the lead. This was not a well played game by either side but it was close as the teams were now trading the lead on every possession. Gasol the score and the foul give the Grizz a 49-47 lead. They would hold the lead to the half and take a 51-49 lead to the break.

Andrea Bargnani out on the break on the run way....and he slams it and gets 2's across the board. The judge from Italy gave him a 5 but he was clearly bias. More importantly then my attempt at humour was the Raptors tied this up at 53. But the Grizz would get on a little run and take a 64-58 lead. A time out from Triano and the message was to talk on D and help on D. The play out of the time out was for Double D and he would cash in for 2. Fellow Young Onez member Amir Johnson would make it a 2 point lead. Raps would tie it up and Bayless blew an easy lay up and Grizz take it the other way and score. Bargnani and Gasol trade baskets. Gasol would score again after an ill advised 3 attempt from Jerryd Bayless that did not fall. Raptors struggling down the stretch of this 3rd quarter and the Grizzlies were pulling away. It was 80-74 after 3 and Raptors would need a comeback to avoid their 8th straight loss.

Gaines air balls a 3 and if the rumours are true it won't matter much as he will be gone tomorrow but for this game it mattered a lot. Bayless going for a block took out Mike Conley. He missed both but Grizzlies got the rebound on the miss and score and Grizz up 88-76. Raptors would get on a run and were back in this one. 6-0 run should have been 8 but Wright failed to finish on a lay-up. But Amir Johnson takes a charge on Gasol and give the Raps another chance to continue the run trialling 88-82. The run would march on and Andrea Bargnani would score off a Bayless feed and draw a foul. Makes it and this is an 11-0 run and Raptors were down just 1. Bayless speaking of the number 11 has 11 points and 11 rebounds. DeRozan with a score then a steal and a chance to give the Raptors the lead at the line and he would Raptors lead 92-91 and DeRozan has 23 in the game. A Gay slam in the paint gave the Grizz the lead back. Bayless answered with a 2 and Raps were back on top. Grizz get to the line and make 1 of 2 but a Raptor turnover leads to Conley lay up and the Grizz lead 96-94. DeRozan a big rebound (His 9th) and makes a pair at the line to tie it at 96. Conley again does it for the Grizz with a huge bucket and they led 98-96. Raptors could not cash in on Bayless jumper from the corner for 2. There was 42 seconds left and the Grizzlies had the ball up 2. Raptors would get a stop and Bayless would redeem himself with a score off a screen and roll on the drive. Tied at 98 with 18.1 seconds to play. The Grizz would isolate Rudy Gay on Julian Wright and he would drive and stick a jumper to give the Grizzlies a 100-98 lead. Just .8 seconds left. Raptors would try to get a 3 from Gaines on the inbound play it was blocked and the Raptors fall short and their 3 point streak is dead as well.

Raptors played a good basketball game but not good enough and the snowball keeps rolling down the hill. Tonight proved a point though the Raptors were able to compete and almost win a game without making a single three. I don't mind the Raptors taking 3's but it needs to make sense and can't just be jacking up 3's for no purpose. Maybe now that this streak after 986 games is dead we can focus on being more economically in the use of the shot. Raptors were 0/13 on the night and if even half of those possessions resulted in a higher % shot we are talking about a Raptor win.

I understand many of you will not share my glee in this streak being over, but it seriously meant nothing, and for me was symbol of a team that relied on the 3 point shot far to much for far too many years. This season was and is suppose to be a bout a change in this organization and a new direction for this franchise. So the fact this streak dies is almost fitting in a way. It is a real shame it could not die in a win.

Grizz take it 100-98 and Raps losing streak extends to 8 with an improved Philly club coming to town on Wednesday.

Update On Gaines and Alexis Ajinca

Never assume I guess. It looked like Sundiata Gaines was a goner but he does in fact get a second 10 day contract with the Raptors. Here is the press release just issued by the Raptors:

The Toronto Raptors announced Monday they have signed guard Sundiata Gaines to a second 10-day contract. Gaines was signed to his original 10-day contract on January 13. He appeared in five games with Toronto averaging 5.8 points, 2.0 assists and 14.6 minutes. He had a high of 10 points in back-to-back games January 19 at San Antonio and January 21 at Orlando.Gaines, 6-foot-1,195 pounds has appeared in 45 regular season games with Minnesota, Utah and Toronto averaging 3.5 points, 1.2 assists and 7.9 minutes. He was signed by Minnesota on November 12 and saw action in eight games totaling 21 points, six assists and 65 minutes. He was released by the Timberwolves on January 4. Gaines played in 32 games with Utah in the 2009-10 season. He signed two 10-day contracts with the Jazz in January before being inked for the remainder of the season on January 25. He averaged 3.3 points, 1.2 assists and 6.8 minutes. He appeared in five postseason games where he totaled 11 points (5-for-6 FG) in seven minutes.Gaines also played in the NBDL last season with the Idaho Stampede. He averaged 23.9 points with 4.7 rebounds and 6.9 assists in 14 games. A 2008 product of the University of Georgia, Gaines began his professional career with NGC Cantu in the Italian League in the 2008-09 season. He averaged 13.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 30 outings. Toronto’s roster now stands at 15 players.

Also Mark Cuban is always right. Or at least he was on the Peja signing and trade for Alexis Ajinca trade to Toronto. Here is the press release on that:

The Toronto Raptors announced Monday they have acquired centre Alexis Ajinca (ah-lek-SEE ah-JIN-sa), a future second-round draft pick and cash considerations from the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for the draft rights to forward Giorgos Printezis. In the transaction the Raptors reacquired the second-round selection they sent to Dallas in June for the draft rights to Solomon Alabi. The 22-year-old Ajinca averaged 2.9 points, 1.7 rebounds and 7.5 minutes in 10 games with the Mavericks. He was acquired from Charlotte on July 13, 2010. Ajinca has appeared in 47 regular season games (six starts) with Charlotte and Dallas averaging 2.3 points, 1.1 rebounds and 6.1 minutes. He recorded career highs of 12 points at New Orleans on December 10, 2008 and six rebounds versus Golden State on December 7, 2010. Ajinca, 7-foot-2, 250 pounds, was a first-round draft choice (20th overall) by Charlotte in 2008. HiHes draft stock rose following an impressive showing at the 2008 Nike Hoop Summit. He had 13 points, nine rebounds and three blocks against Team USA. Ajinca has also played in the NBDL with Sioux Falls and Maine. He averaged 13.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.1 blocks and 24.9 minutes in 33 outings. He appeared in the 2010 NBDL All-Star Game. A native of Saint Etienne, France, Ajinca played two seasons in his homeland before joining Charlotte. He was a member of Pau Orthez in 2006-07 and Hyeres-Toulon in 2007-08. He helped lead the French National Team to the Under 16 (2004) and Under 16 (2006) European Championships. The Raptors acquired the rights to Printezis (selected 58th overall) in the 2007 NBA Draft from San Antonio for a future second-round pick.

So who remembered Giorgos Printezis? Anyone. But that ends your Raptor news for now. They still play the Grizzlies to the best of our knowledge at 7pm.

Gaines Out, Johnson In , Ajinca ???

Raptors may be lacking wins this year but not roster moves. It would appear that the Raptors have decided to not renew Gaines to another 10-day contract and have decided to go with another option from the D-League. Trey Johnson is the latest to become a Raptor it would appear. Scott Carefoot of The Score had a link to this article on Fanhouse with info on the latest Raptor. Johnson as you will read he is a combo guard and in effect could play both positions where Gaines likely could not. That would be my guess as to why we see Johnson in and Gaines out. Still no official word from Raptors on Gaines being gone other then we know his 10-day contract ended on Saturday. Also no confirmation on the Johnson signing so if he is in the house for the Raptors game tonight at the ACC vs Memphis is up in the air at this point.

I have to say that with all these guys getting signed to 10 day contracts it gives the Raptors the feel of an expansion team. But we are in year 16 now. Obviously injuries have been a major factor in this as well. Mark Cuban meantime says he is confident the signing of Peja will go through and a move that would see Alexis Ajinca come to the Raptors in a deal. Cuban in the article suggested it could all be done as early as today. But again the Raptors have been silent on this issue as well.

All this news a side I still have groceries to shop for so if any of this gets confirmed check for something from me via Twitter @Dinonationblog. Will have a re-cap of the Raptors and Grizzlies regardless of who happens to be in uniform or not by 7pm.

Just Another Memphis Monday

Raptors return home and maybe can end this losing streak. But wait a second they have lost 8 of the last 10 at home. If you take away the losing streak and what that does to a team mentally their next 5 games are ones I would class as somewhere between winnable and Raptors having a solid chance at a win. Check it out:

  • (21-23) Memphis (At Home)
  • (18-25) Philadelphia (At Home)
  • (16-25) Milwaukee (At Home)
  • (10-33) Minnesota (On The Road)
  • (16-25) Indiana (On The Road)

But there is the fact the Raptors have lost 7 straight and have come close to winning a couple of those games. The last 2 games of the trip it seemed the Raptors had been beaten down and looked like the losing had caught up with them. Tonight vs Memphis is more than just one game it is about putting the 7 losses in the rear view just as much. Losing streaks can just be like a snowball rolling down a hill after awhile just ask the Cavs about that who are currently in a 16 game losing streak. But the Raptors have shown signs they can get out of this but it is not going to be easy. The one thing that has been lacking has been the ability to play a full 48 minutes. An effort like the Raptors had at times vs Atlanta, New Orleans and San Antonio is capable of beating any of the teams listed above.

The Basics: Memphis 21-23 ( 8-16 on Road) Toronto 13-31 (4-11 vs West)

When Last We Saw Them: The Miami/South Beach Heat only needed 1/3 of there Big 3 to take care of the Raptors. The Raptors made a case for the Raptors to have a big 4 as Mike Miller looked every bit an all-star thanks to the Raptors lack of ability to defend him. That along with what you have come to expect from Lebron vs Toronto was more than enough. No Lebron didn't come close to 81 points as Kobe did 5 years earlier but it was enough to get the job done. Raptors had good games offensively from DeRozan and Bargnani but this loss was all about the D or lack of it.

Key Match Ups: About the only thing that Marc Gasol and Andrea Bargnani have in common is they both come from Europe. If you can find two more polar opposites in the NBA at the same position you would be hard pressed. Gasol is a guy that fights and scraps in the paint and is a beast. While Bargnani is new bread finesse highly skilled big man. It makes for an interesting match-up. Rudy Gay vs Kleiza? Wright? Weems? Whoever is healthy that draws the assignment will have a tough job. Gay can be a dynamic player at times and has at times had some element of success vs the Raptors. The overall match-up for the Raptors that is of greatest concern is the on the glass. Memphis has the bodies to give the Raptors a tough time on the boards.

Other Things Of Note: Memphis is riding a 4 game winning streak vs the Raptors in the overall series. The last time they were at the ACC became a big focus of the whole post Bosh fallout. That was the first game after the All-Star Break that Bosh rolled an ankle and remained in the game only to see the Raptors fall in O.T. Bosh pointed to that game as proof of the fact that he had not given up on the team in his final season as a Raptor. Memphis had a 96-85 win to kick off the Raptors post Christmas schedule. In an odd stat the Grizzlies actually have a losing record vs the East at 7-9. The key might be Pizza in this one. Say What? If Raptor fans are eating Pizza they likely are celebrating a win. Memphis is a terrible 3-16 when they allow teams to score 100 points. If they do not then the Grizz are an impressive 18-7.

Where Is It On? TSN (Thankfully TSN no longer has WWE Monday Night Raw and Monday Night Football is Done)


7 And Counting And Frustration Growing

It is hard to remember a more depressing road trip in the history of this franchise. The Toronto Raptors were never expected to be good this season. Love him or hate him Chris Bosh was a 5 time All-Star and the Raptors added nothing to replace him. We got a preview of what the Raptors might look like down the stretch at the end of last season. The Raptors once Bosh was out of the picture last season struggled to hang on to a playoff spot, and lost it eventually with a humiliating loss to Chicago that sealed their fate. Since then Bosh left and went to Miami. While on many levels you can understand why he did, but the lack of class he showed in doing so is really something you can't. Watching him laughing as the Raptors were getting taken a part by his Heat without him and Wade was not exactly fun. Watching Jose Calderon take time out to shake hands and catch up with him, as the Raptors are in the midst of a 7 game losing streak, was not exactly a high moment either. I am not saying that the Raptors have to share peoples hate for Chris Bosh. They honestly don't and it is unrealistic to think they should. But that being said on that floor in front of those cameras you owe it to the fans not to do something like that.

While Bosh is a very easy target for Raptor fans to vent their frustration. The reality is this franchise was ill prepared to have him walk away. The plan B that the Raptors have come up with offers absolutely no hope for this season. Colangelo does have that trade exception and a couple draft picks (1 that he gave to Miami to start with in Shawn Marion Deal ) but none of those things are going to factor into this season. Colangelo has decided that for the Raptors to compete it will be under the New CBA. Where he hopes to see a much more restrictive system that will make the trade exception, and the cap space that having Peja visit Toronto briefly will offer even more value. For the options of free agents to become more limited so Toronto becomes an attractive destination in Free Agency based on the fact they have a ton of money to throw around. In a sense this season is only about hoping the young pieces of this team develop. A loss to Miami is not good but the fact that Demar DeRozan scored 30 was. But what is developing is a losing culture. You hope that it does not stick to all these young players. You wonder if it already has to Andrea Bargnani. His lack of effort to rebound and defend was pretty glaring last night.

You have to wonder also what to make of Jay Triano. People seem very hesitant to blame him for anything. After all look at the hand he has been dealt by Byran Colangelo. This is not a team that has a lot of fully developed talent. The injuries that have plagued this team have added to the sympathy towards Jay Triano. However, eventually at some point we need to evaluate Jay Triano as a head coach don't we? He is an excellent in terms of running plays out of time outs. Which is a great skill for a team that is competitive, but you need to be in games for that to matter. His time out usage is something that has alway driven me nuts. Phil Jackson may be able to let his Lakers play through mistakes, but in case you haven't noticed the Raptors are not the Lakers. This team for it's entire time under Triano has failed to play any kind of acceptable defence on consistent basis. He has made attempts to hide his team's lack of defensive ability with gimmick zones and sometimes it has worked for short periods. But the one thing this team has never done a good job of is guarding the perimeter under his command as head coach. While some people may say it really will serve no purpose to fire Triano there is a case for that. However a few more 40 point losses and really what is the point in keeping in him? I heard a good friend use the argument of stability. Well if you see Jay Triano as a Jerry Sloan you can make that argument. However the track record of Jay Triano as a head coach is really not all that impressive. He did a wonderful job coaching team Canada with the help of an eventual 2 time NBA M.V.P in Steve Nash at point guard. He did a fantastic job in working on the staff for team U.S.A as an assistant. He was a good assistant for a long time here with the Raptors and survived several coaching changes. But his record as the head coach in Toronto is a losing one and you can give him a ton of excuses as to why that is but at the end of the day it has to be about the W's and L's. Triano is a great basketball person but I am not convinced that he is cut out to be a head coach. You can see his frustration growing and I will close by saying on last thing. Sam Mitchell was fired for far less than what Triano has done. The difference is that Sam and Byran Colangelo was an arranged marriage to a point. While Triano was the guy B.C felt shared his views of the game and his philosophy. It might be time to re-think that philosophy and re-think who is your head coach. P.J Carlesimo is capable of steering this ship and get an audition for the job himself if he can prove worthy. But more likely it opens the door for Colangelo to bring in a proven talent. Beyond having Lenny Wilkens the Raptors have never had that. Even in Lenny many would say his best days were behind him by the time he got to Toronto. Spend some of that money that MLSE has to bring in a legit coach with a proven track record.

As for the team itself the most important thing you need to figure out is if DeRozan and Bargnani can play together and become a one, two punch on offence. You also have to figure out if either can improve as a defender. If they can't then you are going to have to decide on who you want to keep moving forward. Having basically 3/5th's of you starting line-up as not even average defenders is a disaster waiting to happen. Calderon, Bargnani and DeRozan on the floor together can not work on defence. If there is one thing that HAS TO CHANGE for this team going forward it is improving on defence. The evidence is there if this team can play good defence they are capable of winning basketball games. Ed Davis eventually can develop into a shot blocking presence for this team. But he is never going to be good enough to be as good as a Dwight Howard who can clean up all the mistakes made by his team on defence.

I also maintain that the Toronto Raptors future is playing at Texas right now. One of the things that the Raptors presence along with some help from Steve Nash's rise to NBA Stardom has done is grow basketball in this country at the grassroots level. Perhaps the best examples of that will be playing at Texas over the next 2 years. Forget what I say about Tristan Thompson, Cory Joesph and coming next year Myck Kabongo. Early in the season I heard Kevin Durant sing their praises and express confidence that all 3 will likely make their way into the NBA. Durant would know having worked with them as they all are tied to the school that he played ball for in the NCAA. The Raptors need to be in a position to draft at least one if not two of these kids. If they were willing to gamble on a coach that is Canadian they need to do the same with players that all come from the Toronto area. Much like Vancouver had the chance to get Steve Nash to bring him home to B.C the Raptors have the same chance to do that with these 3 kids. If they fail to do it as the Grizzlies did they will live to regret it.

The most common problem this franchise has had is keeping it's stars. These are 3 kids that at least have the potential to be stars and are proving it more and more each day. There has never been players in the draft that have wanted to be Raptors. Like Chris Bosh put it Canada is different and you just know it. For players that grew up in the United States that is true. Some will come to love Canada and embrace it. You have seen that attempt being made by the Young Onez to embrace Toronto. But with these kids we are talking about that is not required. In fact the opposite will happen. Toronto and perhaps Canada will embrace them. I think people that cover this team and with in the organization do not truly understand what it would mean to have a native Canadian as part of the Raptors roster. It would engage not just hardcore basketball fans but the fringe fans out there would embrace a Canadian that has a chance to be a star.

But that is a long term future, that may be a few years away. Although the way Tristan and Cory have taken Texas by storm they may have something in common with Kevin Durant in being one and done as Longhorns. But regardless, these kids are the real deal and represent a real chance to give this franchise something it has never had. In general the amount of Canadians in the NCAA is growing, as is the talent level of these players. The Raptors have always brought in a Canadian or two in draft workouts, as more of a token gesture. But the time is coming fast that they will have legit choices to make on Canadian players. If the Raptors fail to make the right choice they may be a franchise that will look a lot like the Grizzlies did for years in Vancouver.

Ultimately talking about the future is really all we have as Raptor fans this year. But the choices the Raptors make heading towards that future will be some of the most vital ones in the history of this franchise. This is truly a low point in the history of this franchise. You hope against hope that it is like the old expression goes that it is always darkest before the dawn.