So it is late in the season. I am tired and need to combine a re-cap and a preview into one. Thanks to folks at St Louis Wings for hosting me for the night for the game with the Thunder. I learned that the Easter Bunny is bigger than the Dino Blogger in two ways. Still, the folks at St Louis Wings have always been great to me and it is a great place to catch a game. Any restaurant/bar that puts basketball first in Canada is a rare gem to find. That said back to business, here are 10 thoughts on what we saw last night and what to expect tonight against the Pacers and beyond.
1. The Result Was Obvious- There was not a doubt in my mind last night's Raptor game would end up with the result it did. The Thunder were in bad need of a win coming in and the Raptors provided that perfect springboard to do just that. OKC had sat a top the Western Conference for the majority of this season and getting passed by the Spurs made losing to the Raptors not an option.
3. Bargnani Tough?- I really am starting to have serious doubts about the future of Andrea Bargnani. Again this calf injury becomes an issue and he sits the 2nd half. No the Raptors were not tanking, as I mentioned earlier this result was an obvious one. I am left to question what kind of pain threshold Bargnani truly has. This is aside from the debate on if he has truly turned the corner as player. Even if I am to believe that, which I remain unconvinced, it becomes a moot point if he is not healthy in the long term. I don't mean to diminish a calf injury but this has become rather ridiculous on some level.
4. James Johnson Saga- I have no idea what James Johnson did. I don't care what he did to be blunt. I do support what Casey has done in sending a message. That said enough already. It was pretty hilarious watching the Raptors try and guard Kevin Durant with James Johnson on the bench. Matching the potential MVP of league on a 10 day contract player is not just punishing Johnson, it is punishing the team as a whole. Casey was quick to get him in there. Let's all move on now though and give Johnson his spot back. Credit to both Casey and Johnson, along with team for keeping whatever happened on the down low. Sure we all would like to know what happened but honestly we really don't need to know.
5. Jaamal's Impact- If I hear one more time this year about the impact of Jaamal Magloire, I swear that I am going to puke. Tell me has there ever been a player in the history of this team praised for doing so little? I mean seriously. I guess it is a situation not unlike the one with Jay Triano, in which because he is Canadian people are wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt. Here is what he has been in reality. A trash talking tough guy that still knows how to commit a foul in the NBA and can occasionally show you he use to be a good to great player 10 years ago. That is all. He likely isn't coming back and I would seriously wonder if the Raptors had not come along, if he is even in the league at all. Sadly this is the guy that will go in the history books as the first ever Canadian Raptor. It makes me sad for all the young up and coming talent we have in this country that could have been that. The only old Canadian I would want to have that honour played basketball for his country and is a two time NBA MVP.
6. Barbosa Is Back- If you are not at least a little happy for Leandro Barbosa getting a chance to play for a playoff team you may have no soul. This is a guy that game here and never once complained and went out and did his job for the past couple seasons. Given this crazy NBA Sked, I confess I have not seen much of Barbosa since leaving. But based on the boxscores and random comments I see on Twitter he is doing what he does in Indiana and I am happy for him.
7. Roy Hibbert- I have said this consistently for awhile, it pains me to watch this guy play and know he will go down as a draft pick of the Toronto Raptors. Now it should be noted if not for the trade with the Pacers he would have never been picked by the Raptors. They felt he was too slow for their up tempo style of basketball at the time. That said, I at the time thought he was a great answer for the Raptors at center. He is never going to blow you away but he does all the things that you would hope that a center would do. On top of that having met him once he is a pretty great young man. Georgetown has not produced to many stiffs at the Center position over the years. It is one of the safest bets in the NBA draft when you take a center out of Georgetown. When you look back on that trade that brought J.O to Toronto the biggest loss in it was Roy Hibbert.
8. Raptors Can Be Spoilers- When you look at the Schedule remaining the Raptors could have a impact on the playoff race. Starting tonight with Pacers two games ahead of Boston for 3rd in the East, followed with games vs Sixers, Celtics, Hawks twice, Heat and Bucks. It gives you some motivation to go out there and try and win games. It is also the reason that people hate tanking in general. Tanking has an impact on the teams that are actually in the playoff race. This is why David Stern needs to step in and do something dramatic to the NBA Lottery System. It was designed to prevent this sort of thing. Still if you look around the league it isn't working. The concept of tanking is talked about far more than it ever was back in 1985 when there was legit concern teams would tank to land Patrick Ewing one of those Georgetown centers we mentioned earlier. I say this with all due respect to Anthony Davis, if he has half the career the Patrick Ewing had, he would be a fortunate young man. However, with all the hype surrounding him you would think he was better than that and going to project to be the next superstar of the NBA. I would venture to say that is vastly optimistic. He could turn into a fine NBA player and likely should. That said is he going to be better than a hall of famer or some great recent top picks? I don't see that. Don't believe me it is ok. I will rest easy knowing that I also never was impressed with this guy named Greg Oden and said Kevin Durant would be better. I am sure that I was laughed at for that and I will use the obvious line of who is laughing now?
9. Reality Math- What we knew before this season even started is now fact. The Raptors based on their loss in OKC and some other things last night have officially been eliminated from the playoffs. Still with nine games left which for fans feel pretty pointless, it is still important for some folks on this team. No matter what happens in these final games it will not change the fact this summer is going to be a huge off-season for the Raptors. What guys do down the stretch of the season may help shape/decide if they are going to be a part of this team moving forward. If for no other reason than that, this is ultimately why the concept of tanking is stupid. Players fighting for jobs and their place in the food chain are not going out to try and lose or even think of losing. Especially when you look at guys on 10 day contracts. They are fighting for their very NBA lives every night and day they step on the floor.
10. Time Flies Even When Your Losing- At some points this season has been very painful to endure. The losing combined with this crazy schedule can make your head spin. At least it has seemed to go by fairly quickly and the fact this NBA Season was only 66 games and not 82 games was a blessing given the state of this franchise. There has been so much blind hope for the future this year, it has bordered on the insane. While I do think the Raptors are heading in the right direction, the speed in which some think things will change is likely not going to be the reality. As bad as this season has been the Raptors ultimately did improve as hard as that is to believe at times. It speaks to how bad they were last season and how much it was needed to make a coaching change. I was one of the few that had been saying that long before it was cool. Funny how the people that weren't in favour all love Dwane Casey now and the change in direction of this franchise. I think one of the things I find most frustrating is how people change with the wind and are never truly brought to task for it. Yet when I go out of the box of and say something that ends up being right, I take abuse at the time for it and no one other than me says that I was right. Maybe people just have got use to the fact that I will tell them that I was. Whatever the case, I am proud of my track record on things and do take comfort in the fact that it must mean I know what the hell I am talking about at the end of the day. That is in many ways it's own reward.
So I decided to do this instead of a preview and it ends up being twice as long. Oh well the off-season and a bit of a break will be here soon enough. Happy Monday all and hope you had a pleasant holiday weekend.