Don't Cry For Me Jose Calderon

Let’s face facts, not many Raptors games are going have much meaning down the stretch. However, the two games with the Detroit Pistons should have some for a lot of people. Jose Calderon playing against the only team he had know in the NBA for 8 seasons and than a couple days later will spark some emotions in him. He would not be human if it didn’t.

It will also for those who loved Calderon should be an emotional experience. This of course never included me. I haven’t given Calderon much if any though since he left in the trade that brought Rudy Gay to town. It was a sense of relief for me that he was gone. It was getting to the point I wondered if he ever would be. Especially when he some how made his way back into the Raptors starting line-up and remaining when Kyle Lowry returned from injury.

Assuming Lowry is able to play these games should mean a lot for him as well to solidify that he is indeed the man and Raptors made the right decision in bringing him and doing away with Calderon. For the rest of the Raptors it likely will be a strange experience as Calderon was here long before any of them arrived. I may have my own personal views on Jose but it was pretty clear he had the respect of the guys he shared a locker room with.

Calderon in 24 games with the Pistons has seen his percentages rise from both the field and from distance with the Raptors in 45 games he shot 47% from the field and now with Pistons he is shooting 52.2%. He is shooting the same 52.2% from beyond the three point line compared to just 42.9% with the Raptors. His point total is only slightly better in a Pistons uniform with 11.8 per game compared to the 11.1 he averaged with the Raptors. Maybe as proof the Raptors do have some offensive talent his assists numbers have dipped in Detroit with  just 6.7 per game compared to 7.4 with Raptors.

When all is said and done he has produced his best numbers likely since he signed his big contract with the Raptors. Also already playing more games than he has since 2007-08 when he played in all 82 games for the Raptors. Jose Calderon is no different from anyone else in a contract year it would appear. Great team guy he may well be but make no mistake when Calderon sees a payday coming it seems to motivate him.

Given the Raptors terrible cap situation that has only one good thing about it for people who were never Jose Calderon fans. It means there is no chance in hell he could return to the Raptors. They will not be able to afford him. In reality the Raptors really did need to turn the page from Calderon and from Andrea Bargnani. For whatever you think of either it has not worked with the Raptors for sometime now. They are last pieces of a long gone Raptors team that won a Division Title when Bryan Colangelo first arrived and Chris Bosh still loved Toronto. That was the high point of the combo of Calderon and Ford but it would only go down hill from their ever since that banner was raised to the rafters at the ACC. The Raptors would lose to Vince Carter and Nets in 6 games. Boston the following off-season would create the original big three and it has been down hill from there.

Love him or hate him you know that Calderon will be fired up for this game tonight as well as what no doubt will be an emotional return to Toronto. A return that the Raptors will likely embrace 1000% as it is a good way to get butts in seats at this time of year.  I bet his return to Toronto is mentioned minimum 25 times tonight also noted that tickets are still available. Calderon is the Raptors record books in a number of categories and you can’t deny that. What you also can’t deny is for all he is praised he lost the series vs. Nets with a turnover. He was outplayed by Jameer Nelson in a 5 game series defeat to the Magic in the Raptors last playoff appearance. He also has been the starting point guard off and on for 5 seasons of missing the playoffs.

It also has to be mentioned that Calderon and his agent did a fantastic job of holding the Raptors’ feet to the fire to get that huge contract that he is about to finish up. Jose Calderon who always said he was willing to do what was best for the team in the end did what was best for him. Suddenly after months of saying it didn’t matter if he came off the bench or started the minute he touched down on Spanish soil he was singing a different tune. He forced the hand of the Raptors to not only pay him that over valued contract but force them into a terrible trade with Pacers that saw them give away as it turned out an All-Star Center along with T.J Ford and Rasho Nesterovic.

I have no doubt that by the end of these two games I will be ready to throw up like a kid that runs muck with his Easter Chocolate. Still it is hard to see your favourite player move on to somewhere else. It was hard for me when Ford left in that trade. So believe it or not I do have sympathy for people who were and maybe still are his true fans. I just don’t think Jose Calderon at his core is as good a guy as everyone would like to make him out to be. However, to deny he had a major impact on people in his time in Toronto would not be the case.

To say that I would every miss him would be the biggest April Fool’s Joke I have ever pulled. But it isn’t April first quite yet. I will avoid the obvious jokes I could use that are tied the date he is returning to Toronto. Honestly that is a more fitting return date for Chris Bosh not Jose Calderon.

The simple fact is Calderon and I will never be Amigos. That said, he made many of them in Toronto and for all of those people it will be an emotional few days. In what has been a pretty emotionless time for the Raptors losing 5 games straight and making us all wish the season would end already.

I guess any emotion from sadness to joy is better than none at all.


It's All About Pride and Hope More Than Hawks And Raptors

So your pretty typical Raptor game the Raptors gave a heartfelt effort for three quarters and fell completely apart in the fourth quarter. Along the way Rudy Gay played with a bad back and really didn’t have too. I respect that regardless of how pointless it might be for him to play at this stage. Amir Johnson always a gamer would be injured in this game with knee bruise and would not be able to play the entire game on his bobblehead night. The Hawks clinch a playoff spot with a 107- 88 win.

Dwane Casey talked about his squad playing for pride the rest of the season heading into this one. I think that I heard Jay Triano say the same in the years prior to him. It is a great line to say when hope has left the building for yet another season. I don’t mean to diminish the whole concept of pride and there are guys in the Raptors locker room that have a lot of pride. Amir Johnson who had his bobblehead handed out tonight would be at the top of that list. DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay and others in that room also have it.

Here is the thing though pride can be a double edged sword. Bryan Colangelo has a lot of pride as well and his pride in his pick of Andrea Bargnani has been an anchor on this franchise. He had pride in his re-signing of Jose Calderon as well to a contract that far out weighed his worth. He likely has the same pride in the extension he gave to DeMar DeRozan, the acquisition of Rudy Gay maybe even in signing Linas Kleiza who now collects a roster spot. 

All of these idealistic concepts are great in theory.  However you need to really believe in this group assembled currently to improve. The facts are if they don’t this franchise is pretty much screwed. There needs to be massive improvement internally or an unprecedented move to spend money for the Raptors to be any kind of legitimate contender.

Here is the thing I have pride as well. People reading this who are fans of this franchise have pride too. Our pride has taken a butt kicking for the better part of 18 years. In that time we have seen few brief moments where we could truly be optimistic and have any true kind of hope for this franchise. So forgive me if the fact this team is playing for pride does not exactly thrill me.

There seems to be a growing acceptance of this is just the fate of being a Raptors fan. That despite whatever colossal blunders are made we should just have faith and hope for things to get better. That guys like Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas will become these great stars that will carry us out of this dark place. I think we have been told this about many others in the past.

The reality of things is MLSE is a company that turns a tremendous profit. They will say that they are putting money back into the team by paying out the contracts they do to guys like Rudy Gay and others as proof of that. They would likely expand and talk about all the money they have put into analytics as proof of that as well. They will say that they are committed to winning as we have heard many times in the past.

At the end of the day if you continue to remain below the tax threshold and just over paying guys within that budget that is nothing more than a recipe of failure. The cold reality of things is to be truly committed to winning it takes spending money beyond that tax threshold and spending it much more smartly in general.

Something this franchise has failed to do and that goes back to even before Bryan Colangelo came to town. I will say this for Glen Grundwald he showed far more accountability than Colangelo ever has. Grundwald’s famous speeches at the end of the season on the floor gave you some sense of caring about what the fans have had to endure.

Colangelo is more of a politician and avoids such things. When you break a promise make another promise and hope that people forget about the one you failed to deliver on. The fact that no one realistically thinks Colangelo will be gone is pretty sad. It has been 5 years of excuses and promises that have not produced a playoff run of any kind. Yet he went out and made a trade for a star level talent in Rudy Gay that has had the worst season of his career and this is enough to secure his future at least in the short term?

If the Raptors have the intention to spend money and go beyond the tax threshold and try to be a legit contender they are doing a pretty good job of keeping that a secret. They have always dangled the carrot of doing so without ever following through. MLSE management stating that when the time is right they will be willing to spend the money required. When exactly will that time be and will I be alive to see it?

It has been 18 years of hoping and getting very little in return for it. Hope is wonderful but blind hope is just sad. Raptors should no longer just assume people have faith in them. I have had so many fans tell me how truly fed up they are with this franchise this season. This is the part where I am supposed to tell them to have faith and that things will get better?

I would like to be able to say something like that but really could I honestly say that without having any belief in it myself? Not if I have any sort of pride in my word or my beliefs.

Here is what I believe. I believe the Raptors would like to win. They may even think they can win to a point. If they are truly serious about winning and being a contender that is just a joke at this point because this is not nearly enough.  I believe that as much as they may want to win as long as they are making money at the end of the day they are not truly motivated to win from an organizational standpoint.

I don’t blame the players as much as I blame management. It is easy to blame the players and in some cases it is justified. Still at the end of the day if you are really about winning it is going to take spending money and taking this to another level. Tanking is the other route to go but that requires some luck and really when you are a team with resources the Raptors have not a realistic option. However being a team that is trying to scrape into the playoffs and get a couple home dates and the profits that come with them is not a good option either. Sadly it is one this franchise would gladly except and even sadder one that a lot of fans would be satisfied with.

What might be even sadder is to this point the Raptors have not cashed in on a generation of Canadian stars that have been coming along. Andrew Wiggins is not likely to find his way to Toronto. Still there are so many great kids coming into this league the Raptors need desperately to be a part of this wave of talent.

I have more confidence in Canada winning a medal in the Olympics in Rio than I do in the Raptors future success. They can prove me wrong but there is only really two ways to do that.

1. To have internal improvement beyond what anyone could logically expect and hope for.


2. Finally spend money and build a team that can compete regardless of the price tag that it costs.

Both I would class as long shots at best. What can I hope for at best currently? Raptors playing for pride as a seventh or eighth seed to win a game in playoffs, wow the thrill that would be… not really. My pride has not been beaten down so much that I don’t expect or demand more than that from this franchise.  How about yours?


Quincy Acy Back To Close Out The Season

Quincy Acy is coming back after a few weeks with the Jam in the D-League. Quincy was assigned to the Jam on March 4th. Acy in 10 games for Bakersfield averaged 13.1 points 8.6 rebounds and averaging 30 minutes per game. In a rest of a season that offers little in terms of interest Quincy Acy is at least someone to be interested in.

The Raptors next see the floor Wednesday against the Hawks. It is safe assume Acy could be back and in the line-up for that game. It will need to be confirmed tomorrow but with Raptors having some injuries mounting it makes sense to have Acy available. Not to mention the fact they will want to get him some experience like they are with Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross.


This Week In Raptorland: No Madness In Raptorland

It is grinding to a halt this season and the Raptors performance this week did nothing to inspire anyone but to want this season over with. Today on the podcast we try and find some things to talk about the present and continue to look ahead to the uncertain future.

Another week in the books. Remember to tweet @stlouiswings and send them your March Madness winner with the hashtag March Madness to win a pound of wins. Deadline is Monday.


People Have Begun To Tune Out The Raptors For Another Year

It is hard to argue with the line from a Bon Jovi song when talking about the Toronto Raptors these days. No we’re not talking about living on prayer. “It’s all the same only the names have changed,” seems to fit this time of year perfectly. A loss to one of the worst teams in the NBA only helps to cause people to lose what little interest they have left in this season.  The Raptors are just 3-8 against the team that I have dubbed the bobkittens (In the last three seasons). It is a source of embarrassment or it should be for this franchise.

The Raptors have a home and home series with Knicks on Friday and Saturday that most will not pay much attention with March Madness now underway. The Raptors unless they are extremely lucky will not be drafting any of the young men we see in the tournament this year. The only way the Raptors would do so is if they won the draft lottery. If not Oklahoma City will take that pick and given their success as a franchise in the draft likely find a talented player from whatever spot in the lottery they end up selecting.

It just seems like after that loss in Milwaukee that pretty much ended any dreams of a playoff run for the Raptors it has sucked the life out of this season. There is a real sense of who cares from the fan base. I can not tell you how many people have come up to me and said they are done with the Raptors this season. Fans changing focus to the Leafs, others looking forward to baseball season with Blue Jays basically the Raptors’ have lost the attention of most.  They have moved on to something else.

This off-season will be less interesting from ones in the past. The real major stories will be if the Raptors can move Andrea Bargnani. If not would they dare use their Amnesty clause or just do the expected and use it on Linas Kleiza. There is also the question of Bryan Colangelo’s future which I expect will be put on ice for a year by picking up his option on his contract. Some feel that Dwane Casey could be in trouble. I personally don’t see that happening. I feel strongly that Casey and Colangelo’s fate are joined at the hip.

One thing when you watch March Madness you can’t help but notice is the influx of Canadian talent that is invading U.S college basketball. When will the Raptors start to turn that into players on their roster? It wasn’t Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph or Andrew Nicholson. It is safe to assume the Raptors will be too good for it to be Andrew Wiggins next season. At some point the Raptors need to tap into this generation of Canadians they have helped create by simply existing.

Does having a group of two or three young Canadians on the roster make a difference? In terms of basketball it might not. In terms of giving fans a reason to root for this team it is absolutely crazy to suggest it would not have an impact. Anthony Bennett was playing for UNLV and Kevin Pangos and Kelly Olynyk for Gonzaga. That is just the tip of the iceberg of Canadians that were in action in the NCAA Tournament yesterday with more today. Olynyk was feature on the cover of Sports Illustrated and there was an article on the rise of Canadians in the NCAA.

This rise is far more important to the Raptors’ long term future and what they do about it than anything that goes on with this current group the Raptors have. It is vital that the Raptors do not see an NBA with all these talented Canadians coming to town to beat the Raptors like Steve Nash did for many years with Suns and before that the Mavericks. That would be heartbreaking for a lot of folks that bleed basketball in this country. Sure this doesn’t address the short term problems this franchise faces. Still the Raptors need to be very aware of going forward.


Amir Johnson Is A Champion Of The People.

It can be so easy at this time of the year to become jaded, angry and frustrated. After all the Raptors will once again will not be heading to the post-season for a fifth straight season. There is no way to run away from that fact. Still, regardless of the Raptors record you can look at a guy like Amir Johnson and smile and be proud he is on your team.

Basketball wise it has been a great season of improvement for him. He has improved his shooting range along with bringing the same hustle and fight we have come to expect from Amir. He is nothing short of a warrior in the sports sense on the basketball court. He still at times will find his way into foul trouble and have games where he does not have his performance match his effort. It happens to everyone at times.

Still you are convinced that no matter what you get the 100% effort from Amir Johnson every time he puts on his uniform. The contract he signed to remain with the Raptors gave him a pretty nice salary. It is more than many of us will every hope to earn in life. I don’t think you will find too many people that would say he hasn’t done everything in his power to earn every last dime of it though. This is really all we ask of athletes at the end of the day.

What we don’t ask but hope is that these people will be good people away from the sport. We hope that they will take the time to appreciate the fans that cheer them on and support them. This is something that Amir Johnson perhaps excels at more than he even does on the basketball court. He is a good person at heart based on every encounter I have ever had with him. He is fun loving and genuine and these are things that you can’t fake.

He is getting his own bobblehead for the game coming up against Atlanta. He deserves that and a lot more with how he has truly embraced Raptors cans and community of Toronto. He, in a world of a lot of athletes that don’t get it or even care to get it, understands what it is to be a good person and role model.

Charles Barkley famously stated that he wasn’t a role model and it is easy enough to say. In an ideal world Charles is right in that athletes are not the most ideal role models to have in this world. That is great but it is not like people get a say in who is going to idolize them anymore than they do in who is going to hate them.

I am pretty sure the list of Amir Johnson haters is a very small one. It is because at the end of the day it is very hard to knock a guy that is by design or by just being who he is a great role model.

He does his job and works hard at it. He is not so caught up in his job to stop him from having fun and enjoying life. He at the core is someone that truly likes people. He does his best to make the experience of meeting Amir Johnson a positive one. He is constantly giving back to fans and having fun with them.

I said to him after one of our interviews that someday he was going to be seen like Jerome Williams is by Raptors fans. A guy that earned the love of fans and to this day is embraced by this fan base. He still makes appearances and has community involvement in Toronto to this day. He also got a nice contract that some would say might have been too much.

See here is what gets wrong with all this stuff in the modern times of caps and advanced stats. There is no real true measure of what heart, leadership and a connection with people is worth. It can’t be measured and it has no real price to it. The amount of fans touched by Jerome Williams or Amir Johnson can not ever really be measured either. That has a value in making those positive connections. It might make someone a bigger fan of this sport based on it. It might inspire a kid to pick up a basketball and play the sport. It could inspire them to be a bigger part of the place they live and work.

Amir Johnson for the third straight year is doing his Roll with Amir Event. He reaches into his pocket and pays for a night that makes memories that will last a lifetime for his fans. That is bigger than 21 rebounds, double-doubles or anything else.

It is by far the most unique event I ever seen done by an athlete in any sport and really speaks to the kind of guy Amir Johnson is. He tries to be humble and never take to much credit for himself. It is always about the team or the fans and not about him.

Like serious in a world that will live where people seem far to caught up in their number of friends on Facebook or followers on twitter is that not a refreshing message.

Amir Johnson came at a time when another guy left and said it was more important for him to win a championship than be concerned about how he went about it. Amir Johnson may never win a championship with the Raptors. It would be great if he did but he will always be a champion of the people and that is something that you can never lose. Every year there is a new champion but if you are a champion of the people that lasts forever.

Amir Johnson is an example of what being a champion of the people is.


This Week In Raptorland: The Grind

It has reached that point in the season where talking about the future seems much more relevant than talking about the present. The Raptors for the record did go 1-2 on the week but we dive deep into the future going forward and try to salvage what can be made of the present. Talk on the future of Bryan Colangelo and Dwane Casey as well as this Raptors roster.

Aside from the Raptors March Madness gets going this week and we are running a bracket contest with the folks from at St. Louis Wings. Top prize is 3lbs of Chicken Wings, 2nd place will land you 2lbs and third lands you a pound of wings. So just use this link and use the password dnbwings. Fill out a bracket before Thursday at noon and you are in the hunt for Chicken Wings.

If you have trouble listening or downloading from here head over to our podcast host and download it via Itunes or directly or listen from there.


Game Notes on Cats and Raptors.

It is hard to get fired up for any Raptors games of late. The peak of non-interest has to be the Raptors and Bobcats. This game was painful to watch at times but in the end did see some strong performances from some individuals at times the team as a whole.  That said you would sure hope the Raptors would out perform perhaps the worst team in the NBA in the last 2 or 3 years. This has seldom been the case in the last two seasons entering this year with a pathetic 1-6 record against the Bobcats. This season the Raptors got shafted in Charlotte and lost on blown call but did rebound nicely to win at the ACC later in the season that is where this one was last night.

Rather than go through the entire game which at time was a complete and colossal bore. Will just give you some point form notes on the night that was.

Amir Johnson had a massive double-double of 12 points and career high 21 rebounds with 8 of those on the offensive glass. Another consistent strong performance for if we voted on a team MVP this guy would easily get my vote.

Nice night for the Rookies with Jonas getting 10 points and 6 rebounds and Ross shot 4-5 and had 9 on the night.

Rudy Gay was back looking a little healthier and a lot more productive with 28 points. All that while going an efficient 11-16 from the field.

The Raptors starting back court stunk with Lowry shooting 3-10 and DeRozan just 1-5 from the field. That would lead to just 9 points for DeMar and 7 for Kyle.

Bobcat’s shooting was brutal as they shot just 32.5% from the field with Raptors in at just over 48%

In the end the Bobcats shooting percentage might have been a bit flattering to the Raptors as at times their defense looked brutal no more so than in the late third and early fourth Quarter.

In the end if you decided to go out and enjoy your Friday night you were smarter than the folks that watched this one. …like me. Raptors take it going away 92-78 whipping the kittens in the final quarter 23-10. No time to enjoy this one as the Heat roll into town as hot as their name would suggest and maybe even more.


Boston Beatdown With False Hope On The Side

Could we talk today about yet another dismantling of the Raptors in Boston?  Sure we could but in five years of doing this how many times have we had to talk about games like that?  The answer is far too many times. What was more to disturbing to me was the broadcast itself which played out like an infomercial on why the Raptors are actually good. Why they will be a playoff team next season and would have been if not for that pesky 4-19 start.

Like SERIOUSLY? I am sorry but I have put up with this non-sense for 5 years. I am not under the delusion that my 1500 twitter followers or the Dino Nation Blog gives me a massive audience. I don’t have the reach of Rogers Sportnet or TSN. That said, what I can say honestly is in five years plus of doing this I have never once tried to pull a snow job on you that tries to paint the Raptors in any light other than what they are...realistically

I am getting fed up with this, not just because it is bogus and stretches the truth to the limit. I am also fed up with the utter stupidity of it. Let’s be honest here, does anyone who makes the choices running this broadcast have a clue? If people are loyal enough fans to still are watching the Raptors at this point you don’t need to sell them on the future of this team.

Here is why:

1. They are blindly loyal and going to be here regardless of what is said or not said. Or…..
2. They are smart enough fans to be insulted by obvious attempts to try and brainwash them.

In many cases both could apply. I can’t figure out if they honestly believe the fan base is this stupid or they just have become so use to pumping out this propaganda they don’t even notice.

This show that is the Toronto Raptors has been going on for 18 years and will keep on running for much longer. What I have seen this year is a lot of people reaching the ends of their rope. People tired of being sold a bill of goods that doesn’t logically make any sense or lead to anything of any real substance at the end of the day. 

I am not sure exactly when or where this happened but at some point this franchise has become happy and content with the idea of just getting back into the post-season and finish in seventh or eighth in the East. That has become the dream to be the team that gets steam rolled by the Miami Heat or whoever happens to be second best in the East.

Here is the thing that isn’t good enough anymore. This fan base has seen this team make the playoffs and a return to them would be nice, but only if it was leading somewhere. Case and point a few years back the Charlotte Bobcats made it to the playoffs and since they have sunk back into the abyss at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

The playoffs from the fans point of view are only fun if they honestly believe their team has a snowball’s chance in hell of advancing. The way the Raptors are currently constructed is basically what you get for the next couple years. Deny it all they like, the Raptors, the same Raptors that had two days rest facing a team on second night of a back to back minus their All-Star point guard and lost 112-88.

These same guys are heading to the post season next year are 3-9 in their division and 9-24 on the road. This team will draft no one in the upcoming draft as it stands now. They will not be able to afford anything in free agency other than left over mid-level contract fodder. Which they will likely pass on because they despite sabre rattling MLSE don’t seem all that keen on going into the luxury tax. They have that awesome trade chip in Andrea Bargnani that whatever they care to say, is going to take a miracle to move in a trade and an even more miraculous event to get anything of value for him.

Those are the harsh realities and I am not saying this is what they can or should be putting into the broadcast of games. I get at the end of the day they are trying to sell people on a future. I would love to have a future to sell you all as well. After all if the Raptors do better this blog would benefit just like everything connected to the Raptors.

The reality is that is not happening. I see the exact opposite happening as many fans are reaching the breaking point with this franchise and it’s never ending spin job with the sole purpose of selling hope that is based in a fantasy world.

I can’t do that….I never have been able too. Allow me to indulge with a cute and maybe slightly embarrassing story from my youth.  My parents decided to give me a shot at doing commercials.  Believe it or not I was a cute kid once. So, I was shooting a commercial for some food (No not primo pasta) and as a 6 year old I was not excited about the product. I was supposed to say something along the lines of how great it was. But even as a child I was too logical for my own good. I said to my mom…But mommy if I said that I would be lying and that is wrong. Damn there went the career in commercials and who knows what else. 

Even to this day I have these problems. I feel odd asking you folks to do anything. I had a link up to sell DNB T-Shirts like many other sites have but never could bring myself to promote you should buy them. I added a donate link for Paypal last week but this is the first time you have seen or heard it mentioned.

I mean it is not like I don’t work hard and have for years paying my way to cover everything that I do and going into my far from deep pockets to pay for the minor expenses to keep this thing rolling. All of this in fighting an uphill battle that ultimately I have no control of in which is the future of this franchise.

I really get annoyed when I see obvious attempts to paint this team out to be things that they simply are not. The idea that this team is heading in some great positive direction since Chris Bosh left because he was sick and tired of things this after Carter did same years ago….it is a joke. This franchise is in the hole they find themselves currently by their own mismanagement in those situations.

I find it hard to believe they have sudden realized their only escape is to spend money and risk profits to improve this team to level it truly needs to be improved. The Raptors and maybe some people reading will say they spend money. Look at the contracts of Gay, Fields, DeRozan and Bargnani. You may not like the contracts but that is proof they are willing to spend.

Not really it proof they don’t exactly know how to spend, but regardless of that, it is what they spend on the roster as a whole that matters. Which has always been below the luxury tax. Now with the penalties increasing we are suppose to think the Raptors will dive in and spend to levels they didn’t when it was cheaper? Seems highly unlikely and if that is true the Raptors have built a team that is somewhere between 6-10 in the East every year. That is the absolute worse place to be in the middle.

When you’re stuck in the mucky middle Andrew Wiggins is not walking through your door or any talent like him.  Might you get a few extra home playoff dates and add to the bottom line profits. Sure but that is the short term bump. The long term bump is building a team that could legitimately contend. On that front the Raptors are far from that and really lacking any tools beyond internal improvement to get closer to that.


Bye For Now or For Good for Andrea Bargnani?

The Raptors play the Celtics tonight and honestly that is of very little interest for me at this point. You want some grime reality on this match-up? The Raptors are 8-24 against Boston on the road all-time. They last beat the Celtics in Boston in January of 2008. Rudy Gay did make the trip to Boston and is expected to be a game time decision. Andrea Bargnani did not make the trip and news today that he is being shut down for the season.

The injury is an avulsion sprain of the right elbow. Yes the same elbow that was hurt before but it the release issued by the Raptors it is stated this injury is in not way related to the previous injury. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I am not a doctor so I have no idea. That said as a non-medical person I can safely say that Andrea Bargnani’s right elbow is not good.

All of those people that felt Andrea Bargnani could improve his stock in these final games of the Raptors season can shelve that pipe dream. In fact Bargnani has reminded people that he is not only struggling on the floor but you can seriously question his health long term. Last year it was a calf, this year it is an elbow what will it be next year?  Injury prone is becoming a more than fair label. Some might go further and question his heart to play through injures in the first place. Most would conclude that Amir Johnson is likely playing through all kinds of aches and pains. Andrea does not have a history or being my of a solider in that regard.

You have to feel for Bryan Colangelo or whoever has the job of ridding the Toronto Raptors of Andrea Bargnani. He clearly has done absolutely nothing to help in that regard. You wonder if the Raptors should just cut bait completely and move on. It is not like other franchises have not done it with first overall picks before. The Blazers got next to nothing for Greg Oden, Wizards the same with Kwame Brown. Is Bargnani as bad as all of that?  He is not terminally injured like Greg Oden and he is not devoid of talent like Kwame Brown.

Still you have to wonder if Andrea Bargnani getting amnestied is the eventual road we could travel. What team is willing to take the risk on Bargnani who they can’t even sell as a healthy player that just needs a change of scenery? What the Raptors would or could get back in a trade for Bargnani could be even worse in terms of contract. If the Raptors are not concerned with that it is fine. Some of the comments from Bryan Colangelo as recently as the trade deadline suggest the Raptors are still concerned with how much is being spent.

To amnesty a first overall pick would be the ultimate admission of failure but it might be what makes the most sense for the Raptors. That said, the odds they would actually go to that extreme, still seem very slim. That said how much do you think Bryan Colangelo’s phone is ringing for people wanting to bring Andrea Bargnani to their franchise? The old WCW Hotline is probably getting more calls at this point.

The Raptors took a major step in getting rid of Jose Calderon and actually turning that into a major asset in Rudy Gay. It was just as important for the Raptors to turn the page from Calderon as it was to acquire Gay. The same thing is true of Andrea Bargnani. It is time for him to go by any means necessary.

Anyone that thinks, this can all be fixed and Bargnani can play his way back into the favour of Raptor fans, while some how becoming a valued asset is clearly dreaming. The Raptors as they have in other situations waited to long to act. The writing was on the wall and they just decided to ignore it.

If only the NBA was like the NFL with non-guaranteed contracts. Bargnani could have been cut and sent packing long before now. In fact all this talk of crazy contracts that Colangelo signs would be hardly relevant. Perhaps if the Raptors were to let Bryan go, he would make a good G.M in the NFL where contracts are written in pencil not pen.


Raptors' Future Will Be Mediocrity or Spending Money

The Raptors season basically died in Milwaukee and now even the franchise is admitting it is about the future going forward. The question is what exactly is that future? It seems pretty cloudy at best as an outsider looking in. The largest piece to the puzzle is likely Bryan Colangelo and his future as that will impact on a number of others future based on what happens with him.

People likely won’t want to hear this, but at worst I would think the Raptors are going to pick-up the option on his contract. It would be a massive mistake in my opinion to give him another extension at this point. Does Colangelo deserve to be back? Most would say no based on his record alone and they wouldn’t be wrong in saying that.

Still dealing in the reality of what has been done it seems unlikely that ownership is in any great hurry to send him packing. There is no way he is allowed to make the deal he did for Rudy Gay, if the plan was to just fire him at the end of the season. Well it wouldn’t be a firing technically, it would be just letting the option on his contract go and making him an executive version of a free agent.

Colangelo with his swing for the fences approach has left the Raptors in a terrible situation moving forward contract wise. It has been talked about a lot of all the questionable contracts the Raptors have. Rudy Gay at the top of the list along with the DeRozan extension and the Landry Fields deal that was suppose to lead to Steve Nash that never did.  In addition the Bargnani extension that stands firmly in the way of moving Bargnani for a deal that does not involve the Raptors going deeper into a black hole contract wise. We could go on but those four alone make it very difficult for the Raptors future going forward, if you want to make any changes to the core that exists with this team.

Ask yourself what general manager of any kind of substance would walk into this mess if the Raptors fired Colangelo? It is safe to say any top candidate you would consider, would steer clear of the Raptors based on the lack of ability to get out from under all these contracts. So that leaves you with Colangelo, or if you let him walk, likely nothing more than hiring someone unproven and desperate, or someone within the organization. Safe to say if the Raptors wanted to hire internally they could have fired Colangelo and went with the experienced Ed Stefanski if they wanted too. When the team started a woeful 4-19 not many would have questioned the move at the time.

If Colangelo does in fact stay, that would make Dwane Casey’s position as head coach secure you would have to figure. Colangelo is not going to be given the chance to hire his fourth coach of his run as G.M with the Raptors. Casey of late is coaching like a guy that is not as sure of his fate or maybe that of Colangelo’s and that would clearly impact on his own future.

Maybe it is just that Casey plays to win regardless of the situation and can not bring himself to not do so.  A different situation with the same goal of winning cost the first ever Raptors’ coach Brendan Malone his job. He was told to play Damon Stoudamire less in order for the Raptors to lose more games and improve their odds of getting a better pick heading into their second year. Casey does not have to worry about a draft pick as the Raptors don’t have one.  What he needs to do is get experience for his rookie players that he has resisted up until recently. Even with an increase in minutes we have seen little of Ross and Valanciunas in the fourth quarter.

Beyond some questionable rotations and personal decisions the other concern has to be the Raptors regression on defense at times. After all this was Casey’s calling card when he got the job. He was able to have a major impact in year one on that end of the floor. This season it has been hit and misses and of late more misses than hit. You can argue the roster is lacking the type of players to make this happen. It might explain why Casey is unwilling to let guys like Alan Anderson and Aaron Gray be spectators even now with season lost.

Others will say the offense has sputtered under Casey as well. To me this lies more at the feet of Raptors' assistant Johnny Davis. If I was going to make a coaching move with the Raptors it would not be with Casey it would be Davis. He just does not seem to be able to take advantage of the new weapons he has been given to work with in this offense. He is the lead assistant and his primary function is the offense for the Raptors. I would look for a lead assistant to replace him in the off-season, not that I expect this to happen.

The future of Colangelo also obviously will be greatly tied to the future of Andrea Bargnani. If you were to let Colangelo go and hire outside of the organization it might make dealing with Bargnani far simpler. Could an outsider walk into this organization and maybe even go to the extreme of amnestying the contract of Andrea Bargnani? Perhaps he could, but it is almost unthinkable to consider that Colangelo would. After all he has been telling us for a long time about all this supposed interest that is out there for Andrea Bargnani. Which is not a lie exactly but when you combine Bargnani with his contract it gets closer to being one.

Case and point, let’s look back to Jose Calderon who was another guy that Colangelo swore there was interest in for years. It was not until that contract of Calderon’s was on its last legs that it could be traded. Was there interest in Calderon minus dealing with his bad contract? Absolutely there was as when there was talk Raptors might amnesty Calderon to make way for Nash there was a number of teams lining up to snatch Calderon. Among them the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs were interested in landing him.

Bottom line of all of this is that Andrea Bargnani simply has to be gone this off-season. This situation has become a toxic one on all sides including the fan base that would at this point trade him for some pasta slightly better than Primo. Colangelo should he remain, will fight like hell to get a deal for Bargnani that he can sell as a good move. In reality the war is over and he lost this battle. A new G.M with no ties to the pick of Bargnani at number one can make a move for him and not be as worried about justifying the trade.

The thing is this is just scratching the surface of things. We have not even mentioned the crazy rumours about the Raptors looking to extend Rudy Gay this off-season? Not exactly sure why this is needed to be done now, Gay is still a Raptor for two more seasons based on his current deal.  You also have Kyle Lowry entering the last year of his contract which ends prior to Gay.

When you look at this entire mess you are left to draw just two conclusions. The Raptors are stuck with what they have and are praying this is enough to make them a playoff team going forward. That we will call the more likely and realistic option one.

The only other thing that the Raptors could do to become a serious contender, as constructed right now, is to spend money.  In order to counter the bad contracts they have the Raptors only options to improve might be to dive deeper into the luxury tax pool. That becomes much more expensive to do starting this off-season.  For every dollar you got over the salary cap you have to pay three dollars. That adds up when you get talking in the millions for player contracts.

It would have been easy to dismiss this idea out of hand, as Raptors under the old ownership in MLSE would never venture into the tax threshold, even when star players like Chris Bosh felt they needed too. Rogers, who now is part of the mix in ownership has had a pretty busy winter spending money on their baseball team. They tried to develop youth and grow for years but that wasn’t exactly filling the Rogers Centre. It also wasn’t leading to getting in the playoff race which is much tougher in baseball.

They did it primarily by finding a team that was looking to unload salary in Miami Marlins. The Raptors in their move to acquire Rudy Gay followed this same type of approach. Memphis was looking to cut costs to get below the tax threshold. In reality both teams were looking to dump salary and get back what they could.

Given the dawn of the punitive luxury tax arriving in the NBA it is safe to say their will be many teams looking to pinch their pennies to avoid the penalties and cost that come with being a tax team in the NBA. It is safe to say if the Raptors are willing to absorb some big money contracts they will be able to find lots of willing partners. If the Raptors go in this direction they very well could be a contender. The price to do that would be a high one and no really guarantee of ultimate success. If you look at the path of the Brooklyn Nets you can see that. The Raptors likely are in a division that will always have teams that are willing to thumb their nose at the cap and spend money. Not unlike the situation the Blue Jays face with Boston and New York being in their division in baseball and having two of the highest payrolls in baseball on annual basis.

The owners have a vested interest in the Raptors being contenders for the various media properties that both Rogers and Bell own. The question is how much are they willing to spend for that compelling content? If this was the Maple Leafs we are having this discussion about the answer is obvious. In the case of the Raptors it is unclear just how far they would be willing to push the envelope.


This Week In Raptorland

It's Monday which means it is time to welcome Josh Lewenberg who joins me as my co-host for This Week In Raptorland:

If you can't listen or download here head over to the Podcast home of the DNB.

DNB is Back Off the Injured Reserve

My apologies for taking perhaps the first four day weekend in the history of the DNB. I was having trouble with my ears and hearing. Finally went to go see a doctor which for me is a rare event. The good news is I am not going deaf it was just an ear infection and I have been taking the medication and my hearing is back to where it was. My medical issues combined with a sense of this season being pretty much done in terms of any hopes of the playoffs yet again made it tough to get off the mat.

I won’t get into to much that went on as will be doing This Week In Raptorland later today and I can chime in with my two cents there.

One of the things I have been doing is coming up with a new idea for the DNB that will be trying out at some point before the end of the season. I am really excited about it and think this could be something pretty cool if it works out well. It will be tied to Raptor games and if it works it will become an every game event next season.

My general thoughts on the game in L.A? Nothing about it was all that shocking. The Raptors have a lead heading to the fourth only to blow it and eventually lose in overtime and Kobe Bryant goes off and leads the way back. DeMar DeRozan continues his strong play when he heads home to take on the Lakers something he has done for most of his career.

The game yesterday against Cleveland seemed like a role reversal with the Cavs playing the role of the Raptors. Give the Raptors credit though with no Rudy Gay and Andrea Bargnani they finally pulled through in the end and won the game. Tristan Thompson looks like he is really starting to develop in his second year and that is good news for Canada Basketball fans.

So I am back and This Week in Raptorland will be out sometime later today. Again, my apologies for being MIA except for some tweets. I am really going to look long and hard to build a staff for next season that can fill in the gaps in times like this. I tried to do that this season without much success in terms of the follow through of the folks I picked. This year I hope to find better people that share the dedication that I have shown for over 5 years in doing this. You deserve that.


Suns Lose Their Polish Power and Get Smacked By The Raptors

This was a battle until Marcin Gortat went down in the second quarter. After that the Suns looked defeated and pretty much heartless. The Raptors jumped on the opportunity given to them and pounded the Suns into submission. Raptors had 6 players in double figures led by DeMar DeRozan with 15 points. Both Raptors’ rookies had 10 points as well. Raptors were playing in garbage time for majority of the second half cruising on to a 98-71 thrashing of the Suns.

You want to look for things to be concerned about? Rudy Gay scored just 5 points and shot 2-7 from the field. Safe to say the Raptors will need a lot more from him against the Lakers on Friday. To be honest this game turned into an exhibition game fairly quickly after Gortat went down. Prior to him going down they couldn’t do much of anything to stop him.

Amir Johnson continues to play with more heart and energy than anyone on the floor in a Raptors uniform. Don’t go telling him all of this doesn’t matter now. If he puts on a jersey it matters to Amir Johnson. He continues to be the definition of what a professional athlete is. The thing that concerns you is the pain he is likely playing through to do so. He has been battling with an ankle that is not 100% for what seems like the entire season. At what point do you say that he has done enough for this year and live to fight another day? Amir is not hearing that message from anyone likely.

Dwane Casey played a hunch in this game and it was a good one. He felt that giving John Lucas’ minutes to Sebastian Telfair against his former team. He delivered with 13 points, 7 assists and 4 steals against his former club. In this stat driven world we live in, there is still room for playing a hunch based on human nature and emotion.

It is hard to tell if the Raptors have turned the corner and are back on track or just simply had a team hand them a game on silver platter. A true to test will come Friday as the Raptors look to do something they have never done in their team history. Sweep the L.A Lakers in a season series, in fact they have not won in L.A against the since December of 2001. That is one of just 2 wins all-time against the Lakers in L.A.

The Lakers are just a game and half back of the Jazz and two games behind the Rockets who hold the seventh and eighth playoff spots in the West. The Raptors get the chance to play spoilers as they will many times during these final 20 games or so left in the season.

This win against the Suns does not really give you any kind of confidence that the Raptors can beat a highly motivated but flawed Lakers squad.

Sorry about a mistake on my part pointed out to me on Twitter yesterday. I believe I wrote the Raptors had not won in Phoenix since 2004. Clearly a blocked out the Andrea Bargnani lead beating of the Suns last season in which he was in the midst of “The Mirage of Greatness.”  Bargnani on this night came back down to earth with just 9 points but a high number of rebounds for him with 5. Clearly he is happy to stay on the road but will return with the rest of the Raptors to face the Cavs Sunday. How he is ultimately greeted will be interesting after at least showing a pulse on this road trip.


Raptors Look To Get Back Off The Mat In Phoenix

The Raptors are desperate to find a win and despite the Suns struggles Phoenix might not be the place to do it. They are just 4-12 all time in Arizona and have not won since February 10th, 2004. A large reason for that was Steve Nash who the Raptors will get to see Friday. The Suns have struggled to a 21-39 but are on a roll of late winners of three straight. They are respectable at home as well with 14-15 home record.

The real problem for the Raptors of late has been defense. They got shelled in the final quarter with the Warriors surrendering 42 points. The addition of Andrea Bargnani to the starting line-up of late makes things tricky for Jonas Valanciunas. It has been proven time and time again the combination of the two on the floor defensively is terrible. Not to mention the way Amir Johnson is playing of late it is almost insane to keep him out of the starting line-up. He did have a tremendous performance off the bench.

The Raptors are in really the worst spot right now with having to accept the reality that their playoffs dreams are dead. In addition to that they are in a place that has never been kind to them on the west coast.

How they can get off the mat and getting things rolling in the right direction. There seems to be some real confusion on the direction the team is going. Alan Anderson continues to see time and Terrence Ross struggles and is not getting much time to work things out. Ask yourself who is more important to the Raptors future going forward. Ask yourself Alan Anderson who has his contract up after this year or Terrence Ross on the second year of his rookie deal?

The Raptors win or lose have to change the focus to the future. You can debate if getting Andrea Bargnani going again is part of that. I think that no matter what he does good or bad his trade value is never going to get back to what should have been. The Raptors have missed the boat in getting any true value for him. What also has been made perfectly clear is this marriage with the Raptors needs to end.

Some feel the same way about this season at this point. It is still an important time for getting this team pointed in the right direction heading into next season. Tonight in Phoenix is one of those games this team is talented enough and should win against a team like this.

Will see if they can pick themselves up and dust themselves off and get a win.


Raptors Get California Crushed In Fourth Quarter

Toronto Raptors struggles continued last night despite having Rudy Gay back in the line-up and a vintage performance from Andrea Bargnani when he could play basketball. They also had a great performance from Amir Johnson that was wasted based on their lack of ability to stop the Warriors.

The Raptors for three quarters seemed to find a way to score fairly consistently and easily but they would draw blanks in the final quarter. Andrea Bargnani had 26 points on the night but went 0 for 5 in crunch time in the fourth quarter. This nugget of a stat came from the Warriors PR staff the Raptors were 0-8 when Andrea Bargnani scores 20+ points this season. The stat went to 0-9 as the Warriors out scored the Raptors 42-28 to erase the Raptors 7 point lead heading into the final quarter. The Warriors had 3 players scoring 20+ with David Lee leading the way with 29 as they stormed to a 125-118 victory.

Raptors also had 3 players go for 20+ with Bargnani and Gay each getting 26 and Amir Johnson off the bench with 23. Johnson was a perfect 10-10 from the field and had a career his 12 offensive rebounds of his 15 overall on the glass.

Both of the Raptors rookies struggled as Jonas was 1-7 from the field with just 3 points and 5 rebounds in a shade less than 16 minutes. He also got an education on the defensive side of things as he was not that effective in his time on the floor. While Terrence Ross was only able to get just over 8 minutes of action and was 0-4 from the field. He continues to have a hard time cracking the line-up and producing once he does since his slam dunk contest win.

Quincy Acy was sent down to the Jam of the D-League earlier in the day. This is the second or third time this year he has been assigned there. He was sent down the last time the Raptors hit the west coast and California. Save a little money on travel expenses I guess. It would be nice if the Raptors could find a D-League affiliate at least in the same time zone.

While were on the subject of rookies Harrison Barnes looked good scoring 12 points and going 4-6 in 22 minutes for the Warriors. He was the guy the Raptors would likely have selected if not losing a coin flip to Golden State last season. As time marches on it will be interesting to see how he develops in comparison to Ross.

Steph Curry use to make jumpers on the Raptors practice floor while his dad Dell was busy playing for the Raptors in the main arena at the ACC. Curry had 26 points and 12 assists and when he can stay healthy is rapidly becoming an NBA star. It must be amazing for all the folks connected with the Raptors both now and then to see him doing all of this.

In any case the Raptors travel to Phoenix desperately looking to find a way to get back in the win column now losers of five straight games.


This Week In Raptorland: The Dream Is Dead

Yes sadly the Raptors dreams of a miraculously rally to the post season ended fittingly enough in a loss in overtime in Milwaukee. Another close game that slipped away, one of the many from this season. Still This Week In Raptorland marches on and Josh and I chat about what lies ahead. We also look back on how we got to the point of the Raptors finally falling down for one final time this season. We also have a clip from the epic and impassioned speech Jack Armstrong made in talking with me earlier in the week in The Starting 5.


So the Raptors playoff dreams may be gone but we are not here with this podcast. Will keep rolling along looking at the present and the future for this franchise as we wrap up the fifth season with no playoffs for the Toronto Raptors.

Raptors Fight For Their Playoff Lives Minus Rudy Gay

Rudy Gay would not make it to the start of a game that was vital for fans hanging on to playoff hopes. His back troubles that occurred in the loss last night made him unable to suit up tonight in Milwaukee. The Raptors would respond by re-introducing Andrea Bargnani to the starting line-up and Landry Fields. You already had a bad feeling about this game before it ever started.

That said, both Bargnani and Fields came out and played very well. Not that anyone can claim they saw that coming at all. Bargnani would fade in to the background and but would be forced back in later due to Amir Johnson fouling out. Fields was sold throughout the night. The Raptors surprisingly stormed out of the gate after three losses in which they all featured less than spectacular starts. Tonight that was far from the case. Bargnani was hitting everything early. No really he was not hitting Bango the Bucks mascot with air-balls he was making shots. He was getting rebounds even as well.

The Raptors bench would also step up with Alan Anderson leading the team in scoring with 21 and John Lucas III getting 16 points and hitting some key buckets in the second half of this one.

This game somewhat fittingly featured all the things you come to expect from the Raptors this season both good and bad. After outscoring the Bucks 32-23 in the first quarter they would give most of that lead back only leading by a single point at the half. A lethargic third quarter seemed to bring an end to all this playoff talk.

Even some wise ass asked a question on the broadcast about the Raptors losing and what they should do going forward. It is those kinds of negative jerks that I would like to have 5 minutes with. I bet he is part of that blogging community that Bryan Colangelo is not so fond of.

Wait….oh right; it was my very intelligent tweet that was on the broadcast. Forget that last paragraph I just wrote. I want to make the point we often question the Raptors broadcasts for being so happy go lucky and not keeping it real. I will be honest no one was more shocked than myself to see my tweet make it to the airwaves. I asked a fair and legitimate question and credit to Matt Devlin and whoever is part of the process for the “Ask Matt” segment on the broadcast for using my question. It after all assumed the Raptors would lose this game and that is not something you would expect to make it on broadcast of a game that was trying to keep the Raptors playoff chances alive. It did thought and credit should be given so this is me giving it to them.

I often tend to be very realistic boarding on harsh at times. However, I do that because I feel it is what fans deserve. It is why I value the chances I have to chat with Jack Armstrong as we did earlier in the week. You folks that follow the Raptors are for the most part a very intelligent and knowledgeable group and deserve to be treated as such.

Anyway, back to the basketball game which looked lost heading into the fourth quarter. But a scrappy and resilient Raptors team which we have not seen in awhile would show up and were able to battle the bucks and chopped down the lead and than traded it back and forth. This was a game that was about one team’s playoff lives and it was played very much like a playoff style game. The bucks would take a lead and leave only just under 7 seconds for the Raptors to respond and they did as they would tie the game sending it to overtime.

In that overtime the Bucks would quickly establish control and fouls would catch up with the Raptors as Amir Johnson fouled out as would DeMar DeRozan later on. Kyle Lowry did a good job in this one not it the way a Jose Calderon would but in the way a Kyle Lowry does. He had a triple double of 10 points 10 assists and 10 rebounds with 6 turnovers and 5 steals. Brandon Jennings would nail a three that would pretty much end this game and playoff dreams for Raptors fans. Bucks went on to win in OT 122-114.

I said it what I wrote earlier today in some respect for the Raptors to miss the playoffs would be a real benefit at this point. They part with the draft pick they gave away to get Kyle Lowry and have one for next season. They now should focus on developing guys like Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross and even Quincy Acy. They can maybe even convince Amir Johnson to take some time out of the line-up to rest his very much banged up body. I would not hold my breath on that happening. Still for the Raptors to make the playoffs and be crushed by the Miami Heat would only have few positives. It would have been nice but not really required or expected by anyone that looked at this team realistically entering the season. This game itself should serve as a great learning tool for this group on what it means to play in games that matter. It is unfortunate they struggled earlier in the week making this contest such a do or die type contest. That said maybe in the long run it was good that it was. The Raptors only regret is they will not have more games like this one to learn from. If they could have hung on and played another of these with the Bucks in April it would have been a great learning experience.

The math does not make it official but logic suggests the Raptors will miss the playoffs for the fifth straight season. They have lots of reasons to be optimistic they can put an end to that streak next year. The rest of this year should be played with that goal firmly in mind. Playing the players that will be part of that future. Anything less that is gross misuse of valuable learning time for the players that need it for the future of this franchise.


Judgement Day For The 2012-13 Raptors' Season Is Here

The Raptors make it three lackluster efforts in a row and fail to produce a much needed win. They started the week in ninth place and four games back of the Milwaukee Bucks. The Raptors head to face those Bucks after a loss at home to Pacers in tenth place and six and half games behind the Bucks. While the Raptors were busy having a very physical battle Indiana Pacers, the Bucks were preparing to take on the Raptors.

The Bucks are currently 28-28 and are equal on both the road and at home with 14-14 record both home and away. The Raptors are just 8-20 on the Road despite being much better since the acquisition of Rudy Gay. They did however lose their last road contest of the month of February in an attempt to go perfect on the road for the month for the first time in franchise history.  The Raptors have been in a funk offensively while their defense has been inconsistent at best of late. In that game in Cleveland they started off with a 21-7 lead only to see it evaporate before their eyes. Much like the playoff dreams fans had entering this week.

If the 93-81 loss to the Pacers was not bad enough... news that Rudy Gay who led the Raptors in scoring with 21 points, is battling back trouble is not encouraging news. The Raptors are set to embark on a four game road trip starting tomorrow in Milwaukee with stops in Oakland to play the Warriors, L.A to take on the Lakers and Phoenix to battle the Suns.

While the game against Milwaukee is the most vital and a loss tomorrow would pretty much bring an end to any legitimate playoff discussions the rest of this trip is beyond challenging. A much improved Warriors squad under Mark Jackson, a desperate Lakers squad trying to avoid an embarrassment of missing the post-season and a Suns team with nothing to lose having just a terrible and forgettable season.  

By the time the Raptors return home to look for some kind of revenge against Cleveland, things could be well decided about the fate of this season. We all remember the Raptors last trip to the West Coast from back at the start of December don’t we? In case you have blocked it out mentally, it was a five game trip in which the Raptors returned home with no wins to show for it and Kyle Lowry and Andrea Bargnani both injured. They would lose to the Nets upon returning home in a battle of two teams on five game losing streaks and reach the low point of the season at 4-19.

Any talk of this team being considered in a playoff race at that point would have been laughed at loudly. People were desperate to see some action. They wanted Colangelo fired, some said Casey as well and everyone was clamoring for the Raptors to make a trade.

A trade would come far later down the road and no one would be fired in the Raptors’ Organization. Hockey would comeback and soon after the end to the Brian Burke era with the Leafs. That would cause questions at the time of MLSE as to why Colangelo remained and Burke did not. Ultimately, they never really did answer the question. Since that time Colangelo with the blessing and approval of the MLSE board acquired Rudy Gay and his massive contract.

Not exactly something that a lame duck G.M would be given the power to do. In the end if not a playoff push, the acquisition of Rudy Gay and the re-shaping of this roster will be the Colangelo sales pitch to remain.  If the Raptors continue to squander their playoff hopes away, the impact on what that would mean for Colangelo is unclear. However, you could make a case that Colangelo pulled off a great coup in the trade for Gay. Is that enough to ignore the past mistakes he has mad with this organization and keep his job?

Oh and the fans still very happy to boo what many would say was a Colangelo biggest blunder in selecting Andrea Bargnani with the first overall pick in the draft.

In any case the long and the short of it is that Judgement Day for this season has officially arrived, in the form of this important battle with the Bucks. Raptors win and they cling to whatever life they have left. A loss and the focus clearly shifts to next season and beyond. That is at least what should happen. We should see more of Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas.

The positives in missing the post season are more than just one. The draft pick the Raptors traded to acquire Kyle Lowry would be exercised and used. Oklahoma City currently holding the pick originally traded to Houston.  They acquired it in perhaps the only more significant trade of the current NBA season sending James Harden to the Rockets. Not that it is likely, but for the Raptors to enter with next season’s draft with the greatest  superstar this country has produced in Andrew Wiggins expected to be in that draft class and the likely number one selection would be a blow.

Granted the Raptors firmly believe they are on the path to the post-season if not this year, than surly next year. Which makes the idea of landing Wiggins with their pick impossible. Still to not have a ticket to win the lottery at all with no picks, is something that could haunt this organization for years to come.

Sure Wiggins has not even selected a college to attend, yet as he recently visited one of the four finalists looking to have him come to play for them in Kentucky. No matter if he is a Wildcat, Jayhawk, Tar Heel or Seminole, it is conceded by all that this is likely a one year marriage until he can officially enter the NBA. Like the relationship with Kevin Durant and Texas, as the first to be a one and done college basketball player, after NBA brought in rules to eliminate high school players from the draft. The last of those high-schoolers to enter the league is on this Raptors’ roster in the form of Amir Johnson. 

While the playoff experience for the Raptors young group would be helpful and have benefits, the reality is they are looking at being a sweep victim to the Miami Heat, with former Raptor Chris Bosh getting to laugh at the team he once called his. Not making the post-season and finding out sooner rather than later gives the chance for the Raptors to give more minutes to Terrence Ross, Jonas Valanciunas and even Quincy Acy down the stretch.

Sure MLSE would like to have the money from a couple home playoff dates and fans would like to see their team finally get back to the post-season. In the bigger picture of things the benefits of not making the post-season could be far greater than making them in the short term.

What happens to those playoff dreams could ultimately get decided in the next 24 hours or could drag out longer with a win tomorrow. In any case the light at the end of the tunnel is getting as dim as Raptors fans opinions of Andrea Bargnani.


Raptors Playoff Hopes On The Line This Weekend

I some how avoided writing about that mess in Cleveland on Wednesday night. The Raptors faced the Cavs without their lone star in Kyrie Irving and built up a 21-7 lead only to lose at the end of the night. DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay were good and that was about all. Andrea Bargnani despite getting played minutes down the stretch did nothing to earn them. It was another brutal effort from the Raptors as group after a lacklustre loss to the Wizards on Monday. It finds them now 6 games back of the final playoff spot in the East.

It sets up a weekend with games vs. Indiana and Milwaukee that could ultimately end any hope of the post-season all but officially. This begins tonight at the ACC against the Pacers who earlier in the week got into a dust-up with Warriors that saw Roy Hibbert in the middle of it and suspended for a game.

Hibbert returns to the line-up tonight and for what ever reason has been a good match-up for Raptors Rookie Jonas Valanciunas who has played fairly well in a couple meetings with Hibbert. Pacers are 7-3 in their last 10 games. They sit third in the Eastern Conference and for whatever reason have lost to the Raptors twice already this season. That should make the chances of them overlooking the Raptors fairly slim at this point.

The Raptors need a solid outing and win desperately. Andrea Bargnani will be less than excited this one is at the ACC given his performance in Cleveland it seems unlikely his detractors are going to listen to the rational arguments of many and not boo him out of the building.

The major issue has been defense in the last two games and the total lack of it from the Raptors at times. The Raptors after dropping two games they likely shouldn’t have now face the task of winning two games that will be very challenging. If they don’t you can save all your playoffs talk for next season. Not that personally I was ever convinced the Raptors would land in the playoffs. It would be nice if they could have made a run at it, if for no other reason than the experience of meaningful games down the stretch.

Those are my thoughts as I head down to the ACC to check this one out live and in person.