Andrea Bargnani Off To Big Apple... Almost Done

Forget those DeMar DeRozan trade rumours of yesterday that I didn't bother to write about. We may have a buyer for Andrea Bargnani. The story started to break on this lazy Sunday afternoon from a New York Knicks beat reporter.

Raptors fans have always been a bit jaded since the trade that was suppose to send Jose Calderon to the Bobcats fell apart. However this appears to be getting as close to a done deal as it gets.

So all that stands from Masai Ujiri becoming an instant hero to Raptors fans is League Approval and a press release. When you consider how quickly this has come together you have to question if Bryan Colangelo was ever really willing to move Andrea Bargnani. Novak would add a three point shooter the Raptors could use. If Camby returns to the team that drafted him he could be a great mentor for Jonas Valaciunas and as the cherry on top of this unbelievable Sunday a first round pick in 2016 that I would assume will be lottery protected.

Raptors fans your long nightmare that has been Andrea Bargnani may be just hours away from becoming a reality. Truly the best Canada Day gift that one could every hope for. 


Starting 5 with Mark Hebscher

It is a pleasure to welcome a new guest aboard for another edition of the Starting 5. Mark Hebscher is a long time member of the sports media for many years in the Southern Ontario market. I had a chance to met Mark in covering the Andrew Wiggins game here in Hamilton. Another interview guest who's roots to know me came via Twitter.

It has produced so many great guests for us in the Dino Nation Blog I have lost count. I thought Mark could offer us a more mainstream point of view on a couple of subjects. First, the Canadian invasion that was suppose to peak next year but decided the come a year sooner in the form of Anthony Bennett. Who if you have not been living under a rock you are aware was the first Canadian to be selected in the NBA Draft. Mark offers a prospective from the general sportscasting sense on where hardcore basketball fans big moments fits in the grand scheme of things. We also get into basketball and it's place in the sports media as a whole.

In addition what to make of the Toronto Raptors and all of the changes at MLSE as relates to the Raptors.

Thanks to Mark for coming on to be a guest. It is always a thrill for me to add people to our guest list. I am working at getting a number of guest lined up in the coming weeks. Also this is our last podcast for the season with our sponsors from at St Louis Wings. I want to really thank Manu for his support of the DNB this season. It has been a great partnership for us. Also the new editions to our staff will be making their way into the blog soon. We already have at Stephen Brotherson aboard doing his weekly NBA column and more additions will be coming shortly.

I have yet to decide if we will be making more staff editions over the off-season but if you some how missed the first wave of people being considered, there is no harm in reaching out and seeing if you can find a place here with us as part of our team.

All of this said, have a very happy and safe Canada Day and remember that it also means the start of the NBA off-season. Will do our best to keep you informed and entertained with what the Raptors our doing or not doing as the case maybe.

One last thing we are now on Stitcher and you can find our podcast on there with the link as well as the player on the right hand side of the blog.

Lucas III Rumoured to Be Out, Door opens To Welcome Kabongo

Raptors appear to be parting ways with John Lucas III and will not be picking up the option according to Marc Stein of ESPN.
This leaves the door wide open for the Raptors to explore bringing Myck Kabongo on board. Which is also being reported.
The Raptors letting Lucas III go likely opens up the options more in terms of adding Kobongo as third point guard with the potential to grow into something more. This is assuming Kobongo could have an impressive summer league and get signed. If this all turns out to be true it could be the silver lining for Myck Kobongo after what had to be a disappointing draft night. In conversations in this very blog Myck has expressed how much he would love to one day be a part of the Toronto Raptors.

Last night on Twitter there was a lot of support from Raptor fans wanting to see Myck Kobongo come aboard for the Raptors. It might be closer to happening now and for the people that support this young man keep your fingers crossed.

For my full thoughts on draft night check this out from earlier today in the DNB.

Update 1:25 PM

Raptors have confirmed this news about John Lucas III via Twitter:

Still waiting to hear on what this will mean in terms of Kobongo. But the first Domino has clearly fallen.

Update 3:15 PM

that door that opened slammed shut fast and Chris Bosh and Lebron James and Miami Heat are on the other side it would appear:

I am very happy for Myck in the sense for his career this could be a massive opportunity. I am very disappointed that yet again the Raptors have let another talented Canadian slip away.

NBA Draft: A Big Night For Canada & Typical Night For Raptors

Looking back on the NBA Draft night it was a night of a lot of emotions if you consider yourself a fan of both the Raptors and basketball in this country in general. Those emotions got flowing early in the night. Everyone in basketball has almost conceded that Andrew Wiggins will have his name called first at this time next year after a season at Kansas. That is in stark contrast to Anthony Bennett who some were claiming was falling in the draft got taken number one by the Cleveland Cavs. This is the second time in the past few years the Cavs have shocked Canada. Many were surprised to see Tristan Thompson now Bennett’s team-mate goes at number 4. At that point the highest a Canadian has ever been selected before last night.

Unlike Thompson it seems Bennett was as legitimately surprised as everyone else was last night. It all seems so crazy that thirty minutes or so I was complaining that women’s golf seemed to have been more important to TSN than basketball as the draft coverage was delayed by it. That fact along with the fact that the draft was relegated to TSN 2 in the first place might be part of the reason why a lot of basketball fans took so much pride in what happened with Bennett. Basketball has always been fighting for the attention it deserves in this country from the media. Times hopeful are changing as the generation that grew up on the Raptors and watching Vince Carter and others are getting old enough to make their own mark in the NBA.

The Raptors entered the night with no pick and despite the Raptors saying they would be fighting hard to get back in this draft did not. What might have made it more frustrating is another Toronto product remained on in the form of Myck Kabongo. He ended up going undrafted and many Raptors fans wanted to see the Raptors go get him in the second round. He now becomes a free agent and it would be a real slap in the face to Raptors fans if we did not see him get an invite to Summer League for the Raptors.

As most of you know I have got to know Myck through doing interviews here in the blog over the years. I fully admit to my bias towards a young man that I think the world of as a basketball player and a person. This fact laid on the table it is pretty clear the Raptors have a need at the position of point guard. When you combine that with what Raptors have been saying about wanting to be Canada’s team and that Masai Ujiri has talked about wanting to have younger players in the 12-15 spots in the rotation. It doesn’t add up and I fail to see what the Raptors lose by jumping into the late second round to select Kobongo. The price for a pick that late is extremely low. If they now go on and we do not see Kabongo with Raptors in Las Vegas it is a really blow to the creditability of this new group to me.

When you look around the Atlantic Division while the Raptors roster remains for the moment status quo it can’t be said Philadelphia or Boston. The Sixers traded Jrue Holiday to New Orleans while Boston has seen Doc Rivers move on the Clippers and now Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce heading to the Division rival Brooklyn Nets. Bottom line the first to entries in the tank fro Wiggins race have been established. The Raptors true direction remains a bit of a mystery at this point.

Speaking of the Celtics that is where the second Canadian drafted in the lottery would end up after being part of his own draft night trade. Kelly Olynck will trade in his Zags colours for some green and white and the traditional uniform of the Boston Celtics.

All this and we did not even get into the comedy that was David Stern last night as he celebrated his last NBA Draft by toying with the live audience in Brooklyn all night long as they booed him majority of the night. In a scene that was strange to anyone who is not a wrestling fan when Stern came out for his final pick to announce at the end of the first round he was cheered. There is a lot of complaining and bitching about Stern on social media but nobody can deny how he has built this league since 1984. He has done a solid job with the NBA and as he prepares to leave in February of 2014 it should be noted how much good he has truly done. 

So in conclusion it was one hell of a night for Canada Basketball while it seemed a typical night for the Toronto Raptors. Don’t get me wrong the Raptors not getting a first round pick is something I consider a positive despite the fact a few players in this down draft year should have some success. The issues I have about Kabongo and the Raptors is that the risk is taking someone in the second round is far less without guaranteed contracts to worry about.

I am happy for Canada and basketball fans, Sad for a great young man in form of Myck and as always remain more than a little puzzled with the Toronto Raptors. Oh yeah and still not happy with TSN so it was a pretty typical night. Well except for the fact that Anthony Bennett becomes the answer to a question of where were you when the first Canadian to go number one was selected. If you missed it you should get the chance to say I was there to see Andrew Wiggins get drafted who may well be the best Canadian ever when it is all said and done.


DNB Draft Day Blog

This is the big day or the most boring day depending on how it plays out. There has been a lot of speculation being made about the Raptors looking to get into the draft and that all remains to be seen.

As we have done in the past instead of making several posts throughout the day we will just keep updating this post with the latest information as the day goes along.

So check back with us throughout the day and evening for the latest on Raptors and there involvement in the NBA Draft.

In the end the Raptors do nothing and Myck Kabongo goes undrafted. That was the downside of the night. A huge night for fans of the game in Canada though with Anthony Bennett of UNLV going 1st overall to the Cavs to play alongside Tristan Thompson. A historic night for Canada and a typical night for the Raptors. Will sum it all up tomorrow.

Week That Was In The NBA

Heat Win Back-to-Back NBA Championships

On Thursday, the HEAT won their third NBA Championship and second in two seasons as LeBron James captured his second Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP award.  In a series where big moments were often owned by the “other guys”, like when Ray Allen hit the game tying three-pointer that sent Game Six to overtime, the HEAT leaned heavily on James for just about everything.  James averaged a double-double 25.3 points and 10.9 rebounds in the Finals, but in the HEAT’s three victories over the final four games, he stepped that up to 34 points and 11 rebounds.  Two triple-doubles in the Finals sums up just how dependent the HEAT were on the Finals MVP.

NBA.com reported the infamously fickle Miami fans turned out in force for the celebratory parade and rally.

“With an estimated 400,000 people lining the downtown Miami streets, the Heat held their parade and an in-arena rally afterward Monday. James stood atop a double-decker bus with a cigar in his mouth for the parade. Shane Battier blew kisses to the crowd, Dwyane Wade raised three fingers aloft and Chris Andersen flapped his arms in a nod to his "Birdman" moniker.”

James move to Miami in 2010 has produced the legacy he was hoping for.

Spurs Blow It in Back-to-Back Games

As well as James played in the Finals, the Spurs lost this series as opposed to being beaten. 

In Game Six, the Spurs led 75-65 at the start of the fourth quarter, but gave in all back within six minutes only to recapture a five point lead with just 28.2 seconds left in the game.  Missed free throws by Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard in those final seconds would have put the game out of reach or just one defensive rebound and the Finals belonged to the Spurs. 

In Game Seven, it was Tim Duncan who couldn’t hit the short hook shot over Shane Battier in the paint for the tie with 48.9 seconds left in the game and then couldn’t finish the uncontested tip-in of his own rebound.  Those missed shots will haunt Duncan this summer.

After Ginobili played his best game of the playoffs in Game Five, he was a one-man wrecking crew of the Spurs hopes in Games Six and Seven.  Ginobili turned the ball over 12 times during the final two games in Miami.  It’s doubtful the HEAT would have even been in Game Six without his help.  One of the NBA’s most exciting players over his 11 seasons in San Antonio, the 35-year-old Argentine was a mere shadow of his former self during this postseason.

Playoff series often hang on the ability to capitalize on the mistakes of your opponents.  In Miami, the HEAT beat the Spurs by taking advantage of the opportunities the Spurs handed to them and to a large extent that has been the formula for the HEAT’s success over the past three seasons.

Clippers Trade For Doc Rivers

On Sunday night Hoopsworld reported the Clippers had successfully acquired Boston’s Head Coach Doc Rivers for a first round draft pick.

“Sources confirmed on Sunday that the Clippers will sign Rivers to a three-year, $21 million contract. They will send a first-round pick as compensation for the Boston Celtics, who have agreed to release the coach from the three years, $21 million he has remaining on his deal with the club.”

The original deal was assumed to include a trade for Kevin Garnett, but this aspect unwound as it potentially broke league rules regarding dependent transactions and Rivers didn’t finally sign his new contract with the Clippers until Wednesday.  The trade part of the deal is still subject to league approval, but there is no precedent for declining the move.

Rivers is a players’ coach and one of the most respected executives in the NBA.  Stealing him away from the Celtics for a non-lottery draft pick is a huge win for the Clippers as an organization.  The magnitude of which is emphasized by giving Rivers a title senior to that of Vice President of Basketball Operations Gary Sacks as reported by Eric Pincus of Hoopsworld.

“The Los Angeles Clippers officially announced Glenn “Doc” Rivers on Tuesday — not only as head coach but also senior vice president of basketball operations.”

Respect for the Clippers franchise just took another big step forward over the past week.

With Rivers heading out of town, watch for rumors about Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and every other player on the Celtics roster to begin heating up.  It’s hard not to view Rivers departure as the warning siren for a pending demolition.

Finally It’s Head Coach Brian Shaw

Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports confirmed that former Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw has finally landed a head coaching job.  Shaw was the heir apparent in Los Angeles following Phil Jackson’s retirement, but the Lakers went in another (unfortunate) direction and Shaw has been interviewing for alternate head coaching jobs ever since.

“Indiana Pacers assistant Brian Shaw confirmed in a text message to USA TODAY Sports that he has an agreement to become the Denver Nuggets head coach.”

Shaw replaces the 2013 NBA Coach of the Year George Karl and will get to run a team that has enjoyed ongoing regular season success that has not translated to the postseason.

NBA Draft Goes Tonight

There are numerous rumors about teams trying to move in and out of this year’s draft and everyone should be on their toes for possible trades, but this hasn’t been the easiest draft class to get excited about.  Still, a deal or two is almost certain to go down before the 2013 draft is over.

The draft order for the lottery picks is as follows:

1. Cleveland Cavaliers
2. Orlando Magic
3. Washington Wizards
4. Charlotte Bobcats
5. Phoenix Suns
6. New Orleans Pelicans
7. Sacramento Kings
8. Detroit Pistons
9. Minnesota Timberwolves
10. Portland Trail Blazers
11. Philadelphia 76ers
12. Oklahoma City Thunder
13. Dallas Mavericks
14. Utah Jazz

The 13 players invited to the 2013 NBA Draft’s Green Room include:

Nerlens Noel, Kentucky Freshman
Ben McLemore, Kansas Freshman
Otto Porter, Georgetown Sophomore
Alex Len, Maryland Sophomore
Victor Oladipo, Indiana Junior
Trey Burke, Michigan Sophomore
Anthony Bennett, UNLV Freshman
C.J. McCollum, Lehigh Senior
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia Sophomore
Steven Adams, Pittsburgh Freshman
Cody Zeller, Indiana Sophomore
Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse Sophomore
Sergey Karasev, Triumph Moscow

Notable omissions include Junior Kelly Olynyk from Gonzaga and Freshman Shabazz Muhammad from UCLA.  Karasev’s inclusion in the Green Room is interesting as the international forward was not made available for private workouts prior to the draft and could go anywhere from nine to nineteenth.

There is no consensus as to which prospect will be taken first overall, but the Green Room invites do provide a very good indication of the likely lottery picks.  This draft does have talent.  It just doesn’t have the obvious future superstar.

Raptors Bryan Colangelo Steps Down

According to James Borbath, former Raptors President and General Manager Bryan Colangelo has stepped down from his new position of President Team and Business Operations to become a consultant for MLSE and the Raptors.  It is expected Colangelo will land with another NBA franchise sometime in the future.

Stephen Brotherston has covered the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the ACC since 2009.  You can follow Stephen on twitter @stevesraptors


The Colanglo Long Good Bye Continues

Bryan Colangelo has decided to step down but in true MLSE Fashion he still will be a consultant. The timing on the eve of the NBA draft is somewhat interesting. Does B.C have serious issues with plan Masai Ujiri has for the future. I doubt will ever know. This might be the clearest sign we have that the Raptors might be going into full reconstruction mode. It is all just speculation at this point.

Here is what B.C had to say in a press release from the Raptors.

Colangelo: "Having had a better chance to reflect on things for the past several weeks, I have concluded that stepping away from my position is the best course of action for the organization and everyone involved."

The only question I have is why bother with this consultant nonsense. We saw the same situation with Brian Burke and the Leafs. Enough already with this nonsense, let's get on with it. This makes the whole comedy of how this all would workout by both Tim Leiweke and Masai Ujiri seem laughable.

Ask anyone in the media that covers this team if they believed it would and pretty confident no one would have agreed with them. B.C was the king of the rose coloured glasses approach to this team. We as people that cover this team and you as fans that pay attention to this team are not fools.

It kind of is like when parents that are getting divorced assure the children that everything will be alright. It seldom works out that way and Bryan Colangelo being kicked out of his office and sleeping on the couch down the hall was doomed to fail and everyone knew it.

I do give Bryan the credit for being the one to realize this obvious fact and step aside. A lot easier to do when you get one of those consultant checks for doing nothing. I really need to land that job.

Raptors Remain Pickless Heading Into Thursday's Draft

So the Raptors to this point enter the NBA Draft tomorrow without a pick to speak of. There has been speculation from various outlets that the Raptors might look to jump back into the draft. I think everyone is merely guessing at this point. Masai Ujiri has shown through his handling of the Carmelo Anthony trade to New York that he tends to keep his cards close to his vest. When you add in the Raptors cap concerns I would see it as highly unlikely the Raptors jump into the first round.  It would seem to make little sense for the Raptors to commit to a guaranteed rookie contract at this point. If they do jump into the first round it might be an indicator of some major changes ahead.

Even if the Raptors are heading towards a complete rebuild I still find the chances of them jumping into the first round unlikely. Bryan Colangelo when he was still running the show made the idea of that next to impossible. Colangelo’s plan seemed to be to just add a few vets to the mix and hopefully find a landing spot for Andrea Bargnani. Ujiri also would seem likely to want to do the same in terms of Bargnani. If that would involve a pick in this draft would be the big question.

What seems the most likely is the Raptors to jump into the late first round or early second if they see a player that interests them. It also should be noted the Raptors have held no formal workouts prior to the draft which is somewhat of note. This does not mean that they may not have happened in a private workout. The Raptors have done this in the past even going back to there first year as they had a very quiet second workout with Damon Stoudamire. All this said the draft is much like the trade deadline and free agency situations become pretty fluid.

In addition, some DNB news to report as well today.  I am happy to announce you can now get our podcasts going forward on The Stitcher App. You will note the player on the right hand side of site. We our honoured to be part of Stitcher and hope this will make accessing our audio easier for all of our mobile users. You can still access the podcasts in all the same formats in the past as well.

Also want to thank St Louis Wings for their support this season. We hope to welcome them back as sponsor next season. Our agreement concludes at the end of the month and they have been a great partner for us for several years now. We are always looking for sponsors to join us. If you are interested get in touch with us. We can discuss rates for off-season or the upcoming Raptors season. 


Week That Was In The NBA

Trading Wins in the NBA Finals

There is a pattern forming is this back-and-forth NBA Finals between the HEAT and the Spurs.  First halves are hotly contested and relatively even with turnovers providing the only clue to what will happen after the break.  If the Spurs are turning the ball over, the HEAT run away with the game in the second half, but if the HEAT can’t turn their opponent over and get run outs, the Spurs win.

Game Four saw the HEAT’s Big Three finally have a big game, but those in the know were predicting Game Five as the one to watch.

“I think Game Five should be the best game of the series,” said Dwyane Wade. “Both teams should come out knowing each other, knowing what each other is going to do and it should be a very good game.”

Wade wasn’t wrong.  Game Five was a very good game with both teams making extended runs as the Spurs tried to take command from the opening tip, but Miami fought back each time until the fourth quarter.  Wade indicated after the game that constantly playing from behind just took too much out of them.  As has been the case all series, it was the other guys who stepped up and made the difference between winning and losing.  Danny Green was 6-10 from three-point range for 24 points and has hit an NBA Finals record 25 long range bombs during the series.  Manu Ginobili, who has been a shell of himself all year and has been talking about retirement, had a season high 24 points and 10 assists.  In the end, the game wasn’t as close as the 114-104 score in the Spurs win.

Back in Miami for game six, it was win or explain how they lost for the HEAT and in a game for the ages, the HEAT came back from 12 down at the end of the third and five down with 28.2 seconds left in regulation to pull out the win in overtime 103-100.  This was the Spurs game to lose down the stretch and if it wasn’t for missed free throws by Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard in the dying seconds, the three-point heroics of Ray Allen wouldn’t have mattered.  Tim Duncan turned back time to record 30 points and 17 rebounds in the loss.  LeBron James carried the HEAT on his back with a 32 point, 10 rebound, 11 assist triple-double.

Game seven is Thursday night.  For NBA fans, it doesn’t get any better than this. 

Jason Kidd is a Rookie Again

In an off season of head coaching turmoil, yet another rookie head coach will get his chance to pace the sidelines in the NBA next season.  After the worst playoff performance of his long and distinguished career, Jason Kidd retired from playing and traded two more seasons of guaranteed money with the Knicks for what could be a four year or less head coaching job in Brooklyn. 

Retired NBA point guards joining the head coaching ranks is hardly usual, but Kidd’s situation isn’t typical.  Going straight from playing to coaching without even a brief transition as an assistant coach is a huge step and a leap of faith by the Nets organization, however, at 40 years old with 19 seasons in the NBA as a player, Kidd is already older than many first-time head coaches and he has arguably been a coach on the floor for years.  The Nets were genuinely excited to introduce their rookie Head Coach in their press release.

"Jason is a proven winner and leader with an incredible wealth of basketball knowledge and experience. This will be a natural transition for him to move into the role of head coach, as he embodies the tough, smart and team-first mentality that we are trying to establish in Brooklyn," General Manager Billy King said.

"He has the fire in the belly we need, and has achieved as a player everything the Brooklyn Nets are striving to achieve,” said Nets Principal Owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

Kidd has the potential to become a great NBA head coach, if the Nets can find the patience to allow their rookie to work his way through the inevitable mistakes and blunders that every first-timer must endure as they learn the nuances of a new job.  The biggest concern is the recent lack of restraint by King and Prokhorov when things are not going to plan.  This team has endured seven head coaches over the last four seasons and fired 2006 NBA Coach of the Year Avery Johnson last December after he won the NBA Eastern Conference Coach of the Month in November.  Kidd deserves a lot of latitude in his first season as a head coach.  Hopefully the Nets give it to him.

Clippers Dominate Rumor Mill

No the Clippers are not having another fire sale.  These are not the lovable-losers of years gone by.  Clippers owner Donald Sterling appears to have loosened the purse strings in pursuit of a championship contender and today’s rumors revolve around a possible sign and trade with the Lakers for Dwight Howard and an attempt to pry Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett and possibly Paul Pierce out of Boston.  Aside from the fact each of these moves seems to be impossible, Steve Kyler in Hoopsworld's Monday NBA AM story indicates that there is more than enough smoke to believe there is some fire.

“The L.A. Clippers and Boston Celtics have discussed a deal that sends Kevin Garnett and his remaining two contract years to the Clippers in exchange for center DeAndre Jordan. As part of the proposed deal, two future first round picks would head to Boston as part of an agreement that allow Celtics head coach Doc Rivers out of the remaining three years and $21 million left on his Celtic contract, in order to join the Clippers as their next head coach.”

The initial holdup appeared to be the Celtics wanted backup point guard Eric Bledsoe included in the deal and planned to dump one of their surplus veteran shooting guards on the Clippers.  Then it was suggested Celtics would take two first round draft picks instead of Bledsoe.  The Clippers were reluctant to give up two young talents for a player at the end of his long and respected career even if it also nets them one of the best coaches in the game.  The apparent reluctance to give up draft picks is a little harder to understand.  It is assumed the Celtics would also buyout Pierce’s contract and the All-Star small forward would join Garnett and Rivers in Los Angeles. 

According to the LA Times’ Broderick Turner, the Clippers and Celtics have ended talks and the Clippers have resumed their head coaching search.

“Both teams declared Tuesday that they had called off talks for a potential blockbuster deal that could have brought Boston Coach Doc Rivers and power forward Kevin Garnett to Los Angeles.”

This deal isn’t really dead just yet.  Until the Clippers actually hire a coach other than Rivers, this transaction can quickly and easily be revived.  In reality, the Clippers are not being asked to give up that much just to get Garnett.  Also, it is strange just how little head coaches are valued by teams when it is so obvious that playoff success is almost impossible without a top flight leader on the bench.  Clippers should just jump on this deal.

There isn’t as much smoke with the Howard rumors as no one really knows what the Lakers are planning.  There’s as good a chance the Lakers could just let Howard walk so that the team would have the salary cap space to pursue the dream of a possible LeBron James free agency in 2014.  A team built around Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant should be competitive if everyone is healthy next season, but that’s a big if and the Lakers are not exactly known for tanking to get a lottery pick.

At the very least, the Clippers look like they have been genuinely trying to become a championship caliber franchise lately.

Changes Continue In Toronto

When MLSE President and CEO Tim Leiweke introduced his new President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Masai Ujiri to the media recently, the house cleaning was already well underway.  The pair made it clear that Ujiri would be running a much smaller and better focused basketball operations group than before.  Based on what we knew, the surprise and even outrage from the local media when Leiweke announced they had let go former Raptors’ player and current scout Alvin Williams seems curious.  As James Borbath reports in the DNB,

“Alvin is no doubt one of the most beloved Raptors of all time and sure it does suck as [Doug] Smith [Toronto Star] suggests in his article.”

Williams was a popular player in Toronto.  A nice guy that the team’s players have liked since he stopped playing and a guaranteed means of boosting fan morale by occasional appearances during games through some recent very tough times.  However, as we saw less and less of him each year he worked for the Raptors and he seemed to be primarily scouting out of the Philadelphia area, it isn’t exactly hard to understand the business rationale for letting Williams go.  Raptors scouting hasn’t exactly been overwhelmingly impressive and keeping someone on the payroll for a couple of minutes of applause twice a year doesn’t make a lot of sense.  MLSE has taken a lot of heat over the years for maintaining a bloated non-player payroll.  Expect Leiweke to be making some other less than popular, but much needed changes to how this sports empire is run.

On Wednesday the Raptors issued a press release to announce Bobby Webster has been hired as Vice President, Basketball Management & Strategy.  Webster was Associate Director, Salary Cap Management with the NBA league office in New York for the past seven seasons.

“I am delighted to have Bobby join our basketball operations team,” said Masai Ujiri, Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations. “His skill set will be valuable in a number of areas, and his experience and knowledge of the CBA and its complexities from a League level will be a great asset to the organization.”

Other additions to Ujiri’s staff that are expected to be announced soon include Jeff Weltman from the Bucks and Dan Tolzman from the Nuggets.  As reported by James Borbath, the Raptors have officially confirmed Dwane Casey will be returning next season as the Head Coach.

Stephen Brotherston has covered the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the ACC since 2009.  You can follow Stephen on twitter @stevesraptors


Dwane Casey Will Be Back Is Headline Of A Busy Wednesday In Raptorland

Lots of news items to get to for the Toronto Raptors. Some additions to the front office were the story of the morning.

Obviously the Raptors have some challenges to say the least in terms of the cap. Webster from all accounts seems to be one of the most qualified people you could hope to find. He was part of the NBA side that created this current CBA so if he doesn’t understand really does anyone? He also has a background in the analytics which is something that Raptors have been trying to make a bigger part of what they do in the last few seasons.

Makes sense that Ujiri would want someone from Denver to head up his scouting staff. I will not try and pretend I know much about Dan Tolzman. What I do know is the Raptors scouting department has been lacking over the years and to blow it up makes a lot of sense. It also might make the move to remove Alvin Williams as a scout makes more sense. It was also pretty smart to have Tim Leiweke tie his name to firing of Williams rather than Masai. If you think about it though this was Ujiri making this call and he would have some experience with what Williams did or didn’t do as he was part of the organization when Ujiri was still here. Probably worked with him as well given Masai’s role in his last time around with the Raptors. Also when you consider Leiweke is on the record saying that Ujiri will make all basketball decisions it all seems to make sense. Still to make Leiweke the “bad guy” to given Alvin the boot makes sense as well.

Perhaps the biggest news of the day was the confirmation that Dwane Casey will be back for the final season of his contract extension. The Raptors would not mention anything in terms of the coaching staff which most feel is going to be getting a face-lift. The Raptors have promised an announcement about the fate of the staff will be coming in the future. Given all of the shuffling we have seen with the front office it would be little surprise if we see changes to the staff as well.

This is a positive move in my view to make some changes to the staff. What might be a key for how much faith the Raptors have in Casey is if any of the coaching staff has experience as a head coach and could be a candidate to replace Casey if things do not go well. Time will tell on that. What question still remains unanswered is what the Raptors plan is for the on court product but with the end of the NBA Finals set for tomorrow those answers should be coming soon.

One other note from today was the Raptors released their schedule for Summer League. This is being tweaked by the sounds of it to some type of tournament format. In the preliminary round they are set to have 3 games vs. Miami, San Antonio and Sacramento. Here is the rundown with dates and times.

  • July 13 vs. Miami 7:30pm (Local Time 10:30pm Eastern Time)
  •  July 14 vs. San Antonio 7:30pm (10:30pm Eastern Time)
  • July 16 vs. Sacramento 3:00pm (6:00pm Eastern Time)

Raptors have already announced that Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross and Quincy Acy will be part of the roster for Las Vegas. This will obviously be an important time for all three. It also would be a target to have the coaching staff in place to prepare for Summer League so that might give you some idea as to when we might hear about the coaching staff.


Raptors Off The Court Shake-Up Continues As We Await an On Court One.

Raptors continue to shuffle the deck off the court, but we wait and wonder what will happen as far as on the court matters go. Alvin Williams former Raptor and has worked with the organization in a number of roles off the floor was relieved of his scouting duties and is no longer a part of the organization. This move came straight from the top from Tim Leiweke according to an article by Doug Smith in The Toronto Star.

Alvin is no doubt one of the most beloved Raptors of all time and sure it does suck as Smith suggests in his article. I don’t seem to be as outraged by this move as Smith seems to be. In that same article it suggests that the coaching staff could be getting a shake-up as well. I think this is long overdue in my opinion. If you want to give Dwane Casey another shot I am all for that. This does not mean I am in favour of giving the entire staff a free pass. In this blog I have suggested the idea of changes to the staff being something that could be done instead of just getting rid of Casey altogether. In my view first on the chopping block should be Jonny Davis who has been primarily responsible for the Raptors on the offensive side of the ball.

While all of these changes will have an impact the true changes that will have the most impact have yet to be seen. That is to this roster itself. As the NBA Finals will draw to a close either on Tuesday or Thursday this should get teams to be ready to make moves as the NBA Draft and Free Agency are both rapidly approaching.

While you may feel for Alvin Williams, Ed Stefanski or any of the assistant coaches that end up out on the street without a job it is the moves on the floor that most will be focused on. Front and center is what becomes of Andrea Bargnani, who was listed as part of the roster that will play for Italy this summer. What Bargnani does there however, may not have a barring on his future one way or the other. This is if the Raptors are committed to finding a deal or ultimately amnestying him. The deadline to do that would fall far before any game Bargnani would play for Italy.

The larger question is what Ujiri’s ultimate plan is in terms of this roster. Is this a case of the demolition of it and starting yet another rebuilding project?  If it is than safe to say no one on this roster would be safe in terms of trades or moves with perhaps the exception of Jonas Valanciunas. If not and the Raptors are looking to tweak the current roster and try to endure the next two years with contracts Colangelo has left them with it could be very difficult.

One way or the other the summer is fast approaching and Masai Ujiri will be on the hot seat as he stated in his opening remarks to the media in Toronto. It should be interesting to see what direction he goes. He stated in that same press conference that it would be fairly obvious to everyone. To this point the Raptors have just been doing some internal house cleaning.

For those who thought George Karl might have been a possibility to coach that became very clear as to why that will not happen last week. Karl in a story in the Denver Post seemed to suggest there was a divide between him and management last season. It seemed pretty clear that Karl was not exactly thrilled with how things went behind the scenes in Denver.


Starting 5- NBA Draft Edition With Ray Bala

Normally at this time of year we would be in deep discussion about the NBA draft and who the Raptors might be looking to select. However, this season thanks to the Kyle Lowry and Rudy Gay trades the Raptors find themselves without a pick currently as we head towards the NBA Draft. Still there is a list of young Canadians that will be hearing their name called on draft night. Keeping that in mind I took the time to chat with Ray Bala of the Can Ball Report to get his opinions on these young Canadians in the draft. Ray is one of the most knowledgeable experts on Canadians in on all levels of basketball in this country. If there is a guy or girl playing basketball that Ray is not aware of it would be a shock. So who better to talk about Anthony Bennett (UNLV), Kelly Olynyk (Gonzaga) and Myck Kabongo (Texas) three names we expect to be selected on draft night.

If you want to make yourself more in the know about all Canadians playing basketball on the various levels you should always check of Ray @CanBallReport and read his fine coverage that is some of the best you will find on the internet.

A special thanks to St Louis Wings for hosting out NBA Finals party last night it was a fun time as always. If you are looking for a place to watch the NBA Finals there is no better atmosphere than there. Check the games out at all 3 of their locations 595 Bay St, 528 Young St (At College) and the Fairview mall location.

If you unable to listen of download here please use this link to listen or download directly from our podcast home. 


Week That Was In The NBA

Best NBA Finals in 30 Years?

The Spurs have been nothing less than dominate during the Tim Duncan era.  Sixteen consecutive trips to the playoffs, four NBA titles, an organization renown for finding and developing talent others couldn’t and the best head coach in the game today.  A healthy Spurs team with its own veteran Big Three represents the ultimate challenge for LeBron James and the Miami HEAT.

“This is probably the most anticipated Finals - in who knows – in 30 years,” said NBA Commissioner David Stern before game one.  “We have two teams who are no strangers to the Finals.  We have two teams that have more than one championship ring.  We have a group of players who are going to be in the Hall of Fame and we expect to have a heck of a series.”

While almost every NBA analyst trotted out before the cameras picked the HEAT to win the series ahead of Game One, the numerous fan polls suggested the Spurs were favored by those merely watching the game.  The Spurs didn’t disappoint their fans as the 2007 Finals MVP Tony Parker was clutch once again and led his team to victory down the stretch in the opener.

Game Two saw the predictable bounce-back by the home team as Miami ran away with it late in the third quarter and Coach Popovich reeled in his stars to play another day.  The Spurs collapse was epic, but it would be a mistake to think a bad 15 minutes provides any indication of the future.

The series headed to San Antonio for the next three games with the HEAT needing to win at least one contest to survive.  Historically, the winner of Game Three in a tied NBA Finals wins the title almost every time and the Spurs came ready to play at home on Tuesday.  This time it was an epic collapse by the HEAT in the second half as the Spurs outscored them by 30 points over the final 24 minutes for the easy 113-77 victory.

A close game followed by two blowouts might suggest that this series has no direction, but despite the scores, we are witnessing defense at its best.  LeBron James has been smothered in the paint and forced to pass, rebound and shoot jump shots and it appears neither he nor his numerous (unbiased?) backers in the media can accept that San Antonio has figured out how to stop him from scoring.  James averaged 29 points on 51 percent shooting against the Pacers, but just 16.7 points on 38.9 percent shooting versus the Spurs and it is no accident.

Neither club will allow the other team's Big Three to win the game.  The Big Threes are cancelling each other out and it has fallen on the role players to step up.  In Game Two Mario Chalmers led the HEAT to victory with 19 points and Ray Allen chipped in with 13 off the bench and in Game Three it was Danny Green with 27 points and Gary Neal with 24 to lead the Spurs.

Tony Parker left Game Three with a sore right hamstring and is questionable for Game Four on Thursday.  The impact of the injury on the Final’s best point guard is unknown, but the Spurs did find a way to win Game Three without much of help from Parker.  Stay tuned, this series is far from over.

Denver Nuggets Upheaval

In the same week the Nuggets lost Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations and 2013 NBA Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri to the Toronto Raptors, the team parted company with the 2013 NBA Coach of the Year George Karl.  On the Nuggets' website, Team President Josh Kroenke praised his departing management team.

“I appreciate everything Masai has done since re-joining the Nuggets in 2010,” Kroenke said. “Over the past two and a half years, he and I have spent countless hours working together to tackle some of the toughest challenges in franchise history. I have tremendous admiration for him as a colleague and will always consider him to be a great friend.”

“George has been an instrumental part of our success over the past decade, and we appreciate everything he did to keep us among the top teams in the Western Conference,” Kroenke said. “He is a Hall of Fame coach whose legacy in Denver will last for years to come. George is a legend in the game of basketball and I could not have more respect for him as a person and coach.”

Under Ujiri and Karl, the Nuggets just completed their best NBA regular season ever, winning 57 games, the most since they won 60 games as an ABA franchise in 1975-1976.  The 62-year-old Karl still has a year left on his contract with the Nuggets, so he can afford to take some time off if he chooses, but with 1,131 wins over his 25 years as an NBA head coach and a winning percentage of 59.9 percent, he should have opportunities to coach again almost immediately if he wants to.

Kroenke now has two huge holes in his management team to fill, but after failing to advance past the first round of the playoffs in four consecutive seasons, perhaps a dramatic change in direction was the right way to go.

Kobe Bryant in Season Opener?

The Lakers have a big decision on their hands on July 10.  While the impending Dwight Howard free agency is the topic of month, the Lakers need to decide if they believe Kobe Bryant will be healthy enough to play next season.  The two decisions could even be tied together.  If it starts to look like Howard will go elsewhere and Bryant’s return is dubious, the Lakers could get $20 million under the salary cap this summer by amnestying Bryant and then take another serious run at soon-to-be free agent Chris Paul.  The Lakers could have options in July, but Bryant is doing his best to take the option of amnestying him off the table.

HOOPSWORLD reporting on a story by Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com said, “Stitches removed, out of a cast and with nearly six weeks of rehabilitation under his belt since surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon in his left leg, Kobe Bryant is still hoping for a return by the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2013-14 season opener.”

Bryant is the face of the Lakers franchise and if healthy enough to play, he is still a superstar player in the NBA.  No more crutches, a special shoe for walking and one of the toughest players to keep off the court because of injury, it would be foolish to bet against Bryant returning to action on the date he says it will happen.

Stern Says Changes Show the New CBA is Working

The NBA is awash in change.  Team executives have been fired, scouts and assistant coaches are on the move and there will be at least a dozen new head coaches next season.  Winning head coaches on the move include Denver’s 57-game winner George Karl, the Clippers’ 56-game winner Vinny Del Negro, Memphis’ 56-game winner Lionel Hollins, the Nets 35-19 interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo and the Hawks 44-game winner Larry Drew.  They join a long list of head coaches from losing clubs that are in transition this summer and several notable candidates fired during the past season.  All this before the draft, trades and free agency have begun to impact rosters.

“Everything that we have done in terms of collective bargaining is designed to level the playing field and allow teams that are well managed, no matter what their market size to be in the Finals,” said Stern once again.

“Our teams are making very long term decisions based upon the luxury tax and how they draft in accordance with that and that is all about management.  All of a sudden, you have got teams that think they can compete if they do a good job and in fact, I think that is a little bit behind the coaching changes that are on-going as well.  Teams think they are aggregating something, that they have a certain group of players that they want more out of and they think they are not getting (that now), so what you do is think about changing the coaches or you think about reconfiguring the roster or you think about having another general manager.”

All this movement bodes well for those who want to see a very active trade market around the draft and an exciting and unpredictable free agent period.  However, it will be easier to believe the new CBA is working as intended if teams like Miami, Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, New York and the Lakers move out talent this summer to save on luxury taxes next season.

Remember to join us on Thursday night for Game 4 of the NBA Finals @Stlouiswings 595 Bay St, Toronto

Stephen Brotherston has covered the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the ACC since 2009.  You can follow Stephen on twitter @stevesraptors


DeMar DeRozan to be Part of Team USA Camp In July

DeMar DeRozan gave a lot of credit to his experience with the U.S select team last summer as part of his growth as a player last season. Given that, it is good news to learn that DeRozan will be part of the U.S mini-camp that will be held July 22-25 th in Las Vegas.

DeRozan will be one of 27 participants at this mini camp. It is a group made up of the younger stars of the NBA from the U.S.

Accepting invitations along with DeRozan to participate in the USA Basketball Men’s National Team mini-camp: Ryan Anderson (New Orleans Pelicans); Harrison Barnes (Golden State Warriors); Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards); Mike Conley (Memphis Grizzlies/Ohio State); DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings); Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans); Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons); Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets); Derrick Favors (Utah Jazz); Paul George (Indiana Pacers); Taj Gibson (Chicago Bulls); Gordon Hayward (Utah Jazz); Jrue Holiday (Philadelphia 76ers); Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers); DeAndre Jordan (Los Angeles Clippers); Ty Lawson (Denver Nuggets); Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs); Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers); Greg Monroe (Detroit Pistons); Chandler Parsons (Houston Rockets); Larry Sanders (Milwaukee Bucks); Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors); Dion Waiters (Cleveland Cavaliers); Kemba Walker (Bobcats); John Wall (Washington Wizards); and Tyler Zeller (Cleveland Cavaliers).

“The group of players we have assembled for the mini-camp are extremely talented and very versatile. This is an important opportunity for each one of them because we will be evaluating which players will continue to be involved in future USA National Team training camps and teams,” said Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball chairman.

Raptors in their history have had Vince Carter, Antonio Davis and Chris Bosh participate for Team U.S.A in the past with Carter winning a gold in Sydney and Bosh winning a gold in 2008 in China.

Given the impression the experience made on DeRozan last summer this has to be viewed as a positive for his development as part of this off-season.

Mike Krzyzewski will run the mini-camp. Serving as assistant coaches are USA Basketball and Syracuse University veteran coach Jim Boeheim, Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and New Orleans Pelicans head coach Monty Williams

Remember to join us Tomorrow night for our Finals Party at St Louis Wings at 595 Bay St for game 4 of the NBA Finals.


FInals Party For Game 4 Next Thursday

The NBA finals got underway with a bang last night in a pretty good opening act for this series with the Spurs and the Heat. In the end the Spurs came out on top playing an insanely efficient brand of basketball with just 4 turnovers and edged out Miami 92-88. Tony Parker hit the dagger shot getting it off just in time after almost losing the ball just seconds earlier. Lebron James who was just recently announced as the cover athlete for NBA 2k14 showed us why he is the best in the game with a triple double performance that included 18 rebounds. It looks to be a great series and with the Spurs stealing home court advantage along with the 2-3-2 format it will make for a very important game two on Sunday.

St Louis Wings is hosting a DNB Finals Party for Game 4 on Thursday June 13th it will be a 9pm tip time and will be in the house so come join us at the 595 Bay St Location.  In the past we have held NBA Draft Parties with St Louis Wings but with the Raptors without a pick to speak of this will be are alternative to that. So come out and watch the finals and feel free to come say hello and chat some Raptors as well as it already has been a pretty eventful Raptors Season as well.

During the lead up to the party will likely give away some free wings as part of the build up for the party via twitter. So be on the lookout for that.

Speaking of the Raptors it looks like the Raptors at least from some initial reports will not be getting the hunt for former Denver Head Coach George Karl. Dwane Casey is safe for another day.

Even if we are not there St Louis Wings at all 3 locations ( 595 Bay St, 528 Young St (At College St)  and Fairview Mall location) is your home for the NBA Finals.


Casey's Seat Just Got A Lot Hotter

So you’re Dwane Casey and you wake up on Thursday still employed by the Toronto Raptors and you got a less than ringing endorsement from the new G.M Masai Ujiri. All of the sudden the news breaks that coach he worked with and has been a winner everywhere he has been George Karl is fired. Suddenly your Corn Flakes are tasting soggy and you are wondering where you will be working come October.

It is far from a 2 + 2 = 4 situation as Karl should be a top candidate for any of the existing opening jobs in the NBA. The Clippers job might be at the top of that list with a team that is poised to win now and needs to make an appealing case for Chris Paul to stick around. To have a coach that has worked with a hall of fame point guard like Gary Payton and a list of many of great players’ likely helps.

There is no doubt the Raptors would be lucky to land a guy like Karl and would have at least some build in advantage you would like to think. Regardless of if this is a real possibility it speaks more to the very shaky ground Casey is on with the Raptors.

The organization has talked about turning the page and approaching things with money is no object type approach to things. So no doubt every time a legit coaching candidate becomes available Casey will be looking over his shoulder for the next year.

I have made mention on more than one occasion what happened to Bryan Colangelo when he decided to do the honourable thing by giving Sam Mitchell a chance to play out his deal. The result was short term success, a Coach of the Year award for Sam Mitchell and a big fat contract extension.  The relationship with Colangelo and Mitchell always from the outside seemed to be strained at best. Ujiri while he was not around when that took place, but he is aware of it as the guy that made this choice has an office in the building still.

This maybe the first of many times where Dwane Casey’s future will be questioned as the next year plays out.  Even if the Raptors don’t land Karl it is safe to say this will not be the last time we hear Casey’s job status brought into question. No one is going to be offering Dwane an extension this much seems clear. That being the case his job status in the final year of his deal is always going to be at best in flux.

Dwane is a great man and I truly think he is a solid coach. The players that currently make up the roster without question respect him. All of that being said it may not be enough to matter. Life is not always fair and Casey has not been fortunate with good timing in his head coaching career in the NBA. In his other opportunity in Minnesota many felt he never was given a fair shake. Same might end up being true with the Raptors. A pro sport is not a place to work if you are in search of fairness and justice. It is a place where winning is all that ultimately matters at the end of the day. Dwane may have over produced in that regard in first season and under produced in his second season. His third season is not promised to make it to April even if he makes it through the summer.

It is a shame to see him potentially go, in a dream situation you would love to see him stick around as an assistant but that just isn’t going to happen. He is a good coach and he is someone that works very hard at what he does.

All of this said the chances of George Karl following Masai Ujiri to Toronto are not as much of a slam dunk as people are jumping too. There are better jobs out there. The Raptors might be able to offer the most cash to make it hard for Karl to say no, like it was for Ujiri.

DNB Forever...Raptors Forever?

There has been a lot of talk of change this off-season and we have seen quite a bit of it to this point. That said the idea of re-branding the Raptors and giving them a different name is not one of the ones I really care for. There are the obvious personal issues of having personally built a brand called the Dino Nation Blog. I am not changing it regardless of if the Raptors follow through and become the Huskies or whatever else they might choose to be. The last 18 years have been far from great and the bad memories likely out weigh the good. That said, your history is what it is and no new name or colour scheme can hide you from that reality. Not to mention existing NBA franchises that have names that don’t make any sense since franchises have moved from the L.A Lakers to the Utah Jazz, or to a more modern example of the Grizzlies in Memphis.

The fact the Hornets will now be called Pelicans is not going to convince a fan in New Orleans to go to basketball game. What convinces fans to go to a basketball game or watch them is as it always has been to win games and give fans hope. New names do not inspire hope and they don’t change anything. Ask the former Washington Bullets how much success they have had since going over to Wizards? This is aside from selling a lot of uniforms with Jordan not a heck of a lot.

How about our mascot the Raptor himself, Sure it is a guy in that suit and he could be no doubt the same entertainer as a Husky Dog, A Beaver, or whatever else he might become. For 18 years he has been a Raptor and I like him just the way he is. If the Huskies win a championship it will not seem the same as if the Raptors did. It will white wash away all the struggles that we have endured.

Your history is what it is. At the time the name Raptors was chosen and you live with it. There is no question all holy hell would be going on if this conversation was about the Toronto Maple Leafs. They have a losing history that dates back to 1967 maybe they should get a new name? That is ridiculous isn’t it, one of the most iconic brands in hockey, how could you even suggest such sacrilege. It is to make a point that as much as you may have an established brand it doesn’t make you a winner based on it. While changing your brand offers you nothing after the initial buzz of selling new merchandise and a few years of your crowd looking like they support two different teams.

You may not like the Raptors name; it really doesn’t matter at this point. This is who they are and to change it at this point spits on every memory they have created both good and bad since 1994 when the name was announced. If you had a beef, that was the time to act in 1994 not now.

If you disagree and can’t wait to give MLSE money for some fresh Huskies or whatever they become you will have to wait even if they did decide to make a name change. The process which also does have to be approved by the NBA takes roughly 18 months from when the league is informed. That is why the Hornets still might be a year away for the people of Charlotte. Speaking of Charlotte how are those new branded and new franchise Bobcats doing. Right, not so well are they. Again it is not about the name of the team it is about the results the players in those uniforms are able to produce.

Some people may have given in and call Ron Artest by Metta World Peace. I am not one of them. True legally he changed his name but for me he will be forever Ron Artest.

You might think this is odd coming from the wrestling fan that most are aware that I am. After all Joe Henning the son of Mr Perfect Curt Henning is working on what is his third character name of Curtis Axel. While the man we all know as HHH aka Paul Lesveque was once upon a time Terror Risin. We could list off 100 of these with many examples. The point being a name in wrestling only lasts as long as the gimmick is getting over and once it doesn’t they look to tweak it or tell you to go home for 3 months and come back with a whole new persona. Still fans remember who you were regardless, as Kane will always have to live with before he was a masked monster and the Big Red Machine he was Isaac Yankem the demented dentist of The King Jerry Lawler.

In wrestling you are expected to suspend your disbelief, like your asked to do in movies or television. That is why they coined the phrase sports entertainment after all. While the NBA is entertainment as well it is a sport first and in sports we are expecting something legit on the level. It would be foolish if say Andrea Bargnani changed his name to Bruno Marela. We would still know who he was and would not like him. The Raptors will still be how they are too.

What we all want at the end of the day is to be calling them….WINNERS and when you win that makes names like Raptors not so important.

Oh and if you had a tattoo of the team made in the last 18 years I am sure that MLSE will be happy to pay for the removal costs but the pain and suffering is on you. No they won't? Well there is that new show on T.V called Tattoo Nightmares maybe they can help you out.


Mood In Raptorland Has Changed As Masai Ujiri Returns To Toronto

It had the feel of a Media Day, but that is still months away and Masai Ujiri will make many important decisions between now and then. Today was just the beginning of what is expected to be five years for Masai Ujiri running the show in what he affectionately referred to as his home in his opening remarks. What is clear is Masai is passionate and far less forthcoming than the man who hired him for his first tour of duty Bryan Colangelo.

What was the same was the talk of the goal being to win a championship which I am fairly certain Bryan Colangelo had when he arrived. There was a lot of the standard talk of what a great organization that MLSE is. If you are thinking it was all the same it clearly wasn’t and that is not just with Ujiri who after answering several questions about how he and Bryan would get along put an end to it by saying there is “ zero” issues between himself and Bryan Colangelo. That he “is on the hot seat” as Ujiri referenced several times in his remarks. Maybe to drive that point home Ujiri’s title is President of Basketball Operations and General Manager of the Toronto Raptors.

It was not just Ujiri that was impressive today it was also Tim Leiweke that just recently officially took the reigns at the head of MLSE. He made it crystal clear that the era of spin and false expectations was over and this was an ownership group that was committed to winning an NBA Championship. Something that Ujiri said was essential to be the goal of the organization. To simply make the playoffs and be competitive is not the goal.

The mention of no spin almost felt like an indirect shot at the Colangelo era in which almost everything seemed to be spun and re-spun in the past. Expectations were often set to be too high over the years. One of Colangelo’s major failures was his handling of the Chris Bosh situation. One of the things Chris Bosh said on his way out the door to Miami who will be in the NBA Finals for a third straight season was his belief that you had be a luxury tax team in order to truly compete for a title. He was right and it was something this organization under Colangelo was very unclear about their intentions in that regard. They always claimed to be willing but never followed through with the action to take this team to another level in terms of spending.

Today when the question was asked about if the Raptors intend to be a tax team the answer was much clearer. Ujiri said he was assured that this organization is willing to spend beyond that limit if need be. This was echoed by Tim Leiweke. It makes the massive task ahead for Ujiri a little less of a burden and gives him a lot more options in a situation that if things stayed the status quo would have been much more difficult.

Don’t be confused in the fact there is a lot of things to do and get done for Ujiri. He was asked about the future for Dwane Casey and while he would not commit to it 100% it certainly seemed he was leaning and willing to let Dwane Casey play out his deal. He would not commit to that fully and said he need to continue to have conversations with Casey and exchange their visions and philosophies to the game. Bryan Colangelo in a similar situation would allow Sam Mitchell that chance to save his job. He took full advantage and one the Coach of the Year award and forced Bryan’s hand to re-sign him. Ujiri wasn’t here at that point but he could follow a similar path here with Casey and roll the dice.

He talked about developing some younger players with the back end of the roster. That is in vast contrast to the vision Colangelo had talked about with adding veterans to this core group. The plan has obviously changed now but to what remains to be seen. Masai Ujiri did however say that the direction they are heading will become clear.

It is a stark contrast to hear Ujiri speak in comparison to Colangelo. He was far less forthcoming but far more passionate and emotional in what he does say. He says what he wants to nothing more and nothing less. He talks about trying to be positive. He says he is well aware of the problems from taxes to immigration and other things that are said about the Raptors. To that he said he doesn’t care and basically said it was his job to establish a new identity and not get caught up in these things or use them as excuses.

You walked away with a crystal clear vision of who is running the show. Ujiri was and he had Tim Leiweke backing that up on the part of ownership.

In 18 years we have likely heard it all and have likely rightful become jaded which Tim Leiweke seems to understand. He can’t do anything to erase the past but he seems extremely focused on making up for that past and offering a much more honest and focused future.

Will see how it all plays out but Ujiri clearly is a different type of animal from Bryan Colangelo and if you didn’t walk away with that understanding from the events of today I can only assume you didn’t watch or feel asleep.

At the very least from what we have seen since Tim Leiweke as arrived he has earned the right to be given a fresh page to write on. Same is true for Masai Ujiri. He talks about the passion he has to succeed based on being the first to do what he has done from Africa where he is from. It seems to drive him more than anything. In his mind he can not afford to fail. That is the type of attitude you can respect and get behind.

Raptors have had many New Days in their 18 years in league. Another one is here and more than many in the past I find myself desperately wanting to believe in this one.  Maybe because a lot of things I have expressed over the years about the Raptors seem part of this platform or vision that we have been given an early glimpse of.

Still, the mess that Bryan Colangelo has left behind is a tough hole to climb out of. It will not be easy and it will take more than a couple miracles to make it happen. Who better to perform them than a true pioneer for his country and continent? A man that walked into Denver and was predicted to be doomed based on the “MeloDrama” that awaited him. Questioned and criticized along the way as he refused to have his hand forced to trade his star player.  In the end coming up with a trade that helped the Denver Nuggets not just survive life after Carmelo but thrive without him. This is a guy that is not afraid to stick to his guns no matter what you think, I think or anyone else thinks.

Can he truly be the Raptors Messiah that Colangelo was supposed to be? Only time will tell but I am left to wonder if this guy can’t get it done at this point can anyone? Will see….Will see.


Masai Ujiri is on the Job and Making Changes

Masai Ujiri is already on the job and started to make his first moves as G.M. He decided to show Ed Stefanski the door on Sunday. In addition a number of scouts were given the pink slip. It seemed clear that MLSE lacked confidence in Stefanski as they never would pull the trigger on Colangelo during the season and give Stefanski the reigns on an interim basis. He didn’t seem like he was even a candidate when Colangelo was let go.

It makes sense that he would be out the door. Ujiri who had a background in scouting likely have some folks in mind to bring in to fill those rolls and with no draft pick to speak of there was not a lot of need to hold on to these folks. Stefanski did a lot of scouting as part of his roll and Vice President in charge of basketball operations under Colangelo.

It for me was always a strange fit having the guy was responsible for the Vince Carter trade from the Nets prospective as part of the Raptors. Ed is a great man and a nice guy. However, if this organization had true faith in him wouldn’t he have been given a chance to run the show when this team struggled out to 4-19 start.

Ujiri’s major mission however is to find a way to unload Andrea Bargnani as quickly as possible. The urgency is to get something done before he would be eligible to be amnestied. The amnesty provision only has a short window it can be exercised at the beginning of free agency in July. So that likely explains the urgency on the Raptors part.

If you are hoping for anything significant from this trade don’t hold your breath. It is a case of addition by subtraction with Bargnani. It also seems pretty clear that Ujiri will at least consider the option of amnesty for Andrea Bargnani. It does make much more sense than to simply amnesty Linas Kleiza who has just one year left on his deal in the form of a player option that he will be more than happy to exercise. Bargnani is earning a bigger number for a longer period of time so it makes sense from pure money prospective that he is the one you should cut loose.

From a basketball point of view, Andrea Bargnani has taken his value to the lowest it likely has ever been. The Raptors not only paid Masai a lot of money because he was likely the best man for the job, but also because the job itself is far from easy.

The Raptors are expected to have a formal press conference to have Masai meet the media for the first time in his new role as the general manger and head of basketball operations from the Raptors. No doubt he will be addressing a great many things but at the top of list is likely the future of Andrea Bargnani.