Archive for January 5th, 2012

The debut of Points Per Game – Cavaliers at Raptors January 4

- January 5th, 2012

Today I’m debuting a new feature here at the blog – Points Per Game – a brief recap of things that caught my eye during or after each Raptor game. It will run the morning after every game.

- Jose Calderon is off to a spectacular start and making Bryan Colangelo feel a lot better about  the big contract he handed the highest-paid Raptor. Calderon hasn’t been this good since his excellent 2007-08 and 2008-09 campaigns, the ones where he shot 50% fromt he field (or close), 40% from 3 and 90%+ from the line.

His defence, never as bad as it appeared to the naked eye (the stats backed up the fact that Jarrett Jack, for example, wasn’t doing any better defensively, he just wasn’t as targeted by opponents as often), has improved under Dwane Casey’s system and his offence has been all-star level good. Though it is only six games in, Calderon is shooting better than ever from the field, from three and from the line, is just shy of his best per-season scoring numbers and is averaging 10 assists per game.

He seemed to take some offense to my question last night about whether he is feeling healthier and more confident so far than he has over the past couple of seasons:

“Everybody knows my problems a few years ago. I’m good, feeling great and you don’t forget about how to play basketball,” Calderon said rather pointedly.

Casey certainly is sold: “I came away with a different opinion of Jose (after watching him direct Spain at the EuroBasket in Lithuania this summer). Anytime you win a championship the way he has, that tells you something and he’s much better than people give him credit for,” Casey said.

- Andrea Bargnani is really feeling it. Offensively he’s never looked better – opponents look clueless about how to stop him and every jumper he takes seems to be on its way in. He’s really in a zone. We’ve seen similar streaks from Bargnani offensively before, but the effort and intensity level and emotion he is showing on the court is novel for him. He seems far more engaged and is much more of a presence defensively. Always a fine man-to-man defender, he is shockingly looking above average in a help role, which, along with rebounding, was his biggest deficiency since entering the league in 2006.

“Andrea? Hewasn’t that good tonight,” Calderon said with a laugh, before heaving some praise his way.

“So nice to see him smile every time. He’s really comfortable playing out there. We’ve been playing together for a long time, so it’s nice to see.”

- Casey didn’t like what he saw from Ed Davis against Orlando and New York and brought him in for a meeting and video session before the game. It worked, Davis looked far more active and played very well at both ends.

“I brought Ed in to watch film after shootaround to show him the difference in his effort during the last Cleveland game vs. his effort in New York which I thought was not himself,” Casey explained.

“I need energy, we want to develop Ed Davis, but he’s got to earn it and he did tonight. We as a staff are not going to give away minutes, but he earned them tonight and that’s what he’s got to do.”

- Casey also said James Johnson earned himself more time (not because of his 1-8 shooting) but because of his defence and rebounding.

- Finally, the coach cautioned there was still much work to be done:

“We’re nowhere near where we need to be. We’re playing the style it takes to play in the playoffs. I don’t think (we’re a playoff team).” He was happy to see the Raptors cut down on the turnovers substantially.

- And a brief mention of DeMar DeRozan. His ability to now hit three pointers with ease is a testament to the hours he put in during the lockout. This is no Shawn Kemp, people. DeRozan lived on the court and it is showing.

- Tough Toronto debut for Tristan Thompson. As my man Grange pointed out, he was going at a ridiculous clip during the warmup, maybe he burned himself out? Maybe it was the nerves – though he strongly denied that – maybe it was sitting at the scorer’s table for 5 minutes before a stoppage of play allowed him to finally come in. Whatever it was, don’t expect to see a repeat performance the next time he is in town.