Hard not to be impressed by the Raptors hanging in with basically any opponent even without Andrea Bargnani. Some thoughts on the loss to the Magic:
- No wonder Dwight wants out, his teammates, Ryan Anderson aside, aren’t good anymore. Jameer Nelson and J-Rich look like shadows of their former selves. Anderson is solid and so is J.J. Redick, but it’s amazing how much better one guy makes them. They are like the anti-Raptors.
- If Dwane Casey has the team playing this hard and effectively defensively once a boatload of talent is added (Andrea Bargnani plus Jonas Valanciunas plus a top 8 pick plus one or two solid rotation players via cap space) than the Raptors potentially should have the most talent they’ve ever had that is ready to compete in about two years (once the two young guys have had a chance to develop). As it is, they should be good enough to make the playoffs in the East next season and have a chance to win a round a year later.
- Was talking to a few people about this, why doesn’t Howard bend his knees at all on free throws? I mean he can’t shoot them any worse, why not try it out? He said something about being too tall to get a good angle and that’s why he misses, but if he bent down low like a Rip Hamilton or Jerry Stackhouse, that would solve part of the problem, no?
- I gave DeMar DeRozan a D on my mid-season report cards. Since then he’s been performing at an A level. The defensive effort has picked up considerably. As I mentioned here not only is he scoring about 21 points a night (Tony Allen disaster aside), he’s also (along with his backups) holding opposing shooting guards to about 33% shooting over the past seven games. Part of the defensive numbers is due to the solid team defence the Raptors are playing, but DeRozan deserves a lot of credit as well.
- With little time to practise, Andrea Bargnani’s return date is still up in the air. They want him to get a couple full sessions in before throwing him back in the lineup. The team is off on Tuesday, plays Wednesday, but has Thursday and Friday off before a back-to-back. If Bargnani goes full out to end the week, a Saturday return in Detroit, or more likely, Sunday at home against Milwaukee seems reasonable. Next week is going to be hellish, so don’t expect to see him out there every night if he does come back. They’ll rest him on some back-to-backs, most likely and might do the same with Linas Kleiza, who Casey noted has struggled to finish back-to-backs.
- It’s weird how Jameer Nelson seems to get amped up to play Jose Calderon. It started when everybody (myself included) wrote that Calderon had a big edge over Nelson before the teams met in the playoffs many moons ago and has continued to this day. Calderon didn’t have his A game last night. Jerryd Bayless got more time because of that and because he was doing a nice job defensively on Nelson.