Archive for February 11th, 2013

Hoops roundup: Wiggins’ emphatic response; Kabongo coming back; LeBron in a crazy zone

- February 11th, 2013

I tweeted a lot about Andrew Wiggins last week, but didn’t really write any extended thoughts anywhere, so here they are:

Pete Thamel is a fantastic writer and it was good to see SI doing a feature article on Andrew Wiggins, but the final result left a lot to be desired. While some of it was valid, I found the tone was off and things were perhaps stretched to make a point that maybe wasn’t too valid to begin with. While it’s fine to point out some of the problems with our culture such as deifying athletes, ignoring any faults and fawning over stars as well as looking past many of the shady things that often go on before star athletes make the big-time (or don’t make it for that matter) the piece didn’t focus on that. It took digs at Wiggins, his family and Canadian basketball players in general that weren’t necessary and were rather exaggerated.

Interestingly, the headline of the article changed from positing Wiggins as the Canadian can’t miss prospect who might finally make it unlike everybody else (ignoring guys like Tristan Thompson, who was once, like Wiggins, ranked No. 1 in North America by scouting sites and became a No. 4 overall NBA selection and, in Year 2 of his NBA career, an impact player, while also ignoring Andrew Nicholson entirely) to one that described Wiggins as “The great hope north of the border.” The change was made after considerable backlash, particularly from Canadians.

Wiggins’ friends, family and coaches were particularly peeved by the article. It appears they got Wiggins extra riled up because he responded by scoring 57 points (missing only four shots) in his next game. That’s quite a statement and shows what he can do when trying to prove a point. Wiggins is going to have to get used to being criticized. It goes with the territory. Some of it will be constructive, some of it will be a stretch, some of it will be utter nonsense. The constructive stuff is good and it is what should be responded to.

- Speaking of Canadians, Myck Kabongo’s finally coming back. It’s about time. Kabongo who grew up in Toronto, has served a ridiculous 23-game NCAA suspension and will start for the Texas Longhorns (stumbling along at 10-13) on Wednesday night. They’ll need him to try to salvage what has been a lost season. Kabongo has a lot to prove. It’s hard to see him returning to Texas for a third year next season because he and his people are furious at the way his suspension was dealt with and handed out compared to how others, who committed far more egregious infractions, were treated. That means Kabongo will have to show that his long hours in the gym have made him a better shooter. If he can become a reliable shooter and improve his decision-maker, there is no question he can still crack the first round of the NBA draft this summer. This is a weak draft without a lot of pure point guards. Here’s what Kabongo had to say in a statement about his return:

“I am ready to start playing with my team again and putting behind me the last several months.  When I went to Cleveland last summer, I did not intend to break any rules and did not believe I had broken any.  I should have been upfront with UT about everything the first time I had a chance, but I’m glad that I corrected my mistake and I’m glad that I was truthful with the NCAA.

I have learned a lot about myself and what is important to me through this process.  I have a great team, and they have supported me all year.  I believe I am a better teammate and am looking forward to finishing the season with my team.  I want to thank my teammates and my coaches for sticking by and supporting me all year.”

- Rudy Gay was an honourable mention for East player of the week. He didn’t have a chance. Not with that LeBron James guy doing ridiculous things. James was player of the week because Miami went 4-0 and he shot an absurd .738 from the field. Sure, we all know James has some help, but nobody should have shooting numbers like that. Russell Westbrook won for the West.

 

 

 

 

 

Raptors take one they should have; Lucas steps up; Time for Anderson’s minutes to be cut; Hornets have too many bad defenders

- February 11th, 2013

A win is a win, even if it comes in an ugly game. This was a game the Raptors should have won (at home, against a porous team) and to their credit, the players managed to pull it out.

Some thoughts:

- This win doesn’t happen without John Lucas catching fire. When he gets hot, he gets into some kind of a zone. Lucas went 5-for-5 from deep, helping the Raptors get to .500 from three for the game. His presence was badly needed after the starters struggled badly in the third quarter. The starters had dominated the first quarter, which made the third quarter let-down pretty strange.

If Lucas heats up like that, you have to leave him in. Especially if Andrea Bargnani is unavailable and Rudy Gay is resting on the bench.

- Speaking of Gay, he was initiating the offence more than we’ve seen so far. It’s a bit of a different look and it’s going to be a good thing, especially since the team can use as many creators as possible. When Lowry is sitting, Gay can facilitate and find open shooters like Lucas. He can also create his own shot against anybody and it’s been a long time since one could say that about any Raptor.

- Lowry had his best game in weeks. He was fantastic early, doing whatever he wanted. Granted, Greivis Vasquez is a woeful defender (poor Anthony Davis, he is surrounded by pylons, in the  off-season, the Hornets/Pelicans desperately need to add a perimeter defender or two), but Lowry had the aggressiveness and determination we saw earlier in the year back. That’s as good a sign as any for the Raptors because that Lowry is the near all-star version, giving the team two well-above average players in the starting lineup for the first time in eons (DeMar DeRozan I would slot as about average, Amir’s overall probably an average starting power forward, Jonas Valanciunas is below average for now, but gaining rapidly).

- While we’re on Valanciunas, looks like his confidence and wind is back. He put in another fine effort against another man-mountain in Robin Lopez. It seems Valanciunas particularly enjoys matching up against the league’s biggest centres (Roy Hibbert the other night). You have to appreciate the passion Valanciunas brings. Once he establishes himself, he’ll also get a lot more calls, particularly on defence (he wasn’t impressed with a foul call on a clean block at one point).
- Terrence Ross played decently in Indiana, but might have had his worst performance of the season against New Orleans. As much as I’ve been clamouring for more Ross (with less Alan Anderson being ideal as long as he sees himself as a top option), the truth is, Ross didn’t have it and didn’t deserve minutes on this night. But … Anderson received far too many minutes. Even though he was the best option defensively, if he’s going to make that many bad decisions offensively, you’re probably better off bringing Amir back into the game in the fourth (he had been really good) and going with Gay and Fields at small forward and shooting guard. Somebody has got to get Anderson to rein things in, he can’t be shooting at will unless he’s in a zone like Lucas (and we haven’t seen evidence that he gets in those zones, like Lucas can).
- Until Lucas’ heroics, the bench wasn’t very good. But they made up for it in the fourth. Fields also was a big help in limited minutes.

- Austin Rivers looked better than I’ve seen him before in the NBA, but that’s faint praise. He went from historically awful to just pretty bad. Raptors should be very happy they didn’t take him at 8 (he was very much on the list). He’ll get better, but he’s lost right now.