Posts Tagged ‘Dwight Howard

Raptors at Rockets Points Per Game: Raptors show great fight; set record for offensive futility; something needs to be done about offence; Ross a positive

- November 12th, 2013

Rudy Gay made history, DeMar DeRozan’s struggles continued, the Raptors showed laudable fight and Terrence Ross’ early play is a rare positive for this team. That’s the Coles Notes version of Monday’s bizarre double-overtime loss in Houston.

- First off, you have to commend the Raptors for playing some tough, gritty defence against the Rockets. This game really shouldn’t have gone to overtime or double-OT at all. It should have been an easy Houston win with the way the offence was staggering. Also must point out another strong game by sophomore Terrence Ross. The light appears to be coming on for Ross. He’s starting to defend the way the team thought he could when they drafted him. The thinking was he could be a very good perimeter defender and we are seeing signs of that. He’s come back to earth after a torrid start from downtown (2-for-7 over his past two games), but is still shooting 41.7% from outside.

- Toronto was down 80-66 in the fourth, but using mostly zones and taking advantage of Houston’s terrible free throw shooting, got right back into the contest.

- Another solid game from Jonas Valanciunas, who battled hard against both Dwight Howard and Omer Asik would be another positive takeaway.

- The negatives are a lot longer. So long, that I won’t even get into all of them. That’s losses in 4-of-5 now for the Raptors. The offence is in shambles. As I said on Twitter, “no movement, horrible passes, not enough Valanciunas, terrible shot selection.” And I said that before the fourth quarter and beyond. When Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan apparently believed every shot was a good one and passing was best left to lesser players. How is it possible that DeRozan, who went 2-for-12 from the field in the first half and 4-for-13 from there was a mere footnote to Gay’s historically brutal 11-for-37 evening? Yes, Gay remains one of the most clutch shooters in the league (as his game-tying three attests), but the problem is the other 46.5 minutes of games. He and DeRozan over-dribble, nobody else moves around, plays get broken and bad shots galore get hoisted. Rinse and repeat. Your Raptors offence.

- Surely Masai Ujiri knows (and I’m sure he knew before) that this combo isn’t going to work. We said it when Gay was acquired and a few good games doesn’t change it. These two players simply can’t work effectively together. They don’t play off of each other at all. Shoot too many low-percentage long two-point attempts and one of them is only a threat from a couple of areas outside the three-point line, the other doesn’t shoot enough threes (Gay). Add defensive liabilities to the mix and it’s not exactly pretty. Another Twitter line I’ll repeat here: “Two (poor) mid-range jump shooters who rarely pass and refuse to vary their game. You can get away with one, not two.”

- Some real statistical marvels from this one. How do you only get 10 assists on 38 makes and how do you attempt 30 more shots than your opponent and still lose? Back to Gay, he’s the second player to take that many shots and not get to 30 points. Damon Stoudamire, in his second year as a Raptor, had the previous futility record, also shooting 11-for-37, but going for 31 points because of more made free throws. And Michael Jordan also scored 29 once, but on 39 shot attempts (all according to basketballreference.com). The 10 assists on 38 scores was the worst by any team since 1985-86, according to Blazersedge.

- The Raptors didn’t just miss bad shots, the team – Gay and DeRozan specifically, missed many normally eminently makeable inside looks. Something is going on with both of them as they’ve never struggled this much inside. Never struggled anywhere close to this much, in fact. DeRozan’s shot 36% or lower four games in a row now and a lot of that is from not being able to hit shots inside he has finished over the course of his career. He is doing a better job of attacking the rim of late, but the referees are back to not showing him any love. Of course, having Howard and/or Asik waiting inside makes finishing far harder for any player.

-  Asik, the second straight Turkish big man  Valanciunas has had to contend with, presented quite a different challenge than Enes Kanter. Kanter is an offensive force, but a terrible defender, Asik is pretty much the exact opposite. He’s one of the best defenders in the league and extremely tough to score on down low. He forced Valanciunas into a turnover early than blocked a shot, though it was called a foul. But Valanciunas was able to do some good things against Asik or Howard and he did a nice job defending Howard on a couple of plays, before the big man broke loose in the first half.

- The trend would continue, but we’ll highlight how it impacted things early: Just two assists against four turnovers early. Little ball movement and the missed shots and bad passes allowed the Rockets to get out and run and build up the lead.

- Ross did a particularly good job for most of the night on Houston superstar James Harden. Harden is one of the toughest covers in the league, he’s herky-jerky, deceptively quick with his first step and basically, a new-age Manu Ginobili. But Ross has a huge athleticism advantage over Harden and that allowed him to recover quickly. But most of the time, he didn’t have to, because he was doing a great job keeping Harden in front of him.

- Why was there no play drawn up at the end of the game? That’s what everybody was asking at the end of the fourth quarter.  Gay’s had great success over the years beating teams with final second plays in the right corner of the floor. Yet, he just dribbled for a while and hoisted up a bad shot. Dwane Casey said afterward that there actually was a play drawn up, but Gay rejected it and freelanced (he didn’t say it in those words, he said they wanted Gay to attack the basket, that was the play, but he didn’t. Maybe because of fatigue or good defence). And that’s a huge problem with Gay and, to a lesser extent, DeRozan. They try to do it on their own. Don’t accept screens at times, break plays, go into iso-mode. It’s not a strategy that has proven successful over the years in the NBA. It’s difficult to call out captains getting paid so much money, but at some point, if this coaching staff wants to stick around, it probably needs to happen. The Gay three came about after (surprise) no movement.

- Like most people, I’m not certain the Howard-Asik combo is going to work long-term. But we’ll leave that for the Houston writers to scribe about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raptors at Lakers Points Per Game: The season summed up in one game; Witnessing Kobe Bryant’s greatness; Play Valanciunas through his mistakes; Not fouling is on the players; Casey not helping his cause

- March 9th, 2013

First, a tip of the cap to Kobe Bryant. Like with LeBron James, we are all witnessing greatness in real time. Forget a drop-off, like Tim Duncan, Bryant has been better this season than he has been in years. Maybe three players in the entire league pull off what Kobe did last night, making ridiculous shots, willing his team to a win. Sure, going away from Landry Fields on him might have hurt – Fields was doing a reasonably solid job on him again – but it’s not like Alan Anderson was doing anything particularly wrong defensively. Kobe just went off and did his thing.

- Now, on to the Raptors. It’s hyperbole, but late in games, don’t these guys seem a little Washington Generals-esque this season?  Everyone wants to blame the head coach for all of it, but the players deserve blame too. This was (at least) the second time Casey told his guys to foul (Al Jefferson being other big example) and they screwed up, plain and simple. That’s on the players, not the coach. They knew what they had to do, but, inexplicably, didn’t do it. Everyone on the planet knew what was going to happen, who was going to get the ball. 1- You can’t let him even have an opportunity to catch that ball and 2 – if he somehow does, you have to be in a position to foul him before he can get off a shot. Just terrible execution. For the season as a whole, all of the blown fourth quarter leads/late game failures are on both the players and Dwane Casey and his staff.

- Where you can fault the coach fully is the rotation. While Terrence Ross needs run to develop, I fully understand wanting to win this final “statement/relevancy” game and going with Alan Anderson. It is best for the franchise long-term to get Ross out there, but very few coaches, especially ones with only a year remaining on their deal, will ever go with rookies over vets. But … not playing Jonas Valanciunas much (or at all) in fourth quarters is  something I disagree with. I don’t get it at all. Since returning from injury, Valanciunas has been one of the team’s four best players overall and on most individual nights. Going small can work sometimes, but having an athletic, smart, 7-footer who can play beside a 6-foot-10 guy (Amir Johnson) who shares some of those qualities, is a good thing as well. Aaron Gray sets better screens than Valanciunas and has veteran smarts, but he still doesn’t help the team more than he’s out there than Valanciunas, rookie mistakes and all. He’s simply a much better player. Plus he’s the face of the franchise (with Rudy Gay) going forward and needs to be out there as much as possible to prepare for the time where he will be a key player in crunch time at both ends. It’s baffling and unfortunately, because he’s a great guy who coached his ass off last season, it might be one of the main things that catches up with Casey after this season. Yes, you can point to his defensive mistakes but why ignore all of the good things he does that Gray simply isn’t physically capable of doing? Lithuania made the mistake of not throwing him into the fire and the Raptors are doing it as well.

- Something clearly isn’t right with Rudy Gay. He’s far better than what he’s shown. Part of it is forcing things, trying to assert himself as “the man” part of it likely is his sore shoulder, part of it could be adjusting his shot and shooting zones (as he told Michael Grange in a recent interview). Add it all up, and it’s not pretty, especially when the contract is brought into the equation. But, I don’t think Raptor fans need to worry about Gay. He’ll be settled in by the start of next season and will be healthy and much, much more effective. The Gay I’ve been watching since his college game doesn’t shoot airballs and miss as badly as he has. Sure, his basketball IQ isn’t as high as it could be and his shot selection needs to get a lot better, but he’s far better than he’s shown so far.

- I was all but certain, based on everything I’ve heard all year, that Casey and Bryan Colangelo would have their options picked up and given a final chance to show what they can do next season. But, after a dozen or so lost fourth quarters, after the odd rotational decisions and after being unable to connect with most talented player Kyle Lowry (which granted, isn’t the easiest thing to do given how mercurial Lowry is … though franchise has given him the keys and needs him at his best), will MLSE add it all up and cancel out the many positives Casey brings to the table? It was crazy to even suggest such a thing earlier in the year, but, now, my gut says it’s 55% Casey isn’t back to 45% he is. Or, might we see a Maple Leafs scenario where Casey is forced to part with some of his top assistants the way Ron Wilson was in a final attempt to make Wilson work in Toronto (the Leafs made Wilson get rid of his two close friends and top assistants, while then-GM Brian Burke brought in replacements of his choosing … Interestingly, new head coach Randy Carlyle ended up keeping both of the parachuted-in assistants on his staff after replacing Wilson and kept them again this season). The trouble there is Johnny Davis is closest on staff to Lowry and Gay owing to their time together in Memphis so probably not wise to remove him from equation.

- Don’t see how the Raptors will find the money to bring back Anderson next year, and while his offence (when on) and defence will be missed, Landry Fields deserves more run and likely will get it.

- Would like to end with positives after all of that (needed) negativity so here they are”

Again, Rudy Gay is a lot better than he’s shown. No need to panic now. If he’s doing this in December, go ahead and freak out. He’ll likely never be “worth” $18 million a season, but I’d rather overpay a good player than a not-so-good player and Gay is definitely a well above average player. Lowry is too and Valanciunas should be one day and DeRozan can be if he gets his defence up to a league average level and cuts down on his bad shots.

Speaking of DeRozan, he played a fantastic game. One of the keys was limiting those aforementioned bad shot attempts. Long twos are the worst shots in the game. DeRozan needs to either attempt more threes or take a step in on every jumper. That will help his efficiency greatly. On Friday, DeRozan only took what I would call four “bad” shots and he made three of them. And three of those “bad” shots actually might be “good” shots for DeRozan but bad ones for most other players since he’s hit 52.5% of them (long twos from the left corner) on the season. He’s just 31% on the same shots from the other side of the floor, so those ones need to be avoided at all costs. He is around 30% on corner threes so those should probably be the only threes he takes. If he can focus on where his good shots come from and taking them from there and on becoming even an average defender, the future of the franchise looks a lot more promising. DeRozan has the work ethic and smarts to pull it off, but it is by no means a given.

- Covered Casey, will get to Colangelo next time.

Magic at Raptors Points Per Game

- March 6th, 2012

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.

 

Hoops roundup: Mediator meets with league, NBPA, Bargnani to play at home; Howard thinking about life after Orlando; Stefanski out in Philly

- October 18th, 2011

A number of things to get to today.

Most importantly, of course, the top mediator around, George Cohen is meeting with the NBA and NBPA today, after meeting separately with them on Monday. Details to follow.

In other news, according to La Stampa of Italy,Raptors big man Andrea Bargnani is close to an agreement with Virtus Roma that would allow the Rome native to play at home until the end of the lockout.

Canadian dating website AshleyMadison.com reportedly is in talks to finance the deal, make your own jokes about Bargnani, Ashley Madison and commitment.

Dwight Howard made some ominous comments the other day:

“And I just don’t know what else I can do. I can’t live for everybody else. I don’t know what decision I’m gonna make as of right now. It’s been crazy. Everybody wants me to come here, come play here, come to our team, do this. It’s a great feeling, though, to be wanted.”“

When the Esquire interviewer told Howard: “You’re gone, I can feel it,” the NBA’s premier centre replied:

“The toughest part for me is the city — the people. They’ve got burgers named after me in Orlando, they’ve got a Web site saying, “Please stay.” I love the people in the city. I’ve literally sat on the bench with a towel on my head crying, because I feel the passion in the stands. I just think about what’s going to be best for what I want to accomplish in my life. And I don’t want that door to close on me, wherever that door is. I don’t want it to close.”

So, it sounds like it would be very tough for Howard to leave … but he will, unless the front office can pull a rabit out of its hat like swiping Chris Paul.

A new owner took over in Philadelphia this week and Ed Stefanski quickly was let go.

“We were lucky enough when we bought the team to have two fantastic people doing one job,” Harris said. “We are going to stay with Rod. There are no current plans to replace Ed.”

The move was expected. Though talks with Toronto hit a reported snag, Stefanski is still believed to be a candidate to become Portland’s next general manager.

Another interesting note, David Stern told CNN this week that he thinks the regular season can start 30 days after an agreement is reached.

Free agency, training camps and probably a couple of exhibition games would have to take place before the regular season – all likely following a ratification period.

Canadians Wiggins, Bennett, Ennis, etc. do well at camps; Dwight working with the dream and more

- July 29th, 2011

Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, two of Canada’s top basketball prospects both performed well at recent events.

The fine folks at Flagrant Fouls had a nice recap of how they and other Canadians did at the AAU Super Showcase.

Of Wiggins they say:

“Wiggins played 16′s this week for the first time this summer and helped lead a loaded Bounce squad to the Championship on ESPNU.  He’s learning to play harder and harder and as a result is punishing his opponents.  At the 16u age group Andrew should be illegal, as his freakish athleticism, terrific basketball instincts, and length make him a game changer.  The one area where he still needs a lot of growth is in his understanding of helpside defense.  Florida State, Syracuse, Pitt, North Carolina, Kentucky, and way more were posted up at his games this week.”

I still believe that it would have been nice to see Wiggins play for Canada’s U-19 team at the FIBA Worlds this summer since he is a good enough prospect that all the big schools are already after him (meaning he doesn’t need the camp exposure like other Canadians), but what’s done is done.

ESPN also weighed in on Wiggins:

“Wiggins is an extremely talented player for a rising sophomore. He is a tremendous athlete who plays well above the rim and had three monster dunks in the championship game. He is a solid shooter to 17 feet, but needs to improve his range. He has the ability to dominate inside 17 feet, is a good slasher and can rebound. Overall, Wiggins is one of the best rising sophomores in North America.”

They also spoke highly of Brampton’s Tyler Ennis:

“He is an impact combo guard who is wired to score. Ennis is a good slasher who finds a way to get in the lane and put the ball in the basket. He has range on his jumper to 20 feet and he can create off the dribble for himself and others. Ennis has a chance to be one of the better guards in the 2013 class.”

Wiggins, Ennis and Xavier Rathan-Mayes of Scarborough stood out as CIA Bounce (Toronto) beat Garner Roads (North Carolina) 66-55 in the final of the tournament. Wiggins had 28 in the game.

- Crown wrapped up the LeBron James Skills Academy, where Wiggins and Anthony Bennett (Brampton), Canada’s top prospects of any age group (along with Myck Kabongo and Khem Birch) at the moment, did well.

Apparently Wiggins wasn’t as dominant against the older competition as he was playing against those his age, but still showed huge promise and held his own.

Bennett has seen his stock go on a meteoric rise and continues to back it up:

“This has been the summer of Anthony Bennett. No player in North America has seen their stock sky rocket like he has. With momentum flowing, he used the Skills Academy to sustain his new found status. You would have a hard time trying to find a more explosive big man in the whole camp than Bennett. He is a handful for opposing bigs.”

- Elsewhere, Toronto’s Northern Kings AAU team won the U-16 title at the FAB 48 Tournament at Las Vegas. I believe this is the same event Grassroots Canada featuring Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph and Olu Ashaolu won a few years ago. The Northern Kings are largely made up of Oakwood Collegiate and Eastern Commerce players but Martingrove star Connor Gilmore also stood out, along with a few other players.

- Toronto’s Kyle Johnson, who averaged about 11.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 35% from three over four strong seasons at Long Island University has decided to play internationally for Great Britain. He is playing for their development team and doing quite well, leading the team in scoring most games. Johnson is a former member of the Northern Kings, as is Canadian national team scoring guard Jevohn Sheppard.

- In pro ball news, Dwight Howard is working out with Hakeem Olajuwon for the second summer in a row. That should do wonders for his game. Howard was better offensively than ever this past season, while still dominating defensively.

- Former Butler star Matt Howard has signed with Olympiacos in Greece.

- Canada isn’t the only country with problems getting insurance. Australia was not able to get insurance for star centre Andrew Bogut (no surprise since he has an unfortunate history of constantly being hurt), so Bogut will be an assistant coach instead.

Canadian Junior Women’s team doing well; NBA luxury tax teams revealed

- July 24th, 2011

Nice to see Canada’s Junior Women’s team playing very well at the FIBA U-19 World Championship for Women.

The ladies went undefeated in the first round claiming top spot in Group A. The top three teams from each group (12 in total) will meet in the next round and the top eight will go to the quarterfinals. The tournament resumes on Monday.

In NBA news,it was revealed this weekend that the Dallas Mavericks once again paid the luxury tax – this time they got a championship for their troubles. The Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic also had to pay about $20 million U.S.

The New York Knicks actually avoided paying the tax for the first time in more than a decade.

Orlando is in terrible shape. The team has spent a ton in order to appease Dwight Howard but has a terrible roster and is nowhere close to being a contender so everybody expects Howard to leave as a free agent, unless the new CBA helps Orlando keep him.

Previewing Suns-Lakers and Magic-Celtics

- May 14th, 2010

I’m going to hold off on commenting on LeBron James, he gets enough attention.

If you’re desperate to read about the King Without a Ring, here‘s a great take on it.

The NBA’s Final Four is one of the most intriguing in years.

I said at the beginning of the year at full health, the Celtics still had enough in them for one more run. But I think Orlando is just playing too well right now to be beaten.

Big fan of Kendrick Perkins, but Dwight Howard is going to overpower him. Yes, Rajon Rondo should eat up Jameer Nelson, but Mr. Howard will be waiting at the rim. Ray Allen and Vince Carter go back a long way so that will be an intersting matchup to be sure. Kevin Garnett and Rashard Lewis are two very different players, but both are keys for their team.

In the end, I take Orlando in six because I don’t see how Boston stops Howard at one end and I don’t see how Rondo dominates with Howard protecting the rim.

In the West, a Suns victory would be what most of the free world is rooting for, but again, in the NBA, size matters, and I feel the Lakers are too big to be beaten by the Suns.

The Suns have nobody who can stop either Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol. If both are at their best, this will be over quickly. If Bynum goes down with yet another injury, Phoenix has a legit shot. I also like the huge advantage Phoenix has at the point and in terms of pace.

The Lakers struggle against great point guards, Steve Nash is one of the best. I expect him to do damage even if Kobe or Artest try to check him. The Lakers also are at their weakest when teams push the pace agains them. The run-and-gun Suns must attack as much as possible and keep the Lakers on their heels if they are to have a chance.

The Suns have a chance, but if the Lakers stay healthy, they will win in six and we will see an NBA Finals rematch.

This time the Magic just might come out on top.

What  summer it would be for Raptor fans if Vince Carter wins a title and Chris Bosh bolts. And you thought the riots in Montreal were bad.