Posts Tagged ‘LeBron James

At Heat PPG: Lowry injury a reminder how fragile this whole thing is; LeBron James is an MVP too and like Durant, destroyed the Raptors; Toronto still winless in Big 3 era against Heat

- April 1st, 2014

Once again the Raptors hung around with the mighty Heat for much of a ballgame, but once again, Miami showed why it’s the class of the East down the stretch.

That LeBron guy had a lot to do with it. Despite a sore back, LeBron James reminded everyone why Kevin Durant won’t be the unanimous MVP, despite his absolutely insane, record-setting season. Other than forcing LeBron into six turnovers, Toronto had no answers. From Joey Graham and Jamario Moon, to a mild version of Shawn Marion, to Landry Fields and Terrence Ross, like the rest of the league, the Raptors have never had a player capable of slowing down the four-time MVP.

- Of course Kyle Lowry’s injury was the main story from Monday night. Don’t expect much of an update from the tight-lipped Toronto medical staff for a while. Going by past history, nothing will be revealed until just before tip-off against Houston on Wednesday. The early aftermath didn’t look good, with Lowry riding on a cart from the team’s locker room in Miami to the bus. He had to get up to go through TSA pre-screening and my colleague Mike Ganter said he did so while limping noticeably. Running into the freight train that is James knee-first rarely will leave somebody unscathed. But X-rays were negative and as long as their isn’t any significant damage, Lowry should be back before too long.

- But wouldn’t it be so Raptors if a season that has been such a surprising success took an awful turn? Let’s all hope this isn’t another Jorge Garbajosa season-destroying situation.

- Toronto’s still without a win against the Heat since the Big Three was formed. Even though Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen didn’t play in this one.

- The game was lost in the third quarter, when the Raptors kept launching long jumpers (even though Miami didn’t have an inside defensive presence besides Chris Andersen and even though Jonas Valanciunas had been going off in the first half – he took one shot in the third, two in the fourth, a continuing problem). Most of those shots went clankety-clank and, because Miami wasn’t playing too well at the other end, a huge opportunity was wasted. Toronto went nearly four minutes without a basket to start the quarter, failing to get one until Lowry went inside. Two minutes later, the Raptors finally scored again (a Valanciunas dunk). Throughout the quarter, Toronto consistently went a minute or two between scores.

- Would have liked to see Toronto exploit its size advantage more with Valanciunas, or even some Tyler Hansbrough, who could have gotten Miami into some foul trouble because of his activity rate and ability to draw fouls. Dwane Casey opted to go smaller. With Patrick Patterson back, the big man rotation will get even more interesting. Due to foul trouble and because it was a back-to-back, Amir Johnson played only 24 minutes.

- Not getting into the foul disparity other than to say it was a bit ironic LeBron shot more free throws than the entire Raptors team a day after DeRozan shot more than the Magic did.

Heat at Raptors: Raps hang around; Valanciunas dominant; Why match what opponent does when what you’re doing is working?

- November 6th, 2013

The Raptors hung tough against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat for a good portion of Tuesday’s game. Eventually, LeBron James took over, but the home side still had a chance, until a couple of shots didn’t fall and Miami was able to basically double its lead.

It was a bit of an odd night. Jonas Valanciunas dominated from the get-go, having possibly his best quarter of the season in the first. Miami’s small lineup (no Chris Bosh, no Greg Oden, not much Joel Anthony) couldn’t stop the Lithuanian big man and Amir Johnson was a tough cover as well. Taking Valanciunas out for a break early to regain his breath made sense. He played some more in the third quarter, but with Miami pulling away, he didn’t get back in until about four minutes remained in the game. By then, it was too late. Predictably, the Raptors clawed closer, but one wonders if the team would have had a better shot if Valanciunas had played the final seven minutes or so. Just as strange was no Johnson down the stretch at all. He’s the team’s most effective defender by miles and pretty capable on offence as well. The Raptors are better with him on the floor. Coach Dwane Casey said the team had to stay with only one big because Miami went small (with LeBron at power forward he wanted Rudy Gay or Landry Fields to match up with him) but it’s not clear why, over the years, through various coaches, the Raptors have been hesitant to press an advantage. Why is it this franchise always seems to bend and adapt to what the competition is doing instead of playing off of an advantage? Amir fouls a lot, so that’s likely why he didn’t get the chance to match up with LeBron, but it might have been worth a shot, given how effective the offence was with two bigs.

 

More thoughts:

- Terrence Ross provided some offence from the bench. He even passed the ball at least once. He’ll need to keep passing a bit to keep defenders honest.

- LeBron on joining an elite group of players with at least 10 points in 500 straight games: “It’s very humbling. I just go out and play every night and those are the results of it. When I see a stat like that, I’m like, wow, because I know the history, know the guys who paved the way for myself and my teammates and to be in such a great class like that, it’s an amazing feeling.”

- Casey on why he went small: “They were small also. Ray Allen was in, LeBron was at the four. We had a stretch of turnovers like five in a row, six in a row there and that broke our back.”

“I don’t think the small lineup (lost the game), I thought Jonas and Amir and Tyler, all three guys gave us (good play). They weren’t going big also.”

“No he’s not (hurt, speaking about Amir Johnson). I thought Tyler was doing a good job, Jonas was doing a good job and just rotating those guys in. They stayed with LeBron at the four and that’s why we stayed with Landry at the four.”

“They have one of the best power, point guard forwards in LeBron. You talk about why Amir’s not in there and those guys, you have to have somebody to stay out front to try to stay in front of them. Had Landry or Rudy in front of him. But he sees the whole floor and you have one of the best shooters on the planet in Ray Allen on the wing. We knew that coming in, we knew what we had to do.”

“Our guys battled. We put ourselves in position to beat the top team in the league and now the next step for our team is to bust through that, that’s our next step. Are we there yet, we’re not there yet. I see us getting better, see us improving again we’ve got 78 more games to go. It’s a tough month, we’ve got to fight through and continue to get better. Tonight I saw improvement out of Jonas, I saw improvement out of Landry Fields. We’re getting there.”

- Rudy Gay continues to struggle immensely with his shooting. Frustration looks like it is settling in a bit. On the plus side, he continues to do fine work on the boards. He didn’t contain James as well as he did a year ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NBA conference finals quick preview

- May 19th, 2013

I did pretty well in Round 2 (4-0, in fact and was bang on with Heat in 5 and Spurs in 6) bringing my playoff series prediction record to 10-2. But as we move to the NBA’s final four, here’s where it gets at least a bit trickier.

Eastern Conference Final

Miami vs. Indiana

This one should be closer than you’d think. It’s a superteam vs. an expertly constructed, balanced group that excels because of contributions from everybody.

Miami doesn’t really have an answer for Roy Hibbert, who has been playing some fantastic basketball throughout this post-season, but LeBron James makes a bigger difference than anybody in the league, and that’s why the Heat will prevail. Yes, the superb Paul George will slow James down a bit if matched up with him, but I see LeBron and Dwyane Wade getting Hibbert into foul trouble.

David West vs. Chris Bosh also will be an interesting matchup. Don’t expect Bosh to dominate, West will give him a challenge at both ends.

It’s too bad George Hill isn’t 100% healthy (even though he passed his concussion tests), because he’s a guy that could really give the Pacers a boost.

This is going to be a battle and this Indiana group probably knocks off last year’s Miami squad, but with Ray Allen and Chris Andersen providing lots of help off of the bench this year and James continuing the ascent that began with his dominating finals performance, Miami has enough to survive. They might be tested as much here as in the final though.

Heat in 7

Western Conference final

Spurs vs. Grizzlies

I’ve made a habit of counting out the Spurs in recent years – and regretting it – but, here I go again. The Grizzlies will upset the Spurs again. Marc Gasol is playing at a spectacular level and even though Tim Duncan has the best chance of just about anybody of neutralizing him, Zach Randolph will be there to pick up the slack and Tiago Splitter isn’t going to be stopping Z-Bo.

In a long, brutal series, which this one will be, I like Memphis’ youth over San Antonio’s vast experience. I’m not sure Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili will be healthy enough in the latter half of the series after the pounding they will take to get the Spurs through. Early on in the series, Gasol will deter that backcourt from entering the lane and Tony Allen will make life tough for Manu.

The main reason for doubt is Memphis’ lack of a closer and Parker and Ginobili’s history of coming up huge in the biggest moments. Plus, homecourt advantage always helps and the Grizzlies don’t have a particularly fearsome bench.

The Spurs have the experience edge, but Gasol is an international champion and Tayshaun Prince has brought Memphis a proven winner with veteran savvy to help counter-act San Antonio’s pedigree. Prince has faced the Spurs on the biggest stage before and helped frustrate them with his defence.

Don’t expect high-scoring games and the Spurs might make me look foolish again, but:

Grizzlies in 6

 

 

 

 

 

Raptors at Heat Points Per Game:

- April 19th, 2012

So, that LeBron James guy is pretty good. Dwane Casey wants his Raptors to put on weight in the off-season in order to match up with guys like LeBron, but the thing is, not many people can do that. More realistically, the Raptors need to bulk up to match up with other players – nobody matches up with LeBron.

That said, Casey is urging his team to “throw the first punch” every night for the rest of this season (come out and perform well in the first quarter) and the team is doing that more often than not, including against Miami on Wednesday, which is a good sign.

- James Johnson continued his resurgence offensively with another good game, though his defence has slipped significantly from how good it was earlier this year.

- That LeBron buzzer beater play was something to see. One of the more entertaining plays to go against the Raptors this season.

Finals wrapup

- June 13th, 2011

So this is how it ends.

Not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Or something like that. Hard to believe LeBron James checked out so thoroughly in the NBA final.

Congrats to the Mavs, a solid team with enviable depth. Consider, Dallas overcame the loss of Caron Butler, its rock-solid two-way small forward, backup centre and decent inside presence at both ends Brendan Haywood, and the man most thought would be its next star, Roddy Beaubois.

Have to believe Dwane Casey’s price just went up. Will the Raptors meet his price?

Casey is deservedly getting his props, especially with the way Dallas’ zone completely discombobulated the Heat.

But while he deserves the credit, it might be getting a bit overstated in that Miami is a team that can’t really shoot from the outside (Mario Chalmers and Eddie House being notable exceptions) and lives to get inside. Casey and the Mavs went with the type of defence best suited to stop a team like Miami. It wasn’t magic, it was common sense. That’s not to say Casey won’t make a fine choice in whatever city he ends up in. All signs say he will.

Until they got by Chicago, I thought Miami’s reign at the top of the NBA would commence next season. I thought they’d take a year to figure things out before they ran roughshod on the NBA. But once they beat Chicago I thought they had it figured out and would get it done this year.

Can’t say I’m upset I was wrong.

Quick thoughts on Game 3 of finals and congrats to latest Canadian star prospect Anthony Bennett

- June 5th, 2011

Will get to the finals in a minute but first …

Canadian basketball fans should get to know the name Anthony Bennett. He’s yet another stud Canadian prospect making noise. I was a bit late on Bennett, but have been told all year he’s the next big thing after the current crop playing in the NCAA and the players who went to the McDonald’s All-American and Nike games.

Bennett is a 6-8, 230 pound power forward from Brampton (very similar size to Brampton’s Tristan Thompson who is expected to become the highest drafted Canadian ever later this month).

Like Thompson, Bennett plays for Findlay Prep in Nevada.

Graduating Findlay player Myck Kabongo won MVP at last year’s Pangos Camp, a very highly regarded prospects camp in the U.S., while Bennett was named co-MVP this time around thanks to some tremendous performances.

Currently ranked 46th by ESPN in the class of 2012, most believe it is just a matter of time before he cracks the top 20, or higher.

As for the finals, some quick thoughts:

Dirk continues to be spectacular. Very few teams go to a big man in the clutch these days and even historically. Karl Malone was the guy for Utah and I can’t think of too many more examples at the moment.

That’s traditionally the time for swingmen or point guards to shine, so it’s pretty amazing how Dirk seems to score the last 10-15 points for Dallas in big games. He’s an all-time great.

Said in my piece in Monday’s paper that LeBron might get all the attention, but Dwyane Wade is the guy you want in the playoffs. He’s a killer. Not just on offence, where he’s brilliant, unless he goes into three-point chucking mode, but also defensively, where he’s an absolute terror – unless he’s outsmarted by Jason Kidd.

Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem continue to play underrated roles for the soon-to-be-champion Heat. They don’t show up much on the statsheet, but they’re invaluable.

Mario Chalmers, a guy Miami didn’t really want the past two years, is really earning his keep. Chalmers is nailing big shots like he did while at Kansas.

Shawn Marion is doing a solid job on James but Dallas can’t afford another 4-12 effort out of Marion. Somebody besides Dirk and Jason Terry needs to light it up for the Mavericks on Tuesday if they are to make this a series again.

These finals have been a treat for basketball fans.

Strange night for Chris Bosh. Started pretty well. Was awful in the second and third quarters. A bit better in the fourth until stinking it up late … but hit the game-winner.

One final thought. Dwayne Casey is doing a great job. He’s basically the defensive coordinator for Dallas and the team is buying in to what he is selling. Rick Carlisle has been fantastic as well, but I’d be shocked if Casey doesn’t get a head coaching job for next season, either in Toronto or elsewhere.

It is not easy to hold the powerful Heat well south of 50% shooting. Casey has helped make it happen.

Wade makes it a trio

- February 17th, 2011

To date the backlash of the big three deciding to hook up in Miami at whatever cost to their old franchises has been felt mostly by the two new newbies to South Beach.
That would be LeBron James and Chris Bosh.
James’ name is mud in his home state of Ohio. Likewise Chris Bosh learned Wednesday night just how unpopular his exit from Toronto made him after seven years in front of a previously adoring fan base.
Wade? He goes into Cleveland or Toronto and he gets cheered.
Wade admitted he realized this was done as much to mock his new teammates as in appreciation of his own game.
“That’s like a slap in the face,” Wade said. “We go back to Cleveland and I get cheered. We come here and I get cheered. That’s a slap in the face to these guys,” Wade said indicating Bosh and James beside him.
Then Wade, in a few words, joined Bosh and James among the ranks of the unpopular in both Toronto and Cleveland.
“It’s not I’m happy I didn’t have to go anywhere,” Wade said. “It’s just the decision that was made. Miami is just the better city. I’m not saying anything about Toronto but it wasn’t a focal point of mine. I wouldn’t come here and about Cleveland? I wouldn’t go there either. Miami was just the better city.”
Even James, the guy who thought it would be a good idea to go on nation-wide television and announce he was leaving his home to play in Miami saw that for the mistake for it was.
He buried his face in his hands and shook his head as Wade giggled nervously.
We don’t think Wade will have to worry himself about being cheered in either Toronto or Cleveland any time soon.
— Mike Ganter

LeBron is a supervillain; Raptor sign and trade for Bosh likely Friday; Cleveland owner’s letter was awesome

- July 9th, 2010

First, can’t believe LeBron actually did it. He is now LeDarth to me. One of the biggest sports villains ever. Sorry Cleveland fans.

What a great letter by Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert though:

Dear Cleveland, All Of Northeast Ohio and Cleveland Cavaliers Supporters Wherever You May Be Tonight;

As you now know, our former hero, who grew up in the very region that he deserted this evening, is no longer a Cleveland Cavalier.

This was announced with a several day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his “decision” unlike anything ever “witnessed” in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment.

Clearly, this is bitterly disappointing to all of us.

The good news is that the ownership team and the rest of the hard-working, loyal, and driven staff over here at your hometown Cavaliers have not betrayed you nor NEVER will betray you.

There is so much more to tell you about the events of the recent past and our more than exciting future. Over the next several days and weeks, we will be communicating much of that to you.

You simply don’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal.

You have given so much and deserve so much more.

In the meantime, I want to make one statement to you tonight:

“I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE”

You can take it to the bank.

If you thought we were motivated before tonight to bring the hardware to Cleveland, I can tell you that this shameful display of selfishness and betrayal by one of our very own has shifted our “motivation” to previously unknown and previously never experienced levels.

Some people think they should go to heaven but NOT have to die to get there.

Sorry, but that’s simply not how it works.

This shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown “chosen one” sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn.  And “who” we would want them to grow-up to become.

But the good news is that this heartless and callous action can only serve as the antidote to the so-called “curse” on Cleveland, Ohio.

The self-declared former “King” will be taking the “curse” with him down south. And until he does “right” by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma.

Just watch.

Sleep well, Cleveland.

Tomorrow is a new and much brighter day….

I PROMISE you that our energy, focus, capital, knowledge and experience will be directed at one thing and one thing only:

DELIVERING YOU the championship you have long deserved and is long overdue….

- -

Dan Gilbert

Majority Owner

Cleveland Cavaliers

Good luck with the championship part and you probably shouldn’t have enabled the guy for so long, but otherewise, great job.

Yahoo! is reporting via Twitter it looks like a Bosh sign and trade probably happens Friday. Toronto gets a TPE and a pick or two. Bryan Colangelo needs to get his own pick back and needs to not waste the TPE on an average player or two in order for the Raptors to come out of this whole thing in half decent shape.

Still, I think they are in trouble.

Finally, Michael Beasley has been traded to Minnesota. That opens up space for the Heat to go after a free agent like Mike Miller.

On Kleiza and LeBron

- July 8th, 2010

It appears Linas Kleiza is going to be a Raptor. Bryan Colangelo has been pursuing him for a long time. I doubt Denver wants to pay Carmelo Anthony’s backup $5 million a season for the next four years.

Kleiza is a good player. An effective piece. But if he’s a starter and you want to be a good team, he better be your fifth-best starter or you’re not good enough, period. If he’s coming off the bench, that’s a little bit too much money for my liking, but it’s not a complete disaster.

Kleiza was one of the top players in Europe last season (Euroleague leading scorer). He rebounds, defends and gets after it. The Raptors need as many players like that as possible. This move makes a lot more sense if a Hedo Turkoglu deal is on the horizon. There aren’t enough minutes for Kleiza, Turkoglu and Sonny Weems.

But even if Turk is moved, I still have a problem with this signing. Why? You’ll have to read my column in the Sun Friday to find out.

As for LeBron. This whole thing makes me sick. Unless he stays in Cleveland, I am very down on this whole process. If he jilts Cleveland during this one-hour “extravaganza” LeBron will become the biggest villain in sports history. The NBA’s Darth Vader, if you will.

I still think he stays put, but at this point, will concede that belief stems more from hopefulness than logic. All signs point to Miami, but I won’t believe it until I see it. I’m not sure LeBron, the man trying to become the biggest brand in sports, will really cut off so many potential buyers of what he’s selling by leaving Cleveland.

Yes, some haters still buy things, but many more don’t. Selling the Bron brand becomes much easier if he stays in Cleveland for a couple years, wins a ring and then leaves for greener pastures.

When Bryan Colangelo wants a player he isn’t afraid to pay up to get him.

The Raptors have signed forward Linas Kleiza to a four-year, $20-million U.S. offer sheet.

The Denver Nuggets — who own Kleiza’s rights even though he most recently played in Greece — now have seven days to match the offer. It is highly unlikely they will do so.

Kleiza, a 6-foot-8, 245 pound small forward with a nice shooting touch, is a productive player who Colangelo hoped to acquire last season. Kleiza can play the three and four, and even spot minutes at shooting guard in a pinch.

He is an aggressive, chippy player in the mold of ex-Raptor Jorge Garbajosa.

Kleiza spent three seasons with Denver after being acquired in a draft night deal for Jarrett Jack, averaging 8.3 points and 3.5 rebounds in 19 minutes per game.

The Lithuanian spent last season with Olympiacos Piraeus in Greece averaging a Euroleague high 17 points a night, along with seven rebounds.

He notched a career-best 41 points during the 2007-08 season and was outstanding in Denver’s short, four-game playoff that year, averaging 14 points and 6 rebounds on 54% shooting.

It is unclear how Kleiza will fit in with the Raptors unless further moves are made.

Small forward Hedo Turkoglu is expected to have an increased role, unless the Raptors somehow find a way to move his brutal deal, and another swingman, Sonny Weems, is also expected to see heavy minutes following a breakout final two months of 2009-10.

Bosh to Miami done, but will Colangelo play ball?

- July 7th, 2010

As was widely expected, Chris Bosh will be joining Dwyane Wade as a member of the Miami Heat.

ESPN’s Chris Broussard first reported the package deal.

What still remains unclear, is whether Bosh will sign outright when contracts can officially be announced or will he go via sign & trade, gaining the Raptors something in return and gifting Bosh with an extra year and $30 million US over the life of his contract.

The Raptors have not yet heard anything official, so this leaked announcement screams posturing. Miami desperately wants Toronto to take on Michael Beasley in order to open up more room in an attempt to stun the entire league by also adding LeBron James.

Without moving Beasley, Miami cannot offer Wade, Bosh and James the true max. All of them would have to consider taking less money.

Cleveland has said it will not sign & trade James if he chooses to leave, so he would be taking less by signing in Miami anyways.

Bryan Colangelo is sitting at the poker table again. As he was when he made the poor Jermaine O’Neal for Shawn Marion transactions a couple of years ago which ended up providing the Heat with the cap room it is now using to pair Wade with Bosh, along, possibly, with James.

Colangelo either loses the franchise leader in most categories for nothing, or takes Beasley, the Raptors’next non-lottery first and possibly more + a TPE back. But in doing so, Colangelo would be making a lot of people around the league very unhappy – never his style of doing business – since only the Raptors can make a Wade-Bosh-James triumvirate possible unless the trio accepts less money. All three taking less money to play together and putting their egos aside to work together seemed preposterous even 24 hours ago and I still say 70-30 it doesn’t happen. But it is now a realistic possibility.

Interesting times indeed.