Posts Tagged ‘Paul George

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

 

 

 

 

 

The return of Points Per Game: Pacers at Raptors PPG

- November 1st, 2012

New season means it’s time for a new season of my post-game thoughts, which will appear by Noon the morning after games.

Here we go with Pacers vs. Raptors Points Per Game:

- First off, that was the best atmosphere I’ve seen at the ACC in years. The fans were great, they were into the game and it was a heck of a contest. This Raptors team plays the way fans in this city like their teams, with an edge, at a fast pace.

- Kyle Lowry was superb. I tweeted he’s the best all-around Raptor since Vince Carter, sorry Chris Bosh, and I believe it. Made a difference at both ends of the floor.

- That said, Lowry’s main weakness is shot selection. He fires at will and at times that’s great, but down the stretch of a tight game, he needs to make better decisions. Ditto Jose Calderon, who got a bit trigger happy at the end, which is rare.

- People are blaming Andrea Bargnani for West going off, but Bargnani actually did a decent job defensively on him. Sure, he hedged too much late, but where was his help? It’s the lost offence, particularly from deep, that should cause concern where Bargnani is concerned. He’s never going to rebound, but his defence was pretty good last night. He needs to rediscover his form from outside. His overall shooting line could have been better, but the refs blew two wild shot attempts that should have led to free throw attempts.

- DeMar DeRozan had terrible timing. Really hurt the team, was completely locked down by Paul George and looked off all night. The pressure is going to be on DeRozan now that the Raptors overpaid to lock him up.

- Landry Fields had an even worse night and quickly bolted the room afterwards.

- Hard not to be impressed by Jonas Valanciunas. Played like a man against a tough opponent in Roy Hibbert. Also, Ed Davis and Amir Johnson are two solid reserve big men. Will give Raptors a lift all year.

- Referees clearly gave the proven Pacers the benefit of the doubt with the calls. Raptors better get used to that. This is how the NBA works until you establish an identity.

Some more thoughts from the paper:
The Raptors did some things quite well in the 2012-13 opener, but enough negatives crept in to deny the team a win against Indiana.
Head coach Dwane Casey foreshadowed the outing pretty well earlier in the day, when discussing how he thought the season would go overall.
“We’re taking steps in the right direction,” Casey said.
“To say that we’ve got to make the playoffs, it’s a bust if we don’t … I don’t buy into that.”
This could be the story of the season. Great effort, some distinct positives and a lot of tough losses.
Casey knows many people don’t think much of his team, but also believes that the pressure of making the playoffs shouldn’t be pushed onto the group.
“I’m excited about this team, I want to prove (the critics) wrong, and our players should want to prove them wrong. But we can’t have it where they’re predicting or saying (the Raptors) will win 30 games the next person says the season is a bust if they don’t make the playoffs. So, it’s confusing,” Casey said.
What the coach wants, is for the Raptors to show “Great growth … and maybe (if that happens) we’ll be knocking on the door at the end of the year. And that’s our goal, our internal goal.”
PLAY ‘EM ALL
Casey went deep into his bench, playing all but forward Linas Kleiza. Getting so many Raptors in early kept them fresh and ready for work later on.
He subbed wisely, using behomth Aaron Gray at times to try to slow down Roy Hibbert, who was giving Jonas Valanciunas trouble due to his sheer size.
Ed Davis gave the club a huge lift late in the third quarter when the game appeared to be in danger of slipping away, hitting a couple of shots, blocking one and getting on the glass.
The two point guard lineup of Kyle Lowry, who was spectacular and Jose Calderon also was used to great effect. Going with veteran Alan Anderson and nailing a complexly out-of-sorts Landry Fields to the bench also paid dividends for Casey.
GREAT, BUT
As good as Lowry and Calderon were (36 points, 11 assists, 6 steals, 3 turnovers), the duo made some uncharacteristic mistakes down the stretch, taking bad shot after bad shot and failing to run the offence properly, allowing Indiana to erase a big Toronto lead and score all of the game’s points in the final four minutes.
Lowry put the team on his shoulders and Calderon excelled as well, but they have to be smarter late in games.
BENCH BOAST
When asked what the main difference was between his first Raptors team and this one, Casey was succinct: “Our bench basically were our starters,” Casey said.
DeMar DeRozan said the feeling around the team is different as well.
“You see the hunger more in guys that’s been here and been through the tough times and you see the hunger in guys like Landry, (Lowry), that’s been in tough positions and been winning,” DeRozan said before the game.
“The hunger is there in everybody and we’re just going to bring it out tonight.”
The Raptors definitely did, but could not overcome 36.3% shooting from the field.
ROOKIE NERVES?
Rookies Valanciunas and Terrence Ross said they were nervous beforehand since they had watched many openers on television and now would be a part of NBA basketball.
Valanciunas said he had trouble sleeping.
But they didn’t show it. Valanciunas had one of the better first quarter debuts in team history, compiling six points, four rebounds and a pair of blocks.
But Hibbert frustrated Valanciunas for a while after that until the Lithuanian showed the vet some things at both ends in the third quarter.
Before the contest, Valanciunas said he had goals for this season:
“Win games. And win rookie of the year.”
DeRozan was the last rookie to start for the Raptors on opening night (Damon Stoudamire, Vince Carter and Joey Graham were the others) and had some advice.
“You’re going to be nervous, without a doubt. Just go out there, stay focused and do your job and don’t think too much.”
Afterwards, Valanciunas said he had fun, but was upset about the loss.
When reminded that there were still 81 games to go, he seemed surprised.
“That many?” Then reminded observers that he played 86 games for Lietuvos Rytas last season and about 100 overall, counting his matches with the Lithuanian national team.
He didn’t have to wait long to find out the answer to one of his pre-game musings:
“I like fans, maybe fans are going to like me? I hope so,” he said.
Valanciunas got one of the loudest pre-game roars and was cheered throughout the evening like a conquering hero, particularly when he tried to rip down the basket in a Shaq-like display on a dunk.
His counterpart, Ross was more tentative, missing a pair of three point attempts early and failing to see action in the second half.

Lakers win it all; More from Raptor workouts

- June 18th, 2010

Congrats to the Lakers and to Ron Artest to winning it all. That was the greatest post-championship interview I’ve ever seen. Artest thanked his hood and his psychiatrist and pimped his upcoming album. He’s one of a kind.

I think the Celtics would have won if Perkins was in the lineup, Pau Gasol ran wild.

Now, on to Raptor draft workouts.

Thursday the workouts were headlined by Kentucky’s Patrick Patterson and Eric Bledsoe, as well as Fresno State’s Paul George and Kansas guard Xavier Henry.

All seemed to impress the Raptor brass. We only saw a bit of the workout, as usual and George and Henry getting banged up during the 3-on-3 left us with very little on-court stuff to analyze.

In the brief action I saw, George was able to break down Henry and take it to the rack, though he couldn’t finish. That at least showed me some ball-handling ability, which is the main knock on George.

Patterson looked very smooth. He’s going to be solid and dependable, like Udonis Haslem. He was nailing his jumpers.

Bledsoe looked very quick, Jim Kelly actually said he is quicker than Avery Bradley. Bledsoe said he is trying to slow down a  bit on the court in order to cut down on his high turnover rate.

Here’s the highlights of what they had to say:

Patrick Patterson:
“We all had great performances, we got to showcase our abilities.
(On draft uncertainty) The top five, you can name them, after that, it’s anybody’s game. Each team, they have so many different needs. Frustrating thing because you have so many players, teams can’t decide. Definitely want to come out and make a statement, pretty much show them why they should take you.
(Stock) My stock is just first round. I’m hoping to go lottery, just because I played on such a loaded team, we were loaded, anybody could score on any given night. I think because my numbers dropped, teams don’t believe I can score as well, can’t rebound. I think that’s why they’re a little hesitant.
Main thing (trying to show) is I can shoot the ball. Mid-range jumper and my three. Post game can improve. Just a hard worker who can run up and down and not get tired. Still more comfortable with my back to the basket, but I’m definitely improving on my faceup.
Ball-handling, to really take a big man off the dribble. Can improve on that.”

Patterson has not been invited to the NBA’s Green Room yet, but is hopeful and has bought a suit.

Xavier Henry:
“This is my 11th workout. My back was getting a little tight so I had to get ice on it. Other than that, I think it went fine.
There’s like the top four or five, but after that, it seems like it’s wide open. 

I just want to go to the right team. Number doens’t matter, you’re playing for your second contract, not your first.

Toronto. Good, young team. Seems like there is going to be a lot of movement with free agency and everything.

(Describes his game) An aggressive scorer. A complete player. Rebound and play defence.

Keep up with teams. Make sure I need their roster, know what they need and what they’re looking for. I want to go to a team where I can do well and help the team. I just attack the basket a lot make sure they know I can do that. At Kansas, coach (Bill Self, Henry is his first one-and-done player) just wanted me to shoot open threes. I did that and made a lot of them, but didn’t get to show my whole game so when I come out here I make a point of showing I can attack the rim. Two/three at the next level.

First time in Toronto, I always thought Toronto was snow all year.”

Eric Bledsoe:
“Very happy with it. Competed. Show them my decision-making. John pretty much did a lot of the decision-making. Show them that I can play the point guard position. More comfortable playing the one. Pretty much played it all my life. (Moving off the ball) I think, that helped a lot. I like Chris Paul. I like (Russell) Westbrook too because he made a big change point guard from two-guard, he was in my position. He came and had a real big impact for his NBA team.

This is my 10th workout. I’m ready to shut it down.
(Turnovers) Just going to work on my game. Turn it down (the tempo).

(On Avery Bradley who he went up against at most workouts): He’s a competitor. He’s a little bit taller but I’m bigger than him. We’ve been going head-to-head. We have a little friendship going.

Paul George:
“Little problem at the end with my hip. We’re out here competing for a job, everybody’s going hard, so (injuries) are going to happen. Just letting them know that I can compete at a high level because that was a question. Defence: Brings the crowd into the game. Get a steal, get a dunk. This draft, after the one and two, I think it’s pretty much up for grabs after that.
Position: See myself being a shooting guard, but a shooting guard who can play multiple positions. I wouldn’t limit myself to just one position. I can pretty much touch every position on the floor.

(Must improve) Just ball-handling in general, I think anybody can improve on that, that’s something that I’ve really been trying to add to my game.
Like a Joe Johnson. Joe Johnson being a 6-8 big shooting guard. He can do a lot of things on the court, so I try to model my game after that.

Jim Kelly:
“Where they are in the process: The number is probably down to about six or seven players. I think we’ve pared that down some. I can’t really say that we’ve pared down what position because I don’t think we’ll take a player by position. As you get closer to draft time, the pot starts to boil more in terms of trades (you make this trade you get this player back, etc., etc.) so a little like a final exam if you were in college We’ve done all the studying, we’re down to the five, six, seven key areas and we’ll be ready to make a decision when we have to.
It is more challenging because sometime you look at a player one time and say maybe he isn’t our player, but you watch a DVD and (he impresses). In one video they’re not dong so well, then maybe you watch another DVD and all of a sudden he jumps back out at you.
You have to have a list, because the draft doesn’t revolve on us. We have I don’t know if you call it a list, we have a group that we would consider if something else comes up there, but I wouldn’t call it a list. I don’t think we’ve gone that far that we’ve refined it.
You’re walking a thin line if you pick a player because he has, or didn’t have a good workout. Try to build a book up on them. Look at where they were, where they are now, and where they might be in two or three years.
Paul George long, very very talented wing player there.We sort of put him in wings category. We have wings, we have points, we have bigs. The two and three are kind of interchangeable.

Xavier, that was a pretty intriguing matchup they both came up a little bit lame. That’s really his strength, shooting the ball from outside. Would like to see him go to the basket, he’s got a great body. Only a freshman. Needs to develop. Going to the basket. He’s got an NBA frame.

Patterson does what he always does. Steady, consistent, unspectacular but always gives you a good effort there and a pretty good point guard in Bledsoe.
Bledsoe vs. Bradley: Bledsoe’s a little bit quicker, probably a little more offensive-minded, Bradley’s a very good defender, mid-range shooter, Bledsoe I think, is a little more into distributing the ball although if you look at his numbers from Kentucky, because he playd with John Wall, that didn’t always happen.

It’s very hard to transfer over point guard skills to three-on-three. You’d always like to get a few more guys in.

Probably not going to get anybody else in. Might bring people in next week. Talked to some people, we’ll see where we go from there.
Damion James. Brought him in last year. Two interview sessions. We’re pretty comfortable with where we are with Damion James.

(On players coming in for exceptional workouts like Vince Carter and DeMar DeRozan): That’s rare. Especially as you get farther down the draft. We’re talking 13 now, that’s probably more rare.

A little on Hassan Whiteside and Solomon Alabi:

“Alabi a little bit longer, a little bit more experienced. Whiteside does some phenomenal things. He made some jump shots (from outside). One or two real big blocks, then at other times he’s just sort of watching everybody else. you wonder let’s go, let’s go, but I think that speaks to just (one) year of college (not at the highest level). Probably needs to get a little more education in that regard (basketball experience).

Raptors to host some good players this week

- June 14th, 2010

With the NBA draft looming in a week and a half, the Raptors will be very busy this week.

An intriguing slate of players is scheduled to come in. The Raptors are in need of a big man, a dynamic scoring guard or small forward and a starting calibre point guard, so as I said in this space a few weeks ago, they are working extremely hard to add another first round pick. ESPN’s Chad Ford reports the Thunder and Nets, two teams with multiple picks are not selling, but Memphis, Minnesota and Miami could be selling.

The Raptors will bring in:

Kentucky guard Eric Bledsoe. One of the top point guards in the draft, though his teammate John Wall forced him to play out of position a lot.

Texas guard Avery Bradley. Bradley hurt his ankle in a workout for the Nets, so will just visit. He has already worked out for the Raptors and the team is very high on him, even though he is not a true point guard (lacks a point guard’s vision and creativity). If Bradley lands on the Raptors, the team will need to have a creator at another spot in order to make the offence work. Hedo Turkoglu would have been a perfect fit in a starting lineup featuring Bradley, but that ship has obviously sailed.

I agree with Ford that Toronto is hoping a talented big man like Cole Aldrich, Patrick Patterson, Greg Monroe or Ekpe Udoh slips to No. 13, but if they are all gone, Bradley could be an easy choice since he and Wall are the best perimiter defenders in the draft and since he can really shoot the ball.

Kansas shooting guard Xavier Henry will also be in the mix. He will also be in this week. Henry can fill it up better than almost anybody in this draft, but doesn’t have many other strengths. He would also force the Raptors to move DeMar DeRozan to the small forward position, which to me, isn’t the worst idea in the world. DeRozan lacks the ball-handling and shooting ability of an elite two-guard and might be more suited to the three, though he’d be a tad short for the position.

Patrick Patterson: If he slips, Raptors could snatch him up but I’m not sure he’s the right fit. Patterson is a very effective scoring big man, but his defence and rebounding is merely average. That doesn’t exactly fit the need list of the Raptors. He projects to be a solid, if unspectacular starting four or first big off the bench. He is extremely unlikely to be  a bust, but similarly, there is very little chance he becomes a star.

I think they look to add another pick in the 20′s to pick up one of these guys who also will be in:

Hassan Whiteside: The Marshall big man is years away from contributing in the NBA. He needs to add at least 20 pounds before he can play centre. He has a lot of upside and led the NCAA with 5 blocks a game, but I don’t see the Raptors as a fit right now at No. 13 because with only a year left on his deal, there is no chance Bryan Colangelo takes a high upside guy who will do nothing next year.

Solomon Alabi: The tallest player in the draft, this 7-footer out of Florida State is new to the game but already an elite shot blocker. He doesn’t rebound great for his size, but he isn’t as bad in that regard as some believe. He has an excellent motor, plays extremely hard and is a high character guy. At 13, probably is a reach, but Raptors would do well to grab him later on. It is not out of the question they take him at 13, since he will contribute right away and give the team a presence at the five that it lacks. But down the line, the team might regret passing on a few guys with bigger upsides.

Paul George: Another NBA-ready guy who could be the guy for Toronto. George is huge (6-foot-9 with an almost 7-foot wingspan and the ability to play both shooting guard and small forward).  The Fresno State product is my pick to be the steal of the draft for whoever takes him. He fills the stat sheet, has a great motor and can jump out of the gym. All that is missing from his game is the ablity to handle the ball and create his own shot at an NBA-level. He is far short in those regards at the moment, because he turns the ball over far too frequently, but is worth taking because hard work can make his game complete. He is not Tracy McGrady, but he could be Danny Granger, or, at the least, Wilson Chandler. George and DeRozan, with input from a great dribbling coach, could emerge as one of the most exciting 2/3 combos in the entire NBA. George just turned 20, DeRozan is also very young.

Damion James:  The Texas senior has many admirers, as the e-mails I receive tell me.  He is yet another player in this draft who can help the Raptors. He’s another NBA-ready guy who pretty much is what he is. A solid defensive player who can help solve some of the problems Toronto has defending the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce and others. James attacks the glass and picks up steals at a high rate. He got to the line in college a lot, but I’m not sure that will carry over against much better defenders. My opinion is he’d be a great pickup later in the draft, but his offensive limitations (ball-handling rears its ugly head again, can he create his own shot?) keep me from taking him at 13. Defensively he’s a starter, no question. But offensively …

Raptor update from Chad Ford:

“Meanwhile, the Raptors are not just sitting around. Rather, Colangelo is shopping Hedo Turkoglu, Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack with an eye toward making trades before July 1.
The same source told me that a Turkoglu trade was already in the works and could happen by the draft. While the source was confident something would happen, the source didn’t disclose the potential destination(s). The Calderon and Jack discussions are moving more slowly, but over the past few days the Raptors have been pressing forward on those fronts as well. “
So that jives with what has been reported here and in the other Toronto dailies. but the news is a Turkoglu trade could be done by the draft. Knowing that Turkoglu is gone and knowing what comes back obviously helps the Raptors decide who to pick.