Smiles were few and far between in the Raptors locker room after Friday’s New Year’s Eve loss to Houston.
Sure DeMar DeRozan was a little happy with himself having contributed a career-high 37 points, but in the wake of a loss there was no chance he would crack anything resembling a smile.
There was one Raptor, however, who couldn’t help but smile and no one could blame him.
Solomon Alabi was a DNP-coach’s decision for Friday’s game, but the smile on his face and the awe in his voice after a particular post-game conversation surpassed anything that could have happened in the game for him.
As he sat at his locker towelling off following his shower, another huge figure approached him with open arms and at that point the biggest smile in the room.
It was fellow Nigerian and NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon. Alabi had never met him before but grew up idolizing the man who blazed the path for Nigerian basketball players back in 1984. That was four years before Alabi was even born, but “The Dream” was well known to Alabi.
Olajuwon spent a few private moments with Alabi who was still smiling about the meeting five minutes after Olajuwon had left.
Word had come from a clubhouse attendant that Olajuwon wanted to speak with Alabi in the hallway, but “Solo” as he is most often called, was still in the shower.
Alabi admitted he was hurrying to get out of the locker room when Olajuwon walked in and made a bee-line for his fellow countryman.
There won’t be a lot of Raptors who look back fondly on the final day of 2010, but Solomon Alabi will.
— Mike Ganter
Posts Tagged ‘Raptors’
Smiles were few and far between in the Raptors locker room after Friday’s New Year’s Eve loss to Houston.
The injury bug continues to plague the Raptors. Andrea Bargnani, after successfully battling off knee and ankle woes will be sidelined for at least the three upcoming road games (Memphis, Dallas, Houston) due to a calf injury.
What that means is a very tough trip just got a lot more challenging. Zach Randolph/Marc Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki/Tyson Chandler/Brendan Haywood await and should have their way against a Toronto frontcourt lacking a 7-footer.
Equally close to both the 8th seed in the East and a nice spot in the lottery, the Raptors are wisely erring on the side of caution with Bargnani. No point throwing him out there and risking more severe injuries down the line just to stay close to the playoff pack.
Let him heal fully and let the chips fall where they may later on.
In the meantime, rookie Ed Davis is about to see a sizable increase in minutes and Joey Dorsey gets another shot at proving that he can take the place of Reggie Evans when the big man is either traded or let loose this summer when his contract expires.
When the World Champion Los Angeles Lakers come to town, everything is a little bit different at the Air Canada Centre.
The crowd is louder and more into the proceedings. There are way more fans of the opponent than usual and every movement by Kobe Bryant is watched in awe by the purple and gold dotted crowd.
There is no hockey equivalent to a Lakers game at the ACC. Even Sidney Crosby doesn’t provoke this kind of a buzz.
The Lakers carry themselves different than other teams Down early, they don’t care, they know there’s a lot of time to go. While other coaches call timeouts like crazy, Phil Jackson calmly sits and waits, calling time only on rare occasions.
The Lakers are bigger and stronger than almost all opponents and have Bryant, the closest thing we have seen to Michael Jordan, to bail them out when things look bleak. Against the Raptors on Sunday, the points in the paint were 32-16 for Los Angeles at the half.
L.A. has the ultimate luxury. Let Bryant carve opponents, or let the NBA’s biggest group of forward/centres, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum or Ron Artest go to work.
Bynum and Gasol are bigger and quicker than most centres, Artest, along with Lebron James, is the biggest small forward around and Odom has height, athleticism and speed going for him.
If there is one annoying thing about the Lakers and the NBA in general, it is the fact that the team almost always gets the benefit of the doubt from officials. Even benchwarmers like Luke Walton get more leeway on bang-bang plays than do players on other teams. That’s why a charging call on Bryant late in the first half was met by gasps from those on hand. Usually the call would have went the other way.
With Bynum back in the lineup, the champs are back to full-strength and look as scary as ever. The Raptors won’t see them again until next season.
NEW YORK — It came in a loss, but at the risk of getting the Raptor faithful excited about this 8-14 team, a potentially successful approach may have been uncovered at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.
It’s nothing earth-shattering or even novel for that matter, but it was enough that it kept the Raptors in a game against a team they couldn’t stay close to only three days earlier.
It was a steady diet of feeding Andrea Bargnani in the post and not only did it translate into a career-high 41 points for the Raptors former No. 1 overall, it created open shots for his teammates throughout the night.
With the ball in his hands for the bulk of the night when the Raptors were on offence, the big Roman attempted 24 shots, dished out six assists and was as engaged defensively more Wednesday night than he has ever been.
Don’t discount the former having a huge impact on the latter. It does, without question, especially where Bargnani is concerned.
Amar’e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton had the last laugh, of course, winning on a will-it-or-won’t it-fall three pointer that eventually fell for the Knicks, but seeing the feed-Bargnani approach pay out the way it did, you wonder how successful this might be against other teams if they stayed with it.
Bargnani looked very comfortable passing out of the double teams when they came and seems to thrive the more he is involved.
If nothing else, it can’t hurt to stay with it for a few games. It’s not like any other approach has been tremendously effective to this point.
— Mike Ganter
There was a time when the Raptors were the team that gave opponent’s headaches with their ability to drain three’s.
That is no longer the case. For the past two games, the Raptors have died by the three as first the New York Knicks hit 12 to pull away and hide and then the Indiana Pacers nailed 13 from beyond the arc to make it back-to-back woeful nights for the Raptors.
The worrisome part about this is that both games, the very Raptors who let themselves get torched from the three-point line were drilled and schooled that this would be their downfall and they let it happen anyway.
Head coach Jay Triano says this is all part of the learning process.
Well, the learning process is now two games old. Game three is a return match with the same Knicks which bested them on Sunday.
Perhaps, as Jerryd Bayless suggested, the third time will be the charm.
It’s going to have to be, or Triano is going to have no other choice than to start considering new changes to his starting lineup.
— Mike Ganter
Just a quick hit today on Raptors rookie Ed Davis.
It was hard not to be impressed by Ed Davis’ two-game stint in the D-League.
Despite being out of action for quite some time, Davis was able to make shots, block others, rebound the ball and most interestingly to me, only pick up one foul.
Not fouling after all that time off is extremely difficult to do and bodes well for his future.
Davis will likely get a lot of minutes this year, though I’d expect him to be worked in slowly for the next month or so.
Though Linas Kleiza is better at power forward than small forward, a lack of depth at the three should see him mostly there backing up Sonny Weems. That leaves 15 minutes for Joey Dorsey as the starting power forward, Andrea Bargnani will get his 35 minutes at centre, Amir Johnson will get 25 minutes split between the four and five, Kleiza might see 5 minutes a game at the four, leaving 15-20 minutes for Davis, depending on the health of Peja Stojakovic.
Down the line, the Raptors desperately need a true centre (like a younger Brendan Haywood) to back up, or even play beside Bargnani.
Beneath the ever-present smile and the odd twist in the English language lurks a real leader.
Reggie Evans, based on recent events appears to have assumed the role of team leader in the Raptors locker room.
In the 24 hours between a game in Washington devoid of any effort or passion – Reggie’s summation but one shared by many inside and outside the team – the Raptors Energizer Bunny on the boards called his team together and let it be known that kind of effort would not be tolerated.
Effort was not an issue for the Raps that same night in a win over Philadelphia.
Now we are all well aware that you can only go to the well so many times with these team meetings.
This one was not only necessary, it was everything these things are at their very best: timely, well received, and effective.
Evans stepping up and putting it to his teammates in his no-nonsense way was the perfect candidate?
Because no one is going to point at Reggie Evans and say there is any other agenda at work there. There is no more unselfish player on the floor in a Raptors uniform than Evans. He does all the dirty work, all the grunt work and then hands it off to his teammates to finish it off.
Next time you are at a game, count how many times Evans pulls down an offensive rebound and kicks it out to someone else. More often than not he’s under the basket when he does this. A more selfish player would go back up and finish the play by himself, but not Reggie. He understands that possession has a better chance of a successful completion with someone else directing it into the basket. Yes, that is exactly what is being asked of him, but actually doing it and doing it without reservation immediately establishes his team-first attitude.
Evans sounded somewhat insulted Wednesday night after revealing he had called a team meeting when he was asked if he felt more comfortable doing this now that there’s no Chris Bosh or franchise player on the roster whose territory he might be trampling by calling the meeting.
“I don’t really care if Chris were here. It really don’t bother me because no one puts any fear in my heart just because he’s a superstar,” Evans said. “It’s just that it’s harder to address things when you are not playing. When you are on the court, you can let those actions by playing hard (back up what you’re saying). It’s kinda hard to do it when you’re not playing. They would all be ‘What are you talking about? You don’t even play.’”
In other words, Evans, had he been playing last year, would have been this voice then, but didn’t feel it appropriate because he was injured and not contributing.
A quick check with the likes of Sonny Weems and Jarrett Jack suggest Evans words were taken to heart..
That, more than even the win over Philadelphia that followed, make Wednesday a big day in the development of this year’s Raptors’ team.
— Mike Ganter
Here’s one you can’t blame on Chris Bosh.
The Raptors lack that necessary voice within the locker room. That guy that doesn’t allow the kind of mail-it-in nights the Raptors had in Washington on Tuesday.
Sure you can blame Jay Triano and his staff, but they are sending the message. It’s just not always getting through.
Monday in Miami after a spirited practice, Triano turned things over to P.J. Carlesimo for part of the post-practice here’s-what-we-need-from-you spiel. The message was the same one Triano has been delivering, but he was worrying it was falling on deaf ears.
Perhaps a different voice was the thinking.
Turns out the deaf ears aren’t just for the head coach and really you can say that about most of the teams in the NBA.
In today’s NBA, the good teams hold themselves accountable from within. It’s usually one or possibly two voices in the room doing that.
You can’t blame Bosh for this because he was never that type of player either so his departure did not change anything in that regard.
The Raps need someone to step up and be that guy. The young roster combined with the handful of strong, silent types in the room does not make finding this kind of guy easy.
But it would certainly be a worthwhile search if it meant never seeing the kind of collective shoddy effort the Raps put out on Tuesday.
— Mike Ganter
I mentioned this in the game story after Monday’s Raptors loss to Golden State but wanted to expand on it here.
Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis doing whatever they wanted against the Raptors didn’t just show us that Toronto’s defence leaves an awful lot to be desired, it also illustrated just how far the talent gap is between the Raptors and almost every other NBA team.
This was brought up in the Twitterverse Monday and it is worth thinking about: When the ball is tipped at any Raptor game this season, will the Raptors have the best player on the floor at any of them? Maybe Cleveland (Mo Williams/Anderson Varejao vs. Andrea Bargnani), I can’t think of any other team.
Kevin Love is a much better basketball player than Andrea Bargnani, Stephen Jackson/Gerald Wallace are better, Detroit’s aging vets and Ben Gordon are better and so on.
I wrote that Curry and Ellis are on another plane than the Raptors and it is true. These Raps are not playing with a full deck and that is why they are going to lose a ton of games this season.
How do they get better? They find two guys (at least) better than Bargnani (DeMar DeRozan has a chance to be better eventually, another one can come in the draft, another with the $14.5 million Bosh TPE).
Highly respected ESPN analyst David Thorpe alluded today that Bargnani is in over his head. He’s an (excellent) scoring sixth man being asked to do things he can’t that are required of starting NBA centres.
It’s not entirely Bargnan’s fault that he can’t do the things necessary to be a starting centre in the NBA (though he can try harder to grab rebounds and rotate faster), but it certainly is Bryan Colangelo and the Raptors’ fault for thinking he is what he isn’t and trying to make this round peg in a square hole fit when it clearly doesn’t.
There’s nothing wrong with being a 7-foot version of Jason Terry, as long as everybody knows you are the sixth man and there are 3-5 better players also on the team. The Raptors have miscalculated with Bargnani and the only other option besides upgrading the talent and making him a deadly sixth man (besides trading him) is finally finding a dominant defensive 7-footer that can anchor the inside and control the boards. But those guys don’t grow on trees.
When I started this blog about three years ago it was named Courtside in honour of the dearly departed weekly feature in the Toronto Sun of the same name.
I faithfully read Courtside for years and was disappointed when it was axed a year or two after I joined the Sun.
It returns Tuesday bigger than ever.
While doing some research for one of the pieces on it on the class of 2007 and the lack of extensions signed by its members, I came across this analysis by ESPN’s Chad Ford.
It got me thinking, having screwed up so royally by giving Joe Johnson twice what he is worth, Atlanta has priced itself out of being able to keep its current roster. Jamal Crawford will be a goner and one or both of Josh Smith and Marvin Williams will likely be as well.
Could the Raptors step in and grab either Smith or Williams with the Chris Bosh trade exception?
Williams is an underachiever but has a lot of talent. It would give the team both a maddeningly inconsistent yet extremely talented former No. 1 overall selection and the same type of player who was drafted No. 2 overall.
Smith would likely cost a lot more and is paid a lot more but would be a nice fit beside Andrea Bargnani.
He should have been a Raptor years ago, just like Al Jefferson, Andre Iguodala and/or Danny Granger.
To me, Smith is not worth acquiring if the cost is a top 5 pick in 2011 and the TPE, but if he can be had for a lottery protected first and the TPE I’d have to think about it. I would even think about Jose Calderon and Ed Davis for Marvin Williams and the TPE for Smith. Without moving Davis, acquiring Smith doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Would Davis and the TPE be too much for Smith? Considering Davis’ potential and far cheaper salary, it probably would be.
Just something to think about. There will be a lot of options of how to play the TPE chip.