Posts Tagged ‘Solomon Alabi

A New Year’s Eve to Remember

- January 1st, 2011

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

Raptors get an A for their draft; Andy Rautins is a Knick and more

- June 25th, 2010

It was a very good night for the Raptors at the NBA draft. North Carolina power forward Ed Davis unexpectedly fell to the Raptors at 13 after being considered a lock in the 5-10 range all season and the team added a player they really liked, Solomon Alabi, at 7-1, the tallest player in the entire draft, in a trade with Dallas.

Together, the big men bring 5.0 blocks a night to a team that needs that more than almost any in the league. Alabi (who I wrote about here) was the defensive anchor of a Florida State team that led the NCAA in defensive field goal percentage.

I’ve been a vocal critic of the way the Raptors have been built over the past few years. I am a huge proponent of defence and I thought it was an afterthough. These are two of the best defensive prospects in the draft and will be a huge help to the Raptors.

Davis is a much better rebounder than Alabi, he is more athletic and reads shots better, but Alabi is better at rebounding than his numbers  6.2 in 25.6 minutes) show as the entire Seminoles team hit the boards extremely hard.

Neither will ever be 20 point scorers, but Alabi, who has only been playing the game for a few years, has a nice touch on his shot and a developing post game. Davis will take longer to make an impact offensively, but will get putbacks and dunks from the get-go. As Colangelo said, Davis gets a lot done around the basket.

Davis could have gone 6th, 7th, 9th, 10th or 11th. Alabi was projected to go in the 20-35 range.

Both need to put on 15-25 pounds and that will come in time. Davis thought about entering the draft last year and was considered a top 10 pick back then as well. Davis needs work on his free throw shooting (65%) while Alabi shoots and excellent (for a centre) 79% from the stripe.

Further, both are strong character guys. Alabi, in particular is regarded as a player who never stops working. One who energizes his teammates with his hustle and high spirits. The dressing room was not the happiest place last year, so these two happy, character kids should go a long way.

Any time the worst defensive team in the league and possibly the softest can add two hard-nosed shot-blockers with the potential to be solid on the boards, it’s a good draft. Chris Bosh is all-but-gone, Andrea Bargnani brings completely different things to the table than these two guys and they will complement him and help counter some of his faults.

Not sure where this leaves Amir Johnson, but always nice to have options if you’re an NBA GM.

Have to mention Sacramento briefly. DeMarcus Cousins and Hassan Whiteside? That’s almost unfair. That team has the potential to be very, very good in a few years. Get some shooters to complement Evans and Cousins and they are laughing.

Finally,  big congratulations to Andy and Leo Rautins, two good guys. Great to see Andy land with the Knicks. If they add one of the studs, Andy’s shooting will come in handy. If not, he’ll still find a way to make it. Always good to see another Canadian in the NBA. There will be a ton more in the next few years.

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).

Jack happy in Toronto; Raptors workout Alabi, Whiteside, Jones and Stephenson

- June 15th, 2010

More on the draft workout later, but news of the day is Jarrett Jack, in town to workout with the Young Guns, says he is happy in Toronto.

Jack says he has no idea where the rumours of his asking for a trade came from.

He asked the media why he would come up to Toronto to work out if he was unhappy? A good question.

He also said Bryan Colangelo told him he didn’t leak anything about Jack wanting out.

Jack:

“It hasn’t affected my summer at home still have my same approach. Trying to improve and keep myself in shape. There are some situations going on with our team. I know we like to keep that internal, but as far as with me, I know there’s a rumour I’m requesting a trade or something of that matter. But I’m up here on my own merit coming up here to workout just to workout with Sonny and DeMar and Amir and Joey Dorsey. If I wanted a trade I doubt I’d be flying up here to workout. I don’t know where that came from or where that came up. Me and Bryan talked about it. Somebody just put something in the air trying to have something to talk about. It never came from my end, and he said it never came from his either so we don’t know where it came from.

Coexist? I think we can. Went through last year. Could have possibly eased the situation between both of us. Don’t come in there and say players want this. Up to coaching staff. Situations where we maybe could have played more together or switched up the rotation. I hope we can. I would hate for either one of us to have to leave because we couldn’t try to make it work. If we come back, hopefully we can do it, if not then we’ll just deal with it.”

I’d be surprised if Jack is dealt this summer. I think Jose Calderon and Hedo Turkoglu are the first guys to go. Jack did seem perturbed that he didn’t get as many minutes at the two as he was promised when he signed with Toronto. As someone ardently opposed to the Sam Mitchell special (two PG’s on the floor at the same time), I understand why he was frustrated, but agree with Triano that it isn’t a successful look.

Some great character bigs in for the Raptors today, plus two intriguing scoring guards.

Alabi and Whiteside were very personable and very big. The two tallest guys I’ve seen working out for the Raptors since, I would say, 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert a couple of years ago.

Stephenson is trying to put past issues behind him and has the body and athleticism to be an NBA player.

Raptor’s assistant GM Masai Ujiri compared Jones to Rodney Stuckey. Jones is a tweener, but was one of the NCAA’s most potent scorers last season and could be in the mix if the Raptors do the expected and pick up a second first round pick via trade.

Read something interesting today that players including Gordan Haywood are refusing to work out for the Memphis Grizzlies (one of the NBA’s worst-run franchises starting from ownership) who happen to pick one slot ahead of the Raptors. Hayward has been in to work out for Toronto.

As I said, much more on the draft workouts later.

But first, one correction. I thought Damion James would be in today or Thursday to work out. Turns out I was mistaken. Dominique Jones is the player I confused him with. A team source  informed me today that James likely won’t be coming in as he has been “off the radar for a while now.”

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.