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Raptors: Stifling defence or Magic incompetence?

No matter how good the Raptors have been this season, I think we were all slightly worried as the Magic began to whittle down what was, at one stage, a 21 point lead. Fortunately, with 8.9 seconds left and the advantage down to three, the home team were penalised after failing to get a pass inbounds in time.

The question is, was it a case of Dwane Casey’s troops playing stifling defence, or the Magic being……….well……….the Magic! I’m actually thinking it was a bit of both, but I’ll let you decide for yourself:


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Raptors: Jonas Valanciunas swings elbow at Miles Plumlee

Ho hum. Another game and another loss for the Raptors. (Five and counting.) I hate to say it, but I’m almost getting used to it now.

Not so ho hum was this incident during last night’s game in Phoenix, involving Jonas Valanciunas and Miles Plumlee:

Hmmm. I don’t that’s what coach Dwane Casey had in mind when he asked Valanciunas and the Raptors to run the swing offence.

Credit: kendrickmathers – Reddit

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Raptors: Rudy Gay lowlights

Rudy Gay has had a slow start to the season, shooting just 33.7% from the field.  Yes, I realise he’s leading the Raptors in rebounds, but how many of them have come from recovering his own missed baskets!  (I’m kidding, but you get the point.)

I’d almost feel sorry for the Raptors small forward, if it wasn’t for the fact he’s taking far too many attempts for someone struggling as much as he is.  There’s trying to shoot yourself into form and then there’s just being plain greedy.

Anyway, it appears that someone has far too much time on their hands, after producing a video of Gay’s misses and turnovers from last night’s 92-90 loss in Charlotte.  I’d advise against watching this if you’re already on a downer today:

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Raptors finally catch a break: Amir Johnson gets away with a Double-Dribble

Amir Johnson gets away with a double dribble

During Raptors games, Paul Jones and Eric Smith of the Fan590 can often be heard criticising calls by the officials that seem to continually go against Toronto’s finest.  (Don’t laugh, eight wins out of nine remember!)

Unfortunately that has always been the way with the NBA.  It’s a star-driven league where you have to ‘earn’ the right to get the calls, which loosely translated means you get preferential treatment from the referees.  Oh, and just as long as you also play for one of the big-name teams.

Now I’m not trying to excuse the incompetence that has littered the history of the Raptors franchise, but there’s no denying they don’t really seem to get the rub of the green with the officials.  As such, imagine my surprise, when evidence of such a call presented itself during last nights home win versus the Trail Blazers:

I’m not sure what was more hilarious: Amir Johnson laughing at the fact he blatantly got away with it or the incredulous look of disbelief on Terry Stott’s face.  Now if the Raptors can get another 200 or so similar calls this season, it might begin to redress the balance.

Photo credit: @Ballislife

Toronto Raptors lose sixth straight to Brooklyn Nets

Wow. It’s getting pretty ugly in Raptor land isn’t it?  At 4-19, and on a six-game losing streak, the Raptors now own the second-worst record in the entire NBA.

The team was only able to suit up eight healthy players* for last nights defeat at home to the Nets.  The fans are at breaking point and calling for heads to roll.  With the exception of the delightful Raptor mascot of course.

* I bet there’s nights’ when Hugh Hefner has more bodies to work with.

No prizes for guessing which two people in particular Raptors Nation want to see booted out of town:

Bryan Colangelo & Andre Bargnani

I know this is a bit of a foreign concept for Toronto sports fans in general, but if you were actually able to look at the positive side, the Raptors fought hard last night and put in a solid effort despite only having eight players available. (Ed Davis in particular looked impressive with 24 points and 12 boards.)

Also, there were no further injuries to add to an ever-growing list that must be giving fans flashbacks to the Blue Jays 2012 campaign.  And let’s not forget the unexpected news that Amir Johnson (one of the more hard-working members on the roster) only had to serve a one-game suspension despite flinging a saliva-filled mouth guard at one of the officials*.

* I can’t even be bothered to find the refs name.  But they don’t really deserve the publicity anyway after their over-reaction to Johnson just wanting the damn ball.  (Copyright Keyshawn Johnson.)

Don’t get me wrong though, I realise that no matter how optimistic I want to try and be about the Raptors, this picture pretty much sums up their playoff hopes for the 2012-13 season as well as confirming how well they’ve been playing:

Jose Calderon & Andrea Bargnani raptors exSTINKt

Raptors Amir Johnson ejected during loss: Season goes from bad to worse

toronto raptors

What else can go wrong for the Raptors?  This season was meant to be a golden opportunity to use the NHL lockout as a chance to gain new fans.

Instead, with the Maple Leafs not around to distract Torontonians, it has merely highlighted the disarray surrounding the Raptors.  No wonder Bryan Colangelo sounded like he wanted to hang himself yesterday when he was being interviewed on the Fan590.

In many ways, last nights loss in Portland represented the season in a nutshell; Andrea Bargnani and Kyle Lowry left the game with injuries and the team equalled a season-low with 74 points.

And to top it all off, Amir Johnson was ejected under the most bizarre of circumstances:

On the positive side, at least Johnson showed some good accuracy by being able to hit the referee in the back.  Just be thankful that he only threw his mouth guard.  Imagine the repercussions if he’d thrown a fist, or even worse, himself, at the ref?!

No matter how much I think the official totally overacted, we can still expect a fine and suspension to be handed out from David Stern’s office.  The NBA may claim they care, but I’m not so sure sometimes.

Raptors: Four-year anniversary of Sam Mitchell’s firing

Sam Mitchell Toronto

Last week saw the four-year anniversary of the appointment of Brian Burke as President & GM of the Maple Leafs.  Bizarrely, yesterday also marked another four-year anniversary that actually interests me more: the firing of Sam Mitchell as Raptors head coach.

Now at the time, I was not happy with the move.  Okay, so maybe the team had just suffered the fifth-largest defeat in franchise history, but hey, at least it wasn’t the worst.  And yes, the team had started a season of high expectations at only 8-9, but there were already dealing with injuries at that point.

Besides, let’s be honest. Raptors Nation would kill for that kind of a start to a season these days.

Today, with that wonderful commodity often used by the sports media, hindsight, I’m even more confounded, and in fact annoyed, by the decision to fire Mitchell.

I’m one of those people who believes it isn’t worth living in the past or going over old ground.  What’s done is done.  You can’t change what’s already happened.  However, I’m going to break this golden rule for once, just to see what has transpired in Raptorland since Mitchell was fired.

As we know, statistics can often be manipulated to back up any argument someone is trying to make.

(For example, the average four year old asks 400 questions a day.  Now if you wanted to present this statistic positively, this would make the child naturally inquisitive, a sign of high intelligence and wanting to absorb as much information as possible.  But if you wanted to portray the kid negatively, you could say that they were in fact a lazy idiot, incapable of working anything out for themselves.)

However, I truly believe the following facts and figures, no matter how they are presented, still present a damning indictment of Colangelo’s decision to sack Mitchell.

Sam Mitchell’s record as Raptors head coach:

Played: 345. Won-lost: 156-189 (45.2%)

Two playoff appearances

One division title (including a franchise-equalling 47 wins)

2007 NBA Coach of the Year

Raptors record since Mitchell left:

Played: 313. Won-lost: 114-199 (36.4%)

No playoff appearances

In fact, Mitchell’s record from a Raptors historical perspective also seems worthy of mention. Only Lenny Wilkens has a better winning percentage (45.9% versus 45.2%) while also being the only coach with more playoff games (17-11.) Overall, Mitchell has coached and won more games than anyone in franchise history.

So what does any of this have to do with anything?  Well not a lot really, other than confirming what I always suspected: that Colangelo made a hasty decision getting rid of Mitchell in the first place.

I’ve repeatedly been on record over the last few years, defending Bryan Colangelo whenever possible, but this is his one decision that bugs me most.  That’s right, even more than mistakenly believing that Chris Bosh, the guy who I sports-hate more than anyone else, was a franchise player.

Photo credit:

Toronto Raptors: Who should have their jersey number retired?

former raptors toronto

There’s been a lot of talk recently about whose jersey number the Raptors should retire.  However, I tend to think the organisation is getting a bit ahead of itself.  Shouldn’t they at least wait until someone is actually worthy of having their jersey retired?

Let’s be honest; to date the Raptors history isn’t exactly littered with success.  Don’t just do it for the sake of having a number up in the rafters of the ACC.

At this point, there’s only three players even remotely worthy of being picked:

1) Morris Peterson:

morris peterson toronto

Don’t let that stare itimidate you into picking Mo Pete.  I appreciate what the guy did for the Raptors.  He’s the all-time leader in games played for the team (and for what it’s worth; third in points scored and fourth for rebounds.)

However, you can’t select someone purely on the strength of their loyalty and being a fan favourite.

2) Chris Bosh.

Not a chance!  Forget my sports-hate bias against him, the dude can’t even dress himself properly:

chris bosh miami

And you can ignore his franchise-leading rebounds and points scored. When you’re the leading man almost by default, you’re going to get some decent statistics regardless, because they keep feeding the ball to you in the misguided belief you will lead the team to the promised land.

However, when it came to crunch time, Bosh couldn’t do the business or handle the pressure of being the main man.

3) Vince Carter.

Finally, we are left with the most obvious choice.  Again, I still don’t think he’s worthy, despite being the most electrifying player in team history and helping to put the Raptors organisation on the map.

‘Why’ you ask? Simple; here’s Jermaine O’Neal summing up how Raptors nation feels about the artist formely know as Air Canada:

vince carter & jermaine o'neal boston

And don’t believe all that bull former coach Sam Mitchell came out with recently about Carter going to him the night before he got traded to the Nets, to say he didn’t want to leave.

I’m sorry, but something doesn’t quite add up about this.  If it was true, why not tell everyone at the time?  Why put up with years of hatred and questions about your manhood (and not just from Raptors fans).  Why only come out with this now?

And yes, I appreciate that Rob Babcock has since confirmed what Mitchell said is true.  My take?  I believe (admittedly with absolutely no evidence) that this is an attempt to smooth the waters over on the way to ultimately having Carter’s jersey number retired at the ACC.

Seriously Raptors fans, if you’re smart enough, you will oppose any move to allow any of these players to have their jersey numbers retired.  I mean come on, you’re not as stupid as Maple Leafs supporters are you?

Toronto Raptors lose 90-88: A post mortem

Regardless of the sport, opening night often represents one of the highlights of the year.  It’s a time of hope and dreams, when anything is possible.  And if your team has enjoyed a successful pre-season, then optimism for the new campaign is ever higher:

acc toronto

Unfortunately, this just means you have further to fall.  After going 7-1 and being complimented by the likes of Charles Barkley, I guess we should have known better.  Despite leading by as many as 11 points, the Raptors still ended up on the losing end of a 90-88 scoreline against the Pacers.

What makes this even more frustrating is that the Raptors stayed in contention despite only shooting 36% from the field.  Even 40% would have likely secured a win.

As it is, Raptors Nation went home demoralised.  But what did you really expect to happen.  Weren’t we just here roughly six months ago with the Blue Jays?

After a league-leading spring training record, various ‘experts’ declared that the Jays would clinch the additional wild card spot.  Instead, we witnessed one of the most disastrous seasons in team history as they missed the playoffs for the 18th straight year (not including the 1994 mid-season strike.)

Of course, one of the staples of all this constant disappointment as a Toronto sports fan is that you get used to witnessing scenes like this one from last night’s game at the Air Canada Centre:

joe carter toronto

Don’t get me wrong, it still sends shivers down the spine when remembering Joe Carter’s walk-off home run and I realise this year represents 20 years since the Jays won their first World Series.  However, as much as this is cause for celebration, it also serves to highlight the ongoing failure of Toronto’s sports teams.

Mind you, give Torontonians their due, they still believe (well, sort of.)  The crowd at the ACC last night was electric, with a full house on hand to cheer on the home team:

acc toronto

I guess it wasn’t all doom and gloom with several pluses to take from the game; Kyle Lowry was the best player on the floor for the Raptors, while ironically, his backup Jose Calderon looked great coming off the bench.

Also, if the 90 points conceded is anything to go by, then look for continued defensive improvement under coach Dwane Casey.  And Jonas Valanciunas had a solid debut with a double-double, giving us hope that the team has finally found their long-awaited solution at the centre position.

However, for all these positives, there were just as many negatives; While DeMar DeRozan showed flashes of his ability (doesn’t he always?) he was still too inconsistent and Andrea Bargnani proved to be the biggest letdown on a night when I expected so much more from him.

Actually, talking of letdowns, Landry Fields poor play from pre-season spilled over into last night.  The guy couldn’t even buy a shot.  However, unlike the rest of the team, at least he had Elaine Alden waiting at home to console him.

And with this in mind, we end the column on a positive note thanks to the delightful Miss Alden.  Despite not celebrating Halloween this year, she was still kind enough to tweet a picture of her costume from 2010.  You may not be frightened by it, but I have a feeling you will be scared stiff:

elaine alden halloween

Is coach Dwane Casey better than coach Triano for the Raptors??

Coach Dwane Casey was hired by Bryan Colangelo and the Raptors to improve one of the worst, if not the worst defence in the NBA. After 29 games, did coach Casey fulfill his mandate?

On a pure stats point of view, the Toronto Raptors are allowing 12 points less per game, in comparison with last year (105.4 versus 93.72). As a whole, the players seem to be more aware defensively, for the most part.

However, the defensive awareness is also disminishing the offence. In fact, the Raptors are scoring 11 points per game less than last year (99.1 versus 88.21). One could argue that the net result is only a +1 in the differential, so is Dwane Casey actually doing a better job?

Last season, the Toronto Raptors kept a record of 22 wins and 60 losses, for a winning % of 26.8. So far, in the shortened 2011-12 campaign, the Raptors have a 9-20 record, for a 31.03 winning percentage.

Interesting fact, the Raptors are playing for .500 (5-5) when their star player Andrea Bargnani is in the lineup. Put all those factors together, and, in my opinion, coach Casey is actually doing a better job so far than his predecessor.

Let’s hope the Raptors can stay away from injuries and eventually improve in the next few weeks.