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Raptors trade Rudy Gay: Quincy Acy & Aaron Gray say goodbye

gray 1

If the idea of yesterday’s trade was to help (not so) subtly better-position the Raptors for the 2014 draft, the post-Rudy Gay era got off to a disastrous start. What were the odds of Amir Johnson leading the team to a 106-94 win with a career-high 32 points?

Together with the fact they were playing in Los Angeles, on Kobe Bryant’s return and it all added up to a very surreal evening. Are the Raptors so inept that they don’t even know how to tank properly?!?!

In all seriousness, I’m happy they won. Even if Toronto do somehow end up with the worst record in the NBA, they still only have a 25% chance of actually getting the number one overall draft pick.

In any event, as I mentioned last night, I’m glad Rudy ‘never saw a  bad shot I didn’t like’ Gay is leaving. I’m more bothered about the departure of Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray, two stand-up guys who always gave 100%.

Both showed typical class, by taking to social media to say goodbye:

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I find it interesting that Rudy Gay did not follow suit. Mind you, given his shooting woes this season, it’s entirely possible he just missed hitting the send button.

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Raptors: Steve Nash linked with trade to Toronto

steve nash

The Raptors are only three games into the new season, but there are already concerns about the play of Kyle Lowry.  The belief amongst many critics is that he is not the answer at point guard and so far this year, he has done little to change this thinking.

However, a potential answer could be about to present itself to the Raptors, with the news that Steve Nash may be traded this season by the Lakers.  According to various league sources, Toronto is a possible destination for the two-time league MVP.

While landing the Canadian would be a dream scenario for a lot of people, the truth is it wouldn’t necessarily mean an upgrade at the point guard position.  While both Lowry and Nash are so far averaging 5.3 assists, the latter is struggling tremendously with his shot, averaging 7.0 points with a field goal percentage of just 0.292.

Admittedly, the former 15th overall draft pick has been dealing with a bruised left quadriceps.  Having said that, despite his fitness routine, there’s no getting around the fact Nash is just a few months away from turning 40.

One other issue could be Nash’s contract, which will pay him just over $19 million during the next two seasons.  It is assumed that any trade would have to include Kyle Lowry, who is set to make $6.2 million this year, before becoming an unrestricted free agent.

Overall, any deal for Nash would appear to be a risk for the Raptors, unless he recovers some of his previous form.  In that respect, it is worth noting he had his best performance of the season so far last night, with 13 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds and 1 steal against the Hawks.

Photo credit: @SeadonLiu

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Raptors: 6 things to know about Tyler Hansbrough

Tyler Hansbrough

While Raptors fans anxiously await official confirmation that the Andrea Bargnani era is over in Toronto, there is some news to report, with the signing of Tyler Hansbrough.  The deal is for two years, at $3 million per season, with the second year being a team option.

With the Raptors starting over, Hansbrough should prove to be a valuable addition to the overall strength of the roster.  Here’s six things you need to know about the former Indiana Pacer.  Or maybe you don’t. It’s up to you:

1) To say Hansbrough had a good college career with North Carolina is like telling you Vince Carter is mildly unpopular in Toronto.  He was a unanimous selection for the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) all conference team in each of his four seasons in college and was named ACC player of the year in 2008.

2) It gets better. Hansbrough is the ACC’s all-time leading scorer and was the National Player of the Year in 2008.  Not too surprisingly, his jersey number (50) was retired in 2010, during a North Carolina-Duke game.

3) Hansbrough was drafted 13th overall in the 2009 NBA draft by the Pacers and despite mostly coming off the bench, he was a key reserve during his time in Indiana.  In fact, it’s worth noting his career rebounding average of 4.7 is comparable to Bargnani’s 4.8, who was a regular starter for the majority of his seven seasons in Toronto.

4) Hansbrough’s rookie season in the NBA was cut short by a series of inner ear problems.  I’m assuming these issues have been resolved now, but if not, at least he has an excuse not to put up with Kyle Lowry’s constant bitching.

5) I’m not sure how much impact this has on Hansbrough’s playing abilities, but he comes from a family with a reputation for both intelligence and athleticism.  His dad is a Doctor and he has two brothers; Greg, a marathon runner and Ben, who played for both Notre Dame and the Pacers.

6) According to former teammate (and quite possibly former friend after this) Roy Hibbert, Hansbrough nickname was “Pyscho T”, which he absolutely hated.  He was also called ”Gooch” in the locker room, which is slightly worrying, given what some definitions of the word include.

Make of all that what you will, but let’s just say I’m glad he’s on the Raptors side now.

Photo credit: @kosma84

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Raptors: Top 8 Andrea Bargnani highlights

Andrea Bargnani

Okay, so it won’t be finalised until July 10, and it could still go wrong, but a deal sending Andrea Bargnani to the Knicks appears all but done.  However, despite the majority of Raptors fans being overjoyed to see the former number one overall draft pick leave, I’m actually going to miss the big lug.

Bargnani’s arrival in 2006 coincided with my flying over to Toronto for the first time.  What followed, was a magical campaign that included a first ever divisional title, a franchise record-equalling 47 wins and a trip to the postseason against the hated Vince Carter and the Nets.

I went to over half the games during that 2006/07 season, including the playoffs, making it easy for me to become a Raptors fan. (Boy, have I been made to pay for that ever since.) And in many ways, I associate Bargnani with that season, hence why I think I’ve always been in his corner.

The Italian flattered to deceive time and time again, but I was convinced he was going to become a big star.  It finally looked like his time had arrived during Dwane Casey’s first season in charge, with Bargnani leading the team in scoring and sometimes even playing hard on defence.

Unfortunately this past season, even I had to concede it was never going to happen for Bargnani in Toronto and his departure is the right move for all concerned.  However, I’ll always root for the guy and I hope he does well in New York.

As such, here’s my top eight moments from ll Mago’s time with the Raptors.  Trust me, you’ll almost wish he wasn’t leaving after seeing these highlights:

1) GAME WINNER VERSUS PORTLAND IN OVERTIME

Early on in his rookie season, Bargnani’s demeanour convinced me that he was the man you wanted taking the final shot in any close games.  And if you listen to Chuck Swirsky and Jack Armstrong, it certainly sounds like they were also coming to the same conclusion.  (Actually, I’m not sure if they’re the best people to be using as part of my defence.)

2) PLAYOFF ELIMANTION GAME VERSUS NETS

Adding ammunition to my belief that Bargnani had ice in his veins, was his performances during the 2007 playoffs against the Nets.  And nowhere was this better illustrated than game 5, which doubled as an elimination game for the Raptors.

Bargnani came our firing, scoring 13 points in the 1st quarter, as the team took a 33-13 lead.  For some reason, his teammates didn’t look for him as much during the rest of the game and they ending up hanging on for 98-96 victory.  However, the Italian still finished with 18 points, shooting 67% on just 9 attempts, together with 4 rebounds, 1 steal and a block.

3) BARGNANI SENDS VINCE CARTER TO THE FLOOR

What better way to endear yourself to the Raptors fanbase than throwing Vince Carter’s whiney ass to the floor!  And the fact the normally laid-back Bargnani followed this up by jawing with the artist formerly known as ‘Air Canada’, just made it even more satisfying.

4) BARGNANI BLOCKS AND SCORES ON YAO MING

Who said Bargnani can’t play defence?! Okay, fine. Even I admitted this.  But you still have to love this block on Yao Ming, punctuated by everyone’s favourite Italian scoring on the former Rockets centre at the other end of the court.

5) DOUBLE BLOCK ON NOWITZKI AND SINGLETON

If you thought seeing Bargnani block was a rare sight, how about this: A double block on the player he was most often compared to and some other guy who doesn’t matter as much.

6) REVERSE DUNK VERSUS THE LAKERS

In basketball, not much beats seeing a spectacular dunk, especially when it comes from a player not renowned for showing his emotions on the court.  Now, make it a reverse dunk against the Lakers and you’ve really got something special.

7) DUNKS ON TWO PLAYERS AT THE SAME TIME

There is perhaps only one way Bargnani could top his previous dunk and here it is: Dunking on two players at the same time.

8 ) 38 POINTS AGAINST MIAMI’S BIG THREE

And finally, you’ll have to forgive me for the extended video clip above.  However, I wanted to highlight the potential awesomeness of Bargnani and what better example than his 38-point explosion against the Miami Heat’s ‘Big Three’.

Yes, I know the Raptors lost  103-95, but the Italian almost single-handedly kept them in the game against a team headed toward the first of three consecutive NBA Finals appearances.

Good bye Mr Bargnani.  I wish it could have turned out better, but at least we’ll always have the 2006/07 season.

Photo credit: @KoziFbaby

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Raptors willing to trade DeMar DeRozan

Demar Derozan

It comes as no surprise that Masai Ujiri is looking to move Andrea Bargnani.  However, what may catch people off guard, is the news that the Raptors new GM is reportedly also open to trading DeMar DeRozan.

Several rival executives believe Ujiri is willing to trade the former ninth overall draft pick, because of concerns about his ability to play effectively on the same team as Rudy Gay.  Moving forward, the Raptors organisation are pinning their hopes on Gay becoming the face of the franchise.

What makes this news relevant, are reports that the Raptors are currently involved in talks with the Clippers regarding Eric Bledsoe.  Although still in the early stages, the Raptors interest is significant, especially as it became apparent during last season that Kyle Lowry was not the answer at the point guard position.

While DeRozan and Bledsoe are the main pieces currently in play, it will be interesting to see if the Clippers would also be willing to accept Bargnani in any potential deal.  Importantly, this is all dependant on Chris Paul signing a contract extension in L.A., but don’t expect this to deter Ujiri from his pursuit of Bledsoe.

Photo credit: http://ballb4all.com

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Latest Raptors rumors: MLSE to pick up option on Bryan Colangelo

Bryan Colangelo

Subject to both sides agreeing to extend the time period, today is when MLSE will announce their plans regarding the future of President and GM Bryan Colangelo.  More specifically, new chief executive officer Tim Leiweke will be making the decision regarding the fate of the former Phoenix Suns GM.

Various rumours have been circulating regarding the decision, but for the most part, the Raptors have been extremely tight-lipped regarding Colangelo.  However, according to sources, the two-time NBA executive of the year will apparently be given one more season to turn the franchise around.

The main reason for this, is Leiweke’s unsuccessful attempts to lure Phil Jackson to Toronto.  While MLSE hired a head-hunting firm to find a list of possible replacements for Colangelo, the former Bulls and Lakers coach was always the preferred option.

Under these circumstances, Leiweke will likely decide to give Colangelo and vice-president Ed Stefanski another season.  The knock-on effect of this move will also secure the final year of Dwayne Casey’s contract.

Aided by the addition of Rudy Gay, the former Dallas Mavericks assistant was able to finish last season 30-28, after a disastrous start to the campaign.  Colangelo made no secret of the fact he would retain the services of Casey if he remained as the Raptors President and GM.

Updated: Latest reports indicate that while Colangelo will remain with the Raptors, he will now be leaving his position as President and GM and move over to the business side.

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Raptors Trade Rumours: Latest on Andrea Bargnani

Andrea Bargnani of the Toronto Raptors

There are few players more polarising on the Toronto sports scene right now than the Raptors Andrea Bargnani.  And with tomorrow’s NBA trade deadline fast approaching, this extends to the various scenarios involving the former number one overall draft pick.

Two of the rumours currently doing the rounds involve Bargnani either going to the Charlotte Bobcats for Ben Gordon or to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Spencer Hawes.

But the main trade currently on offer is from the Chicago Bulls, with the Raptors receiving Carlos Boozer and Nate Robinson in return for Bargnani and John Lucas III.

Apparently the Bulls have left this offer on the table, ready to be accepted at any time.  However, with Boozer being older and having a more expensive contract than Bargnani, combined with Robinson not representing any upgrade on Lucas, the Raptors are reluctant to make the move.

And despite Bryan Colangelo still actively looking to move Bargnani, the sense of urgency that was previously there is no longer an issue.  In fact, multiple sources now claim the Raptors GM is willing to wait until the summer if need be.

Colangelo has never made any secret of the fact he likes Bargnani and as such, he is prepared to give him more time to prove he is capable of being productive off the bench.  At the worst, keeping hold of the Italian until the summer gives more time to potentially increase his trade value.

As such, while nothing is certain in this business, Raptors fans can likely expect to see Bargnani still with the team once tomorrows trade deadline passes.

Photo credit: @AndreaBargnani

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Raptors Jose Calderon and Ed Davis say goodbye after being traded for Rudy Gay

Jose Calderon & Ed Davis Toronto Raptors

The shock of the Rudy Gay trade actually taking place has impacted fans, media and players alike.  As I wrote yesterday, Jose Calderon in particular is liked by virtually everyone, with the possible exception of T. J. Ford and any former love interests.

Listening to Calderon’s interview after he had just found out about the move was genuinely moving stuff.  You could tell he was upset and struggling to keep his emotions under wraps.

Both Calderon and Ed Davis took to Twitter to post their farewell messages to Toronto:

 

 

As mentioned several times already, while the trade has massive potential, it is somewhat surprising that GM Bryan Colangelo was allowed to make such a big move with his contract up this summer.  Whether that bodes well for him or not remains to be seen.

In any event, what’s done is done, onward and upward, and all that clichéd malarkey.  However, let’s attempt to get some closure with a few tweets from Calderon’s and Davis’s now former teammates:

 

 

 

This tweet by DeMar DeRozan summed it up best for me:

It’s not 100% clear if DeRozan is referring to the trade or yet ANOTHER blown call at the end of last nights 93-92 defeat to the Atlanta Hawks and I think that’s intentional.

It may even refer to both.  As such, let’s hold a minutes silence for both departed players and the Raptors 2013 playoff hopes.

Photo credits: @RyanJHTurvey

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Raptors Jose Calderon and Ed Davis traded for Rudy Gay: A post mortem

Jose Calderon Toronto Raptors career statistics

The Raptors may well be getting a player in Rudy Gay, who is capable of elevating the franchise to another level.  And certainly, while he will never be another Vince Carter, he does have the potential to be more of a franchise player than Chris Bosh ever was.

But for today, I want to concentrate on the departed Jose Calderon, because it sucks, it really does.  I’m actually surprised by how bummed out I am about his leaving.  (It’s a shame to see Ed Davis leave as well, but he hasn’t been around nearly as long.)

Since starting my career in sports journalism five years ago, I’ve learned to become more detached from teams and players. At least I thought I had!  But if ever any of us needed a reminder that sport is a business (and for the record, we didn’t with the NHL lockout still fresh in our memory) then this is it.

In Calderon, you had a player who was liked immensely by fans, players and media alike. Despite the constant trade rumours that have been swirling around the Spaniard in recent seasons, he remained professional and classy to the end.

I’ll admit that when he first joined the Raptors for the 2005/06 season, I was less than impressed.  However, this quickly changed within the year when Calderon and the team enjoyed one of the best campaigns in franchise history (admittedly not much of a stretch.)

While T.J. Ford was the first team point guard, Calderon proved to be arguably the best back-up in the NBA, capable of starting games whenever called upon.

Calderon’s care with the rock was consistently first class, as evidenced by his assist to turnover ratio.  His free-throws were clutch and, after a shaky start, his three-point shot improved dramatically.

And for everyone who criticised Jose’s defence, it wasn’t that bad.  In any event, how many point guards are there in today’s game who do really excel in this aspect?

Overall, it has been a privilege to watch Mr. Calderon play in Toronto for the last seven and a half seasons.  He will be sorely missed and with him gone, Andrea Bargnani now remains as the final link to the 2006/07 roster.  God help us all.

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Kevin Durant wanted to play for the Toronto Raptors: Big deal

Kevin Durant Raptors shirt

Okay, so apparently Kevin Durant wanted to be a Raptor while growing up in Washington, D.C.  However, at the risk of sounding like a killjoy: Big deal!

While it’s nice to think about what could have been, it’s not going to change anything.  I learned this the hard way after wasting far too much time wishing the Raptors had picked Dwyane Wade instead of Chris Bosh with the fourth pick in the 2003 NBA draft.

Besides, what were the odds of it actually becoming a reality anyway?  You would have had to be ideally placed in the first place to even have a chance to select the Thunder shooting guard.  Actually…………..(thinking)…………..okay, fine!  Maybe that’s not such a stretch given the Raptors history to date.

But even if this did happen, knowing the Raptors luck they would have likely done a ‘Portland Trail Blazers’  i.e. pick Greg Oden.*

*  Reference also; Sam Bowie, Michael Jordan and please kill me now.

And besides, even if everything did work out, there’s every possibility Durant would have outright refused to play for the team.  Basically similar to what the likes of what Eric Lindros and John Elway did ‘back in the day’.  (And if there was any doubt left about my advancing age, that phrase and those examples have 100% confirmed it.)

After all, it’s one thing wanting to play for someone when you’re a wide-eyed, naive young child, full of hope for the future.  But then you get older and see the world for what it really is.

Just think of all the hockey players from Ontario who likely wanted to play for the Maple Leafs growing up.  These days, even if they don’t believe in him, I bet they thank God it never happened.

Photo credit: @niroworldpeace

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