Download the Opening Tip here. It’s a good one.

I have a humble request: please make your comments count. We appreciate the volume but there’s a fine line between basketball discussion and RealGM and we’d rather have 15 good comments rather than 157 where you have to sift through personal arguments and insults to find a basketball thought. Again, we love the response but let’s stick to basketball and maintain thoughtfulness when posting.

The Raptors were off on Thursday after their back-to-back split so there’s no practice to talk about. It’s New Jersey tonight and this one gets classified in the winnable category. A home game against the worst team in the division should be routine business, let’s pray we don’t make this any more interesting than what it should be – a shellacking of an inferior team.

Jermaine O’Neal’s been great so far, anybody who disagrees with that has unfair expectations of the man and is expecting his play to be reflective of his high salary. Unfortunately that’s not how the NBA works anymore. He’s averaging 13.5 pts, 9.5 rebs and 1.5 blocks and he’s in the middle of 5 straight double-doubles. The stats don’t tell the whole story, even if you’re the Anti-JO you have to concede that he’s brought a strong defensive presence and what some might even call lane intimidation to the Raptors. When was the last time somebody used the word intimidation when talking Raptors ball? His offense hasn’t fully arrived yet but if you look at his last five games he’s scored 23, 19, 11, 16, 16. As he shakes off the result and learns the shooting tendencies of his teammates it’ll allow him to be in better positions for rebounds and more aware of where his offense will come from. Barring injury, by January he’ll be an indispensable component of the team. There’s a great quote filled article by Michael Grange which talks more about O’Neal’s impact.

Anthony Parker’s coming off a good game against the Heat where he hit some clutch shots down the stretch to ice things off. I was shocked that he nailed those threes, I’m too used to seeing him come up short on his jumpers and FTs in crunch time and expect any offense from him to come in the first half when his legs are fresh, not late in the fourth quarter on the back end of a back-to-back. Every dog has his day and Wednesday was Parker’s. Up next for him is Vince Carter, a defensive assignment that can range from being very easy to very difficult depending on whether Carter’s bothered enough to play. I realize Parker’s got a tough job, he checks the best wing-scorer every night but that doesn’t excuse his offense which has the important by-product of making the other SG play some defense, thus taking away from their offense.

There was a lot of talk of us getting an athletic wing in the second round and as the night went along the possibility of netting CDR grew until the Nets snatched him just before us. So how’s he doing? Well, he injured his knee after playing three games and in his first three games he didn’t grab a rebound.

G  	GS  	MPG  	FG%  	3p%  	FT%  	REB  	RPG  	APG  	SPG  	BPG  	TO  	PPG
3 	0 	11.7 	0.40 	0 	0 	0.0 	0.0 	1.7 	0.3 	0.0 	0.67 	1.3

We’ll get a look at Devin Harris who’s in his contract year and playing like it: 23/6/4 on 45% shooting. He’s the team’s leading scorer (0.4 behind Carter) and is second in the league in FTAs behind Dwight Howard. Chew on that. What this means for us is that our PG trinity will be tested once more. Calderon’s not 100% so you expect Will “Ugh” Solomon to get minutes and Harris will easily be the quickest guy Solomon has ever played against. Things could turn ugly if Harris isn’t played right, I’d start off by testing his jumper and see if he’s brought it with him and go from there. Note to Sam: Play Roko, he’s the future PG of the team and there’s no reason to invest in a 30 year old when he’s as bad as this. On a similar note, a Florida writer can’t believe how open we left Jameer Nelson on simple pick ‘n roll plays. I’m with him.

It’s China vs. Italy at the SF spot where Bargnani is up against Yi who’s having a nice rebounding year but is shooting a miserable 36%. I think if Yi’s on his game he could be a good test for Bargnani’s untested SF defense (Yi, Bargs). The Magic attacked via the point and the Heat stuck with Wade so Bargnani’s gotten off scott free so far. It’ll be even more interesting if Carter matches up with him and tries to challenge him, hopefully it does happen so we can see if Bargnani can handle defensive responsibilities under duress.

So do you boo Carter when you’re at the game? Do you really mean it or are you just doing it because you’re supposed to? Is there any genuine hate for him or are you just mad that he’s not here anymore? I think the booing would carry a lot more venom if Carter was actually a star player in the NBA and would show us what we’re missing every time we play. Such is not the case, he’s drifted off into mediocrity and most fans are thankful that he’s not here. Picture the Raptors with Vince’s $17M salary over the next four years, it’s not pretty. When I watch Vince play I’m not angry, I’m sad. I’m sad that here is a talent that had the potential to be one of the greatest players ever and so far has been completely wasted because of lack of commitment or direction. It’s the “what could’ve been” that bugs me more than anything, I wouldn’t even care if he became a superstar with another club, I just wanted to see his potential realized because it would’ve been spectacular and something to behold. That year when he was on the cover of ESPN The Magazine, I was sure he’d end up in the Hall of Fame, how wrong I was. It’s important to note that when he left he didn’t diss the city or the fans, he dissed the organization which is something we do on a daily basis. But hey, boo away, it makes for a great atmosphere.

Jack Armstrong is rating the top 10 road cities and I am very surprised at #6. I’ve been there once and almost got mugged by a cab driver.

Yesterday The Score announced that it has created a new “federation” of blogs. No, the Republic is not part of it for a few reasons but mostly because we want to keep this site ad-free and don’t want any restrictions on content – something that’s important to all of us. Since we don’t have a big channel like The Score to back us up we’re relying a lot on you to spread the word.

There’s a new poll on the site about Bargnani’s new position, the results from the old one are here. Finally, today is Friday which means we’ll be at Philthy McNasty’s watching the Raptors kick some Nets ass while downing a few. Try to make it out, it’s good times. We’ll also be running the live blog as usual.

Gunning for two games over .500 – let’s go you Raps!!!

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