First up, let’s talk some Nathan Jawai. I spoke with Chris Langrill who’s a Stampede beat writer for the Idaho Statesman about our big Aussie man. We talked about his time in the D-League and whether his negative comments about the experience carried any weight. He had some surprisingly positives things to say about his play and future. The conversation spawned out to reach Jawai’s girlfriend, the D-League life, player housing, minimum salary, Luke Jackson and other topics. We also talked about the idiocy of having the D-League and NBA schedule overlap and he dropped some D-League names to look out for in the NBA.
Thanks again to Chris. Lest we forget, we do have a game today.
Orlando comes into this one in a dead heat with Boston for second in the conference 5 1/2 games behind Cleveland. The Pistons are sitting in the 7th spot with a one game lead over Chicago and I have to think that Orlando wants no part of Detroit in the first round and would much rather face the Sixers – they’re 0-3 against Detroit and 3-0 against Philly. Boston on the other hand is 3-1 against the Pistons and would feel much more comfortable facing them in a 2-7 matchup. Orlando has won 6 straight, 9 of 10 and 13 of 15 while the Raptors are riding a season-high 4 game winning streak which by all accounts is about to get violently snapped.
The Magic spoiled Alonzo Mourning’s retirement party in Miami by topping the Heat on Monday. How about that Zo, eh? He conned us into thinking he was just another poor dying soul who’s going to take his buyout money, rent out a hospital bed and see through his last days with glucose drips in both arms. Turned out he had a master plan which involved winning an NBA Championship.
Dwight Howard is averaging 28.7 points (63%), 10.3 rebounds and 1.67 blocks against Bosh who has countered him with 24.7 (55%) points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.0 blocks. Howard seems to be one of the few premiere big men that Chris Bosh has had his way with, granted that he hasn’t been able to slow down Howard either but that’s a feat few can lay claim to. The Raptors are 1-2 in the three games with the only win coming in Toronto when Roko Ukic carried us in the fourth quarter to cap off Anthony Parker’s 26 point night (13-16 FG) in early January. It was a game which marked one of the few quality wins we’d had and some even thought that the team had turned things around, but they went ahead and gave a stinker of an effort a night later in Milwaukee.
The team’s obviously been playing well with the Bulls win capping off a pretty nice week which introduced some positive thinking into the fan-base, most notably Jose Calderon’s play. In his last five games he’s averaging 14.2 points, 11.2 assists on 56% shooting. His season average is 12.9/8.8 on 50% shooting. The thing to like most about his resurgence is that he’s running the offense the way it’s best suited for this team – up tempo. It’s no surprise that the last few games have seen Marion play his best stretch of basketball since joining the Raptors – he’s netting 14.2/8.8 on 50% shooting and almost everything is on the break or slashing to the rim which is the way he likes it and arguably the only way he can a successful part of any NBA unit. As I said before, I’m reserving judgment on Jose till he plays well in a stretch of games that mean something, i.e.: next year.
Jameer Nelson’s out for the season but ex-Raptor Rafer Alston has stepped in and the Magic haven’t missed a beat going 23-8 without him. He’ll be up against Calderon and should be a good test for Jose who held his own against Rose for about a quarter or two before the rookie took over in the fourth. Bargnani’s (getting love in SLAM) going up against Howard which as usual presents him with a great opportunity to draw some fouls against the man-child. In the game we won against the Magic, Dwight Howard had to sit for a long stretch in the first half after picking up two fouls and it had an impact on the outcome. I’m confident Bargnani will play him as well as he can be played through single-coverage but if he can pick two early fouls on him, it’ll change the entire complexion of this one. If Howard does stay in the game, boxing him out and keeping him off the offensive glass is paramount if you want to minimize the damage.
The other matchup to keep an eye on is Marion going up against Turkoglu. The Big Turk has been a thorn in our side ever since the playoff series and I’m very interested to see how he’s going to do against a legit defender for a change. I suspect things aren’t going to come as easy for him tonight. We also get a chance to see the 22nd pick in the 2008 draft Courtney Lee go up against our aging SG who we’ll soon be desperately seeking a replacement for (wouldn’t Lee have looked good, and they said there’s nothing good left at the wing spot past the lottery) .
Chris Bosh was asked whether Jay Triano should be back and he gave it a yes:
I think so. Given the situation he was in, taking over a team, we were struggling at first, we didn’t really have an identity. It’s been a very tough job, I don’t know too many guys who could do the things that he’s done.
The more I think about this the more it makes sense from a financial point, if not a basketball one. Mitchell’s already on the books, we’re stuck with Banks and we’re stuck with Kapono. We’ll probably be signing Marion or someone in that salary range to a deal which doesn’t leave enough money for a big name coach like Flip Saunders or Eddie Jordan who will command at least a three year deal at a substantial number. Colangelo’s given no indication that he wouldn’t rehire Triano and the only things that suggests otherwise are internet rumors about Ettore Messina and Iavorini’s visit to Toronto.
Finally, this is a little out of the blue but I remember Hollinger giving us a lot of credit last year for maintaining a high point-differential despite a so-so record, last year we were +2.9, this year we are -2.9. Just thought I’d throw it out there. I never thought the stat meant much for a team that’s not in the upper echelon of the league, take a look at Cleveland and its league-leading +9.3, now that combined with their record tells me they’re putting away every opponent handily, not just inflating the numbers in garbage time. Same for Boston’s +10.3 last year and San Antonio’s +8.4 the year before that, both league-leading differentials that ended with the title.
My pick is Lacey. I can’t find a bio on her but she seems like a lady who’ll happily make you a sandwich before and after. The Magic are laying 10 and I’m on a mini 2-game win streak. I’m picking the Raptors to lose but cover.
You’ll also be happy to know that after winning four straight we’ve yet to drop a spot in the lottery and are still picking 8th.