If a tree falls in Minnesota….

DeRozan, Weems and Johnson. Twitter‘s good for something.

Jay Triano doesn’t care about winning any of these games. Most coaches only say that but this one here, he really, really doesn’t put any weight in them. He’s instead continuing his experiments of putting out scrubby lineups and having them deal with the pressure of closing games. He’s determined to have Jose and Jack on the floor at the same time. He’s evaluating Belinelli’s scoring, ball-handling and potential as a go-to scorer off the bench. He’s even looking for Patrick O’Bryant to show him something that’ll keep him in his mind when Bargnani, Evans, Johnson and Rasho have all fouled out. He’s giving Jack the reigns at the point and trusting him to call plays. He’s doing everything pre-season was originally created for and it’s resulted in the fans getting a much truer glimpse of what the pieces on this team are capable of. I’m just waiting for the 70 minutes of Bosh and Turkoglu to get into the lineup so we can start making some proper evaluations.

Tonight it’s Minny and there’s no TV in Toronto, Devlin’s not even making the trip. I’m sure we’ll get game-reports, or if lucky, a stream from somewhere. Whether we see this game or not, I want to see some things happen in it.

Jose Calderon – Wake up.

And by wake up I mean WAKE THE &^%$ UP! I know it’s only pre-season but he’s been the worst Raptor so far. He actually looks slower than last year which I thought wasn’t possible, especially considering that he’s injury-free and fresh. As I was watching him labour against Philly my mind was racing to find an excuse for his play and I couldn’t come up with anything. The best I could do was tell myself that he needs time to figure out his new teammates but that’s a lie. Both games against Philly were open court games with Belinelli, Weems and DeRozan running the lanes very aggressively and it was Jose that was failing them. Even Banks and Douby made some plays with those athletes on their side, the only one who didn’t perform was Jose. Is he really that dependent on playing with Bosh? We haven’t been running the PNR much and have instead relied on the offense being initiated from the high-post, maybe Jose’s so used to that play that it’ll take him some time to adapt? I got nothing. He needs to show something to make everyone feel better, some drive ‘n kicks, bursts of quickness for layups, confident step-back jumpers, something.

Tonight I want to see him look for his shot. Early and often. He’ll be going up against rookie Jonny Flynn so there is no excuse here, not that there was against Lou Williams either.

Marco Belinelli – A little control, please.

OK, so this guy has a mid-range game, likes to take it to the rim, thinks he’s the second coming of Manu Ginobili and has zero confidence issues. Good, but can he put a solid game together? So far he’s gone 2-8 and 4-11, what metric am I supposed to use in evaluating a shooting guard if not FG percentage and points? I can already see the discipline issues everybody talked about (still can’t see why Don Nelson didn’t like him, he seems perfect for they got going there) and usually when you have discipline issues, you have consistency issues which happened to be the main reason why we fired Anthony Parker. So Marco, slow it down and let the game come to you. I know it sounds cliche but it’s true. He’s going to get minutes on this team, he doesn’t need to “beat” anyone nor does he need to “prove” anything at this early stage. Without Bosh and Turkoglu in there, the offense needs a little stability and composure, Belinelli’s got to embrace that and play with a lot more craft and tact. Side note, much like how Belinelli’s trying to resurrect his NBA career, Sasha Pavlovic is doing the same in Minny.

Amir Johnson – Who are you?

I can’t figure him out. I know he’s go the potential to have a Campy-type impact but he could also be one of those guys that has “moments of brilliance” and then goes in the tank for three games. Just like Belinelli, the question here is the degree of consistency. When good teams go to their bench they know exactly what to expect have a very good idea of what the second unit’s capacity is to hold things together. Right now Triano is trying to figure out what that is and Johnson’s the biggest X-factor in that equation. Right now he’s averaging about 24 minutes and in both games it’s took him some time to get warmed up. When Bosh returns, he’ll be expected have an instant impact in limited minutes without the luxury of getting used to the flow of the game. That’s a trait that separates a great sixth man from an average second unit player. He’s netting 9 RPG so far but that number is inflated because of all the terrible shots being taken in the last two games. I don’t put much value on PFs being able to run the floor because face it, PFs aren’t supposed to run the floor. I’ve been more impressed with the potential he’s shown as a help defender and shot-blocker. I’d like to see him finish in the low-block against guys like Love and Jefferson.

Andrea Bargnani – Assert yourself!

Quite simple really. You’ve looked good whenever you’ve had the ball so why not have more of the ball? I’d like to see him take 18 shots which is at least what his volume should be during the season. Also, five rebounds in two games is pathetic, it doesn’t matter if rebounding isn’t your strength. He at least has to make an effort to be active on the boards and dare I say it, he’s ball-watching already. But see, you can’t fix that, it’s part of who you are. Some people go for the ball when it’s bouncing on the rim, others like to watch it bounce as they extend their toes while thinking about jumping. There’s no gentle way of putting this but Bargnani needs to put up 17-20ppg on 50% shooting (TS% of around 58%) to make up for what he’s going to concede defensively. Last year he was at 45% and 56%, respectively. When you measure a player’s impact on a game you consider both sides of the ball, when talking Bargnani you ask for average to slightly below average defense and hope he makes it up at the other end. It’s a dangerous game to play.

DeMar DeRozan

He’s a tight handle away from being an effective player. John Hollinger’s BS about him not being able to shoot was just that. For a rookie he’s already got great shot selection and that’s only going to get better as he finds his spots. I raved about his composure and confidence in isolation situations over the summer and he continues to show that, only now in a team setting. He’s getting used to the size and length of NBA defenders and was caught by surprise when a couple of his passes were deflected for steals. That’s just inexperience, though, he’s taking it slowly and my money’s on him carving out a niche on this team. Although DeRozan’s a couple inches shorter, I liken him to Travis Outlaw. AltRaps and A-Dub think he needs to be more aggressive with his shot, I disagree. He can hoist a shot any time he wants, but learning the offense inside-out are finding his points through there is where he’ll really be an asset, not to mention it’ll allow him to shoot a much higher FG% than if he went rogue. It’s only a matter of time when he recognize exactly where his game fits so there’s no reason to force anything. I know I sound like a broken record but I’d like him to work on his dribble because teams will be trapping him on the high-screen mercilessly, he’s got to minimize turnovers and make them pay for the double.

Back to the game tonight. Triano says that Bosh will travel and he might play but if he does, it’ll be very limited minutes, about seven. Hedo will not play due to fatigue. I’m never heard of a guy sit out training camp for that reason and for this long. I know this happens a lot in soccer once players come back from international duty but even that lasts at most a few days and that’s it.

Bosh says that Triano hasn’t put that many new sets in and it’s nothing he can’t handle. He says that the high screen ‘n roll will be one of their main sets but not the only one (shot at Mitchell!). He also says his injury is nothing like the ones he’s had in the past and nobody should be worried. Like, nobody. He feels he might even be ready now and would like to play more than 7 minutes but will defer to the coaches because they obviously have an “agenda”. He’s also appreciating that even though they struggled to score last couple nights, their defense kept them in the game.

Hedo Turkoglu hopes to start practicing next week.

Here are some quotes from T’Wolves coach Kurt Rambis.

On Al Jefferson

He has a tremendous knack for getting his defender out of position and working his way around them, whether it’s one defender or two defenders he can just fit himself in little gaps and find a way to score. He’s doing a great job in camp just playing through fouls, he just keeps playing, keeps rebound and just keeps going at it.

On bringing the triangle over from the Lakers.

“[The triangle offense is] just a format to play out of, it gives everybody a sense of where everybody else is on the floor, where there teammates are so they can hit them with passes, keeps their spacing so they can read the defense and just play out of it. As they grow and develop, there is just a multitude of things that they can do once they get comfortable with how to play out of it.”

On rookie Jonny Flynn

[Flynn] is trying to learn the most difficult position in the NBA to learn. Offensively and defensively it’s going to be tough for him. I keep encouraging him to execute our offense. That’s the initial phase of our offensive thrust is to get us organized so everybody knows how we are playing and spots on the floor. I need him to be a leader on the floor and to show his team how to play and how to execute and how to play together, that’s part of his role as a leader and an orchestrator out there.

Join us for the live chat, who knows, there might even be a stream. Finally, I know this is totally out of the blue, but I like Matt Devlin.

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