Morning Coffee

Morning Coffee – Nov 20

Real mixed bag | Toronto Sun

There's better cohesion on the team and the bench is beginning to take shape.

During the four-game trip, Marco Belinelli averaged 15.2 points, while Amir Johnson was active defensively and averaged 6.5 rebounds.

Sonny Weems stepped up, giving Triano another option.

One of the biggest keys, outside of defending better, is to get Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack to play better.

The point play has been sporadic at best.

Fatigue was cited as a factor in Calderon going 4-of-14 from the field in Utah Wednesday night, but that's just a convenient excuse.

He has got to get tougher and somehow keep his man in front of him on the defensive end.

Jack has been the early season's biggest disappointment.

Doug Smith’s Toronto Raptors blog

But what I found most interesting in the 10-minute chat we had in a corner of the Energy Solutions Arena locker room the other night was his contention that a large part of his transformation came about because he wanted to really be considered among the elite in the league.

Ego-driven, it is. And, to me, that’s a very good thing.

All the best players in every sport have a lot of “me” about them, a bit of selfishness and a cockiness that makes them stand out. Bosh really hasn’t shown much of that, he’s talked it a little bit in the past but he’s never really displayed it on a consistent basis. Now? He is.

No, his game is far from perfect and he fully admits to a couple of brain freezes on defence that cost his team buckets and he knows that has to improve. But there is an edge to him this year that can only help.

He remains the team’s best player – by far – and if the best player has an edge to him, you’d think it would eventually rub off onto some of his teammates.

Evans could provide answer to Raptors’ defensive problems –

"I don't want to put it all on one guy's shoulders … but there have been nights when we've gotten eaten alive on the glass. And Reggie would be able to go in and stop that flow," Bryan Colangelo, the president and general manager of the Toronto Raptors, was saying Thursday. "Whether it was a five-minute span or a 10-minute span or what have you, he's a weapon."

The weapon, sadly, hasn't been in Toronto's arsenal since he sprained his foot in a pre-season game against the Celtics on Oct. 14. More than five weeks later, Colangelo cannot say with any certainty when Evans will be back in action. If returning were simply a matter of pain tolerance, Colangelo said his rugged role player "is more tolerant than most."

The new Bosh out to change opinions –

"Every day I turn on the TV and they're talking about guys, especially my draft class, '03 draft class, and this and that," he said. "They keep bringing up all these and I never hear my name, unless I'm like second honourable mention or something like that. I got tired of that.

"I don't even think people know I've made all-star teams or know what I've done in this league."

This is the new – vastly improved – Bosh talking, a guy with more consistent determination, greater bulk and numbers that place him among the very best in the NBA right now.

He takes the floor Friday night seventh in the NBA in scoring, averaging 26.8 points per game, and with 20 points-plus games in 11 of 12 outings. He's second in the league in rebounding, averaging 12.3 per game, including 4.3 offensive rebounds, and he's shooting 50 per cent from the field.

Raptors Game Day

Who's hot? After shooting 47% from the field last year, former Raptor Jermaine O'Neal has started this season by shooting 56% in 10 games.

Who's not? Dwyane Wade has connected on just 12 of his last 37 field-goal attempts. Perhaps he is slumping. Perhaps he is due.

Chris Bosh wants respect :InsideHoops

Toronto Raptors forward Chris Bosh tends to be left out of conversations involving top players in his draft class. He’s noticed, and gotten annoyed about it, and used the motivation to make himself better.

Andrea Bargnani’s dunk on Chris Anderson: dumb luck or improved aggressiveness? – HoopsVibe

It’s an impressive play and worth watching again. And Raptor fans are hoping the Italian will continue complementing his fine perimeter shooting with these kinds of strong drives to the basket.

Currently, Bargnani is a solid player. But by improving his aggressiveness on both ends of the floor, he becomes a candidate for the All Star game and nice insurance if Chris Bosh leaves as a free agent at season’s end.

Watch the clip below and tell us if this dunk is a one-off or the start of a more aggressive Bargnani?

Miami Heat coach expects breakout by Dwyane Wade –

The Heat (7-4) could use a breakthrough performance from Wade on Friday against the Raptors at Air Canada Centre. Wade had a season-low 15 points in a 105-90 loss to Atlanta on Wednesday. He has shot only 38.6 percent from the field in the past four games and has committed 17 turnovers in that span.

Wade had a similarly sluggish start last season, when he missed 30 of his first 51 shots and was 0 of 12 from three-point range before he turned it around. Wade then scored at least 29 points in eight of his next 10 games.

Wade said his struggles are the result of “missing open shots'' than any specific defensive success.

“For me, it's just about knowing that nothing lasts forever,'' Wade said. “I know that shooting slumps only last so long, and I'm not a stranger to that. If you start forcing it and going after it too much, you're going to struggle even more. You just have to pick your spots and do what you do.''

Li-Ning Jose Calderon PE | Sneaker Files

While most of us are aware of the Baron Davis Li-Ning signature sneaker series, he is not the only NBA player in a contract with the Chinese sneaker company. In fact, you can now add Toronto Raptors point guard Jose Calderon to the list of NBA ballers with their own Li-Ning PE. Pictured here is number 8’s Li-Ning PE in a black/red colorway. It dons the Spanish point guard’s number 8 on the inside ankle area, while a small depiction of Calderon in his patented 3 fingers pose fills the top of the shoe’s tongue. Finally, the Li-Ning team pays homage to Calderon’s hometown of Spain by placing a silhouette of the country’s flag underneath the shoe’s sole. With no word of a stateside release, here are pictures of the shoe that might or might not make its way to the U.S. If you had the chance to, would you be inclined to try out a pair?

Game #12: Miami Heat (7-4) vs. Toronto Raptors(5-7) – Peninsula is Mightier

The Raptors are coming off of a tough loss in Utah, their third in a row, but one positive was they got Hedo Turkoglu back after missing 1 game. The Raptors have been solid offensively, scoring 100 or more points in all but two games this season. A lot of the credit goes to their all-star Chris Bosh, who is having an amazing year thus far. Bosh averages a double double (26.8 and 12.2) but has continued to improve defensively and blocked at least one shot in all but three games.

Look for Jermaine O'Neal to get involved early and often against his former club. His counterpart, Andrea Bargnani has been struggling lately on both ends of the floor. In his last three games Bargnani has shot just 36% from the field, and when he isn't shooting well that makes him a much less effective center. He doesn't have much of an inside game and is more prone to putting up a couple of treys, but should be taken advantage defensively by a healthy and well-rested O'Neal.

The Rap Sheet: Home Sweet Home?

Looks like the heat has eased on Jose Calderon as of late as he improves in all the right spots. Points per game are up, assists are up, turnovers are down… all good signs that he’s starting to turn the corner and get back to where he used to be. Jarrett Jack on the other hand… yikes! Since it’s still very early, we’ll wait and watch Double Jeezy and see where his game goes. Lingering thought… the Raps probably could’ve sucked 6ppg and 3apg from Roko.

Video Blog 2: & (November 15, 2009) & discuss their favourite Toronto Raptors players of all-time, most memorable franchise moments, and the upcoming homestand at the Air Canada Centre.

Raptors’ Bargnani struggling on offence, defence

It is not particularly difficult to diagnose the Toronto Raptors’ main problem: they cannot defend well.

In a pretty thorough takedown of the Raptors’ much-talked-about defensive principles, ESPN analyst John Hollinger, a statistical guru, cited that the Raptors allow 113.3 points per 100 possessions, placing them dead last in that category.

In the same article, Hollinger said the Raptors’ defence is “threatening to rank among the worst defences in NBA history” and that Andrea Bargnani “might be the worst help defender in basketball.”

These points are all valid, and have been dissected to death. A starting unit with Bargnani, Jose Calderon and Hedo Turkoglu is going to struggle defensively.

The most worrisome statistic, though, is that the Raptors are 0-7 when their opponents score 100 points or more (and 5-0 when opponents score fewer than 100).

NBA union director plans to meet Stern soon – The Globe and Mail

NBA players’ association director Billy Hunter plans another negotiating session soon with commissioner David Stern, and here’s something that might come up.

The union says total player compensation will fall this season, which would be only the second drop in the salary cap era.

The amount of the drop can’t be determined yet, since more deals will be signed during the season. Nor is it particularly surprising given the economic difficulties some teams have faced.

The league warned clubs during the summer of an impending drop in next season’s salary cap, and some were careful with their spending. Veterans such as Allen Iverson found limited to no interest, while restricted free agents such as New York’s David Lee and Nate Robinson, and Charlotte’s Raymond Felton couldn’t even get an offer from anyone beyond their own teams.

Raptors D and former Raptors « New Leisure Blog

Matt Bonner: The starting ‘center’ for the Spurs. Bonner does his job by hitting open shots, shooting over 40% from downton. he works hard and Pops loves him, so life is good for the Red Rocket.

Roger Mason: Mason is having a terrible year so far, shooting only 25% from the field. He is averaging over 18 minutes, so he is getting playing time. However, I can’t imagine him continue to get PT if his performance doesn’t improve.

RaptorTalk: The Raptors Drive To .500 By Month’s End

To be 9-9 by November 30th, the Raps need to finish the month with a 4W-2L run. Only Charlotte will be somewhat easy, but the Raptors are on the back end of a back-to-back, so it’s not a gimme.

It won't be easy, but 4-2 is certainly possible. On the other hand, 2-4 wouldn't surprise me either.

If Toronto plays like they are capable of playing, the Raps can beat Miami, Indy and Charlotte and hopefully steal one against Orlando, Phoenix or Boston.

That's 4W-2L and provides solid momentum into December.

What concerns me most is that Toronto has trouble putting together a solid 40 to 48 minutes. Even in the games they’ve won, the Raptors have only played well for about 30 minutes at most.

Raps Wrap, where it was a 4th quarter brick fest « Milton Ontario Sports & Recreation

The ugly was Jose Calderon who only finished with 2 assists and played some horrific D, unable to even remotely contain or slow down Deron Williams who carved him up all night. Jarrett Jack struggled again in all areas — his jumper, on D and he took one of the strangest, most awkward shots in Raptor history at one point. I’m still baffled by Jack, who was fairly impressive last year in Indiana putting up points and eventually displacing T.J. Ford as the starting PG there — I’m still hopeful he’ll turn it around and that he’s just having a tough time finding a rhythm with his new group of teammates — although I think RaptorNation is losing patience quickly. Hedo Turkoglu also struggled with his shot and looked to be labouring out there. Not a good sign for BC’s 55 million-dollar man.

Dino Nation Blog: 3 up and 3 down Edition 2

Time to play once again another edition of 3 up and 3 down. Feel free to play along at home and add your own ideas in the comments. So with that being said let's start with positive vibes of 3 good things going on right now with the Raps or the NBA.

Heat-Raptors Preview – Nov. 19, 2009 – NBA –

Matchups with Toronto (5-7), though, have rarely given Wade trouble. He scored a combined 82 points while shooting 62.3 percent in his last two contests versus the Raptors, and has averaged 26.8 points while making 53.1 percent from the field in 15 career games against them.

Toronto has struggled defensively this season, allowing 107.8 points per game. The Raptors gave up at least 100 points in losing their last three after holding their previous two opponents under 90.

Hollinger: Toronto Raptors’ first in offense, dead last in defense – ESPN

As good as Toronto's offense looks, it would be even better if not for the disastrous start by Jarrett Jack. One of the Raps' big free-agent pickups is shooting only 34.7 percent and averaging a meager 10.8 points per 40 minutes. His 5.58 player efficiency rating is among the worst at his position, and like his Raptors mates, he's had issues at the defensive end. Although Jack can defend bigger guards well, he has a lot of trouble against dribble penetration. For instance, Maynor completely wrong-footed him on a crossover Thursday and blew right past for an easy deuce.

I should note that Jack got off to a very slow start last season before blowing up down the stretch when he took over as the Pacers' starting point guard. It's possible he'll exhibit the same pattern here, and for the Raptors' sake, I sure hope so. He's on the hook for three more years after this one at $5 million a pop.

Jones: Fast break –

The Toronto Raptors are home following a 1-3 road trip thinking, "Oh, what could have been."

If Hedo Turkolu's last second shot falls against Phoenix and they don't have a brutal 5-for-21 fourth quarter against the Jazz where they missed 12 straight shots after slicing an 18-point deficit down to two points, maybe the record looks different.

But Toronto sits at 5-7, and it doesn't matter what anyone thinks they should be since the old adage says, "You are what your record says you are."

The key for Raptor fans is that the coaching staff and the players are seeing improvement. If this is true and not the perfunctory answer to questions asked of team personnel, then the Raptors will be fine once home games start to come with more regularity. We shall see.

Raps Post-Game: Ready, Set, Slowww… – In Bad Taste

I guess that extra 1,280 feet didn’t make a difference. The Raps flat out ran out of gas again. Every shot hit front rim in the fourth and you could tell that once again their legs were running on fumes. You never like to lose, but you’d rather lose because you couldn’t hit a few timely shots as opposed to losing due to a complete lack of effort on the defensive end. As much as the Raps had their terrible moments, they did pick it up on the defensive end once again in the second half. But as we have seen too much this year, it ends up being a swan song of too little too late. The Raps had to expel so much energy to get within striking distance that they couldn’t pull off the comeback – all Swedish, no Finnish. The Jazz pull it out over the Raptors 104 – 91, another frustrating night at the office.

Tip-In: Toronto Raptors Post Game Report – A ReoccurringTheme – Raptors HQ

Toronto came out flat last night against the Utah Jazz and as Franchise notes in his recap, he's seen this movie a few times too many already this season…

Failing grade for Calderon – The Globe and Mail

In the NBA the goal is to contain the dribbler, as opposed to stopping the dribbler. These guys can’t be stopped. How many times do you see point guards have to pick up their dribble at midcourt or have their pocket picked? Not often. But they can be directed or herded. The trick is to offer a path of least resistance – “by all means continue dribbling to the sideline and baseline, where at least your options are limited” – while doing your best to block the alternative. As an added bonus the Raptors general game plan is to herd the ball to the sideline and baseline.

Raptors running on empty | Toronto Sun

The game wasn't barely six minutes old when Triano called two timeouts, which is all one needs to know on how poorly the Raptors came out of the gate.

Utah scored the game's first eight points, made 10 of its first 14 shots from the field and was poised to bury the Raptors.

After the opening quarter, Utah led 33-17.

The Raptors then began to feed Bosh and play decent defence.

It also helped when the Jazz forgot all the ball movement and movement off the ball that allowed them to stake their lead.

By the break, the Raptors managed to cut the deficit to a manageable number, trailing 61-52.

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