Raptors coach Jay Triano pointed out four games — the games before and after the Christmas break and the games before and after the all-star break — that prove how focused and mature a team is. It is easy to let your mind wander in those games. Jack compared it to exam time before winter break in college. "You might not study for that last final on Friday because you're thinking about going home and having that monthlong break," Jack said. "For us, it's kind of the same thing. Some people might be thinking of having two days off, going home, seeing your families and kind of having some downtime. But we've got some business to take care of before that time comes."
"They always say there are four games — the games before and after Christmas, and the games before and after the all-star break — where you really need to stay focused," Triano said. "It's no use looking at the schedule at the end of the year and saying: 'We have three games left and we have to win two of these,' when you can take care of business in and around Christmas and all-star time."
The Raps are in Auburn Hills, Mich., tomorrow night to take on the Detroit Pistons. After three days off for Christmas, the same clubs hook up again at the Air Canada Centre on Sunday afternoon.
While DeMar DeRozan has gathered attention for his rapidly maturing game, the Raptors other two young guns, Sonny Weems and Amir Johnson, have had a significant hand in the team’s improving play.
Consider the numbers: the 22-year-old Johnson is second in the NBA in offensive rebounds per 48 minutes and 21st in the league in rebounding despite a modest 17.2 minutes per game of playing time. He ripped down a dozen rebounds, Sunday, in a win over New Orleans and had 18 points and seven rebounds in Friday’s rout of New Jersey.
If the Raptors [13-17/.433; 2nd, Atlantic] can go into Detroit on Wednesday night and win a game against the Pistons, it will be a big step in the right direction:
The Toronto Raptors were back at practice on Monday after winning 98-92 against the New Orleans Hornets.
Matt Devlin, Toronto Raptors play-by-play broadcaster didn’t just luck into one of the handful of major league professional sports broadcasting jobs. He earned it with hard work, determination, and over-coming more than a few set-backs.
But Matt didn’t start out in life envisioning himself as the play-by-play guy for his favorite team. Like most kids, he loved to watch and play sports and the Syracuse NY native played baseball, football, and basketball well into his teenage years.
And when Devlin went to Boston College to pursue a Communications Major, it wasn’t the hands on program one might expect from a future broadcaster. But rather a media theory course. Matt still had no aims at a career before the TV cameras.
While DeRozan was a prep star and a standout one-and-done player at USC, Weems took a less conventional route to the league. Weems was an all-state high schooler in Memphis, but relatively unknown. Still, he parlayed junior college success at Arkansas-Fort Smith into a two-year stint at Arkansas. A second-round pick by the Chicago Bulls in 2008, Weems eventually ended up in Denver, where he found little playing time, before heading to the D-League.
The off-season trade to the Raptors gave Weems a chance, and the player who “did mostly dunking, no dribbling, no shooting, nothing” while playing high school ball, has capitalized.
Jack said he knew nothing about Weems when training camp commenced, but quickly took notice of the high-flyer.
“We expected Amir to be a major player when we found out Reggie was hurt,” Triano said. “And he has been a great surprise. He has brought a great amount of energy and understands his role and does what we ask him to do. That has been great.”
Johnson appeared in just 11 games in his first two seasons in Detroit, but then played in 62 in each of the past two years. The Raptors got Johnson and Sonny Weems from the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Carlos Delfino and Roko Ukic, after Johnson’s rights were traded to Milwaukee.
Johnson’s 24 starts for the Pistons in 2008-09 were his only ones in Pistons garb, but he does not ponder how his pro basketball life might have turned out had he gone to university.
“I know he really opened my eyes the first time I saw him play,” point guard Jarrett Jack said. “The first thing I did was I went home and told (Chris Bosh), ‘Do you know anything about Sonny Weems?’ He was like, ‘No, not really.’ I was like, ‘Watch tomorrow, he’s pretty good.’ ”
The whole underdog motif works for Weems. He grew up in Arkansas playing both basketball and football — he wears No. 13 in honour of quarterback Kurt Warner — only choosing basketball after going through a growth spurt following Grade 10.
Even after making his choice, he was hardly a standout.
“Oh, no, no, no, no, no. Not at all,” Weems said. “I tried to be but I wasn’t.
The “trade Jose” talk has been getting a little louder lately hasn’t it. I’ll answer this question with one of my own; have you read an article from out of market that suggests any other team(s) want Calderon? The big question is can Jose return to his form of two seasons ago? If he can, the Raps probably aren’t going to trade him seeing they signed him long term. If he continues to decline, it’s hard to see another team that will want him at his price. Believe it or not point guards are a dime a dozen these days. In the last two years four of the top ten draft picks were point guards and most of them are starters today. With the cap coming down, teams will look more at shedding salary rather than adding it.
On the Hot Seat: Marco Belinelli – I've had Marco on this seat once this season, and now I'm forced to put him back on it. Here is a guy who can put up some serious numbers off of the bench, both scoring and distributing the ball. Unfortunately, to this point Belinelli has relied too heavily on his streaky shooting, rather than attacking the basket, looking for contact on the perimeter and getting his teammates involved. Triano has already cut Belinelli's minutes significantly, and if Marco can't find his consistency soon, he may become a fixture on the “DNP CD” list more often than not.
The Toronto Raptors could provide a good home for Arenas, as they don't have a dynamic point guard on the roster. Jarrett Jack isn't terrible and Jose Calderon is a good stop-gap guard, but Arenas would be an upgrade.
Going to the Raptors would allow Arenas to evolve even further, as he claims he already has, and defer scoring to his teammates
Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani and Hedo Turkoglu are great scorers which means Arenas wouldn't have to shoulder the scoring load as he has mentioned on numerous occasions in Washington.
Playing on a bum left ankle, Chris Paul(notes) was clearly handicapped in this loss, unable to put his team over the top by himself. That doesn't mean that New Orleans couldn't have had this game, even with CP at (far?) less than full strength. The Hornets just didn't play sound and smart enough defense to pull out what could have been a needed road win.
This doesn't discredit Toronto's spacing, and the way it made a point to attack. This wasn't the prettiest offensive turn from the Raptors, but it was enough to win. This does mean the (relative) offensive struggles will continue for Toronto, but as the team desperately tries to claw its way back to .500, they'll take it.
And Sunday’s win was essential because it was a win, but also because it provided more credence to the breadth of the talent on the roster. Let’s not get too swept up in Sonny-mania just yet, for example, but check out some of Weems's numbers since he began getting some steady burn. Over his last seven games he’s shot 30-of-50 and is averaging 9.1 points a game. Take away that one possession Sunday when he missed four straight shots and he’d really be on fire!
Perhaps more surprising is that he’s made 17 assists against just seven turnovers. On the season it’s 24 helpers to 12 turnovers. Also, his per 36 minutes numbers are 13-4-4, on 46-per-cent shooting. Turkoglu is 15-5-4.5 on 43-per-cent shooting, but then again he’s only making $9.9-million more that Weems right now.
In that sense, Jack's defense has arguably been a better fit with the starting five than Calderon's once prodigious offense has been this season. Obviously Jack has benefitted statistically to be a starter, seeing his averages boost to 12.4 points and 6.0 assists per game, up from 8.3 and 4.0 as a reserve, and his shooting percentage jumped from 41% to 52% with the move. Those stats compare well to Calderon's 11.7 points, 6.2 assists and 52% shooting, but with Jack giving more rebounds (4.0 versus 2.2) and defense than Calderon ever has.
Those kind of stat bumps are expected when a guy goes from 27 to 33 minutes each night, but fortunately for Jack and the Raptors, his starting has impacted those around him, too.
If Jack is old, what does that make 33-year-old Rasho Nesterovic?
"Oh, Rasho is old as dirt. He moves so slow. But I love Rasho, man."
Weems can probably expect a hard foul in Tuesday's practice.
Despite averaging a pedestrian 5.3 points and 5.1 rebounds in 17.2 minutes he’s been a huge hustle and energy guy for Triano off the bench. Not only that, but he’s started to find a comfort zone over the past month and it’s starting to show up in the stat sheet. On Friday he scored a team-high 18 points and yesterday afternoon he snagged a game-high 12 rebounds.
After the game on Sunday I chatted with Johnson about his strong play this weekend and he joked: “I’m trying to get a double-double but I can’t seem to get it. I get 18 points but then I only get seven rebounds. Or I’ll get 12 rebounds but I only get six points so I’m just trying to give my team a lift and do all the hustle stuff.”
Some player outbursts and a closed-door meeting later, and the Toronto Raptors looked like a new team just one day after surrendering that season league high 146 points to the Atlanta Hawks.
A three-game winning streak ensued. Followed by a two game losing skid, a strong win against Houston at home, two road losses, then two more solid home wins.
And the Raptors faced adversity as Jose Calderon injured his hip nine games ago forcing back-up Jarrett Jack into a starting role and making Marcus Banks give up his suit for a uniform and meaningful minutes off the bench.
Jack stepping up with 12.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 5.9 assists as a starter and the little used Marcus Banks pressed into seven games, providing 5.4 points on 47 percent shooting in 14 minutes per contest.
The Toronto Raptors and Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Durham are teaming up for a fundraiser that is sure to be a ball.
The Raptors will hold a ticket drive at select games throughout January and February to raise funds for the north Durham non-profit organization, among others.
With every ticket purchased for select games, a $10 donation will be made to the agency. As a bonus, there's an opportunity to save up to 20 per cent off of the regular ticket price.
Discounted tickets cost $68.20 (regular $85) in the Group Zone and $37.20 (regular $43) in the balcony section.
I am a strong believer in the term that Practice makes perfect, but I am also a strong believer in experience over raw talent. The Raptors five players that can be starting at the 2 spot on their roster, they are Sonny Weems, Marco Belinelli, Jarred Jack, Antoine Wright and DeMar DeRozan. Lets exclude Jack as he is a call above these guys. In my opinion the battle for this spot should have been between Sonny Weems, Marco Belinelli and Antoine Wright. With Wright getting hurt in training camp he dropped out of the picture. Thus leaving Weems and Belinelli. I am purposely leaving DeMar out of this discussion because I don't think that he should even be in the discussion as a starter due to his lack of experience.