Fans could be forgiven if they interpreted all those DNP's coaches decisions as a signal of some discontent between Wright and his coach.
Wright always has been a vocal player and did not shy away from the microphones or cameras when the Raps were at their lowest earlier this season. When he sees a problem, as he did in the wake of a humbling 40-point loss in Charlotte he speaks out. When he sees players not being held accountable as he after a blowout loss in Atlanta, he speaks his mind.
"I stand by everything I said," Wright said yesterday, which wasn't surprising. What was surprising was that Triano agreed with him both then and now.
"What he said was the truth," Triano said. "Just look at the quote itself and perhaps not how it was interpreted by members of the media and what he was saying was correct."
Bosh acknowledged that when he first arrived, he had high aspirations, but did he think of himself as a potential franchise lynchpin?
“No,” Bosh said matter-of-factly. “I mean, when I came here, I didn’t know my role, I didn’t think I was going to turn into the player I am today. I’m pretty lucky.”
Two of his colleagues believe luck had little to do with his achievements.
“Obviously he’s unbelievably talented, but the one thing that separates him from a lot of other guys is he has the work ethic to go with it,” said Raptors point guard Jarrett Jack, who roomed with Bosh when both were freshmen at Georgia Tech.
“He didn’t just settle with being naturally talented, naturally gifted. He tried to combine the two and that’s the MVP candidate you see today.”
Jack said Bosh was that way from the day he arrived in college and that the effect was contagious.
“He had a drive and a hunger about him at that particular age, it’s really where I got my work ethic from, to be honest,” Jack said.
Doesn’t a deal that would send Bosh and the bad contracts of Marcus Banks and Reggie Evans to Miami for Michael Beasley and Jermaine O’Neal’s expiring contract make a lot of sense for both teams? Yes, it’s not equal value for Bosh, but the Raptors would get a good young player (Beasley) and would save almost $10 million next season. In fact, they’d have $8 million of cap space to spend if they so choose. All of this for a guy they have almost no chance of re-signing anyway.
I know Heat fans would want to do this. What about Raptor fans?
Asked to recall those bad old days, when they were routinely getting drilled and questions abounded about chemistry and character and whether this was a volatile mix culled from two continents that would never quite work, Bosh paused to think. "First, it wasn't as bad as the perception was," he said. "What were the things they were saying, anyway?"
Told it ran the gamut from opinions that North Americans weren't accepting Europeans to thoughts that veterans weren't really appreciating kids and suggestions players were tuning out a coach less than a quarter of the way through a season, Bosh responded with a laugh.
"That was entirely not the case at all," he said. "I mean, it's easy to say things like that if the team's having issues or we're not winning games. I mean, we were just not communicating, is all.
"The Atlantic didn't have anything to do with it."
"There's no such thing as [feeling] too good. I feel good," Raptors forward Chris Bosh said. "Even if you're struggling, you still have to feel good. You play this game too much and the season is too long to be just walking around, not enjoying anything. It's OK to enjoy yourself.
"To win four games in a row in the NBA is not easy. To win a game is not easy."
The real question, of course, is if the Raptors should be enjoying life quite so much. Their wins have come over New Jersey, New Orleans and Detroit twice, none of who are easily confused with the 1996 Bulls.
That being said, Calderon should not come back until he is 100 per cent healthy as the team seems to have found a nice rhythm of late.
It says here that if the team is still going well, Calderon should come off the bench and work his way slowly back into the lineup facing some second unit players the same way Ford did a couple of seasons ago.
He might not like it, but in the end, it’s who finishes the game, not who starts and with Triano currently playing four starters (Bosh, Bargnani, Turkoglu and Jack) during crunch time in the fourth quarter with a rotating wild card player, that might just turn out to be Calderon’s spot when he is fully recovered.
After being selected ninth by the Toronto Raptors in the 1997 draft, he was now a complete anomaly. Raptors fans saw flashes of what he could do. He was a dunking machine and looked like he had glimpses of Scottie Pippen-type defense in him when he was given the chance. He was fortunate enough to have his cousin Vince drafted to the team a year later and with his cousin’s national exposure he finally got a little national spotlight. It culminated for his Raptors career when he participated in the 2000 Dunk Contest. In any other year, he would have run away with it. He just happened to be in his cousin’s spotlight again at the wrong time.
I'm speaking of Jose Calderon. Toronto's improved play has led to many people saying Jarrett Jack should continue to start at point guard even when Calderon returns. Here is my response to this suggestion:
Consider: During this 8-4 stretch, the Raptors have played four teams with a winning record. They are 1-3 against those teams. The three losses were by a combined 61 points. In those 4 games against quality competition, Jack averaged 12 points and 4 assists per game, and was a combined -14.
The recipient of The Niagara Falls Review 2009 sports newsmaker of the year nod – Jay Triano – is by no means a stranger to accolades. His accomplishments and awards are the stuff of which both young and veteran hoopsters dream.
But as any basketball fan knows, the dream isn't complete without an NBA presence, and it's here that Triano has really set himself apart. His successful playing career, beginning with a Lakers draft, and distinction as a coach – seven seasons as a Toronto Raptors assistant, which eventually evolved into Triano's ascension to the head coach position are his NBA legacy to date.
Chris Bosh (Toronto Raptors, F): If there is one player from the heralded 2010 free agent class that will end up leaving his current team, it is Bosh. Bosh has to be frustrated with the Raptor’s play this season and would be hard pressed to think Toronto is going any where any time soon. This will not stop him from partaking in the all star festivities as he should be a lock again this year.
In addition to the Raptors improvement on the defensive end of late, is their ability to keep their composure and close out games.
“You have to keep your composure in instances like that,” Bosh said. “We knew that we were not really playing our best on defense and that is what we were talking about. We were not talking about our shots or anything. We had open looks and we missed them. But when it comes down to it, we have to play better defense. We can’t let out offence dictate our defense.”
But Jay Triano has the respect of some of the NBA’s top executives and Bryan Colangelo’s patience with his coach is likely to be rewarded. (It would be nice if Triano could figure things out a little faster though.)
However, finishing any season winning 65 percent of your games over even a modest stretch is no easy task and likely to be greeted with a measure of disbelief. And some people will look at the Raptors 15-17 record and not be convinced this team can do it.
But this season, the Raptors have gone 8-4 since that 7-13 start and are precisely on track to repeat that remarkable performance.
And with 10 teams in the East at under .500, the non-elite teams in the East are weak this year. The Raptors are currently in 6th place in the East with that 15-17 record.
Jarrett Jack, one of the players who has stepped up his game during the absence of starting point guard Jose Calderon, likes the direction the team is headed but admits there is still plenty of room for growth.
“I feel like we’ve got a rhythm right now,” Jack explained. “Everybody is playing as if they’re in sync with one another. Wins in the NBA aren’t easy to come by, regardless if you’ve got one, two, three. We just happen to have four in a row, you just try to keep it going. Now we’re looking forward to playing a Charlotte team that pretty much embarrassed us the last time we played then.”
With his 25 points against Detroit on Sunday, Chris Bosh now has 9,348 career points. That puts him 72 points away from Vince Carter's club record.
If he follows his per-game average of 23.5, that would put Bosh in position to break the record a week from Wednesday in Orlando.
"I think it's pretty cool just to be a franchise leader in anything," Bosh said after Monday's practice. "There have been so many good players to come through here. To be so close to something like that is pretty cool. Yeah, it's pretty cool."
The Pistons never seemed to have a plan with Johnson. There were rumors that while the front office loved Johnson's potential, the Flip Saunders regime was never sold on it. Certainly this could've hurt his development. Then, when Saunders was gone, Michael Curry proved to be completely over-matched as a head coach, further hurting Johnson's chances.
In Toronto, Amir brings rebounding and gritty play that Toronto sorely lacks in it's other frontcourt players. He'll get minutes all year as a result — the Raptors need his rebounding, in particular. Despite being in his fifth NBA season, he's still just 22-years-old. The team is obviously letting him play through mistakes, his confidence has improved and it's intriguing to think about where he'll be at in his development by the end of this season.
Eastern Conference Team: Toronto Raptors – Toronto went 2-0 this week with both wins coming in a home-and-home against the Detroit Pistons. The Raptors, who allow more points than any team in basketball outside of Golden State, held Detroit to just 64 points on 28 percent shooting in the team's 94-64 victory at The Palace on Wednesday and rode Chris Bosh's 25 point, 16 rebound performance to a 102-95 win in Toronto on Sunday. The Raptors have now won five four straight games and would be seeded sixth in the Eastern Conference if the playoffs started today.
THE FAN presents highlights (1) and the game recap (2) of the Raptors' 102-95 win over the Detroit Pistons, courtesy Paul Jones & Eric Smith.
The new guy, Matt Devlin, was basically the anti-Chuck and at times seemed reluctant to inject anything resembling excitement into a game. Even Swirsky-haters secretly longed for a “kaboom" or two to warm up those many cold nights in Raptorland.
Devlin will never be mistaken for Swirsky, but there's no denying that the level of his game and the level of the broadcasts have both improved this year. Devlin seems a little more animated and appears to be having more fun.
Last week, when New Orleans' Peja Stojakovic hit a three-pointer, Devlin shouted, “Punjabi" as a tribute to CBC's Punjabi-language Raptor broadcasts.
"We still in progress of learning … of playing 48 minutes," he said. "We started the game good but we've been having the problem … especially in the third quarter.
"When we figure that out, I think we're going to be really good and you're going to see more 4-0 (streaks) or five or six or even more."
For now, though, the Raptors just want to continue the success they've had. They are not among the Eastern Conference elite by any stretch of the imagination but they have moved to fifth in the conference, are 6-3 in their last nine games and there is a large dose of confidence in the locker room.
Tempers flare: The Pistons had a running dialogue with the officiating crew of Bob Delaney, Bennie Adams and Derek Richardson. Hamilton and Gordon got technicals for their talk and Pistons coach John Kuester almost earned one when Jonas Jerebko fouled out with 4:44 remaining.
Quotable: "Sometimes when you haven't been out there so long everybody seems so fast," Hamilton said on the difficulty of being able to defend at an NBA level after missing time.
"We're starting to realize how good we can be," said Turkoglu, who had six assists including a key helper when he found a cutting Weems for a dunk to put Toronto up seven with 49 seconds to play. "We're still progressing and need to learn about playing 48 minutes … when we figure that out too I think we're going to be really good and you'll see more [streaks] like this, 4-0 and 5-0 and even more."
The Pistons in Toronto yesterday weren't the same sorry crew the Raptors blew out in Michigan before Christmas. With the return of Tayshaun Prince (back), Richard Hamilton (hamstring) and Ben Gordon (ankle) they were at full strength for the first time since early in the season, a reminder that the Raptors haven't been the only team not to have everything break their way this season.
Help from Unlikely Sources
The Young Guns didn’t get ‘er done today. Yes, they are very exciting to watch most nights but tonight they looked young and inexpereinced especially on the defensive end. Sonny Weems did have some moments near the end of the game but the Raps had to look elsewhere for energy and support off the bench. Enter Antoine Wright and Marco Belinelli. Marco had a great first half, shot the ball well and was very active on the defensive end. He even got into a bit of a bettle with Rip Hamilton. Wright came in during the second half and helped bail the club out. He played stellar defense and made some great passes to help the team take the W.
It was first thought that Calderon would miss only a couple of games when he hurt his hip on Dec.5 in Chicago and, in fact, returned to the lineup on Dec.11 after missing two games. But he was forced to leave that game as well against Atlanta and his return date still is a mystery, though he is expected to consult with team doctors tomorrow. All of which means Jarrett Jack will continue to start at point guard, which certainly hasn't been a problem as the 14-17 Raptors are 5-4 with Jack starting.
As a result of 65 personal fouls — 33 for Detroit and 32 for Toronto — yesterday's game lasted two hours and 49 minutes, the longest non-overtime game in franchise history. The previous long was the club's first-ever home opener, which was on Nov.3, 1995 against the New Jersey Nets. That contest lasted two hours and 45 minutes.
The Raptors went to the free throw line 44 times, converting 32, while the Pistons went to the line 33 times, and missed 10, with centre Ben Wallace going 2-for-8.
Chris Bosh led the free throw parade for Toronto, going 9-for-14.
Marco Belinelli came off the bench and scored nine points in less than 20 minutes, six of those points as a result of free throws, though he was forced from the game in the fourth quarter after picking up his sixth personal foul. It was his second straight strong game, and he has shot 5-for-11 in those two outings.
"We knew they were going to come back," Raptors coach Jay Triano said. "We settled for jump shots, which we have a habit of doing. We know they have some talent and they started making shots."
Detroit actually climbed to within two late in the third. But thanks to some big efforts late in the fourth quarter by big men Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh, the Raptors managed to hold on for the win and keep the win streak alive. Bosh picked up his NBA-leading 23rd double-double of the season, with 25 points and 16 rebounds, going to the free throw line 14 times, converting nine. He also picked up four points and three rebounds in the final two minutes to seal the deal.