Triano said yesterday that he is hopeful that point guard Jose Calderon, who has missed seven straight games because of a sore left hip, will be ready to return for the Jan. 6 game in Orlando, which means he'll like miss the next three.
In Calderon's absence, Jack has played well at both ends of the court, prompting speculation that Triano could very well chose to start Jack over Calderon when the Spaniard returns.
Jack has now started 10 straight and is averaging 13.0 points (15.3 in his past three) and 5.9 assists during that time, while shooting .528%. Though the competition and schedule has eased up recently, the Raptors are 6-4 with Jack starting, and 9-13 with Calderon taking the ball at the opening buzzer.
I measure this out at about the usual length and want to point out that not once have I mentioned how utterly ridiculous I think it is that anyone would remotely think obtaining Tracy McGrady makes any sense whatsoever.
Yes, packaging up the four or five players you’d have to combine to get to McGrady’s salary, therefore gutting the team to get an old guy who’d play the same positions as a guy you gave a five-year contract to and a rookie you want to develop and then maybe – and in the arcane world of salary caps and free agent holds and the future of Chris Bosh it’s a maybe at best – having money to spend next summer is a great idea.
And by “great idea” I mean stupid idea.
The Raptors were 7-8 when they went to Charlotte, had won two of three and things were looking better, if not good.
But the Bobcats ran amok in what was little more than a 48-minute festival of layups and dunks and the Raptors went on to lose their next four games.
They are now just digging out from the mess that loss created.
"It was rough," Jack said. "I think we were at a point where we were playing well a little bit and then kind of took a slide against those guys. I think that's where our confidence kind of (wavered) in each other. Now we're a little bit more close together."
Who's hot? Gerald Wallace's career per-game rebounding average: 5.8. His best season average before this one: 7.8. His average this season: 11.9. Try to make sense of that.
Who's not? Second-year guard D.J. Augustin has failed to emerge this year. He is shooting a spectacularly awful 35% from the floor.
To Bosh's credit, although the recent release of his self-promotional DVD says otherwise, he is no longer courting adulation, local or league-wise.
"I don't feel underappreciated," Bosh said yesterday as his team prepared to play Charlotte tonight. "To be honest, I don't really care about attention anymore. Yeah, I was chasing it for a while. But it doesn't matter to me anymore. You put up your numbers. It's just all about winning at [some] point."
It is the right approach to take, as appreciation is not tangible. (He is, though, likely a tad underappreciated. Even his greatest detractors would place Bosh in the group of the 20 best players in the league today, no worse than second best in franchise history.)
However, as Bosh claims another franchise record as his own, there is no doubt he could have been appreciated more, if only his team were more reliable. In that sense, Bosh has good company in this city.
The Raptors are on a four-game winning streak and have rediscovered defense, holding opponents of late to 41.5percent shooting.
The 35-point beating the Bobcats gave the Raptors last month is the largest margin of victory in franchise history. The key was turnovers – 13 of Toronto's 18 giveaways came during the decisive second half.
Toronto center Andrea Bargnani creates some matchup challenges, as a 7-footer who loves to hang out along the 3-point line. It might make more sense to have Boris Diaw chase around Bargnani and have Nazr Mohammed try to guard Bosh. Or maybe go small to maximize mobility on defense.
Toronto's record is a bit misleading because of some brutal early travel; the Raptors played eight of their first 15 road games against Western Conference teams during the season's first four weeks.
I’m not going to lie to you. Our Spaghetti Western hero, the Bolognese rockstar Marco Belinelli, has regressed a little on his promising opening to the season. I’m not saying that it’s all doom and gloom though — he is by far surpassing his restricted and inconsistent performance in Golden State. It’s just that his offensive firepower has dropped off a little, statistically speaking.
The interesting thing is that this slight regression has come at the same time as a slight improvement of the fortunes of Beli’s team. The Raptors have managed to crack the .500 mark in December games, after a November that was less than satisfactory by the standards of the talented roster they have.
The reason why Turkoglu is so high on the list is because of the high expectations that were placed on him. He was expected to help turn the franchise around.
Turkoglu has scored 20 or more points in just five of the 31 games he's played in this season.
That's not a lot of production from a guy making double-digit millions this season.
While the move hasn't looked all that good so far this season, I will say that Turkoglu has the best chance of anyone on the list of taking his name off of it.
If the Raptors more closely resemble the team that was 11-17 a week ago and Chris Bosh bolts in free agency next summer, then you can point to Turkoglu as the straw that broke the camel's back.
If the team continues to win, finishes fifth in the Eastern conference, and Bosh stays then I'll remove him from the list.
Bargnani’s defense has continued to improve this season and he has been the Raptors best big man on switches where the big is left to cover a guard. And everyone should have noticed by now the number of blocked mid-ranged shots Bargnani has picked up covering smaller players.
Towards the end the broadcast, Bargnani was “selected” as the Just Energy Player of the game. A questionable marketing ploy to be sure, but this usually goes to the player with the most stats (just write Bosh in here almost every game).
And Bosh did have another monster game with 25, 16, and 3 blocks compared to Bargnani’s 16, 6, and 2 blocks.
The Raptors started off slow, but are finally gaining some steam. They are winning games by playing defense, which I thought wasn't possible with the roster they have assembled. Let's see if this is a mirage or if they can keep it up and live up to their potential.
The Raptors, and specifically Bosh, are big believers in the even-keeled approach. However, do not pretend they forgot about what happened in those two games. With four straight wins, the Raptors are feeling good. The memories have them riled up, though.
"We got embarrassed down there," coach Jay Triano said Tuesday of the Charlotte game. "They turned us over. They had 41 points in transition, 60-some points in the paint. It's definitely motivation of what we have to stop heading into the game [Wednesday]."
"We remember what happened last time," Bosh said. "Hopefully that should be some fuel for us."
Akil and Sherm look ahead to the Raptors' next matchup against the Bobcats.
Jarrett Jack speaks with the media following Tuesday's practice.
Jay Triano speaks with the media following Tuesday's practice. l
DeMar DeRozan, Sonny Weems, Amir Johnson and Jarrett Jack joke with Adnan after Tuesday's practice.
Chris Bosh speaks with the media following Tuesday's practice.
i don’t feel like debating myself right now, so i’m gonna let advanced statistics pick my all-stars today … just call ‘em the AS ALL-STARS, if you will.
actually, a better name for this team would be the all-teammate squad, since that’s what adjusted plus-minus measures better than traditional boxscore stats: who’s the best teammate?
so with that in mind, i’m filling out my nba.com all-star ballot today by putting more weight on APM than any other numbers.
And it's really quite a difference between the two efficient locations (60 percent at the rim and 52 percent from deep) and the other slots (45, 40 and 39 percent, respectively). If you split 20 attempts evenly between the deep paint and three-point territory, you'd be expected to score 22.4 points (assuming league average efficiency). If you instead took 10 short jumpers, five mid-range jumpers and five long two-point jumpers, you'd be expected to score only 17 points. Teams should clearly prefer shots at the rim and from beyond the arc as opposed to all other locations. It's not always that easy — every team tries to get dunks and lay-ups, but some players are far more adept at getting them (for themselves and teammates). But clearly, some teams settle for two-point jumpers too frequently, given the efficiency spread.
Colangelo has to be vigilant watching for the pre-July 1 backroom deals that will conspire to bring James and Bosh together – never mind the public proclamations out of rival owners and general managers coming across his laptop.
Colangelo had nothing to say about it, but rest assured that a passage in a New York Magazine story on Knicks GM Donnie Walsh didn’t go unnoticed. Walsh told the magazine, “You know what’s interesting to me? What year do you think [Chris Bosh] is a free agent? …And that kid’s a great player. But nobody talks about him. It’s all, ‘Oh, you’ve got to get LeBron!’ Look, I understand that. But you look at that free-agent class, and there’s a lot of really good players in it.”
It's next to impossible to deny that Calderon is like a cocktail waitress in Vegas and everyone he's guarded this season has been Tiger Woods — they were scoring on him at will. And in the last four games, here are the scoring outputs by the opposing teams' starting point guards compared with their per-game averages: Devin Harris (8, 16.7), Chris Paul (10, 20.4), Chucky Atkins (2, 5.2) and Rodney Stuckey (14, 19.1). Pretty compelling numbers, no?
Toronto still hasn't seen the full emergence of Hedo Turkoglu. He should have been a nice complement to Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani. Again, veteran leaders need to take charge.
Physically, Chicago, Washington, Toronto and Philadelphia each has enough talent to be in contention for the No. 5 playoff seed (we've conceded Nos. 1-4 to Boston, Cleveland, Orlando and Atlanta, haven't we?).
However, it's Miami, arguably the most talent-bare team among that group of the Eastern Conference's middle class, which has the No. 5 seed right now.
Going into Wednesday’s game in Detroit ranked 29th of 30 teams in the NBA in scoring defense, the Raptors somehow managed to hold the Pistons to only 64 points, one of the lowest totals in the league this season.
Detroit shot only 27.9% from the floor and scored less points than in any game since the shot clock was introduced in 1954-55, a performance that helped Toronto end an 11-game losing skid in Motor City.
The game proved to be a real departure from recent weeks for the Raptors, although there was more than one piece of questionable shot-selection from Detroit, who managed to lose by 30 despite throwing up 21 more shots from the floor, many in desperation with a defender in their face.
"Our bench players came in and did a great job for us," Wallace said. "They brought great energy. They provided great offense and defense and they were key to this win tonight."
The Bobcats will be looking to again neutralize Jack, who made 1 of 9 shots and matched a season low with two points in last month's meeting. Jack has played much better since moving into the starting lineup Dec. 8, averaging 13.0 points and 5.9 assists while shooting 52.9 percent.
"You don't want to get too high or too low because it's a long season," Jack said. "It's only 31 games. We haven't eclipsed the mark that we really want to get to yet."
The Raptors head coach speaks with the media following Monday's practice.
Chris Bosh speaks with the media after Monday's practice.
- The Horrors of Charlotte
- Podcast: The Doctor Is In