"Sonny thinks he's a better dunker than me so he thinks every piece of advice he gives me is great," DeRozan said of teammate Sonny Weems. "That's my man so I'm going to listen to him and take his advice. He won the college dunk contest so he has a good enough resume to listen to."
And Weems already is part of DeRozan's travelling party for all-star weekend along with some veteran savvy in Jarrett Jack.
"Jarrett will be there and Sonny will be there so I might mess around and use both of them," DeRozan said of incorporating some of his teammates into the contest. "Just going up throwing down dunks by yourself is so cliche now. You have to have a partner throwing some out of the stands or something like that."
And let us not forget DeRozan, who shows the ability to continue learning and improving whilst trying to avoid the dreaded "rookie wall" that can arrive about now.
The Raptors' first 30 games were played in 53 days; the next 30 will cover 73 days. So the less-compacted schedule, plus his carefully managed minutes, could keep him fresher. Case in point: With three days off before the game Friday against the Knicks, DeRozan was flying around the basket, scoring 19 points, 11 from the free-throw line.
"I can't ask more from him. He works hard every single day and holds his own against some very tough two-guards in the NBA. His baptism against some of the best players in the league has been very good," said coach Jay Triano.
Chris Bosh is quietly optimistic about the Toronto Raptors as they get ready to start the second half of their season.
“I haven’t been this encouraged in a while,” the seven-year veteran, who leads his NBA team in scoring and rebounds, said after practice yesterday. “Before it’s been tough, not winning as many games and kind of leaving things on the table. But this year, we can really start pushing ourselves over .500 and see where we can get at by the end of the season.”
Who's hot? Before dipping to 32 points in a win over the Clippers on Saturday, LeBron James had scored at least 35 in four straight games.
Who's not? Cleveland is going to need much more from Mo Williams than his 35% shooting in his last five games, including just 26%from three-point range.
Even usually straight-laced head coach Jay Triano got into the relaxed act when asked what his biggest problem is these days.
"We have a lot of guys that are coming off the bench and doing well, we have a lot of guys that are starting and doing well and I've got to find ways to keep them all going," he said. "We're trying to get all the games to go into overtime so there are more minutes."
Triano may have been kidding there, but the Raptors have been no joke of late.
For the Thunder to pull the trigger on a Bosh trade, especially one that included promising youngster Jeff Green (who is averaging 14.0 points and 5.9 rebounds this season), they would have to feel like they had a great chance to re-sign him this summer. The weather in OKC is not as nice in Miami nor is the city as glitzy as New York (or even Chicago), but if Bosh wants to win, the Thunder are a great fit. Maybe a half season with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook would be enough to convince him to re-sign, but what if it wasn’t? Then they would have lost Green and have nothing to show for it.
For those who long for something other than the Leafs on Saturday night, keep longing. Despite the fact the Leafs are horrible, they still bring in the eyeballs.
Speaking of eyeballs, one team not bringing them in is the Toronto Raptors, who bring up the bottom of the weekend list — behind bobsleigh.
The Cavs know they’re playing a hot team at the start of a tough week. The Raptors enter having won 10 of 13 games.
“They’re playing well, but at the same time, we feel like that we owe them,” Williams said. “They handed us a loss and you always want to use that as motivation.”
The Raptors beat the Cavs, 101-91, Oct. 28 in Toronto.
“That was the second game of the year,” Williams said. “We were just trying to get more acclimated to each other.
“Everybody was just trying to learn the system. There were new guys, some guys who weren’t playing as much as they are now. We’ve played 40 games since then. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves.”
If the Blazers were serious about acquiring Bosh, the best power forward in the game, they could easily do so without giving up two-time All-Star Brandon Roy. Pairing Roy with Bosh, who are both 25, would create one of the league's most devastating 1-2 combos. And considering that Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are much older than both, it would be safe to say that Roy and Bosh "got next."
In fact, they can get Bosh without giving up a single All-Star player. A move that sends LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Fernandez, Jerryd Bayless, and Travis Outlaw's expiring contract to Toronto for Bosh works under the league's Collective Bargaining Agreement and would significantly alter both franchises.
O'Neal has trouble guarding Raptors center Andrea Bargnani, who spends most of his time beyond the 3-point line.
The Raptors like to spread the floor and play the drive-and-kick game.
Cavs coach Mike Brown said his team's defense is much better now than it was during the first week of the season.
"We have a better feel of what we want to do, starting with myself, with rotations and things like that," he said. "That's a huge step for us.
"We're a little better on what we want to do offensively and defensively. The maturation process is going to make us a better team."
The main reason this scenario may not play out is due to the fact that the Thunder would be fearful of only ‘renting’ Bosh for their playoff run if he doesn’t agree to resign and potentially giving up two solid pieces in their first round picks that they could have used to build for 2010-2011 and beyond. To that I only have to say the excitement of playing with young superstars like KD and Westbrook would be too intoxicating for Bosh to leave. Add to that, the fact that they would be the team in the position to offer him the largest contract and thus also be a player in sign-and-trade scenarios, and this is a deal Presti should be in Toronto to offer personally.
The Italian froze Al Harrington with a shot fake, drove the paint aggressively, and threw down a one-handed jam over the Knicks’ perennial double-double machine. This, of course, sent the Raptors’ enthusiastic bench into a wild frenzy.
Lee got revenge on the next play, though. Off the pick-and-roll, the blue collar post caught the bounce pass and powered-up a mediocre one-handed dunk. His post-dunk celebration – which meshed a jumping jack and Euro rave moves – was meant to embarrass Bargnani, but only succeeded in drawing a technical.
Perhaps, in an ode to Chris Anderson’s 2005 performance, Bargnani and Lee could hold round two of their amusing little Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star weekend.
Thus, the time has come for everyone to put together the best trade scenario that gets Bosh out of Toronto now, because Toronto would be foolish (or even irresponsible) to hang on to him past the February 18 trade deadline, since he'd be certain to leave the club only five months later.
Haven't we grown tired of this story yet? There is basically three ways this whole thing plays out and I didn't think it demanded further clarification.
After Andrea had a disastrous sophomore year, the Bargnani cynics starting using 'historical precedent' as definitive proof that Andrea could never improve much from where he was at that fixed point in time. Whether it was in blogs, forums or call-in radio the underlying message was the same – after two years of mediocrity it was virtually impossible for anyone to expect Andrea to make a marked improvement in his game. They (wrongly) claimed the die was cast.
Of course, I countered by pointing out here in RaptorTalk that Hall of Famers like Warren Moon, Guy Lafleur and Roger Staubach were all late bloomers. Yet, the critics said ‘those aren’t basketball players”.
Some even tried to prove through statistical analysis that Andrea Bargnani could not take the next step. However, historical precedent is totally irrelevant as it related to Bargnani because the big kid from Italy is a 'one-of-a-kind' story.
But the ACC crowds reflected the pessimism the previous ten games had produced. Attendance was down, crowds were quiet and the media was blaming anyone available for the team’s lack of success.
The Raptors still gave up 110 points or more in four of the games, but this time, the good outweighed the bad and the Raptors held opponents to an average of just 100.9 points.
Yes, the Raptors schedule did soften over these games and the only tough team the Raptors beat was Houston. But still, the improved defensive numbers were a sure sign of progress.
Right now the one thing that stands out is, win or lose, these guys are loving playing together. Sure getting the W is the end game, but if the team is not on the same page those would be few and far between. A 10-3 record over the last 13 with players like Amir Johnson, Sonny Weems, Antoine Wright and even Marcus Banks contributing has taken pressure of Bosh. When your role players can come in and be effective immediately like they were against the Mav’s, you can’t help but get excited about the team as a whole.
Calderon, who came to Toronto after playing in Spain's premier basketball league, said he knew little about the city before joining the Raptors and was glad to have found a local restaurant that offered a taste of Spain.
"It's a really nice place. The chef, one of the owners, is from Spain and he's a friend of mine. It's great to have a place where I can get some good Spanish food," said Calderon.
Toronto boasts the largest population of Italians outside Italy, something that appeals to the Raptors' Andrea Bargnani, the Italian center drafted first overall by the team in 2006.
"Just going on the street you meet a lot of Italian people that talk to you in Italian, it's like you're at home," said Bargnani.
"The only bad thing about the city is the weather, it's pretty cold. Otherwise I would say it is definitely the best NBA city for international players, no doubt about it."
In this corner, 21-20 is good when you look at the following qualifiers: The new roster, with nine additions, needed some time to come together. This was more of a challenge as there were injuries and omissions in training camp, with Antoine Wright and Reggie Evans hurt and Hedo Turkoglu needing some extra time to recover from a long summer of basketball that included the NBA Finals with Orlando and playing for his national team in Turkey.
Then you have to consider the early schedule was difficult and front-loaded with travel and road games. Jose Calderon was injured, missing 12 games. He is only now rounding back into form as he is coming off the bench and running the second unit very well. And finally, for whatever reason, the team didn’t show maximum effort on a consistent basis.
“I can move my legs and everything else a little bit better,” Calderon told Hoops Addict on Sunday afternoon. “That is what I wanted but I couldn’t do it earlier this season. Now that I can that is why I’m feeling more comfortable. I can be more aggressive on both ends of the court and react a little bit faster than I used to.”
What a novel concept: being able to move your legs the way your brain is telling you to helps you become a better defender.
It should be easy for Raptors fans to realize Calderon’s struggles on the defensive end the past two seasons were due to the injuries to his hamstring and hip. However, instead of looking at the bigger picture – and realizing he didn’t turn into a bad defender overnight – Raptors fans were far too quick to dismiss his abilities on the defensive end.
Mark Strong as NBA players; what's the last thing you searched for on YouTube?
Andrea Bargnani speaks with the media following the Raptors' practice on Monday.
Jay Triano speaks with the media following the Raptors' practice on Monday.
DeMar DeRozan speaks with the media following the Raptors practice on Monday.
Chris Bosh speaks with the media following the Raptors' practice on Monday.
All three of the league's Italian players were playing – Toronto's Marco Belinelli finishing the trio. The three went out to dinner Thursday night at an Italian restaurant Gallinari often frequents in the East Village – Via Della Pace. Before last night's game, the three were brought to an interview room for a dozen Italian journalists and answered questions only in their native tongue.
But Belinelli knew this night was mostly about Gallinari and Bargnani, the first pick of the 2006 draft. As Belinelli passed an Italian journalist last night near the locker room, he joked in Italian, "I heard this is Andrea vs. Gallo. What about me?" (Of the three players, Belinelli looks most like "The Italian Stallion" Rocky Balboa).