This is the city that embraced Jerome (Junkyard Dog) Williams because, while he couldn't figure out a pick-and-roll for love nor money, he hustled. This is the city that adored Alvin Williams and his limited talent because he worked. This is the city that loved Matt Bonner because he was an adorable doofus. Oh, and he gave his all, too.
The point is that this well-heeled town has an affinity for the grinders, and while Amir Johnson does what he can in the minutes he gets, this team's character is sometimes dominated by the Andrea Bargnanis and Hedo Turkoglus, which is probably part of why attendance has dropped 8.3%since 2007-08.
The Raps centre had lost his focus over the past few weeks with his role changing in the absence of Chris Bosh and then again when Bosh returned.
On Wednesday night, however, Bargnani was back to being the guy who not only produced points on one end, but was productive on the defensive end of the floor, as well.
“We need him to focus,” head coach Jay Triano said. “When we were rolling, he was doing more things and it becomes a confidence building thing for him. If he’s not making shots (he has to) do something else so we can keep him on the floor. Defend, be there on the help side, rebound and box out.
“When we were rolling, he was doing that and scoring. I think sometimes when he doesn’t get the basketball, he gets a little frustrated and it has been tough with sliding Chris back into the lineup for him to get touches. He worries about his scoring, but he can help this team a lot more than just scoring the basketball.”
Leo, before his current life as a Raptors broadcaster and coach of Canada's national team, was a Toronto high school star, a Syracuse stalwart and a first-round NBA draft pick. But Jim Boeheim, the Syracuse coach of 34 seasons, said that when he recruited Andy as a high-schooler, he wasn't sure the slightly built son of his former star forward would turn into the starter he has become.
"My only conversation with Leo (before Andy arrived at Syracuse) was that I'm not sure that Andy can be a great player for us. I think he can. I think it's going to be a close call," Boeheim said. "There were only two Division 1 schools that really liked him. … He's really just done an unbelievable job of improving himself, making himself a better player."
DeRozan and Weems, a couple of colts still trying to figure out the NBA and their place in it, are Wright's main projects at the moment. And while DeRozan has made great strides offensively, he still needs major improvement at the other end and that's where Wright's incessant harping could have its greatest impact.
"He was more of a scorer coming in; defence is not glorified at all," Wright said of DeRozan. "I think what he's understanding is that he sets the tone of the game and you let a guy like (Oklahoma City's) Kevin Durant make his first five shots, it's going to be difficult for me and Sonny to come there and put that fire out."
In a Raptors season that has been seen both highs and lows, the team has played very well at home. A 23-10 mark that should give Raptors fans some comfort about their team’s ability to win enough games to finish the season ahead of the ninth place Bulls.
And surprisingly, the Raptors winning percentage of 70 at home applies equally to teams from either the Eastern or Western conferences. A good thing too! The Raptors have five more home dates against the West this season.
The Raptors 7-3 home record against the West hasn’t come solely at the expense of teams out of the playoffs. Toronto has reeled off impressive wins over:
* San Antonio 91-86;
* Dallas 110-88; and the
* Lakers 106-105.
"Our other four guys on the floor have to help him out because you can’t guard a guy one-on-one in this league,” said Durant. "Nobody can. You might be able to do it for a couple of possessions, but you can’t do it every night, especially great players like the guys he’s guarding.”
Durant’s analysis of the situation echoes the sentiments of Thunder coach Scott Brooks, who, rather than criticizing Green, chose to condemn the team’s help.
"I tell Jeff like I tell the other guys, it’s our defense that’s getting scored on,” Brooks said. "One of the strengths of our team defensively is that when we see a problem we make the adjustment.”
“Everywhere he went when I was younger, I went,” Andy says. “Every arena he went to, every game. I think that’s where my passion for the game comes from. We’d hop in the Porsche, throw in the Boss, Bruce Springsteen. To me that was special, just cruising to Bruce Springsteen, and whenever I got the opportunity, I always got out in front of the camps and shot some jump shots. I guess I enjoyed the attention.”
A hint that Andy might be something special came at one of those camps when Andy, barely older than a toddler, stepped up and knocked down some free throws with perfect form, just as his father had demonstrated.
“He was always very visual,” Leo says. “You could show him how to do a layup and he’d do a perfect layup. It was kind of weird.”
Antonio joins Hoops to talk about his playing career in the NBA, the Raptor fans in Toronto & his thoughts on coaching in the future.
A 19-point, second-quarter lead over Charlotte on Wednesday put Oklahoma City (41-25) in good position for its sixth straight victory and the franchise's first winning season since 2004-05. The Thunder, though, were outscored 41-16 during a stretch bridging halftime and fell 100-92 to open a three-game trip.
"We weren't able to finish out the game," point guard Russell Westbrook told the Thunder's official Web site after recording his third straight double-double with 15 points and 10 assists. "It's very disappointing, but that is part of the game and we have to move on to the next game."
Despite scoring 26 points with 10 rebounds Wednesday, Kevin Durant will look to bounce back against Toronto after missing 17 of 26 shots, including all seven of his 3-point attempts versus the Bobcats.
"His shot was short most of the night," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of Durant, who is second in the NBA with 29.7 points per game.
Last night’s Raptors game, wherein they squeezed out a win over the Atlanta Hawks, played out like an awkward date at the end of a once passionate relationship. After Bosh scored his 10,000th NBA point and became the first Raptor ever to reach that milestone, the crowd showed its love with a standing ovation. Bosh, chillingly, didn’t respond.
I have to tell you that the defensive rebound off a free throw is the easiest one in the game and the Hawks would surely have corralled that one and changed the course of the game had Johnson not got a hand on the ball. Toronto would have needed a whole lot more help being down a point with Atlanta having the ball with just less than 10 seconds to go. Impossible? no, but certainly more difficult to come up with a victory from that standpoint.
In the country of my birth, the old folks always say "It's never too late for a shower of rain", not sure what that means all the time but it's probably something along the lines of "better late than never" and is that what we might be seeing from Turkoglu… again. It looked he was starting to play better just before the orbital bone fracture and the mask episode set him back. But last night, he looked like a more determined player getting to the free-throw line as he had six trips to the charity stripe.
I didn’t see the play live because Woody was blocking my view and I never saw a replay that was conclusive. The Hawks still had a chance to win if they got one more stop but of course Bosh hit that sweet stepback jumper over Al, whose defense on the play wasn’t that bad (”Great play,” he said). It looked like Jamal’s final shot attempt may have been deflected by Sonny Weems but Jamal said he didn’t think it was. He said he just couldn’t get a clean handle on the ball.
Mo thought the Hawks should have went to Al more because the Raptors couldn’t handle him. But Jamal said the Raptors started fronting Horford to make straightforward entry passes more difficult, and Al said he had no problem with the Hawks going to the pick-and-roll because that was working, too.
Full marks to Chris Bosh & Co. for having the intestinal fortitude required to battle through an overall poor performance and the ability to take advantage of the opportunity presented to them late in last night’s game.
It was clear that Josh Smith wasn't in a good mood early in the game. Complaints, against teammates, referees, the fates, came frequently and easily. He took two jump shots in the first three minutes. He did not look to be troubled by the possibility of getting thrown out over his reaction to whatever Jose Calderon said to him in the second quarter. Despite this, Smith was reasonably productive. He's a good and talented player. He can't get by on talent and occasional effort alone as three key fourth quarter possessions proved.
After another six wins — or one loss before then — Andy Rautins' Syracuse career will be over. He will likely play for his dad at the world championship in Turkey this summer — Joseph will probably join him — and then weigh his professional options. Rautins could be a second-round NBA pick, but is more likely to choose between trying to catch on with a team at summer league or a team in Europe.
Joseph, too, has NBA aspirations. Leo Rautins says he could play in the league, comparing him to Raptors rookie DeMar DeRozan. Joseph says his professional career is miles off in the horizon. "I'm a sophomore in college," Joseph said. "I have two more years left, and I want to enjoy the rest of my ride."
Lastly. Let's give it up to someone who has been under constant fire since the Raptors went into a downward spiral. Though not an actual player on the roster, this specific individual also played his part in setting up Bosh for his game winner. Congratulations Jay Triano! After drawing a foul, Hedo Turkoglu went to the line in an attempt to tie the game. Before the second free throw, Triano subbed in Amir Johnson for rebounding purposes. Turk surprisingly missed the second shot, which Amir (unsurprisingly) quickly tracked down before scrambling for the loose ball amidst the overwhelming number of Hawks players around him. The result? Toronto regaining possession with 10 seconds left.
Unfortunately, as I said above, the current version of DeRozan is nearly useless in fantasy no matter how many points he scores. Sure, he helps you in field goal percentage, but he's not anything special as a free-throw shooter, and he doesn't really rebound, get assists, or rack up numbers in the defensive categories. Right now he's a one-trick pony. Still, if you're considering guys who might make huge leaps next year, consider DeRozan. He's already an efficient scorer, and he's got the athleticism to be the rare sort of player who contributes in blocks and rebounds from the guard position. He's a decent bet to make a huge leap forward next season.
Wearing the St. Patrick's Day green uniforms presented problems for a few Raptors. While the majority of the Raptors wore the matching green footwear provided, some opted to go their own route. Jarrett Jack stuck with his blacks while Sonny Weems, who normally sports Chinese brand Peak, switched over for last night's game to a pair of black Nikes.
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