"I know there are basketball fans,” Raptors head coach Jay Triano, who played his college ball at SFU and who once worked for the Grizzlies, said of the local following in Vancouver. "You look at the history of the university programs here and the B.C. high school boys basketball tournament, there are a lot of people who enjoy the sport of basketball.
"There’s an appetite for a game here and I think people will respect the fact that we came here to play this game and we did it because we knew there was going to be a good crowd."
There was and fans seemed to enjoy watching players they’d never heard of run up and down the floor and cheering for both teams when applause was warranted.
Nash’s Suns began with the Victoria native playing the familiar point position, Jason Richardson at shooting guard, Grant Hill at small forward, Turkoglu at power forward and Robin Lopez at the centre spot.
The Raptors countered with a starting five of Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Kleiza, Reggie Evans and Andrea Bargnani.
Toronto went with its starters a little longer than Phoenix and the same unit was on the floor when the second quarter began.
With so many positions unsettled, the Raptors seemed to play with more urgency, even it was a pre-season game.
Save for Bargnani’s spot in the rotation, no player is assured of anything, which has created a very intense and competitive atmosphere at camp.
The Raptors played with a lot more jump in their step as opposed to the Suns, who played a night earlier in Sacramento.
The decision to start Evans and Bargnani in the frontcourt wasn’t because the two of them had been head and shoulders above the team’s other big men.
But an energetic rebounder in Evans could take some of the sting away should Bargnani not show enough badly-needed improvement on the boards.
“I can’t say that either one of those two bigs have out-played the other bigs in camp but I can’t say it the other way, either,” Triano said before the game. “We want to see different matchups.”
That’s what the near-sellout crowd of 18,123 at the Rogers Arena got from the Raptors, who used a change in tempo to get off to a blistering start: different matchups.
Just as Triano expected, the backups went on a 12-0 run when the substitution patterns began and it changed the tenor of the game.
“When Leandro and Jarrett are on the floor and then you throw Sonny Weems out there with Amir Johnson, it’s a very, very quick lineup,” said Triano. “That’s the speed that we like to have. We have to out-work teams, we have to try to out-quick some teams and that’s a very quick lineup.”
Kleiza hit his first four three-pointers (he finished with 20 points to leal all scorer) and was Toronto’s best offensive weapon for most of the night, seamlessly scoring without dominating the ball.
The Raptors also showed flashes of the aggressive defence Triano wants from, pressing full court a handful of times and using a mid-court trap effectively against a Suns team that had played Tuesday night in Sacramento. Toronto forced 32 Phoenix turnovers and turned them into 37 points.
“I thought the second unit came in and really picked us up defensively,” said Triano. “I tried to balance the minutes a little bit; I don’t know if the substitutions will be like that as we keep going.”
(Sorry to borrow that Frank Barone old saw but …)
Anyway, that was a rather thorough dismantling of a tired, disinterested team that used its starters sparingly and played like dung.
But, still …
Guess the one thing everyone wanted to see – at least I did – was whether they could play with the defensive intensity I’ve been hearing about all week when a game came up.
I can’t remember the last time I saw a Raptors team press full court, especially in the first game out of the box, but they did and they did it pretty well. There was some trapping, some quick recovery by the bigs and, overall, it wasn’t bad.
Now, there’s no way they won’t suffer setbacks, that’s for sure; but for the first night out of the box it wasn’t bad and I’m sure the alternative is far less desireable.
The teams with good depth are really going to have an advantage early this season, I swear.
That’s because there are going to be guys thrown out of games for getting two technicals like you’ve never seen under this new anti-complaining war the league is waging.
No way in the world would anyone have been tossed out a year ago; nothing that Robin Lopez or Reggie Evans or Grant Hill did really warranted an ejection. And they looked entirely puzzled by the fact their nights were done when they walked past where I was sitting.
Tell you one thing I can see happening:
I can see guys getting past the limit for technicals in a season before being suspended because it’s going to take some time before the notorious hotheads – hello, Kobe; hi, Dwight; nice to see you, Ron; how are you, Kendrick – get what’s allowable and what’s not.
And if it comes down to a team losing a game late in the year because one of its best players was suspended and that costing them a playoff seed or homecourt or something, that’s gonna suck.
The pre-season is also ushering what Triano describes as a new era of responsibility. With a roster that provides a lot of possibilities to mix and match combinations, the coach said he won’t just play people without them having earned it.
“Our big thing is we’re going to make guys accountable and we’re not going to play guys minutes to get them minutes,” the coach said Wednesday morning. “You’re going to play if you play well. If you don’t play well and you’re out there for four minutes, we’re not going to let guys play through stuff, we’re going to get guys in and out of the game. If someone can’t do it, we’ll get someone else. That’s one of the luxuries in pre-season.”
"We have to set the tone," Raptors coach Jay Triano said. "To play like we did is okay, but guess what? Teams are going to react to us now."
Lower down after stats on Jack (if u want): "I really liked the second unit. I thought the second unit changed the tempo of the game."
Judging by the large number of orange and purple jerseys, combined with the standing ovation the Suns received prior to tip off, Phoenix had the crowd’s support. Nash finished with nine points and seven assists. The crowd chanted “We want Nash!” when he was benched most of the second half.
Fans weren’t completely one-sided, however. They roared for a dunk by DeMar DeRozan off a one-handed running pass by Jose Calderon. They booed the Suns’ Hedo Turkoglu every time he touched the ball (except after he scored. He had six points). That was his punishment for a poor showing during his previous season in Toronto — and for criticizing the franchise after Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo traded him away to the Suns this summer.
For the Raptors, who were itching for a game after a training camp split between Vancouver and Toronto, this was their game first opportunity to find their footing since losing their star and lead scorer, Chris Bosh, to the Miami Heat.
Raptors head coach Jay Triano had said that his objective was to experiment with several different lineups. His starting five included Calderon, DeRozan, the newly acquired Linas Kleiza, and Andrea Bargnani — but of the ten players who suited up, everyone saw minutes. Kleiza led the team in scoring with 20 points, followed by DeRozan with 16 and Weems with 12. Point guard Jarrett Jack led the team in assist with seven, while Jose Calderon had three.
In the third quarter of Wednesday night’s game between the Toronto Raptors and Phoenix Suns, Raptors forward Reggie Evans and Suns forward Grant Hill got in a minor altercation. They got technical fouls, deservedly.
On the very next play, the two collided. It was accidental, and Evans offered a Hill on the behind. Hill turned around aggressively, and returned the favour.
Both were given technicals. Per the league rule, each player was tossed out of the game.
“I tried to save him the money,” Raptors coach Jay Triano said. “I said, ‘Reggie, come here and talk to me.’ And…yeah.”
However, Triano did not think it was an overreaction on the part of the officials.
“I think that was a technical last year: two guys going at it pretty good and fighting for positioning, and after the whistle they didn’t stop,” Triano said. “I don’t know if that’s a sign of anything new.”
Phoenix big man Robin Lopez also received two technical fouls, meaning three players were kicked out of the game before the game had even passed the halfway mark of the third quarter.
However, the feistiness was an indication of how the Raptors want to play. They are not swimming in talent, so they are going to have to outhustle teams on a lot of nights. They did on Wednesday, beating the Suns 129-78.
Linas Kleiza, in his first game of the season, stood out with 20 points. But it was the Raptors’ second unit that really impressed.
Triano put Jarrett Jack (seven assists), Leandro Barbosa (six points), Amir Johnson (six rebounds) and Sonny Weems (12 points) come off of the bench to form an intriguing reserve group.
“When Leandro and Jarrett are on the floor, and then you throw Sonny Weems out there with Amir Johnson, that’s a very quick lineup,” Triano said. “That’s the speed we have to have out there.”
As for Triano, he had to be pretty content with his team. The game was a sloppy one, but the Raptors’ hard work carried over into their first game.
They were extremely active when rebounding the ball and looked to run when possible. In his first game as a Raptor, Linas Kleiza led all scorers with 20 points on 7-for-9 shooting.
Overall, they were aggressive, which is the main thing Triano wants to see from his team. Perhaps point guard Jarrett Jack trying to throw down a dunk in traffic in the first game of the pre-season was a little much, but enthusiasm sure beats the resignation last year’s team occasionally exuded with Turkoglu wearing red.
Yes, preseason games mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things, but wow. No matter the stakes, any 51-point blowout makes you raise your eyebrows a little bit.
In their second game against an NBA opponent this season, the new-look Phoenix Suns forgot to show up in Vancouver and were embarrassed 129-78.
In what was supposed to be Steve Nash’s homecoming, the Suns turned the ball over 32 times, shot 37.8 percent from the field, 16.7 percent from three (3-for-18) and missed 14 out of their 33 free throws.
And for the icing on the cake, last season’s NBA Sportsmanship Award winner Grant Hill was ejected after getting into a spanking battle with Reggie Evans. Robin Lopez also fouled out after 16 minutes and Jason Richardson left the game in the middle of the first quarter with a shoulder injury.
Needless to say, it wasn’t Phoenix’s night.
Jared Dudley Tweeted after the game: “I know it’s pre season but we got our a$ kick tonight.. I don’t care if they don’t count, still embarrassing.. We will cont to get better”
When Linus Kleiza puts up 20 against you, you know you have trouble. Depending on how you view things right now as a Suns fan, you’ve either gone to bed and forgotten tonight’s debacle, or you are like me, awake, and wondering if more trouble lies ahead.
On a night where the Suns probably would have lost to the Phoenix Mercury, the smartest players on the squad appeared to be both Grant Hill and Robin Lopez who were both tossed from the game with two technicals each. The rest of the Suns appeared tired after playing last night, or completely out of sync, or both.
Never one to push the panic button too soon, I’ll go out on a limb and say it was a little of everything. The Raptors are not a great team and the Suns are much better then a squad that loses by 51 points to a team like the Toronto Raptors. I will make a few observations before I leave the rest of tonight’s putridness to the masses for comment.
Bryan Colangelo’s future as Toronto Raptors general manager is beginning to sound pretty secure well beyond the one year he has remaining on his contract.
Richard Peddie, the president and CEO of team owner Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, said Wednesday that while an extension for his embattled executive isn’t a priority right now, it is something "we’ll definitely get to."
"We will definitely have a discussion," he continued prior to the grand opening ceremony for his company’s Maple Leaf Square property venture.
"He wants to stay, we want him to stay, we’ll work something out."
With his current deal soon to expire, Colangelo’s future has been a hot talking point for fans after a disappointing 40-42 record last season left the Raptors out of the playoffs, and all-star forward Chris Bosh bailed on the club to join the Miami Heat.
This Raptors team if they hit the clubs seem like they will do it together. I think we all can easily be jaded. All of this talk of team effort and it will now be a team that is one for all and all for one can ring a little hallow. I mean, what else is a team that lost it’s 5 time All-Star for nothing more than a trade exception and a couple draft picks suppose to say? But it may not be all hype as this Raptor team really has seemed together off the floor and at least 1 game into things on the floor as well. Ironically the 2 guys that you would here the most in terms of being the Raptors next one were not exactly great tonight. Both Bargnani and DeRozan have looked far better in the past. Bargnani had just 3 points while DeRozan did end up with 2nd most points with 16 and to be fair was not horrible at all. Everyone else in red was looking good. I mean everyone from Marcus Banks to Joey Dorsey and all points in between. Ok that might be a slight exaggeration. But seriously this was a two and half hour informerical for why watching the post Bosh Raptors could be fun.
About the arena:
- I expected Raptors to be a home team, but I was wrong here. It was all Phoenix and Steve Nash. They even brought their strippers. I mean dancers. They forgot to score very much, tho.
- I never saw that many Captain Canada’s jersey. There were even some from the Mavs.
- I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t see it. Mike Bibby’s jersey. From Vancouver Grizzlies. Somewhere in the first row.
- Josh Childress’ fro doesn’t look that big from short distance. It actually seems pretty tame compared to Lopez’s ‘do.
- What a poor selection of courtside celebrities. I didn’t recognize a single one. Hubby told me they’re hockey players. They didn’t look much athletic.