Long past his prime, Stojakovic had to waive a portion of a trade kicker for Colangelo to complete a five-player deal with New Orleans.
"It was significant,” Colangelo said of the monetary inducement. "Enough that it wasn’t a bad day for him."
At 33, Stojakovic hardly fits in with what Colangelo is attempting to do with these Raptors, who are going young, are trying to develop emerging talent and are providing every resource for these pieces to flourish.
Rather than rush into any judgment, Colangelo is being prudent in determining Stojakovic’s role in Toronto.
"Nothing is pre-determined," Colangelo. "I’ve had conversation with Peja and his agent. They wanted to know what was in our agenda.
"Let’s get him here, assess him and let’s see if he can help this franchise. He could help mentoring, he could help us win a few games in the process."
As of yesterday, both Stojakovic and Jerryd Bayless, the two pieces Colangelo acquired from the Hornets in exchange for Jarrett Jack, Marcus Banks and David Andersen, were scheduled to arrive in town some time Sunday night.
Assuming they each clear their physical, which appears to be a formality, they should be available on Wednesday when the Philadelphia 76ers pay a visit to the ACC.
Maybe a player such as Stojakovic enjoys the city, enjoys playing in an up-tempo system and perhaps he even wouldn’t mind serving as a mentor.
But eventually he will be moved because his future isn’t as a Raptor, not when the future of the franchise amounts to clearing enough cap room for potential long-term gain and focusing on the present of developing talent.
This was an afternoon of riveting basketball, of clutch shots, of a team that continues to show encouraging signs.
Above all else, it was an opportunity for Johnson, the last player to go directly from high school to the NBA, to come of age.
This kid has so much potential and works so hard that it’s hard to tell what the future holds for Johnson, who was handsomely rewarded by the Raptors this past off-season.
The biggest issue surrounding Johnson is his penchant for getting into foul trouble, which he neatly avoided against the Celtics.
At this stage of his development, his defence is way ahead of his offence, but Johnson’s ability to step to the line under those circumstances and drain them with absolutely no doubt speaks to his work in the practice gym.
A lot of the credit rests with assistant Alex English, who took Johnson under his wing when Johnson and Weems were acquired last off-season in a deal with Milwaukee.
“I owe it all to him,’’ Johnson said of English, who was as prolific a scorer the NBA has ever seen. “After each practice before we leave the gym, we’ll shoot 50, almost 100 free throws.”
Confidence, form wise, you name it and English has nurtured Johnson to the point where he’s now an automatic when he steps to the line.
He’s so sure of his ability to knock down his fouls shots that Johnson implored the crowd in that late-game scenario.
“I was comfortable,’’ Johnson said. “I was showing them we were going to win this game. The only thing going through my mind was that I was going to make these throws and we were going to win the game.”
Coming into this season, the 23-year-old Johnson was an atrocious free-throw shooter, making just 64 per cent of his attempts in the 2009-10 season.
But through hard work and consistent coaching, the 6-10 forward is now the best free-throw shooter on the team, hitting at a 90 per cent clip.
“Coach English,” Raptors head coach Jay Triano said immediately when asked the reasons for Johnson’s stunning turnaround. “Alex has spent time with him and has been on him since he first came to the Raptors about his free-throw shooting.
“He really got into the form about it and credit coach English but Amir put in the time and worked on it.”
The win that Johnson sealed was about as improbable as him making foul shots to do it. The Raptors simply outworked the Celtics for most of the afternoon, did not cower when they got down three with 21.3 seconds remaining and executed nearly flawlessly down the stretch.
After a Sonny Weems drive and layin got them within one with 18.8 seconds left, they eschewed common coaching philosophy that says to foul immediately and instead forced Boston’s Ray Allen to cough up the ball.
And rather than calling their own timeout to let Boston set its defence, they got Leandro Barbosa flying along the baseline, and when he missed a shot, Johnson was there to fight for the rebound and get fouled.
“Our guys played real gutsy, we didn’t give them anything real easy,” said Triano. “I think we made a couple of mistakes defensively and Ray got free for a couple of threes there that got them back in the game … but I thought to a man we made them work for everything.”
Before the game, Colangelo described his rationale for the trade, in which Jack, reserve centre David Andersen, and benchwarmer Marcus Banks were sent to the Hornets in exchange for 33-year-old forward Peja Stojakovic, and 23-year-old guard Jerryd Bayless.
The thrust of the trade is to build around a core of young players including Johnson, DeRozan and Sonny Weems, he said. Bayless brings athleticism and defensive skills to the squad, and can initially back up Jose Calderon at point guard. “We’ve also increased the flexibility of this team with what the future holds in free agency and subsequent trades,” he said.
The Raptors also now have $25-million (all currency U.S.) in expiring contracts plus $12-million remaining on the trade exception from the deal that sent Bosh to the Miami Heat in the off-season.
Stojakovic, a sharp-shooter in his prime, has struggled with injuries this season and is in the tail-end of his career. Colangelo said there’s a chance he’ll be gone by next season after his $14.5-million contract expires, but his role is yet to be determined.
“It could be mentoring and bringing along some of the young guys, it could be helping us win a few games here in the process,” Colangelo said.
The Raptors play the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday at the Air Canada Centre with Calderon now holding the keys to the car because of the trade of Jarrett Jack to the New Orleans Hornets. The problem is Calderon is here only because a summer-time trade to the Charlotte Bobcats fell apart. He then compounded his lack of marketability when he lost the starter’s job to Jack. The good thing is that the Raptors’ young players now know with whom they have to fit in – the better thing is that Leandro Barbosa, if healthy, can be the sort of late game, ball-handler who can create his own shot that Calderon cannot be.
Jerryd Bayless, the guard who is expected to join the Raptors on Tuesday, is a former first-round draft pick whose numbers suggest he is more of a No. 2 than a point guard. Bayless was part of the 2008 U.S. select team chosen by USA Basketball, where Raptors head coach Jay Triano was an assistant to P.J. Carlesimo (who is now Triano’s assistant with the Raptors).
The low point of it all came with a little more than four minutes left when Toronto’s Sonny Weems stiff defence created a turnover in the Raptors end, and Toronto gave it back as Calderon and Reggie Evans reached for the ball at the same time. Boston re-took the ball and fed it to veteran shooter Ray Allen, who calmly drained a three-pointer to tie the game 94-94.
Moments later, another Allen three-pointer put the visitors ahead 97-94, prompting Triano to call a timeout when it looked like Toronto’s chances were slipping away.
“I said, ‘We have a four-minute game against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, let’s play a four minute game, you guys have got to believe in yourselves,’ ” Triano said. “Then I had to call another timeout to tell them to believe in themselves.
The Raptors showed they could play with Boston, which was missing guard Rajan Rondo, for more than four minutes. Andrea Bargnani finished with a game-high 29 points, while Johnson scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for just the second double-double of the Raptors season.
Both Calderon and Leandro Barbosa played well in Jack’s vacated point guard spot.
Calderon had 11 points and two assists in his first start of the season while Barbosa scored 12 points and dished out five assists in his first game back after missing six with a shoulder injury.
Boston kept fighting back, though, and Ray Allen tied the game at 94 with a three with 4:11 left, and took the lead with another three from the same spot 33 seconds later. Glen Davis made one of two from the line to tack on a point, and Boston got the stop, but Allen was called for travelling, and Toronto put in a bucket to cut the Boston lead to 98-96 with 2:46 left.
After some missed shots (including another missed Boston free throw), Glen Davis hit two big free throws to put Boston up 101-98 with 21.3 seconds left. Ray Allen was called for a steal with 12.9 seconds left after Toronto hit a driving layup, but check the replay. Allen was slapped on the left side FAR away from the ball, but the referees let it go. No wonder Tommy Heinsohn has gray hair if he has to call such biased officiating. Boston even has trouble catching a break at home, but on the road, forget about it. Paul Pierce was called for a shooting foul and missed at the buzzer after Toronto hit both of their free throws with 2.7 seconds left to take the lead for good.
The fourth quarter was a continuous struggle to get back into the game for the Celtics. Down by as much as a dozen at one point the Celtics had to claw their way back into the game throughout the quarter. With about 6 minutes left to play the Celtics put the game in the hands of the vets and it made all the difference, a 14-4 Boston run lead to the Celtics pulling the game back even at 94 behind a three from Ray Allen. Ray Allen continued his hot hand with a three to pull ahead 97-94 with 3:30 remaining off a beautiful pass from Paul Pierce. An obvious kicked ball by Barbosa and a missed call by the officials gave Toronto the ball back with a minute to play down 99-98 but the Raptors missed on both offensive chances they got giving the Celtics the ball and a chance to pull ahead for good. Glen Davis was sent to the line with 21.3 left in regulation where he hit both free throws to give the 101-98 edge to the Celtics. The Raptors hit a quick layup and on the inbounds pass to Ray Allen, while pushing the ball up the court Allen lost a handle on the ball giving the Raptors a shot at the win. Paul Pierce came up big in the paint with two blocks but was called for a foul on Amir Johnson who then proceeded to hit both of his free throws giving the Celtics a final shot with 2 seconds in the game remaining. Pierce originally was inbounding the ball but called for a timeout where he was replaced with Ray Allen as the inbounder. Pierce took the final shot, a midrange jumper and it rimmed out giving the Raptors the 102-101 win. The choice to give Pierce the final shot and have the Celtics best shooter, Ray Allen inbound the ball will be one that is called to question, did Pierce call the timeout to call his own number as he has done in the past? Why was Allen not an option for the final shot and Garnett not given the inbounding duties? Plenty of questions will come from the result of this game.
The Celtics missed 10 free throws on the game and that will be a huge cause for blame on the loss, as will be the second chance opportunities given to the Raptors giving up 10 offensive rebounds and getting out rebounded 41-36.
The Celtics are going to have trouble with more athletic teams, exemplified by the Raptors’ ability to get to the rim easily with the quickness of their wingmen. The Celtics are a top-notch defensive team, but “team’’ is the operative word. They struggle with some one-on-one matchups.
With 21.3 seconds left yesterday and the Raptors trailing by 3 points, the Celtics essentially allowed Sonny Weems to streak to the basket for an easy layup.
The final 18.8 seconds of the game were pure chaos, which leads to point No. 2: The Celtics aren’t going to get help from officials on many nights, and they need to get accustomed to that.
Yesterday, the Celtics were particularly distressed with the calls of Brian Forte, who missed an obvious and-one on Shaquille O’Neal in the fourth quarter and then called Shaq for defensive 3 seconds when he was defending a pick and roll.
So the Celtics already realized they were facing longer odds in those final 18.8 seconds. Ray Allen dribbled toward the frontcourt and had his arm poked by Leandro Barbosa, the ball bouncing forward and the Raptors gaining possession. And in the final seconds, Amir Johnson drew a shooting foul on Paul Pierce with 2.7 seconds left. The whistle could have been swallowed there, in the waning moments of a close game.
Although there were some strange calls, complaining about the officiating or expecting to get calls will only lead to more frustration. The Celtics were so angered by the officials, they allowed their game to slip in stretches. For a team that entered with a 4-9 record and lacked a dominant inside scorer, the Raptors did receive more than their share of calls. But the Celtics have to get beyond such a situation.
“When we put together some multi-stops, we were able to fuel some type of offense,’’ Garnett said. “But we’ve got to start the game like that. We’ve got to start with the relentlessness that we ended the game with. Give a team confidence, then anything can happen.
“We gave ourselves a chance to win, but we dug ourselves a hole too big and we paid for it.’’
Between Nate Robinson’s 16-point first quarter, Toronto’s 38-point second quarter, Shaquille O’Neal’s foul-out, and the Celtics’ 10 missed free throws, it was a different kind of afternoon.
“Our best free throw shooter was Shaq,’’ Rivers said, marveling at O’Neal’s 4-for-4 effort. “If there had been a [technical foul], we would have let Shaq shoot it. When you see Ray miss two and Paul miss four, that’s a strange night for you.’’
We have already seen our core of Andrea Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan, Sonny Weems and Amir Johnson make strides this season and we are still awaiting Ed Davis’ regular season debut.
We now have another piece in Jerryd Bayless to count among our core and Julian Wright is also getting his audition for that group and has impressed thus far.
Bryan Colangelo still has moves to make armed with a trade exception and the expiring contracts of Reggie Evans and Peja Stojakovic, but do not be surprised if one or more of these assets are not utilized with the new CBA looming.
One thing can be assured though and that is that Bryan Colangelo will look at every option to help him improve the team for the future even at the cost of wins
Because as Bryan Colangelo said, this year is about development, not wins.