Kyrie Irving

Detroit tonight before the Raptors take a few days off for Christmas. The Raptors have tons of injuries ranging from Bargnani, Calderon, Kleiza, Weems, and Johnson and I’m pretty sure the athletic trainer is also carrying a knock of some sort. Most of them will suit up but we’ll know for sure closer to tip-off. The only “news” on the team front is that the team has sent Peja Stojakovic back to New Orleans to get a second opinion from a doctor, although team sources simply believe that Peja forget some luggage back there which is probably now stolen. There was a talk a couple days ago about him being bought out which would make some sense if it saves the team some money and allows him to play for a contending team. Either way, I can’t be bothered. The other mildly interesting topic of discussion is what happens with Kleiza once Weems returns from injury, this is covered more in the Rapcast but for me the answer is quite simple: nothing. Weems is playing like he’s owed something and as big as a supporter I have been for him, right now he deserves to be in the doghouse until further notice.

Ten days ago the Raptors came back from 25 down against Detroit to win, Bayless, Bargnani and Barbosa had great games as the Raptors won the fourth quarter 37-17. That’s one of those defeats that stings for a while and one you don’t forget, and I don’t expect the Pistons to either. Since that loss they’ve beaten New Orleans and Atlanta (two teams you expect them to lose to) and lost to the Clippers (which you’d expect them to win). Can’t say I’ve seen much of the Pistons there other than a few fourth quarters, and who can blame me? At 9-19 they’re a game behind the Raptors and have a very similar payroll ($66M), the difference being that their core are the likes of Charlie V, Ben Gordon, and Jason Maxiell, players who have already reached their ceiling. The Raptors have associated with them the excitement of youth and uncertainty, which can go both ways really fast. Not that I’m going anywhere with this, just thought I’d mention that I don’t see Tayshaun Prince sticking past the deadline with them – $11M expiring deal, a contender will be waiting in the wings like a vulture. In fact, I’m pretty sure everybody on that roster is acquirable.

Linas Kleiza has obviously come on the last few games and the popular belief seems to be that the starting job is doing him some good. Let’s take a closer look, here are his numbers as a starter and here they are off the bench. He’s averaging 9.4 points and 4.6 rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench, as a starter he’s averaging 13.6 points, 5.7 rebounds in 29 minutes. Once you normalize PER36, the numbers are quite even. Off the bench, it’s 16 points and 7.8 rebounds, as a starter it’s 16.8 points and 5.6 rebounds. The dip in rebounding as a starter is surprising, it’s almost like he hits it harder when he’s coming off the bench with a point to prove.

The crazy part is when it comes to the assists PER 36. As a bench player he’s getting 0.64 assists PER36, but as a starter he’s at 2.2 PER 36. That’s a very significant jump, it’s like he needs to be starting to be playing team ball. I know assists aren’t exactly an indication of that, but still, these numbers are pretty telling of Kleiza’s ability to process the game, see the floor and use his teammates as a starter as opposed to off the bench.

Triano on Kleiza:

“He’s a scorer. He’s a guy who can rebound and score, but he had no bounce when he was hurt. Tendonitis in both Achilles’, a long summer. Just no bounce at all. If you don’t have bounce in the NBA, you’re going to be in trouble. Guys are going to exploit you.”

I find that we (at least, I) often discount the impact of lingering injuries on players, and Kleiza could very well be greatly affected by that over the course of his struggles with consistency.

On to Rapcast #91, a shorter and better version than last time where the topics of discussion include:

  • Detroit’s revenge-mission tonight, we focus on the similarities and differences between the Raptors and Pistons.
  • Evaluating the job Joe Dumars has done in his rebuild of the Pistons and what the lessons learned from that experience are.
  • Talk about the Vince Carter deal, and if there are other players who have wasted that kind of potential in the league. Why did Vince fail? How is his demise similar to the 5-0 drubbing A-Dub received in FIFA?
  • If the season ended today, would you renew Sonny Weems? We compare him to DeMar DeRozan. If the season ended today, where would Sonny stand? Thoughts on a player losing his starting job to injury.
  • Raptors 10-18 record. Surprising or somewhat expected? Just what is the reason that the Raptors aren’t bottom of the East right now as many had predicted?
  • Discussion about Amir Johnson’s exceptional FT shooting which is very rare for a big man, his jumper and of course, his contract.
  • Equating fouls with defense. Good indicator or sheer idiocy?

Grab the iTunes feed or the plain old feed. You can also download the file (24:47, 8.9MB). Or just listen below:

Kleiza praising Calderon, something not enough people are doing.

“He’s a very good point guard to get everybody involved, get the team going. He’s not necessarily the flashy one that is trying to go out there and score. He just runs the team well. He knows how to pass the ball very well. When he’s court, it makes a big difference, as you can see.”

Remember Jarrett Jack? Our colleagues at Hornets247 gave him a C- in their quarterly report card, saying:

Regardless of wins and losses, however, Jack just has not been the player the Hornets were expecting to get when they made the swap. His numbers have been awful and he has yet to really grasp his role on the team. Because of that he is sometimes too hesitant, and other times he tries to do too much. He has yet to find a balance.

That’s it from here, enjoy the game. And if your work blocks RR, get the email feed.