Toronto Sun

Like that Dec. 28 win over a Dirk Nowitzki-less Mavericks, the Raps went into this one vastly undermanned.

Unlike that game, in this one the Raptors came up short.

Just before tip off they added Linas Kleiza to a growing list of players unavailable for duty as he sat out with a sore right knee.

That left Jay Triano with a starting five that included Julian Wright and a bench of four healthy bodies, none of which play the shooting guard or small forward positions.

The Raptors bench consisted of three bigs (including Solomon Alabi who did not play) and point guard and recent arrival Sundiata Gaines, who is here on a 10-day contract.

And yet the Raps had a nine-point lead with three minutes to go in the third and were right there for the win in the dying seconds.

Whether it was fatigue, they had a seven-man rotation to the nine the Hornets had — or yet another spotty officiating effort — Nick Buchert and Gary Zielinski can forget about any Christmas cards from the Raptors after this one — New Orleans did just enough and got just enough breaks in the final two minutes to pull out a 85-81 win.

Where the Hornets were full value for this win was their second-half rebounding. Emeka Okafor pulled down a career and franchise high-tying 12 offensive boards. David West had another four.

In one series that seemed to last three minutes, the Hornets got seven consecutive shots as Okafor got them extra possession after extra possession.

“Emeka had 12 offensive by himself and that’s what really killed us,” DeMar DeRozan, who had a Raptors-high 23 points said after the game. “If we rebound better in our own zone, we will definitely be all right.”

And the Raptors had just enough empty offensive possessions of their own down the stretch to help the Hornets cause along.

Toronto Star

The team has lost Reggie Evans, Leandro Barbosa, Weems, Calderon and Bargnani to injury and has never really had Peja Stojakovic. They played with seven capable bodies on Monday and have played other games with nine or 10.

They have used 15 different starting lineups in 41 games, making their 13 wins somewhat impressive.

They are relative kids playing a man’s game and as the second half unfolds, and next season comes over the horizon, they have to hope the hard lessons learned in the first 41 games will translate into more wins in the next 41.

But it will not be easy.

The toughest part may be keeping the players believing that the hard work they are putting in will eventually be rewarded. Frustration mounts when the losses pile up, and the fragile psyches of young professional athletes will have to be watched in the coming three months.

Monday’s game was a perfect case in point. The Raptors led by 12 points in the third quarter and by eight with 10 minutes left in the game. But a series of miscues, missed shots and the inability to grab a defensive rebound at a critical point ultimately did them in.

It’s been a scene that’s been played out so many times before. They are just 3-8 in games decided by five or fewer points; they don’t have the experience or the savvy down the stretch to pull out games.

And as the second half arrives with a game Wednesday night in San Antonio, it is the single biggest thing that needs to change.

Toronto Star

Halfway into the first season since Chris Bosh, Toronto’s most recent perennial all-star, fled for Miami, the Raptors appear to be playing without even one all-star. Barring the widespread onset of dementia among the coaches who’ll vote to fill out the East’s roster for the festive February weekend in L.A., Toronto won’t have a single representative in the midseason classic for the first time since 2005, back when a present-day ESPN talking head named Jalen Rose was leading Toronto in scoring in the wake of the Carter-for-nothing trade to the Nets.

In a league ruled by alpha dogs, in other words, the Raptors are rebuilding without one. So maybe the question is, taking stock at the 41-game mark, can they develop one? DeMar DeRozan, as a 21-year-old sophomore swingman, has shown some flashes of all-star-style aggression, after all, at least on the offensive end. Andrea Bargnani, when he’s making his beloved jump shot, is a tough matchup, and, at $10 million (U.S.) a season, he’s decent value. And while rookie forward Ed Davis began the season with a pickup-game knee injury, which called into question both his judgment and his durability, he’s just 21 years old and, with a weight-room makeover, could become a real-deal inside threat.

What becomes of their careers? Well, that’s for them to decide. Nobody playing in Toronto is a lock to become an elite player. Work needs to be done, and it’s a grind to see which few NBA players religiously submit.

Maybe one thing that’s closer to certain is that Bryan Colangelo, the president and GM who put this roster together, will be around to see their development continue, for better or worse. Colangelo, coming up on the fifth anniversary of his arrival in Toronto, is in the final year of his contract. But he’s been told by higher-ups that he’s a part of the long-term picture at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (and no, he’s not one of the hundreds of would-be honchos who’ve forwarded their resumes to the U.S. headhunting firm charged with finding a replacement for outgoing CEO Richard Peddie).

Anybody who knows Colangelo knows he thinks of himself as a basketball guy, first and foremost, and the CEO job isn’t currently on his wish list. And while he has failed to build a winner, save for that 47-victory campaign in his 2006-07 honeymoon phase, those who know the way Colangelo is viewed in the MLSE boardroom will tell you that he is appreciated for his swing-for-the-fences approach to deal-making. (Even if Colangelo’s would-be home runs, and we’re thinking of Jermaine O’Neal and Hedo Turkoglu, turned into weak groundouts, the buzz those moves created helped the sales staff move product).

Globe and Mail

DeMar DeRozan scored 23 points and Johnson scored 17 points for Toronto, which led from early in the second quarter until late in the fourth.

“It’s definitely frustrating. I wish we could have gotten that game,” DeRozan said. “That would have been a big game for us. We can’t let it get away in the last three minutes.”

Toronto shot 44.6 per cent (33 of 74), but was hurt by turnovers and New Orleans’ 19 offensive rebounds, which helped the Hornets score 15 second-chance points.

Ed Davis had 11 points and 12 rebounds, and Andrea Bargnani added 11 points for the Raptors, who were without starting forward Linas Kleiza because of his sore right knee. Former Hornets first-round draft choice Julian Wright started for Kleiza and had 11 points and six rebounds, helping Toronto build its 44-37 halftime lead up to double digits.

Using a 13-6 run that began with Wright’s driving layup as he was fouled and which ended with Wright’s dunk, the Raptors took their largest lead at 57-45.

Toronto still led by nine on Sundiata Gaines’ 22-foot bank shot with 2:34 left in the quarter, but did not score again in the period while Jack hit a jumper, two free throws and a driving floater to cut it to 65-62.

The Hornets finally tied it at 76 on Thornton’s free throws with 4:57 left, then took a brief lead on Jack’s reverse layup.

West scored the Hornets’ final seven points, converting Jack’s feed inside to put the Hornets up 80-79 and hitting a free throw to make it 81-79.

Hornets 247

  • Jarret Jack looked comfortable running the offense. If Paul has to miss a few games at some point for whatever reason it’s clear that Jack can handle point guard duties. I also really like how Paul and Jack play together in the backcourt. In a few months most of us are going to look on the deal that sent Peja out of town a lot more fondly than we do today.
  • Chris Paul was so off his game that Monty had him on the bench until there were four minutes left in the fourth quarter. He doesn’t look 100% out there, and it doesn’t surprise me to hear that he’s nursing a minor injury in his ankle of some sort. Still, 6 points on 8 shots, 11 assists, 0 turnovers, and 3 steals isn’t horrific by any means.
  • Without Okafor the Hornets lose this by 20 or 25.
  • Someone with really high confidence couldn’t shoot at all today. I think if one of the first couple layups had gone in things would have gone much differently.
  • Like Sam Holako said in the preview, Bargnani is a brutal defender. It’s like he’s not even trying most of the time.
  • Quincy Pondexter wasn’t as awful as everyone else. He also only played 6 minutes.
  • Julian Wright looked like he often did on his good days in New Orleans. I still wasn’t too impressed.
  • Belinelli was pressing a little too hard to pay back the Raptors for trading him, and it didn’t work out.

Toronto Raptors Watch

Although Triano cut Andrea some slack, he won’t catch much of a break on Raptors Watch tonight. It wasn’t just his lackluster offensive performance that hurt the Raps, it was his lack of rebounding and defense. Emeka Okafur, who was Andrea’s opposing nemesis, scored 17 points and grabbed a franchise tying 12 offensive rebounds. You can add that stat to the plethora of NBA players who seemingly have career nights on a night-in and night-out basis against the Raptors.

Former team mates Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack had the chance to face up against each other today – both having something to prove. Jack, who’s been playing a very limited amount this season behind Chris Paul, played 26 minutes – 10 minutes more than his season average. He deserved those minutes tonight too, as he scored 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting.

Between Jack and Chris Paul, they were able to hold Jose Calderon to 0 points and 5 turnovers. However, the Spaniard did manage to dish out 13 assists.

Sair’s Blog

A week or so ago my fiancé Ziad and I attended a Raptors basketball game vs. the Hawks (sorry, don’t know where they’re from) my father and his friend Pat were also in attendance. Obviously, I am not a basketball fan. I know the basics, and have been to many Raptors games in the past with  my family but I could never be considered an expert on the sport. Nevertheless, I seemed to grasp what many audience members as well as several radio experts on the sport discovered to be amiss at the game. The Refs. Not only were they unfair, (they were biased), but they were obviously so!

Even from a statistical point of view, it is clear that these men weren’t doing the job very well. The Hawks shot more than twice the number of foul shots than the Raptors, often being awarded 3 foul shots, as opposed to the customary 2.

Then there were the plays in review. I don’t know how many times I’ve ever seen a play in basketball in review in my life! Probably two, and both times took place at the game last week. The refs called the first review several minutes after the play had taken place which was disastrous as it automatically awarded the Hawks points over something the disgruntled audience had managed to forget in the last five minutes. Needless to say, we weren’t happy with the call.

As the game continued to progress it was noted by me that the refs were receiving more boo’s by the Raptor’s audience than Vince Carter. It did little to fuel their abilities the way it seems to do for Mr. Carter. Instead they became less and less official and more and more biased.

Offensive fouls that are almost never called were piling up on Bargiani (who I might add was more than frustrated by the end of it all) who was simply planting his feel and allowing players to run into him repeatedly, face-first I might add. Although this is considered to be a foul, I’ve been told by numerous people that this is one that’s not normally called. My sympathies to Bargniani.

Forward Julian Wright, the one-time Hornets’ No. 1 draft choice who spent three rather mercurial years in New Orleans, was back in the Arena as a member of the visiting Raptors on Monday, the first time, he said, he’d ever stepped foot in the opposing locker room.

Wright started Monday in place of Linas Kleiza, who missed with a sore right knee.

"It feels weird but in a good way," Wright said. "I’m like, ‘This is what the visiting team’s locker room is like?’ But it feels good. We had an off-day (Sunday) and I got a home-cooked meal from my mother. She’s still here. It’s good to be back. Everyone is so down-to-earth here."

The Hornets traded Wright to Toronto on Aug. 11 in exchange for guard Marco Belinelli. Belinelli became a starter for New Orleans.

Wright continues to be a role player for Toronto, averaging 3.4 points per game for the Raptors this season. His best game of the year came on Jan. 5 at Cleveland when he scored 15 points with five assists and nine rebounds, going 7 for 9 against the Cavs.

"It’s been a situation where the whole organization is trying to figure out what to do with a guy like Chris Bosh leaving (for Miami)," Wright said. "From training camp to now I think guys have been working hard and I’m just trying to give my best effort and help the team.

"I think with a couple more games, I’ve been able to see where guys like their shot and I’ve been more of a facilitator. We have a high-powered offense. I’ve just tried to do what I can in terms of intangibles. I’ve just tried to play the same way I’ve always played, and just give that maximum effort."

Wright finished with 11 points and six rebounds.

BAYLESS ABSENCE: Former Hornets point guard Jerryd Bayless sat out Monday’s game with a sore left ankle.

Bayless was traded by the Hornets in late November to the Raptors, along with forward Peja Stojakovic, for guard Jarrett Jack, forward David Andersen and guard Marcus Banks.

Stojakovic has been out with a swollen left knee and has not been traveling with the Raptors.

Toronto had just nine players in uniform Monday.

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    “But he’s been told by higher-ups that he’s a part of the long-term picture at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment”

    “…those who know the way Colangelo is viewed in the MLSE boardroom will tell you that he is appreciated for his swing-for-the-fences approach to deal-making.”

    “….the buzz those moves created helped the sales staff move product”.

    Absolutley diabolical.

    The refs, players and Triano should probably take a lot less heat than they do.

    • slaw

      But, but, but…. he makes money for MLSE! He’s a saavy businessman! He can really sell the team! His dad is with USA basketball! He has a big rolodex!
      He was burdened with Chris Bosh, a #1 pick and capspace – how can you build a team with just that? Plus, we need stability; the Raps can’t get anyone better; he fixes his mistakes; he gets it now… etc., etc.

  • Bo4

    Mid-season …

    Amir & Jerryd are ‘must keep’
    Ed is ‘probably keep’
    DeMar & Sonny are ‘maybe keep’

    Julian, Soloman & Sundiata are ‘projects’

    Reggie is ‘probable trade bait’
    Andrea, José, Leandro, Linus, Joey & Peja are ‘trade bait’

    • Mr.January

      I think you may have confused Ed Davis and Amir Johnson. how is davis a “probably keep” and Amir a “must keep”? I say keep them both, but Davis has the bigger upside by a long shot. as far as DD goes, he is either a must keep or trade for a quality big man.

      • Bo4

        Mr. January, I didn’t confuse Ed with Amir at all. One of the criteria that I used was: As a member of a 5-man unit (on, how many times was his unit both a plus, & winning the mini-game within a game OVER 50% of the time? Amir = 3 different 5-man units. Ed = 0. Do I want Ed to stay around? Yes. But right now, I’ve got Amir ahead of Ed, based on actual performance so far this season.

      • Bo4

        The problem I have at this point in time with DeMar is that his Efficiency Per 48 Minutes is 292nd in the NBA. 150 makes you a legit starter. 240 makes you a legit sub. 292 would put him out of the rotation on a .500 team! Yes, his Efficiency is that of a starter, because they’re giving him more minutes than he deserves. He’s not a must keep right now. He has a ways to go to get there.

    • Balls of Steel

      Who is going to “bite” on a 7-foot center that allowed his man to gather 12 OFFENSIVE REBOUNDS?

      • Bo4

        Balls of Steel, Andrea is 45th in the NBA in Efficiency, 97th in Efficiency Per 49 Minutes. That makes him a legit starter that more than 1 team will consider taking on, especially considering his reasonable salary. On a .500 team, he’d be a #3 star. The reason I’d consider trading him is because I’d rather get a rebounder/shot-blocker to play beside Ed & Amir.

        • Theswirsky

          hold on here… can you define this ‘efficiency’ for me?

          because a 7fter who is not rebounding or defending is not effecient to me. His shooting % is average, for a sg. He averages 21 points on 18 shots… which is not exactly ‘efficient’.

          Hell, he has nearly a 2:1 rebound to turnover ratio…(not that that stat is every used for anything, but for every 2 possession he gets, he gives the ball over on one of them).

          But then again, like I said, I don’t know how this ‘efficiency’ is rated….

      • Lindisfarena

        You are just dreaming, man. The 12 rebounds Okafor made up for, were not always playing vs. Bargnani. On the sequence of 5 consecutive off reb, Bargs was not even on the floor, but you (and nobody else) don’t care to make it clear.
        And all this apart, what strikes me most is the cruel feeling that people in this blog and basically everywhere in TO environment, tend to dislike and/or prefer on a biased and perverted ground. I’ve been watching sports for more than 40 years, I’ve seen many kind of teams in every sport, I’ve heard from so many type of fans from everywhere, and I’ve got the precise impressions that fans are basically stupid and obtuse, by definition, all over the globe. But I swear God if I’d ever met such a bunch of idiots like in this case. I’ve never met before people so strict in the way they don’t care to get wins, they just want their biased preferences to success. Every players in any sports has got his merits and qualities and his flaws, but fans all over the world just don’t waste their time spitting on their best players! They just want other good players to come by, and go on. They normally embraces what the better they have to cheer for, and call for the most glaring deficiencies to be corrected. Up there, though, it’s just different! For you, guys, the term “haters” is perfectly made, in the way of your substantial stupidity and obtuseness with no hope of redemption. Cheers.

        • Balls of Steel

          “But I swear God if I’d ever met such a bunch of idiots like in this case”

          “For you, guys, the term “haters” is perfectly made, in the way of your substantial stupidity and obtuseness with no hope of redemption.”

          Considering the harsh, personal nature of your response, I will give you the appropriate recognition that you are right in the fact the Bargnani was not responsible for ALL 12 REBOUNDS. If anything, it was said in frustration (however, I acknowledge its inaccuracy and I am not excusing myself).

          It has been a troubling season and frustrating because the team seems to find more ways to lose than win. More importantly, the reasons for losing (outside of the lack of all-star talent is desire and heart). I guess being in a culture of losing will do that to a young team. However, Bargnani in NBA experience, is no longer young. He is supposedly, the next best thing after Bosh. His poor play in New Orleans (granted he wasn’t the only one to blame) was inexcusable. Sorry, but most people didn’t bother to count or clarify because its a moot argument (we know he’s not a good defender). So what, he’s responsible for the remaining 7, 5, 3? That’s just too many to give up. I watched the game and the commentator and even Triano in one of the timeout were clearly frustrated with his lack of effort.

          For a team with a record of 13-28, I guess all can agree that Bargs is the best player (our best player doesn’t put in the same effort night in, night out – hence the record).

          Haters and stupid. Those are interesting words coming from you. As a 39 year-old high school teacher, I’m used to hearing these words (usually coming from the immature and the misinformed). I’m just disappointed to hear it from someone with your age and experience in watching sports. For someone claiming to be hate-free and bias-free, you contradict yourself with your diatribe.

          Much like life, sports is full of disappointment and successes. We have writers and broadcasters that have made careers and lots of money criticizing these highly paid, physically gifted athletes. They too have teams they follow and are equally critical. That’s the nature and beauty of sports my friend. As frustrated or happy people are about their teams, most true fans continue to follow. Most fans will stop watching / listening by the third quarter, but you can almost guarantee that they will be looking forward to the next game. Or, in the very least, they will still watch and listen then.

          In a season that is 13-28, what kind of comments are you expecting from fans? Sure, it’s not all negative but I have to admit, it has been frustrating. Am I wrong to express that frustration? Would this conversation continue this far had you merely corrected me on the 12 offensive rebounds as a misconstrued fact? The answer would be no. The difference between you and I is the fact the I write in this forum to praise AND criticize the team. You on the other hand take pleasure in dishing out personal attacks on other people because you don’t agree with their views, statements or opinions. Which do you think is more harsh? Who do you think exudes hate?

          • Lindisfarena

            The fact I’m hating on you does not contradict my vision in any way. If the matter is you are a 39 year old teacher: just the same. The planet is full of bad teachers.
            Nobody can deny what a frustrating season looks like to a sports fan, but here we are talking about HOW and to WHOM many of you guys (not just expressly you) direct your own frustration.
            Read again “…fans all over the world just don’t waste their time spitting on their best players! They just want other good players to come by, and go on. They normally embraces what the better they have to cheer for, and call for the most glaring deficiencies to be corrected”.
            You MUST learn to choose your enemies, and pick up the TRUE ones. What I hate are not players (and believe, me if you think Bargnani deserves to be hated because he doesn’t fit your model, you are badly wrong) but, instead, people who’s not able to understand what’s all about. And they keep going with the mainstream, eyes shut, and choosing the wrong targets and scapegoats, the wrong model and masters.
            The fact you are not a Hooligan, does not forgive you in any sense.

            • Ol’ Dirty Raptor

              i agree with what you say overall, but don’t get too bent over what anonymous people on a fan site are saying. i’m sure everyone in heat nation is complaining today about how the team isn’t good enough to beat atlanta, and even lakers fans get up in arms after each loss. it’s in the nature of some people to be more critical than others, but everyone is entitled to their opinion. even if we had lebron, people would complain about his inefficient shooting, lack of a post-up game, and no titles.

     just gets annoying when people think they have to hammer home the exact same point over and over and over and over and over again, and try to pass this off as insight.

  • Thomas

    “The Hawks shot more than twice the number of foul shots than the Raptors, often being awarded 3 foul shots, as opposed to the customary 2.”

    I’m not sure if this was included for comedic value, but it certainly had it.

    • barenakedman

      That article had a few great lines in it. That one in particular was priceless and was given in all sincerity.

  • Theswirsky

    “Bargnani is a brutal defender. It’s like he’s not even trying most of the time.”

    This sounds familiar…..

    so is this guy biased, racist and ignorant to?

  • Roarque

    The concept of starting a young core of future potential is a fun idea born out of the anger many of us have when watching the so called veterans screw up. The reality is that the development of young futures requires that they watch and rub shoulders with a mentor who goes out first ( the real starters) while the kids watch and learn and then they get a chance for a quarter to do as well or better than their mentor.

    • Bo4

      Roarque, well said! That is precisely why I’m praying that Bryan trades our TPE for a veteran, solid swing like Gerald Wallace, drafts Kyrie Irving to give us a real PG with outstanding speed, and signs restricted free agent Marc Gasol in July. Gerald would teach DeMar & Sonny a few thing about playing both ways, & tough. Ditto Marc for Ed & Amir. And we’d have the best 3 PG combo in the NBA with José & Jerryd. Andrea, Reggie, Linus, & Leandro are all expendable, if we get the right 3 to replace them!!