Morning Coffee

Toronto Raptors Morning Coffee Dec 21

Play the young guys.

Toronto Sun

"I’m not a stats geek," Toulouse says. "I wouldn’t want to hold that title. I just want to be at the game. I just want to take the atmosphere in. Do you know how many people would love to sit in my seat? I love what I do."

Toulouse takes great pride in his numbers and accuracy. It’s a complicated business that not many see inside of.

While the London Lightning employ a three-person stats crew, the Raptors use a five-person crew. In a game where numbers mean so much, making sure everything is right is a tedious and involved job.

Teams rely on more than numbers to sign players but numbers play a major role in getting players millions of dollars or losing them millions of dollars.

Numbers are important in minor basketball if leagues such as the NBL, especially since constrained budgets make scouting players more difficult. Numbers often make the difference in whether a team takes a chance on a player or not.

"It’s about careers and money," Toulouse said.

Which is why Toulouse doesn’t see much of a basketball game despite sitting in the best seats in the house.

"People sitting across from me, all they see is the top of my shiny little head because my head is usually down looking at the screen," Toulouse said.

At the Lightning games, Toulouse has a touchscreen computer and two callers with him. The callers let him know what happens on the court and he inputs it.

With the Raptors, Toulouse is known as the primary operator. He has one spotter. There is a secondary operator who corrects any mistakes. The fourth person takes statistics with pen and paper in case the computers go down. The fifth member is a techie who deals with technical issues and along with the pen and paper stats person, handles video review to make sure the calls are correct.

Toulouse loves the game. Not just the Raptors but also the new NBL. He does what he can to promote the league because he believes in the product. The stats at the Lightning games are a big league.

Miles Above The Rim

12.Toronto Raptors- This team has not even come to close to relevance since Chris Bosh skipped town for South Beach. (Rightfully so!) There is nothing good about Toronto other than hockey games and beer. If this organization plans on keeping itself in the NBA, they ought to do something fast. They have a few good pieces in Derozan and Bargnani, but lets be honest… They should count their blessings that they are in the eastern conference.

Zan Tabak Herald

Dwane Casey is a solid coach who implemented a very smart system that played to the needs and strengths of the Dallas Mavericks.  He was able to hide Dirk’s deficiencies under the rim and made the most of what he had, but he isn’t a miracle worker.

This is not Dallas.

Jose Calderon is not going to get a whole lot better defensively, Jarryd Bayless is not even a point guard, in my opinion, and Anthony Carter cannot be counted on to cover for these two for long stretches.

I foresee a lot more of Anthony Carter than we really should or will want to see.  If defense is king this year, he’s the one that will come in and play. I can see this getting under the skin of the Raptor faithful that want to see Bayless given any and all minutes to prove his worth to the team going forward.

This is a position that will see many changes next season.  In all likelihood Bryan Colangelo already knows who his PG target is in Free Agency next year or in the draft.

First Off The Bench

The way I see it the Raptors, and GM Colangelo, are really looking past this season already and gearing up for 2012-2013 where they will most likely have a good draft pick from a strong 2012 draft. Luckily for Raptors fans it is going to be a shorter season than usual. If this was a full 82 game season it could be painful, but now a single-digit win season can always have an asterisks beside it due to the shortened season. I love looking at the bright side of things!!

When first looking at the Raptors roster for the 2011-2012 season I had a feeling the team would struggle to win 10 games in this lockout-shortened season. Now, after the free agent signings of Rasual Butler, Anthony Carter, Gary Forbes, Aaron Gray, and Jamaal Magloire (the first Canadian to every play on the Raptors) I still think it will be hard for them to get double-digits in the win column this year.

Most of the NBA media types who are currently putting out season preview columns are focusing on a few specific team aspects that they think will translate into success this season. These include established stars, a deep bench, and a coach/system that has been in place for a number of years; none of these are owned by the 2011-2012 Raptors.

The starting line up for the Raps is going to look something like… Calderon at PG, De² (DeMar DeRozan) at SG, James Johnson at SF, Amir Johnson at PF, and Bargnani at C.

First thoughts here are that James Johnson should not be starting on any team in the NBA, Amir Johnson may be serviceable this year after he exceeded the extremely low expectations I had for him last year, and this better be the last season of Calderon starting at PG.

I think the real story of the Raps is told when looking further down the depth chart. Behind Amir Johnson at PF is second year Ed Davis who had a solid rookie season and is gearing up to be a great poor-man’s-Chris-Bosh. If Amir continues to have foul/scoring troubles this year and Davis continues to improve at the pace that he was last year, I can see Davis grabbing that starting role not too far into the season.

Behind Calderon at PG is Jarryd Bayless whom the Raps picked up from the Hornets last year in a trade for Jarred Jack. Bayless finished strong by starting the last 14 games of the season last year for the Raptors and put up respectable numbers. Calderon is 30 years old and is not going to be the answer for the Raps in the coming years. Bayless if 23 and has a lot of room to grow. When Kevin Love was asked which player from his draft year he felt was underachieving and was due to break out soon, Love named Bayless as that player. He is young and I am looking forward to new head coach Dwayne Casey looking to the future this year by eventually handing the reins over the Bayless. I want to see what he can do with in a starting PG role. If there is a season to take a chance test him out, this is it for the Raptor.

It is difficult to synthesize "the plan" Bryan Colangelo keeps referring to into a few words, but it is clear what the first step of it is for the Toronto Raptors: Play the young guys.

That is very nice, until you consider how competitive head coach Dwane Casey wants this team to be and who these young guys are. Among them are Andrea Bargnani, 26, Amir Johnson, 24, and Ed Davis, 22. They are all power forwards.

This was not much of a problem last year. Jay Triano had no problem playing Bargnani at centre, and the three could play in any combination. The only combination that seemed to not work was Reggie Evans and Davis, and Evans is no longer a Raptor.

But Casey has other plans. With a focus on defence, he does not want Andrea Bargnani acting as the group’s anchor. He also does not want to play Ed Davis at that spot, which means the two players will rarely be on the floor together, unless Casey goes old school and puts Bargnani at small forward.

As for Johnson, he will see time at both spots. He will start some of the time, operating in a centre-by-committee situation with Aaron Grey and Jamaal Magloire. Casey does not see this as a huge deal.

"In today’s basketball, you have probably more pick-and-roll offence than you do anything else," Casey said.

"A player defensively for us has got to be able to impact the ball defensively, whether you’re at (power forward, or the four) or (centre, or the five). There are a few true post-up guys, and that’s why we have Aaron and (Magloire) as far as the fives are concerned.

"But most of the time, when you talk about defensive fours and fives, you talk about what you can do defensively regarding the pick-and-rolls."

In the same breath, Casey talked about players, young or "middle-aged," as Casey prefers to say, having to earn their minutes.

This is the stuff coaches love talking about: work ethic and internal competition.

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