Anyone who has seen Jose Calderon in action on the basketball court, knows he is adept at sign language.
So as he walked out of practice Saturday and caught the eyes of a couple of reporters, the thumbs up signal from him was as telling as any five-minute interview.
Calderon, after sitting out one game with a sprained ankle, will be back in action Sunday against the Sacramento Kings.
"Unless there is a flare-up (Sunday) from something he did Saturday, then he will play," head coach Jay Triano said.
First time this season the two teams have hooked up. Kings have changed quite a bit since the last meeting with addition not only of Evans who is the team's primary scorer but also 6-foot-9 rookie forward Omri Casspi who is averaging over 12 points a night and almost five rebounds. Casspi, who is the first Israeli selected in the first round of the NBA draft, had 17 points and eight rebounds in Friday's loss to Phoenix. The Kings have lost five in a row and won only three of its past 22 games.
“When I look straight, it’s nothing, but during the game you really don’t run a whole lot of straight, you are running back and forth,” he said.
At one point on Friday, Turkoglu made reference to a doctor suggesting he wear the mask for six weeks to allow for proper healing.
He may be wearing it now, but a betting man wouldn’t give the mask much more than a week or two at the very longest the way Turkoglu was talking Saturday.
“Maybe after the all-star break, hopefully it will heal close to 100%. I will check it out again and the doctor will tell me I’m good to go and I will burn it,” Turkoglu said.
He laughs after that last remark about burning the mask, but you get the feeling he would put a torch to the protective equipment at the first chance he gets were it left strictly up to him.
A report that Bosh had committed to play for the United States in Turkey in August was premature.
"I don't know where that came from, really," Bosh said Saturday. "I have not fully committed. I know there's a whole bunch of stuff going on this summer, I just want to attack that first."
The "whole bunch of stuff" refers to Bosh's impending free agency and the decision on where he'll play next season. Until that gets squared away, he's not about to reprise the role he played on the U.S.'s gold medal Olympic squad.
"It depends on how fast it is," he said. "That's a quick turnaround. (NBA) negotiations start July 1, there's a (USA Basketball) mini-camp mid-July and then a month later (the worlds).
"I just want to take care of my business matters first and there's no telling how long that'll take."
"I talked to a couple of other doctors, a couple of other friends and they really kind of told me the same stuff that these guys told me," he said "It's not that I didn't believe (Raptors doctors), but (friends) called me because they heard I wasn't going to wear the mask and they said, `Don't be stupid.'"
Part of the reason for the change of heart was the worry that another hit would have meant a far longer recuperation process. No one knows for certain what could have happened but Turkoglu decided better safe than sorry.
"I really appreciate their concern and all that. … In the end I have to be smarter, too, and not think about the short-term, think about the long-term," he said.
"If … I get hit again without the mask, it would cost me a long time to get healed and I'd leave the team short and I really don't want that."
When the media gained entry Saturday, after a 5-0 crowd pleaser over Ottawa, they were met by a rocking house of blues, grooving to Run This Town by Jay-Z and Rihanna. Raptors centre Patrick O'Bryant ambled out in a Dion Phaneuf sweater after glad-handing the Leafs, who were also getting congrats from Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. president and CEO Richard Petty.
It's Superbowl Sunday, but before the big game the Raps have a matinee affair against the rebuilding Sacramento Kings.
The Raps need to take care of business before settling in for some wings, chicken fingers and a few cold ones.
If the Raptors are supposed to be ‘Canada’s Team’ then why does TSN refuse to show more of their games on basic cable? Toronto has 32 games left this year but do not expect to see them all unless you have the right cable or satellite package. TSN holds the rights to 22 of the remaining games and plan on showing 10 of them on TSN2 including big games against Atlanta, Boston and Cleveland. Why?
Though the team has been winning of late, Hedo’s averages of 12.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4 assists remain uninspiring. Beyond a perceived lack of effort and undefined role within the team, Turks’ greatest obstacle to success is his ego, fuelled by the $53 million owed to him over the next five years. Hedo Turkoglu’s inflated self-perception is, dare I say, Situation-esque. Armed with a contract usually bestowed upon borderline franchise players, Turk honestly believes that he deserves to be the offensive focal point of his team. Don’t take my word for it: when asked in a post game interview to what he would attribute his strong play (26 points, 11 boards, 50% shooting) in a recent win over the Knicks, Turkoglu responded with one word, “Ball”. I may not speak Turkish Neanderthal, but I think the message was clear.
There are many potential destinations for Kevin Martin should the Kings decide to shop him including the Boston Celtics. However if the Kings are indeed like everyone in the NBA thinks, looking for a legit and true PG, Jose may seriously pique their interest.
The Toronto Raptors are looking more and more like a potentially dangerous team in the Eastern Conference playoff picture after winning six in a row and 12 of 13 at Air Canada Centre.
The Sacramento Kings are working on a much less impressive streak.
Toronto looks to win seven straight at home for the first time in nearly three years Sunday afternoon by dealing the woeful Kings an 11th consecutive road loss.
The Raptors were 11-17 as of Dec. 16 and were on the outside of the postseason race, but they've gone 16-6 since then to move into fifth place in the conference.
The Raptors (27-23) have gone from allowing 108.6 points per game in their first 28 to 100.8 over their last 22, and their field-goal percentage of 49.3 since mid-December is the best in the NBA.
Bosh has said he doesn't want to be traded. Raptors General Manager Bryan Colangelo has said he's not trading him. The Raptors have played well over the last month and moved into the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference. Yet, apparently, teams are holding their cards tight just so they don't miss out on a chance in case there is a last-minute change of heart.
Sacramento on the other hand, will be coming in to Toronto after having lost to the Phoenix Suns at home on Friday night. Despite getting 31 points from second year guard Donte Greene, the Kings were outdone by the run-and-gun offence of the Suns losing 114-102 in front of 14,992 at the ARCO Arena. This meeting with Toronto, is the first game of a 3-game road trip for the Kings, which includes stops in both New York and Detroit.
Does Colangelo bring in a veteran for a year or two and really up the odds of winning it all now versus keeping a young stud who could develop into a star but won’t get any respect from the biased NBA referees come playoff time this year?
The short answer may be; never, ever pass up a chance to win it all now for a chance to win it all later. As most of the time, the later never happens.
But any trade begins with; what do the Raptors have to offer?
On the article saying he had committed to Team USA for the World Championships this summer: “I don’t know where that came from really. Well, maybe some words got mixed up but I haven’t fully committed. Ive got a whole bunch of stuff going on this summer. I feel I have to deal with that first and then we’ll talk about (playing for the US) after that is done.”
– Would he like to play in Turkey if he gets his other “stuff” taken care of: “It depends on how fast it all gets done. That’s a quick turnaround. Negotiations start July 1st, there’s a mini-camp in mid-July and then a month later if (it’s all taken care of) you know … it’ a very short window of time. So I just want to take care of my business matters first and there’s no telling how long that will take.”
But at that point it was second-season pro Sonny Weems who stepped up with eight of his 14 points on the night to lead Toronto back from 42-30 down to take a one-point lead by half-time.
Along with Weems, Antoine Wright came into the starting five to score a season-high 18 points as the Raptors overcame the absence of Hedo Turkoglu, DeMar DeRozan and Jose Calderon to secure victory.
Although the Nets are no team to be worrying about at most times, they have recently shown the odd flash of inspiration and they certainly showed that in the first 18 minutes on Wednesday – whether they get the five wins they need to avoid the ‘worst in history’ tag is another matter.
Anyways, the other day, Mr. Grange wrote about Andrea Bargnani's struggles in back-to-back games. This is a useful stat. Useful in that it confirms some qualitative analysis (Bargnani is not in as good of shape as he could be)… Even better, Mr. Grange wrote about those struggles BEFORE Bargnani played the second half of a back-to-back, and Bargnani followed the script almost perfectly (6-for-17 shooting from the field).
With the All-Star festivities just around the corner there is lots to be excited about as a Raps fan. Chris Bosh will be playing in the big game while Raptors rookie DeMar DeRozan (if healthy) will be lacing them up for a chance to become the 2010 NBA Dunk Champion.
A long time ago the Raps had one of those…
"He's in,'' Colangelo said. "I feel very good about it. He's got his free agency situation, but he understands we'll want him at (a July minicamp in Las Vegas) even though he won't have to participate. If you show respect to somebody, respect comes back to you.''
Colangelo is very confident James also will play in Turkey.
"If I were a betting man, I'd say yes,'' Colangelo said.
Bosh, James and Miami's Dwyane Wade all can opt out of their contracts this summer and become free agents. Although Colangelo reiterated they won't have to compete at the Las Vegas minicamp July 22-25 if their free-agent business remains unresolved and wouldn't have to suit up until the team begins training camp Aug. 10, Wade remains on the fence.
"He has to make the determination whether he's going to be with the group,'' Colangelo said. "As we go forward, we just have to be flexible.''
Raptors head coach Jay Triano wasn't confirming anything Friday, but if Evans continues to progress the way he has the past couple of weeks, Triano said it was possible Evans regular-season debut could come Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers, his former club.
Triano likes to get his players going against their former teams — he believes it's an extra motivator — but the fact that Wednesday's game is against the Sixers is just an added bonus.
"He's doing more and more each time out," Triano said.
Keeping everyone happy with more bodies and the same number of minutes to distribute falls to Triano.
“That’s going to be the tough part, and whether guys should come in and feel like they are going to get their same complement of minutes,’ Triano said. “Obviously we have to find ways to get guys a certain number of minutes, but hopefully that’s a good challenge to have. If guys aren’t ready to play, regardless of if they’re coming back from injury or not, we’ve got other guys who can step in and hopefully they can help.”
Turkoglu missed just two games since his injury — a small fracture of the orbital bone beneath his right eye — last Sunday and was back at practice yesterday playing without the fitted but uncomfortable mask he had made in Indianapolis.
DeRozan, who missed five games with a sprained ankle, went through a full practice on Friday without a setback.
The only injured Raptor not named Reggie Evans who is expected to be a question at all for Sunday is Jose Calderon.
In one of the more significant, yet subtle, changes the Raptors have made this season, for early Sunday games they get to the arena around 9 a.m. for a walkthrough up in the practice facilities.
They go over what the other team does, work on some of their own stuff but that’s really all secondary to the purpose.
The real reason is to make sure all the players are out of bed and at least functioning close to normal by the time they hit the court.
I’ve talked to a few players about it and they all say pretty much the same thing:
It’s good to get in early, break a sweat, get up some shots and then go play the game.
There have been years where there was nothing mandated for the players before early Sunday games. For a noon start, some would drift in at 9:30, some at 10, some at 10:15; they got up, dragged their sorry selves out of bed and went to work.
Now, they’re all in at the same time, they work as a group and their minds and bodies get engaged well before tip. Or so they say.
Raptor reaction ranged from indifference to concern.
Jay Triano, the head coach, pleaded ignorance of the situation.
"Honestly, I don't want to get involved in that. That's something he's got to figure out with our trainers and doctors," Triano said. "I'm happy that he wants to play."
Sonny Weems, the Raptors swingman who wore a mask over a broken nose in his junior year at the University of Arkansas, said he understands Turkoglu's distaste for the protective shield.
"I hated it when I first wore it; I looked like the Phantom of the Opera," said Weems.
But the second-year player said he thinks his veteran teammate is making a mistake by leaving his injury exposed.
"It's a big risk. I think he should wear it. If he gets hit, he probably could go blind," said Weems. "I wish he would wear it, but there's only so much you can tell a grown man."
However, it appears likely the Raptors will insist their $50-million (U.S.) asset wears a faceguard to protect an existing injury before being allowed back on the basketball court.
“He's been advised strongly that the mask is required to play right now, to protect him from any sort of longer term or more significant damage being done,” Bryan Colangelo, the Raptors' president and general manager, said in a telephone interview yesterday.
“You generally like to follow a physician's instructions and we've got someone telling us it's advisable he wears the mask.”
Colangelo stopped short of saying that the Raptors would prevent Turkoglu from playing tomorrow if he does not agree to wear the face protector.
“Well, we'll see,” he responded. “I think we need to sit down and talk with him a little bit more and I might have some more feedback for you.”
Yes, the Raptors are winning now, but Bosh obviously has dreams that are much bigger than a nation of only $30 million and a national GDP roughly equal to that of the State of Texas.
I have felt all along that Hedo’s contract would come into play next season when his contract will seem like a bargain, the 2nd and 3rd years anyways.
One thing Bryan Colangelo must be cognizant of, is that Chris Bosh will not agree to a sign-and-trade that will drain a roster or hurt his new team. He would rather sign for less money and be a legit tile contender, than sign for more money and still be on a one and done playoff team.
BC will perform his due diligence and figure out whether or not Bosh wants to stay, and if he does trade him, this summer or before the trade deadline, you can bet that Hedo will be shopped around, perhaps to the Grizzlies for Rudy Gay, or to the Spurs for Richard Jefferson.