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Five Things I Dig and Don’t Dig about the Toronto Raptors

This week on Five Things I Dig and Don't Dig we chat conspiracies, Bucci rejections [the bad kind], Freddy Swipes, Thadventures, and more.

18 mins read
Holler at IG/tansley24 and IG/zach_nph for the wicked graphic and the Raptors for the photos used

The days go by and this team’s getting closer and closer to avoiding that perilous Play-In. Good April to you all!

1. VaxxiNATIONALization

I’m the type of competitor that wants my worst enemy to be at full strength, so that when I whoop their ass I know they’ve no option but to reflect on their failures as a lesser participant.

That said, there are greater causes that call for even more spiteful vindictiveness.

Kyrie Irving’s portrayal as some kind of hero surviving the “austere”, “repressive” vaccination requirements in the state of New York is utterly pukeworthy.

k bro.

That’s some doggone value-thieving, selfish, bullshit spin-doctoring. Kyrie does great stuff for different communities. This ain’t it.

Not to relitigate, just to reiterate: protecting individual freedoms is mightily important in the face of oppressive police systems, discriminatory health, legal, social, and academic institutions and policies, and a myriad of other messed up shit in our colonialist, classist, racist, sexist, corrupt [cue Robert Pattinson] society.

Fighting public health mandates that subject individuals to an itsy-bitsy probability of harm to protect the entirety of our vulnerable population is not one of them. Okkkkk…so can we quit celebrating Kyrie’s “struggle”? Let’s talk to him about real issues: like the round-earther discrimination he experiences…

Anyway, as it stands, Kyrie would not be eligible to play in Canada. To cross our borders, athletes must be vaccinated. We’re just not much for individual freedoms round ‘ere – unless you drive a truck.

The real plot twist: Kyrie may not be the only NBA player forbidden from entering Canada.

There’s recent rumours swirlin’ around the Boston Celtics and their COVID inoculations – or lack thereof.

I don’t know if you noticed on Monday, but not only did Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Al Horford not play against Toronto, they didn’t even travel with the team. That’s not thattttt atypical; sometimes “load management” means staying at home in your own cozy bed and getting some down time with the fam. Fair.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst suggests something a bit more conspiratorial:

Before you go diggin’ into Boston’s schedule to discover that in late November of this season Boston already played in Toronto and all three of those dudes suited up [I did that], you must also know that Canada implemented the “players must be fully-vaccinated to enter Canada” policy months later on January 15th, 2022.

The possibility persists.

Now, it’s also Windy reporting here. On the one hand, he’s a nationally renown journalist. On the other, he can be a bit of an overconfident windbag. Besides, we’re cagey now; we’ve already been suckered by shitty local journalism of late.

*UPDATE: Wednesday afternoon, ESPN’s Tim Bontemps reported that – with more circumstantial but substantive evidence – Philadelphia and Boston failed to disclose if they have fully-vaccinated rosters or not.

There is also evidence to the contrary:

The Boston Globe reported Tatum saying he’s vaccinated. I’m sure there’s similar for Brown and Horford.

Athletes have lied about their vaccination status before.

**UPDATE #2: Friday morning, Celtics writer and recent Raptors Twitter Arch Enemy, Keith Smith, reported Brad Stevens saying the following:

Whole lot of fuckery going on here.

There’s more Reddit type deep-dives inferring comments and speculating conclusions on whether Jaylen or Jayson are vaccinated. I’ll refrain from rabbit-holing all that scuttlebutt. It’s just an interesting twist that’s not been covered thus far in the season, surprisingly.

I know it’s juicy conjecture, shame on me for wasting 700 words on it. But hey, I’m just a blogger. You want real news go read Dougie. Besides, should Boston and Toronto meet in the Playoffs, this can all be cleared up with one very drawn out exchange with the Canada Border Service Agency.

The true truth finders.

2. Freddy Swipes

Yo, they call me Freddy Swipes.
I make clean strips like Sani-Wipes
My D stops seven-foot archetypes
Watch that ball, I’m Freddy Swipes.

Just had an image of Freddy busting out rhymes as the newest Wu-Tang Clan member coming in hot after a Ghostface Killah bit.

Freddy’s been a Swipester of late.

It’s actually nothing new. He’s renown for some of the stickiest fingers in the league with two barracuda arms chomping balls from the grips of larger, stronger men. In fact, his strippings caused quite the furor last year with Freddy outraged over the classification of a “strip” as a “block” preventing his rightful claim to steals leader. He has a point. According to ADictiONary.com:

Block: an intervention of a shot attempt.

Strip/Swipe: a caused dispossession.

It’s semantics; it’s different.

Freddy’s been back at it again of late. In the last 4 games (the Pacers game barely counts), Freddy’s recorded 13 stocks (steals/blocks). Even with the bum knee – I’m worried about that bum knee – he hovers ready to lunge with his Bruce-Lee-like hand speed and strength and Cyborgian awareness. I really can’t recall – maybe you readers can help me out – with someone so adept at the swipe. His hand-eye coordination supreme; his nimble tree-trunk arms supreme.

A couple of things.

One: the Lamar Stevens, Grant Williams, and second Anthony Edwards strips were called “blocks”; the  Caris LeVert entanglement and first Anthony Edwards punch a steal.

¿?¿?¿ ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ?¿?¿?

Two: the assortment of heists exemplify Freddy’s elite team and individual defence despite his Bilbo Baggins knees. .

Three: it’s a montage worthy of an All-NBA Defensive team nomination.

3. Wear-and-Tear

With Freddy slowed – yes, it’s really really really weighing heavily on my mind – and Gary cold (maybe luke-warm after the Minny flambé) and Flynn hobbled and Armoni new, maybe the land of no guards is where Toronto will continue to traverse.

I noticed in the 3rd Q against Indiana, Nurse deployed a MonStars simulacrum: Pascal, Scottie, OG, Precious, and Boucher.

In that 4-minute stretch, that plate of spaghetti went, Gulp, 1/7. So did the Pacers. In fact, only 6 total points were scored collectively. That’s what Toronto wants: transform the basketball court into a grindhouse. This line-up catalyzes the mayhem. If the game devolves into a physical, discombobulated, up-and-down, frantic race, Toronto’s getting squatting rights.

I call it the wear and tear lineup cause they’re gonna wear you out and tear up whatever plans opponents have drawn up – they’ve only allowed 91.7 points (100th percentile) on defence. (Throw Thad in place of Precious, and that line, in 14 possessions, is basically 100th percentile across every offensive and defensive metric and +85 per 100 possessions, lollll.)

You want to slow a team down? Deploy this net of arms and legs. Speed a team up? Press’em and unleash this horde of runners in transition. Run a bunch of P&R? They’ll switch seamlessly. Isolation? The 2nd and 3rd lines of defence a set of snares waiting in support. We’ve all seen what happens when Joel Embiid posts up: an eagle vs a murder of crows:

Probing opposing point guards are the true weakness. In the East, that’s Kyrie and Darius Garland and Tyrese Maxey. OG and Scottie can manage larger combo guards like Harden and Lavine. It’s worth the risk, hoping that the diligent perimeter scrambles and aggregate at-rim aggression is enough to disrupt guard penetration.

On the previous few Rap Ups, we’ve pondered over the crowded, top-heavy line-up of Freddy, Gary, OG, Scottie, Pascal.

It seemed like neither Scottie nor OG were optimized to the best of their capabilities. Scottie lost at times and OG corner-destined (OG’s style more than Scottie’s is adaptable). Freddy and Gary’s games demand the ball as does Pascal’s. Remove those two and now Scottie, OG, and Pascal are the primary options. Precious and Boucher nice-to-haves in mismatches.

It’s not like Toronto’s ever needed a traditional point guard anyway. Pascal’s it in the half-court; Scottie our full-court one – though, he does struggle with immediate ball pressure.

Shooting’s the issue. If Pascal and Precious continue to hit at this rate from 3, we’re gravy. OG’s a bonafide sniper now. Missing might not be such a bad thing though. In 51 possessions, these guys are in the 99th percentile for offensive rebounding percentage.

4. Bloc[ked] Quebecois

For the year, Chris Boucher has had 39 shots blocked averaging out to 0.5 blocked attempts per game.

In the last two games, Chris Boucher has had 7 shots blocked – 1/6th of all shots blocked this year. What up with that?

Normally, I’d forgive him. So many times, Boucher hurdles the whole of the floor like one of those rugger dudes hoisted into the air on an inbounds play to grab an offensive rebound:

(This should be considered in a buzzerbeater inbounds scenario.)

When you’re kinda outta control buried deep behind enemy lines I understand getting blocked in a futile attempt at a put back. These aren’t those though.

I’m not sure there’s a technical correction to be made other than a bit less indifference [read: overconfidence] with the whole putting the ball in the hoop thing. Bucci should know, as a shot gobbling goblin himself, that dudes are gonna wana reject him. He’s going up rather softly with a disregard and lack of awareness of what’s around him. Not gonna fly.

He’s gotta pump-fake, one, two, three times, and them RAMMA JAMMA DING DONG that sucker. When the pump doesn’t work, kick out. Or, at least, anything but this:

 

5. Thadda Boy

I’m just so happy to see Thad succeeding. In his last 3 games:

11 points | 4 boards | 2 assists | 1.3 blocks | 1.3 steals

He’s shaken off the rust and figured out this team’s dynamics and schemes. You can tell because he’s looking more confident and forcing it less.

That includes the Boston Celtics game where Thad kept things professional when every other Raptor seemed to not give a shit.

He played all 12 minutes of the 4th quarter and all 5 minutes of OT. That’s why we got him and why the trade was worth it (and WHY GORAN mighta eventually played…).

Young guys will fluctuate and young leaders struggle. Veteran professionals know how to lock in when it matters and, just as importantly, when it seems like it doesn’t. He matched the scrappy, desperate intensity of the Celtics B-side and kept the Raptors around long enough to overtake them in extra innings.

You know he did good when Masai’s the first to greet you:

Honourable Mention

Dice Rolla 2.0

This doesn’t really have anything to do with the Toronto Raptors other than we honour anyone who remotely follows the path of Freddy Dice.

Jose Alvarado – who was a major nuisance when the Raptors played the Pelicans – just got paid.

He, like Freddy, went undrafted and grinded his way to a roster spot. Freddy gave notice.

https://twitter.com/FredVanVleet/status/1508277436684902407?s=20&t=uRzOFCfTS3BhqYFUJScvhA

This all leads to what I really wanted to show, which is something I’ve really never seen before in basketball. Jose’s mastered the ultimate espionage maneuver. He acquires an alias as a courtside baseline fan. He orders beer, popcorn, tells a few anecdotes about his legend: the CFO of a successful rug cleaning company in Baton Rouge where corn mites terrorize rugs across the region.

Then! As the ball is inbounded, Alvarado points the other way for a classic spy misdirection, the fans turn, he bursts forth and Clark Kent’s to his Pelicans jersey, sprints silently behind the unsuspecting ballhandler and MISSION ACCOMPLISHED (watch the 1st and 3rd clips):

KEEP PAYING THIS MAN.

#FreeYuta

It’s too late for Yuta this year. I know that. I’ve accepted it. A healthy Raptors team has no need for him. An extremely unhealthy Raptors team, apparently, had no need for him. So be it.

My Watanabe zealotry is to the bitter end.

You’re not gonna get every posterization block you leap for. You still deserve props for the courage and athleticism to do so. Few in the NBA are willing to put their pride and ego on the line. Yuta don’t care.

If Yuta were to play 36 minutes, he’d average 36% three-point shooting on 6 shots a game, 1.4 blocks, and 0.7 steals, which is basically equal to OG’s per 36 in those categories.

I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.

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