Archive for October, 2007

Did You Know? Washington Wizards edition

Friday, October 26th, 2007

- Tonight’s game is the second straight year that the Raps and Wiz have met in the pre season.  The  Raps won last year (Oct. 9 2006), 93-88 in Washington.

- For what it’s worth, if the Wizards win tonight, they’ll finish the pre season with a 5-3 record.  That’ll mark the first time since 2002-03 that the Wiz have finished above .500 in the pre season.  (Note:  Whoop-dee-do)

- 3RD year forward Andray Blatche is leading the Wizards in pre season action in points per game (11.4), rebounds (6.4), and FG % (55.6)

- Keep an eye on Raptor guard Juan Dixon – suiting up against his former team … the team that drafted him.  Dixon went 17TH overall to Washington in 2002, and played with the Wiz until the 2005 season.

- Randy Ayers enters his first season as an assistant coach with the Wizards.  Ayers worked with Orlando for the past two seasons, helping the Magic reach the post-season with the league’s 7TH ranked defensive unit.

Cleveland Rocked

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

(TORONTO (9:35pm)) – The Raptors laid a whipping on the Cavs on Thursday night, sending LeBron and Co. back to Cleveland with a 111-78 loss.  It was a huge win for the Raptosr considering Cavs coach Mike Brown played all of his starters 30+ minutes each … in a game that definitely had a regular season feel to it.  Brown said before the tip that his main men would log heavy minutes and he certainly stayed true to his word – especially with LeBron James.  LBJ played a team high and game high 36 minutes – notching 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 9 assists.  But even the King couldn’t help crown the Raps on this night as Toronto was firing on all cylinders.

The Raps shot a blistering 50% from 3PT range – with the likes of Jason Kapono, Anthony Parker, Jose Calderon, and more getting in on the action.  But what was most impressive was the overall chemistry and consistency of both units for Toronto.  Not only did the starters look to be in-sync (TJ Ford, Parker, Kapono, Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani) but the ‘reserves’ didn’t skp a beat as well.  In fact, it’s not even fair to call these guys ‘reserves’.  As Calderon said to me the other day, this team truly doesn’t believe they have a “2nd unit”.  He figures any of the guys on the bench could step into a starter’s role – if need-be – at any point.

And Jose may be right.

Carlos Delfino led the Raps with 18 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists in 24 minutes.  He was energetic and explosive – on both ends of the floor – and he seemed to have a fantastic connection with both Calderon and Juan Dixon.  Delfino has been the subject of Sam Mitchell’s ire for much of training camp for his lackadaisical play throughout camp (including practices), but the Argentine forward certainly proved a ton to his coach on this night.

And Bosh was solid in his return to the line up.  He played just 14 minutes, but CB4 looked good on a couple of strong post moves, notching 12 points and 3 rebounds.

Big shout-out to TJ Ford as well … for his 13 assists (and only 2 turnovers) in 24 minutes.

Raptors win, 111-78. 

Be sure to tune in to the FAN 590 on Friday night for live play by play action of the Wizards and Raps at 7pm.  Paul Jones and I will have the call.

E. Smith
ericsmithfan590@yahoo.com

Cavs/Raps update – 625pm

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

Daniel Gibson will miss tonight’s game with a right hamstring strain.

Cavs coach Mike Brown said he plans on playing his starters – or at least some of them – heavier minutes than usual for a pre season game.  I guess he wants to get a look at what the regular season might look like.

Tonight’s starters:
F – Jason Kapono
F – Chris Bosh
C – Andrea Bargnani
G – Anthony Parker
G – TJ Ford

F – LeBron James
F – Drew Gooden
C – Zydrunas Ilgauskas
G – Larry Hughes
G – Devin Brown

Thanks,
E. Smith

 ericsmithfan590@yahoo.com

Crowded House

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

For the first time in the history of the Raptors/ACC … the team will play ‘host’ to two teams in one day.

No, no, no … it’s not like the Raptors are playing a double-header – though that would be interesting!  Maybe THAT is something for David Stern to think about in future pre-seasons.  Or how ’bout some sort of mini ‘tournament’ – perhaps with each respective division having a round-robin of games to crown the pre-season ‘champ’ of the Atlantic, Central, etc.

But I digress.  Back to the original story. 

At no point in the history of the ACC has there been 3 teams in the building at once.  99.99% of the time it’s the Raptors in their dressing room and whomever their playing (the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight) in the visitors dressing room.  Novel concept eh?

However, today the Washington Wizards are in town as well.  The Raps play host to the Wiz tomorrow night, but the boys from DC have already arrived and they still need to get in their practice time.  So while the Raps and Cavs went through their morning shoot-arounds on the ACC’s main floor, Washington is upstairs in the Adidas practice facility. 

To the players … it’s really not a big deal.  The guys that really earn their keep on a day like this - are the support staff … the equipment guys … and around the ACC … guys like Kevin DiPietro and Paul Elliott.  They’ve got to be sure the Cavs and Raps have everything they’d ordinarily require on a game day … while being sure they play good ‘hosts’ to the Wiz upstairs as well.  It sure makes for a LONG day — longer than usual.

Oh, and before I sign-off, Chris Bosh is good-to-go tonight.  Sam Mitchell said he really isn’t sure how long he’ll play Bosh but he’ll definitely be monitoring the big man.  He said Bosh’s conditioning is more of an issue than his knee.  After at least 3 straight days of full-out practice, Bosh has proven that the left knee is the best its been in a long time.  But getting his game legs back and getting his heart pumpin’ again is another story.  There’s one thing between scrimmages in practice and doing it for REAL in an actual game.

And for the fashion police – for those that care – Bosh will NOT be sporting the special knee-high socks in the game tonight (that he’s been wearing during the practices) but he will be wearing a protecting ‘sleeve’ on the left knee (not a brace).

Cavs and Raps – 7pm tonight.  And be sure to tune in to the FAN 590 tomorrow night for live action of the Wizards and Raptors at 7pm as well.  Paul Jones and I will have the call – with post-game coverage as well.

E. Smith
ericsmithfan590@yahoo.com

Riley the Ripper

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

… And when I say “ripper” … I’m not talking slang for the fine ladies at your local ‘ballet’. 

I’m talking swindled.  Tricked.  Doubled-crossed.  RIPPED OFF!

Pat Riley pulled one over on Kevin McHale on Wednesday when he sent Antoine (aka – AnTON; aka – AnTONNE) Walker, Michael Doleac, Wayne Simien, cash, and a 1ST round draft pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Ricky Davis and Mark Blount.

With Dwyane Wade still on the shelf following a couple of off-season surgeries, Riles shored-up his need for some scoring help by dealing for the dangerous – but too-often-distracted – Davis.  You’ve got to figure Ricky D will simply “get it” during his second tour of duty with the Heat.  With veterans like Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning around, Davis will be kept on a tight leash and he should personally be happier and more motivated than he’s ever been!  Not only is he out of the West and on a top team in the East, but he’s in a contract year … playing alongside two of the greatest talents in the league today (when Wade comes back that is).  If that can’t get him going … nothing will.

Meanwhile, Blount gives Riley some added depth in the front court – to help spell off time for Shaq, Zo, and Udonis Haslem.  And while Blount may have a few years left on his contract, he could end up being just as useful in future seasons – backing up The Big Man – if/when Mourning finally retires (for good) at the end of this season.

The move cost the Heat very little.  Not only did they get the better talent, but they even managed to do the cliched “addition by subtraction” as well.  Antoine Walker was done in Miami.  He was firmly planted in Riley’s doghouse – when all Riley wanted was to see ‘Toine in the local Jenny Craig.

So now the Timberwolves acquire an overweight, unmotivated, aging ‘star’.  I can all-but guarantee you that Walker wants NO part of the rebuilding phase that Minnesota is going through right now.  In fact, I’d be shocked if he ever wears a T-Wolves uniform.  But with nearly $20 million still on the table, Walker is gonna have to get comfortable in blue and green pretty darn quick.

What else did Minnesota get? 

Nominal savings at the end of the year via Doleac’s expiring deal.  Minor savings on Simien’s contract if they choose not to kick-in the extension.  A 1-year difference in Walker’s contract versus Blount’s.  And a 1ST round draft pick that is coming from a Heat team that will almost assuredly be in the post season. 

Plus, Doleac is a “good guy” … and his type of leadership and locker room presence could be a great asset for the Timberwolves. 

In the end … I’m not against ‘concept’ of McHale shipping off Davis and Blount – neither wanted to be in Minny anymore either – and they could have become malcontents very easily … and very quickly.  But, I’d take my chances with that twosome … as opposed to putting my faith in Employee #8.

Bosh is Back*

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

Barring any major setbacks on Thursday morning – when he wakes up – Chris Bosh will suit up for the Raptors when they play host to the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

Bosh said he felt little-to-no stiffness in his left knee today and took part, fully, in today’s practice. 

The even better news is that Bosh told me he fully expects to play in BOTH games this week; planning to play on Friday against the Wizards as well.  However, the two-time all-star said he knows it’s not up to him … if Sam Mitchell decides to suit him down on Friday, Bosh said he’ll be cool with that decision.

But Mitchell did say if CB4 plays Thursday and feels fine on Friday, he won’t hesitate to use him again on Friday.  Don’t expect to see Bosh play heavy minutes in either game though.

Good Moon Rising?

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

Nobody really knows – yet – if Jamario Moon is going to make the Toronto Raptors’ roster.  But there are a ton of people (even if it’s mostly fans) pulling for him … and I’m one of them.

Outside of my main man, Magic Johnson, who I idolized as a kid, I’ve never been one to beat the drum for superstar players.  They’re great to watch.  Their talent is obvious, and incredible.  They deserve all of the attention and riches thrown upon them. 

But I prefer to cheer for the little guy a lot of the time.  And if it’s not the little guy, it’s the “hard worker” – the guy that does the little things.  The dirty work.  The all-around player.  If you’ve heard me on the Raptors’ broadcasts or on the Hoops show, you might know I often joke with Jonesy (my broadcast partner) about the “E Crew” – guys who I’d take on my roster any day … if I were a GM.

Troy Murphy.  Shane Battier.  Udonis Haslem.  To name a few.

Granted, those guys are still good enough to make some damn good money – but they’re clearly “role players” … behind the “stars” … on their respective teams.  I pull for guys like that.

I’m pulling for Jamario Moon in a similar manner. 

If Moon were to make the Raptors’ roster he wouldn’t even have the kind of role that guys like Battier, Murphy, and Haslem enjoy.  Moon would be scratchin’ and clawin’ to get two minutes – let alone twenty-two!  But his athleticism and energy is something this team could use – even if it is hidden deep on the bench.

Jamario Moon is a humble guy too.  He knows where’s he’s been and how hard he’s had to work.  He knows the path he took was a tough one … one that could have been so much different had he not leaned on the wrong people (who gave him the wrong advice) when he was younger.  He has used his struggles to mature him and motivate him and as he has said in the past – he plays now for his family … mostly his parents … who struggled in their own right … just to give Jamario all he needed/wanted in basketball as a young boy and as a young man.

I ran into Moon on the streets of Toronto yesterday – as we were both walking home from the Raptors practice facility – and he was telling how  much he loves this city and how he HOPES he has finally found a home for he and his wife.  He got married last summer – in Mexico – while chasing his basketball dream.  It was a small ceremony – with few family and friends – ’cause he was in the midst of his season.  He celebrated his 1ST anniversary this past June, and he could think of no greater ‘gift’ for his new bride – who has supported him as he chases his dream – than an NBA contract and, finally, a stable HOME.

He’s a long way from home (Goodwater, Alabama) – and he’s not looking forward to a cold Toronto winter – but he’ll take the trade-off anyday; the trade-off of being an NBA player and not having to bounce around the CBA, NBDL, USBL, ABA, or WBL anymore.

The Latest on CB4

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

Chris Bosh DID practice today – and took party, fully, for most of the session.

He said if he had to speculate/guesstimate … he’s at about 85% right now … and he expects to play in the Raptors’ next game on Thursday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Bosh said though that Sam Mitchell has already told him that if he does play … he shouldn’t expect to see a ton of time. 

Bosh also said that he had another MRI on the knee – so he’s ‘medically’ been given the okay to practice too – he’s not just doing so on his own hunch or feeling.  And that MRI apparently showed his knee to be in the best condition it’s been in all pre season (hence him saying he’s almost 100% I guess).

So … as the Leafs lose one (Darcy Tucker) … it looks like the Raps will finally get one back

E. Smith
ericsmithfan590@yahoo.com

 

Rested Raps

Saturday, October 20th, 2007

Following Friday’s win over the Chicago Bulls, Sam Mitchell gave his troops the day off on Saturday. 

Take it from me – a guy who has covered this team day in, day out for eight years now (the last two on the road with the club as well) – “off days” don’t come around very often … especially since Coach Mitchell came to town!  In fact, earlier in the week, Sam put the Raptors through “two-a-days” … a move that came as a shock to some … considering the Raps had just returned from their two-week European tour.  At the time, Mitchell basically said “hey, this is still training camp, and we have to take advantage of as many days of practice as we can get” (I’m paraphrasing). 

Thus, giving his team a day off came as a bit of a surprise … but I like the move.

Not only is Mitchell rewarding his players for their solid effort in the 92-82 win over Chicago, but he’s making sure the guys come back to the court on Sunday with a fresh, focused mind.  All batteries should be re-charged and ready to roll.

Plus, Jorge Garbajosa got the night off on Friday.  Jason Kapono and Anthony Parker played just six minutes.  And TJ Ford tallied less than fifteen minutes of burn.  Add Chris Bosh (already sidelined (knee)) to that mix, and you’ve got a core of key players that – for all intents and purposes – got both Friday and Saturday ‘off’. 

Those rested bodies now have four full days of practice before they suit-up for their final two pre-season games later this week … against Cleveland (Thursday) and Washington (Friday).

Nice roster management by Mitchell and his staff.  Trust me, those little ‘rewards’ add up over the course of a gruelling season.

E. Smith
ericsmithfan590@yahoo.com

Bull(s) … on the FAN

Friday, October 19th, 2007

I wish I had more ‘news’ for you today folks, but things were kind of quiet around the ACC this morning.  Unlike Wednesday, Sam Mitchell did not tip his hand RE: who he’d start tonight at SF.  Normally – in seasons past – Mitchell was reluctant to give out his starting line-up until an hour before the game … when he is mandated to do so by NBA rules.  Thus, I was quite surprised when he told reporters on Wednesday morning that Jason Kapono was getting the nod. 

I really don’t know what to think for tonight’s game.  Kapono played well enough to warrant the start and you’d think at some point – sooner than later – Mitchell will want to get his rotation set … and play at least 1 or 2 games with sets and minutes and situations similar to the way he’ll run things as of October 31.  So does JK slide into the starter’s role again tonight?  We’ll see.  Joey Graham has played well in practice and was decent against Zalgiris, so there’s a chance he could get the call.  I’d be shocked if Carlos Delfino was the guy. 

All that said, this is still the pre-season, so … really … does it matter?

Speaking of the pre-season, Mitchell reminded folks today that last year Toronto went 7-1 during the exhibition season but then started the regular season just 2-8.  He warned the masses to not get too high for the highs or too low for the lows.  Mitchell said he’s more concerned with his team’s execution and overall play … than whether they win or lose the game. 

The Raps may be in tough tonight against the Bulls though.  Despite Ben Gordon’s likely absence from the line up (his left ankle sprain may keep him out of action until the start of the regular season), Chicago still possesses one of the most versatile and dangerous players in the game today – Luol Deng.  Plus, the Bulls added even more depth to an already deep, talented roster during this off-season … with the additions of Joakim Noah and Aaron Gray in the Draft, and Joe Smith via free agency.

The Raps will go at it again tonight without all-star forward, Chris Bosh.

Tune in to the FAN 590 tonight at 7pm for LIVE play by play action of the Bulls and Raptors with Paul Jones and me.  We’ll have an abbreviated post-game show as well – going til 10pm. 

Thanks,

E. Smith
ericsmithfan590@yahoo.com

*NOTE: Stay tuned for further info on a new Jose Calderon t-shirt that will soon be available at Centre Sports.  Calderon designed the shirt himself, and proceeds of the sales of the shirts will go to Right To Play (www.righttoplay.com)

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