Archive for March, 2008
Monday, March 31st, 2008
CURRY IN CHARLOTTE
It will be interesting to see if Dell Curry is in attendance at the Bobcats/Raptors game tonight. Curry is a “Team Ambassador” for the Charlotte Bobcats and both he and Muggsy Bogues share time on the ‘Cats radio broadcasts from time to time. Not only is it great to hook up with Dell (and Muggsy) … to talk about his days in Toronto … but there’s even more reason to chat this evening.
Dell has been pushed to the shadows – for now – due to the unreal play of his son, Stephen, during the NCAA Tournament. Stephen led Davidson to the Elite Eight, but the Wildcats wild ride ended yesterday when Kansas walked away with a 59-57 win over the Cinderella story of the 2008 tourney.
Curry finished the tournament averaging 32.0 points per game:
- 40 points against Gonzaga (W)
- 30 points against Georgetown (W)
- 33 points against Wisconsin (W)
- 25 points against Kansas (L)
The big question now – and maybe Dell will be able to answer this – is whether or not Stephen will return to Davidson next season or if he’ll ride the high of his 2-week run through the NCAA Tournament all the way to the NBA Draft this June.
Raptors fans showed their class yesterday – as I assumed they would – by giving Morris Peterson a huge ovation at the ACC when the former Rap was introduced in the starting line ups. In fact, I’d say about one-third of the 19,800 stood on their feet as well … giving Mo and standing ovation (or as some might call it … “a standing Mo’vation”).
Peterson waived to the crowd and ‘thanked’ everyone for their well-wishes before running over to centre court to lean over and plant a kiss on the Raptors logo painted on the floor.
Just prior to the tip, Mo was so caught-up in seeing his former teammates that he nearly missed out on a quick huddle with Chris Paul, David West, Tyson Chandler, and Peja Stojakovic … ’cause he was already out on the floor … slapping fives and giving hugs to Chris Bosh, TJ Ford, Anthony Parker, Rasho Nesterovic, and Jason Kapono. Paul had to call Mo back over to the sidelines … when the rest of the Hornets shared a laugh with Peterson … jokingly pointing to their chests / jerseys; basically telling Mo: “you’re a HORNET now … not a Raptor”.
After the game, and a 118-111 win for New Orleans, Peterson threw took the shirt off his back – literally; throwing it to a fan in the stands just behind press row. And when Mo came back out from the locker room to do a post-game interview on the FAN with Jonesy and me, he admitted on the air that he had to fight off tears in his return to T.O.
No, no … I’m not going to weigh-in on the latest TTC issues in Toronto. When I say “Subway” … I’m talking about the sandwich joint, not the transit system.
You want to know how dead downtown Charlotte is – like many U.S. cities?
Well, the Subway I went to today closes at 3:00pm from Monday-Saturday and they’re closed on Sundays. Oh, and the joint opens at 10:00am each day.
So they’re only open for 5 hours each day. And despite being in the heart of downtown Charlotte, only minutes from the Bobcats arena, a number of hotels, and a ton of office towers … they roll up the carpet at lock the doors at 3:00pm!
Anyway, it’s not sports-related … but I just found that interesting. It’s not like we’re talking about a club or a fine-dining establishment, but am I the only one that thinks it’s weird? Ah well …
OK BLUE JAYS
Be sure to check out Mike Wilner’s “Miked Up” blog on the FAN 590 website as well … but … for what it’s worth … here are my predictions for the 2008 MLB season:
- AL East – Boston Red Sox
- AL West – Los Angeles Angels
- AL Central – Detroit Tigers
- AL Wild Card -New York Yankees
- NL East -Atlanta Braves
- NL West – Los Angeles Dodgers
- NL Central – Chicago Cubs
- NL Wild Card – New York Mets
I think the Jays will finish with 90 wins and they’ll be in contention until early September, but I see them falling short of the division to Boston … and losing out on the Wild Card to the Yankees. I hope I’m wrong … ’cause I’d love to see winning, PLAYOFF baseball return to Toronto!
- Remember … your comments are always welcome below, or you can email me as well.
Sunday, March 30th, 2008
I still have a hard time watching highlights of the New Orleans Hornets … and seeing Morris Peterson running around in a yellow or teal #9 jersey. It just doesn’t look right. Mo was so much a part of the culture and the fibre of the Toronto Raptors organization that I just can’t get used to his new threads.
Thus, it’ll be good to see Mo back in T.O. today. He is one of the nicest professional athletes I’ve ever come across.
I knew Mo from day one in Toronto … when he came in as a wide-eyed dude … fresh off a fantastic career at Michigan State.
He was (and still is) always approachable. He always had time to sit down and chat. And the difference with Mo – when compared to other guys – is that he would always ask “How are YOU doing?”
Perhaps the relationship with Mo was as strong as it was because of his longevity in Toronto. I had time to get to know him – personally and professionally. He wasn’t a guy that played for the organization for a season or two … and he certainly wasn’t a guy that was just cashing a paycheck as a Raptor. This city was his home. Toronto was just as much a part of Mo as anybody else in this city. And he gave back to the community – many communities throughout the GTA – time and time again.
That down-to-earth attitude and “nice guy” reputation made him a household name for even the most casual sports fan in this area. “Mo” … “Mo P” … “Mo Pete” … may not have put up the numbers of a Vince Carter or a Chris Bosh, but he was just a popular and equally respected.
When Peterson returns to the ACC today, I don’t doubt he’ll get a HUGE reception. Though Toronto has developed a reputation for being very harsh on former players (see: Damon Stoudamire, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, et al), I would think Mo will not – and should not – be subject to those same choruses of boos and cat-calls.
Mo knows that the city – and the organization – hold no ill-will towards him. He knows that the decision to not re-sign him last summer was purely business; not personal at all. So when Peterson’s name is introduced today by Herbie Kuhn, I’m expecting a standing ovation from the 19,800 in attendance. Mo deserves it. Hell, it might even bring a tear to his eye!
NOTE: For all the talk today – and in recent days – about Mo Peterson’s “circus shots” and memorable moments during his time as a Raptor … Did You Know … today, March 30TH, is the 1-year anniversary of Mo’s game-tying 3-ball in Washington (after the Michael Ruffin bone-headed heave). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-L6qKF1-pH4
Saturday, March 29th, 2008
I’ve had a few emails about Stephen Curry – the Davidson guard who is playing out of this world in the NCAA tournament. The son of former NBA’er (and Raptor), Dell Curry, has carried his crew all the way to the Elite Eight.
I wrote about Curry in a previous blog and now I’d like to clear up some misconceptions that are out there.
I didn’t say Curry couldn’t or wouldn’t play in the NBA. I didn’t say the he didn’t have the ‘game’ for the pro level. I simply asked – or wondered aloud – if he would EXCEL at the next level.
The reason I ask that is … I still wonder about it is his size. If he’s going to be a 2-guard in the NBA, he’ll have to put on some more muscle and such … playing against / guarding some of the top players in the game (Kobe, LeBron, TMAC, (heck, even a dude like Michael Redd)). Yes, he’ll be playing against back-ups and second unit guys if/when he first comes into the league, but you understand my point: he’s got to be able to play at both ends of the floor and defend his own position.
I can tell you from talking to some NBA scouts and management types that they’re not sure if Curry is truly a legit 2-guard at the NBA level. They see him as more of a point guard. The folks I talked to felt Curry is a good enough passer that he’d have a better chance to succeed at that slot.
All that said, Reggie Miller was a sharp-shooter and marksmen for a hell of a long time in the NBA and he’ll never be mistaken for a guy with a chiseled figure and an “NBA body”. He was lanky and looked frail but he still found a way to become one of the most deadly shooters in the history of the game. Could Curry follow a similar path? Maybe.
Jonesy and I chatted for a bit about Curry on “The Rap” last night – following Toronto’s 103-95 win over the Knicks. The basis of our discussion was ‘When will Curry declare his eligibility?’. Jonesy figured it’d be best for Curry to go back to school and work on his game that much more … and put on a little more weight/muscle as well.
However, while I agree with Jonesy’s assessment (given that I’ve just written the same thing as well) … I’m not sure that returning to school is Curry’s best option. I’m a big believer in seizing an opportunity that might not come along again. There are no guarantees that Curry will match or surpass this year’s magical ride. And there are certainly no guarantees that he’ll stay healthy or – god forbid – suffer some sort of injury (knee, ankle, whatever) that could affect his professional career. So why not enter the draft this June? Take advantage of the headlines and hype while you can! Without even factoring-in what he might do in the Elite Eight, Curry has become a household name after posting 40 points against Gonzaga, 30 against Georgetown, and 33 against Wisconsin. His stock is rising by the second.
He could still spend the summer honing his skills and bulking-up his body … while working with NBA trainers and coaches; playing in the Summer League; and continuing to be the ‘gym rat’ that he is. I don’t see how that path could be any worse than simply going back to school and facing potential uncertainty.
Either way, he’s a pleasure to watch and his career path will be just as intriguing … given that I’ve watched this guy since he was a grade-schooler shooting hoops with his Dad during pre-games at the ACC. It’s great to see a kid living his dream and following in his father’s footsteps.
Friday, March 28th, 2008
In case you missed it last night, NBA official Bob Delaney was in-studio on the “Hoops” show. It’s not very often that the media gets a chance to sit down with a referee but this interview went well above and beyond the parameters of any sort of “on-the-court” conversation. The reason Delaney was in-studio was to promote his new book COVERT.
COVERT is the true story of Delaney’s life since 1975 … when he was working as a New Jersey State trooper that went undercover to help infiltrate the mob. Delaney, known undercover as “Bobby Covert”, spent nearly 3 years running a trucking company with huge ties and connections to two of the biggest crime families in the NJ-New York area.
Delaney helped send 30+ mobsters to jail and spent the next 30 years dealing with post-traumatic stress, a death threat, and a career … in the NBA!
You can hear Jack Armstrong, Paul Jones, and me in our chat with Delaney on this very website. Just go to the home page at www.fan590.com and look for “PODCASTS” on the left side of the page. Click on the “Hoops” logo and you’ll find the Delaney interview. Check it out. Have a listen. You’ll be glad you did.
JOHNSON THE JUNKYARD?
Linton Johnson III wore jersey #43 in Phoenix and New Orleans – his last two stops in the NBA – but with Kris Humphries already holding down those digits in T.O. … word is that LJ3 will wear #13 for the Raptors.
The most popular player to wear #13 in franchise history was Jerome Williams. Though Mike James suited-up with the same number a couple of seasons ago, JYD has bragging rights in this case.
And the Raptors need from Johnson – or SOMEONE – the kind of hustle, energy, and grit that the Junkyard Dog brought to the floor during his tenure in T.O.
In fact, that’s exactly what Sam Mitchell called for this morning after the Raptors game-day shoot-around. He wants guys that’ll dive for loose balls; guys that won’t be afraid to get a little dirt on their hands if need-be. Whether or not Johnson is that man remains to be seen, but as Mitchell said today “some guys may need to look in the mirror”.
With Linton Johnson III joining the Raptors, Toronto had to make the decision to waive veteran guard Darrick Martin. However, Sam Mitchell confirmed today that D-Mart will be staying with the team. Martin will now serve as a basketball consultant and assistant/bench coach. His actual “title” isn’t really known – even after talking to Mitchell – but it really doesn’t matter. Basically, the guy is staying with the team and he will wear a number of hats for Toronto … both on and off the floor.
So, TJ Ford started the season as the best player on the Toronto Raptors – better than Chris Bosh – before he was hammered by Al Horford on December 11. Plus, he was coming off a season in which he appeared in 75 games and helped lead T.O. to its first-ever division championship and a franchise-best 47 wins. But after nearly being paralyzed and then fighting – both mentally and physically – for more than 2 months to get back on the floor, he’s suddenly public enemy number 1 in Toronto?
I don’t get it.
Clearly Ford didn’t look good as a back-up and his attitude – self-imposed or not – didn’t seem great at the best of times. But I’m not going to write the guy off and start publicly hammering the guy for what has happened in the last 4-6 weeks.
I like Jose Calderon. I believe Jose Calderon is more likely to be the starting PG of the Toronto Raptors in the future. But as long as both point guards are playing for the Raps, I think their differing styles are an asset for Sam Mitchell to expose.
Why many folks have suddenly drawn a line in the sand with Ford and Calderon is beyond me. This is playing out like the ridiculous notion that seems to exist in Toronto … in that you can’t like hockey if you like basketball … and vice-versa. Now it seems like you can’t like Jose if you like TJ … and vice-versa.
I don’t get it.
Friday, March 28th, 2008
BACK TO EUROPE
The Raptors won’t be heading overseas this fall, but the NBA is going back to Europe … as they continue to cultivate their fan base across the world.
This year, the Miami Heat, New Jersey Nets, New Orleans Hornets, and Washington Wizards will take part in NBA Europe Live. These four teams will be training and playing in Barcelona, Berlin, Paris, and London.
October 2008 will mark the 3RD straight year for this European Tour. In 2006, the Clippers, Suns, Spurs, and 76ers competed in games in Moscow, Barcelona, Rome, Paris, and Lyon … and in 2007 … the Raptors, Grizzlies, Celtics, and Timberwolves took part in games in Madrid, Malaga, Rome, London, and Istanbul.
The Nets and Heat will go toe-to-toe on October 9 in Paris, and then they’ll do battle again in London on October 12. The Wizards and Hornets will play on October 14 in Berlin … and October 17 in Barcelona.
If you’ve been to New York City anytime over the past 10 years – and you’re an NBA fan – you’ve probably visited the official NBA Store on 5TH Avenue.
Well, the store is celebrating its 10TH anniversary right now. They first opened their doors on September 18 1998 and since then they’ve tracked the Top 10 most popular jerseys (based on sales) over the past decade:
1. Michael Jordan
2. Kobe Bryant
3. Allen Iverson
4. LeBron James
5. Shaquille O’Neal
6. Tracy McGrady
7. Dwyane Wade
8. Jason Kidd
9. Vince Carter
10. Tim Duncan
Thursday, March 27th, 2008
During the aftermath of Toronto’s 89-82 win over the Pistons last night, on the post-game show, I was asked by a listener who I felt was most deserving of the Rookie of the Year award this season.
Well, Jonesy and I bounced around the question/issue for a couple of minutes and we both came to the same conclusion of the top 3 candidates (in no particular order): Luis Scola - HOUSTON, Al Horford – ATLANTA, and Jamario Moon – TORONTO.
To many folks’ surprise, neither one of us had Kevin Durant (SEATTLE) in our top 3. We both had him #4 on our lists. And both Jonesy and I agreed that while Durant is a future star and an unbelievable talent, he has the misfortune of being a rookie during a season in which 3 other first-year players are providing significant contributions to WINNING and/or PLAYOFF teams.
Assuming Atlanta makes the post-season, Horford will be right around the double-double mark for the year. The kid is an absolute stud and a future All Star in my eyes.
Nobody can deny what Scola has done ALL season … let alone in the last month or so … since the absence of Yao Ming.
And say what you will about Jamario Moon, but he’s a 27-year-old rookie who has played through thick and thin since early in the season when Sam Mitchell inserted him into the starting line up in Chicago. While he made his name off thunderous dunks and a brief spotlight in the Slam Dunk competition, he’s known more in Toronto as a guy that doesn’t drive enough; that appears reluctant to put the ball on the floor. Yet he continues to flirt with the top 50 in the NBA in FG% and his rebounding and shot-blocking abilities have been major assets all season.
Compare these three guys to Durant, and there is no comparison. Long-term, Durant will probably be the bigger “star” when stacked-up against Horford, Scola, or Moon. But for this year … Durant’s inflated numbers on a terrible Sonics squad don’t look as impressive as what the other 3 have done in winning environments.
In fact, if you take a look at the “numbers” … Moon, Scola, and Horford have all averaged less minutes-per-game than Durant, but they all have more rebounds-per-game and they all shoot a higher percentage from the field than Durant. The only thing KD has going for him is points-per-game. He has scored at least 10-points-per-game more than any of the three I’ve mentioned. He’s averaging just under 20 PPG – and that’s DAMN impressive for a rook.
But if the vote were to go down today, I’d write my ballot like this: 1. Horford 2. Scola 3. Moon
Take a look at their numbers heading into last night’s action:
Wednesday, March 26th, 2008
So the Raptors are switching up the starting line up on a couple of fronts and one of the moves was instigated or initiated by the man who will now find himself on the bench.
These kind of situations simply don’t happen in professional sports. They’re very rare. But then again, Jose Calderon is a rare breed to begin with.
Calderon sat down with Bryan Colangelo and Sam Mitchell on Tuesday and basically said (I’m paraphrasing / speculating ) … ‘Let TJ start. Move me back to the bench. We’ve got to find a way to get TJ going and it’s clear that he just hasn’t had ‘it’ as a back-up. Let’s go back to the way it was – for the betterment of the team – and see if we can get things back on track for the final 12 games of the season’.
Colangelo and Mitchell agreed … and that was that. Effective immediately, TJ Ford will be reinserted into the Raptors starting line up. Calderon will return to his back-up role; a job he had when the season began and throughout last season as well.
While he was outstanding for most of his time as a starter (struggling a bit over the last couple of weeks (like the entire team has)), Calderon has proven time and time again that he can be effective in either role. He seems just as comfortable with the 2ND unit as he does with the starters. But the same can’t be said for Ford. When TJ finally returned after missing 24 games, he never really seemed to adjust to his back-up role. He seemed confused at the best of times; struggling with when to be a distributor and facilitator … and when to be an attacker and dominator.
Ford was, arguably, the best Raptor on the floor for the first month of the season. Before he got hammered by Al Horford in Atlanta – and contemplated retirement – Ford was playing some of the best ball of his career. And he was coming off a hugely-successful 2006-07 campaign as well … when he and Chris Bosh led the Raptors to a franchise-high 47 wins and the Raptors first-ever Atlantic Division Championship. In returning to the starting line up, the hope is that Ford can find that magic touch again and finally return to form.
Ford isn’t the only change though. Rasho Nesterovic will be back in the starting unit … replacing Andrea Bargnani. As I wrote the other day, Bargnani has regressed this season. If you’re not moving forward – even if you’re simply standing still – you’re regressing in my eyes. However, I still believe Bargnani can be a special player. His growth process may simply take longer than others. So why not allow the guy to take those baby steps off the bench as opposed to ‘in the fire’ as a starter?
Nesterovic provides the Raptors with a lot of size, solid rebounding and defence, and veteran experience that Toronto could use in their final 12 games and into the post-season (no matter who they face). His presence amongst the starters allows Bargnani to come in against 2ND unit guys now – like he did last year. If Bargnani comes in and he’s hot … you stick with him. If not, you know you always have Rasho to go back to … and options like Kris Humphries as well.
Some folks may be critical of these moves – especially Ford going in for Calderon – but clearly something had to be done. After losing 7 of their last 8 and suffering through a TERRIBLE month of March, a shake-up was needed. While there were rumblings about making a move with Jamario Moon (for Carlos Delfino), the rookie swingman has answered his critics with some outstanding play – especially on the glass – over the past week or two. Thus, the most obvious place to make a change was at the point – where you have a solid 1-2 punch – or at the center spot … where you have a vet (Rasho) who is ready to go whenever he’s needed.
Best case scenario … this change ignites the Raps and they finish their final 12 games on a high note and they have momentum going into the post-season.
Worst case scenario … TJ still doesn’t break out of his funk and Mitchell is forced to go back to Calderon again.
We’ll see how it all plays out … beginning with the Pistons and Raptors tonight at 7pm on the FAN.
Your comments are always welcome below, and you can feel free to email me anytime as well.
Wednesday, March 26th, 2008
by Zack Cooper
The Raptors’ slide (7 losses in their last 8 games) is something we’ve all seen over the last couple of weeks. The holes have been apparent, and apparently Coach Sam Mitchell’s ready to try his hand at some patch-work.
The Raptors are going back to a starting line-up that they used in stretches of November and December. A devastating injury to TJ Ford brought Jose Calderon into the mix as the starting point guard, while Andrea Bargnani’s struggles led to his promotion to becoming the starting Center. A position the sophomore would hold… until tonight.
When the Raptors tip-off against the Pistons this evening, they’re expected to swap Jose for TJ, and Andrea for Rasho Nesterovic (who’s raked in double digit scoring in all but 3 games this month, while picking up 3 doubles-doubles in “starters minutes”).
The rest of the starting 5 remains the same:
The need for change has been apparent; And while it’s something I discussed with Paul Jones on “Late Night” last night, I wasn’t expecting it to actually happen.
What’s an interesting sidenote to all this, is that the idea for the point guard swap, came from the guy going who’s back to the bench – Jose – who continues his selfless, team-first acts.
Jose understands that Ford has been struggling off the bench (since his return from neck and back injuries, costing him nearly 2 months), and piped up to Mitchell that maybe the way to get him (and the team) going again, would be for TJ to get the start.
As for Rasho… we all knew that was coming. His play has been stellar over the last month, and Andrea’s still showing that’s he consistently inconsistent.
Tonight, they’ll be going up against a Pistons team that just the other night clinched their 7th straight 50-win season. They’re 0-2 vs. Detriot so far this season, but Coach Flip Saunders seemed to indicate that Rip Hamilton will not be suiting up for them.
He dropped 22 and 39 points on the Raps in the last 2 meetings.
…If the playoffs started today, the Raptors (7th place, .5 games behind Philly, 1 behind Washington for 5th) would take on the Pistons… not something they want.
…and also, just a freaky stat: Detroit’s 31-1 when they score 100 or more points.
Eric and Paul have the call…
Tip-off at 7:00 on the Fan 590.
Wednesday, March 26th, 2008
I’ve had a ton of emails over the last couple of days asking me about my opinion on Jack Armstrong and the news that Sportsnet is getting out of the basketball business as of next season.
Well, Sportsnet may be owned by Rogers – the same company that owns the FAN 590 – but I’ve got to say that I’m disappointed in the decision. With basketball and soccer being the two most popular “growth sports” in Canada … I would think it’d only make sense to stay connected (no pun intended) to the Raptors.
However, from a pure dollars and cents standpoint, it’s clear to see where Sportsnet is coming from.
– “THE BUSINESS”
Unlike TSN and The Score, Sportsnet has promoted and sold itself as a “regional” sports network. Thus, despite the pockets of Raptors fans that may exist across the country in places like Halifax, Montreal, Calgary, or Vancouver … it, understandably, comes down to the bottom line for Sportsnet … and how much money they can make in their East, Ontario, West or Pacific regions.
Given Sportsnet’s individual deals with various Canadian NHL teams … the opportunity to make big bucks with teams like the Canucks, Flames, and Habs (etc) out-weighs whatever money the Raps might bring in.
Basically, if you could get double-or-more viewers – and much more money – broadcasting the NHL instead of the NBA, you do so. Word has it that the Raptors NATIONAL numbers (when they’re on all four Sportsnet regions) are lower than some of the local/regional numbers (i.e. – Senators’ numbers in the East Region versus the Raptors’ numbers from coast to coast on ALL regions).
It’s bad news for basketball fans … but it’s the right move as far as “business” goes. For now.
The biggest loss though … is Jack Armstrong.
– “THE MAN”
For me, Jack is not only a co-worker and a mentor but he is an extremely close friend. Jack was an intricate part of my wedding a couple of years ago and there are few people I trust more – personally and professionally – than Jack Armstrong.
“The Coach” has been around the Toronto scene for 10+ years and he has become synonymous with the Raps.
He MUST be involved with the Raptors in some way/shape/form next season and for many years to come.
And I’m sure that will happen.
Even if they’re not broadcasting Raptors’ games, Sportsnet could still try re-signing Jacko. Plus, there’s no saying that TSN or The Score won’t make a pitch for the former head coach of the Niagara Purple Eagles. And when all is said and done, you’re sure to see plenty of Jack on Raptors TV … whether it be on the pre and post game shows, Raptors Today, and/or Full Court Press. You will also hear Jack (with me) on every pre-game show on the FAN’s radio broadcasts and he can be seen and heard every Thursday on “Hoops” on the FAN 590 and Raps TV.
So, barring a major offer from another team in the NBA (which could easily happen) … you’ll still be seeing and hearing plenty from Jack.
I’ll continue to push for Jack to do even “more” with the Raptors as well. If you’ve heard the radio broadcasts over the past few seasons – or the pre and post game show for nearly 10 years – you’ve heard me campaign for Jack to be named to the Raptors’ staff as well. Whether it be as a scout, adviser, assistant coach, Assistant GM, or even as a ”basketball ambassador” … I truly believe that Jack has more to offer to this city and this organization. As great as he is as a broadcaster and entertainer, I think he could have a greater impact and role in helping guide Canada’s only franchise into the future.
The world would be a better place with more Jack!
Tuesday, March 25th, 2008
NO DISCO FOR DIRK
Word came down on Monday that Dirk Nowitzki will be sidelined from the Mavericks’ line up for an indefinite period. And while that is terrible news for Dallas – and a stretch run in an extremely deep and competitive Western Conference – the Texas crew has still got to be thanking their lucky stars. The news could have been MUCH worse for Nowitzki.
I’ve watched the replay from Sunday’s nasty fall against the Spurs over and over and I still can’t believe Dirk didn’t break his leg, shatter his ankle, or tear every ligament in his knee. The way his leg buckled underneath his body … I was expecting to hear the Mavs announce on Monday that Nowitzki was gone for the season. At least the team can now hold out some sort of faint hope that their go-to guy and the reigning MVP might just have a shot at returning for the post-season.
Of course, Dallas has to get their first!
The optimist in me says this injury COULD be a minor blessing in disguise. Reason-being … the Jason Kidd experiment has not worked out yet for the Mavs. With Dirk now out, Kidd can focus more on being a distributor to the ENTIRE team as opposed to having to worry more about keeping Nowitzki happy; developing chemistry with him; and, thus, leaving everybody else as a 2ND thought on his mind. This injury will force Kidd to truly take over this team and become the leader and guiding light (sorry for the cheesy description) of a team that is sputtering.
THE MADNESS CONTINUES
Although 90% of my bracket has been OBLITERATED, I still have my Final Four teams a live (UCLA, Texas, Tennessee, and Kansas).
However, as exciting as the tournament has been, I wanted to focus on one issue specifically … other than the games and teams that still remain.
Who is the number 1 pick this June? Are there a lot of “impact” players in the college game right now, that will go on to star in the NBA?
Quite honestly … I’d say … No. No, there aren’t a ton of “stars” ready to make that jump from the NCAA to the NBA.
There are plenty of names out there (Eric Gordon, Derrick Rose, Brook Lopez, OJ Mayo, and more) but the only guy that I have seen to this point that truly has the makings of an NBA All Star / Superstar … is Michael Beasley. Rose or Mayo or anybody else may prove me wrong one day, but as it stands right this second … Beasley is the only guy I see as a future poster-child for the Association.
Don’t get me wrong – many of those players I mentioned (and others … like Kevin Love, Jerryd Bayless, etc) will have solid professional careers – but based on the tournament so far … Beasley is in a class by himself.
Ironically, the most talked about player right now – who is plastered all over every highlight show and website – is Stephen Curry. Yet part of me is still skeptical about whether or not his has the body and the all-around game to excel at the next level.
I hope I’m wrong about Curry … ’cause I feel a slight connection to the guy after watching him grow up in Toronto for a few years during his Dad’s (Dell Curry) days as a Raptor. In fact, Stephen used to talk about wanting to play for Duke when he got older. He never became a Blue Devil but he’s sure helping put Davidson on the map!
TJ AND DR. PHIL
In the ongoing / never-ending “debate” of TJ Ford and Jose Calderon, I thought I’d put on my psychiatrist hat and try to break down my feelings on this issue one more time.
To use the football example … the starting QB is never supposed to lose his job due to injury. As soon as he comes back healthy, the job is his.
However, in some circumstances – like the one that unfolded in Toronto – the back-up ends up playing SO well that even when the starter returns … it seems crazy to upset the balance again and have everyone have to start from scratch with the man who originally held the gig.
Such is/was the case in T.O. … when TJ Ford return after two months away from the Raps … only to find that Sam Mitchell was sticking with Jose Calderon as his “new” starting PG.
The easy response for many – when talking about TJ – is: “Suck it up. Play ball. Be a team player”.
But the reality of the situation is … like it or not … “sucking it up” is easier said than done. The COMPETITOR inside TJ Ford wants to play. That competitor wants to have his old job back; log heavy minutes; play meaningful minutes; control the offence and the team; and be one of the main go-to guys … especially in crunch time.
To suddenly ask that guy to play half of his usual allotment of minutes; come off the bench; sit on the bench during the late stages of most games; and have less of an overall impact on the team … is tough.
None of that changes the fact that Ford has had more downs than ups since his return to the Raptors … but … I’m merely stating that I can see where the man is coming from and where his mind might be at right now.
If I were in TJ’s shoes … would I want to be playing more? ABSOLUTELY.
Would I be happy with losing my starting job and having to accept the back-up role? Absolutely not.
Would I want to be on the floor in tight / meaningful situations and games overall? Absolutely.
Would I still believe that – truth or not – I’m the 2ND best player on this team and I think I can carry this team (even without Bosh) through anything … much like I did last year when I kept my team at .500 despite a long absence for CB4? Absolutely.
But there are signs that Ford is starting to “get it” …
His body language on the floor over the past couple of games has shown great improvements and his interaction with Calderon has been outstanding. Perhaps TJ finally got to the point where he may have said something like … This isn’t fair … but I’ve got to make the best of it and find other ways to help my team.
We’ll see how it all plays out over the final 12 games of the season. And, to be fair, Calderon (and the entire starting 5) need to step up their games as well. The Raptors have been falling behind too early; too often. I’m not necessarily in favour of a shake-up to the starting unit, but a collective head-shake could be in order.
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