Archive for June, 2008
Monday, June 30th, 2008
Monday June 30 2008 – 8:55am Eastern
Nearly two weeks of training at the ACC have wrapped up and it’s not time for the Canadian Men’s National Basketball Team to hit the floor for real as they get set for their Olympic Qualifier in the middle of July.
And there will be a few changes to this year’s team, with three players from last summer’s squad not making the grade this time around.
As I reported first 10-14 days ago, Denham Brown was a no-show at the Canadian camp. His absence came as a huge shock to head coach Leo Rautins and most of the members of the Canadian team as well. To my knowledge, Brown has still not given Rautins or the team any kind of explanation regarding his situation and why he essentially walked out on his team.
Rumblings suggest Brown wasn’t happy with his role on the team – wanting to play more and maybe stand out more – as opposed to playing the inconsistent minutes (in his eyes) that he had in Las Vegas last summer. Whether or not that is legit is anybody’s guess, ’cause nobody has been able to track down Brown.
He would have been on this team had he not turned his back on the club and handled his situation like this. He was even featured in a number of video and print advertisements for Canada Basketball, but it was all for not.
Brown’s spot on the roster was quickly filled by veteran Rowan Barrett. The 35-year-old is back for his final stint with the national team and he should provide some solid offensive production and some much-needed leadership and experience as well.
Joel Anthony is one of the other new faces this year. Anthony, coming off a solid rookie season with the Miami Heat, was hurt last year and unable to play for Rautins and the Canadians. Had he been healthy, the Montreal-native would have been on the team. Thus, it was a no-brainer that he’d join the club this summer.
“Anthony is an athletic freak that has improved dramatically offensively,” said Rautins.
Anthony should add even more size to an already big and versatile Canadian front court.
“Jesse Young is twice the player he was last year because he now has his physical assets back as he is finally healthy and in great shape,” said Rautins. “(And) Dalembert is 30 pounds lighter than last year’s camp!”
But with Anthony now in the mix, the question became: Who ISN’T going to make the team?
Unfortunately, Ryan Bell and Vlad Kuljanin were sent packing. Word is that Kuljanin didn’t have the greatest camp - struggling at times to find his consistency – and Bell simply got beat out by the surprise of this year’s camp, BC’s Tyler Kepkay.
“He was outstanding,” said Rautins. “He’s a true point; a hard worker; very skilled; (and) his strength makes his size (6’0) non-issue.”
So Barrett, Anthony, and Kepkay will join their teammates for their first game action tonight in Hamilton. The Jack Donohue International Classic gets underway at McMaster University. Canada will take on Lebanon at 7:00pm and then face New Zealand at 4:00pm tomorrow … on Canada Day. You can get tickets on www.ticketmaster.ca or log on to www.basketball.ca to find out more info. Tickets are relatively inexpensive and I’d encourage fans to come out and support the National Team in their quest for the Olympics.
The Canadian men will be in Toronto later this week for two more tune-up games against New Zealand and Lebanon … at Ricoh Coliseum on Friday and Saturday night.
All of these game – plus a couple more coming up in Germany and Dirk Nowitzki and the German National Team – are serving as a tune-up to the qualifier Canada will play in Athens, Greece from July 14-20. The top 3 teams from that 12-country tournament will earn a berth in the Olympics.
NOTE: Here is the official roster for the 2008 Canadian Men’s National Basketball Team:
Saturday, June 28th, 2008
Saturday June 28 2008 – 12:15pm Eastern
So, as I mentioned in a quick blog last night, I had a chance to meet Nathan Jawai.
I was coming home from dinner with my wife … just walking the streets … and I ran into the big man. Jawai had just flown in from New York, and he was wandering around town.
So I introduced myself and stood there on the street having a chat for 5-10 minutes.
The first thing that struck me – besides how nice and polite the guy was – was the fact that he looked trim! I’ll be the first to admit that I knew very little about him or his game when the Raptors (Pacers) took him at #41 on Thursday night. Scouts had talked about his upside and his athleticism and hands for a man his size … but there wasn’t much else out there about the Aussie … other than little reports or recaps on ESPN and other sites. Thus, the one thing that stood out about Jawai for me – and many of you I’m sure – was the 280-285 pounds that he allegedly weighs.
Well, with no scale available on the street, I couldn’t get an exact reading … but … Jawai certainly doesn’t look 280 to me. When I think 280 … I think … BIG; almost “fat”. Jawai looked more like 260lbs to me. He looked to be in great shape. It’s the first thing that hit me.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe if he stepped on a scale he would be 280 … but if he is … he carries it well. The guy is not overweight or pudgy. He looks solid.
And he’s THRILLED to be in Toronto. He said he knew there were a number of teams that were interested in him – in fact he thought he might be going to the Cleveland Cavaliers – but when he found out that he was coming to the Raptors he was estatic. He said, and I quote, that he “wanted” to be here.
It’s not his first time in Toronto either. He said he’s been here a couple of times before … with the Australian national team. He loves the city. And he’s going to be spending at least a couple of weeks here right now.
When I told him that some of his ‘neighbors’ from New Zealand were in town next week for a couple of exhibition games against Team Canada (Note: You should really get tickets and go support the Canadian team), he was thrilled to find out he’d have a chance to watch some ball and go say hello to some of his Kiwi friends.
He might even pop over to the Canadian side and give a quick hello to David Thomas. The Canuck has been making a name for himself in Australia for a number of years and he actually just left Melbourne to sign with Jawai’s now-former-club, Cairns.
Jawai (Note: He told me it’s actually pronounced “Jaw-Why” – Almost like two separate words: Jaw. Why.) said he was watching the NBA Draft at the ESPN Zone (restaurant) in Times Square when he found out he had been selected. However, he didn’t get to hear his name called. For those that watched on Thursday, you’ll remember that ESPN went to commercial after the NJ Nets selected Chris Douglas-Roberts at #40. When the broadcast finally came back from the break, Jawai said he saw his name on the little ticker at the bottom of the screen and realized he had just been drafted. It was sort of anti-climatic but a thrill nonetheless.
Before we ended the conversation, my wife said to Nathan “I hear they call you Baby Shaq” …
Jawai smiled and laughed and said some people have given him that tag but, respectfully, he hates it. Based on that … I’m guessing he doesn’t like ‘Aussie Shaq’ then either.
Regardless, the guy doesn’t need a nickname. He’s a just a good, down-to-earth young man that I believe fans of the Raptors will enjoy having in town.
Welcome to Toronto, Nate.
- Apparently there was a glitch with our blogs on the FAN site and my post from last night got deleted, as did this one (which was originally posted around Noon on Saturday). But, luckily, I had this one saved … so re-posting it was easy!
Friday, June 27th, 2008
Friday June 27 2008 – 5:35pm Eastern
Nobody can do anything about it — nobody other than David Stern or the league office — but last night was a little bit ridiculous at the ACC.
Because of the fact that nobody from within the organization can say anything OFFICIAL until July 9, everyone connected to the team is acting as if the TJ Ford / Jermaine O’Neal deal hasn’t actually gone down. Even though TJ Ford was on the FAN 590 earlier this afternoon (talking about moving to the Pacers) and even though O’Neal has already been quoted by the Associated Press saying he’s looking forward to coming to Toronto … Bryan Colangelo can’t say a word about it.
In fact, last night Colangelo had to talk about the 17th pick (Roy Hibbert) as if he was part of the Raptors’ plans. The team even handed out a press release announcing Hibbert’s selection. And of course nobody could / would say a word about Nathan Jawai … the player the Pacers selected at #41 … for the Raptors.
I’ve got to guess that Colangelo isn’t thrilled about this. The media relations staff can’t like it. And the media sure isn’t in love with the idea as well. It becomes a total circus … talking about deals that have ”unofficially officially” been consummated. It’s like there’s a big pink elephant in the room … and everybody sees it … but nobody wants to admit it or talk about it.
But this is the way it has to be because of contracts and base-year compensation and 8-day moratoriums.
For example, TJ Ford’s 2008-2009 contract doesn’t kick-in until July 1. Plus, he’s a base-year guy. Those are the main reasons that the Raptors can’t confirm the O’Neal transaction. On top of that, the NBA has an 8-day freeze on any deals or signings between July 1 and July 9. So that’s another road block in making things official. Thus, the first day you’ll see Jermaine O’Neal in Toronto … wearing a Raptors jersey … is July 9.
The league could avoid all of this dancing though.
I’m sure smarter minds than me have hammered this out already – and there are probably flaws in my theory – but what if contracts kicked-in on the night of the Draft? Or “on the final Thursday in June” each year (when the Draft is generally held each season). That would avoid one aspect of this song and dance. However, the other hurdle may be bigger — the 8-day moratorium. I say … simply … get rid of it. But the league probably wants to keep that in place to avoid the appearance of “tampering” (negotiating with a guy before he’s technically a free agent) when somebody is signed at 12:01am … just seconds or minutes after the free agent / signing period has opened.
No matter what … something has to change. In today’s day and age there are rarely secrets. We live in a world with 700 channels on TV and a million different websites, newspapers, and other various media outlets. Trades are going to be uncovered or leaked. It’s just the way it is. So to make GM’s and coaches and everyone else dance around the issue – and the truth – is completely ridiculous … isn’t it?
Thursday, June 26th, 2008
Thursday June 26 2008
7:05pm Eastern – Stu Scott just said it … we’re here for 4-5 hours. Holy Cow! I might be bald by the end of the night (and I’m already on my way there anyway).
Feel free to post questions/comments throughout the night folks. That’s where I’ll be updating the blog through the night. It’s easier to do it in the “comments” section than it would be if I kept re-saving and re-posting this original piece.
Thursday, June 26th, 2008
Thursday June 26 2008 – 4:10pm Eastern
Given the fact that the FAN 590 has the Blue Jays game on the air at 7:00pm … I’m not doing much tonight. Unfortunately, there is no “Draft Show” to host on the FAN.
Thus, I’ll be hanging out at the ACC, watching the draft with a number of the member of the T.O. media … waiting for Bryan Colangelo to come down and chat with us once or twice throughout the evening.
So, I figured I’d “work” a little bit during the draft itself … and provide a semi-live blog throughout the night!
I’ll give you my pick-by-by thoughts as the draft unfolds … and answer your questions as well. I might even enlist Paul Jones to do some of the work as well!
So be sure to check out this column/blog beginning at 7:00pm tonight, right on through to the end of the draft around Midnight!
Thursday, June 26th, 2008
Thursday June 26 2008 – 9:10am Eastern
Are there question marks about the acquisition of Jermaine O’Neal?
But do the pros outweigh the cons?
In my eyes, absolutely.
O’Neal is coming off two seasons marred by bumps, bruises, major injuries, surgery, and rehab. Some are wondering if he has any of that “All Star talent” left in him that he displayed in a 4-5 years stretch with the Pacers that saw him evolve into (pretty much) a 20 and 10 guy. He was one of the most dominant big men in the NBA.
O’Neal missed 40 games last year – mostly due to a left knee injury (torn meniscus). His rehabilitation didn’t go well and it certainly hindered his return to the flow. But so too did his attitude towards the current state of his Pacers club. O’Neal apparently didn’t see eye to eye with coach Jim O’Brien or team president Larry Bird. He wanted no part of a rebuilding project and yearned for the days when Indy was winning 50-60 games and considered one of the best – if not THE best – teams in the Eastern Conference.
That black cloud is now hanging over O’Neal’s head. But maybe, just maybe, a fresh start is exactly what he needs … not only regarding his injuries … but his attitude as well.
Coming to the Raptors offers an opportunity to prove to the league that he’s not done — that his knee IS healthy again — and he’s got plenty left in his 29-year-old tank. He’s still young enough that he’s got at least one more big contract left in him … and if he hopes to get that deal when his current contract runs out in two years … he’ll have to earn it on and off the floor with Toronto.
O’Neal should be smart enough to realize all of this. And if he comes in rejuvenated, he’ll help form one of the most potent 1-2 front court punches in the league … alongside Chris Bosh.
Toronto needed to get tougher; they needed more rebounder; and they needed help on the defensive end. Jermaine O’Neal fills all of those voids. He’s a shot-blocking presence down low and he’ll go after it on the glass. Between him and Bosh, the Raps should be a force to be reckoned with in terms of rebounding. When was the last time we said that about a Raptors squad?
And while it’s fair to be concerned about O’Neal’s perceived attitude, dare I suggest that this might be exactly what Toronto needs? Obviously no team in any league wants a cancer in their locker room or internal strife, but would a little attitude or nastiness not be a good thing?
Folks have been saying for a long time that the Raptors are “too nice” — that they need a little “grit”. Well, O’Neal can provide that.
But don’t be fooled: Toronto has not acquired a complete jerk. O’Neal can be very engaging with the fans and media. He proved that in Indy before things went sour. He may not be a choir boy or boyscout, but he’s not a total punk or thug either.
O’Neal’s presence in Toronto’s front court will allow Mitchell to bring Andrea Bargnani off the bench – using Bosh, O’Neal, and Bargnani in a 3-man rotation of the bigs. Kris Humphries, barring another trade that brings in another big body, will likely see more minutes in the shuffling of bodies as well.
If I had to guess, I’d say the starting line up with feature Bosh, O’Neal, Jose Calderon, Anthony Parker, and Jason Kapono. Kapono will likely get the shot to start again following his impressive performance during the Raptors first round series against the Orlando Magic 6 weeks ago.
With TJ Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, and Joey Graham gone (that’s who I’m hearing is the “other play” in this deal; though that’s not confirmed (other reports are suggesting it’s Maceo Baston) … Toronto’s bench would feature: Jamario Moon, Humphries, and Bargnani.
The rest of the 2nd unit will be filled via trades and/or free agency. The Raptors due have the mid-level (around $5 million) to spend on a free agent and I have a feeling Bryan Colangelo will not be happy sitting back at the draft tonight. I believe Toronto could be very active in trying to obtain a late first-round pick this evening … after giving up #17 to Indy.
It’s shaping up to be an interesting off season for Toronto … and if you’re a Raptor fan … hopefully an even more interesting season next year!
- FINAL NOTE: If nothing else, Toronto gets some MAJOR cap relief in two years when O’Neal’s contract expires. The Raptors will have $20+ million to spend on the free agent market at a time when the likes of Bosh and LeBron James will be up for grabs to the highest bidder. So this move is not only a short-term gain, but possibly a long-term fix as well.
Wednesday, June 25th, 2008
Wednesday June 25 2008 – 5:20pm Eastern
I just got back from the informal pre-Draft press conference that Bryan Colangelo held at the ACC.
Quite honestly, there’s not a ton to report. Colangelo couldn’t say a whole lot. He can’t / won’t (and shouldn’t) divulge exactly what his team is going to do tomorrow night and he can’t get into the inner workings of trades and other teams’ plans as well.
The GM also has to be somewhat guarded in what he says about some of the prospects – for risk of tampering, etc. That’s one of the reasons that Director of Player Personnel, Jim Kelly, has been the front-man for most of the media scrums (following the workouts) over the past couple of weeks … instead of folks like BC, Maurizio Gherardini, or Sam Mitchell.
However, Colangelo did drop a few nuggets that may be of interest to some of you …
He admitted that he’s got about 4-5 conversations going on right now regarding a potential deal for TJ Ford. And of those five chat, Colangelo said two are final and awaiting a decision from the Raptors; another two are considered “fluid” in his mind (I take it that means “on-going”); and the other is still be negotiated.
Finally, he did throw out a number of names that could be on Toronto’s radar … if they keep that 17th pick. This could mean nothing; this could mean everything. Who really knows. But here are the names that he did mention in casual passing – talking about some of the strengths of these players:
- Alexis Ajinca
- Robin Lopez
- Roy Hibbert
- Marreese Speights
- JaVale McGee
- JJ Hickson
- Jason Thompson
- Darrell Arthur
Colangelo’s main attention seemed to be on ‘bigs’ — centers and power forwards. It seems like if the Raptors keep that 17th pick, that’s the direction they’ll go.
But he did mention a couple of swing guys as well:
- Brandon Rush
- Donte Green
We’ll find out how it all unfolds in just over 24 hours.
Wednesday, June 25th, 2008
Wednesday June 25 2008 – 3:50pm Eastern
I figured it was time for me to weigh-in with my own Mock Draft … seeing as everybody seems to be doing one these days!
Keep in mind though … this Mock is based on NO trades going down … and chances are … there’ll be a few deals – maybe even involving the Raptors!
So here is my Mock … up to the Raptors selection at #17:
1. Derrick Rose – Chicago
2. Michael Beasley – Miami
3. OJ Mayo – Minnesota
4. Russell Westbrook – Seattle
5. Kevin Love – Memphis
6. Danilo Gallinari – New York
7. Jerryd Bayless – LA Clippers
8. Joe Alexander – Milwaukee
9. Brook Lopez – Charlotte
10. Eric Gordon – New Jersey
11. DJ Augustin – Indiana
12. Anthony Randolph – Sacramento
13. Mario Chalmers – Portland
14. Kosta Koufos – Golden State
15. Brandon Rush – Phoenix
16. JJ Hickson – Philadelphia
17. Alexis Ajinca – Toronto
Tuesday, June 24th, 2008
Tuesday June 24 2008 – 2:50pm Eastern
The NBA Draft is just two days away and the basketball rumour mill is working overtime!
Take a look at any number of basketball websites – ESPN, SI, Hoops Hype, Real GM, and so on – and you’ll get a TON of possible moves and supposedly pending deals.
Here in Toronto, the name that continues to get banged around is TJ Ford.
Ford’s name has been linked to trade talk in Phoenix and most recently in Indiana. According to reports, the deal with the Suns would land the Raptors Boris Diaw, while the Indy trade would see Jermaine O’Neal in the big smoke … with Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, and the 17th pick going to the Pacers.
Whether or not these rumours are legit is anybody’s guess. But it’s probably safe to assume that “where there’s smoke, there’s fire”. If Ford’s name keeps coming up in rumours, is it not safe to assume that Toronto is trying to deal him?
Well, I had a chance to talk to Ford on Monday.
We chatted via back-and-forth text messages for about 10-15 minutes. I had originally contacted him to see if he’d come on the air with me or at least give me a quote or two for this ‘ol blog. But TJ wanted to keep things off the record.
So I’ve got to respect his wishes. I can’t say much at all about what we chatted about. However, I don’t think Ford would mind me sharing this one line that he gave in response to all of the trade talk:
“I guess we will see, but I like Toronto.”
I get the feeling that Ford knows in his heart of hearts that something is likely going to happen but he wants to remain a Raptor. He said that almost two months ago when the players were cleaning out their lockers after the first-round loss to the Magic. Ford had nothing but good things to say about T.O. and his future here. But the only comment that a lot of folks remember – like it or not – was when Ford stated that he wanted to be in Toronto but didn’t see himself coming off the bench (i.e. – backing up Jose Calderon) for 82 games.
Calderon later made a similar comment to the Spanish media overseas.
No matter who is right, wrong, or otherwise … it seems clear (and it’s been clear for a while) that one of the two guards must go before the beginning of next season and all signs – right now – appear to be pointing to Ford being the one on the move.
It should be noted as well, Larry Bird has shot down the Ford and O`Neal rumours on the Pacers website (www.pacers.com)
Monday, June 23rd, 2008
Monday June 23 2008 – 2:05pm Eastern
Just a quick one folks …
So, I’m sitting at the ACC, waiting to chat with JJ Hickson and Jim Kelly – watching the various prospects go through their final few minutes of their workout … when who wanders by?
The San Antonio Spurs forward is in town for a good chunk of this summer … prepping for his August wedding to a Toronto native. Bonner is actually getting married in the GTA … after proposing to his fiance during the NBA All Star weekend in February.
Bonner was decked-out in his Spurs’ practice gear … working out in the weight room with good friend, Kris Humphries.
Man, I feel like ‘Entertainment Tonight’ or something with this kind of post!