Archive for July, 2008
Thursday, July 31st, 2008
Thursday July 31 2008 – 6:20pm Eastern
The FAN 590 announced earlier today that “The Coach” Jack Armstrong and former NHL coach and GM, Doug MacLean, will take over the afternoon airwaves as of August 18.
Today was Chuck Swirsky’s last show on the FAN and a decision had to be made RE: the Swirsk’s replacement.
FAN program director and VP, Nelson Millman, opted to take the 1:00pm-4:00pm slot and split it in two. Thus, as of the 18th, Armstrong and MacLean will hit the air from 2:00pm-4:00pm … while sports director Doug Farraway will host a magazine-style show from 1:00pm-2:00pm every day.
I don’t know MacLean very well at all … but look forward to welcoming him to the FAN team. However, as many of you know, I’m very close with Jack and I’m thrilled that this opportunity has come along for him. From his passion for the Yankees and baseball in general … to his love of all sports as a season ticket holder for the Buffalo Sabres, Buffalo Bills, and Toronto FC … Armstrong will bring more than just basketball to his afternoon show. Of course, there’ll be plenty of ball though … so Raptors’ fans are sure to get their fix!
I’ve had a lot of people ask me – and email me – if I was interested in the afternoon slot. To be honest, at first … I was interested in hosting or co-hosting the show … but the more I thought about it … the more I realized it made more sense to focus my time and attention to the Raptors radio broadcasts, Hoops, and my coverage of the Toronto Raptors off-day practices, etc.
I’d rather commit 100% to the Raptors then risk giving less than that to two separate jobs. I bet Swirsky would be the first one to admit that calling 82 games (plus playoffs) … including all of the travel … plus hosting a daily radio show can be very taxing on the body and mind! It should be a lot easier on Jack given that he won’t be traveling for all 82 … and he doesn’t have to worry about running around for practices and press conferences either! His situation is totally different.
I’m looking forward to year 4 as the Raptors radio analyst … alongside my friend and broadcast partner, Paul Jones.
All that said, I’m speaking from the standpoint of what “I” may have wanted … not the FAN overall. The FAN made a big splash with two ‘big names’ in the industry with Armstrong and MacLean.
I’m sure I’ll still be hosting on the FAN quite a bit … filling in regularly on the Bullpen and on “Game Plan” (Armstrong and MacLean’s new show) throughout the season … and even more-so during the summer and off-season.
And in my spare time … I … like many of you … will sit back and enjoy listening to Jack’s new journey.
Wednesday, July 30th, 2008
Wednesday July 30 2008 – 10:05am Eastern
What’s going on with the Khimky Moscow? Is that club the new hot-bed for ex-Raptors?
After signing both Carlos Delfino and Jorge Garbajosa, the total of former Raps now stands at 4.
Who else calls Moscow home right now?
Milt Palacio and your favourite French big-man … Jerome Moiso.
JACK AND LEO – PART 2
It was announced yesterday that both Jack Armstrong and Leo Rautins will return next season as colour analysts for the Raptors. Jack will call all of the games on TSN … while Leo handles the duties on The Score and on the CBC.
A number of people have emailed me though … wondering what will happen with the games on Raptors TV.
Well, according to the information I have and the folks I’ve talked to … there are currently NO games scheduled to be on Raptors TV this year. Thus, it’s a moot point.
Kudos to MLSE for selling all of their games to other broadcasters/stations. It may be good to have a handful of games on your own network – to highlight Raptors TV a little more – but it’s even better if you can sell the rights and be showcased in a bigger spotlight on TSN, CBC, or the Score.
Paul Jones and I will be back on the FAN 590 … calling all 82 games.
Here’s another one that sort of sprung up from the mailbag …
A lot of folks out in Western Canada have been wondering if the rumors are true RE: the Raptors playing an exhibition game in Edmonton this Fall.
Nothing has been confirmed yet, but according to my sources, that story is legit. Word is Toronto will have a least 1 or 2 pre-season games in California … so they’ll add Alberta to the trip either before or after playing in LA (and/or Golden State).
Again, it’s not set in stone … but it sure sounds like it’s happening. And we’ll know for sure in the next couple of weeks … when the NBA schedule is set to be released.
With Training Camp in Ottawa and a pre-season game in Edmonton, the Raps are doing a good job of trying to live up to being “Canada’s team”.
MORE ON RUSSIA AND EXHIBITIONS
The NBA has announced that 3 Euroleague teams will be coming overseas this fall to compete in some pre-season games in Orlando, Toronto, Golden State, and Los Angeles (both the Clippers and Lakers).
CSKA Moscow (2008 Euroleague Champions (Russia)), FC Barcelona (Spain), and Lietuvos Rytas (Lithuania) will compete in 5 exhibition games between October 10-21.
The Raptors will play CSKA Moscow on October 14 at the ACC.
Tuesday, July 29th, 2008
Tuesday July 29 2008 – 5:25pm Eastern
The following press release was just sent out by the Toronto Raptors PR / Media Relations staff:
The Toronto Raptors announced Tuesday that Jack Armstrong and Leo Rautins will return as the colour analysts on the team’s television broadcasts for the 2008-09 season. They will join Matt Devlin , who was named July 9 as the team’s new television play-by-play announcer.
“These two broadcasters will bring Raptors fans the in-depth analysis that they have come to expect on all of our game broadcasts,” said Chris Hebb, senior vice-president of broadcast and content for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. “They have the experience and knowledge to deliver a compelling story every night and we are thrilled to have them returning to the fold.”
The upcoming season marks Armstrong’s 11th with the organization and the 14th for Rautins. Armstrong will serve as the analyst on all TSN games and appear regularly on SportsCentre as the network’s NBA Insider. Rautins will handle the duties for contests on CBC and The Score, while working alongside Rod Black as studio analyst on TSN’s NBA Studio shows. Both Armstrong and Rautins will continue to add their expertise to various programs on Raptors NBA TV, including pre- and post-game analysis.
Armstrong and Devlin have worked together in the past calling NCAA and WNBA games. Armstrong began his broadcasting career as a radio analyst for the Raptors following a successful 14-year coaching career at the collegiate level.
In addition to his duties with the Raptors, Armstrong is a regular NBA commentator in Canada and a television analyst for NCAA basketball on CSTV, Comcast, Empire Sports Network, Fox Sports, MASN TV, New York/MSG, ESPN’s regional coverage and the Atlantic 10 Conference TV Network. His commentating also extended to the WNBA where he worked for MSG on New York Liberty telecasts for two seasons.
Rautins has been on the Canadian basketball scene for almost 30 years as a player, broadcaster and ambassador of the game. In addition to his broadcasting portfolio, Rautins is the head coach of the Canadian Senior Men’s National Basketball Team.
A 23-year veteran of television, radio and newspaper journalism, Rautins has worked Syracuse University basketball games on both radio and TV and has also broadcast NCAA, NBA, and NBDL basketball for ESPN, ESPN 2, and ESPN Regional. Rautins covered the 1994 World Championships for CTV.
Rautins graduated with honours from the prestigious S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse in 1983. His broadcasting career tipped off as radio analyst for Syracuse basketball and as a CBC radio broadcaster announcing games from the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles .
Monday, July 28th, 2008
Monday July 28 2008 – 8:58am Eastern
Hope everyone had a good weekend … as the wild weather (at least in Southern Ontario) continues this summer!
Canada gets smoked by the US; Biedrins and Vujacic stick in Golden State and LA respectively; and Mo Evans continues his NBA travelling road show (6 teams in 7 years).
But here are a few other bullets for you …
So Oklahoma City is one step closer to finding a name … and I’ve got to say I like some of their choices.
Apparently the league has filed the following nicknames to the US Patent and Trademark Office:
Alright, throw out the cheese-ball names ASAP; Thunder, Wind, and Energy are gone. LAME!
But I’m cool with he other three. I’m not quite sure why it’d be “Bison” instead of “Bisons” – like the AAA baseball team in Buffalo … (though dropping the ”S” is gramatically correct). But then again … why is “Marshalls” spelled with two L’s instead of 1? Oh well.
“Barons” would be my top choice though. I think it’s got a good ring to it. And apparently there are some leaks on the web claiming that Barons will get the nod when all is said and done. We’ll see.
TEAM CANADA RANKED # 1
Unfortunately, no, we’re not talking about the Canadian Men’s National Team coached by Leo Rautins. That clubbed got thumped by the US National Team in an exhibition game on Friday night and they failed to qualify for the Olympics at the tournament in Athens about a week ago.
However, the Canadian Men’s AND Women’s Wheelchair Basketball teams are both ranked # 1 in the world as they head in to the Beijing Paralympic Games.
Both teams will be in Toronto over the next week or so … with the Men holding a training camp at Humber College from August 5-8 and the Women competing in a tournament at the Etobicoke Olympium with Brazil, Mexico, Germany, and Great Britain from August 1-4.
Of note …
- Canadian Women’s Team member Misty Thomas is set to become the first Canadian athlete ever to compete in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Thomas was on the 1984 National Team that competed in the Los Angeles Olympics but multiple knee injuries over the years (from playing basketball) have resulted in her having to use a wheelchair now.
- The Canadian Men’s Team is looking for their third straight Paralympic Gold after winning Gold Medals at the last two Paralympic Games in 2000 and 2004. They are currently ranked #1 in the world.
- Canadian Women’s Team member Tracy Ferguson is competing in Beijing in both wheelchair basketball and athletics.
KAPONO IN TOWN
Raptor swingman Jason Kapono will be in Toronto on Monday to participate in the Raptors Basketball Academy.
Kapono will speak with the young basketball players at Humber College and also take part in various drills.
Kapono actually arrived in T.O. over the weekend and helped judge the “Dance Pak” auditions at the ACC yesterday. Tough life.
Friday, July 25th, 2008
Friday July 25 2008 – 6:05pm Eastern
I mentioned earlier in the week that I’d check in RE: my trip to Las Vegas last weekend … and I forgot to do so! So here we go …
This trip to Sin City was simply a vacation – it wasn’t meant for work at all – but my wife is a big basketball fan as well so she didn’t mind heading over to UNLV to check out some of the Summer League action. We decided to not go to Friday’s game … but we did head to Saturday’s final game … against Golden State.
Not only did the organizers do a great job of running things, but the crowd in Vegas was outstanding. I was expecting to see a couple hundred people at the games … but there was more like a couple thousand. And there were plenty of Raptors fans in the house.
Alvin Gentry, Joe Wolf, John Lucas, Rafer Alston, Ronny Turiaf, Etan Thomas, Pape Sow and even Keith Closs were just some of the folks spotted on that day alone (and Rafer still has a lot of love for T.O.). Plus, the Raptors full brain-trust was in attendance as well — Bryan Colangelo, Masai Ujiri, Marc Eversley, Sam Mitchell, Alex English, Jay Triano, Mike Evans, and Gord Herbert (Maurizio Gherardini was overseas).
In the game itself … Joey Graham looked solid, but from talking to folks – including his father, Joseph - it was his least impressive of the 5 games Toronto played.
I was keeping a close eye on Nathan Jawai and Hassan Adams. Offensively, Adams wasn’t doing much early on but he was still playing solid D and I think he was taking a step back on offense, letting some of the other guys – the ones truly fighting for jobs – take a few more shots. But down the stretch – in the 4th quarter - Adams was aggressive; calling for the ball and driving hard through the lane a number of times.
Jawai was battling through his nagging groin injury but in the minutes he played he did show some flashes. Considering this guy has only been playing ball for about 5 years … his foot work and hands are good. He’s got those fundamentals down. He’ll have to work on his touch around the hoop, but I’m sure that’ll come in time with the coaching and attention from Herbert and others as well.
I don’t really know what will become of ”the others” … like John Lucas III, Daniel Ewing, etc. Honestly, I’m not sure there’s a spot on this team for any of those guys. But the one player that was outstanding - at least in the 1 game I saw – was Desmon Farmer. He had a good touch, nice range, and went to the hoop as well. I don’t know if he’ll be considered for the big club or not (I have a feeling they’re leaning more towards a veteran PG – someone to back up Jose Calderon and Roko Ukic) but he definitely opened my eyes last Saturday in the loss to the Warriors.
The rest of Saturday, Sunday, and Monday was spent poolside. I wish I was back there again this weekend!
Vegas Baby … Vegas.
Thursday, July 24th, 2008
Thursday July 24 2008 – 5:45pm Eastern
Here’s a list of NBA players who will compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics:
Chris Bosh – Toronto Raptors – USA
Roko-Leni Ukic – Toronto Raptors – Croatia
Jose Calderon – Toronto Raptors – Spain
Dirk Nowitzki – Dallas Mavericks – Germany
Jason Kidd – Dallas Mavericks – USA
Yao Ming – Houston Rockets – China
Luis Scola – Houston Rockets – Argentina
Kobe Bryant – Los Angeles Lakers – USA
Pau Gasol – Los Angeles Lakers – Spain
Manu Ginobili – San Antonio Spurs – Argentina
Fabricio Oberto – San Antonio Spurs – Argentina
Carlos Boozer – Utah Jazz – USA
Deron Williams – Utah Jazz – USA
Andrei Kirilenko – Utah Jazz – Russia
Linas Kleiza – Denver Nuggets – Lithuania
Carmelo Anthony – Denver Nuggets – USA
Chris Kaman – Los Angeles Clippers – Germany
Andrew Bogut – Milwaukee Bucks – Australia
Michael Redd – Milwaukee Bucks – USA
Rudy Fernandez – Portland Trailblazers – Spain
Darius Songaila – Washington Wizards – Lithuania
Marc Gasol – Memphis Grizzlies – Spain
Dwyane Wade – Miami Heat – USA
Lebron James – Cleveland Cavaliers – USA
Dwight Howard – Orlando Magic – USA
Chris Paul – New Orleans Hornets – USA
Tayshaun Prince – Detroit Pistons – USA
Andres Nocioni – Chicago Bulls – Argentina
Yi Jianlian – New Jersey Nets - China
Players whose “rights” are held by NBA teams:
David Andersen* – Atlanta Hawks – Australia
Stanko Barac* – Indiana Pacers – Croatia
Giorgos Printezis* – Toronto Raptors Greece
Federico Kammerichs* – Portland Trailblazers – Argentina
Sofoklis Schortsiantitis* – Los Angeles Clippers – Greece
Robertas Javtokas* – San Antonio Spurs – Lithuania
Sun Yue* – Los Angeles Lakers – China
Renaldas Seibutis* – Dallas Mavericks – Lithuania
Brad Newley* – Houston Rockets – Australia
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008
Wednesday July 23 2008 – 9:05am Eastern
Vegas was solid. I did leave a lot of my money in Sin City though … but it’s all good. I’m sure they’ll send me a refund one of these days anyway, right?
I had a chance to check out the Raptors final Summer League game on Saturday and I will write about it later today or tomorrow. For now, I thought I’d pass along this news …
There’s been a major shuffle in the Raptors front office staff; nobody is really going anywhere, but a number of people have received new titles and I’m sure more cash is coming with these promotions as well. Kudos to …
Maurizio Gherardini (formerly the VP and Asst GM) … who is now the Raptors Senior VP of Basketball Operations.
Marc Eversley (formerly Director of Basketball Operations) … who is now Assistant General Manager, Player Development.
Masai Ujiri (formerly Director of Global Scouting) … who is now Assistant General Manager, Player Personnel.
Jim Kelly (formerly Director of Player Personnel) … who is now Senior Director of Player Personnel. Kelly will be entering his 15th season with the Raps.
Steve Fruitman (formerly Director of Basketball Finance) … who is now Toronto’s Senior Director of Basketball Administration. Fruitman is the Raptors CBA guru.
Micah Nori (formerly Advance Scout) … who is now Director of NBA Scouting. Nori enters his 11th season with T.O.
Friday, July 18th, 2008
Friday July 18 2008 – 1:30am Eastern
I’ll be on a plane while Canada is playing Croatia later this morning … so I’ll hope to find out some good news when I land.
It’s 1:30am and I’m heading to Las Vegas in about five hours.
Ironically, this trip to Vegas has nothing to do with the Raptors Summer League either. This is just a quick get-away for my wife and I … after celebrating our 2-year anniversary earlier this week. But I do plan on checking out the Raps while I’m there; probably their final game on Saturday afternoon.
Joey Graham continues his strong play for Toronto … but he wasn’t able to get his club over the hump last night, as the Raptors fell lost to Philly and dropped to 0-3 in Summer League action.
I’ll probably be away from the computer for the next couple of days … so my next blog entry likely won’t come until Tuesday afternoon when I’m back from Sin City.
I’ll see if I can’t dig up a few nuggets RE: the Raptors while I’m wandering around Vegas for a few days. But this trip is supposed to be a vacation … not work! I’ve got too much blackjack to get in … and some pool-side chill time as well.
Enjoy the weekend folks
Thursday, July 17th, 2008
Thursday July 17 2008 – 9:50am Eastern
I’m supposed to be on vacation, but it really hasn’t worked out that way this week … given all that has happened with the Canadian Men’s Basketball Team. There was a brutal loss … followed by a dramatic win … topped off by the release of one of the club’s best players.
As Canada gets set for a must-win game against Croatia on Friday, the attention on the team is off the floor, not on it, following Samuel Dalembert’s departure.
There’s a lot of “he said, she said” going on right now though. Nobody – fans or media – really knows what happened with Leo Rautins, Dalembert, and/or the rest of his teammates. The details of how things boiled over have been kept in-house.
However, I may be able to shed some light on the situation.
I spoke with Leo last night – in an exchange of a number of emails. Understandably … he still didn’t get into every single detail — those things should be kept in-house if at all possible … for team unity if nothing else — but he did provide a little more perspective.
I was able to piece together a little more of the story by chatting with others close to the team in Athens, Greece as well.
None of this is meant as a personal attack on Dalembert, but here’s what I was able to learn from some of the conversations I had regarding this soap opera:
Dalembert’s overall commitment has been questioned recently … for reasons like … he’s frequently late; stays out late; doesn’t eat meals with the team. There’s a sense that he had maybe alienated a number of his teammates.
Further to that point, it sounds like not one player said a word about Dalembert’s departure. Nobody. There was a suggestion that some may have even been glad to see him (or his attitude) go.
Why is it that Joel Anthony – the other NBA’er – can fit in and buy in to what’s being preached, but Dalembert apparently couldn’t? Granted, Anthony’s not making $50+ million, but should that matter? Does the money suddenly give Dalembert some sort of free pass to do or say whatever he pleases?
Why is it that Dirk Nowitzki seems to be able to adjust to the international team — going from being a star (and MVP) in the NBA … to being ‘one of the guys’ on the German team — but Dalembert allegedly can’t? Ditto for even a lesser star like Carlos Arroyo and Puerto Rico.
Heck, you could even look at Team USA. Think of all of the attitudes and arrogance that could be present on that club. But if you remember last summer … wasn’t Kobe Bryant a defender, not a scorer? And how many shots did Jason Kidd take?
Guys bought into their roles for the betterment of the team. You didn’t have a rebounder and a shot-blocker jacking up 18-20 footers; not doing what makes him (and his team) best.
Plus, what happened earlier this year when Jerry Colangelo called Amare Stoudemire and invited him to play on the team and the big man hesitated? Well, last I checked, Amare’s not on the team. Unless you’re committed, you’re not wanted. Period.
Dalembert has said – in the past – both privately and to the media that he really likes Leo Rautins and that no coach at any level has done for him what Rautins has. But when confronted with some of the issues that seemed to be disrupting the team and/or upsetting team officials and coaches, Dalembert apparently scoffed at those suggestions and engaged in a heated verbal exchange with Rautins.
This run-in happened on the team bus and those close to the situation said Dalembert swore at Rautins (something the big man later denied) and the coach asked him to get off the bus.
Again, apparently no teammate stood up for Dalembert and some even laughed (openly? I don’t know) when Sam refused to accept the fact that some of his behavior and attitude was possibly hurting the team chemistry on and off the floor.
Rautins told me the door is open for Sam to return to the team … sort of. He stressed that it’s really not his decision. Rautins said the decision to come back or not is up to Dalembert … but only if his teammates want him back. Basically, the coach is allowing his players to decide if they want Dalembert back or not (if Sam is even interested in returning).
I would expect that kind of situation to unfold AFTER this tournament is over though – if Canada qualifies for Beijing; I can’t imagine Dalembert would play again in Athens.
For what it’s worth, I applaud Rautins for taking a stand on this issue. If Dalembert was hurting the team … then it wasn’t worth keeping him around. Any suggestion that Canada Basketball should simply put up with this because Dalembert is their biggest star is ridiculous. Making millions means nothing. If you don’t have the right attitude or approach, why should others automatically cater to that? Is that going to make your program desirable to other players down the road – including other NBA’ers? For example, would Anthony (an NBA’er) want to come back to that kind of environment?
There’s no doubt that this decision sets Canada back quite a bit though.
With Jesse Young hurt – and Dalembert now gone – the Canadian front court is looking pretty thin with Levon Kendall and Anthony as the only true ‘bigs’ left on the team.
We’ll see how it all unfolds on Friday morning when Canada tries to advance to the Semi Finals … when they play Croatia.
* As I said, I’m on vacation. So I’m going golfing now! Thus, your comments (below) may not be addressed until later this evening.
Wednesday, July 16th, 2008
Wednesday July 16 2008 – 5:20pm Eastern
This was just sent to me by the Raptors PR staff:
The Toronto Raptors announced Wednesday they have signed guard Roko Ukić (pronounced RO-ko OO-keech) to a three-year contract. Per team policy, financial details were not disclosed. Ukić was a second-round selection (41st overall) by the Raptors in the 2005 NBA Draft.
Ukić, 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, played in Italy last season with Lottomatica Virtus Roma. He averaged career highs of 11.5 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.1 steals in 19 Euroleague contests. He shot .545 from the field and .824 from the charity stripe. He had a high of 23 points versus Partizan Igokea and eight assists on two occasions (at Real Madrid and at Panathinaikos).
In 34 regular season Italian League outings, Ukić again posted career bests with averages of 11.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.7 steals. He shot .599 from the floor and .748 at the foul line. He totaled a high of 27 points at Tisettanta Cantù
Toronto played against Ukić and Lottomatica during the Raptors’ NBA Europe Live ‘07 visit to Rome . Ukić had 10 points and nine assists in 38 minutes as the Raptors won 93-87.
Ukić, 22, began his professional career in 2000-01 with KK Split ( Croatia ). He played four seasons with KK Split before moving to Spain and Tau Ceramica Vitoria for the 2005-06 season. He spent the 2006-07 campaign with FC Barcelona. He helped his teams to the 2006 and 2007 Spanish National Championship (King’s Cup).
Ukić is a member of the Croatian National Team and is competing in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Athens , July 14-20.