Archive for July, 2009
Thursday, July 30th, 2009
Thursday July 30 2009 - 5:07am Eastern (Toronto, ON)
Marco Belinelli to the Raptors, eh?
Well that one sure came out of left field.
If nothing else, give Bryan Colangelo credit for one thing: He keeps his moves VERY quiet. Since coming to Toronto, how many signings or trades have been a complete shock to all of us (yes, I’m including the media)?
This summer has been unreal. Like the players or not, did you see the Reggie Evans deal coming? How ’bout a 4-team trade that would allow the Raps to sign a marquee free agent, keep their Mid Level Exception, and give them cap flexibility for next summer? How ’bout the signing of Jarrett Jack to an offer sheet?
How ’bout Marco Belinelli for Devean George?!
Colangelo has coveted Belinelli since he came into the league as the 18th overall pick in 2007. In fact, there were rumblings of a possible deal for the Italian guard last season – that likely would have seen Joey Graham heading from Toronto to Golden State.
The 23-year-old guard has, admittedly, had an “average” start to his NBA career. After struggling through his rookie season, Belinelli had a chance to bust out a little bit last year … given the glut of injuries the Warriors were experiencing. He started 23 games for the Bay Area Boys – including an impressive 15-game stretch from mid-December to mid-January where he averaged more than 15 points per game and earned a ton of respect from his teammates.
Speaking about Belinelli back in December 2008, then-teammate Stephen Jackson told the San Francisco Chronicle:
“When (Marco) wasn’t playing, when he said he wanted to be traded and all that stuff, I was like, man, we’re going to lose a good player. He’s a guy that got caught up in a numbers game, and I’ve been through that too. I’m glad he’s taking advantage of his opportunity, because that’s what it’s all about.”
That opportunity will now come in Toronto.
Belinelli is a 6’5″ shooting guard with solid range, good athleticism, and strong ball-handling skills — good enough to even see some minutes at the point if need-be. And despite what you may have read in other columns or blog, the guy isn’t a stiff on the defensive end either.
Again, let me quote the SF Chronicle from December 2008 regarding Belinelli’s defence:
” … The second-year guard has gone from benchwarmer to starter in wake of injuries to Jackson and Jamal Crawford. Known as a shooter when he entered the league last year, Belinelli has blossomed into a part-time point guard and, perhaps most surprisingly, a full-time defender. Though Belinelli isn’t the quickest athlete, he plants himself where his opponent wants to go more often than not. And Warriors coach Don Nelson has become comfortable enough with Belinelli’s defense that he’s matched him against the likes of (Ray) Allen and Kevin Durant.”
I liked the prospect of George playing for the Raptors this season. He was a guy that I thought would bring some veteran experience to a relatively young Toronto line up. And the fact that he had an expiring deal next summer, made him that much more valuable given the free agent sweepstakes that are coming in 2010. But if you’re Bryan Colangelo, and you’re given the chance to pick up a young up-and-comer with a lot of upside in return for an aging vet who is on the downside of his career, you jump at that chance. Besides, the likes of Chris Bosh, Hedo Turkoglu, Jose Calderon, and even Evans should be enough of a “veteran” presnce in your line up … and from the financial side of things … Belinelli could be off the books next summer as well (like George would have been) if Toronto decides against his 4th year option.
This is a very good deal for the Raptors. In fact, check out what long-time Warriors (and previously LA Lakers) writer Tim Kawakami had to say about this trade in his San Jose Mercury News blog:
” … Even I didn’t imagine Nelson/Riley would give away Belinelli to Toronto for something as meager as George, who I know fairly well since I covered him his rookie year with the Lakers and have watched him fairly closely in the many years since.
This is just a dump. A we-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-this-talented-player dump. A terrible, misguided, noxious dump by a team now run by an erratic, tired coach and a GM who does his bidding.
George is 8 years older than Belinelli, by the way. He has a $1.6M expiring contract this year, but Belinelli’s would’ve expired next summer if the Warriors didn’t pick up his option, plus Belinelli is MUCH MUCH BETTER than George.”
It should be noted that this trade has yet to be finalized by the league, but it is expected to go through the NBA Offices some time before Noon on Thursday. At that point the deal will be done: Belinelli for George and cash considerations.
And one final note for those that care (and I think this has little-to-no significance): apparently the “cash considerations” of this deal equate to the Raptors picking up a significant chunk of George’s $1.6 million salary this season.
Anyway … another solid move by Colangelo and Company. The rebuild of the Raps continues.
Time will tell if this transaction has any impact – good or bad – on Carlos Delfino.
Tuesday, July 28th, 2009
Tuesday July 28 2009 – 4:02pm Eastern (Toronto, ON)
Normally I like reading Bill Simmons. I still do. And I’ll still continue to click on his articles and enjoy his wit and sarcasm.
But I do take some exception to what he recently wrote about the Toronto Raptors:
“To Toronto’s Bryan Colangelo, who spent money more recklessly than Michael Bay. A $53 million extension for Andrea Bargnani? Sure! Another $53 million for Hedo Turkoglu? Why not? How ’bout $20 million for a third guard (Jarrett Jack) just because he’s college buddies with Chris Bosh and might sway Bosh to stick around next summer? Absolutely! As always, there’s nothing more dangerous than an NBA GM in desperation mode. Smart moves for 2010 — dumb moves for 2012, 2013 and 2014 … and, of course, he’ll be gone by then. Sorry, Raptor Truthers. You deserve better.”
Every man is entitled to his opinion, but let’s break down what Simmons wrote …
- The Raps may have slightly over-spent for Bargnani but if that’s the going rate for a former #1 overall pick, then you do it. In fact, as crazy as it may sound, $10 million/year may end up being a relative “bargain”. If Bargs continues to improve this season (and next season, and the season after that) as he did in 2008-2009, that contract will be very fair.
- Jack is not a third guard. He’s the primary back-up for Jose Calderon. He may even start some games – or see “starter-like minutes” if Toronto toys with Calderon and Jack seeing the floor together at the 1 and 2. So while he may be third on the depth chart at the 1 and 2, I don’t think it’s fair to label him as a “third guard”. He’ll have a larger role. Furthermore, Colangelo wouldn’t make a move just to bring in “Bosh’s buddy”. Please. That’s ridiculous. Is it an added bonus? Sure. But is that the primary reason? Absolutely not. Did Simmons forget that Jack is coming off a career year and he brings the kind of grit and D that Toronto is looking for?
- Dumb moves for 2012, 2013, and 2014? I take exception with that as well. *IF* Bosh were to walk next summer, they’d still have a core in place for the next few seasons that would include Turkoglu, Calderon, Bargnani, Jack, and DeRozan. And based on approximate numbers … Toronto would still have about $25+ million to round out their roster around that core. That looks alright to me. If you’re trying to win now, you can’t ignore the future. You still need to be responsible about the future. But you’re trying to win NOW, period. I believe BC has managed both. And to flippantly throw away Toronto’s flexibility in 2010 isn’t fair either. Isn’t that what it’s all about right now – for almost every team in the league? That’s not a point to kinda ignore or brush aside.
- Was Turkoglu not one of the top 3 free agents available this summer? And Toronto landed him at the going rate for a player of his calibre. How is that a bad thing or a bad move?
Anyway, that’s my take. I’m sure some will agree with me … some will call me an “apologist”. Whatever. Differing opinions are what makes sports go around – and what makes sports so interesting!
Looking forward to future columns from Simmons!
Thursday, July 23rd, 2009
Thursday July 23 2009 – 3:47am Eastern (Toronto, ON)
I really wanted to throw this headline on this blog:
… But I digress.
Here’s the long-awaited update on Raptor man-myth-legend, Pops Mensah-Bonsu.
Many of you out there – including my man Arsenalist (rare shout-out) – have been asking exactly what the heck is going on with Pops? What’s his status – or lack there of – with the Raps?
Here ya go … straight from some folks I talked to within the organization (with some added info on Carlos Delfino as well):
- Toronto withdrew their Qualifying Offers to both Mensah-Bonsu and Delfino but did not renounce their rights.
- When the Qualifying Offers were originally issued, both players became RESTRICTED free agents. However, once those Qualifying Offers were withdrawn, both players returned to UNRESTRICTED free agent status. Buuuuut …
- They are still, technically, “the Raptors’ UFA’s” until they sign with another NBA team or Toronto renounces them.
Again, that info comes straight from the Raptors … and from folks with deeper knowledge of the league rules and the CBA than you or I will ever have.
Of course the bigger question is … Will either player be on the Raps’ roster this season?
There is heavy interest in bringing back Delfino — a fact that you’ve heard about ad nauseam. But a deal that both sides can agree upon has yet to be reach.
And is Pops a back-up plan to Rasho Nesterovic … if Toronto can’t re-sign the big Slovenian?
Or do they want Pops not matter what … but simply can’t make room for him given that their roster would sit at 15 if Delfino and Nesterovic were added and no other deal (to clear a roster spot) was made?
There are still a lot of questions swirling around the Raptors, but hopefully the above info – especially related to Pops – answers a few of the queries.
Enjoy your Thursday.
Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009
Tuesday, July 21st, 2009
Tuesday July 21 2009 – 1:08pm Eastern (Toronto, ON)
Up ’til 6am with my son today … which means I’m very late checking in on the blog. I went to bed at 6:30am and got up at Noon. It’s nice to not have a “regular” 9pm-5pm job I guess!
I’m back on the air with Jack Armstrong today – co-hosting “The Game Plan” between 2pm-4pm. And basketball junkies should be able to get their fix today.
Raptors head coach Jay Triano will join us at 2:20pm – live from Las Vegas.
Triano is getting set to get back on the floor with USA Basketball – heading up the National Team’s mini-camp program.
And Triano’s appearance on our show will coincide with the unveiling of Jarrett Jack as well. His press conference will be held at 2:30pm at the ACC. It will not be live on the FAN 590, however, Jack will join us on the radio at 3:40pm this afternoon.
The Indiana Pacers chose not to match Toronto’s 4-year offer to Jack.
With Jack now officially a Raptor, the next step(s) will likely be trying to secure deals with Carlos Delfino and Rasho Nesterovic. If those 2 moves DO happen, the Raps will then have 15 players under contract and – barring any deals in August or September – the roster will be essentially set for Training Camp in Ottawa in October.
PG – Jose Calderon, Jarrett Jack, Roko Ukic, Marcus Banks
SG – DeMar DeRozan, Antoine Wright, Carlos Delfino *, Quincy Douby
SF – Hedo Turkoglu, Devean George
PF – CHris Bosh, Reggie Evans
C – Andrea Bargnani, Rasho Nesterovic *, Patrick O’Bryant
On the air in less than an hour. Gotta fly folks.
Monday, July 20th, 2009
Monday July 20 2009 – 4:01am Eastern (Toronto, ON)
The Indianapolis Star is reporting that Jarrett Jack is coming to Toronto.
Mike Wells of the Star tracked down Jack and Sunday evening and the restricted free agent said the Indiana Pacers are NOT going to match the contract offer that is currently on the table from the Raptors (a reported 4 year / $20 million deal).
The Indy Star is also reporting that the Raps will hold a press conference on Tuesday to unveil their latest signing.
“It took a minute, but I was able to secure a contract for four years,” Jack said to the Star. “I’m looking forward to playing with Chris (Bosh) again. It will be like our freshman year (at Georgia Tech) all over again.”
Jack and Bosh were actually roommates in college and have remained as close friends since then.
The 6’3″ guard is coming off a carry year with the Pacers … where he averaged 13.1 PPG, 4.1 ASST, and 3.4 REB. And he says he’s leaving the Hoosier state with a heavy heart.
“I wanted to be a Pacer come next season,” Jack told the Star. “I’m indebted to coach (Jim) O’Brien for what he did for me last season. Not only him, but also (team president) Larry Bird and (general manager) David Morway. They put me in the position to play well and get a long-term contract. I’ll always be indebted to them.”
Toronto is still hoping to lure Carlos Delfino back to Toronto but there is some work to be done on that potential deal. There are rumblings that another team (in the NBA) could be in the mix for Delfino’s services as well, and the Raptors will obviously want to get a clean bill of health on the Argentinian’s sore shoulder as well. Apparently Deflino has actually been proactive with the shoulder on his own … seeking medical attention/advice that he can pass on (i.e. – a “thumbs up”) to his future employer.
And the Raps remain interested in former Raptor Rasho Nesterovic as well.
There is no real timeline on these negotiations or possible signings. Time will tell (remember it’s only July 20).
Cheap plug …
I will be co-hosting “The Game Plan” this week with Jack Armstrong. We’ll be on the air from 2:00-4:00pm … Monday-Friday on the FAN 590.
Friday, July 17th, 2009
Friday July 17 2009 – 11:40pm Eastern (Toronto, ON)
I can’t take credit for unearthing this one … the fine folks at Yahoo Sports were the ones that got me to take notice.
But nevertheless … Shaq is at it again.
In what may be the best Michael Jackson tribute I’ve seen thus far, Shaquille O’Neal brings his unique humor to his latest YouTube comedy sketch.
Check it out:
Say what you will about the big man, but he continues to entertain me – and I’ll miss him on and off the floor when he finally does step away from the game.
I liked this video so much, I’m not even holding it against Shaq that he used Damon Jones (one of the most annoying players in the league) as his “co-star”.
And if you haven’t seen it already … I’m not sure how current these comments are … but the video appears to have been posted within the past few days …
LeBron James RE: his new teammate, Shaq:
Friday, July 17th, 2009
Friday July 17 2009 – 4:49am Eastern (Toronto, ON)
Get used to this face folks, ’cause based on the way he performed in the Las Vegas Summer League this year … I’ve got to think that Quincy Douby has at least earned a closer look in Training Camp come October …
(photo credits – GETTY IMAGES (via Yahoo Sports))
He’d be behind Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack (assuming Jack becomes a Raptor) at the point – and probably Roko Ukic too.
But depending on what goes down with Carlos Delfino and/or any other free agent target that could come into the mix at the two, Douby might just have a shot at getting some burn here and there … trying to find some minutes amongst a crowd that will at least include DeMar DeRozan and Antoine Wright.
Douby led the Raptors in scoring in Las Vegas, averaging 18 PPG (along with 4.0 REB and 3.8 ASST as well).
The 4th year guard had his best season in 2007-2008 when he appeared in 74 games for the Sacramento Kings, averaging 4.8 PPG in 11:48 minutes.
(photo credits – GETTY IMAGES (via Yahoo Sports))
Thursday, July 16th, 2009
Thursday July 16 2009 – 1:59pm Eastern (Toronto, ON)
POPEYE ON PUCKS
Very interesting segment on the FAN 590 earlier this morning.
I was co-hosting the Morning Show (“The Big Early”) with Gord Stellick and we had a chance to talk to former Raptor forward Popeye Jones.
But we didn’t talk much about basketball at all.
Jones’ son is one of the top young hockey prospects in the U.S. – a passion for pucks that was born in Canada but truly bred in Boston and Denver (Popeye’s other NBA stops after Toronto).
I know, I know, some of you out there are so anti-hockey that you’re frothing at the mouth right now but give the interview a chance. I think you’ll enjoy it. Our chat had more to do with life and parenting … and raising a young athlete … than specifics about the sport of hockey itself.
For those that have been asking, there is nothing new to report RE: Carlos Delfino, Rasho Nesterovic, Jarrett Jack, or anyone else.
Whether or not the reports of Delfino being “upset” at the Raptors (for coming at him with a supposedly low offer) are true or not isn’t really known. I haven’t had anyone within the Raps confirm that story for me. But I’d caution folks on getting too worked up over a player allegedly being upset over $4 million instead of $5 million. If that’s legit, I’m sure it can be worked out. We’re talking about a million bucks here (supposedly) not five or six.
As for Nesterovic, the interest is still there – and it’s mutual – but don’t freak out if something doesn’t happen right away. Keep in mind … it’s only July 16. We’re a little less than 3 months away from Training Camp and the Raps have already been pretty busy this summer with the additions of Hedo Turkoglu, Devean George, and Antoine Wright … and the drafting of DeMar DeRozan. It’s not like they’ve been “quiet”. So let it breathe for a few days. Things will come together.
Finally, the Pacers have until Tuesday to decide if they want to match Toronto’s offer for Jack or not.
LOOKING BACK AT BARGS BLOG
For those that didn’t read the COMMENTS section of yesterday’s blog, I have to address what I originally wrote RE: Andrea Bargnani.
I had some critical responses on the blog, on Twitter, and on email (with people sending me links to critical postings in some chat rooms and message boards as well).
Did I not say that Bargnani must improve on the glass?
Thus, I don’t know where some of you got the idea that I was “defending” the big Italian. He must be better on the boards.
However, some folks have to be realistic about how Bargnani plays (and how the Raptors play overall) – especially on the offensive end. He’ll likely never be a guy that averages 8 or 9 boards per game. And keep in mind … there were only 21 players in the NBA last year that averaged more than 8.0 rebounds per game. Just food for thought.
But while most of us want Bargnani to bring more in the rebounding department (on both ends), it should be noted that he went from 3.9 REB in his rookie season … to 3.7 REB in year two (the season he struggled through, big time) … to 5.3 REB last year.
So the bar has been set. Bargnani went up over a board-and-a-half from year 2 to year 3. If he does even half of that this season, Bargs should be coming in around 6 to 6.5 rebounds per game.
Again, realistically, it’d be highly unlikely to jump from 5.3 REB to 8.0 or more in one season.
Having said all of that, I’m not sure why I was getting ripped in comments, emails, Tweets, and postings on message boards. I’m not quite sure what was so wrong with what I originally wrote. Oh well … to each his own.
MORE ON BARGNANI
I’m not sure if I’ve ever made the Bargnani / Dirk Nowitzki comparison (though over Bargs’ 3 yeras in Toronto, I’m sure I have to have done it at some point). … But many people have drawn that line and it’s probably not fair.
As much as I hate comparing players (because each man is unique and has his own unique skill set), it’s probably better to compare Bargnani with Mehmet Okur of the Utah Jazz – at least for now. Plus, Okur plays alongside a big man that’s gobbling-up a ton of rebounds (thus taking away from his totals) in Carlos Boozer. Bargnani has the similar challenge with Chris Bosh in Toronto.
Okur’s last 5 years on the glass have looked like this:
2004-2005: 7.5 REB
2005-2006: 9.1 REB
2006-2007: 7.2 REB
2007-2008: 7.7 REB
2008-2009: 7.7 REB
Okur’s best season – on the glass and in scoring was 2005-2006 when Boozer was injured and appeared in only 31 games for the Jazz. With an increased roll Okur ballooned his numbers to 18.0 PPG and 9.1 REB.
That’s the bar that should be set for Bargnani right now. And based on the rebounding differential with Okur, as I said in yesterday’s blog: He’s got some work to do … but it’s only year 4 for him and he’s got a fair chunk of help around him.
Wednesday, July 15th, 2009
Wednesday July 15 2009 – 11:34am Eastern (Toronto, ON)
Rebounding will be one of the many keys for the Raptors this season. And one of the most important players in that category with be Andrea Bargnani.
Bargnani tallied 4.4 defensive rebounds per game last season (5.3 REB overall). That put him in the Top 70 in the league.
Those defensive rebounding numbers were more than:
Tayshaun Prince *
Ron Artest *
Kobe Bryant *
Vince Carter *
Shane Battier *
Josh Howard *
Boris Diaw *
Richard Jefferson *
Tracy McGrady *
Al Thornton *
Travis Outlaw *
( * Bargnani’s Rebounds Per 48 Minutes average (8.1) was more than these players as well )
Yes, I know Bargnani is a PF/C so his numbers should naturally be higher than guards like Bryant, Carter, Jefferson, etc.
I’m merely pointing out the kind of company he shares in the NBA – with others at his position and with “star” players that log heavy minutes and serious court time. Plus, Andrea isn’t exactly your “traditional” big man – in terms of always being under the hoop (especially on the offensive end). His (and the Raptors overall) is a different style that will likely always have some kind of an impact on his rebounding totals.
But there’s no denying that the big Italian must improve on the glass and bring more to the Raps in that category. Rebounding can’t solely fall on the shoulders of Chris Bosh.
Of course … the additions of Reggie Evans and Hedo Turkoglu should help as well … along with the possible addition of Rasho Nesterovic too.