It would have been difficult to script a better first game in the Rudy Gay era…

Raptors 98, Clippers 73

-Rudy Gay seemed very at ease after a couple ugly misses in the first half. He set screens, moved the basketball when double-teamed and scored from everywhere on the court. He finished with 20 points (8-16 FG), three rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block 30 minutes. It was a good call by Dwane Casey to not start Rudy in his first game as a Raptor, as coming off the bench took some of the pressure off his debut.

-Although I believe Ed Davis could turn into an all-star calibre player, I still think the Raptors improved their team dramatically through the Rudy Gay trade. Replacing Ed Davis with Amir Johnson is not a huge downgrade (if it’s a downgrade at all). Replacing Landry Fields with Rudy Gay is a massive upgrade. Ending the point guard controversy and giving Kyle Lowry 30+ minutes per game will also make this team much better. This core of young talent should make fans very excited.

-Critics of the deal primarily point to Rudy’s contract. However, the value of any contract is irrelevant unless it prevents a team from future spending. Toronto has never been a popular free agent destination, as you can count the number of reputable FA’s on one hand, so this likely won’t handicap Bryan Colangelo down the road. The Raptors are also widely rumoured to have Andrea Bargnani on the trading block, which could alleviate over $10 million in salary commitments.

-Another big criticism of the Rudy Gay trade from Toronto’s perspective was that the Raptors would have too many scorers and ball movement would suffer. However, led by Kyle Lowry playing an extremely unselfish brand of basketball, Toronto finished with 30 assists on 38 made field goals tonight. If Lowry continues to play this way (6 shots, 8 assists), then there’s no reason why Gay, DeRozan and a very unselfish front court of Amir and JV can’t co-exist successfully.

-Gay is a very well-rounded player who plays too passively at times, but there is plenty of reason to believe he could blossom and find another level here in Toronto. For starters, this is the first time he has been traded in his NBA career (also traded on draft day) and that often serves as a wake-up call for underachieving players. Secondly, Gay was playing in a system in Memphis that didn’t suit his strengths. Memphis played inside-out basketball and that turned Gay into the third or fourth option. He became more of a spot-up shooter as opposed to a creator off the dribble. In Toronto, he’ll likely be the primary option and he’ll have the benefit of playing with two great screen-and-roll big men – Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas. Finally, being re-united with his best friend is bound to be a good thing for both Gay and Lowry.

-The frontcourt combination of Aaron Gray and an under-the-weather Amir Johnson were fantastic all evening and soundly outplayed LA’s highly touted frontcourt of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Gray and Amir combined for 17 rebounds in the first half alone and 28 in the game.

-Gray has now recorded 10+ rebounds in a career-high three straight games. He continued to show some ability as a roll man, finishing nicely on a couple first quarter passes from DeRozan and Lowry. He also banked home a surprising hook-shot from eight feet out in the third quarter – a shot that I didn’t think Aaron had in his repertoire. He could have a future on this team as the backup centre if he continues to lose weight and improve his offensive game.

-No question that Amir Johnson was the best player on the floor for Toronto tonight. All signs are pointing to Amir becoming the power forward of the future in Toronto and I don’t think there is one fan of this team that has an issue with that. Amir has seven years of NBA experience and yet he is just 25 years of age. He plays like a veteran and has plenty of room to grow – very intriguing potential for a guy with great work ethic.

-The addition of Rudy Gay will take a lot of pressure off DeMar DeRozan as a scorer. DeMar can now slide into the number two role, to which he is much more suited. That should allow him to expand other parts of his game. We saw DeRozan drop three quick dimes to Rudy in the first quarter and then he made an incredible block on Jamal Crawford late in the second quarter. This was the easiest 19 points I’ve seen DeMar score all season. As Clippers announcer Ralph Lawler put it, “DeMar DeRozan is having the time of his life.”

-Critics of DeMar like to point out that he is very limited as a passer. Well, just as he does with every other weakness in his game, DeMar is improving his passing – he now has 7+ assists in 4 of his last 6 games.

-Landry Fields hit his first three-pointer of the season. Finally! Landry will likely be in the second unit for Toronto’s next game, where he should help a group that struggles to move the ball at times.

-Despite 17 points on 6-9 shooting from John Lucas, the Raptors would be wise to try and find some competition for the backup PG spot.  I’m still not convinced that JL3 can run a second unit.

-This roster has the potential to be an excellent defensive team. They locked up the Clippers all night and held them to 29% shooting in the first half. There were a few things that contributed to this excellent defensive effort – primarily, Chris Paul was injured for the Clippers and Eric Bledsoe isn’t nearly as adept at running an offence. But Toronto’s defence also deserves credit. With Calderon and Bargnani traded/out, the 10-man rotation that Dwane Casey employed on Friday was an extremely athletic group (okay, maybe not Aaron Gray).

-Toronto can and will play at a much faster pace with Gay and Lowry in the lineup as opposed to Fields and Calderon. The Raptors went very quickly from having one guy you trust to finish at the rim on the break (DeMar) to having three. The potential of a small-ball lineup featuring Lowry, Ross, DD, Rudy and Amir is also very tantalizing.

-In the closing seconds, Caron Butler pulled a pretty gutless move on Jonas Valanciunas. With the Clippers down 27 points, Butler went up to supposedly shake hands with JV….

Raptors player of the game: Amir Johnson – 19 Pts (7-9 FG, 5-8 FT), 16 Reb (ties career-high), 3 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk, 2 TO in 37:24

Clippers player of the game: Nobody deserves it

If Toronto can sneak out a win against Miami on Sunday afternoon, there is potential for a great start to the Rudy Gay era, as the next three games after that come against Boston, Indiana and New Orleans. Even if they don’t beat Miami, I’m more interested to see if the good habits from this game carry over.

Comments (40)

  1. Im suprised you did not talk about the Butler situation at the end

    • My feed actually cut out with about 2 minutes left so I just read about it now. Gutless move by Caron to punk a rookie like that but I would imagine he was in a pretty foul temper considering the result of the game.

      • Your feed? Good sir, I assume you pay for cable to watch the games like the law-abiding citizen you surely are??? Please advise!!!

    • I hate that double standard associated with garbage time where a team that is up big can’t do anything but kill clock without the opposition getting pissed while the losing team can do pretty much anything.

      What a gutless move, but Jonas will learn.

  2. i love being wrong!

  3. If Amir is the PF of the future, Gay the SF and DD is the SG, does that mean that Ross is now a bench player at least for the next few years? I was concerned that Ross played only 15 minutes today, the most of which coming in garbage time. I feel like the Gay trade has created a road block for Ross’ development

    • Well for now, Ross isn’t ready to assume a starting role. DeMar is still a better player and Ross could provide a nice spark off the bench. JL3 was the lucky guy assigned to be part of Tornto’s small-ball lineup tonight (JL, KL, DD, RG & AJ) but I think Ross could take that role from him in the future, which will increase his minutes.

      In the long term, I think Ross projects as the better player. He has superior foot speed to DeMar and his jumper is miles ahead of where DD’s was as a rookie.

      Nice problem to have tho!

  4. The rudy gay Era has begun!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. 1. Ed Davis does not have all star potential. He has a ways to go to even get to Amir’s level. Downgrade? Not even close.

    • They’re both still very young. I was more implying a potential downgrade in the future, as opposed to where they are right now

  6. Looks like I picked the right week to start watching Raps games again.

    I loved the unselfish play and defense tonight. We shall see how well that sustains.

    As for the Clippers .. well, as the football chant goes: “Can we play you, can we play you; can we play you every night?” LOL.

    Good times which are altogether welcome given their rarity for Raptor fans :)

  7. You seem to have started hating on John Lucas the moment Jose was traded. I’m glad JL is having the last laugh, as he has played absolutely great as the second string PG in both games.

    Knock it off. Punk him when he has a bad game. IF he has a bad game.

    I think getting Gay will interfere more with AA’s playing time than with Ross’.

    So Rudy Gay, now that you’ve seen that the grass is actually browner on the other side will you still be happy here? I’m referring of course to the Anti-Raptor bias the refs are always displaying.

    You would think, that after their fellow refs steal a game from Toronto that they might not be so obviously biased the next game. But nope. Nothing different.

    The raps really should have won by 40, but the refs or the league just couldn’t allow that apparently. You just can’t embarrass the Clippers like that.

    Welcome to Toronto Rudy. I’m glad to have you on the team. Now, if we can only shed that AB contract and maybe BC as well…

    Also, BC, if you are still around in two years, we want Ed Davis back. Since you’ve cleverly arranged to have him buried on the Memphis team for the next two years, you should be able to get him back CHEAP!

    • Lol maybe I`m being a little harsh on JL3 but I firmly believe that Toronto`s second unit needs a pass-first PG. The reason is because this unit will potentially feature Bargnani, Anderson and Ross – three players who don`t move the ball a lot. If JL3 is in there with them, I suspect we`ll see a lot of quick, low quality shots. I also question whether JL3 has the ability to defend the position adequately.

      BC doesn`t necessarily need to replace JL3 but I think he needs to find a complement for him. Someone that gives Dwane more flexibility with the second unit.

      • I have to agree with Oliver here. Lucas III isn’t that bad, but he just appears to be a lazy passer and he does look for his shot more than he should. I noticed AA looked a little out of sorts too and even though the Raps had a huge lead, he still took a few shots that I thought were forced in order to get noticed.

        I will admit that AA has been great for the last little while, I wouldn’t mind seeing his role get smaller now that there are more people in his place.

        And finally…poor Ed Davis. 2 points and 1 rebound tonight, is that right? He won’t get the minutes he needs to develop further there. And my fantasy team just got a little fucked with him sitting on the bench now.

  8. Does anyone know the song from the TSN intro video welcoming Rudy?

  9. Love Rudy gay but wont buy his jersey

  10. Nice piece. But I’m wondering, what other underachieving players have actually brought their game to the next level after being traded? I hope your right, but I can’t think of any incidents that would suggest it will.

    • Well I don’t want to compare their personalities to Rudy, but Zach Randolph and JR Smith come to mind as guys who were underachieving before a change of scene

    • Joe Johnson from phoenix to Atlanta, Phoenix was way too stacked to have an all star impact. Similiar situation to what Rudy Gay is going through.

    • Ihow abiut Steve Nash?

  11. Fun game, weird that the first thing most pointed out when this trade was made was how Gay and DeRozan wouldn’t be able to play together when DeRozan looked the most comfortable he has looked in a couple of years tonight. He didn’t force anything, didn’t get that same tunnel vision he gets on most nights and seemed to play within the offense.

    The next three weeks might be some of the most intriguing in recent Raptors history with how this team gels together, if they make a legit run at the playoffs and what other moves are made. If you’re going to root for a shitty team, they might as well be interesting which this team is now following this deal.

    • Well, sh*t, I never knew DD had a passing and 3pt game! I was of those with the opinion that this wouldn’t work all that well, but this game, at least, was proven wrong.

      If demar can keep up even a average outside shot, and at the same time have this kind of passing ability, wow. I will gladly eat crow on this one.

  12. This was an impressive win against a drunk team (see: Butler, Caron). Maybe a little bit too early to get so giddy.

  13. Great write up. I’m hesitant to declare JL3 not deserving of the backup spot. Size wise he does hurt on the defensive end but he can certainly put up buckets and I think he’ll do whatever coach tells him. He is that type of guy. but we certainly do have assets to get a backup guard. And I almost certainly recall someone said somewhere Ben Uzoh is killing it in the Dleague right now.

    To all the Gay haters out there now saying this still isn’t a championship team, take your hate elsewhere. This is how teams build, One block at a time. Future looks bright raptor bloggers.

  14. Haters gonna hate but it’s tough to hate on a first night like that

  15. Caron is a joke lol so over rated .. Im sure his knee will blow out soon as it does every year . Makes me wish we had a garnett or james johnson still to put him in his place for thst non classy move .

  16. Did any commenter attend the game? Thoughts?

    That crowd gave me goosebumps tonight and showed what they are capable of if there is a team even remotely worth cheering for.

    What a fun night.

  17. - The athleticism we can employ on the wings now with DDR and Gay is something this franchise hasn’t had in while (if not ever). The matchup problems that this could potentially create for other teams is huge. All of a sudden teams have to seriously consider which player to guard with their best perimeter defender. If DDR can develop a more reliable jumper than this duo could be dangerous.

    - I think this trade will hurt Anderson the most out of all the wing players. Casey would be stupid to hinder Ross’ development by dramatically cutting back on his minutes and Fields is an above average ball handler who plays good defence and can facilitate if needed. As much as I appreciate what Anderson has given to this team over the last little while, it’s time to take a seat bud. A spot-up shooter who doesn’t defend well and simply looks to get his has no place in this revamped lineup.

    - BC should be on the look out for a backup point guard ASAP. JLIII played alright last night, but you could clearly see that he was trying to get some extra attention with all the people in the place for Gay’s arrival. He’s simply to thirsty to be point guard and having him run a second unit with Bargs, Ross, Anderson et al could be disaster.

  18. Anyone else a bit annoyed/surprised that no Raptors stood up for Jonas a bit more when Butler punked him. It was an unecessary dick move to embarass another player. Maybe the other raps hadn’t noticed the sly way Butler did it.

  19. I’ve always been a fan of Tough Juice, but that was a stupid move.

    Great game and a lot of fun, but the perspective has to be tempered with the fact that the Clippers were missing their best player (who happens to be a league MVP candidate) and the guys who were dressed played horribly – absolutely horribly. It was a season-worst dud of a game for them. You’re also not going to get that outside shooting from DD and JL3 every game.

    But watching those wing players attacking the basket and running the fast break – man, that’s a lot of fun.

    I agree with many previous comments – we were all worried about DD being redundant alongside Gay, but he may turn out to benefit the most. He’s going to have a lot more space to operate, a lot less pressure to perform, and he’ll be facing the opposing team’s 2nd best wing defender on most nights.

  20. Hate to be that ‘told you so’ guy…but I think I was the only one on here saying that I think DD and RG could complement each other well, while you were all calling for a Demar trade. Don’t know how long it’ll last but that sure was fun to watch..and exactly what I pictured might happen if they got the chance to play together.

    Hopefully this team can start to mesh even better and bring in some frontcourt help.

  21. Ed Davis a future all star?? Do you even watch basketball? Dudes undersized and can’t shoot. The ultimate in betweener. He’ll be a career bench player, at best. Amir Johnson, a decent centre for a bad team who would be a 3rd or 4th big man option for a contender, is twice the player Davis is.

    • Did you watch Ed Davis at all this year? I agree he won’t be an All Star, but the rest of your comments are way off…

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