Archive for the ‘Gary Forbes’ Category

Game No. 15: Celtics 96, Raptors 73

Yes, the Celtics are old and slow and are barely a shadow of their former selves (more on them later), but you had to know even in this state, they weren’t going to lose their sixth straight game (and fall to 4-9) with a home loss to the 4-10 Raptors. Not going to happen.

For all intents and purposes, this game was over when the Raptors went on an 0-for-10 stretch during the first quarter and went down 21-7 early. Though the game got somewhat close in the second quarter and beginning of the third quarter, Toronto never got within five again after digging that early hole.

Now here are my thoughts on the game:

1- As frustrated as I’ve been with DeMar DeRozan for the last couple of weeks, I can’t really knock his hustle tonight. DeMar was consistently attacking the basket and trying to draw contact when he wasn’t driving, but between just not getting calls and some careless turnovers, DeRozan couldn’t put it together. There were at least three or four occasions when I thought DeMar deserved a couple of free throws, but in the end, he finished with just three attempts from the line. There were also a couple of times DeMar looked like he was starting a strong move towards the basket before ultimately fumbling the ball and turning it over. It may not sound like much, but between the non-calls and the turnovers, DeRozan probably lost six-to-eight potential points.

2- I liked what I saw from Ed Davis tonight, though his missed “gimmies” from a few feet away continue to frustrate me. Davis seemed much more active than he has been in a while. He was rebounding, working to get good offensive positioning in the post and seemed to have some good chemistry with Amir Johnson, as the pair made a few surprising, beautiful passes to each other. In the end, Ed finished with nine points and nine rebounds in 35 minutes, but I’ll always think about what his numbers might look like this season if he could convert seemingly easy buckets. If he can figure it out offensively (he’s still way too young and inexperienced in the NBA to be declared offensively inept forever), he’s a walking double-double.

3- The other positive for the Raptors was the play of Gary Forbes off of the bench. What Forbes showed us in Boston is basically what I was hoping from him when the Raptors signed him. I don’t expect him to score an outstanding 18 points on just six shots in 19 minutes (as he did tonight) on a consistent basis, but I do think he can be a good scorer and the type of player who can alter momentum in a ball game. His play is obviously starting to win over Dwane Casey as well, as Forbes has logged 49 minutes over the last three games after playing just 45 minutes in the first 12 games combined.

4- That will about end the positives from this game. Now on to the much more visible negatives…Everyone wanted Rasual Butler yanked from the starting lineup, and with Linas Kleiza still rusty and Gary Forbes filling in as a back-up point guard, the next option at the three was James Johnson. Unfortunately, Johnson didn’t exactly take the starting job and run with it in his first start of the season. James started the game with seven minutes of goose-egg basketball, as in he put up zero points (on zero-for-three shooting) to go along with the zeros in every other category (expect personal fouls). He quickly found his place on the bench, and finished with four points, two rebounds, a steal and three turnovers in 25 minutes.

5- Now about those aging Celtics. I picked the Knicks to win the Atlantic Division this season, but I still expected the Celtics to be a top-four or top-five team in the East that could win a playoff series or two if they got the right bounces. After watching them on a few occasions through three weeks of the season, I’ve already soured on them. They’re simply too old and slow to compete with the NBA’s elite, but the scary thing for Celts fans is that they almost look too slow to even compete with mediocre teams. From what I’ve seen, I can’t see Boston finishing anywhere near the top of the Eastern Conference, unless they end up winning the Atlantic with a barely above .500 record. I still think they’ll make the playoffs (not if Rondo is out for an extended period of time after Linas Kleiza’s flagrant foul), but they’re looking at a battle for sixth to eighth in the East instead of fighting for first to fourth.

6- I don’t believe for one second that Dwane Casey is playing to lose or that Bryan Colangelo enjoys the early losing that goes with the process of rebuilding. I think Casey is honestly trying to get every ounce of effort and output he can from this severely over-matched bunch, and for the most part, I think he’s doing a pretty good job. But you can’t tell me that giving Rasual Butler and Aaron Gray a combined 34 minutes is in an attempt to beat the Boston Celtics. Are they necessarily “trying” to lose? No. Would they ever admit that they are creatively trying to tank? Hell no. But come on, trotting out Butler, Jamaal Magloire and Anthony Carter for anything more than a minute each in 2012 is a form of tanking, whether admitted or not.

And for all of those Raptors fans who have fully embraced “Tank-Nation,” you have to be thrilled tonight. With the Wizards stunning the Thunder, the Raps are now just one-and-a-half games ahead of the last place Wiz, with games against the Blazers, Clippers, Suns, Jazz and Nuggets coming up in the next nine days. In all likelihood, this will get ugly in a hurry, but could get oh, so sweet when the ping pong balls drop in May.

Raptors Player of the Game: Gary Forbes – 19 Min, 18 Pts, 5-6 FG, 1-1 3Pt, 7-8 FT, 1 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

Celtics Player of the Game: Rajon Rondo – 28 Min, 21 Pts, 7-8 FG, 7-11 FT, 3 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 TO

Despite the frustrations of a blown 16-point lead against the Pacers on Friday and being held to just 64 points in Chicago on Saturday, there were a couple of things I saw in the two games that I liked from a Raptors perspective.

Aside from obvious observations like DeMar DeRozan’s improvement or Amir Johnson’s hustle, the two things I saw that I liked, and that I would like to see more of, were Gary Forbes on the floor and some zone defence.

Before the weekend, Forbes had been limited to some spot minutes here and there, and when he did check in, he really failed to impress. He seemed uncomfortable at times, and looked to be forcing things offensively at others.

But against the Pacers and Bulls, in a surprising back-up point guard role, Forbes actually looked pretty good. Sure, there were some moments of confusion and some missed defensive coverages, but you have to expect that from a guy who hadn’t played more than eight minutes in a game for a new team until the third week of the season.

Between Friday and Saturday, Forbes had 12 points on four-of-eight shooting, 10 rebounds, six assists, one steal and just two turnovers. Pretty solid numbers considering Forbes played just 23 total minutes over the two games.

Of all the off-season additions to the roster, I was only excited about Forbes, who I thought could be a good scoring option and spark plug off of the bench for the next couple of years, so I was a bit disappointed that he hadn’t made an impact through the first 11 games. Forbes has now finally shown some glimpses of what he can be for the Raptors, and surprisingly, has shown that he can even run the offence if need be.

He can score, he can rebound, he can apparently play three positions. There’s no reason Gary Forbes shouldn’t get a good look in this season of finding out exactly what we have here.

Now as for that zone defence. It’s one of the things a lot of people were looking forward to when Dwane Casey took over in Toronto, but it obviously took a lot of time to implement considering Casey first had to teach most of this team how to play basic defence.

It’s still a major work in progress, but the first real display of zone defence seemed to work well for the Raptors.

For a long time, NBA fans, analysts and ‘experts’ cast off zone D as a gimmick that could work in short spurts in the NBA, but could never really be relied upon in the long-term, outside of school and international ball. I think the Mavericks (and I guess Casey himself) changed that way of thinking last season.

For whatever reason, NBA players and teams look absolutely lost and dumbfounded when faced with a zone, as the Heat showed in last season’s Finals and the Bulls proved again on Saturday night.

Unfortunately for ‘Tank-Nation,’ the Raptors might be able to stun a few of the NBA’s upper echelon teams this season with an effective zone scheme and end up with wins we assumed would be losses (Don’t worry, they’ll throw in plenty of losses we assumed would be wins too).

I still think the primary focus should be getting the young core of this team to become good man-to-man defenders and help defenders, but I also think the zone should and will be a big part of Toronto’s defensive mantra as this season and future seasons under Casey unfold.

As mentioned, this season is supposed to be about development and finding out what we have, so there is nothing to lose by experimenting with both giving Gary Forbes consistent minutes and throwing in a good mix of zone defence.

If I wanted to write this post in five words or less, I’d simply answer my own question in the title with: Really, really, really bad.

I don’t like to dump on guys when they’re in a minor slump that’s lasted just a few games, but what Rasual Butler is going through right now can’t just be classified as a simple slump. His performance has become a punch-line.

The worst part is that we should have seen it coming.

When the Raptors signed Butler to a one-year deal, most of us saw it as another veteran signing to help mentor the young guys and provide spot minutes when need be.

Even though not much was expected of Butler from a minutes standpoint, a lot of Raptors fans still pointed that out that he was the type of player who could light it up from three-point range now and then and could play some solid defence.

So while many were thrown off, few were angry when Dwane Casey surprised us by starting Butler on opening night.

From a defensive perspective, Butler hasn’t been all that bad. In fact, he’s probably been about average, if not better. The problem is, when you are as bad offensively as Butler has been through 11 games, you should be a noticeable defensive presence to stay on the floor, similar to the type of player James Johnson is.

In his short tenure as a Raptor, Butler’s best shooting performance was a three-of-seven display in a loss against the Nets. He’s gone “0-for” three times and has made only one shot six times so far. That’s right, Rasual Butler has either missed every shot he’s taken or has made only one in nine out of 11 games this season. And that’s coming from a guy who has started every game and is averaging close to 20 minutes.

In total, Butler is shooting an embarrassing 23 per cent (14-of-61) from the floor and is a laughable nine-of-41 (21.9 per cent) from three-point range.

So naturally, most people are pointing out that Butler, a normally decent shooter, is just having an off-year. But that’s not the case. The fact is that Rasual Butler has rarely ever been a good shooter.

Butler, 32, is currently in his 10th NBA season, and yet he’s only cracked 40 per cent from the field four times and hasn’t shot better than 43.3 per cent since the 2003-2004 season. He’s a career 39.9 per cent shooter who hits just under 36 per cent of his three-point attempts.

In short, he’s a very inefficient offensive player who misses way too many shots to make his average three-point stroke or average defence worth trotting out on the floor.

Rasual Butler seems like a good guy, seems to like Toronto and seems to have some overall good qualities, which would explain why Dwane Casey reportedly loves having him here and how he’s stuck around the NBA for a decade. I’m sure that given the chance, he can fill the role that most Raptors fans assumed would be placed on him, and that’s the simple one of mentoring the Raptors’ young and inexperienced talent.

But with Linas Kleiza getting back on the floor, James Johnson continuing to provide a defensive spark off of the bench and Gary Forbes yet to be given a real chance to show his worth, the only good reason to keep starting Rasual Butler and giving him 20 minutes per game is to increase the team’s chances of landing the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, as Scott has recently pointed out.

***

In unrelated Raptors small forward news, here’s Sonny Weems getting the game-winning dunk for Zalgiris Kaunas against BC Khimki and sending the commentators into a state of euphoria:

Sonny’s actually having a pretty good season in Lithuania, but let’s remember that he had become Jamario Moon II in Toronto. Translation: He was a guy who earned minutes by working his tail off and playing defence, then forget what got him here and became an unfocused chucker.

***

Lastly, Andrea Bargnani’s status will reportedly be made clear some time on Friday, so I’m sure we’ll be talking then.

With a condensed training camp and pre-season in the books, it’s time to take one final look at what the Raptors’ rotation looks like, or at least what I believe it to look like, before the regular season gets started on Monday night in Cleveland.

I’m basing this on both the little I saw from players in the pre-season and on Dwane Casey’s comments about certain players throughout training camp.

Let’s get to it.

Point Guard: Jose Calderon will likely start on opening night, and if he plays the way he’s capable of and shows Dwane Casey he can out-defend a pylon, he may even keep the starting job for the entire season. But Jerryd Bayless is nearly seven full years younger than Calderon, is quicker and a much better defender than Calderon, and obviously has a lot more potential than a 30-year-old. Quite frankly, the only one who can get in the way of Bayless earning the starting job this season is Jerryd Bayless, himself. His penchant for sloppy play and turnovers can hurt his minutes and his team, but if he can find away to take care of the ball, the tenacious Bayless should surpass the injury-prone Calderon on the Raptors’ depth chart in a very physically demanding season. I don’t expect Anthony Carter to make much of an impact in games, but I can definitely see Casey going to Carter if Jose and Jerryd falter. As Casey himself noted, Anthony Carter always starts as a team’s third point guard before slowly but surely climbing the charts.

Shooting Guard: DeMar DeRozan will start. That’s not even a question. The only question is who gets the majority of minutes at two-guard off of the bench. Leandro Barbosa possesses explosive speed and the ability to score in bunches, but you could also argue that his playing style clashes with Dwane Casey’s coaching style more than any other player on this roster. Barbosa should be given the benefit of the doubt to start the season, but if he gets into a habit of carelessly chucking shots and refusing to play D, wing players like Gary Forbes and even Rasual Butler can take his minutes.

Small Forward: James Johnson is by far the best defensive perimeter player on this roster, and his acceptance of his role in the offence is a nice compliment to that above average defence. Johnson will start, and I predict for the time being, Gary Forbes will be the first guy to replace James off of the bench. Rasual Butler will get a look here too, and you would have to imagine that Linas Kleiza will be given every opportunity to prove he belongs once he is ready to return to action. But overall, if I had to put money on it, I’d bet that Johnson and Forbes get the majority of minutes at the three.

Power Forward: We know Andrea Bargnani will start, so there’s no use crying over spilled milk. But we also know that Dwane Casey won’t worry about Bargnani’s feelings getting in the way of the facts. If Andrea doesn’t show a consistent competitive spirit on the defensive end and doesn’t up his rebounding numbers, and if Ed Davis has the kind of break through I think he is capable of this season, then we may very well see Davis starting at the four at some point this season, with Bargnani possibly being used as a scorer off of the bench (a role some believe the seven-footer is better suited to anyway). I assume that between the two of them, Bargnani and Davis will get nearly all of the minutes at power forward, with Amir Johnson splitting time between the four and five.

Centre: My gut tells me that Jamaal Magloire will get the first couple of starts. My head tells me Casey might go with Aaron Gray for a short period after that. But my heart tells me that Amir Johnson should and will be the starting centre at some point this year. If Casey absolutely wants a true centre to start all season long, then we may see Solomon Alabi get a start before Amir does, but the coach did mention in a recent scrum that Amir Johnson can play centre. If Casey continues to believe that, and Amir plays well enough to warrant it, don’t you like this team better with Amir Johnson starting ahead of Magloire, Gray and Alabi? Though I guess in the grand scheme of things, as along as Johnson is getting more minutes than those three, which he will, then it doesn’t matter whether he’s starting or coming off of the bench.

That’s how I see the Raptors rotation shaping up this season, barring any major injuries or transactions. As I’ve said in a number of recent posts, if this team performs as poorly as most of us believe they will from a wins and losses standpoint, then watching how players like Bayless, Davis and Amir fight for a bigger piece of the pie that is the Raptors’ future might be more exciting than the actual outcomes of the games. It will be really nice to see a team whose minutes are properly distributed according to work ethic and defence for a change, something we haven’t seen on a consistent basis in about five years.

The 2011-2012 Toronto Raptors roster looks to be complete.

The Denver Nuggets did not match the offer-sheet Toronto extended to Panamanian guard/forward Gary Forbes, and he is now, officially, the newest Raptor in town.

All we seem to know about the offer is that it’s a two-year deal, with a club option for a third season.

Forbes, who torched Canada for 39 points while playing for Panama in the FIBA Americas tournament earlier this year, is 26-years-old and has only played in one NBA season. After going undrafted in 2008, Forbes went on a Jamario Moon-esque tour of the basketball world, with stints in the D-League, the Philliphines, Venezuela, Italy and Israel.

He averaged about five points and a couple of rebounds in 12-and-a-half minutes of action per game with the Nuggets last season. His shooting was fine, but nothing to get too excited about – about 45 per cent from the field and almost 33 per cent from three – but he struggled at the free throw line, converting just 67.8 per cent of his attempts at the charity stripe. Forbes also never scored 20 or more in a game, with 19 points currently holding as his career-high.

There are reasons to like this acquisition though. Forbes is a tough, gritty player who can play defence. In case you haven’t been paying attention, those are the type of players Bryan Colangelo has been trying to collect to play under the tutelage of Dwane Casey’s “Pound the Rock” philosophy. He doesn’t have much NBA experience, but seems to have some upside and the potential to go off on any given night, if given the chance.

At the end of the day, I doubt this signing is going to create headlines around the Association, but it is the type of under-the-radar move, that if done at the right price, could turn out to be very valuable in Toronto’s re-building process. To compare it with baseball, this seems like the type of move Alex Anthopoulos makes, and that’s quite alright with me.

So, now that the Raps appear to have 15 guys under contract, barring any other transactions, here is the 15-man roster heading into this helter-skelter season (keep in mind that Casey has said he wants to have an eight-to-10 man rotation):

Point Guards: Jose Calderon, Jerryd Bayless, Anthony Carter (I’d like to see Bayless given a chance to take over the starting spot if he’s playing well, and also want to see Carter get some minutes if Jose and Jerryd run into trouble.)

Shooting Guards and Small Forwards: DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Leandro Barbosa, Gary Forbes, Rasual Butler, Linas Kleiza (I’m assuming DeRozan and Johnson will start at the 2-3 spots, and I think overall, competition for minutes between the rest of the wing-players will be intense all season. I can also see a guy like Forbes playing his way into some starts along the way.)

Bigs: Andrea Bargnani, Ed Davis, Amir Johnson, Jamaal Magloire, Aaron Gray, Solomon Alabi (Bargnani will start at the four, this much we know. The questions after that are endless. Will coach Casey actually start a true centre like Magloire or even Alabi along side ‘Il Mago’ at some point this season, or will Davis and Amir split the starts beside Bargnani? The question of who gets more minutes between Davis and Johnson is intriguing in itself. Also, how many minutes can hard-nosed Aaron Gray steal away from the younger guys? The biggest question of all though, is given the new defensive philosophy put in place by Casey, will Bargnani actually be worthy of, and earn, his minutes?)

While no one is convinced the wins will be there, there are still plenty of story-lines to watch as this roster slowly comes together this season. For me, I’m looking forward to seeing which young players step up and really stamp their place in the future of this franchise, and which players fall by the wayside.

Stay tuned to RaptorBlog for the unveiling of the No. 9-ranked player in the Ultimate Raptors Rankings later today.