Archive for the ‘Julian Wright’ Category

Sonny Weems

Career Stats: 140 GP, 20.3 MPG, 7.7 PPG, 47.4 FG%, 24.1 3PT%, 71.7 FT%, 2.5 RPG, 1.5 APG

Season Stats: 59 GP, 23.9 MPG, 9.2 PPG, 44.4 FG%, 27.9 3PT%, 76.6 FT%, 2.6 RPG, 1.8 APG

Last season, when fans were getting excited about an unknown Sonny Weems, I warned that he could become the next Jamario Moon. Translation, he could be a nice surprise for one season, but he’ll probably start jacking up too many jumpers and forgot what got him here in the first place.

Then Weems got off to a decent start to the 2010-2011 season, drilled a big game-winning three in Orlando and got hot. I let my guard down, as did most Raptors supporters, and actually believed Sonny had played himself into a piece of the Raptors’ future.

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The 21-57 Raptors entered Philadelphia without Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon, and found out, just before tip-off, that they would also be without the services of Amir Johnson and Leandro Barbosa.

In theory, this game probably should have never been a game, but the Raptors were actually keeping things close early on. By early on, I mean the first six minutes. After tying the game at 14 midway through the first quarter, the Raps, who had been playing with energy and a decent effort on the defensive end, went ice cold.

Toronto missed its last 11 shots of the first quarter, and watched the Sixers finish the quarter on a 14-4 run to take a 10-point lead into the second quarter.

Things just got ugly from that point on. The Raptors turned the ball over, committed silly offensive fouls, clanked nasty jumpers, and were shooting under 25 per cent from the field early in the second.

But the Raps did respond with a 9-0 run of their own to get back in the ball game, and despite the fact that they committed 11 turnovers and shot just 37 per cent in the first half, they went into the break down “just” 12. Obviously, digging a double-digit hole in the first half is not ideal, but if you actually watched the first half of this game, you know that it could have easily been a 20-25 point deficit.

Philly must have regretted not putting the Raptors away early, as Toronto broke out in the third quarter. The Raps settled things down offensively, locked in on defence, and relied on the suddenly hot shooting of DeMar DeRozan to turn this into a ball game again.

After struggling to get over the five-point hump, an Ed Davis jam cut the deficit to three, and a Jerryd Bayless jumper put the Raptors ahead, at 71-70, for their first lead since the game was 14-12. After a mostly horrendous first half that should have had them down and out, the Raptors used a scorching third quarter to put themselves in a one-point game after three.

The Raptors continued to hang tough in the fourth quarter, and even had a chance for a game-tying three in the dying seconds, as Jerryd Bayless and DeRozan took over in the final frame. Unfortunately though, for the second game in a row, a solid second half effort could not dig the Raptors out of an early hole. And it was turnovers that killed them.

On to the positives for the Raptors. With a depleted lineup once again, the young core of DeRozan, Bayless and Ed Davis shone bright. Jerryd and DeMar combined for 51 points and knocked down some big shots late in the game, while Davis finished with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds.

It was also nice to see Julian Wright providing a spark off of the bench again.

On a random sidenote, Jay Triano was ejected in the fourth quarter during a commercial break, but from what I saw, he was only given one technical foul.

So the Raptors drop to 21-58, but continue to show some promise for the future through their young, talented players. If there is a silver lining in all of this, it is that.

Next is up is a home date with the almost as equally lowly Nets on Sunday night.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jerryd Bayless – 42 Min, 24 Pts, 9-17 FG, 3-6 3Pt, 3-4 FT, 4 Reb, 8 Ast, 2 Stl, 4 TO

76ers Player of the Game: Elton Brand – 35 Min, 22 Pts, 10-16 FG, 2-2 FT, 8 Reb, 1 Blk

Goat of the Game: The Philly faithful. The building looked shamefully empty for a team that is a week away from playoff basketball.

With All-Star break and then a crazy busy game schedule and then the trip to London, it’s been awhile since I’ve checked in with some thoughts on what is going on with this Raptors team. What better time to check in than after a triple-overtime thriller (no really), in London where the Raptors fell to the Nets, 137-136.

  • While the Raptors lost and everyone is sick of “moral victories” this was a great game for the young guys on the team to go through. Huge minutes, tired bodies and minds and playing in an arena that’s foreign to them: Even though they lost, there were lessons to take away.
  • If you’re Andrea Bargnani, you hope the lesson is to drive to the hoop in crunch-time rather than taking the tough jumper that failed you in a game-clinching position 10 minutes earlier.
  • If you’re Ed Davis, it’s knowing that playing hard every single possession does matter and that even if it feels like your minutes have a cap on them, keep fighting and your coach will start to trust you and give you opportunities when it matters.
  • Some of the minutes that guys logged were pretty incredible. Bargnani played nearly 52 minutes and DeMar DeRozan clocked in at just under 54 minutes. Those are huge, especially on a back-to-back. Whether coaches and players are willing to acknowledge the issue of fatigue or not, the fact is, it’s there. As the overtime(s) wore on, you saw silly turnovers (Hi, Jordan Farmar) and missed layups (Sasha Vujacic and Farmar) and rebounds that were given away (Hello, Raptors squad). As sloppy and frustrating as it can be, despite the turnovers and miscues, it was really entertaining to watch two teams scrap and fight for a victory that didn’t mean much to the rest of the NBA.
  • Ed Davis is getting better by the game. Give the rookie minutes and he’ll produce for you. He’ll be efficient and he will make you forget he’s only played professional basketball for a handful of months already. With 12 points and 15 rebounds on Saturday, Davis was balling. Now, to work on the free throws where he was just 4-for-8.
  • It’s fun to watch other writers/fans/media around the league see how much DeMar DeRozan has improved his game. While we get to see it on a nightly basis (and even then, it’s still impressive), their reaction is always awesome, because you know how hard he has worked to improve.
  • DeRozan hit a three today. Don’t hold your breath waiting on the next one. Seriously, his last make from deep was December 1st.
  • Julian Wright did not play in either game. That’s right, he didn’t hit the court for a single minute of game time while the team was in London. I knew they were committed to seeing what James Johnson could do for them, but I’ve got to say I expected him to at least see the floor.
  • Jerryd Bayless had some spirited celebrations from the bench when he was rooting on his teammates, but most importantly he showed some commitment on the defensive end of the floor. Speaking with a few of my fellow beat writers who are in London and the feeling was that Bayless may be getting some of Jose Calderon’s minutes when the team needs more defensive intensity.
  • Speaking of Calderon, it’s amazing how much better this team is when he is a scoring threat.
  • And speaking of James Johnson, he’s doing lots of things during his time on the floor. He doesn’t have the best shot selection and he takes too many shots for my liking (at the clip that he’s currently making them, at least), but the guy is getting blocks, steals and deflections and he’s always crashing the boards. Before the Raptors left for London, Amir Johnson said how much he loved playing with Johnson because he knew he’d have another body crashing the boards. Something the Raptors don’t do nearly enough, save for Amir and Ed.
  • While it sounds as though the team was very busy during their time in London, it also sounds like they had plenty of love from the fans and an amazing opportunity. They’ll be back here sometime tomorrow and likely will practice on Monday. I’ve got a lot of stuff waiting to roll out, just need to finish a few pieces up with some quotes from some key players. Wonder if that serves as a hint or two of what is coming soon.

Linas Kleiza

When I chose this headline to describe the news that Linas Kleiza will miss the next nine to 12 months recovering from microfracture surgery on his right knee, I saw that one of the definitions for euthanasia is “mercy killing”. That seems an apt way to describe the ending to what had been an extremely disappointing season for Kleiza up to this point.

When Raptors President/GM Bryan Colangelo signed Kleiza to a four-year, $18.8 million contract in July, I thought it was a savvy pickup at the time. I recalled him being a solid backup to Carmelo Anthony in Denver with a reliable shot and a decent post game. I’m not sure what happened to his game while he played in Greece for the 2009-10 season, but his 39 games as a Raptor have mostly been dismal.

It’s hard to say who has been the worst player to get regular minutes on a team as bad as this season’s Raptors, but Kleiza is a top candidate with his career-lows in True Shooting Percentage (.502) and Player Efficiency Rating (10.2). As is often the case with Andrea Bargnani, Raptors fans discovered that Kleiza doesn’t provide a positive impact when his shot isn’t falling — and his shot hasn’t been falling nearly often enough.

If there’s an upside to this news, it’s that Julian Wright probably has the starting small forward spot for the rest of the season — which is timely for him since he’s in a contract year. Going into the season, I wondered if Wright would have an NBA job in 2012 if he didn’t exhibit increased dedication to improving his game. While Wright still isn’t really “starting lineup material”, he’s generating a good reputation as an athletic defender with underrated playmaking ability. While Kleiza’s season just got euthanized, you could say the condition of Wright’s career has been upgraded to “fair”.

Edited to add: As commenter “dribbles” correctly points out, Sonny Weems has actually been the starting small forward for the past three games and since he’s also in a contract year, this is an equally critical time for him. Regardless of who starts, no Kleiza means more minutes for both Wright and Weems.

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If you tuned in to watch the 10-36 Timberwolves host the 13-34 Raptors, you got what you expected, or at least what you should have expected from two of the worst and coldest teams in the NBA. In fact, you probably got more than you expected, in a sick, twisted way.

Matt and Jack had to spend the entire first quarter talking about the contingent of Canadian/Raptors fans in attendance in Minnesota (which was nice to see and equally impressive) because there was no basketball game in front of them to talk about. Seriously, the first quarter was highlighted by the Raptors shooting 35 per cent, the T-Wolves shooting 29 per cent, and a dream one-on-one matchup between Alexis Ajinca and Darko Milicic.

From a Raptors perspective of disgrace, things were just warming up. On my count, the Raps shot 5-of-23 in the second quarter, refused to take a step in the paint on offence or move a muscle on defence, let the T-Wolves go on a 13-0 run and as you can tell, played with no sense of urgency, or pride for that matter, whatsoever.

Even worse, the team seemed to feel no shame for their atrocious first half display. In fact, Jay Triano’s halftime interview was totally calm, as he talked about how his team was doing fine defensively and just not making shots on offence.

Jay clearly wasn’t aware that those watching his interview had also actually seen the first half.

Toronto responded with their worst quarter of the night, and headed to the fourth down 21, shooting a feeble 27.6 per cent after three quarters.

Trying to bask in the glory of just their 11th win of the season, the Timberwolves enjoyed every minute of the fourth quarter. They hit some threes at the beginning of the quarter, laughed as the Raptors clanked jumpers and then got to watch Martell Webster take the ball from the three-point line, drive straight down the middle of what passes as Toronto’s defence, and throw down this jam. That made it 91-65 Minnesota, and it became painfully clear for Raptors fans that they were watching one of the worst performances in franchise history.

The Raps went on a bit of a run in the dying minutes to make the final score look somewhat respectable, but that’s typical of an NBA blowout. This game was ugly from the get-go, and only one team chose to jump up and fight for a rare victory.

The Raptors had no effort out of the gates, and no fight when they needed it. No matter how you slice it, they just didn’t want the victory. If you’re going to come with the “all pro athletes want to win” argument, then I suggest you review the game film from Saturday night.

The only player in black who demonstrated an ounce of competitive spirit was Ed Davis, but it’s hard for a 21-year-old rookie to carry a team. The other guy you can usually count on for an honest effort, Julian Wright, didn’t see the floor until there were seven minutes remaining in the game, because Jay Triano thought Sonny Weems had earned his way back into the starting lineup, gave him 28 minutes and went to Trey Johnson when Sonny needed a break. As if Jay hadn’t given Raptors fans enough reason to call for his head.

Then there’s this gem. After the game, Triano praised his team’s defence, even though anyone who saw the game knows the defensive effort was laughable and the Wolves simply missed a lot of makeable shots. But Jay wasn’t done. I kid you not, Jay said he thought his team “battled.” How does management allow Triano to insult fans’ intelligence like that, time after time?

You may have noticed that DeMar DeRozan has hit a bit of a rut after his stellar month. It’s no coincidence that this coincides with Sonny Weems’ return to the lineup. Both players have similar skill-sets, and it’s become clear that DeRozan thrives without Weems running alongside him. For the sake of DeMar’s development, hopefully there’s a team out there willing to give Sonny a chance to end the season with them.

Raptors Player of the Game: Ed Davis -25 Min, 15 Pts,  7-10 FG, 1-4 FT, 11 Reb

Timberwolves Player of the Game: Kevin Love -24 Min, 21 Pts, 6-10 FG, 2-4 3Pt, 7-8 FT, 12 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

Goat of the Game: Andrea Bargnani – 32 Min, 15 Pts, 5-24 FG, 0-5 3Pt, 5-6 FT, 3 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 Stl, 3 Blk