Archive for the ‘Leandro Barbosa’ Category

Game No. 11: Kings 98, Raptors 91

Another ugly one for a small crowd at the Air Canada Centre to “enjoy” on Wednesday night, as the Raptors lost at home to the Kings for the first time since 2004.

Both teams were slow and sluggish early and made a run or two in the middle of the game, but the difference was that the Raptors never had a response for Sacramento’s burst in the fourth quarter. Say what you will about Toronto missing Andrea Bargnani down the stretch (strained left calf, left the game in third quarter), but the Kings were missing their leading scorer (Marcus Thornton) for the entire game.

Random note: This is the first time in four back-to-back-to-backs in franchise history that the Raptors finished with a losing record (1-2) and also the first time they lost the back end of a three games in three nights stretch. In the 50-game 1999 season, the Raps swept one back-to-back-to-back and went 2-1 in the other two.

Here are six thoughts on a brutal contest:

1- You want lockout basketball? You got lockout basketball. The Kings were playing on the back-end of a back-to-back after getting blown out on Tuesday night in Philadelphia. The Raptors were on the back-end of a back-to-back-to-back after being easily handled by the previously winless Wizards in Washington. Did it ever show for both teams? Toronto and Sacramento combined to shoot 64-of-161 (39.8 per cent) from the field and 13-of-44 from three while committing 30 turnovers and recording just 33 assists. It was a matchup of two tired young teams already low on quality, and neither team did much entertaining.

2- Andrea Bargnani continues to prove that he has improved and evolved. The bad news is obviously that Bargnani was forced to leave the game in the second half with what the team is calling a strained left calf and the fact that he was shooting just two-of-13 up to that point, but there were bright spots in Andrea’s game on Wednesday. Bargnani was putting in work on the defensive side of the floor, was driving the net and getting to the line on the offensive side, and most importantly, grabbed 10 rebounds in 26 minutes for his second double-double of the season. We’re now 11 games and over two weeks into the season, and instead of seeing his play slowly drop off, Bargnani actually seems to be elevating his game each day. Hopefully his calf strain isn’t serious enough to derail what is looking like a potential All Star campaign.

3- After nearly a year out of the lineup recovering from microfracture surgery, Linas Kleiza surprised all of us by suiting up and playing against the Kings. Kleiza was reportedly never healthy last season for the Raptors, which might be the reason he never really left his mark on the team and often looked like an inconsistent chucker. I loved the fact that Kleiza’s first NBA touch in over 50 weeks was a strong drive to the basket and the fact the he looked fearless throughout. It’s just one game, but Kleiza didn’t look tentative or worse for wear in his 14 minutes of inspiring action. It’s no surprise that one of the only bursts of life the Raptors showed in this game came when Kleiza first checked in, helping the Raps to a 14-2 run.

Rasual Butler couldn’t hit a soccer net right now and Gary Forbes has failed to impress in the limited minutes he has seen so far, so this is a golden opportunity for Kleiza to earn his starting spot back and for the Raptors to start a Linas Kleiza/James Johnson platoon at small forward.

4- From the good vibes of Kleiza’s return to the miserable vibes surrounding DeMar DeRozan. I wrote earlier this week that DeRozan’s performance against the Nets and 76ers last weekend was one of the worst two-game stretches of his young career. Well he followed those games up with a combined seven-of-27 performance against the Timberwolves and Wizards. On Wednesday night against the Kings, DeRozan finished with 13 points on five-of-nine shooting, but it was much, much worse than those numbers suggest. DeMar was sluggish for most of the game, had no movement at all on offence, no fight on defence and carried a very defeated body language around. After averaging 18.5 points on nearly 50 per cent shooting and showing off a dramatically improved three-point shot through his first six games, DeRozan has regressed to 8.8 points on 30 per cent shooting in his last five games, while going zero-for-seven from deep during that stretch.

DeRozan is lacking confidence and looks weak. He has to find a way to fight through this and get back to playing the way he is capable of, or what looked to be an innocent slump over one weekend could become a season-long nightmare.

5- After being one of the weak links in the team’s recent struggles, the Raptors’ bench finally came through with a worthwhile performance, outscoring the Kings’ bench 43-26. Most of that had to do with Leandro Barbosa’s 24 points off the pine, but Kleiza, James Johnson and Ed Davis all gave the Raptors something. Speaking of Ed Davis, I would have liked to see a lot more of him in this one, as the young big man finished with six points and six boards in just 12 minutes.

6- A quick note on the Kings. I know they’re the youngest team in the NBA, but I really think they should be better than they are. Young or not, they have a ton of talent in guys like Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, Marcus Thornton, J.J. Hickson and others. If Keith Smart can get this team playing the right way, playing team basketball and getting Cousins’ head on straight, I honestly think they can surprise some folks in the Western Conference. They’re probably not ready to compete for a playoff spot just yet, but I don’t think they should be one of the worst teams in the NBA either.

Raptors Player of the Game: Leandro Barbosa – 29 Min, 24 Pts, 11-18 FG, 2-5 3PT, 1 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 TO

Kings Player of the Game: DeMarcus Cousins – 39 Min, 21 Pts, 6-11 FG, 9-11 FT, 19 Reb, 1 Stl, 1 Blk, 5 TO (Cousins also came through with the quote of the night: “I’m out there just grabbing balls.” Amazing)

So here’s something scary to think about when you go to bed tonight: The Raptors next nine games are against the Pacers, Bulls, Hawks, Celtics, Blazers, Clippers, Suns, Jazz and Nuggets, with the last four coming as part of a Western road trip.

“Tank-Nation” has to be rejoicing right now.

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.

Season Stats: 58 GP, 24.1 MPG, 13.3 PPG, 45 FG%, 33.8 3PT%, 79.6 FT%, 2.1 APG, 1.7 RPG, 0.9 SPG

Career Stats: 524 GP, 25 MPG, 12.7 PPG, 46.5 FG%, 39.2 3PT%, 82.4 FT%, 2.5 APG, 2.3 RPG, 1 SPG

Leandro Barbosa arrived in Toronto with the promise of a rebirth or renewal north of the border. The Brazilian Blur had contributed to contending Suns teams for seven seasons, including winning the Sixth Man of the Year award for the 2006-2007 season. However, wrist surgery limited his games played and minutes in his seventh and final season in Phoenix, and Barbosa struggled through his worst season in five years.

To the delight of Raptors fans far and wide, Barbosa was given a chance to regain his award-winning form in Toronto. Even better, the speedy guard was acquired in a trade that rid the Raptors of Hedo Turkoglu’s atrocious contract.

With Barbosa looking as good as advertised and leading the Raptors through a decent pre-season, the stage was set for him to make a significant impact for the young Raptors. Unfortunately, a wrist injury sustained in the final pre-season game limited Barbosa once again.

Barbosa missed 24 games this season, but what’s important is how he fared in the 58 games he did play, and whether or not he can contribute next season, should he elect to pick up his $7.6 million player option for the 2011-2012 season (I can’t see why he wouldn’t take that option).

While some saw Barbosa’s season as a minor disappointment, it’s interesting to see that he actually finished with a better scoring average than his career average. Having said that, Barbosa was nowhere near the guard who scored between 14 and 18 points off of the bench for three straight seasons in Phoenix.

If it wasn’t for his wrist, he may have been.

If the pre-season was any indication, Barbosa was ready to break out again with the Raptors. And when you look at the fact that his shooting numbers were down across the board, compared to his career averages, you’d have to assume that the troubled wrist is what affected Leandro’s stroke. Consider that Barbosa shot over 46 per cent for five straight seasons before his wrist troubles intervened last year.

Barbosa’s biggest problem this season was his struggle with consistency. When he was on, he was a fantastic game-changer off of the bench, who sparked the young Raptors to some impressive victories, like their franchise record comeback in Detroit. But when he was off, he sometimes looked like a confused and hesitant rookie.

If it really was just the wrist that caused the problems, then one would have to hope that an off-season of rest, and possibly surgery, can cure the Blur. But if Barbosa plays for his native Brazil in this summer’s 2011 FIBA Americas, and doesn’t give his wrist the rest it needs, then this past season may have been his best, or simply his first and last, in Toronto.

The conundrum for Bryan Colangelo, assuming there is NBA basketball next season, is determining whether Barbosa will be healthy enough to contribute at a level that is worth $7.6 million of valuable cap space for a young team.

I know there are doubts out there, and rightfully so, but given the fact that next season would be the final year of his contract, I don’t see the risk in keeping Barbosa around. If he continues to struggle, whether on the floor or with injuries, then the Raptors can walk away after next season. But if he returns to his old form, Barbosa, still only 28, could become a key part of the Raptors’ future core going forward, or could become a valuable asset in a trade.

For one year and $7.6 million, I’d rather keep him around and find out which Barbosa shows up.

Scott Carefoot’s take on Leandro Barbosa:

Let’s face it — Barbosa could have sat out the entire season because of his wrist injury and most Raptors fans would still feel like we came out ahead because he replaced that bum, Hedo Turkoglu. When he did play, Barbosa was the quintessential NBA sixth man — inconsistent, not much help on the defensive end, but a tremendous spark off the bench at times who could score points in bunches when he was in a groove. If he returns to the Raptors next season as expected, a healed-up wrist will hopefully mean a return to his deadly three-point shooting form from the 2005-06 to 2008-09 seasons when he jacked up 4.5 treys per game and made 41 percent of them. If the Raptors get that version of Barbosa next season, it’s highly unlikely they’ll finish dead last in the league in three-point shooting percentage again.

That’s three player evaluations down (I did Ajinca and Alabi last week) and 12 still to go as we navigate through this Raptors off-season. Next up will be the “enigma of all enigmas,” so look out for a Bargnani evaluation in the next couple of days.

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A solid crowd packed the Air Canada Centre to see the Bargnani-less and Calderon-less Raptors take on Hedo Turkoglu and the Magic, and the sellout crowd of 19 800 were treated to quite the ball game.

It didn’t look like a good game was on tap in the first quarter, as the two teams couldn’t get out of their own ways, and played a very slow-paced opening frame. But the Raptors were showing a refreshing commitment to defence, and Ed Davis led the way early on, as Toronto hung with Orlando.

Dwight Howard began taking over in the second quarter, and was virtually unstoppable inside. Even worse, D-12 was making his free throws in the first half. The Magic took control with a 30-point second quarter, but the Raptors refused to lay down.

The third quarter was a battle of the point guards, as Jameer Nelson and Jerryd Bayless traded shot for shot. Despite conceding back-to-back 30-point quarters and clearly being outmatched in the skill department, the Raptors headed to the fourth quarter down just six points, and the rowdy ACC crowd could sense an upset looming.

Jerryd Bayless continued to carry the team in the final quarter, and DeMar DeRozan and Leandro Barbosa hit some big shots late, as the Raptors climbed back in front. Orlando had its chances to regain control, but either ended up turning the ball over or missing free throws.

The playoff-bound Magic could only watch as the young, scrappy Raptors manufactured one of their best victories of the season. Without their leading scorer and starting point guard, the Raptors, losers of six straight and 20-55 (coming into this game) overall, were able to knock off an East power and their superstar in impressive fashion.

The Raps left the court to a standing ovation. It was a welcomed sight to see, and well-deserved by the players on this night.

The obvious positives from this game are that the young core pieces all contributed. DeRozan and Bayless combined for 47 points, Ed Davis and Amir Johnson provided solid defence inside and James Johnson put together another balanced stat-line of 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Another impressive note from the night is that the Raptors dominated one of the better rebounding teams in the league on the glass, out-rebounding Orlando, 48-30. Leading the way in this department – who else, but Reggie Evans, who pulled down 17 rebounds in 32 minutes off of the bench.

The game had its slow points, but was, overall, another entertaining affair at the ACC. Raptors fans have to be happy with the performance from their young team, and the end result.

And yes, I will be one of the people who comments on the fact that this team is scrappier, better defensively, better on the glass and overall, just more entertaining without Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani. It doesn’t mean I’m a Calderon or Bargnani “hater,” though I have stated my issues with those two in the past.

I’m just stating an opinion; an opinion I believe is obvious to anyone who watches this team on a regular basis.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jerryd Bayless – 35 Min, 23 Pts, 7-14 FG, 3-6 3Pt, 6-7 FT, 2 Reb, 8 Ast, 1 Stl,

Magic Player of the Game: Dwight Howard – 39 Min, 31 Pts, 11-20 FG, 9-15 FT, 9 Reb, 1 Blk

Goat of the Game: Quentin Richardson – 23 Min, 3 Pts, 1-4 FG, 1-2 3Pt, 2 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 TO

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The Raptors seemed sluggish from the get-go, and it bit them in the butt early on.

Just halfway through the first quarter, Toronto had already dug themselves a 15-point hole, and showed few signs of life to get out of it.

As usual as of late, it was the Raptors’ bench that helped pick up the team and get them back in the game. Although the reserves made it a somewhat respectable game in the second quarter, the Raptors just never looked right in that first half and certainly never looked like they were making a legitimate case to stay in the ball game.

Toronto shot the ball well (over 52 per cent) in the first half and trailed by just 11 heading into the break, but anyone watching could see that their only hope of getting a W in Detroit was going to have to come through another Michigan Miracle.

The Raps came out with a noticeable increase in energy to start the second half. They were still knocking down shots on the offensive end, and were starting to come alive at the defensive end, getting deflections and creating turnovers that led to fast breaks.

Unfortunately, they weren’t able to capitalize on those fast breaks, as a couple of offensive fouls on James Johnson and DeMar DeRozan that looked like they could have actually been “and-ones” seemed to deflate the young Raptors.

After cutting the once 20-point deficit down to six early in the third quarter, the Raps faded down the stretch of the third and watched the Pistons build up another double digit lead heading into the fourth.

Pistons fans had to be getting nervous early in the fourth quarter, as the same two players who had led the last Raptors’ resurgence in Detroit, Jerryd Bayless and Leandro Barbosa, were doing it again, and the Raps were suddenly within five with plenty of time remaining.

The difference this time was that the Pistons bent, but never broke, and within a couple of minutes the lead was back to 10 and eventually 13. That swing was pretty much it for the Raptors, as they fell to 31 games below .500 (18-49) and an atrocious 5-27 on the road.

The story of the game was Toronto’s lack of defensive intensity, as they allowed Detroit to shoot 60 per cent from the field in the first half, and 52 per cent overall.

As for the positives on this night, they were few and far between. Sure, the Raptors shot the ball well themselves, but they were really a jump-shooting team tonight and didn’t get to the free throw line nearly enough. Some of that was officiating, but for the most part, it was Toronto’s inability to get anything done inside.

As mentioned, the bench was good again, outscoring Detroit’s bench 36-27.

At the end of the day, the Raptors just lost to a better team (as sad as that statement is when we’re talking about the Pistons) on the road, but also didn’t help themselves by coming out of the gates with little energy.

The loss extends Toronto’s franchise-record road losing streak to 14 games.

Raptors Player of the Game: Leandro Barbosa – 26 Min, 18 Pts, 7-16 FG, 1-3 3Pt, 3-3 FT, 3 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 Stl (DeRozan could be here as well)

Pistons Player of the Game: Greg Monroe – 35 Min, 21 Pts, 9-14 FG, 3-5 FT, 10 Reb, 5 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk