Archive for the ‘Lockout 2011’ Category

Tonight, the Toronto Raptors begin their first and only back-to-back-to-back of the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season.

After looking heartless and lethargic in a back-to-back against the Nets and 76ers over the weekend (outscored by a combined 47 points), Raptors fans may shudder over what this team could look like after playing three games in three nights in two different cities (Toronto and Washington) or what they may look like on their sixth and seventh games in nine nights against the Pacers and Bulls later this week.

But let’s not fret about a tomorrow that may never come. Instead, let’s go back 13 years, to the last lockout-shortened NBA season, and the last time the Raptors played a back-to-back-to-back.

The year was 1999. The Raptors were still considered a “new” franchise that had never even come close to tasting success. Charles Oakley was the team’s highest paid player, earning nearly $10.2 million. RaptorBlog didn’t exist yet, the term “blog” was unheard of, and yours truly was still trudging through elementary school. Simpler times, indeed.

The Raps actually played three sets of back-to-back-to-backs that season, as the NBA crammed 50 games per team into three hectic months.

The first came from March 15-March 17, when the Raptors, a young 6-12 team, shocked the basketball world by sweeping three games against the Charlotte Hornets, New Jersey Nets and Detroit Pistons on the backs of Doug Christie and a rookie named Vince Carter.

Just four days after completing one back-to-back-to-back, the Raptors started another stretch of three games in three nights from March 21-March 23, beating the eventual Eastern Conference champion Knicks to start the stretch before being pounded by the Nets in the middle game, then using a combined 48 points from Vince Carter and Dee Brown to dominate the Jordan-less Bulls by 23.

And finally, from April 19-21, the Raptors beat the Magic, were killed by the Hawks, and bounced back by blowing out the Wizards.

In total, the Raptors, who would eventually finish 23-27, went 7-2 in nine games that occurred during three different back-to-back-to-backs. They went a perfect 6-0 in the openers and finales, but struggled to a 1-2 record in the middle portion.

In continuing with tradition, I predict that the 2012 edition of the Raptors, a young team and franchise that still hasn’t tasted any real success, will beat the exciting Timberwolves to open this stretch, will beat the Kings to close out the string of three in three, and will find a way hand the Wizards their first win in the middle portion on Tuesday night in Washington.

Admit it, it sounds very Raptors-like.

Looking back on it, you can definitely draw some parallels between the 1999 Raptors and the 2011-2012 edition. Both teams relied on young, unproven talent, both teams had a few seasoned vets to keep the young guys in check, and both teams were coming off of 60-plus loss seasons.

The difference, of course, was that the ’99 Raptors had Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady, two players that although a few years away from their prime, both gave fans insanely high hopes for the future of the franchise. I like DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis, I admire Amir Johnson’s hustle and have been impressed with Andrea Bargnani so far this season, but let’s be honest, the Raptors do not currently employ anyone with a ceiling as high as Carter or McGrady.

While the ’99 Raptors failed to become the first team in franchise history to qualify for the playoffs (finished four games behind the eighth-place Knicks), they did hang around the race for a good portion of the season (they were 18-14 at one point and headed into April at .500), and certainly brought promise of brighter days ahead. The current edition of the Raptors don’t have the talent to realistically compete for a playoff spot, but they can deliver some of that same promise.

Here’s hoping that some time in 2025, we can look back at the 2011-2012 Raptors with the same fond memories the ’99 team gave us.

Kudos to the NBA for keeping the highly anticipated schedule under wraps and avoiding a leak, which is a minor miracle in our age of the internet and social media. But that’s about the only credit they’ll get from me today.

In a classic example of something making too much sense to actually be considered, the NBA decided to throw a wrench into the modified 66-game schedule for the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season.

In the usual 82-game schedule, teams play every team in their division four times (4×4=16), the other 10 teams in their conference three or four times (36) and each team in the opposite conference twice, home and away (15×2=30). Other than the uneven number of games against conference opponents, this format works well for a variety of reasons. The main reason being that every NBA team plays in every NBA city at least once per season.

I can see why this wouldn’t be possible in a 50-game season, but in a 66-game schedule, it really should have been easy. Keep the four games against division teams (16) and play the other 25 NBA teams twice, home and away (50). The division significance would have still been there, as would the visit by every team to every city.

But as mentioned, this simply made too much sense for a league that canceled a month-and-a-half of the season without changing enough in the CBA. Instead, teams will play four games against three of their division opponents (12), three games against one division opponent, three or four games against the other 10 teams in the conference (33), two games against three teams in the opposite conference, home and away (6), and lastly, 12 teams in the opposite conference just once. Way to ‘keep it simple, stupid.’

Now each team will have six teams in the opposite conference that never visit their city this season. I’m sure teams that won’t get home dates against the Heat, Celtics, Knicks, Magic, Lakers, Mavs or Thunder are just thrilled about this. For a lot of teams, that’s at least one guaranteed sell-out down the drain. Seriously, I want to meet and interview the NBA employee who thought of this format.

For the Raptors this season, a young struggling team that has seen attendance slowly dwindle, that means no home games against Steve Nash’s Suns, Kevin Durant’s Thunder, Blake Griffin’s Clippers, Chris Paul’s Hornets or the defending champions Mavericks (and the Jazz).

That’s three or four sell-outs Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment can kiss goodbye.

Now that I’ve had my time to complain about the ridiculous schedule format, let’s take a look at the actual schedule.

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Happy Anniversary

November 3, 2011 doesn’t seem like that important of a day for basketball bloggers.

The NBA is locked (pardon the pun) in its second major labour dispute in 13 years, wiping out at least a month of the regular season and probably more. The two sides won’t meet again until the weekend, so there isn’t much to say about the lockout that hasn’t already been written a thousand times.

The only Raptors-related news we could try to come up with would have to revolve around players playing in Europe and former stars appearing on talk-shows. Heck, the college basketball season hasn’t started, so even if we wanted to, we can’t write prematurely-formulated opinions on Raptors draft targets just yet.

But amidst these dog-days of the empty NBA calendar, boredom allowed me to realize this: Today is the 16th anniversary of the first game in Toronto Raptors history.

I guess, considering we’re RaptorBlog, this might be a big deal.

The Raptors played their first game in franchise history on November 3, 1995 – a 94-79 win over the New Jersey Nets at the SkyDome.

Things have kind of gone down hill since then…for both the Raptors and Oliver Miller.

In more refreshing news, don’t forget to “like” our RaptorBlog facebook page. Where else could you share wholesome memories like this with fellow sports masochists?

Since when did this happen?

Or did it even happen at all?

On Wednesday night, devoted Raptors and RaptorBlog fan Monique Lawrence posted an NBA 2k12 trailer on my facebook wall. What she wanted me to see was a possible new court design for the Raptors and the Air Canada Centre.

As you can slightly see at around the 0:24 second mark in the video, that is not the same court the Raptors finished the 2010-2011 season on.

The court we’ve become accustomed to over the last couple of years has a simple dark red claw outlined by a red circle at centre court. This new look has a white claw inside of a solid, lighter red circle inside of a white circle inside of a black circle. Also, the last time we saw it, the court’s key/paint area was plain wood with only the outer edges painted red. As you can see above, the new court looks to have solid red keys. Again, the red used in the game trailer is much lighter than the red currently painted on the Raptors’ court.

I think it would be quite out of the ordinary for an officially licensed NBA video game to randomly change a team’s court appearance unless they were told of an actual court-change in reality, which leads me to the conclusion that this is what the ACC court will look like whenever we get back to watching NBA basketball.

I actually like this design. It has just enough colour to be engaging and unique without looking like an all-out mickey mouse school court. I’m cool with it as long as they finally stick with something long term and don’t go too crazy with colour.

So, what’s your take on the possible new design? Do you think we simply have way too much time on our hands and are reading too much into a split-second of a game trailer?

Or do you think it’s legit, and if so, how do you feel about the more colourful look?

Yup, the NBA Lockout, where filling blog space with anything you can find happens.

Don’t forget to “Like” our RaptorBlog facebook page, where you’ll be the first to know when a new RaptorBlog post goes up and will receive all of the Raptors-related news we can find. Where else can you engage in vital, franchise-changing discussions about topics such as court-designs in the midst of an ugly lockout?

We posted the first part of our convo with DeMar DeRozan on Friday afternoon. While that part was about looking back on last season, this one is about the L-word. No, not love or like or anything nice, I’m talking about this damn lockout. Here’s DeRozan on the possibility of going overseas, why the rookies are really losing out and when he realized that he’d be without his best friend when/if the lockout ends this season.

HM: So, about this lockout, have you talked to anyone for advice?

DD: I talked to a few guys and they just prepared me, telling me what to do, how to prepare. Hopefully it turns out for the best, but just be prepared for the worst at the end of the day. A lot of players that had been through it before.

HM: Have you spoken with anyone besides NBA vets about the situation?

DD: Coaches, old coaches. Even the fans, a lot of older guys who had been through the lockout, not necessarily players, people who remembered the lockout in ’99, when it took place. Cuttino Mobley has actually been talking me through it a lot. He’s been giving me a lot of advice and everything.

HM: What’s the main thing they tell you?

DD: Save your money.

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