Archive for the ‘News & Notes’ Category

After a jam-packed couple of weeks of news and preparation for the season, the last couple of days have really settled down in Raptor land.

If you missed it yesterday, I provided some early season numbers to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

Scott will probably post a game thread ahead of tonight’s matchup against the winless defending champion Mavericks. I don’t think I’ll be able to watch the game tonight, so most likely no recap, but if anything interesting comes up between now and Sunday’s game against the Magic, you know where to come to read about it.

Let’s get to a few notes.

- Aaron Gray is still undergoing cardiac testing and monitoring to find out what’s been causing his rapid heart rate. While he can take part in (full contact) practices, Gray will be held out of game action for now after consulting with an NBA cardiologist. Again, I hope for Gray’s sake, this doesn’t turn out to be the kind of thing that requires procedures or an extended absence. While Gray wasn’t going to be much of a deciding factor to the team’s success this season, he is a decent big body off of the bench, and added depth at the big positions is always helpful. Just think, if Amir or Andrea get into early foul trouble like they did on Wednesday night, and Magloire can’t give you anything on that night, without Gray, you’re next option at centre is Solomon Alabi.

- I haven’t posted anything Jonas Valanciunas related since his epic showdown versus Santa Claus, but finally we have some real basketball to mention. In three games this week (all be it against some very weak competition), Valanciunas scored 55 points on 21-of-31 shooting (67.7 per cent) to go along with 31 rebounds and four blocks in about 59 minutes of action. In simpler terms, the big Lithuanian averaged about 18 points, 10 rebounds and a block in just under 20 minutes per game. Thanks to Toronto Raptors Community Manager Jay Satur for recapping Valanciunas’ week.

- I find myself watching Dwane Casey’s broadcasted media scrums more than I usually watch coaches’ scrums, and a big part of the reason is that I actually find Casey to be more honest and direct with the media than most coaches. Two things caught my attention in watching his scrum from Thursday. First, Casey was discussing getting the respect of officials by playing hard, playing physical and diving to the floor for loose balls. He then followed that up by saying it would make the officials think “they’re not the same Toronto team of the past.” Yup, that’s a burn to the Raptors players who were here last year and could even be interpreted as a burn to the former coaching staff as well. Do I think Casey said it thinking he was burning anyone? No, but I do think he was being honest, and what his honesty basically said was that this team didn’t play hard enough or physical enough in recent years. Raptors fans already knew that, I just found it refreshing to here Casey confirm it.

Another cool part of the scrum was hearing Casey talk about how great the ACC crowd was for the home opener and say that “coaches from other teams talked about how exciting our fans were.” Coming out of a lockout, entering a season with minimal expectations, if any, it really was an impressive crowd if you were there to witness it. Casey also talked about the playoff-like atmosphere the fans created on Wednesday night, which I mentioned in my thoughts on the game.

- Outside of the obvious “Dwane Casey returns to Dallas” story, one thing that should be interesting to watch tonight is Andrea Bargnani vs. Dirk Nowitzki. Obviously, this isn’t the fist time the two have matched up in their careers, but remember, Bargnani has been playing as a centre for much of the last five years, so they really haven’t had a full game long one-on-one battle yet. With Bargs now playing the four, this might be our first chance to finally really see that matchup.

While it’s probably far too late for Andrea to ever live up to the Dirk comparisons, he has had good games against his idol in the past. In eight career matchups against Dirk and the Mavs (Bargnani hasn’t faced the Mavs since the 2009-2010 season), Bargnani has averaged about 17 points, four rebounds and a block. But in his last three times going up against Dirk, Andrea has averaged 20.6 points, six rebounds and two blocks. Are we in store for Bargnani’s best game of the young season tonight?

Until they prove me wrong (and I know we all hope they won’t), I’m going to assume that the fight and effort will be there from the Raptors heading into all 66 games this season, or at least most of them. I expect that same fight tonight, but with the Mavs losing a heartbreaker against Kevin Durant and the undefeated Thunder just 24 hours ago, I smell a blowout brewing.

I know the Mavs are an older team playing on the back end of a back-to-back and their fourth game in six nights, so there is the possibility that the much younger, much fresher Raptors simply run past them, but I just can’t see the defending champs dropping to 0-4 with a home loss to the lowly Raptors. Regardless of the Raps’ extra effort, I wouldn’t be shocked to see this one get ugly.

Perhaps the key for Toronto will be hanging around and staying in the game early, because you would have to expect Dallas to come out firing.

To a lot of people, today is simply December 23, the eve of Christmas Eve. But to Raptors fans, who may be in a foul mood as they await a season we all hope flies by and takes us straight to the 2012 Draft, they may be more inclined to celebrate Festivus this year.

So before I go on, I invite you all to bust out the aluminum pole, air your grievances (Raptors fans have 16 years worth of them) and pick a Raptor you’d like to test in the annual “Feats of Strength.”

First, some interesting news and notes from the land of the Dinosaurs.

- At 23, Kevin Durant is one of the best basketball players alive today (some would say the best) and looks like he should be on his way to a Hall of Fame career. So imagine the surprise to Canadian basketball fans then, when it was tweeted that Durant’s favourite NBA team is our very own Toronto Raptors. Personally, I’d like a little clarification on the matter. Were they his favourite team growing up because maybe he was a big Vince Carter fan? Was he a Jurassic Park fan and a dinosaur junkie? Is he a sports masochist? Or, was he actually saying that outside of the Thunder, he likes the Raptors the best right now, as a compliment to some of Toronto’s youngsters? I’m going to bet it was one of the former choices, rather than the latter. None the less, it looks like the first Festivus Miracle of the year has occurred.

- If you missed anything from RaptorBlog yesterday, I argued that Amir Johnson should be in the mix to start at centre and a Grantland article revealed that P.J. Carlesimo doesn’t think much of Andrea Bargnani’s rebounding ability, while Jay Triano ensured Bargnani knew nothing about this.

- This is a few days late, but in case you haven’t noticed, Dwane Casey wrote the foreword for this season’s edition of Basketball Prospectus. It is both interesting and encouraging to read about how much Casey values analytics and advanced statistics’ place in understanding the game. As you read in his foreword, Casey claims that the Raptors “have in place an analytical system that is second to none.” It’s also interesting, and confusing, to hear Casey speak about how the Raptors “guy” for advanced metrics and statistics is in Japan. Huh?

Since we at RaptorBlog understand and share your passion for advanced stats as basketball fanatics, we are going to have a new member of the team this season. Blake Kennedy will have stats-related posts throughout the season for RaptorBlog, to keep us sports nerds happy.

- As the Christmas weekend and therefore the 2011-2012 NBA season is practically upon us, a lot of sports sites and blogs are revealing their predictions for the season. I noticed a couple of things in ESPN’s predictions yesterday. First and foremost, Henry Abbott, renowned NBA writer for True Hoop, predicts that Dwane Casey will win NBA Coach of the Year. I don’t want to put words in Mr. Abbott’s mouth, but I’m assuming that if he’s picking Casey to take home Coach of the Year, he must also be predicting the Raptors to massively over-achieve, and possibly make the playoffs? Also of note, CBA know-it-all Larry Coon (he literally knows everything about anything when it comes to NBA CBA and salary cap rules) picked DeMar DeRozan to take home the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.

- Lastly, stay tuned to RaptorBlog throughout the next couple of days, as I will be unveiling my predictions for the Raptors’ season, as well as my final thoughts on the Raps’ rotation heading into the regular season, some time today or tomorrow. To ensure you don’t miss a beat, ‘like’ our RaptorBlog facebook page.

RaptorBlog News and Notes

Once the regular season kicks off on Monday, RaptorBlog will have you covered on most game-days with pre-game threads and post-game recaps. As I had previously mentioned, I’ll recap every Raptors game I see this season, with some rare exceptions throughout the year.

Well, tonight might be one of those exceptions, as the Raptors’ pre-season finale in Boston will not be televised in the Great White North. If I can find a reliable online feed, I’ll have a recap for you to check out either late tonight or tomorrow morning. If not, I’m sure we’ll all survive without my thoughts on a meaningless, non-televised pre-season game.

- As for that game, there will be a couple of changes to the starting lineup tonight. Jerryd Bayless is in for Jose Calderon and Aaron Gray will replace Jamaal Magloire as the starting centre. As the season wears on, I imagine we might see these tweaks from time to time. Dwane Casey has said that he’ll start Bayless once in a while (I’m assuming when Jose is either fatigued or slumping), and as we all know, Magloire is not exactly taylor-made for this exhausting season.

If you want to start a true centre beside Andrea Bargnani and Magloire is out of the question, the choice comes down to Aaron Gray and Solomon Alabi, and we know who’s getting that call 101 times out of 100. Though I won’t lie to you, I’d like to see Alabi given a chance tonight. It might be his only chance to get some burn this entire season. On a negative note, if Alabi ends up with zero minutes played in the team’s only two pre-season games, what does that tell you about Dwane Casey and the coaching staff’s opinion of Alabi as a legit NBA player?

- Another RaptorBlog related note to pass your way: With Scott Carefoot doing a fine job breaking down every NBA team for The Basketball Jones, the unveiling of the No. 8 player in our Ultimate Raptors Rankings will be postponed. The latest it will go up is next Wednesday, so you never know, you might get a double-dip of Ultimate Raptors next week.

- If you’re a Raptors season seat holder, you might want to call in sick tomorrow. There’s a chance your season tickets will be delivered to your door by DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis.

- If you missed the news in Raptors Nation today, the team will wear camouflage this season and Jonas Valanciunas is a Basketball God in Lithuania.

- Not that it should come as a surprise, but ESPN.com unveiled their Eastern Conference preview today, where John Hollinger predicted the Raptors to finish in 13th place with a 19-47 record. That sounds about right, but I’ll post my official prediction for the team in the next few days. I’ll also post a final look at the rotation heading into the regular season.

So, whether there is a recap waiting for you in the morning or not, we will talk somewhere along the line tomorrow.