Archive for the ‘Utah Jazz’ Category

I’ll preface this by saying that I don’t think trading Jose Calderon is as dire a need as a lot of other Raptors fans believe. It’s not the worst thing in the world if Calderon is the team’s starting point guard heading into next season. Having said that, I’m obviously still of the belief that if you can find a deal that gives the Raptors more flexibility, draft picks and young assets to build with, I’m all for it.

With that, and given that the NBA’s trade deadline is now just a week away (Thursday, March 15), here are three realistic trade proposals I’ve come up with involving Calderon and the Raptors. The key word here is “realistic.” I didn’t try to find trades that land the Raptors a superstar or a first round pick from a cellar dwelling team. These are all deals that I believe could conceivably help both teams involved and that would all work, according to ESPN’s trade machine.

Trade 1: Toronto trades Jose Calderon to Portland for Raymond Felton ($7.5 million expiring contract) and a draft pick

This is the trade most fans are talking about, and it does make a lot of sense for both teams. Portland gets an obvious upgrade at the point in Calderon, who they can keep next season, while the Raptors get a point guard who can simply finish the season in Toronto, but more importantly, the Raps get an expiring contract. I would want the Trail Blazers to throw in a draft pick, as Calderon is a much more valuable player than Felton is right now. The problem is that the Blazers could be a lottery team, and I can’t see them parting with a lottery pick just to acquire Jose.

Trade 2: Toronto trades Jose Calderon to Atlanta for Kirk Hinrich ($8.1 million expiring contract) and a draft pick

While Josh Smith could be on his way out of Atlanta, as off right now, the Hawks are still a legitimate Eastern Conference playoff team that I can’t see blowing things up and rebuilding just yet. They could be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, but there are also stretches where they look poised to make another deep run. With this deal, Atlanta improves greatly at the point and gets a lead guard who does a fine job taking care of the ball, something I’m sure a playoff team might value. Just like with my proposed Portland trade, the Raptors get a half capable point guard on a fairly large expiring contract to finish off this rebuilding season. And just like the Portland deal, I’d still want the Hawks to throw in a draft pick to even things out. Atlanta should be picking somewhere between 17 and 25 in the draft, so they might be more willing to cough up a first round pick than the Blazers. Though perhaps second round picks are more realistic in these proposed deals.

Trade 3: Toronto trades Jose Calderon to Utah for Devin Harris or for Trade Exception and draft pick

While I see a Calderon for Harris swap as “realistic,” I would not support such a trade. Harris will still be owed $8.5 million next season, so the Raptors would basically be downgrading their position at the point simply to save a couple million dollars next year. For anyone thinking Devin Harris is still a younger point guard with some untapped potential, he’s actually only 17 months younger than Calderon. This would be making a deal simply for the sake of making a deal. It doesn’t make much sense for the Raptors. As for the other proposed trade with the Jazz, the Raptors could simply take on a $9.7 million trade exception (from the Mehmet Okur trade) and perhaps even take Utah’s second round pick. Minnesota owns Utah’s first round pick this season (lottery protected), and I doubt the Jazz would be willing to part with Golden State’s top-seven protected first round pick. A trade for the exception, without a player coming to Toronto in return, would give the Raptors more financial flexibility over the next year and would likely give them a better chance in the draft lottery.

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If the Mavericks weren’t in the running for Deron Williams and/or Dwight Howard this summer (and I believe they are the dark horse team that could scoop up both), I’d suggest a Calderon for Kidd trade that nets the Raptors a $10.1 million expiring contract. While I think Calderon would be an upgrade over Kidd for Dallas, I don’t think the Mavs would be willing to mess much with their chemistry or would be willing to mess with their advantageous cap situation this off-season.

Worth mentioning: The two teams who might just need Jose Calderon the most, or at least who are in most need of a point guard, are the Lakers and the Magic. The problem is that neither team has the type of assets Toronto covets and even the Lakers’ trade exception from the Lamar Odom deal wouldn’t cover Calderon’s nearly $10 million salary this season. For the Lakers or Magic to acquire Jose from the Raptors, the deal would have to involve a third team or more. If L.A. or Orlando can get a third team involved that brings attractive assets to the table for Toronto, then either team could be in the mix.

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All of the proposed deals mentioned involve the Raptors clearing cap space for this off-season, but it’s important to remember that Toronto probably doesn’t figure into any of the big free agent targets’ plans. If Calderon had two years or more left on his deal, I’d want the Raptors to rid themselves of that contract as soon as possible. But realistically, Jose’s contract doesn’t hamper the Raps this summer (Toronto should have at least $10 million in cap space) given the team’s still modest expectations.

This is why as enticing as cap space would be, I still say that the Raptors should be looking for draft picks or young assets in potential Calderon deals. If there isn’t a good deal to be made, then there’s nothing wrong with letting Jose run the offence with a team that will once again be young and fairly inexperienced next season.

Game No. 19: Raptors 111, Jazz 106 (2-OT)

One night after beating the Suns for the first time since 2004 and snapping a 14-game losing streak against Phoenix, the Raptors emerge victorious in double-overtime to beat the Jazz for the first time since 2004, snapping a 12-game losing streak to Utah, with both wins coming on the road.

They may still be 6-13, but I think it’s safe to say these aren’t your older brother’s Raptors.

Much like Tuesday night’s win in Phoenix, the Raptors started sluggishly, dug an early hole, made up the deficit in the second quarter, and then eventually pulled away. The Raps were down 18 in the first half and didn’t take their first lead until the score was 50-48.

Now here are some thoughts on the game:

1- As nice as the W in Phoenix was, this win was 10 times more impressive, and I would have been saying that even if the Raptors had lost in overtime. On Tuesday, Toronto beat a poor Suns team. But on this night, on the back end of a back-to-back, the Raptors rallied from down 18 early and rallied from down nine with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter to outlast a 10-5 team (8-2 at home) that had been off for four days. Even more impressive, they did it despite Andrea Bargnani going down in overtime.

2- Speaking of Bargnani, that didn’t look good. I obviously have no background in medicine, but given the way Bargs was limping after going down with the same injury that sidelined him for two weeks already this month, I think it’s safe to assume that Il Mago will be out of action for at least that long again. Whether it’s warranted or not, most fans will likely point to the fact that in his first two games back after that aforementioned two-week break, Bargnani logged 82 minutes in just a 24-hour span. I’ll admit that even I was going to bring up my concern for Bargnani’s minutes in this post before he even went down.

It really is a shame. Andrea was playing like an All Star on both ends of the court, and I don’t know if I ever saw him put as much effort into defence as I saw Wednesday in Utah.

3- I’d like to dedicate some more time to DeMar DeRozan. I liked his game tonight. DeMar competed on the defensive end, scored 17 points on just 11 shots and grabbed eight rebounds to go with two assists and two steals. While I appreciated the fact that DeRozan didn’t try to force anything when it wasn’t there for him offensively, I didn’t like that he seemed to shy away from the ball down the stretch and in the two overtime periods (where he attempted just one shot). Part of it is obviously not getting looks from his teammates, but part of it has to fall on DeMar’s shoulders too. I really want to see him almost demand the ball in tight games like he did last season, particularly when Bargnani isn’t on the floor.

4- Bargnani played noticeably well when he was in the ball game. Linas Kleiza probably won the game for the Raptors in crunch time. Jose Calderon threw up some prayers and had them answered. DeRozan, as mentioned, was good. But two players who I thought made a big impact despite flying under the radar were the two Johnsons, James and Amir. They combined for just eight points on four-of-nine shooting and six rebounds, but their fantastic efforts on the defensive side of the ball should be lauded. Both came up with some much-needed defensive stops and some huge blocks when the Raptors needed them. As a team, Toronto had an impressive 10 blocks…James (six) and Amir (three) combined for nine of them.

5- A quick word on the Jazz. This is a team that I thought was criminally underrated coming into the season and a team I thought could even make the playoffs in the West. What they’re doing this season (currently 10-6, fifth in West) shouldn’t surprise people. They have a loaded front court with Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson (who didn’t play tonight) and a couple of nice young bigs in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. They’re not spectacular on the wings, but they have depth and players who can hold their own. And despite his regression, they have a more than capable point guard in Devin Harris. I’m not saying fans and analysts should have predicted the Jazz to be contenders, but on paper, I don’t see where people interpreted this team as a cellar-dweller.

6- And finally, a word on your Toronto Raptors, and expectations. I don’t know whether it’s an indication of how impressive Dwane Casey has been in getting maximum output out of a lackluster roster, or just an indication of how little we all expected from this team, but at 6-13 through 19 games, the Raptors are actually exceeding my expectations. In case you missed it or forgot, I predicted the Raptors to finish 20-46, and that was considered a pretty optimistic outlook compared to others. In addition, I had them pegged at 4-15 at this point in the season, and had them winning just five games on the road all season. We’re only just past the quarter-point, and they already have four away wins.

Does it mean they’re going to “over-achieve,” or wind up with two more wins than I originally predicted? No, but like I said, it’s interesting that despite losing 13 of 19 and already going through an eight-game losing streak, they’re still doing better than a lot of us expected.

Raptors Player of the Game: Linas Kleiza – 33 Min, 25 Pts, 8-16 FG, 4-9 3PT, 5-5 FT, 5 Reb, 1 Stl, 1 TO

Jazz Player of the Game: Paul Millsap – 49 Min, 31 Pts, 11 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk, 3 TO

Paul Millsap

Start time: 9:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN2
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Andrea Bargnani, Aaron Gray
Utah Jazz: Devin Harris, Raja Bell, Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson

Injury report

Toronto: No injuries reported.

Utah: Al Jefferson and Josh Howard are probable while Jamaal Tinsley is questionable for tonight.

Last night, the Raptors broke a 14-game losing streak against the Phoenix Suns. Tonight, they’re in Utah to try to end a 12-game winless run against the Jazz. When you’ve been as bad as the Raptors have been for a while, you tend to have streaks like this.

The Jazz have always been a tough team to beat in Salt Lake City, but they’re been even tougher than expected so far this season with an 8-2 record at home (10-5 overall). Their two home losses were both by three points — they lost to the Lakers in overtime and the Mavericks in regulation. A lot of the credit for their early success has to go to their beastly frontline of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. In particular, Millsap has been an absolute monster — he’s currently third in the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating (PER) behind LeBron and Kobe.

I usually roll my eyes when commentators talk about “key matchups” before NBA games, but that term definitely applies to the matchup of Millsap vs. Bargnani tonight. Which will cause more problems for their opponent: Bargnani’s length or Millsap’s strength? Bargnani almost certainly has to outperform P.M. Brawn (TM) tonight if the Raptors are going to pull off an upset.

Random thoughts…

  • Does it strike anyone else as odd that the Jazz haven’t played since Saturday? I didn’t think any NBA team was allowed to have two consecutive days off this season.
  • Kudos to #TBJ commenter “Norb” for his suggestion for the Hornets’ fish-themed arena name: “The Grouperdome”
  • This Steve Nash video would have made more sense at the end of yesterday’s Raptors-Suns game thread, but I just found out about this now, so… yeah.

For the first time ever, the Utah Jazz came into Toronto without Jerry Sloan, but they still carried an 11-game winning streak over the Raptors into Wednesday night’s ball game.

With Andrea Bargnani missing the game due to the flu, the Raptors sent out a much more defensive-minded and athletic lineup, and it paid off early on. The Raps got off to a good start (13-6) thanks to some solid defence and attacking the basket on offence. It was nice to see multiple players crashing the boards and following up on Raptors drives.

With the crowd getting ready to welcome Reggie Evans back to the floor, another Raptors big man went down. Amir Johnson appeared to hurt his ankle and stayed on the floor for a minute or two before leaving the game on his own legs. Amir did not return with what the team was calling a left ankle sprain.

From that disappointment, Raptors fans were then forced to watch a brutal end to the first quarter, as Toronto’s defence evaporated and Utah torched them for 31 points in the opening frame.

The Raptors recovered in the second quarter, as Ed Davis, believe it or not, led the charge offensively to spurt the Raps back into the game, even taking the lead for the majority of the quarter. But just as they had in the first quarter, the Jazz closed the second on a bit of a run, and held a 52-50 lead heading into the half.

If there were any questions regarding Reggie Evans’ health or rust factor coming into this game, they were quickly put to rest, as Reggie had eight rebounds in the first half (his first 15 minutes of action in three-and-a-half months).

The Raptors cranked up the defence again to start the second half and started to put together an impressive run of their own. DeMar DeRozan carried the scoring load despite poor shooting because he continued to attack the basket and get to the free throw line. Jose Calderon kept the Jazz defence honest by knocking down his jumpers and as mentioned, Reggie Evans picked up right where he had left off in November.

By the end of the third quarter, the Raptors had held the Jazz to just 18 points and found themselves up eight heading into the fourth quarter.

The Raptors stretched that lead out to 12 on a couple of occasions in the fourth and eventually to 14, but the Jazz made their inevitable run as the game’s conclusion drew closer. A barrage of buckets from C.J. Miles, including a couple of threes, had the 14 425 fans in the ACC groaning and getting restless.

The Utah rally was completed by big shots from Devin Harris and Al Jefferson on one end, while on the other end, Calderon proved for the millionth time that no matter how hot his shot is, it will always fail in the most clutch situations.

The Jazz had the ball for the last shot with the game tied at 94, and after Devin Harris’ shot clanked iron, Al Jefferson tapped up a Hail Mary at the buzzer that shot straight up in the air and then fell perfectly through the hoop.

In a 17-47 season, the Raptors have lost many games in many different ways, but few compare to squandering a 14-point lead at home with eight minutes remaining and then losing on a fluke tip-in at the buzzer.

Despite another disgusting collapse and heart-breaking loss at home, and despite the fact that Amir Johnson sprained his ankle, there were a few positives for the Raptors on this night. First and foremost, the Raptors’ bench was simply incredible. After dominating the Nets’ bench in London, the Raptors reserves came out and dismantled a much more formidable opponent in the Jazz, 42-9.

The other positives included Ed Davis’ 12 first half points, DeRozan’s eight rebounds and 11 free throw attempts, Sonny Weems’ 16 points in just 20 minutes and of course, the solid return of Reggie Evans. In his first taste of game action since November 26, Evans grabbed 11 rebounds in 33 hard-fought minutes.

At the end of the day, the Raptors fall 30 games below .500 and lose to Utah for the 12th straight time. Though it doesn’t take a basketball genius to see that without Jerry Sloan or a superstar point guard (sorry, Devin), these aren’t your daddy’s Utah Jazz.

Raptors Player of the Game: Sonny Weems -20 Min, 16 Pts, 6-10 FG, 2-2 3Pt, 2-2 FT, 5 Reb, 1 Stl

Jazz Player of the Game: Al Jefferson -42 Min, 34 Pts, 17-24 FG, 8 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Blk

On seeing the picture I chose to lead off this post, most of you have probably guessed that Reggie Evans will be in uniform tonight for the first time since November 26. Reggie’s a free agent after this season so you can be sure he’s going to play harder than anyone on this team for the rest of the season. Raptors fans have little to look forward to over these final 19 games, but Reggie’s hustle should at least be highly entertaining.

Injury-riddled and reeling from the recent organizational changes, the Jazz are in a bit of a free-fall lately with just two wins in their last 11 games. Tyrone Corbin has been coaching for the last 10 games so he’s not exactly making a strong case for keep that job going into next season. In the meantime, he’ll be trying to make up the two-and-half-game deficit behind Memphis for the final playoff seed in the West.

Injury report

Toronto: Joey Dorsey is expected to join Reggie in his return to the lineup, while Andrea is going to sit this one out because of his lingering flu-like symptoms.

Utah: The Jazz are expecting to play without two of their starters tonight, as Paul Millsap will rest his sore knee and Andrei Kirilenko has back spasms. Their other injured players are Mehmet Okur, Kyrylo Fesenko, Francisco Elson and Ronnie Price.

Five questions

1. What’s your over-under on the number of rebounds Andrea Bargnani will grab while he’s on the floor with Reggie Evans tonight? It can’t be higher than 0.5, right?

2. With Millsap resting his knee, will Derrick Favors be able to capitalize on the opportunity for increased playing time?

3. Could Jazz rookie Gordon Hayward possibly be more frugal than Matt Bonner? Hayward is making $2.3 million this season but he drives a Honda and prefers dining at The Olive Garden.

4. Would you like to go fishing with Karl Malone?

5. Did you hear about the time Jerry Sloan saved a man’s life by shooting a charging elk at point blank range with a rifle he got for $80 at a garage sale? True story.

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet One
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Ed Davis, Amir Johnson
Utah: Devin Harris, Raja Bell, C.J. Miles, Jeremy Evans, Al Jefferson

When I found out that Reggie Evans was going to dress for tonight, I immediately thought of using Rick Ross for tonight’s pregame song. Then I checked Reggie’s Twitter account and saw this:

It figures, doesn’t it? Every day, he’s hustlin’, hustlin’, hustlin’.