Archive for the ‘Toronto Raptors’ Category

demar-derozan-cake

At this point, it’s basically impossible for an NBA player’s custom birthday cake to not be insane. You remember Rip Hamilton’s, right? Nonetheless, let’s just take a look at how crazy DeMar DeRozan’s custom 24th birthday cake is.

For beginners, I have to imagine this is the first cake in history that marries two of the most similar cultures in all of North America: Toronto and Compton. Then, there’s a Jordan VI on there, in what I think has to be the Olympic colorway, though it’s kind of hard to tell since they’re made of icing and seem to be falling apart. Assuming they are the Olympics, that means we’ve got Canada and the United States battling for cake turf as well. And of course, there’s a classic Eazy-E hat on the top, despite the fact that DeRozan was five when Eazy-E died. Maybe he just likes the hat.

So on a scale from A Bit Crazy to Legit Insane, I’m giving this a Pretty Silly. It’s not the craziest cake ever, just like DeMar DeRozan isn’t the most exciting guy in the league, but between the hat and shoe, this is officially a crazy NBA cake. Add it to the list.

(via Facebook)

kelly-olynyk-horse-smile

With the dust mostly settled on this offseason’s player movement — and there was a whole lot of it this year — it’s time to take stock of all the fascinating new faces in new places, as well as the more compelling stories of players who will face new challenges while sticking around. Over the course of the next few weeks, Andrew Unterberger will do a team-by-team look at the most interesting players going into next season — one new to the team, and one returning — as we all try to pass the dog days of NBA-less summer, dreaming of hoops-filled months to come. The series kicks off today with the teams in the Atlantic Division: the Celtics, Nets, Knicks, 76ers and Raptors.

BOSTON CELTICS

Most Interesting New Player: Kelly Olynyk

Obviously, the Celtics’ offseason was more about the purge of the old than the welcoming of the new, as the departure of franchise-defining players like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett was balanced by the dudes in this super-depressing picture – hardly an even reconciliation of the team’s ledger in any respect. It’s unlikely that any of the guys received by the Celtics in their mega-blockbuster deal with Brooklyn will be of terrible consequence for the Celtics moving forward, and it wouldn’t be terribly surprising if none of them even ended the season on the C’s roster.

A brutally depressing Boston offseason may have been slightly redeemed, however, with the drafting — well, more so the Summer League play — of Kelly Olynyk. The Gonzaga big man seemed like a minor stretch when Danny Ainge traded with the Mavs to move up in the draft and take him with the 13th pick, but Olynyk made the selection look like a steal with his impressive exhibition play in Orlando, scoring with ease both in the post and from the perimeter, rebounding and passing well, and generally showing a ridiculous feel for the game for a not-even-rookie. Olynyk was one of the stories of the summer’s exhibition season, averaging 18 and 8 on 58 percent shooting, with the name “Dirk” even being invoked on more than one occasion. Suddenly, there was a non-ping-pong-balls-related reason to be excited about the ’14 Celtics.

Of course, the list of Summer League mirages in the NBA is a long and foreboding one — ask Bill Simmons about Kedrick Brown some time (or maybe don’t) — and there’s some legitimate worry about how Olynyk will fare against the size and strength of pro-caliber big men, so it might be prudent to hold off on calling him Canadian Moses right away. Still, after the loss of Pierce and Garnett, Olynyk will undoubtedly be a focus for Celtics fans, hoping that they might have gotten a guy worthy of being included in future Boston Big Threes.

Most Interesting Returning Player: Jeff Green

It’s hard not to go with Rajon Rondo here, since Rondo is never not one of the league’s most interesting players, and will be particularly so next season, coming back from ACL surgery and now all of a sudden being the virtually uncontested Face of the Franchise after spending the last six seasons trying to get out from the Big Three’s shadow. But who knows when Rajon is returning next year, and in the meantime, Jeff Green will be one of the most fascinating case studies in the league, as he gets to be The Guy for the first time in his NBA career.

Lest we forget, Green came alive late last season as a starter for the injury-plagued C’s, averaging over 20 a game (on over 50 percent shooting both from the field and from deep) in 17 starts, and then leading the team in scoring with over 20 a game in their first-round series against the Knicks. And now after six years of overlapping on the depth chart with the likes of Kevin Durant and Paul Pierce, Jeff Green will open the season is Boston as the team’s obvious first scoring option, finally given the chance to be the offensive focal point that other guys have to adjust their games to fit around. He could average 22 a game, push for the All-Star team and solidify himself as a huge key for the team’s future, or he could struggle to score efficiently, serve as an offensive black hole and effectively be the tanking engine for Boston’s 2014 lottery push. Both seem pretty damn plausible at this point.

Either way, this is probably it for Green — after six years of Yeah Buts and Well If Onlys, he basically has no excuse now not to be his awesomest self. If Green disappoints at age 27 on a young team with (eventually, hopefully) one of the league’s best point guards setting him up, he’ll probably never totally live up to expectation. If there’s a bigger make-or-break season for any one player this year, I’m not sure what it is, and I can’t wait to watch to find out which way he goes.

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andrea-bargnani-shot-clock

If the contracts for Rashard Lewis and Gilbert Arenas taught us anything, it’s that there isn’t a player in this league who cannot be traded once they have entered the final two years of their contract. Bulls fans yelping with excitement at this thought can find plenty of evidence to support that notion, and this week, we just got a little bit more.

There is no reason why Andrea Bargnani should have been tradable. His promise burned out long ago — his talents, such as they are, no longer constitute potential. This should have been an albatross contract, residual scorched earth from the previous regime, an unwanted anchor of a contract attached to a player who can neither help, nor stay on, his current team. Toronto should be preparing to use the amnesty clause on him rather than choosing which future assets they can get for him.

Into the breach, however, stepped New York. Channeling the Isiah Thomas era, New York were determined to outbid seemingly nobody, and ended up giving what few assets they actually have for a player who only helps if this is fantasy basketball. In reality, Bargnani takes so much off the table that it is hard to justify acquiring him at any price.

Bargnani’s skill set may be rarer and thus more enticing than, say, Amir Johnson’s, but a comparison of their relative impacts reveals a result that frankly isn’t even that close. The reality is that Johnson has been outplaying the man ahead of him for years, and only politicization and asset management has prevented their roles from being reversed. While this is partly an endorsement of the highly underrated Johnson, it is also more than a mildly pejorative thing to say of Bargnani. Blessed with talent and size, and given every opportunity to succeed, he simply hasn’t for anything more than fleeting stretches.

For a player they could have easily justified amnestying, Toronto landed a first round pick, a second round pick, a useful role player on a reasonable contract, and significant savings. If Camby sticks around with the team, his 2014/15 contract — which calls for $4,177,208 but of which only $1,025,890 is guaranteed — will be a useful trade chip either at the next deadline or next summer. However, if he is bought out on terms favourable to Toronto before then — which seems likely — then he may only count on the cap this season for a nominal amount. This, combined with a concurrent amnesty of Linas Kleiza, will see Toronto expunge several million from their cap in each of the next two seasons, while gaining draft picks and losing bad memories. All this for a famously dispassionate player coming off of a terrible season. The justifications for the deal from Toronto’s perspective are indisputably apparent.

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There are a few of these videos from Amir Johnson’s trip to Google’s new Toronto offices, but I like this one the best, and not just because it features my current favorite track off a spectacular rap record, even though I will admit that is a really big part of it. No, I like this one the best because I think it would be great to hang out in a secret closet party with Amir Johnson, and I’m pretty sure he would actually throw one. I mean, if he’s going to spend an hour getting put in to zombie makeup, he must know of somewhere with a bookshelf dance club. Hit me up, bro.

(via Raptors Republic)

bryan-colangelo-#1-ball

After a 47-win season during his first year in control of the Raptors’ holodeck, Bryan Colangelo has struggled to put together a winning team. In the six seasons since, Toronto has reached .500 only one other time, and even that was just a 41-41 campaign during the 2007-08 season. It’s Bad News Bears over there, and Bryan Colangelo is kind of Walter Matthau.

But that’s OK, because the Raptors brought in some new management, which means Bryan Colangelo is on his way out. Sort of, if by “out” you mean “down the hall.” From the Globe and Mail:

Bryan Colangelo will remain on as team president, but the search for a new general manager has begun, the Toronto Raptors confirmed on Tuesday.

The revamped senior leadership of the National Basketball Association team was outlined by Tim Leiweke, the incoming president and chief executive officer of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, in a news release.

MSLE is also continuing a search, with input from Colangelo, to identify candidates for the new GM, a process the team hopes to complete in the next 30 days.

“After thorough evaluation and considering all the options, we have concluded that these changes will be in the best interest of the organization,” said Leiweke. “By splitting the roles and having both men report directly to me, we are adding depth to the basketball operations group and giving the Toronto Raptors the best chance of competing for championships in the future. The new GM will inherit a great situation in Toronto, as all of my due diligence around the League indicates that we have a fine, young core and a few key moves will make us a playoff contender next season.”

While the new GM will have autonomy over basketball decisions, Colangelo will continue to advise Leiweke on basketball-related matters while also broadening his involvement with the business side of the franchise.

I know what you’re thinking and I’m thinking it too — this is gonna get weird … two GMs. I mean, why would you keep a largely failed GM around to give advice on basketball decisions when you are hiring a new GM who is actually in charge of basketball decisions? It’s bizarre, and the only thing I can think of that is even comparable is the John Paxson/Gar Forman braintrust that makes decisions for the Chicago Bulls.

So why would the Raptors want to keep Bryan Colangelo around when it’s not really necessary? Well, there are actually a lot of reasons.

  • He is a Colangelo, so he pretty much knows everybody in the league.
  • He’s got like a million scouts overseas.
  • Everyone really likes his high-collared dress shirts and they’d like to continue sharing his tailor.
  • Bryan eats at the best Portugese chicken places in Toronto and can always get a table, and Tim Leiweke looooooooooves Portugese chicken.
  • Kind of nice to always have someone to blame everything on.
  • Will serve as a nice sounding board for the new real GM, in that they can ask Colangelo for his opinions on various moves. If he likes the idea, the new guy will immediately know not to do it.
  • Didn’t want to have to deal with all the “Colangeral Damage” headlines.
  • Would be weird to fire a guy named “Bryan” with a Y without saying he’s “fyred,” which looks really weird, so why even bother in the first place?
  • Still pretty fun to hear him answer the phone by saying, “Colang-hello.”
  • It’s going to take more than one person to sign every poor-shooting swingman in the league at the same time.

As you can see, keeping Bryan Colangelo around to make the Raptors more interesting is simply a matter of convenience. No one wants to give up Portugese chicken or high-collared dress shirts. It makes sense.

Must have learned from R.A. Dickey, or a host of other “Blue Jays are bad at pitching and/or baseball” jokes.

(via TrueHoop)

Just judging from the angles, I’d guess the only one of Amir Johnson’s pictures that’s going to turn out at all is the one he took of Jimmy Butler. Dibs.