Saturday, November 29, 2008

Chris Bosh MVP ? Try Winning With the Toronto Raptors First.

Chris Bosh has set his sights on becoming the NBA's Most Valuable Player." I came into this season saying I'm going to give it a shot" he told reporters after practice Thursday afternoon.
He should concentrate on winning with the Toronto Raptors first.

On Wednesday night, the Raptors were unimpressive in a 93-86 win over the lowly Charlotte Bobcats. Bosh delivered a solid line, scoring 39-points on 15-for-20 shooting from the field and 9-for-10 from the free throw line. He also grabbed 11 rebounds and had a couple of blocked shots. Bosh was clearly the difference between the two teams.

He was at it again Friday night. Bosh’s 30-points, ten rebounds, seven assists and three blocked shots carried the Toronto Raptors past the stuttering Atlanta Hawks 93-88.

Bosh's outstanding play for Team USA at the Beijing Olympics has carried over to the NBA season. In China, Bosh was arguably the teams most efficient player, coming off the bench to lead the powerhouse Americans in rebounding. He liked the taste of winning a Gold medal and playing with the best players every night.

Bosh has been noticeably more aggressive this season and it’s reflected in his numbers. His 27.7-points-per-game is a career high, so are his nine-and-a-half free throw attempts per game. He’s playing over 42 minutes a night and is shooting the ball at a sizzling 55-percent clip.

In short, Bosh is having a career year and from a statistical point of view, he is producing MVP caliber numbers.

While Bosh has raised the level of his own game to superstar status, he needs to understand that while his numbers look pretty, what makes players truly great is their ability to make those around them better.

It helps if your team mates are already good players but it goes further than that. The best leaders are the ones who are able to get their team mates to believe in themselves and to elevate their own game further than even they had imagined.

However, Bosh’s team, the Toronto Raptors continue to plod along with maddening inconsistency.

Part of the reason that Bosh has produced such big numbers is because he’s not getting the support from his team mates. It’s a double-edged sword though. He doesn’t trust them enough and they don’t deliver when they need to and too often, the Raptors lose as a result.

Three wins to the start the season was followed by seven losses from the next 10 games. The defeats largely came about due to the same problems that have plagued Toronto for the past two seasons; soft defense and poor shot selection down the stretch combined with an inability to close out games.

Often the Raptors start off games well and build big leads, but they are unable to maintain a certain level of play. This season, three times the Raptors have led by double figures only to lose those games.

Toronto's worst loss of the season came against the best, but hopefully Bosh took something out of it.

It was against the Boston Celtics on November 10. Then, the Raptors led by 16 points at one stage before losing by seven. It’s true that Paul Pierce had a huge fourth quarter and the Celtics are the defending NBA champions, but a game like that is where an MVP needs to step up and guide his team to victory.

Paul Pierce did.

Pierce, a possible MVP candidate himself did what Bosh should have done. He took control of his team and the game. Pierce didn’t wait for the ball to come to him, he went and got it and told his team mates to be ready…just in case he needed them.

It was a lesson in leadership and hopefully Bosh was paying full attention.
Furthermore, until the Raptors can get past the first round of the playoffs, Bosh won’t garner MVP consideration. In the last two seasons, the Raptors have fallen too early in the post season. Bosh put up good numbers both times but again, that counts for little as his team was eliminated easily each time.

This season, Toronto are not considered a serious threat to win the Eastern Conference by most analysts and their current style of play and 8-7 record will have done little to change those minds.

The only way to do that is if the Raptors can become consistent and that starts and ends with Chris Bosh.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Chris Bosh leads the Toronto Raptors Past the Charlotte Bobcats

TORONTO, ON (LE)- Chris Bosh scored 39 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Toronto Raptors to 93-86 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats Wednesday night at the Air Canada Center.

Bosh shot a sizzling 15-for-20 from the field and 9-for-10 from the free throw line.

Sparsely used back up Joey Graham added a season high 17 points and had six rebounds off the bench for Toronto. Andrea Bargnani scored 11 points, grabbed nine rebounds and had three blocked shots.

Gerald Wallace had 23 points and eight rebounds to lead the Bobcats and Emeka Okafor had 16 points and 14 rebounds. In the first period, Wallace was struck in the face by Jamario Moon going for a rebound and left the game briefly, but returned less than a minute later.

Wallace scored 17 points in the first half.

Rookie D.J. Augustin had another strong game for Charlotte, scoring 13 points and dishing out four assists, though he did commit seven turnovers.

After suffering a heavy defeat to the Boston Celtics on Sunday, during which Chris Bosh controversially refused to join his team mates during a time out, he came out focused and determined from the start tonight.

“I tell Chris…The great ones, they walk on the floor every night and they think they’re the best player on the court” said Raptors Coach Sam Mitchell.

And tonight Bosh certainly was.

He hit 9-of-10 field goals and all six of his free-throw attempts in the first half, scoring 24 points to take the Raptors into 51-46 lead at half-time.

Despite Bosh’s strong play, Toronto was unable to capitalize and Charlotte kept the game close. When Jared Dudley scored a pair of free-throws with 3:45 remaining in the third period, Toronto’s lead was down to four points, 65-61.

Joey Graham then scored five of Toronto’s next 10 points to push the Raptors lead out to seven points, 75-68 at the end of the third period.

“Joey gave us a huge lift coming off the bench giving us energy” said Mitchell.

Raptors point guard Jose Calderon hit a 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter which gave Toronto its biggest lead at 10, 78-68 with 11:03 to go. It looked like Toronto might start to pull away, but when Okafor hit a jump shot along the baseline as the shot clock expired it closed the margin to a single point at 87-86 with 2:58 remaining.

The Raptors then scored the final three baskets of the game. Firstly Bosh hit a jump shot and Graham was credited with a basket after Okafor was called for defensive goal tending and Calderon then hit a pull up jump shot to seal the win.

Notes: Jermaine O’Neal missed the game for Toronto with a knee strain and Jason Richardson sat out for Charlotte, also with a knee injury…the Bobcats have lost five of their last six…Bosh picked up a tech foul for arguing a call in the second period.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bienvenido Manu ! Ginobili Returns, Now We Can Watch the San Antonio Spurs Again

It's great to have Manu Ginobili playing again. He made his regular season debut for the San Antonio Spurs last night and scored 12 points in about 12 minutes of action. The Spurs easily accounted for Memphis Grizzlies 94-81.

Manu is one of the top FIVE players in the league (behind Chris Paul, Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade) and he is always great to watch. He is so tough and never gives up. He is the ultimate team player and the type that gets people (especially me !) through the turnstiles. Bienvenido Manu !

The Spurs win put them at 7-6, the first time they have been over .500 this season. Numbers and wins are funny things. While San Antonio sit just one win better off than the Toronto Raptors, there is absolutely no talk about firings or chemistry problems. The Raptors on the other hand are in disarray. Coach Sam Mitchell is hanging on to his job by a thread and once again the Raptors flimsy defense is being exposed by any and every team that they face.

After an unusually slow start, Gregg Popovich kept the Spurs competitive even with a roster made up of unlikely star players such as journeyman Roger Mason and rookie George Hill. He still had Tim Duncan of course and typically Duncan put up his usual numbers and solid game but still, after losing Tony Parker to an ankle injury, the Spurs didn't make up excuses and allow losses.

That's what makes Popovich such a special coach. Players know what is expected and they perform. Losing happens, but never for extended periods. The Spurs are consistent and epitomize what professionalism is all about.

The Raptors either get smoked by their opponent or cling on for dear life when they win. Mitchell certainly doesn't have the same calibre players as Popovich but in his fifth season as head coach, Smitch has established absolutely no consistency other than total unpredictability and it reflects in so many of his players.

Jamario Moon, Andrea Bargnani and Jason Kapono have all had periods of looking like All-Stars followed almost immediately by extended stretches of looking like they've never played a competitive game of basketball in their lives.

Popovich's Spurs all work hard and get respect even if their name is Matt Bonner ! In Toronto, Bonner was a bit of joke, a burly redhead who could knock down the 3-ball. In San Antonio, he's picked up a championship ring and is in the second year into a 3-year, $9m contract. Who's laughing now ?


The Dallas Mavericks have quietly strung together four wins in a row, including three on the road. They sit at 6-7 but Rick Carlisle is going to have a lot of trouble getting this team anywhere beyond the first round of the playoffs though. They have suffered too many crushing playoff defeats in the three seasons and the Western Conference is stronger now than it was when the Mavs blew their best chance at a championship.

They'll still be competitive though, but really, they are only going to make up the numbers this year.


New Orleans Hornets Chris Paul must win the MVP award this year. He is so dominant it is scary. When you look at the impact Dwight Howard has on a game, a large part of that is because Howard is just so freakin' massive. Chris Paul is barely 6-feet tall yet casts a shadow larger than D-12.

Paul and the Hornets are finding teams gunning for them this year more than they did last year, but after an adjustment period and back-to-back triple-doubles from Paul, the Hornets have won three straight and are looking good.

Monday, November 24, 2008

New York Knicks Preparing for the Arrival of a King

New York Knicks General Manager Donnie Walsh has begun the process of ensuring the Knicks have are in a strong financial position to sign Lebron James in the summer of 2010.

Walsh dealt Jamal Crawford to the Golden State Warriors Friday afternoon for disgruntled Al Harrington and then he sent the bloated contract (and waistline!) of Zach Randolph to the L.A. Clippers for some spare parts in Tim Thomas and Cuttino Mobley.

Harrington being paired with Stephon Marbury will make for an interesting time. Both players are well known for feuding with team mates and coaches so it will be interesting to see how they go together.

Tim Thomas provides no significant value to the Knicks other than not being on the payroll in two years time. Cuttino Mobley probably has a few miles left in the tank but his career has been on steady decline since he left Houston.


What is going to be the most interesting when June 2010 comes around is not where Lebron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh go, rather which team misses out on one of them. You can be sure that they'll be some 'handshake' deals done between agents that don't come to fruition, but you can absolutely see one franchise left with nothing and bitter at their star player having shot through and their former team getting nothing in return.

We've already heard that Lebron is "definitely" leaving the Cavs as much as we've heard that he's "definitely" staying in Cleveland but he naturally won't say anything until a deal is done. For me ? He's already said that he wants to become a billionaire athlete and he's got a better chance of achieving that "goal" in New York, New Jersey, L.A. or Chicago than he has in Cleveland.


Events over the weekend in Toronto would make the Raptors the heavy favourite to miss out on everything. The Raptors once again blew a game that was theirs for the taking on Friday night to the New Jersey Nets and then were humiliated Sunday by the Boston Celtics.

The Raptors were exposed badly on Sunday. Chris Bosh aside, nobody else on the team wants to win badly enough. The normally calm Bosh threw a tantrum. He probably shouldn't have done it the way he did (in full view of 19,800 fans) but the point is that we've never seen this from him before, so something really ticked him off.

Bosh has elevated his game this season to near superstar status. Twice this week he scored 40+ points and both times, the Raptors lost. In both games, Toronto blew a double-digit lead too. The signs are there that Toronto isn't going anywhere further than it did last year.

Raptors General Manager Bryan Colangelo has about 19 months to get it right or else Bosh is toast in Toronto and if he does go, then the Raptors will be back to the dreaded "rebuilding stage".


The Washington Wizards fired head coach Eddie Jordan this morning. At 1-10, the Wizards are clearly struggling but Jordan really is unlucky. Considering he hasn't had Gilbert Arenas for the best part of two seasons, he did an amazing job with that team. He should have been evaluated once Arenas was back in the lineup.

Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler are two stars on the Wiz's squad, but after that there's not too much. Nick Young looks like he'll be decent when he matures but after that ? DeShawn Stevenson...don't think so, Andray Blatche...his game has vanished.

Unlucky Eddie.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sam Mitchell's Soft Toronto Raptors Embarrassed Yet Again

However much longer Sam Mitchell's reign as head coach of the Toronto Raptors is only something that General Manager Bryan Colangelo knows the answer to. Not known to be someone who reacts impulsively, Colangelo must be starting to twitch after the Boston Celtics hopelessly embarrassed his Raptors this afternoon at home 118-103.

Typically, Toronto's main problem again was that they were far too soft defensively and they were deservedly punished for it. No matter how many times it gets spoken about, the Raptors continue to leave shooters wide open and they continue to get burned. Ray Allen is one of the best shooters in the league - EVER - yet he was still somehow left alone far too often today and his line included 5-for-7 three-pointers and 21 points.

The Celtics shot 62% from the field. You won't lose too many games shooting that percentage, but then again, if you get the looks that Boston did, it's almost hard not to shoot at such a high rate.

It's nothing new to Raptors fans. Toronto are still boys trying to compete with men and they are losing. If a man's home is his castle, then the Raptors are the most accommodating of hosts. The problem with that is in sport, it's supposed to be the other way around. Home court, ground or field is supposed to be an intimidating and unwelcoming place for visitors, the Raptors might as well have gotten out the scones with cream today. "Excuse me Mr. Pierce, can I fetch you another cup of tea?".

If the scoreline wasn't enough to humiliate the Raptors, late game footage of Pierce, Sam Cassell and Kevin Garnett among others practising their golf swings on the sideline certainly was. Even Brian Scalabrine contributed.

Yep, the Celtics were so bored by Toronto's pathetic offerring of a "contest" this afternoon that some of their players would have much rather spent the afternoon pursuing other, more challenging activities. The early afternoon stroll around the Air Canada Center just didn't cut it.

Certainly, a round of golf would have been more competitive than what the Raptors offered them. It might have also induced a sweat. At least the Celts have still got plenty of energy left for 18-holes somewhere if they fancy it.

While the Raptors were never seriously in it at any stage today, after a good start to the season, overall they are regressing and fast.

Sam Mitchell simply doesn't know how to close out a game. Look at Friday night against the New Jersey Nets for example. Up 18 points in the third, New Jersey did nothing special to get back into it, Toronto simply let them back in by jacking up wild jump shots and then slacking off defensively.

The Nets got a lucky break on Vince Carter's game-tying three-point bomb but still, New Jersey should never have been that close.

Mitchell's Raptors are undisciplined defensively and they don't stick to a plan. There is no consistency on offense and no matter how big a lead they build, they NEVER look comfortable.

This week has been typical of Sam Mitchell's tenure as coach. Cruising early against the Orlando Magic and up by double figures, Toronto were all over the Magic until, once again, Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu just did what they pleased offensively and weren't put under pressure. Sure, the Raptors were without Jose Calderon but that's no excuse for the rest of the team.

Then, one night later - with Calderon back in the lineup - they managed to see of Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat but not without some incredibly good and lucky three-point shooting from Anthony Parker. It was more that Parker had a night out rather than Mitchell guided his team home. They got lucky and if Wade had any significant help on his team, the Raptors would have been in trouble.

Colangelo now faces an obvious dilemma. He can't be happy with what he's seeing but the problem is, who does he replace Mitchell with ? This is going to be the biggest test of Colangelo's time since coming to Toronto.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Vince Carter Back to Visit Old Friends

Despite being in their 14th year of existence, the Toronto Raptors still doesn't really have a genuine rival. The only player or team who really stokes an emotion amongst the fans is ex-Raptor Vince Carter.

Vince makes his return to Toronto tonight when his New Jersey Nets are in town.(7pm EST, TSN).

There will be plenty of Raptors fans who still booooo VC15 with the same enthusiasm they did when he first sulked his way out of Toronto but for those of us who are over it and have moved on, we are mature enough to appreciate the good days of Vince.

The two fondest memories of Vince's time as a Raptor were the Dunk Comp in 2000 and that amazing seven-game playoff series against Philadelphia. For all Allen Iverson's heroics in that series, games three and six were the best. Vince toyed with Sixers in both those games and Toronto should have won that series. Should haves and could haves mean nothing of course, but it's great to sometimes just let yourself imagine what might have been with Vince.

While there still will be those who can't ever move on from what they felt Carter did to them, there won't be as many boo's as in the past, simply because Vince just isn't the same player anymore. He can still shoot with that sweet stroke and is capable of still going off for 40+, but everyone knows that if the game gets a bit too hard and the Nets drop behind, Vince isn't about to strain anything to try and get his team back into it.

He'll try to shoot his team back into it and that might work for a bit, but he won't just barrel into the line and fight till the death for a victory.

The Raptors on the other hand come into tonight's game on the back of a solid victory over the Miami Heat. The Raptors have been typically inconsistent this season. At times, they have looked well organized and efficient and at others, it's as if they've never even met each other let alone played a game of basketball together.

The inconsistency cost them last year and will do the same again unless Sam Mitchell can eradicate the errors.

The Chris Bosh and Jermaine O'Neal partnership looked the best it has all season against Miami on Wednesday, but then again they were only up against Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony, not exactly beasts on the glass.

Jose Calderon was clearly not totally fit on Wednesday, but a half-fit Calderon is a better option than Will Solomon as the Raptors starting point guard. Solomon had an awful time in Florida and is not a long term solution at backup.

The Raptors need to win games like these tonight and they will, by 10 points.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Toronto Raptors Cool Off the Miami Heat

MIAMI, FLA (LE)- Andrea Bargnani scored a season high 25 points and Jermaine O’Neal had 16 points and 17 rebounds as the Toronto Raptors hung on to defeat the Miami Heat 101-95 Wednesday night at American Airlines Arena.

Anthony Parker made all five of his 3-point field goal attempts, and had 19 points and six rebounds for Toronto. As a team, the Raptors shot 9-13 from the 3-point line and improve to 6-5 on the season. Miami drops to 6-6.

Dwyane Wade scored a season high 40 points, and dished out 11 assists and Shawn Marion scored 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for Miami. Wade also had five blocked shots.

Toronto point guard Jose Calderon returned to action after missing the previous two games with a sore hamstring. Calderon had eight points and seven assists.

In what was easily Bargnani’s best game of the season, he connected on his first four field goal attempts and scored ten of Toronto’s first 14 points.

The Raptors jumped out to an early 17-6 lead, but Miami went on a 12-0 run which was capped by a jump shot from Shawn Marion to give the Heat its first lead at 18-17 with 2:28 remaining in the first quarter. Toronto had retaken the lead 25-23 by the end of the period.

Toronto blew the game open at the start of the second half. They connected on all six 3-point tries in the third quarter and then Bargnani was fouled by Marion while attempting another. He made all three of the resulting free throws. That gave the Raptors their biggest lead – 17 points - at 76-59 with 2:02 remaining in the period.

Wade responded by making a jump shot for Miami, but on the next Raptors play he was called for a flagrant foul on Toronto’s Kris Humphries. Humphries split the resulting pair of free throws. Toronto led at that stage 77-61. Wade then scored six consecutive points for Miami to reduce the deficit to ten after three periods of play.

Miami then began the fourth period on a 17-6 run which was capped by a thunderous one handed dunk from Wade which gave the Heat an 84-83 lead. Toronto responded by scoring the next seven points including a clutch fade-away jump shot from Anthony Parker to retake the lead for good at 90-84.

Wade scored on a jump shot to get Miami within a point at 92-91 but with 1:20 remaining, Raptors point guard Jose Calderon stole the ball from Chris Quinn and scored on a lay up at the other end to effectively seal the win for Toronto.

Jermaine O’Neal had ten points and ten rebounds at halftime for the Raptors and has now recorded double figures in points and rebounds in five straight games.

One night after playing 45 minutes against the Orlando Magic and scoring a season high 40 points, Chris Bosh had 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in 39 minutes tonight.

Notes: After committing 24 turnovers the night before against the Orlando Magic, the Raptors only had ten tonight….It was Bargnani’s first 20-point game of the season….