Tag Archives: Dwayne Wade

A Sort of Super Sunday for Raptors

So it wasn’t an epic victory in Miami, but the game did provide Raptor fans with some things to be happy with.  The effort was there the entire game.  Even when Miami went up by 16 points and looked to be driving a stake through the heart of the Raps, they battled back and made it more than just close.  With 3 minutes left they had the opportunity to take the lead.  In the end they came up just short.

Even without Andrea Bargnani they looked good against one of the best in the league.  They shot the ball well, distributed it to the right people and held everyone not named James or Wade in check.

The loss was tough, no doubt, but it showed that Raptors have potential to hang with the best, especially when they stick to a game plan.

Now they just need to bring this effort against teams they should be beating.  Sometimes the Raptors get themselves jacked up for a meeting with the Elite teams in the league like the Bulls and Heat and then disappear against teams they should beat like the Bucks and Bobcats.

On Monday the Raptors will travel to Washington.  A message needs to be sent.  No second night of a back to back excuse, just hard work.  Fans are not expecting a great number of wins this season, but they are expecting consistent effort.  Let’s make it three in a row.

It wasn't an easy day at the office for Lebron and the Heat. The Raptors fought tooth and nail, but came up a bit short in the 4th quarter.

Zan for Three

The In-Between World of Demar Derozan

It has been an all over the place kind of year for Demar Derozan.  He has shown on occasion that he is a legit scoring threat in this league and other nights he looks completely invisible and irrelevant.  On Super Sunday he was the best we’ve seen him this year.

Derozan was up against a pretty formidable wing for the Heat and he held his own.  Yes, he was shredded on defense but that can certainly be forgiven.  What he did on the offensive end was phenomenal.  he shot 50% from the field and got to the line almost as much as Lebron and Wade.  That’s pretty impressive stuff.

More importantly, he was battling.  He was chasing down loose balls, drawing contact and letting the game come to him.  We’ve seen him forcing the issue far too much this year and that has not served him well.  Today he looked like he was in the flow of the offense and he was the focal point for most of the game.

Demar may or may not ever become an elite superstar (something debated on the Fan590 after the game), and it’s not clear the Raptors need him to become one.  They need him to become a consistent threat, they need him to create his own shot and they need him to get to the line on a consistent basis.  On Super Sunday, Demar looked like he could do all of those.  Now he just has to make a habit of it.

Rotation

I loved what Coach Casey did with the rotation today.  I’ve seen enough Rasual Butler and Jamal Magloire to last me a lifetime.  They, thankfully, have been sent to the bench for spot duty where they should be.  Minutes are finally going to players that have A) trade value or B) a future with this team.

Plus Casey is getting a great effort out of his shorter rotation.

Ed Davis for 30 minutes?  Yes Please. This kid has talent, plays defense and is now back to working hard.  Whether he succeeds or falls flat on his face he needs minutes so that we can find out what exactly he is.

More James Johnson?  That’s what I’m talking about! Johnson is a valuable commodity either in a trade or off the bench.  He provides energy, defensive intensity, and rebounding ability.  His work today on Chris Bosh was a thing of beauty.

Also great to see Bayless get some burn, especially because without Bargnani, he is our main offensive threat.  He is shooting the ball with confidence and if he can work a little on his shot selection and decision-making he’ll be a nice piece off the bench.

Casey is starting to let these players have more time and is subsequently seeing what they are made of.  So far, the results have been up and down, but the results are beginning to show.

Return of the Mack

I wasn’t able to write about it after the Washington game, but it has been nice to see Amir Johnson return to form these last two games.  18 points and 13 boards against the Wizards and another 6 boards today.  He certainly wasn’t as productive from a stat standpoint but in the fourth quarter when the Raptors were making their charge, Amir was right in the thick of it.  He was active on defense and was involved on the offensive end.

Amir is a player that the Raptors see big things for going forward.  He is a nice piece coming off the bench or starting and with 6 NBA seasons under his belt and being only 24 years of age he is a bit of a rare commodity in the NBA.  He’s a veteran trapped in a youngsters body.

He is part of the core going forward and it is important that he get his game back on track.  He is a solid defender (when he’s not fouling people), a potent offensive weapon (with a mid range jumper and his ability to run a beautiful pick and roll), and he’s a great guy to have in the locker room.

Lets hope he’s got himself under control and the issues he was facing are being dealt with.

Zan of the Game

Demar Derozan

He’s back! We think.  A gret offensive performance against a tough opponent.  Now all he has to do is repeat his effort against the Wizards.  Watch our Rashard Lewis!

Not Zan of the Game

Chris Bosh

Now there were players that had worse nights statistically.  I mean Miller had a rough shooting night, Battier was a non-factor and Jamal Magloire stole a rebound from his own teammate at one point in the second half.  That being said, Chris Bosh had a rough day at the office.  He did not shoot the ball well (3-13) and James Johnson gave him fits all game long.  If I’m Chicago or Boston or Philly this is a game I might watch again.  Just to see how Chris Bosh was contained for four quarter.  If I’m those teams I also might make a phone call to Bryan Colangelo and see whether this Johnson guy is available for the stretch drive.

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Kristoffer Pedlar

The Zan Tabak Herald

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Sonny Weems leads the Revolution

Sonny Weems is a Viking and he doesn’t even know it.

Wether or not his decision to sign with Zalgiris in Lithuania influenced anyone is besides the point.  His move was the first of what could be many players heading to Europe on extended leaves of absence until the NBA lockout is settled.

The move is obviously a pre-emptive strike to avoid being left out in the cold during the upcoming NBA season that could be entirely wiped out with a prolonged lockout.  Players would get rusty and skittish sitting around not playing.  In Europe they can burn their competitive fires while waiting for David Stern to figure out this whole mess.  Sounds like a pretty good way to pass the time while the owners and Player reps figure things out back here.

News followed this week that Deron Williams of the New jersey Nets is close to a deal with Turkish club Besiktas.  Kobe Bryant may also follow suit with a stint in Europe.

So has Sonny Weems started a revolution?  It only takes one player making the move and others start to follow.  Will moves such as these put a little more pressure on the owners to settle a fair contract?

Sonny Weems is leading the charge of NBA players to Europe after signing a deal with Zalgiris in Lithuania.

Only time will tell.

Obviously a Deron Williams or Kobe Bryant is going to get more notice than a Sonny Weems.  But good on Sonny for making the move while his contract status with the Raptors and for that matter his entire role with the team is in considerable question.

Sonny clearly has quite a bit to gain from playing overseas during the lockout and may turn it into a lengthy contract if/when he decides to return.  Other players are looking at his decision and realize that it may be in their best interest to keep the fires burning in Europe while David Stern, Derek Fisher and the owners figure out how much more Lebron James and Dwayne Wade can get in a new CBA.

Sonny’s move may also help his NBA club in Toronto.  The Raptors have a new coach with a very clear defensive philosophy.  Sonny Weems is a player that has played, pretty much, the best defense on this team over the last couple of seasons. He could become a valuable asset in coach Dwane Casey’s arsenal as a defensive specialist.

By playing overseas, Sonny is also going to remain in game ready shape and when he comes back to the NBA after the lockout he will be ready to play against the sluggish NBA vets that have been sitting around for months.  The travel and opportunity to play with European vets may also help his game and attitude mature.

Weems made the right decision for himself and he is inspiring others to do the same.  It would be a shame to see the Young Onez broken up next year (if there is a next year), but Weems will likely reap the benefits of playing in Europe.  He’ll score more, become more of a number one scoring option and is likely to be one of the better players in the league.

This gives him huge leverage when the lockout ends (if it ever ends).  Plus he’ll get an up close and personal look at Jonas Valciunas in action.  Isn’t that what we all want right now?

So ladies and gentlemen, Sonny Weems is leading the revolution.  NBA players are headed to Europe.  When this time in NBA history is played back Deron Williams or Kobe Bryant will get most of the credit for leading the charge to Europe the way Christopher Columbus got most of the credit for being the first European to discover America.  We all know the Vikings were there long before 1492 and we all know it was really Sonny that made the first move to Europe.

Sonny Weems is a Viking.

Good luck to Weems in Lithuania( or should I say Sekmes) He’ll likely end up making more money when he comes back and may even become a better player for it, if he doesn’t let being a number one option over there turn him into a black hole back here.  If nothing else Sonny’s European vacation will give Raptor fans even more reason to subscribe to Lithuanian television during the lockout and maybe cancel League Pass.

Kristoffer Pedlar
Zan Tabak Herald

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@kpedlar

 

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Ex Raptors become X-Factors in Round Two

As round two begins in the NBA, we’ve said goodbye to a few old allies.  Jarrett Jack and Marco Belinelli have packed their bags after a very succesful first round series against the Lakers.  Matt Bonner had a disappointing first round with San Antonio as they were bounced by the Grizzlies and Roy Hibbert and TJ Ford find themselves spectators as round two begins.

As the second round begins,  a few former Raptor favourites could tip the scales in their second round series.  Let’s take a look at the key Ex-Raptors that will likely be X-Factors for their respective teams.

Miami vs. Boston

The Big three vs. the Big Three.  This is a dream matchup for the NBA and any fan who enjoys good basketball.  We know that Lebron and Wade are going to score in bunches and we know that Ray Allen will be tossing key three pointers throughout the series and Kevin Garnett will be intense.  What we don’t know is how Chris Bosh will play against some really tough playoff competition.

If Miami has dreams of championship glory, they will need Chris Bosh to fight like he has never fought before.

Chris Bosh will be the key to winning this series for Miami.  Bosh has played very well thus far against Philly, but he is about to match up against Kevin Garnett who he has never played well against.  He will also have to play against the likes of Big Baby and Jermaine Oneal.  These are not finesse players.  They get dirty and fight with everything they have for a loose ball or a rebound.

If Chris Bosh is to be successful against these tough players he is going to have to channel is inner Reggie Evans and JYD.  Bosh needs to be less finesse and more banger.  He will need to fight like he has never fought before and be the player that keeps possessions alive and gives Wade and Lebron second chances.

On the flip side, Boston will rely heavily on Jermaine O’neal.  There likely won’t be a Shaq appearnce until later on in the series so Jermaine will be handed the task of containing Chris Bosh.  This is someone he knows quite well from his days in the T-dot.

Jermaine O’neal has been through the rigors of playoff basketball and is no newcomer to intensity in the playoffs.  His Indiana teams played their fare share of tough games.  He will need to be defensively sound and provide help defense when Lebron and Wade bust through the key.  If you need a hard foul to send a message, Jermaine O’neal is your guy.  He backs down from no one and may be the last line of defense for the Celtics.  He will be a key if the Celtics hope to head to the Eastern Conference Finals.

If Bosh can find that inner fight, Miami wins this series.  If he gets bullied on the glass by Garnett and O’neal and is shut down on the offensive end then it will be a second round exit for the boys from South Beach.

Dallas vs. LA Lakers

This series will be a shoot out.  Scoring is going to happen in bunches and defense will likely take a back seat as it often does in Dallas.  The mavericks have a number of players that can score in bunches in Nowitzki, Terry and Jason Kidd.  These three will score but might have trouble keeping up with Kobe, Gasol and Bynum.  If they are going to keep up, they will need their supporting cast members to step up.

Enter Shawn Marion and Peja Stojakovic.  These two players have the offensive skill set to be deadly to an opposing team.  While the defense focuses on Dirk and Terry,  Peja and Marion will likely get their fair share of good looks.  Marion is a player that makes those around him better.  He can pass effectively, shoots the ball well and knows how to get to the foul line (a valuable asset in the playoffs).  Peja Stojakovic has enjoyed a resurgence with Dallas and simply needs to stand on that three-point line and deliver.

Neither player was in Toronto for very long so we never had the chance to see them at their best.  But this is the playoffs an both are very familiar with the battles of playoff ball.  If used properly these players will help Dallas overthrow the defending champs.

Throw in “Almost Raptor” Tyson Chandler and you have an absolutely lethal rotation that can beat you in a number of different ways.

If Dallas spreads the floor, shares the ball and gets plenty of supporting effort from their bench they will win the series.  If the bench can’t contribute against the defending champs then the Lakers will continue their quest for another title.

Atlanta vs. Chicago

Do not underestimate the Atlanta Hawks.  Pundits and “experts” are already counting them out.

Don’t.

They are a young team finally coming into their own and might surprise the Bulls, who looked a little sluggish against Indiana.  This is a Hawks team that was able to defeat a pretty good team in Orlando.

Although I expect the Bulls to win the series I think it will be a longer  series than anyone thinks.

Watch out for Al Horford.  He will be a tough matchup for Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah inside. He is tough to match up against in the post and provides sturdy defense that could give Chicago’s Bigs fits on the inside.

The ex-Raptor to watch here is Chuck Swirsky, who may just faint when his team reaches theEastern Conference finals.  If the Bulls win he’ll likely look more lost than Tomas Kaberle during the Bruins game 7 celebration earlier this week.

It is likely that the Salami and Cheese will be brought out for the Hawks.

Oklahoma vs. Memphis

This series has no Raptor connections, but the Raptors should take note of these young teams and how they have built themselves into winning franchises.  It wasn’t long ago that a 22 win season was considered a success for the Thunder and Grizz.  These teams were able to build themselves back into contenders and the Raptors should hope they follow a similar path.

Neither of these teams became a success overnight and they surely didn’t do it by trading draft picks or signing  a slew of veteran players to bad contracts.  They built themselves slowly through the draft and then added veteran pieces to compliment those young players.

Watching Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka face Randolph, Gasol and Conely could very well be what Raptor fans will see in a few years from Derozan, Davis and Amir.

In terms of X-Factors for this series I would go with Shane Battier and Kendrick Perkins.  Perkins has been a non-factor thus far in the playoffs but he will need to help lead this young team as they focus on Playoff advancement.  He’s been through the wars before and they will need him to help contain the beast that is Randolph. Hopefully he wakes up soon or the surging Grizzlies might be too difficult to defeat.

Lots to watch as a Raptor fan, as some old friends will likely be keys to the teams that ultimately prevail.

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Kristoffer Pedlar

The Zan Tabak Herald
***
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Who’s your Team in the 2011 Playoffs?

With the Raptors season now a distant memory, the basketball fan in me has to find a team to cheer for, a team to really get behind.  A team that will let me feel the ups and downs of a true fan with some sort of authenticity. I love watching basketball but it is way more fun when you have someone to cheer for.

Last year I chose Atlanta and Phoenix and it was a fun playoff to watch.  I a little heartbroken when Nash and company were eliminated after a surprise filled run.  Was it worth the feeling the morning after, watching a game go into the early morning on a Wednesday?  Yup.

So this year, who do I cheer for?

There are lots and lots of talent to cheer for in the Eastern Conference.  Could I get behind a guy like Derek Rose and his jaw dropping play?  For sure.  Or do I want to support the original Big Three in Boston? or the Evil Empire that calls Miami home?  or do I take a relative underdog that might surprise a few people?

I still Like Atlanta and their young team.  Kirk Hinrich has given the young scorers on that team a level headed leader.  Definitely a possible upset or two in the Dirty South this year.

In the West my usual choice would be Steve Nash and the Suns, but alas they weren’t good enough to get the job done this year.

So who now?

Dallas?  They’ve got some great talent and a veteran cheif calling the shots in Jason Kidd; a guy you just can’t hate.

San Antonio?  Old reliable. A team that quietly goes about their business and one that has Matt Bonner a definite favourite of mine and Raptor fans alike.

Then there are the defending champs from LA.  My hatred of the Celtics led me to cheer for them last year, but this is not my favourite team.  Kobe this past week irked me quite a bit with his homophobic slur and half hearted apology.  They’re not looking like defending champs and they might not be around very long. Not that I would be greatly disappointed.

Then there are your long shots.  The Thunder are exciting and the acquisition of Kendrick Perkins was designed for this time of year.  Kevin Durant is a great player to wach and provides a lot of excitement.  As does Chris Paul in New Orleans or LaMarcus Aldridge in Portland.

So who’s it gonna be.

In the West, I’m going with the Thunder.  They’re young, exciting and humble.  Kendrick Perkins is a game changer for them.  I think they will surprise the Spurs and Mavs in the West.  Watch out for this team because they have a chance to go all the way and do it while playing very exciting basketball.

Kevin Durant is one of the most exciting players out there and Russell Westbrook looks ready to bust out this year.  They might not make it all the way but they’re a team I can get behind.  They remind me of what I dream the Raptors to one day be.  And in Oklahoma you get an absolutely basketball-mad environment as your backdrop.  It writes itself.  GO Thunder!

Is there a team more hated in the NBA than the Miami Heat? This spring Im cheering for Anyone but Maimi.

In the East I’m taking an “ABM” mentality.  That would be “Anyone But Miami”.

There is nothing like an NBA playoff series with a clear villain.  Miami is that villain.  Everyone outside of South Beach, where Lebron took his talents, will be cheering against the Big 2.5.  Add me to that list.

I hate these guys.  I hate their attitude, their over confidence, their cocky swaggar, the referees love of blowing the whistle for everything that comes within a foot of them.  It’s everything I hate about the league wrapped up into one team.

So therefore: Go 76ers! Go Celtics! Go Bulls!  ABM!  Anyone but Miami!

If I’m calling a specific team to beat them I’d have to go with Boston or Chicago.  Chicago is the team I think will do it.  They have the same amount of scoring power, but Chi-town also has a strong inside game that Miami cannot contend with.

Carlos Boozer + Joakim Noah > Chris Bosh and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

The greatest call of the playoffs will hopefully be when Chuck Swirsky gets out the Salami and Cheese for Lebron and his buddies.

So, for the next month and a half I’ll be sitting in front of my TV watching and cheering for the Thunder and Anyone but Miami!

Who are you cheering for?

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Kristoffer Pedlar

The Zan Tabak Herald
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Bulls Teach Young Raptors a Lesson

So that was ugly, wasn’t it?

Once it was confirmed that Andrea Bargnani wasn’t going to play because of a sore left knee, the Raptors were pretty much destined for an ass whooping.  This one got ugly by the half, but credit where credit is due, the young Raptors showed some fight and there is reason for hope for the future.

Chicago is arguably one of the top four or five teams in the East and, with Carlos Boozer back in the lineup, they are a hard team to beat each and every night.  The Bulls have a tough as nails coach, in Tom Thibodeau, who preaches defense and a young core that seems to be growing well together.

The Raptors should take notice.  This is a team they should try to build themselves in the mould of.

Zan For Three

2010 Free Agency Redux

So looking back at the circus that was the 2010 free agency period Lebron and Wade remain the biggest pick ups and are starting to make a tremendous difference with the Miami Heat.  They are beginning to be everything they were advertised to be but how about the pick up of Amare Stoudamire and Carlos Boozer?

Much was made of Lebron, Bosh, Wade and Amare but Boozer was almost a forgotten bridesmaid during that time.  His off-season injury also erased him from our minds during the first part of the season.  He is back and he is kicking some serious ass.

Carlos Boozer was unstoppable tonight at the ACC. He almost single-handedly defeated he Raptors. There simply was no way to stop Boozer on Wednesday night.

Boozer is, by far, the best player on the court for his team and that is saying something with a starting five that looks the way it does in Chicago.  Miami may have built a winning culture in South Beach, but Chicago picked up a piece that really puts them over the edge.

Forget that he dominated Amir Johnson and Joey Dorsey.  These are not playoff calibre power forwards yet.  Boozer’s dominance inside makes him a very tough match up going into any playoff matchup.  Bosh vs. Boozer?  I’ll take Boozer.  Horford vs. Boozer? I’ll take Boozer .  Kevin Garnett might be the only one who can shut him down, and he’s a bit slower and maybe not as tough.

Watch out Eastern Conference.  This guy is going to make a big difference this year.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Jay Triano and his staff should be paying close attention to what Tom Thibodeau and his staff are doing in Chicago.  This is a team that can score, but man is their defense good.  Chicago allows their offense to dictate their offense and the Raptors still haven’t figured that out yet.

The Bulls forced stops on the defensive end and turned them into points on the offensive end.  The Raptors are still trying to out-shoot their opponents.  This strategy doesn’t work very often, if ever.

It’s time Colangelo, Triano and the rest of the organization look at teams like Boston and Chicago and start imitating what they see.  The players in Boston and Chicago both bought into Thibodeau’s system and have reaped the benefits.  Why would the Raptors not want to try the same philosophy?

Obviously a change of team philosophy requires some new players, and possibly coaches, but it may be something that the “big Wigs” of MLSE should seriously consider.  That is, of course, if they’re interested in winning at all.

Silver Lining

Tonight Sucked.  Let’s just call a spade a spade and move on.  We are not in the calibre of a team like Chicago.  We are not.  Plain and simple.  However tonight provided some opportunities to be hopeful and look, positively, into the future.

Joey Dorsey (12 pts and 13 reb on 5-8 shooting in 29 minutes)

This is an impressive stat line from the young power forward out of Memphis.  Yes, some of those points were scored in garbage time, but he is resembling something the Raptors may want to take a chance on.  He is a big body and possess some post-up skills and might be worth investing in.  He showed some fight tonight and banged inside against some pretty tough interior players.

Jarryd Bayless ( 20 pts and 4 Assists in 33 minutes)

Bayless has been the engine on offense.  Although many of us would like to see a point guard pass the ball a little more, he has played well since being acquired from New Orleans.  He is resembling more of a shooting guard, but this kid is 22 years old and certainly has some upside.  He gets to the rim, can shoot and is serviceable on the defensive end of the floor.

Ed Davis (10 pts on 5/9 shooting, 10reb, in 32 minutes)

His first start as a Raptor and he played well in spurts.  He was overmatched inside by Chicago’s bigs but Davis held his own against some pretty admirable talent.  This kid is going to be a decent NBA player.  I like the look of him, I like the way he plays the game.  He doesn’t force the issue and will only get better and better.  If the team, as I suggested earlier, starts looking at the defensive side of the ball then Davis could be a key player moving forward.  Definitely something to look forward to.

Zan of the Night

Carlos Boozer

The man is an absolute beast.  I would not want to meet him in an alley or in the paint.  He scares me and even thinking of him tonight gives me shivers.  He absolutely dominated the inside tonight and basically took whatever he wanted from the Raptor bigs.  Amir Johnson was his play toy tonight and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

Not Zan of the Night

Amir Johnson

Hey dude, I love you as a player.  On this current Raptor squad, you’re probably my favourite player, but tonight was not your night.  Mama told you there’d be days like this.  More fouls than points, not a lot of minutes for you out there because of the foul trouble and not much brewing on the offensive end either. Take it as a learning experience and move on.  Carlos Boozer is one of the best.  You have work to do before you are competing consistently with the likes of that bad boy.

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Kristoffer Pedlar
The Zan Tabak Herald
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Positive signs for Raps in visit to Florida

“Winning isn’t everything” is the old adage, but in the case of the Raptors recent visit with former teammates Vince Carter and Chris Bosh, that expression couldn’t be more true.

The two games played in Orlando and Miami offered Raptor fans a glimpse of what this young Raptor team is made of.  Both contests were very competitive and the Raptors, owner of one of the worst records in the league, held their own against two of the best the association has to offer.

Here are some positive signs we saw from the Raptors this weekend.

The Kid is Alright

Demar Derozan is a player most fans want to become part of the future of this ball club.  He is fast, gets to the line and is developing a nice mid range game as well.  Over the weekend he played against some of the very best guards in the league and held his own on the offensive end.  There is no comparing Derozan to the likes of Wade, Carter and Lebron just yet, but he was no slouch in either of those matchups.

This may not be the kid the team ultimately builds around.  He doesn’t have the presence or skill level of a Kobe or a Lebron, but he is definitely cementing himself as one of the building blocks this team currently possess.

Demar Derozan is showing improvements to his game this season and is becoming the go-to guy on this years squad.

 

The best part of Derozan’s game this weekend, in Florida, was his ability to get to the line and the confidence his team is now showing in him.  Coach Triano is calling Derozan’s number a lot more than he did last year and that is a good thing if you are a Raptor fan.  Demar also got to the free throw line 12 times against Orlando and 11 times against the Heat.  This trend is very exciting if you are a Raptor fan.  Both because one of the most exciting high flyers in the game is taking the ball to the rim regularly and because it results in easy buckets for a team that has a hard time scoring them.

Derozan is a reason to get excited this season.

Triano is a Do-Something Person

Jay Triano has not been his typical Canadian self this year.  He is not afraid to call a spade a spade and occasionally call his players out.  Last week he called Sonny Weems out.  Triano criticized his shot selection and Sonny has responded.  Weems has been one of the best players on the court over the last week and is making the most of his shots (5 of 8 against Miami and 6 of 9 against Orlando).

Credit is due to Sonny, no doubt, but Triano wasn’t afraid to focus his young player and Sonny has responded with inspired play.  Sonny sees himself as a rotation player in the NBA and with his recent play so do I.  He is solid on the defensive end, something the Raptors have lacked over the last few years, and he is showing confidence and restraint on the offensive end.  When he plays in control, he can be a very effective tool for the Raps.

Fight, Fight, Fight

The Raptors are made up of a mix bag this year.  Players like Demar and Sonny might get burn off the bench on one of the top teams in the league, but David Anderson and Reggie Evans wouldn’t necessarily be one of your top options off the bench.

You cannot question their fight though, can you.

The Raptors have a group of young men who are not afraid to get dirty; not afraid to engage in battle against opponents who, on paper, are more impressive.  Orlando and Miami are very likely to be two of the teams left at the end of the season when the dust settles, the Raptors gave both teams all they could handle this weekend.

Andrea, Demar and Sonny have been the offensive force of this team.  Amir Johnson looked good, but needs to find a way to stay on the court.  Reggie was a big loss in Miami, but looks to be the energy of this team.  David Anderson, Joey Dorsey and Leandro Barbosa are providing meaningful minutes off the bench and Jack and Calderon are steady at the helm.

This is a team that may not win as many games as last year, but they are not going to ever be an easy W for an opposing team.

The Big Italian Awakens

Andrea Bargnani had two strong offensive games in Florida.  what may be even more important in the loss to Miami was the way he fought for boards ( he finished with 9 of them).  He was facing his former teammate (at least when Bosh was able to stay on the floor) and he held his own.  Bargnani has a deadly shot, this is something no one can deny, but his defensive game and his rebounding skills are what need serious work.  This is something the fans know, the coaches know, and it looks as though Bargnani is finally figuring it out as well.

The Raptors can add another building block to the puzzle if Andrea can strengthen his defensive game.

Preparation

Being Prepared is half the battle.  This is something that Triano and his staff understand.  The Boys in red were ready to play Orlando and thy were ready to play Lebron, Wade and Bosh.  You could see the intensity from the get-go in Orlando and the game plan on attacking Chris Bosh worked to perfection.  This team is buying into what the coaches are selling and it is evident on the court.  Defensive energy is up and the team is sharing the ball on offense.  One of the best parts of not having a legitimate superstar is not having to get that superstar their share of the ball.  The team came in prepared for the tilts in Florida and they competed against the best as a result.

 

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Kristoffer Pedlar
The Zan Tabak Herald
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Bosh and Colangelo: A Messy Divorce

When any relationship ends there is bound to be bitterness.  Very rarely do former partners hang out and “shoot the breeze”after a break up.  There are often hard feelings and things you blame the other side for.

In Toronto the latest divorce between basketball team and star player has finally gotten to the finger-pointing stage.

It has not been a picture perfect off-season for Bryan Colangelo. Much is left to be done to get the Toronto Raptors ready for competition next season.

First, Bryan Colangelo had his turn talking about how things didn’t work out with Chris Bosh and where it all went wrong in his opinion.  And now Chris Bosh has taken his turn setting the record straight.

Colangelo came out on the FAN590 recently and implied that Bosh had talked with people over the All-Star break and came back a different player.  He didn’t play through pain at a pivotal moment in the season and wasn’t the dominant player in the second half of the season that he was in the first half.  That ultimately helped cost the Raptors what seemed like a sure-fire playoff berth.  “Whether he was mentally checked out or just wasn’t quite into it down the stretch, he wasn’t the same guy. I think everybody saw that, but no one wanted to acknowledge it.”

Colangelo went on to add that the Raptors were never really an option for Bosh during free agency and much of the decision-making on Bosh’s future had been done long before July 1st.  “I never felt we were in the game. There was too much out there, too much built up for him to take an easy out here…”

Bosh refuted these claims, in a recent interview with Rogers Sportsnet, saying he “never gave anything less than his best.” “I play this game as hard as I can everytime I step on the court.”  He seemed to take personal offense to the insinuation he had given anything but his best.

Colangelo had a right to say what he said although it did come off as a little harsh and is definitely getting blown way out of proportion by Raptor fans and media in both Canada and the U.S.  Many Raptor fans held the belief that Bosh would leave after the season was through and that he played poorly in the second half, along with the rest of the team.  Hedo Turkoglu probably helped hide some of Bosh’s effort issues with his off-court distractions and clearly lackadaisical play.

Bosh didn’t quit on the team, of that I am certain.  He played his heart out down the stretch and tried, in vain, to get the Raptors to the playoffs.  One needs only look to the Golden State game down the stretch where Bosh lay on the floor inconsolable in a defeat as a thrilling victory slipped through his hands.  Perhaps, in the back of his mind though he was starting to think about free agency.  Perhaps he took a bit longer coming back from his injury because he didn’t want to hurt his future.  That is fair.

It is hard to argue Bosh quit down the stretch, but it was clear something changed at the All-star break. Was Colangelo justified in questioning his commitment to the team?

Colangelo feels a little jilted by Chris Bosh and for good reason.  The Raptors offered him more money than anyone else and he barely looked Toronto’s way.  Colangelo and the MLSE  tried effortlessly to make Bosh the focal point of everything in Raptor land.  Bosh was consulted on trades and free agent signings.  His friends (Jarrett Jack) were brought on board to help keep him happy.  He was given everything that a #1 guy in this league is given.  This is where Colangelo went wrong.

Chris Bosh was never meant to be the focal point of the team.  He is a power forward and it is hard to point at a top-tier team in this league that is built around a power forward.  Jermaine O’neal, Shawn Marion, Hedo Turkoglu all came in to help Chris Bosh along with a plethora of other role players and no mixture of players ever really got it done.

Chris Bosh should never have been made a focal point of the team.  This is Colangelo’s mistake.  It is ultimately what cost him the power forward in free agency.  The fact that Colangelo is now talking smack about Bosh really isn’t necessary.

Even Hedo Turkoglu has weighed in on the subject, claiming that Bosh “isn’t the type of player to quit o his teammates.”  He also took shots at the organization on his way out of town saying that “no one wants to go there anymore.”

Obviously Hedo Turkoglu is far from an expert on anything other than Pizza and Balls.  But his comments ring loudly in a city that hasn’t seen a winning team in a long time.  Hopefully this isn’t a sign of things to come for this team or this city.  Fans have come to see Vince, Tracy, Antonio, Delgado, Sundin, Halladay all leave town for greener pastures.  The city has a wee bit of a complex when it comes to its star players.

Colangelo’s words came at a time when he is feeling very frustrated.  The Jose Calderon-Tyson Chandler deal fell through at the last-minute after it had been reported and Matt Barnes publicly announced his signing before it was completed and then ended up not happening.  The organization has gotten a little bit of flack for the large contract handed out to Amir Johnson and now the war of words with two of the teams high-profile players.

Colangelo was mearly speaking the voice of the fans.  But sometimes the vice of the fans should come from the fans.  Many felt Bosh was gone, checked out, packed and ready to go to LA, Chicago or Miami at the end of the year.  He received mixed reactions in his last appearance at the ACC, in a suit.  It was clear there was going to be hard feelings.  But from the GM?

Yes, to the casual fan, Bosh did look like a different player after the All-Star Break and his numbers dipped right along with everyone else’s.  Maybe there was something going on, Colangelo talked about it during the season and Bosh never refuted those claims.  Maybe Pat Riley, Lebron and Wade had this planned all along.  But there is nothing that can be done about that now.

Bosh couldn’t get the job done as the #1 guy and Colangelo couldn’t build a team to compliment him.  They should share the blame in this mess.

Chris Bosh will be booed upon his return to Toronto, of this I am also certain.  He was this city’s best player and he left town for nothing.  That hurts if you’re a fan.  What hurts more is that he realized what Colangelo could or would not.  Bosh isn’t a #1 player.  Bosh is off to Miami to be a #3 player behind Lebron and Dwayne Wade.  That is what burns Raptor fans up.  He was our number one, our first, our last, our everything and now he is happy to be another teams #3.  For that Bosh will hear the boos.

As for Colangelo, I think it is fair to say that the honeymoon is now over.  He came here and rebuilt this franchise from its darkest days into a perennial playoff contender and Atlantic division champions in one year.  He will now have to work his magic again.  The Raptors have once again lost their number one player, find themselves owing a lot of money to players who don’t necessarily deserve it, and don’t have the luxury of being able to tank for a high pick in this market starved for a winner.  Colangelo and his brain trust will have to put on their thinking caps or Bosh won’t be the only one getting booed this season at the ACC.

Sometimes in a divorce, both sides lose out and trying to throw the other under the bus will only help in losing the respect of the ones you truly care about: the kids, or in this case the fans.

So are you Team Bosh or Team Colangelo?  I’m thinking the way to go is Team Raptor.

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Kristoffer Pedlar
The Zan Tabak Herald

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What Lebrons Decision Means for the Raptors

With the creation of the Miami “Super Heat”, there will be a resounding domino effect felt throughout the league and, in particular, the Eastern Conference.  Cleveland and Toronto will probably be the most affected by the signings in Miami, but make no mistake about it, there will be shockwaves all over the NBA.  Teams will change their views of how to build a winner and teams that were close to contending before, may find themselves on the outside looking in.

Toronto will feel the effects first hand next season.

The Raptors came to within one game of making the playoffs in the Eastern Conference this year and one would have to assume that their chances have taken a big hit with the loss of their best player, and leader, Chris Bosh.

Bosh was the centrepiece of the offense in Toronto and the main go-getter of rebounds. He was a leader on and off the court and was the sole reason the Raps were able to keep pace with many teams night after night.  Without that kind of contribution, one would have to assume,  the Raptors will be hard pressed to see any kind of success next year or playoff basketball.

With Lebron joining Chris and Dwayne Wade in Miami, the entire balance of power shifts in the Eastern Conference.  Cleveland will likely no longer be factors in playoff discussions and Miami will likely be at the top of everyone’s prediction charts.

Playoff spots are almost certain, barring injury, to teams like Miami, Boston, Orlando, Atlanta, and Chicago.  All of those teams kept major players or made strong upgrades through free agency.  That only leaves three more spots for the playoffs next season.  Those spots are likely to be teams that are thrashed in the first round by the teams mentioned.  Teams like Milwaukee, New York, Charlotte, Detroit and Cleveland will all be vying for those last three spots.

Colangelo is moving forward following the departure of Chris Bosh and his efforts could finally land the Raptors in the playoffs.

Will Toronto be one of those teams?

My feeling is that the Raptors will be more competitive than anyone gives them credit for.  They will not be predicted as one of the top eight teams in the East, but they have as good a shot as anyone.

Without Chris Bosh, the Raptors must alter their game plan.  Good thing the Raptors have a GM that is good at changing up his game plan.

Chris Bosh was the focus of the offense for the Raptors and as a result their offensive sets often involved giving Bosh the ball and waiting for him to shoot, drive or kick out to a shooter.  This plan got a little stale and as a result teams found the Raptors easier and easier to defend.  Jermaine O’Neal, Shawn Marion, Hedo Turkoglu were all brought in to compliment him, but in the end the Raps couldn’t find a compliment to Bosh.

With no Chris Bosh, the Raptors will be able to change-up their offensive sets.  Triano has proven in the past to be a decent X’s and O’s kind of coach and now he has a variety of players around that can do a multitude of things.  Ball handlers, shooters, guys that can drive, guys that feed on putbacks.  The “Boshless Era” may end up being an exciting time to watch the Raptors.

The franchise will not have to force everyone to mould to Bosh’s style.  Players will be allowed to be themselves, focus on their strengths and compliment each other.

The American Dream Team had a very hard time defeating the Spanish National team over the last few years.  The Dream Team had the talent, as Miami now does, but the Spanish utilized an unselfish, team oriented style of basketball.  In the end the Spanish team gave the U.S.  all they could handle and took gold away in the 2006 world championships.  Colangelo watched as the Spanish team spread the ball around the floor and defeated the highly touted American squad.

Now Colangelo has the chance to build a team oriented style with this Raptors group.

He has at his disposal a number of exciting, young players that have no problem sharing the ball.  Amir Johnson, Demar Derozan, Jarrett Jack, Sonny Weems, Ed Davis and newly acquired Linus Kleiza and Leandro Barbosa.  Plus we’ll finally get a chance to see what Andrea Bargnani looks like as a focal point on offense.

Plus, Colangelo isn’t done dealing.  He has a massive trade exception at his disposal as well as expiring contracts in Marcus Banks and Reggie Evans.  You can also be assured that one of his point guards will be dealt before the season begins.  More weapons to help build his team-oriented strategy.

Team oriented championships have happened before.  One needs to look no farther than Detroit to see that a team can win without a proven star player.

Will the Raptors win this season?  Time will only tell.

One thing is certain though.  This team will be exciting to watch.  They will play a different style of ball and new players will share the leadership role. They have enough talent to compete for one of the spots not held by the upper echelon teams in the East.

While Bosh, Lebron and Wade will have difficulties sharing the ball next season, the Raptors will be full of players that want to share the ball and will do anything asked to make the team better.

Losing Bosh may end up being the best thing that ever happened to the Raptors.

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Kristoffer Pedlar
The Zan Tabak Herald

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The Zan Dishes on Lebron-gate

So he made his decision.  Lebron is going to take his talents to South Beach and play with Bosh and Wade.  It stings a little if you’re a fan of competitive basketball and it will definitely sting for the fans in Cleveland more so  than anywhere else.  But, Lebron made the choice he had the right to make.

I don’t think any of the anger comes from the fact that Lebron chose Miami.  Lebron was a free agent and was entitled to choose the team he wanted to play for.  He had meetings with various teams, which was not an issue either.  In the end, the Heat looked like the start of a great team and are led by one of the great NBA coaches and minds of all time in Pat Riley.  A Wade, Bosh, James threesome makes sense on many levels.  For Wade, for Lebron and definitely for Bosh.

The NBA's new Three-headed monster was unvailed this week in Miami. Will they win anything? Will championships follow "King James" to South Beach? We will find out come November.

Where things get ugly is the way in which Lebron decided to make his decision.  A Primetime special?  For a free agency decision?  The NBA and National media were able to stretch this circus into a full hour of television.  How do you spell boring?  arrogant? absolutely ridiculous?

Lebron gave fans in New York, New Jersey, Chicago and Cleveland the collective finger when he made his very public announcement.  The fact that he considered himself so important to have a primetime special in the first place is beyond me.  The classless tact he implored to make the announcement public in front of fans that adored him for seven years was just plain sickening.

Then the three of them being introduced like a WWE tag team to the Miami Heat fans in their new jerseys was tough to watch as well.  The “three-headed monster” are celebrating as if they’ve won something more than a new jersey.  Someone needs to remind these three that they haven’t won anything yet.  Another punch in the gut for the fans in Cleveland to swallow.  Another spectacle for the self-proclaimed “king”.

Players come and players go, but few allow a city to hold its collective breath and then punch them in the stomach like Lebron did on Thursday night.

Cleveland, especially, deserved better.

Watching the jersey burnings and crying fans in Ohio, one couldn’t help but picture the fall of the Roman Empire.  Lebron has gone from hero to villain. The Cavs have gone from title contender to an afterthought.  I imagine the Miami Heat will be the most despised team in all of sports come November.  Minus the masses in Miami and a few bandwagon fans out there.

So what does this all mean?

Well, I wouldn’t fit these three for rings, just yet.  Combined they have one championship ring that a little guy named Shaq had a lot to do with.  Lebron, Wade and Bosh also need to find a few teammates…like nine of them before they can even play a game.  What little money the Heat have left will need to spent very wisely or they’ll have to call in a lot of favours or hope that some veterans don’t mind playing Lebron’s caddy for the league minimum.

The Heat look solid on paper and Boston’s “Big Three” model has proven that three superstars can lead a team to a championship.  But whereas Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett proved to be very unselfish with the basketball and Rajon Rondo emerged to make it a strong foursome, this threesome might have trouble sharing the ball.

Bosh has only been effective in Toronto because the offense runs through him.  On the “superteam” the ball will not go to him very often if at all.  He will have to bang and fight for rebounds and he has never proven to be that type of player.  He may also have to do something he has fought against for the last seven years: play centre.

Lebron will have to share the ball with Dwayne Wade.  Both players play similar style games and have controlled the ball considerably over the last seven years.  Who controls the ball now?  Who will take the bulk of the shots.

Can a guy who had a Primetime special to announce his free agent decision, share the basketball?  Share the limelight?  Share his cookies?  I don’t know.

They all can’t score 30+ every night.  Someone is going to have to pass up taking shots.  Who takes the shot in the fourth quarter?

They will need a good coach to reign in all of that testosterone and ego.  Eric Spolestra is probably not the guy to do that.  I’m not sure he has any testosterone to speak of.

So the Heat will come in as favourites to win it all and also the least liked team in the entire league.  Expect a lot of booing for this trio in Cleveland, New York, New Jersey, Toronto and Chicago especially.  This “super team” will have to find a way to co-exist.  On paper in looks great, but games are not won on paper.  If that was so, the Cavaliers would have been champions this year.

The Heat look hot right now, but lets see how hot they look come November.  A whole lot of teams are going to be licking their chops to beat these three.  The Miami Heat:  Public Enemy Number One.

We’ll have more on what this all means for the Raptors tomorrow.

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Kristoffer Pedlar
The Zan Tabak Herald

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Bosh Roulette: Where Will He Go?

It is becoming increasingly clear that Chris Bosh wants to play in another city next year.  He seems to be revelling in his free agency and being wined and dined by various NBA teams.  The one glitch in his plan for a 6 year max deal seems to now be the Raptors unwillingness to accommodate Bosh unless the Raptors stand to gain as well.  This could throw a wrench into the plans for a super team in Chicago or Miami and may force Chris to take less money in a city he wants to play in.  Still, many possibilities exist for the Raptors and Chris Bosh to find a deal that will appease both sides.

Let’s take a look at his potential suitors:

Chris Bosh has a lot of options when it comes to where to play next year. Many of them will depend on the co-operation of Bryan Colangelo and the Raptor organization.

Miami Heat: Before the onset of free agency and in the first few days of the frenzy, Miami looked like the sure-fire destination for CB4.  Miami had a deal on the table including Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony.  The deal would have combine Bosh with Dwayne Wade, but would have also left Miami’s bench pretty thin.  The deal fell apart and the Miami deal won’t happen unless Pat Riley ponies up some draft picks and a massive trade exception.

Odds are still high that Bosh ends up here, but he might have to take a little less money or a third team will have to be added to the deal.  Miami had hopes of combining Wade and Bosh, but those dreams are in danger of being dashed.  In fact, Wade has been visiting a number of other teams and could leave the sunshine state.

Verdict: Miami still looks like a possibility but Colangelo has made it clear that he won’t get taken to the cleaners. If Miami wants Bosh they are going to have to at least try to accommodate the Raps.

Chicago Bulls: The Bulls have dreams of building a super team with Bosh, Wade, Noah, and Rose.  Unfortunately for Chicago, they need other teams in their conference to help them do it.  A super team that looks like that would entice anybody.  Lebron is also a possibility in the windy city, so it could get crazy in Chi-town.

Bosh likes the look of the city and how could you not want to play with a starting five that consists of those players?  Again, max money will be hard to come by unless the Bulls are able to come to an agreement with the increasingly steadfast Colangelo.  Unless the Bulls are able to offer up a player like Joakim Noah, I don’t think a deal gets done.

Verdict: The Bulls are all over the free agent market right now, but seem to be unwilling to give up any sort of asset to get these players.  If Paxson doesn’t start to get serious about a sign and trade, the bulls could end up empty-handed.  I do believe a compromise can be worked out between the Raps and Bulls that is somewhere between Taj Gibson, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah.  The Raps are right to hold out for something more lucrative in order to accommodate Bosh and an Eastern Conference rival.

Houston Rockets: This would be the Raptors most preferred situation and Houston is close to Bosh’s hometown.  The Rockets were apparently the first ones on the “Bosh Scene” at midnight on July 1st.  They love the idea of pairing Bosh with Yao Ming.  That would be a pretty strong frontcourt.  The Rockets also have a sea of assets that intrigue the Raptors including multiple first round picks and skilled players such as Aaron Brooks, Trevor Ariza and Luis Scola.  The Raptors seem to be pushing Bosh towards Houston with their unwillingness to take the Bulls and Heat offers.  Bosh would also end up out West, away from the Raptors in the Eastern Conference, and couldn’t come back to haunt them the way Vince Carter has in previous seasons.

Verdict: This is probably the best scenario if you are a Raptor fan.  Bosh would bring back top dollar from the Rockets and we wouldn’t have to worry about “super teams” in Chicago or Miami.  Not only that but Bosh would be out west where Raptor fans wouldn’t be taunted by his potential success.  A definite possibility if Colangelo can stay strong and hold out for the best sign and trade deal.

New York Knicks:  This is the least likely scenario, but if Bosh is looking for fame and money New York could be his best option.  There is every likelihood that Wade and Lebron will return to their current teams leaving the Knicks out in the cold.  They would then put all of their energy into saving face with their fans and throw the moon at Chris Bosh.  Bosh has given every indication that he wants the moon this offseason.  So the Knicks might be a good fit.

Verdict: Unlikely, but possible as other dominos begin to fall.  A rumored Lee for Bosh sign and trade was talked about during the season and could be a deal Colangelo considers.  Not the best news if you are a fan of defense, but a possibility nonetheless.

Los Angeles Lakers: This was a team considered quite a bit during the year.  Every Raptor fan with access to the internet has posted about a potential Bynum for Bosh deal.  The deal would strengthen the Lakers considerably and would give Bosh access to the thing he craves even more than a championship :  attention.  He would be close to his buddy Jay Leno and he wouldn’t have to become the focus of the offense with Bryant and Gasol around.  He could be a key to returning the championship to L.A. for a thrid straight year.

Verdict:  A bit of a pipe dream if you’re a Raptors fan as Bynum would be a beast in the East.  A great idea, in theory, but one that is unlikely to materialize.  Los Angeles won the championship with their current roster and they don’t really need to bulk up with another max contract.  Bynum has potential to be as good, or better than Bosh in the long-term.  A long shot at best.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Playing with Lebron would be a dream come true for Bosh.  He would benefit from being a secondary option and playoff berths would be plentiful.  But, he would be playing in Cleveland.  If Bosh wants exposure and media attention, surely Cleveland isn’t the route to go.  Rumours indicate Bosh has no desire to play in Cleveland, but would love to play with Lebron elsewhere.

Verdict: Unlikely because of Bosh’s desire to be a media mogul or some such nonsense.  Playing with Lebron?  yes.  Playing with Lebron in Cleveland?  Not so much.

Toronto Raptors: Yes, there is still a glimmer of a hope that Bosh will return to the Raptors next season.  The Raptors can offer more money than anyone else and Colangelo seems steadfast in his desire to get a decent deal for Bosh, should he move to a new team.  If Bosh can’t get his money elsewhere, he might stay and collect it in Toronto.  This becomes even more likely if Lebron and Wade stay with their current teams.  Joe Johnson was rumoured to be on the move and he ended up staying, it could be in Bosh’s and his agent’s best interest to stay where he is a focal point of the offense and where he can get the most money.

Verdict: Borders on never going to happen, but there is a possibility that Colangelo’s game of hardball brings CB4 back to the ACC.  A long shot at best, but still possible.

In the end, I believe in my heart of heart that Bosh will end up elsewhere this offseason and the next time Toronto fans see Bosh on the court, it will be in a uniform other than a Raptors one.  My hope is that Colangelo is able to orchestrate a deal that will land the Raptors young players or financial assets that will benefit the team going forward.  So far, Bryan has shown that he won’t be taken to the cleaners by the Pat Riley’s and Paxon’s of the world.  Hopefully a deal will materialize that gives Bosh the riches he so covets and the assets the Raptors will need to take a step forward.

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Kristoffer Pedlar
The Zan Tabak Herald

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