The final game of the season was not played without intrigue. Both the Raptors and Nets came into the game looking more closely at the bottom of the standings than the top of it. As the playoffs are still but a dream for the Nets and Raptors, the two teams could be forgiven if they were more focused on draft position than winning their final game.
Both the Raptors and Nets started a team that wasn’t quite the usual talent level. Most players were former D-League players and emergency additions for injured players. The Raptors only dressed 7 players six of whom actually saw considerable court time. The Nets weren’t much better dressing only 8 players.
In the end, the Nets out-tanked the Raptors and took away valuable ping-pong balls in the draft lottery. It’s really hard for “Tank Nation” to fault the Raptors though. There is probably no team in history that could have lost to the Nets on Thursday night. They shot 30% from the field and looked like, what my writing partner called, a “turnstile” on defense.
Now it wasn’t all bad for Raptors fans. Ben Uzoh played the game of his life and came away with his first career triple-double and Solomon Alabi, given a season high 40 minutes, had 11 points and 19 rebounds. He may or may not ever play again in the NBA but it was a nice “Moonlight Graham Moment” for Alabi.
If nothing else Raptor fans may have gotten a really good look at some players who will be looking for a job in the summer. Ed Davis, Gary Forbes and Alan Anderson all played significant minutes and showed the Raptors coaches why they should be considered for this team next year.
The better team won the game and hopefully the Raptors have earned themselves a little good karma for the draft lottery coming up. A top five pick would really help this team moving forward, which is exactly the direction they’re heading.
Zan for Three
Auditions for Next Year
I was one of the few fans at the ACC on Thursday who wasn’t sure who to cheer for. Did I want to see the Raptors win a game in front of their hometown fans one last time?, or did I want New Jersey to help increase our lottery chances? I was one very conflicted fan on Thursday night.
What I did enjoy was an opportunity to see “the fringe” members of our team. Players like Ed Davis, Alan Anderson, Ben Uzoh and Solomon Alabi all get big minutes.Basically it was a Summer League Game, a pre-season workout to get one last look to see if and where these players belong next year.
From my vantage point Alan Anderson and Ben Uzoh have done enough to stick with the club on a more permanent basis. Uzoh, who had a triple-double, would make a fine 3rd point guard on this team. He runs the offense well, can obviously do a number of different things and is fast as lightning.
Alan Anderson would be a nice player off the bench to cover a number of different positions and add some defensive energy.
As for Davis and Alabi; they may have been auditioning for other teams. Alabi doesn’t seem to fit into the Raptors long term plans and Ed Davis may be the odd man out in the battle for minutes at Power Forward, especially with Jonas arriving next year.
No Wins til Brooklyn
What a way to end the Nets era in New Jersey. A dismal, lazy, sad effort against the Raptors. This team just could never put it together for the city. The Nets legacy is one that doesn’t have many highlights. A finals appearance and a good year out of Vince Carter once and that’s about it. Derrick Coleman? Yi Jianlian? Mookie Blaylock? Who will be the most remembered Net? None of them could get the team too far past a quick first round exit. None will be entered in the hall of fame. Not even the one in our hearts.
Hopefully Brooklyn has better luck with the Nets. As of now the city of Brooklyn is inheriting a team in disarray. Especially if, as expected, they are forced to part with Deron Williams.
Hopefully they don’t replace DWill with Yinka Dare. Though you can’t completely rule it out.
A Change is Gonna Come
Fans last night were a little more upbeat than I would have originally thought. The fans cheered the team on and enjoyed the energetic play from players like Ben Uzoh, Solomon Alabi and Ed Davis. This certainly wasn’t the team you would have expected to see on the court to close a season if you had predicted it at the beginning of the year.
Yet, there is optimism around this team.
The Raptors have a coach that the players, organization and fans are fully behind. He has changed the culture here and done some pretty amazing things with a fairly limited roster.
There is quite a bit of money to spend in the offseason and the Raptors have a number of contracts that could be easily moved should they choose to go that route. They also have one first round pick this year, the position will be decided by our lesser number of ping-pong balls. And our first round pick from last year, Jonas Valanciunas, will finally join the team after a successful year in Lithuania.
There is reason to be hopeful despite the poor record our team had this year.
Change is on its way. The GM’s job depends on this offseason. He will be motivated to improve this team in more ways than one.
Plus the Foul…
So I’ve been on and on about Freeing Alabi and giving him minutes to find out what exactly he is able to do. Last night we saw Alabi at the best of times (he went all Acie Earl on the ACC), but it wasn’t enough to support giving him another contract.
He is a hard worker, it sounds like he is a nice guy and he has some skill, but I think the reality is that he is going to be out of the league next year and hopefully can work his way back through strong play on the international stage.
Best of luck to him.
Zan of the Night
If you didn’t know who Ben Uzoh was before last night you likely know him a little better now. He started for the Raptors and went home with his first triple-double and the teams first since Alvin Williams.
He’s fast, can rebound, take the ball to the hoop and draw contact. These are great traits in a reserve guard. I think if he was brought back it would be in a limited role (likely 3rd PG) but I think he’s worth a shot. It would certainly not be a major concern in my mind if he was handed spot duty next year off the bench. I think he’s earned a little more time with the big club.
Not Zan of the Night
The New Jersey Nets
Thanks a lot jerks. Even if the Raptors were trying to tank they still would have beat you. New Jersey put forth one of the worst efforts I have ever had the misfortune to see. It was an absolutely awful display of everything. Hopefully some lottery karma comes back to bite them in the ass for the clear tank job. I mean how do you let Gerald Green shoot the ball that much? No help from Jersey. Onward to Brooklyn. Good luck! You’re going to need it.
The Zan Tabak Herald