Tag Archives: Ed Davis

Raptors Finish Season with Reluctant Win

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.

Ben Uzoh and the Raptors handed it to the Nets in one of the worst performances I've ever seen from a team. The season is done and lots of questions remain.

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…

Free Alabi…

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

Ben Uzoh

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.

***

Kristoffer Pedlar
The Zan Tabak Herald

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Raptors Tease Tank Nation in Loss to Bucks

For almost four complete quarters the Toronto Raptors threatened to take control of the game and hand the Milwaukee Bucks insult to injury.  The same night that the Bucks were officially eliminated from the playoffs, they almost let this game slip away against the near bottom-feeding Raptors.

Toronto played without Demar Derozan for most of the game as he was ejected in the 2nd quarter for throwing a ball in protest of a travelling call.  Not the smartest move by Demar and it gave his teammates an added challenge without their best player.

They hung with the Bucks for the entire game until giving it away in the last three minutes.

Still, despite the loss, there were some very positive signs for the team.  The Raptors got strong, strong efforts from James Johnson who had 22 points and 13 rebounds, Gary Forbes who chipped in with 15 points and 5 assists in extended minutes and Ed Davis added 11 rebounds.

Dwane Casey has to be happy with the effort in this game from essentially his bench.

It all ends on Thursday in Toronto against the, soon to be Brooklyn, Nets.

Can’t wait for the playoffs to start, the offseason to begin and the Raptors to begin their retooling for next year.

Zan for Three

Bad News Bears

So, once again, Dwane Casey had this mixed band of misfits competing against a superior talent.  James Johnson, in his return to the starting lineup, chipped in with 22 points and 13 rebounds.  Forbes tossed in 15 points and 5 assists, Davis had 11 rebounds and Uzoh even chipped in with 8 points and 5 assists.

Despite a gritty effort from some of their second tier players, the Raptors couldn't hang on against the Milwuakee Bucks on Monday night.

Not bad from a group of players, most of which, were not expected to be significant contributors this year.

Whatever his magical potion or secret code that has got this team fighting every night, Dwane Casey deserves some kudos.

It’ll be exciting to see what he can do next year with more depth on the roster.

Get out of Here!

Demar Derozan was ejected from the game in the second quarter for arguing with an official over a travelling call and then throwing the basketball the length of the court.  It was a pretty dumb play on Derozan’s part to get that upset over the call.  Though he’s gotta be tired of never getting the benefit of the doubt with the officials.

He gets to the line consistently one game and then hardly at all the next. Seems to have the respect of the officials during one play and then is treated like a rookie on others. Demar is showing he has the ability to draw contact with the best of them, but yet hasn’t earned the respect of the officials. I call it Canadian bias. 

The referees don’t know him well enough.  He hasn’t estblished himself with them enough and thus doesn’t get consistent calls.  Not sure what else he has to do, maybe just give it time.

Sometimes you have to choose your battles, but I have a feeling Derozan was venting his frustrations with the lack of consistency of the officiating this year. The lack of calls has been quite apparent when looking at Derozan’s boxscores this year.

Still, cooler heads should have prevailed and Derozan should have stayed in the game. His presence could have turned the tide for the raptors.

Tank Nation

So it would appear that with Cleveland’s loss tonight the Raptors are still looking at the 5th or 6th most ping-pong balls in the upcoming draft lottery.  That means they could be drafting 5th or 6th or have a chance to move up and draft higher.

Tonight I’m not sure if fans were more happy or upset that the team allowed their double-digit lead to evaporate in the fourth Quarter.  There seems to be a growing desire to lose as many as possible and collect a higher chance to get ping-pong balls. With only one game remaining after this one I guess every loss helps.

In the end, it will still all come down to luck.  I mean remember when Orlando won the lottery twice in a row?

Losing isn’t fun, but when you add an opportunity to get a higher draft pick you can accept the late game collapse.  If your name isn’t Casey, that is.

Plus the Foul

Free Alabi

I’m liking the fact that Dwane Casey is allowing Alabi to get some burn, but it is allowing us all to see that he really isn’t ready for the NBA.  He’s a great guy, he’s got a big body, but has too much that he needs to fix to be a player that is brought back next year.  His time on the court has given us clear evidence that he should not be in the plans for the team next year.

A great guy, but he just isn’t NBA ready.  He may never be.

Zan of the Night

James Johnson

It is nice to see Johnson finishing the year much the way he started it.  He has been one of the most exciting and inspired Raptor players for most of the season.  He gets to the rim, grabs loose balls and plays tough defense.  He will be a very welcome addition to next years team, if of course the rift between he and Casey isn’t too deep to salvage.  Johnson has shown he is a very versatile player and could be very valuable coming off the bench next year to back up a number of different positions.  Tonight he scored, rebounded and got his team involved and was a pest all night for the Bucks on both ends of the floor.

Not Zan of the Night

The Bucks

Despite the win, Milwaukee fell short of their goal of reaching the playoffs.  It was a valiant effort, but in the end they came up just short.  Still with a team that sports Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings as well as Ilyasova they could be dangerous next year.  Still to miss the playoffs on the second last night of the season because you lost control of your own destiny, has gotta sting a little.

***

Kristoffer Pedlar
The Zan Tabak Herald

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Raptors Run out of Magic Against Hawks

It’s been a great little run the Raptors have been on, but it was bound to end sometime and it made sense that Atlanta came back to exact some revenge on the raps after Toronto surprised them in Atlanta a night ago.

The Raptors looked pretty good for three quarters but simply ran out of gas against a better opponent.

 Still on the positive side it was nice to see Demar Derozan, once again, rise to the challenge of being a number one option and it was great to see Solomon Alabi playing meaningful minutes and contributing in some way.

This is the Raptor squad we were expecting these last few games.  A tough, competitive bunch that finds itself overmatched in most games. Despite the loss, the Raptors battled and had lots of positive to take away. 

Zan for Three

The Terrible Ivan

So Ivan Johnson is a really scary looking dude.  He’s also a huge pain in the butt for defenders under the basket.  Many times on Monday he was able to steal rebounds away from Raptor forwards and turn them into second chances or points.  He intimidates out there and plays the game fiercely.

The Hawks are going to need his toughness as they head into the playoffs without a proven big man.  Horford is out and they’ve also likely lost Zaza Pachulia for their first round matchup.  They are going to need someone strong to take on the likes of Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett in the first round of the playoffs.

Ivan Johnson is their only hope.  He’s as tough as they come but he lacks the height.  Garnett and Bass will take advantage of that, but if Ivan plays with the toughness he did on Monday night he may give the Celtics front court more than they can handle.

James Johnson Back on Course

For a few weeks it seemed like whatever beef Dwane Casey and James Johnson had with each other was going to derail Johnson’s strong start to the season.  He wasn’t getting minutes and when he was he wasn’t very productive. He looked lost and like he no longer belonged in the Raptors plans.

A second strong effort in a row by James Johnson wasn't enough to prevent the Raptors from falling to the Hawks.

The last two night against Atlanta, Johnson has found his old form.  He’s filling up all areas of the stat sheet and contributing on both ends of the floor.

Early in the season it looked like Johnson might be a nice piece for the Raptors to hold on to as they look to the future and now it appears that way again.  Johnson is versatile, can play many positions and defends the ball very well.  He contributes with points, assists, rebounds and blocks.  He’s a multi faceted player and seems to be putting his name back into the off-season conversation.

Free Alabi

Tonight we finally got to see what happens when you release Alabi from the bench.  The results were as expected; mixed.  Alabi looked lost out there at times but occasionally found his way.  He was active in the paint and threw down a couple of nice dunks.  In the end he finished with 8 points and 9 rebounds.  Not a bad statline for someone who’s been getting only garbage time minutes all year.

Zan of the Night

Ivan Johnson

Active inside, defensive pain and ultimately the biggest difference in the game.  He worked the Raptors inside so that his more offensively gifted teammates could be open on the outside.  The Raptors had no answers to Ivan, he was simply too tough underneath the basket.

Not Zan of the Night

Tracy McGrady

Yes he was quite effective in his limited minutes and hd a pretty decent shooting night off the bench, but I just hate him so.  And apparently I’m not the only one who has never forgiven Mr. McGrady for leaving Toronto just before team embarked on its greatest run.  McGrady could have been part of a Raptor dynasty. Instead he left and now boos rain down on him every time he plays in the city.  One would’ve thought the fans would be over it.  Not likely ever to happen.

***

Kristoffer Pedlar
The Zan Tabak Herald

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Commitment to Youth Important Down the Stretch

Were my eyes deceiving me on Wednesday night against Philadelphia? or was that Ed Davis playing 33 minutes and adding yet another double-double to his resume? Was that Solomon Alabi actually getting some burn in the late stages of the game?  Justin Dentmon even got some extended minutes backing up Jose, didn’t he?

This needs to be Dwane Casey’s plan for the rest of the season despite how much it drives him crazy.

The Raptors organization needs to use what limited amount of time we have left this season to assess the young assets that still remain on the team in order to form the framework for their offseason personnel decisions.

Casey needs to see what the Alabi’s, Davis’s and Forbes’s can do in extended minutes where they are given the ball to run with.

It's time Ed Davis was given more of a role on the current Raptors team. the year is almost over and there is still much to learn about him and a number of other younger players.

On Wednesday night, like he did on Monday, Davis had a strong showing.  His game has shown significant improvement over the last few weeks and the Raptors may still consider keeping him around next season.  

There were big hopes for Ed and his ability to rebound the ball and defend going into the year.  This skill set is only now beginning to reveal itself in his extended time on the court.  On Monday he played 17 minutes and had 11 points and 10 rebounds.  On Wednesday he played 33 minutes and had 13 point and 13 rebounds.

If Double-Double’s and consistent effort on the defensive end are what the Raptors can expect from Ed then more minutes need to be given to see if he can improve on these numbers or at least keep them steady.  A double-double off the bench is what any team needs, in the playoffs or out of them. 

While we are at it let’s give all the young question marks on our team a little more time to show whether they belong.

Forbes has benefited from increased minutes this season and is beginning to show his worth.  Newly acquired Alan Anderson and Justin Dentmon appear as though they may deserve a longer look.  Why not throw Alabi some extra burn too and see what these kids can do.

The Raptors are getting closer and closer to a top five pick in the lottery and the worst thing that can happen by playing these younger players is that they fail and the Raptors lose more games, thus increasing their lottery odds. If not now then when?

While the extra losses may haunt the competative Dwane Casey in his dreams it may also pave the way for a stronger future and will ultimately give his team a lot more data to use in making decisions during the off-season.

So, shut down Bargnani (just make it official already), shut down Calderon, Kleiza even.  Let Demar run the team with Alabi, Forbes, Davis and Anderson starting.

It’s time to see what these guys can do and it’s time to accept our fate.

***

Kristoffer Pedlar
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The Jamaal Magloire Factor

So I’ve come to the conclusion that when we see Jamaal Magloire in a Raptor game it has a lot more to do with what is not being done by our squad than it does with the need for Magloire to appear.

Magloire is tough.  He gets out there and uses his physicality to punish the players he defends.  You may beat him to the hoop, but you’re not gonna score.  He’ll hammer you everytime.

Jamaal Magloire is a player that's presence sends a message to his team. He is a strong veteran presence that works hard and he pushes his teammates to do the same.

The physical presence under the basket is not always there for the Raptors.  Andrea Bargnani isn’t exactly a “banger”, Amir Johnson gets into foul trouble often and Ed Davis doesn’t always display his max effort on a consistent basis.

This is when Magloire comes in to show them all what you’re supposed to do when you’re protecting the rim.  His presence also usually means we aren’t doing so well.

On Sunday night Harden, Durant and Westbrook used the Raptors defenders as pylons. Derozan couldn’t stop them, Forbes couldn’t stop them and Calderon sure as hell couldn’t stop them.

Once they got inside there wasn’t a big body to defend the rim.  Gray, J. Johnson, Davis and Amir needed to step up and prevent three-point plays, easy layups, clear paths to the net and they did not.

The effort was not there.  A 24-0 run for the Thunder in the third Quarter was evidence enough that whatever the Raptors were doing wasn’t working.

This year I have noticed that when the Raptors defense is falling apart, Dwane Casey calls on Magloire.

Magloire is a hometown favourite, having played his high school ball at Eastern Commerce in the Danforth village.  He hasn’t played in many games this season, but when he does it is usually to send a message.

Usually he sends messages to opposing players to stay out of the lane or they’re gonna get hit hard.  Tonight he was placed in the game to send a message to his own team.

“Man up”.  “Compete”.  “Challenge the opposition.”

It was too easy for James Harden and the Thunder to penetrate the defense. Magloire was needed to come in and stop the bleeding.

No one on the Raptors could protect the paint, no one could guard the perimeter no one chose to flash some effort.

In comes Magloire.  When you see him, you know someone isn’t doing their job.  Tonight he should have been in there the entire game.

I’m not a fan of playing Magloire.  He doesn’t fit into the long-term plans of this team and shouldn’t be taking time away from Amir, Davis, Alabi, or Johnson.

However, tonight I approved of his presence.  Magloire was one of the only Raptors that didn’t resemble a pylon.  He didn’t let players walk around him. He didn’t allow easy baskets to be scored on him.

He fought.

Hopefully his effort and his unexpected playing time helped to send a message to his team.  That kind of lackadaisical effort on the defensive end is not going to cut it.  Whether it be against the Nets, the Cavs or the Thunder.

To get respect in this game you need to send a message loud and clear.  On Sunday night the only Raptor able to do it was Magloire.

Despite the fact it took minutes away from other younger players, I applaud the use of Magloire tonight.

But may we never need to see him for extended minutes again.

***

Kristoffer Pedlar
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Cavs Beat Raptors in Tank Bowl 2012

That wasn’t the prettiest game in the world last night, in fact, let us never speak of it again.

The Raptors sported a starting lineup the Bakersfield Jam would likely not be concerned about.  Ben Uzoh?  Alan Anderson? and Justin Dentmon serving as the primary backup one shootaround into his Raptor career?

If this is what “Tank Nation” is all about then I want no part of it.

That was ugly.  That was ugly before the disgraceful 4th quarter where the Raptors were outscored 33-17.  I mean the game was tied at 68 in the 3rd Quarter.  Is that “pounding the rock” or just straight stinking out the joint?

To be fair, the Raptors were without Calderon, who was relegated to the bench with “hockey face” after Elton Brand elbowed him in the face on Wednesday.  They were also without James Johnson, who is usually a spark plug for the Raptors.  He was out with what can only be described as “upsetting the coach”.

Not a great effort for our team, not at all.

Still Derozan had another strong game, Sonny Weems returned and Tristan Thompson got a nice ovation from the crowd.  Not all bad, I guess.

Zan For Three

Driving the Tank

I get it. I really do.  I understand Tank Nation.  I understand the idea of cheering when your team loses.

The Oklahoma City Thunder didn’t get Kevin Durant by winning lots of games.  Lebron wasn’t delivered on Cleveland’s doorstep for shows of good effort.

Losing brings Toronto a valuable asset. Losing lots, at least theoretically, increases the value of that asset.

But if we are going to tank this season, I’d at least like to go down with some dignity.  Dwane Casey has shown this past week that he has absolutely no intention of leaving this season with a whimper.  He has this team playing hard and aggressive.

Just not last night.

If we are working towards next year, it would be nice to see a little more Ed Davis and a little more Solomon Alabi.  Last night, Justin Dentmon, fresh off of getting to the city, played 20 minutes. Alabi, a two-year Raptor, drank Gatorade.

Ben Uzoh and Alan Anderson are living out their NBA dreams of starting in a game, while some of our younger players are wasting away on the bench.

Tank or no Tank, let’s play the players that have a possible future here.

Rumour Mill

So James Johnson sat against the Cavaliers on the very same night Sonny Weems made a public appearance in Toronto.  2+2=4

I’m not going to suggest that the Raptors are looking to replace Johnson with Weems.  That would be a bad idea, a very bad idea.  But Weems is a solid offensive player and one who has really shown some promise in Lithuania this year.  His arrival at the very same time his replacement was being benched is sure to conjure up all kinds of baseless rumours and armchair GM-ing.

It is not out of the realm of possibility that he returns, though.

He’s good friends with Demar Derozan who is seemingly part of our future. He can score in bunches, which would be a nice asset to have on our bench, especially since Leandro Barbosa’s output has been replaced by Alan Anderson’s thus far.  And he seems to want to be here.  If we are to believe his words. 

Sonny is a pretty one-dimensional player, but like Barbosa, he scores a lot.  If used properly off the bench he could become a semi-valuable asset.

That being said I don’t think the plan moving forward is to have Johnson start at the 3 next season (he would likely come in off the bench) and the Raptors don’t need to carry the extra wing if one will be acquired in the summer.

The Weems debate will continue and Colangelo is going to have to make a decision.

At the very least, there will be plenty of chatter about Mr. Weems over the last couple of weeks of the season.

The Dog House

Of all the players that I could imagine being in Dwane Casey’s “dog house”, James Johnson wouldn’t be one of them.  This season he has been Mr. Everything playing with energy, doing the little things and playing strong defense.

He has been a fan favourite because of the energy he plays with on the court.

It is therefore very intriguing why he has been benched in favour of Alan Anderson.

In typical Dwane Casey fashion, this matter is being dealt with internally (as it should be), but one has to wonder what Johnson did to earn his mini vacation.

Hopefully it was a minor incident that both parties are now .  The Raptors need James Johnson; tank or no tank.  He’s a fun player to watch and would have come in handy last night against the Cavs.

Zan of the Night

Demar Derozan

The kid is getting his confidence back.  Unfortunately he’s getting it back just in time for the season to end.  Once again Raptor fans went from being done with Derozan to thinking he might be part of the core.  Is he the player from the first half? or the one playing well to end the season?

Seems like Derozan has got a bit of “Reimer-itis”, hopefully his solid play continues into next season and he doesn’t revert back to his old ways.  On Friday night he shot the ball well, got to the line and was one of the only players that gave his team a chance to win.

Not Zan of the Night

Alan Anderson

He is not an NBA starter, but there he was as the Raptors starting small forward.  He won’t be there much longer, one can only assume.  He finished with 30 minutes of play and zero points.  He missed the four shots he took and was an overall -13 on the night.

But I guess he deserves more time that Alabi.

#freealabi

***

Kristoffer Pedlar
The Zan Tabak Herald

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Raptors Get the Bobcat off Their Back

This was the third game this season the Raptors have played against the Bobcats and you could be forgiven thinking the Raptors would be winning that series. Tonight they finally got a win against a team they really should be beating on a regular basis.

The great debate between winning games against teams we should beat and “Tank Nation” continues, but in the end this is a victory you want to have if you are a Raptor fan.  The Bobcats are among the worst teams the league has ever seen.  I mean, they’re bad.  Another loss against this Charlotte team would say a lot more about our current roster than anything else.

On Tuesday night the Raptors found a way to win and sent some positive signs out to a fanbase that is quickly losing interest in anything outside of a free slice of pizza.

Demar Derozan once again looked good, Bargnani filled the net with 30 points and Linas Kleiza, Ed Davis and Aaron Gray provided support.

I know what most people are thinking; it’s the Bobcats, why should we care?

A loss against this team would be demoralizing and it would send the wrong message about our future core.  We need to beat the Bobcats of this league.  Derozan and Bargnani need to develop more confidence and it isn’t going to happen by losing.  Plus Charlotte is a team that has owned us this year.  This was a little bit of payback.

A win tonight doesn’t help us get closer to Anthony Davis or Kidd Gilchrist, but it does help build the confidence of young players that are going to be asked to do a lot more next year.  Tonight Derozan and Bargnani answered the call and hopefully their stat lines look similar.

The Zan for Three

To Ed Davis, or not to Ed Davis?

I don’t know if Ed Davis read Tim Chisholm’s article on Tuesday afternoon that called into question his role on this team going forward, but he certainly came out and played a solid game.  He’s actually strung a few strong games together. Call it good timing, a push back, whatever you want.  Ed played well on Wednesday.  He rebounded well, something he is consistently good at.  He scored points, and didn’t look lost on the offensive end.  He made the most of the limited minutes he was given and was a valuable contributor off the bench.

As Chisholm suggests in his piece, Ed’s contract is not difficult to move and with Jonas Valanciunas coming in next year there are far too many big men on the team.  He would be the clear movable piece.

While Chisholm and others are calling into question Davis’s future in Toronto (with good reason), Ed is quietly going about his business.  On Tuesday night he was everything he needed to be to keep his spot on this team.  Whether he is showing he belongs on this team going forward or simply raising his trade value, Davis’s play  the last few games is something to take note of.  And maybe his fate isn’t quite cemented.

Where are the Fans?

It’s the end of the year. The Raptors are simply playing out the schedule, but where are all the fans?  The ACC has looked less and less full and when it is full it sounds like a crowd at the Toronto Symphony not at an NBA basketball game. That is, of course, unless there is pizza on the line.

Tonight the crowd once again seemed deflated, almost from the get go.  I’d like to believe it was because they found out Solomon Alabi wouldn’t be starting, but I have a feeling the fans just aren’t that into the Raptors right now.

The city has been absolutely deflated by the Maple Leafs collapse and the rough and tumble season the Raptors have been enduring.  Fans are fed up and losing patience.  Hopefully this is something Colangelo, Casey, Derozan, Bargnani, or whoever gives the end of the year speech to the ACC addresses.

Ed Davis provided a spark off the bench that lifted the Raptors to their first win of the season over the Charlotte Bobcats.

The ACC has always been a little reserved, but lately it’s been down right deadsville.  Unfortunately the Charlotte Bobcats aren’t exactly crowd pleasing competition, but when the game is on the line with 40 seconds left the entire stadium should be on its feet.  It doesn’t matter who they are playing.  The fans need to know that though this year has been tough, there is a change coming.

Sonny Return

So Sonny Weems is back in Toronto.  Now before I go creating a rumour that doesn’t exist, he is not coming back at the moment.  The injury he sustained in Lithuania ended his season with Zalgiris  and he is simply back to receive treatment on his sprained foot.  But wouldn’t he look good playing at the ACC again? The Raptors could use a fast, athletic wing player off the bench to compliment James Johnson and Demar Derozan.

Weems proved while he was overseas that he still has plenty of game left and may have actually done himself a great service by heading over to play with Zalgiris.  Sonny looked confident, took control of games when he as there and worked on becoming a more dominant player.  Right now Toronto could use an exciting player that can score coming off the bench.  With Udoh and Anderson, the Raptors have filled the roster with 10 day rentals.  Weems would offer a more long term solution to their depth issues.

Plus this is where he belongs.

Zan of the Night

Demar Derozan

Once again “good Demar” came out to play tonight.  He shot the ball well, got to the line and led the team to a tough victory.  What was most impressive about Demar’s play against Charlotte wasn’t the 50% shooting or the 20 points he was able to accumulate; it was his aggression.  Demar took the ball to the hoop and wasn’t afraid to draw contact.  He’s been getting his fair share of calls recently and you can tell it is giving him the confidence he needs to attack the rim on a more consistent basis.  Even though we are nearing the end of the year, it is nice to see Derozan playing well and his effort is a good sign for the team next year as well.

Not Zan of the Night

Amir Johnson

“Bad Amir” came out of the wood work tonight.  Despite a few well-timed defensive plays he was non-existent on offense and took himself out the game by accumulating fouls.  Ed Davis stepped up in Amir’s absence. Amir is a player that you can see has incredible potential, but he’s just not been able to put it together consistently.  The fouls are a part of his game that completely take him out of the flow and often land him on the bench.  He is one of my favourite players, but he continues to remind us that he still has some concerning habits.

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Evaluation over Winning

The great debate between “Team Tank” and “Team Fight”  has lit up Raptor message boards and blogs over the last little while.  It would appear that most Raptors fans and writers (at least the ones not employed by the Raptors themselves) are in favour of the Tank.  It makes sense, right?  Do your best to lose more games and hope to come away with a top three draft pick.

In theory, It’s a great plan and one that will help the Raptors moving forward.  

But tanking is such a terrible word.  It conjures up thoughts of the 1919 Black Sox who threw the World Series.  It’s being bad on purpose and that can irritate a fan base, especially one still paying top dollar to watch basketball being played at the ACC.

That being said, I do think the Raptors need to focus less on winning games and a bit more on evaluating talent, especially the younger talent, that is on this team.

This season is lost, we are not making the playoffs or fighting for a spot, this much we know.  So why not use this time to get some evaluation done?  Start training camp now. Get an early start.

Bryan Colangelo has done his part in the front office by eliminating veterans like Anthony Carter and Rasual Butler from the rotation.  Dwane Casey needs to do his part as well by allowing the front office and coaching staff to get more info on how players like Ed Davis, Gary Forbes and Solomon Alabi work and adapt during in-game situations.

I like that we are seeing a lot more of Gary Forbes.  He is responding to increased minutes by playing quite well.  Jarryd Bayless did the same before his untimely injury.  Let’s see what Ed Davis and Solomon Alabi can do.  They are theoretically going to be here in Toronto next year and this team needs to see where they fit in the rotation.  The only way to do that is by throwing them into the fire more consistently.

I’m sure the coaching staff and Casey do plenty of evaluation in practice, but some players raise their level of play when they get time to do it on the court.  Need I say more than “Jeremy Lin”?

It’s time to give these players opportunity.

There are tough decisions coming ahead for the Raptors front office and coaching staff.  With Jonas Valanciunas arriving next year the team is carrying too many big men.  Ed Davis and Amir Johnson cannot co-exist on this team next year.  One of them, likely, has to go. Which one? Right now the answer is clearly Ed Davis, but are you 100% sure he isn’t the more talented player? I’m not sure you can be.

Ed needs time.  Alabi needs time. Forbes needs time.  Just so we can see how they fit in or if they fit in at all for next year.  The only way to know for sure is to  let them sink or swim.

With increased minutes Gary Forbes is starting to show he could be a valuable part of this Raptors squad this year and beyond.

This is the time to throw strategy out the window.  We have nothing to lose by giving our bench players more time or by pushing our current “core” even further. What’s the worst that could happen? We lose more games? Get a better draft pick?

Casey is the coach and he makes the decisions. This is the way it should be. He has integrity and obviously a competitive spirit to the bitter end. But it is in his best interests to see what these guys can do.  Davis may be the most important of his underused bench because Ed may actually have an increased role next year if/when Amir is moved. 

On Sunday night against Washington we saw more of Davis.  That’s good. Plus he played very well.  Gary Forbes got significant minutes.  Perfect.  But what a great opportunity to give Alabi some time.  Guys on 10 day contracts are getting more burn than a 7 foot centre we’ve had on our roster for two years.  Why not give him a chance against the lightweights of the league? It’s the least we can do.

Let’s put away the clipboard a little bit more and see what is on this team worth keeping.  Let’s see who deserves to stay and who goes. Let’s give Ed, Alabi and Forbes increased minutes and see what they do with them.

Casey is starting to play along, but there is still more to be done. 

***

Kristoffer Pedlar
The Zan Tabak Herald

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The Glass is Half Full

It’s been a rough year for the Raptors and their fans.  No playoff basketball to look forward to.  No young superstars setting the league on fire.  We can’t even beat a Knicks team going through turmoil and strife. 

This is about the time of year fans get a little antsy and start looking for things to be upset about. 

Before we go getting upset about the fact that Jose Calderon was given his starting job back after being out with injury or going back to doubting the abilities of Andrea Bargnani or diving head first into this ridiculous point guard controversy (that isn’t really a controversy at all), let’s look at some of the positive things happening in Raptor land. 

1) Jarryd Bayless – Like I said there is no point guard controversy.  Bayless has been playing out of his head the last couple of weeks and is giving Raptor fans some hope for the future.  He’s a diverse guard that can play in both guard spots and is doing a much better job lately of knowing when to pass and when to shoot. 

He may or may not be a future star, but he is playing very well.  I agree with many that he needs minutes and I’m sure he will get them (assuming he isn’t hurt).  I, like many, want to see what Bayless is.  A backup combo guard? A starting point guard?

Whatever he is, he is playing himself into a situation where Dwane Casey may have to make a decision on the starting point guard spot eventually.  Jarryd Bayless has picked up his game over the last two weeks and is giving Raptor fans a reason to smile when thinking about next year.

Casey made the tough call to allow Calderon to return to the starting role.  I think that move had a lot more to do with respecting a veteran player than it did with anything else. 

Bayless has had some good numbers of late, but this stretch is far too small a sample size to just hand him the starting job. 

If Bayless keeps up his current level of play  then Casey will have no choice but to give him a shot at starting. Especially if the team is losing with him on the bench.

2) The Coach - Dwane Casey has changed the culture of this basketball team.  He has the players battling every game and buying into his “culture change”.  The Raptors have seen marked improvement in their defense and have been able to keep the opponents from scoring.

With improvements in the roster next year and the same commitment to defense, the Raptors are moving in the right direction. 

3) Derozan’s Improved Play - It hasn’t been a great year for Derozan overall.  We could concentrate on that or we could concentrate on the fact that he is showing marked improvements since the All-Star Break. 

He is getting more confident in his shot and (when he decides to) can get to the foul line consistently. 

Lately he has been a top option for the Raptors and he has responded fairly well. 

Let us not give up on Demar.  He’s athletic, has the ability to get to the foul line and has improved his shot over the last few weeks.  This is still a player very much a part of our core. 

4) Rebounding – According to Zach Lowe at SI.com the Raptors ranked 25th in the league in defensive rebounding last year.  This year they are 3rd in the league and rising fast. 

That is quite the change over. 

I remember a time watching Raptor games where teams would own the paint on our end of the court.  It would drive me to drink.

Now, the Raptors are protecting the ball and not giving up those second chance opportunities.  That is a sure-fire way to increase your odds of winning more games. 

The improved numbers can be attributed to the likes of James Johnson, Amir Johnson and Ed Davis.  As well as better positioning and an overall better effort in the paint. 

Whether the scoreboard always reflects it, the Raptors defense is quickly progressing under Dwane Casey. 

4) Youth Movement - The Raptors are likely looking at a top 6 pick in this years upcoming draft and will also welcome Jonas Valanciunas to Toronto next year as well.  Two, theoretically, serviceable players will be joining the already established core next year. 

This is reason to be excited.

Adding to that is that this years draft class has gone from outstanding to disappointing back to looking quite good during the Madness that is March.  The Raptors will very likely be able to add a player that can come in and make an impact next year. 

6) Flexibility - With Barbosa’s contract coming off the books as well as a few others, the Raptors are looking at having quite a bit of money to spend this off-season (somewhere in the neighbourhood of $12 million).  With a smart transaction here or there the Raptors could add another couple of young building blocks this off-season. 

Plus, with our glut of frontcourt players, the Raptors possess young tradeable assets to parlay into wing depth or bench help. 

Bryan Colangelo is coming up on the tail end of his short contract and will be ready and willing to spend money and make moves in order to keep his job. He has shown over his career that he isn’t afriad to get creative when it comes to improving his team.   The team is in good hands. 

So, though the Raptors aren’t headed to the playoffs and they have been getting beat on a more regular basis there is reason to hope. 

Let’s not get all “Golden State “on our team. 

The future is bright and there is reason to think next year at this time we will be battling for a playoff position. 

And hey, it could be worse, we could be the Leafs. 

***

Kristoffer Pedlar
The Zan Tabak Herald

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Deadline Day in Toronto Nears

This week the NBA will have its trade deadline and there will be rumours all over the web this week about “this player” and “that player”.   Names like Josh Smith, Pau Gasol and even Chris Bosh are already getting tossed around trade circles.  It’s a nutty time of unsubstantiated rumours, people with little to no knowledge of anything spreading baseless gossip and reporters, fans and players reading into things that may or not be there. And in the end there is usually more talk than action.

The Raptors have not been frequently involved in trade rumours, but they do have some chips to play in the possible wheeling and dealing that will be done over the next few days.

The NBA deadline, unlike the NHL and MLB, usually has a calm feel to it.  There isn’t a great number of trades, but often there are a few that change the course of the post-season.  The Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green trade stands out from last year.

And sometimes the trades are small ones that help teams in the future.  In years past the Raptors have made small trades that ended up having longer term benefits.  A young Doug Christie was acquired once upon a time from the Knicks for Willie Anderson and Victor Alexander.  That trade looked okay when it happened, but the Raptors ended up enjoying many successful years with Christie as a starter.  A move of veteran players for one that would help in the future.

Last year the Raptors swung a deal with Chicago, giving up a first round pick, for a guy named James Johnson.  That has turned out swimmingly for the Raptors so far as well.  Johnson now looks like he’ll be in Toronto for a long time and is quickly becoming a fan favourite.

So the trade deadline can certainly be intriguing, if nothing else.

Let’s take a look at some Raptors that are out there in the trade market and the likelihood of them being moved.

1) Leandro Barbosa

This remains the most likely Raptor to be traded.  He has an expiring contract that makes him financially attractive to potential suitors and he is a speedy veteran that would be a welcome addition to any bench in the entire league.

Barbosa is instant offense.  He can get to the rim quickly and scores in bunches.

He certainly isn’t a pass first point guard, but he would look great coming off the bench for any playoff team out there.  He scores, gives his team a boost when he comes into a game and can play a number of positions.

For a team like the Lakers or the Celtics he would be a welcome addition and would bolster their second unit scoring.

What makes Barbosa the more attractive is that his large expiring contract for this year ($7.6 million) that the team acquiring him could turn around and use to add other players, with the cap space,  at the end of the year.

The likelihood of this happening seems to be lessening however as Barbosa has stated that he’d like to sign and is willing to talk extension.  Whether Bryan Colangelois interested in this remains to be seen.

Leandro Barbosa is the most likely Raptor to be on the move on Thursday's deadline. He wants to stay in Toronto, but if the price is right, Colangelo might look to move him.

If a team is willing to part with a young wing player or a first round draft choice I think Colangelo would do a trade in a second.  It, however,  remains highly unlikely he’ll be offered that much for Barbosa’s services.

Outlook: Teams will be interested in Barbosa and will make offers but they likely won’t be what Colangelo wants.  Barbosa could prove to be more valuable this off-season when they use his millions in cap space to sign a free agent.

2) Jose Calderon

Say it Ain’t so!  Jose is my favourite player on the Raptors.  He has been since he wrestled the starting spot away from TJ Ford back in 2007.

He remains a solid point guard, but it is beginning to look like Calderon may not fit into the youth movement that is currently under way in Toronto.

He is a veteran Point guard that protects the ball and doesn’t turn it over and has the ability to score from anywhere on the court. In a playoff series a player like Calderon would be perfect coming of the bench.  A JJ Barea type that can score and pass, but unlike Barea, Jose plays the game safe.  Perfect attributes of a backup playoff point guard.

Now tonight, in the worst game ever played on the planet Earth, Calderon was injured and could miss significant time.  If he is still healthy I believe that it is unlikely he gets moved, but then again the market for point guards just got another buyer in Minnesota.  (We know how much David Khan likes his point guards).

If a team feels like they need to have a point guard that can score and protect the ball then you may see Calderon move, but thanks to his potential injury he likely wont.  His contract, once considered one of the worst in the League, is getting more attractive every year.  He now only has this year and next before free agency.

If Jose is not traded this week, his name will likely be mentioned again next year.  His contract expires next year and that capspace will be very attractive to somebody, plus he’s a good player.

Then again, if he ends up being healthy I could see the Lakers or Blazers being interested in him as either a starter or back up.

The Raptors would likely want a draft pick and/or an expiring contract that runs out this year in return.

Can they get that for Jose?

Outlook: Despite his defensive liability, Jose is one of the better point guards in the league.  He protects the ball, gets his teammates involved and shoots the lights out from pretty much anywhere on the court.  He’s great in the locker room and constantly works hard.  Any team would be lucky to have him.

His contract and potential injury, however, make it highly unlikely that he will be moved this year.

And that’s just fine with me as I feel Jose could be a strong part of the rebuilding process and the steady hand that helps guid this young team.

3) Amir Johnson

Amir Johnson, although only 24 years of age, is playing in his 7th NBA season.  He has all kinds of talent, but still struggles to be consistent on both ends of the floor.

With Toronto’s front court becoming more and more crowded the time has come to move either Amir Johnson or Ed Davis.  One or both of them could be on the move at the deadline.  Amir is a good rebounder, energizer off the bench and just a great all around guy.

He would be a great asset for any team in the league whether it’s a team in the playoffs or not.

Outlook  - It would be a good idea to hold on to Amir.  His potential has still not been realized and will likely make a great partner for Jonas Valanciunas next year.  He’s willing to play center or power forward  or come of the bench. If he can ever get his fouling under control,  would be a valuable piece to a playoff teams bench.  The Raptors hope to be a playoff team next year.

Ultimately, moving his contract at the deadline will be hard to do at mid-season.

If Amir is going to go it’ll likely be in the off-season when it is easier to organize a deal. The crowded  front court needs to be solved, but not until the off-season.

5) Ed Davis 

As with Amir, Davis is part of a very crowded front court.  It is almost hard for him to find minutes now and will be even harder when Jonas arrives.

Ed is on his rookie contract and is therefore not tricky to move at all.  Any team looking for depth at power forward could take a chance on him. He’s young, plays strong defense and rebounds the ball well.  He still has lots to learn and needs to put more effort into getting stronger, but if he’s available there would be plenty of teams interested in a promising young PF.

Outlook - Might be the easiest to trade this year because of his manageable rookie contract.  He still has plenty of room to grow and mature and the Raptors have only begun to see the type of skills he is capable of.  It might not be time to walk away from Ed just yet.  Getting rid of Davis is a tough call that will likely be made in the off-season.

6) Rasual Butler

He seems like the most likely to get traded in my opinion.  His imprint on the Raptors this year is rivaled only by the impact Solomon Alabi has had. He has been invisible on the court and on the scoresheet.  He is not going to get Colangelo much more than a late 2nd round pick, but for a team looking to add some veteran presence, Butler might be worth a look.

Outlook - He isn’t high on anybody’s list, but he would certainly add veteran depth to a contender and would cost next to nothing.  He plays tough D and can apparently shoot the 3.  Players like Rasual are the ones that usually get moved at the deadline.  It is possible.

At the end of the day, the Raptors are already in a good position for next year with a high draft pick, lots of capspace and a pretty solid core of young players to build toward the future.  A trade isn’t necessary, but if there is something out there that will help the Raptors get better, expedite the rebuilding process or add a first round pick or two then Bryan and Ed Stefanski would be wise to consider a move.

I have a feeling it will be status quo leading up to Thursday. However, I had that feeling last year and Colangelo ended up going out and picking up James Johnson.  That move has paid off well and hopefully so will whatever move he chooses to make this week.

***

Kristoffer Pedlar
The Zan Tabak Herald

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