4/17/14

Raptors Vs Nets Could Be A Replay Of 2007

If the Raptors are just happy to be in the playoffs they will be out of them pretty quickly. The Nets have made it pretty clear that they targeted the Raptors to be their first round opponent.  Go back further though and Terrence Ross as part of a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) said that the Raptors wanted to face the Nets. So it is safe to say that with this series of Division Rivals it is likely to get heated in a hurry.

Many look back to the Raptors last team to win the Atlantic Division that faced this same Nets franchise and it was a similar storyline. The much more experienced Nets against the young upstart Raptors. The main difference in that series was the presence of Vince Carter the public enemy of Toronto. Still a lot of things that applied to that series apply to this one as well.

The pressure in this series is squarely on the Raptors to begin with. They will have to defend their home court while trying to get out all the playoff butterflies that are sure to be there. A task the Raptors in 2007 were not able to accomplish losing the first game of the series and having the play catch-up the entire rest of the series. The main advantage this Raptors team would have compared to the 2007 Raptors is the ability to win on the road. That might be negated by the fact the Nets will be playing in Brooklyn not New Jersey and the excitement level of that crowd will be far greater you would have to imagine.

The Nets entered this season with big expectations and in the regular season they failed to live up to them. The Raptors entered the season with next to no expectations and a fan base that had strong support for looking to land a top pick to draft Andrew Wiggins. So the biggest thing the Raptors may face is the whole mindset of being happy to be here. Even the idea of brighter days ahead is nice to think and say but nothing is for certain. That begins with Kyle Lowry who will be a free agent when all of this playoff madness comes to a close. Things like injures and other unknowns can always happen.

If the Raptors have any kind of doubt the Nets will smell it like a shark smelling blood and the veteran team they have should be able to take advantage.

The other key to this will be the Raptors struggle to close out close games. It has been the one thing that the Rudy Gay trade has cost this team. Gay was the clear choice to finish games out and take the big shots. The Raptors have struggled to find a replacement for that. Lowry has at times filled the role or attempted too. DeRozan has as well both failing to have positive results.

The advantage in coaching experience the Raptors have is somewhat balanced out by the fact Kidd played under Casey in Dallas and should have a fairly clear understanding of his defensive sets and philosophies.

It should be a good series but all the little intangibles in it seem to favour the Nets if you’re looking at it objectively.  Objectivity has been in short supply during the last month or so when it comes to the Raptors performance. This team being declared the best of all time for having the most wins is really not exactly putting much thought into things. These Raptors do however do one thing that will serve them well in these playoffs and that is they always seem to fight and scrap no matter how far behind they might get. They will give you an honest 48 minutes of effort. It just might not be enough.

If you have any hopes of the Raptors winning this series they must win Game 1 if they fail to do so I see a fate that is very similar to that of the team in 2007 that lost to this Nets franchise.

Boo and hiss at me and hope as I do that I am wrong but I see this series as the Nets in 6 games.

4/16/14

Shuffle Up And Playoffs

The Raptors are going to the playoffs and will be hosting a game 1 these things we know entering into Wednesday. What remains unclear is what seed the Raptors will finish and just who they are going to face. Based on last night a lot of people are raising an eyebrow wondering if the Nets are trying to get away from the Bulls by losing. Washington plays Boston on this Wednesday night and with a win and a Nets loss to Cleveland would leave them with the same record but Washington would gain the 5th seed.

The Nets are banking on the Raptors winning against the Knicks and securing 3rd or the Bulls losing to Bobcats who could move up to 6th with a Wizards loss. Basically the only series in the East we know will happen for certain is the Pacers will play the Hawks in the 1 vs.8 match-up. Everything else is up in the air. When the wheel stops spinning the Raptors should hope for the Wizards to be their dance partner. Regardless of if this is in the 3 vs. 6 or 4 vs. 5 match-up.

Some talk about trying to avoid the Heat in the second round but in all reality when you haven’t made the playoffs in so long can you really is thinking beyond the first round? I would say no considering the Raptors have only won a first round series once and it was so long ago it wasn’t even a best of 7 series.

The NBA starts all games at 8pm in order to keep teams from knowing results and in theory playing to win. Safe to say everyone will be scoreboard watching and looking to do what they can to get the match-up they want.

For what it’s worth if I had to pick the Raptors three potential match-ups I would go with the following:

  • Nets over Raptors in 6
  • Raptors over Wizards in 7
  • Bobcats over Raptors in 7

So safe to say for me the Raptors getting a Wizards match-up is the only way I see Raptors advancing. Some may see the Bobcats prediction as insulting but given the Raptors terrible history with Charlotte and match-up issues I see it as a very challenging series.

In any case by the end of the day Raptors will be back in the post-season and have a first round opponent who  would have thought that at October. The answer is pretty much nobody.

4/12/14

Raptors Lose and Win In The Same Night

The Raptors continued to play very concerning basketball and finally paid for it losing at home to the New York Knicks battling to just get into the playoffs. The Raptors with a win would have secured their second Division Title after first winning one in 2007.  By the end of the night a Nets loss would give the Raptors their second Division Title.

People seem to be all caught up in the fact the Raptors have been winning but paying little attention to how they are winning and who they are actually beating. Instead dreaming some pretty unrealistic dreams of what this team could accomplish in the post season.

Look closer and you see the cracks in this team and the fact their defensive play which becomes vital come the post-season has been taking a dramatic decline. The Raptors despite winning the Division did slip to fourth in the conference and a match-up with the Nets in the first round.

This is De-Ja-Vu to the Raptors first division title when Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and crew faced the Raptors in the first round. In the end the Raptors were dismantled by the Nets and lost the series in 6 games with Jose Calderon committing a turnover to lose game 6.

Kidd now coaches the Nets and they call Brooklyn home and not New Jersey. They have battled back from a poor start to the season and have been playing some excellent basketball to even get in a race with Raptors for the Division Title. The most impressive thing on the Nets resume is a season sweep of the Miami Heat a team the Raptors have failed to beat ever since James and Bosh arrived in Miami.

Some fans are just satisfied with the Raptors unexpected success and are just happy to be back in the post season. So are the folks at MLSE who have rewarded fans with about a 6-7% hike of ticket prices for next season. They want your money long before Kyle Lowry has decided to stay or go as well.

As I have consistently said I am thrilled for DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson to get to experience the playoffs here in Toronto. They have earned that right going through some just terrible years to get here. I just don’t like their chances as the Raptors are far removed from playing their best basketball of the season.

The Raptors are labelling this playoff run “Northern Uprising” but the reality is more likely it will be just another disappointment unless some things change between now and the start of the playoffs. The Raptors have been trying to outscore people and not stop people of late. That is not the way the playoffs work.

It would not surprise me to see the Raptors fail to make it out of the first round. A match-up with the Nets would likely make that a reality. Even playing the Bobcats would not make me feel all that good given the Raptors failure to perform against this team over the years. The Wizards is the obvious match-up the Raptors would be a legit favourite in. John Wall in his first experience in post-season could be a tough task to deal with.

In the end this was an unexpected and great season for the Raptors compared to their lacklustre history. Still even if this team gets the most wins in franchise history which is very likely with only having to win two of their last 3 games against the Bucks, Pistons and Knicks. I still would not consider them the best Raptors team in history. Vince Carter’s 47 win team was better than this group. You can even argue Bosh’s group that won the other Division Title might be as well.

What the real story will be is what happens next season and can this team maintain and improve in an Eastern Conference and Division that will both most certainly improve around them. The Raptors I said back in January at best would get to the second round and nothing has changed my mind to think anything more than that.

I totally understand why long suffering fans just want to enjoy the moment and this return to the post-season. I just don’t see the Raptors as any real contender or threat and when they are that I will get excited. To me this is just something I have seen before and really doesn’t get me all that excited.

Miracles can happen I suppose but when you have never beat the team that will win the Eastern Conference since 2010 it is hard to imagine some magical run to the finals. Heck the way the Raptors are playing of late it is hard to imagine them surviving the first round.

Life is about timing and most of the time the Raptors timing has been terrible in their 19 year history. This just might be the latest example of it.

I leave you now to rose coloured glasses and dreams of grandeur about the post-season. While I get told for the millionth time this season what a negative person I am for being realistic and honest about my feelings and thoughts on this basketball team.

I will give this group this though they will go down swinging because that is something they have done all year. In the playoffs though given their play of late I am not all that optimistic that alone will be enough.

4/8/14

How Important is Winning Is A Question For All Of Us To Answer

The Toronto Raptors keep finding ways to win despite injuries and not really playing at a high level at times. This team will more than likely end up having the best record in team history and already is the first Raptors team to have a .500 or better road record. Yesterday another hurdle or distraction came about with the early morning DUI arrest of Jonas Valanciunas.

While this team will build a case for being considered the best Raptors team of all time I remain unconvinced that they are that. They are for me the most over-achieving Raptors team of all time without question. They have some how managed to keep this train on the tracks despite facing all kinds of adversity in the last few weeks. It has been pretty remarkable to say the least. Getting wins over Houston and Indiana without Kyle Lowry was to say the least unexpected.

This Raptors team seems to rise and fall to the level of competition that they face on a given night. They struggled just as hard to beat the worst team in the NBA the Milwaukee Bucks as they did the Pacers or Rockets. I am not all that confident in where this team can go once the playoffs arrive but they should be able to maintain their position with the schedule they have remaining. That said I expect them to make that more challenging than it should be.

The Raptors while losing Kyle Lowry and Amir Johnson for the last few games have welcome back Patrick Patterson who has made an impact. Still for the Raptors to have a serious chance in the post-season they need to be healthy to have any chance.

The Raptors announced that Jonas will indeed play despite his legal issues which should surprise no one. It should disappoint you though, but with all that is going on for this team in terms of winning likely won’t most. The Raptors will no doubt stick to the standard of everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Which is technically true but the moral message that one of your players is driving around while under the influence is something that should not be taken lightly.

Issuing statements of disappointment and the fact they take these matters seriously is all well and good. However the matter of drinking and driving is a serious one and unfortunately one that sports in general as I said yesterday in talking with Lawyer Tina Kaye is not taken serious enough.

This is the time when that sports being a business stuff I am not all that cool with. The Raptors at the end of the day want to win basketball games and by not playing a healthy player that has an impact on them winning and losing they aren't going to do that. An organization that in bad times has preached about integrity and players being good representatives in the community at the end of the day is about winning. It is no shock really and the Raptors are not unique to any other sports team in what they have done.

Still it is not being over dramatic to say that anytime anyone gets behind the wheel of a car and is under the influence of alcohol they are risking their own life any passengers they have and most importantly the lives of innocent people. I could care less about the Raptors playoff chances in comparison to the lives of innocent people.

I have always stated in this blog consistently over a great many topics that at the end of the day while I may love basketball there is a greater things in this world and life in general. It is in these times where you realize that this is just a sport at the end of the day meant for are entertainment and enjoyment. It is not something that means more to me than someone’s life and well being.

You will get the standard stuff that Jonas is young and this is a stupid mistake that someone makes when they are young. It is true but it is also true this is a mistake that could have and thank God didn’t have far greater and more significant consequences. 

Winning over everything should never be the mindset. Sometimes you need to realize that there are more important things than that. I have no doubt that by the end of all of this the Raptors will have and maybe legal system as well requires Jonas to do community service on this matter.

The hope is at the end of the day he has truly learned something from all of this. The fact he got caught rightly or wrongly makes you assume this was not the first time it has happened. The thing that is most disturbing or distressing about this for me is professional athletes with the money and means they have this should NEVER happen. If you want to have fun and drink go rent a limo and party it up. I have no right to tell someone how to live their life. That changes when they make choices that could take lives away of others.

Many times on Twitter during holidays or times of the year when people indulge in alcohol I have always encouraged them to have fun and not drink and drive. It is something I firmly believe in and any time someone does be it a friend’s dad or a pro athlete it makes me shake my head that people are still doing this in 2014 with all the work that people have done to prevent it from happening. Clearly that work is not done and may never be. 

4/7/14

Valanciunas Arrested For DUI.

News broke late this afternoon that Jonas Valanciunas was arrested on a charge of DUI. Here is the full story and details from story on News Talk 1010. The Raptors have issues statements on behalf of the team and one from Jonas himself.

TEAM STATEMENT "We were made aware this morning of the incident involving Jonas Valanciunas and are disappointed he has put himself in this situation. We take this matter very seriously as we have the highest expectations for all members of our organization.At this time we are continuing to gather information and we will comment further when appropriate"

JONAS VALANCIUNAS STATEMENT "I hold myself to a high standard and take my role as a member of the Toronto Raptors very seriously. I apologize to the organization, my teammates, my family and my fans, and regret any negativity this incident has brought upon them."

Here at the DNB we reached out to Toronto Criminal Attorney Tina Kaye to walk us through the legal issues involved.


The audio cut out at the end all you missed was the word seriously. One thing we did not touch on is how long this would take to get to court assuming it gets that far. According to Tina Kaye the standard length of time would see an initial court appearance 4-6 weeks from the arrest. If it were to go all the way to trial it would take up to a year. Obviously that court appearance based on this standard time line could occur somewhere in the second round or conference finals.However, I have been told that it most likely would not require Valanciunas to appear only his counsel would be required.

Raptors have been chugging along on basketball court fairly well despite injuries and now this latest distraction or hurdle has been placed in front of the Raptors. More importantly this is an issue with athletes that make millions of dollars that just shouldn't happen in 2014 and still does. It is unacceptable and there really is no excuse.

Thanks to Tina for her explaining the legal issues attached to this matter.  

4/1/14

Raptors Immediate Future Takes A Major Hit In Miami

Raptors had nothing but bad news from last night in Miami, first some fun news from wrestling world that relates to the Raptors from last season.  We all remember that local rapper from D.C right? Wale was back in the news as he went to Monday Night Raw in Washington D.C. He was being heckled by wrestling fans which is shocking to no one. So Wale still has anger management issues it would appear as he decked a fan and apparently ended up being arrested. Thanks to Live Audio Wrestling for this info.

After last night Raptors fans could use the distraction after a costly loss against the Miami Heat. It started off positive with the Raptors actually building a lead against Miami. Lebron James even tweaked his back but he would stick around and Heat would take control. Raptor would make a push to comeback but Miami would turn on the jets and leave the Raptors with another loss as they have done ever since Chris Bosh left town. 

Sure that was bad but for fans that are realistic nothing that wasn’t expected.

What was worse was going for a rebound Kyle Lowry ran into Lebron James and he fell to the ground tweaking his knee. No word on how bad it was but there were reports that Lowry was assisted to the team bus via a golf cart.

The Bulls defeated the Celtics in other action from the night. They now are tied with Toronto with a 42-32 record. The Raptors with Lowry out at least in the short term you have to figure may well be kissing home court advantage and match-up with Wale’s Wizards good bye. Who lost in Charlotte on the night.

The Raptors had good fortune in terms of injures this season but of late Patrick Patterson goes out and now the heart and soul of this Raptors team Kyle Lowry is down.

It really has been a bad week for Toronto Sports. Defoe left the TFC game injured; Reyes earlier in the day left the Jays game after his first at bat of the season and now Lowry. The Hockey team has struggled as well rumour has it?

The Raptors without Lowry are just not the same team at all what ends up being the verdict on his knee may well determine the Raptors season and than leads to the drama of what will become of him in the off-season. This all seems similar to the Bosh situation with the large exception the Raptors have already clinched a playoff spot.

3/29/14

Raptors Return To The Playoffs: A Story Hollywood Would Never Believe

The season started with the Raptors being upstaged by the announcement of Drake as their Global Ambassador and the NBA All-Star Game coming to town in 2016. The expectations of this team were next to nothing. Masai Ujiri many felt was going to gut this roster and look to join the pack of teams looking to cash in on a rich draft class that featured a Canadian Star Andrew Wiggins.

When you consider that was the reality in October the fact we sit at the end of March with the Raptors already having punched their ticket to the playoffs is just too unbelievable for words. What on earth made all of this madness happen? It is always a combination of things for something so unexpected to take place.

The one thing that everyone points too is the trade of Rudy Gay to the Kings after the Raptors had what at the time was an expected poor start. That trade made one of the most unique and fascinating turnarounds in the history of this team take place.  The only thing that rivals it would be the Raptors rallying after Vince Carter went down to injury to make the post season. They won something like 15 of their last 17 games and only made playoffs on the final day of the season.

This Raptor team got on quite the little run after the trade happened. It almost never happened though if you believe the reports that came out a few weeks after the Gay trade. Most saw the Gay trade as not an attempt to transform the Raptors but as the first step to dismantling them. Masai Ujiri was set to make another bold move in that deconstruction with the New York Knicks. The team in the summer he was able to unload Andrea Bargnani on cutting that dead weight from his roster. Bargnani’s lack of success in New York was predictable, but what wasn't was how that would impact on this Raptors season being what it came to be.

The Knicks had a deal on the table to acquire Kyle Lowry who has been the heart and soul of this Raptors turnaround. Knicks ownership was scared of getting burned by Masai Ujiri for a third time. He had got the better of them in the deal for Carmelo Anthony back in Denver. He came to Toronto and gave them the Andrea Bargnani problem to deal with. The Knicks got scared and backed out of the deal that was on the table. Rumour has it that James Dolan himself was the one that said no to this.

Safe to say if that trade happens this magical season would have been over before it started. Ujiri after failing to get that deal done sat back and waited and watched to see what would become of this group. He had given the Raptors some much needed depth with the Gay trade. They added a full group of players that became the Raptors bench more or less. It would also propel Terrence Ross into the starting line-up ready or not. In addition established DeMar DeRozan as the true face of the franchise.

The success the Raptors enjoyed along with the Eastern Conference crumbling all around them saw them rise from the depths of tankers to the line to get in the VIP section of the Eastern Conference. As the season reached the trade deadline with DeMar DeRozan fresh off his first All-Star appearance and Kyle Lowry widely considered the most notable snub not to go to New Orleans things seemed very clear.

The Raptors would roll the dice and bet on Kyle Lowry and being able to keep him as a free agent. This is a gamble not unlike the one the Raptors took with Chris Bosh. That ended in disaster with Bosh being hurt in the first game after the All-Star Break and only returning to be injured again and the Raptors would miss the playoffs finishing ninth.

This story while incomplete has worked out far better in the short term as the Raptors will in fact make the playoffs. The future for Kyle Lowry is the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about right now. Still the first part of the gamble has paid off no one can deny that.

If you are a believer in destiny or fate how the Raptors finally locked up their return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008 seemed perfect as a movie script. The two soul survivors of the post Bosh era DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson hit the final two shots to secure the win and return to the playoffs for this franchise. Johnson has embraced this city in a way that few Raptors ever have. While on the floor he has been a warrior to the point of you question his judgment for his old age but not his heart. No one deserved a moment like this more. While DeRozan has constantly had to fight critics that always felt he was good enough to be a true superstar or an All-Star. Despite improving year after year the team around him was not following suit.

That was until this year when finally the Raptors found some chemistry and some fight. You can obviously find some flaws in this rise to where they have gotten too. The Eastern Conference may never have been worse than this year. It doesn’t take away from the pure joy of fans that have suffered along with Johnson and DeRozan wondering if they would ever see a day like Friday happen.

Fans and those guys deserved this moment and regardless of if the Raptors future takes a negative turn as it often has in history that is not the point at the moment. It’s about a story of two guys that survived though times and all the people that supported them and stayed in their corner.

Lots of fake Raptors fans will come out of the woodwork as they often do when a team has success. Those who are the true meaning of the term fan, those fanatics have earned the right to have a moment like this.  Not unlike DeRozan and Johnson have earned it through their work and dedication, not just this season, but in the seasons when this team stunk.

I personally have taken a lot of flack this year. I have to admit I am a bit angry about it. Just because I am not ready to have a parade about this season doesn’t mean I haven’t respected what has been done. I have and it also doesn’t mean I am not happy for the people that have stuck with this team.

I am sorry if I am the one that keeps my head when everyone around me seems to be caught up in the wave of excitement. I still don’t forget the reality of things. This at the end of the day was never the plan and was not suppose to happen. It was the Knicks accepting that trade and it never does. It has been in large part a run that has been driven by Kyle Lowry. He has played with motivation and heart that you have to respect. You also have to realize he has all the personal motivation in the world to do so. He could re-sign but he could walk away and than what did all of this mean in the end? Just another chapter of “what if” in Raptors history like what if Vince and Tracy had stayed together what might have been.  Even if he does stay can he honestly match this season he has put together? I don’t know the answer to that and at the end of the day no one does.

In 19 years this is only the sixth time the Raptors will play in the post season. They have only won one playoff series and it was so long ago it wasn’t even seven games. What I want for all of you, for myself and for this franchise is something that is lasting that can grow and build. The Raptors as crazy excited as you may well be and rightfully so are not a contender in to make the Eastern Conference Final or NBA Finals.

Granted they never were supposed to be. The key is can this lighting in a bottle actually be something that lasts. That is going to be largely riding on the future of Kyle Lowry. He has been the key piece to all of this and will be the key piece to if this is just another blip on the radar where the Raptors tease us all or if it is something more.

People that have supported this team through a ton of terrible and at times insulting seasons deserve a team that can be a consistent playoff participant and a true contender to win a championship. If you’re satisfied with anything less than that I can not get on board with that. I want more and a future that I can believe in. After all at the end of the day sports is all about one simple word at the end of the day.

HOPE

If you have hope everything else comes from that. If you don’t you at the end of the day have nothing.