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The Other Side: Toronto Raptors

This season hasn't been fun, but I'm still funny. (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Toronto Raptors arrive at Verizon Center tonight as one of the greatest disappointments in the NBA this season -- and not because they have underachieved. The Raptors had unrealistic expectations to be a contender based mostly on what they accomplished two years ago and an offseason trade that has mostly flopped.

The Raptors won a franchise-best 47 games in 2006-07, when former Coach Sam Mitchell won coach of the year, but they took a step back last season, winning just 41. Last summer, Raptors President and General Manager Bryan Colangelo acquired Jermaine O'Neal from the Indiana Pacers, believing that his interior presence would provide the missing piece to championship aspirations. But the Raptors surrendered two important players -- T.J. Ford (the only player on the team who could create his own shot) and Rasho Nesterovic (a mediocre but serviceable center) -- in exchange for a big man who has been in decline because of injuries the past three seasons. The move essentially created more confusion for 2006 No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani, who may be one of the least scrutinized -- around the league, at least -- top picks in recent memory (ah, Canadian obscurity).

The Raptors replaced Mitchell after getting off to an 8-9 start. After 17 games under Coach Jay Triano, it's blatantly obvious that Mitchell wasn't the problem. Toronto has dropped like a cement-covered bar bell, going 5-12. The Raptors are currently last in the Atlantic Division. They started the calendar with two impressive home wins against Houston and Orlando, but they lost, 107-97, in Milwaukee on Monday and allowed the Bucks to score the final 13 points of the game.

Here is what you should know about the Raptors heading into the today's game:

1. Jermaine O'Neal and Jose Calderon Are Out
Center Jermaine O'Neal and Gilbert Arenas's favorite point guard, Jose Calderon, didn't travel with the team. O'Neal, the Raptors' second leading scorer at 14 points per game, has missed the past four games with a right knee contusion. Calderon left Friday's win against Houston with a strained right hamstring. Calderon was expected to break out with T.J. Ford shipped to Indiana. He is averaging just 13.1 points and 8.7 assists this season, nearly identical numbers to last season, but he has been awesome from the foul line. Calderon has made 75 consecutive free throws dating back to last season.

2. The Magician Has Disappeared and Reappeared
Andrea Bargnani, known as "Il Mago" (The Magician) in Italy, has been known to vanish for much of his time in Toronto, much to the frustation of Raptors fans. Many have tried to speculate on why Bargnani has struggled. Maybe he just needed to be on the floor. Lately, Bargnani has been popping out of the hat like a rabbit. Since being inserted into the starting lineup on Dec. 31 in place of the injured O'Neal, Bargnani is averaging 21 points and 6.3 rebounds the past four games. Bargnani's season averages are 11.1 points and 4.5 rebounds. ESPN's John Hollinger said Bargnani's play might put O'Neal on the trading block.

3. Chris Bosh Is Getting Back to Being Steady
This has not been a fun season in Toronto, but Bosh is still averaging a career-high 23.7 points and shooting 49.7 percent from the floor. He tapered off some in December while adjusting to a new coach and averaged just 20.6 points. After a blazing start in October and November, he averaged 26.8 points and openly campaigned for the MVP award. He's getting back on track in the New Year, averaging 24.3 points the first three games in January. Although the team has been struggling, Bosh said Colangelo doesn't need to make a trade to turn around the season.

You might notice Bosh wearing a huge, bulky brace on his knee. He's been wearing it ever since O'Neal's season nearly ended in late November when he hurt his left knee in a game against New Jersey.

Bosh has yet to put out his highly-anticipated follow-up to his all-star voting video, but he did battle with Los Angeles Clippers guard Baron Davis for the funniest skit. If you've got some spare time, check it out this video:

By Michael Lee  |  January 7, 2009; 11:06 AM ET
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Next: Wizards (7-26) vs. Raptors (14-21)


"unrealistic expectations to be a contender based mostly on what they accomplished two years ago"

Sounds like our team

Posted by: detox04 | January 7, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Michael, I was one to believe that the Wizs could go on a run and position themselves for a run to the playoffs.

Kalo_rama blasted me when I last made that assertion. I have come to realize from the words of ETaps that he does not believe in UpTemPo basketball for this Team.

It is apparent that Taps wants to play half-court basketball predominantly with Defense as a focus.

This style will not win for this Team.

Kalo_rama blasted by optimistic projections because I think he already knew that Taps would not do what was best for his Team.

Kalo_rama is guilty of what is called insider trading and if he knew this all along, he should have said so.

Instead he pontificates as if its a million other reasons why the Wizs can't go on run, get it together, get to the playoffs.

When the sole reason as evidenced by Etap's post game comments is that the coach wants to play Slowball which is not in the best interest of this Team.

No, Slow Ball will not get them on a roll. The Wizards/Bullets have never been successful playing half-court offensive set as a predominant philosophy.

Why ETaps thinks there is Gold in that, is as bad as constantly being Sandbagged by Kalo_Rama with his insider information.


Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | January 7, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

First and foremost if Tapscott had any grasp of an offensive philosophy then this team wouldn't be 7-26(6-16 since Tap took over) all you "fans" that thought EJ sucked as a coach are what i like to call knee-jerk reactionaires as soon as things don't exactly the way you envision them then you overeact i.e. team starts off poorly;FIRE THE COACH!star player goes down;FIRE THE COACH!players whine to the GM;FIRE THE COACH! and now what? Ernie Grunfeld has singlehandily ruined the season and this franchise is on the cusp of regressing back to day's of when Wes Unseld was the GM(trust me you don't want that to happen)look i don't have anything against TAP he just isn't qualified to be the coach i mean if Grunfeld was going to fire EJ(huge mistake) he should have promoted Phil Hubbard or Randy Ayres not his butt-kissing friend who truthfully is overmatched on a nightly basis.Mr.Abe Pollin do us all a favor and sell the team to Ted Leonsis you have been an icon in the city for over forty years and more than chairtable to a number of worthy causes but its time for a change.

Posted by: dargregmag | January 7, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

"The Raptors replaced Mitchell after getting off to an 8-9 start. After 17 games under Coach Jay Triano, it's blatantly obvious that Mitchell wasn't the problem. Toronto has dropped like a cement-covered bar bell, going 5-12."

You could have written this about Ed Jordan. Except instead of getting markedly worse, the Wiz just proceeded to stay about where they were.

The Toronto situation is less clear, however. TJ Ford hasn't done much in his new town, and Jose Calderon is still a productive replacement. You could argue that this team really is capable of better -- something it's more difficult to argue with the Wizards.

Wonder who'll be the coach next season? At both places.

Posted by: Samson151 | January 7, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

The Raptors sound like just another ill-conceived unit, a la the Wiz. The Wiz won't amount to anything until they drop the fantasy of the "big three" getting them to an NBA title. Sure it can be done if your big three are named Allen, Pierce and Garnett. But with our "munchkin 3" it just isn't going to happen. And the longer Abe and EG stay in denial about this basic fact the worse things will get.

Posted by: shovetheplanet | January 7, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

I don't think Etap will be the coach next year. He's just not brought up to be a coach i guess. Nevertheless, 6-16 is still better than EJ's recored of 1-11. In the NBA, coaches are like players. They don't look on your past performance they only see your present achievements and his last coaching days, especially the Knicks and Bucks games were terrible.

Posted by: Dave381 | January 7, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Dave 381 knows the score

Posted by: BurgwithaU | January 7, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

IVAN, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT'S GOOD AND PURE IN THIS WORLD, please ask Tap why he won't play McGee. Trying to win games? Ain't happening. The vets aren't doing it for us. We have NOTHING in the middle. McGee can play. Yeah, he's as green as a Granny Smith, but he will continue to be that way without minutes. He's been productive when he's been in; is there any reason to think he'll get LESS productive with more minutes? Any reason to think he won't get better, both offensively and defensively?

He *must* learn to play through his mistakes. Song CANNOT play C. I don't know why Tap doesn't see this. Does the coach enjoy giving up layup after layup and offensive board after offensive board, simply because Darius plays hard and is physical? I love Song as a backup 4; at the 5, he's a national nightmare.

Please let us know his response, Ivan. Thanks.

Posted by: keithward64 | January 7, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Ed Rasclot has an earpiece that receives orders from EG up in the rafters... i don't think he does much except write played out Aristotle quotations on the chalkboard

Posted by: prescrunk | January 7, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

My latest conspiracy theory:
Tap is thowing games at the behest of upper management so that we can get Blake Griffin...a PF who can score and rebound but plays no defense. (Sounds like Jamison minus the three point range.)

A top pick energizes the base (Palin-like) and gets us all excited about the prospects next year when in reality a top pick wouldn't help us (again, Palin-like).

It's all smoke and mirrors. The Wiz want to get us to renew our season tickets next year because they know that this is a lost season. They don't, however, want to move out of the bottom three and jeopardize the chances of getting Blake, Rubio, Thabeet or Monroe.

Posted by: original_mark | January 7, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Note to Original Mark: I've said this before if we win the ping pong ball extravagnza we trade Blake Griffin to the OKC Thunder for Kevin Durant hey throw in AJ and maybe we can get their no.1 for Twan that way Griffin gets to play in front of his college home crowd we get some much needed cap relief and Durant plays in front of his homey's Durant with Gil and Caron dream of the possibility's.

Posted by: dargregmag | January 7, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Part 2 of my controversial conspiracy theory:

The Wiz REALLY want Rubio more than any other player out there. Since most of our fan base seems to be from VA and white, they want a star white player on the team so that the VA fans can 'relate' to him. I always thought that this was an O'Malley consideration behind some of the Bullets pickups like Googs and Rex. Going to Bullets games against the Celtics and seeing more green than red/white/blue kinda confirmed that maybe race WAS a factor in deciding who to root for. Couldn't be that many ppl from Boston in this area could there?

Susan OMalley: "Hmmm, the black fans have Tuff Juice and the guy who got shot (AB)". Gilbert relates to both since he's made himself marketable. We need a white guy and maybe a Latin or Asian guy to help pack the house. Or I guess we could market the other teams' stars like we used to."

Abe: "Huh ? Do you still work here?".

Susan: "Shut up, old man."

Everybody likes the underdogs. Good white point guards are like white cornerbacks in football. You don't see many so when one comes along that's good, you gotta root for him. Kinda like the black QB before the 80's came along and it became in vogue.

2009 pick: Rubio

Disclaimer: The preceding message was made entirely tongue in cheek and in no way represents the views of original_mark or his affiliates.

Posted by: original_mark | January 7, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

dargregmag, that would be too good to be true for us. Durant has a chance to be an all timer.

Posted by: original_mark | January 7, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

There's no chance the Thunder would trade Durant for anything the Wiz have or might get coming out of this draft class.

As for the whole "run and gun" argument . . . aside form it having been proven over the course of several decades that that style doesn't win in the playoffs, the Wizards don't actually have the personnel to effectively run a Suns style uptempo offense. They never have, and certainly don't now, with Arenas out. That's part of the problem with the team, the pieces were cobbled together without any clear vision of what kind of team it was supposed to be. That's what happens when the owner not only hires the coach without any consultation from a GM, but hires the coach before the GM.

Grunfeld did a nice job turning this team around, no question. but the fact that he and Jordan never seemed to be on the same page and appeared to be trapped in a loveless, arranged "marriage" really undermined any chance of building a team the right way.

Posted by: kalo_rama | January 7, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

"Bargnani is averaging 21 points and 6.3 rebounds the past four games. Bargnani's season averages are 11.1 points and 4.5 rebounds. ESPN's John Hollinger said Bargnani's play might put O'Neal on the trading block. "

Interesting, because there's a story today on Hoopsworld saying that the Raptors and Mavs are discussing a Bargnani for Josh Howard deal. (A deal which, as far as I can see, makes no sense at all for the Mavs, even if Howard is in a bit of a slump.)

Posted by: kalo_rama | January 7, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Kalo Rama; Not that far fetched when you think about it Griffin& AJ throw in Thomas or Blatche hey Griffin would be a natural fit playing in front of his college home crowd think of the Okla.City fan base and season ticket sales.

Posted by: dargregmag | January 7, 2009 6:12 PM | Report abuse

I disagree, dargregmag. The whole idea of a guy playing in front of his college home crowd generating ticket sales is largely a marketing myth. Stuff like that rarely has any real effect. The only issue that matters is the quality of the player and winning and losing. The Thunder are a bad team right now, but they're young and rebuilding. The idea that they'd be willing to take on a long-term, 12+mil/year contract attached to an aging player like Jamison makes no sense given their situation, esp. when you consider that one of the first things they did after they drafter Durant and Green was to start shedding older vets with big contracts, like Szerbiack and Kurt Thomas.

BTW, you can't just "throw in" Jamison. As always, the contract amounts have to match on both sides, which means the Wiz would have to to take on several more salaries and the Thunder would have to get rid of several more players.

Posted by: kalo_rama | January 7, 2009 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Grunfeld did a nice job turning this team around, no question. but the fact that he and Jordan never seemed to be on the same page and appeared to be trapped in a loveless, arranged "marriage" really undermined any chance of building a team the right way.

Posted by: kalo_rama | January 7, 2009 5:30 PM

Where was the old man when all of this was happening?

Posted by: bulletsfan78 | January 7, 2009 6:48 PM | Report abuse

McGee has a ton of potential, but he's fairly clueless on the floor right now, esp. on defense. It's almost comical watching him try to defend big post players by bumping them with his hips while waving his arms in the air like he's trying to surrender to an invading army. Someone should tell him that not only is he allowed to put an arm in the back of an offensive post player to impede his back-down, it's actually the most highly suggested form of post defense.

Posted by: kalo_rama | January 7, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

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