Here at JABS we take the NBA seriously (even if the TV numbers don’t). So with the Raptors hitting midseason Sunday in Los Angeles against Kobe Bryant's Lakers, I thought it was high time for a midseason Raptor bloggers’ e-mail roundtable.
Here’s the panel:
“I started this site because I knew there was an audience for it and I arrogantly believed (and still do) that I could write about the Raptors better than most of the people getting paid to do it."
“I’m proud to say that I’ve been a Raptors fan since we booed the selection of eventual rookie of the year Damon Stoudamire because we wanted Ed O’Bannon and the days of watching games in the cavern that is the SkyDome and the cheap $500 season tickets."
-- J.E. Skeets has been blogging for a year, but only since October has he concentrated on the NBA and satire at that. Or as the mystery man describes it:
"'Stay away from the whores, bra’ – Dog Chapman, The Bounty Hunter. Sound advice, and the exact reason why I started the J.E. Skeets blog. I have the same amount of confidence in writing an R. Kelly ballad for R. Babcock as I do to comparing the Minnesota Timberwolves to former Phillies first basemen John Kruk ("They've both only got one good ball(er)"). Yeah, everything's open game."
-- The trio of Adam Francis, Jeff Chapman and Dave Randell have blogged at RaptorsHQ since last May, after meeting up in a fantasy basketball league (of course!):
"We follow this team religiously and attempt to give hardcore Raptors fan a place to read up, laugh, and provide an antidote to current media coverage. It's for kicks, we don't take ourselves too seriously, but we are committed to providing daily updates and touching on all subjects from year-round draft coverage, to scouring European box scores."
So there you are. Let’s make like Kobe and chuck it up.
JABS: As we speak, the Raptors are on pace for 26 wins, which sounds pretty close to the preseason consensus -- for instance, you said 30, Scott. But the way they got there has been unexpected, with that horrible opening month. I know that J.E. blogged about sucking on an exhaust pipe -- how did the rest of you handle November?
|Steve Russell/Toronto Star|
|Bosh: He made November bearable. Well, almost.|
SCOTT: I've been a Raptors fan since Day One, so I've survived my share of adversity. November was painful, but it wasn't the worst period I've gone through with this team. At least this team is likable. The Kevin O'Neill Era was far more excruciating than this. I'm not a Sam Mitchell fan by any means but his man-crush on Matt Bonner is nowhere near as exasperating as O'Neill's irrational infatuation with worthless scrubs like Robert Archibald and Michael Curry. Every time I heard a Raptors coach or announcer rave about what a “gym rat” Curry is, I wanted to scream until my larynx ruptured. So I think I've built up a bit of immunity against feeling suicidal about losing.
J.E. SKEETS: In addition to contemplating suicide, November was quite a dirty, dirty month. You see, I've always had this strange correlation between Raptor wins and my own personal hygiene. Yeah, it's a bit disturbing, but here's a brief look at how my November went:
Nov 2: Raps go 0-1. I quit flossing.
Nov 5: Raps go 0-3. I stop combing my hair.
Nov 13: Raps go 0-6. I refuse to wash my hands.
Nov 15: Raps go 0-7. I quit brushing.
Nov 18: Raps go 0-9. I give up bathing in general.
Nov 20: Raps go 1-9. In celebration, I splash some water under my armpits.
Nov 30: Raps go 1-15. I just start peeing myself.
Besides that, though, I think I handled the Raptors' bad start pretty well.
RAPTORS HQ TRIO: You had to take some solace in seeing improvement in each game, looking at the upcoming easier schedule...AND we kept our eyes firmly planted on the NCAA crop... “nowhere to go but up” as they say. We are essentially building a whole new foundation, one that is still being constructed due to some contracts that still plague us (there is no better word than “plague” here). True fans had to realize this was going to be a tough year, but if the goal is a championship (and not simply mediocrity or satisfying the haters) taking lumps like this is simply part of the process. The other thing is that with the exception of one or two games (Golden State comes to mind) these guys had no quit in them. Watching Bosh continue to develop, along with glimpses from CV and Calderon made the future look brighter. And the promise of two possible high picks in ‘06 made it look even brighter. We also enjoyed the fact that no-one at MLSE jumped the gun and started firing people.
|Rick Madonik/Toronto Star|
|O'Neill: "Irrational infatuations" irked Scott.|
RYAN: We lost 15 games in the opening month, but nine of those losses were by 10 or less points. Last year when we lost, we lost big - to me it was better to see the team battle until the dying seconds of games. I remember telling co-workers and friends in November that despite the losses I preferred watching this year’s team because they played with heart and hustle which made the games more entertaining. Heading into the season you expected the team to struggle because of their youth but watching the games in November I couldn’t help but be filled for hope for the future. Some of the losses were tough to swallow but it was because of through those nailbiters early in the season that the rookies and Bosh have gained invaluable experience and mental toughness. Another thing that kept me sane was the fact that the more losses that we pilled up the better lottery pick we’d have this coming June. Guys like Adam Morrison or J.J. Redick would provide the Raptors with some great perimeter shooting next season that we’ve been lacking since Dell Curry left town. Another reason for optimism has been the play of youngsters Charlie Villanueva, Jose Calderon, Joey Graham and Rafael Araujo. Yes, I'm mentioning Hoffa as one of the high spots for the month of November. No, I’m not delusional. During the summer he hit the gym like a madman and was able to get rid of all the baby fat that he played with last season. Araujo won't be an All-Star anytime soon but I think he's a decent big man in the league who can play defence, block some shots and create minimal turnovers. Was he drafted too high? Yeah, but you can’t hold that against him. Rob Babcock came on board with less than a week to go before the draft, he realized the Raps need a centre and his scouting staff told him to go with Hoffa.
RAPTORS HQ: Good points, we are on the same vibe ... but please, never mention Hoffa and blocks in the same sentence again. We also think Hoffa has shown flashes and stand by the 666 theory. If he scores six and grabs six boards before six fouls he has had a decent game.
RYAN: I know I'm probably going to get laughed at by stating this but I've been really impressed by Hoffa this season. He's not a scoring machine but he's patient with the rock in the post (doesn't force shots and finds open players for 3's) and he plays some tough D. He's not a future All-Star, but, we've had a lot worse in the middle like Acie Earl and Zan Tabak.
|Araujo: Four blocks a night - on Ryan's PSP, that is.|
SCOTT: I think Hoffa's problem is that the pro game simply moves too fast for him. He definitely has the size, strength and skill to be a solid NBA centre, but I'm not sure he has the intelligence to make quick decisions and then act on them appropriately. If there was a setting to slow the game down like on NBA 2K6 for my PlayStation, Araujo could be dominant. Hell, before my PS2 busted, I had Hoffa averaging 14 points and eight rebounds per game. As it stands, he needs to get over his confidence problems and get accustomed to getting his points within the flow of the offence because no coach is going to draw up plays for him. And for the love of all things holy, the guy needs to learn where to position himself for rebounds. By this point, you'd think he would have figured out that standing directly under the basket while your teammate shoots a 3-pointer is not an effective rebounding location.
RYAN: That's all he's doing for you Scott? Your basketball skills must be limited to the keyboard 'cause on my PSP I have NBA '06 and he's averaging four blocks a game for me (couldn't resist a chance to bust your chops). Scoring more points in the paint would help Hoffa's confidence, but I think what's going to really help is confidence is something that both of us have talked about in our blogs - getting rid of the boo birds at the ACC. I'll never understand the justification of booing our own player when he works hard and doesn't say negative things. I know that fans are frustrated that we didn't get Al Jefferson, Josh Smith or Iggy, but it's not Hoffa's fault.
(Tomorrow, Part II: Sam Mitchell and the kids).