The Morning After The Night Before, LV
Game starts about 7:10, maybe 7:12 and takes 2:12 so it’s over right around 9:24, maybe 9:26 and, I swear, there were 22 scathing e-mails in the inbox by 10 p.m. last night. You know what they were all about, T.J. and Sam, Sam and T.J., and the way last night’s fourth quarter unfolded.
I can’t run them all, most were simply rants and didn’t include questions but maybe what follows will help ease the considerable pain many of you feel.
But, no, no one’s getting fired and T.J. will be back in his regular role in Miami tonight. I know that’s not what a lot of you want to hear, but it’s the way it is.
On to the good stuff:
Three Things I Learned
Have at him
Lord knows there’s been enough unjustified criticism of T.J. Ford out there in the past, today, let ‘er rip.
The first nine shots of the fourth quarter in a close game? Man, that’s inexcusable. I had a feeling he was in one of his odd moods at the end of the second quarter when he dribbled in and out of traffic about three times, ignoring at least two open teammates behind the arc, and threw up that dopey prayer of a shot that went in.
Who knew that might be the high point of his night?
That fourth quarter was as odd a display of basketball as I’ve seen him ever put on. And I’m pretty sure even a diplomatic Sam (“We need him to score but he has to keep other guys involved, too.” Sam said as I typed watching TV post-game) is going to have a word with him about that kind of display.
Fourth quarter, game’s getting out of hand, Howard’s going off and Sam leaves an absolutely over-matched Andrea Bargnani out there to guard him? That was a bad, bad gamble. It wasn’t like Bargnani was lighting it up at the other end or anything. And, early in the third quarter when Bargnani pump-faked and tried to draw the foul? That might have been the ugliest basketball move I’ve ever seen in an NBA game and I’ve watched this franchise of all 13 of its seasons, making me one of the world’s foremost experts on ugly basketball moves.
Talk about ‘stepping up’ in Bosh’s absence? Bargnani: 45 minutes, 4-19 from the field, 0-5 from three point range, 10 rebounds, no impact.
What you didn’t see
And neither did I but a spy sitting courtside tells me during one timeout the Magaic mascot, a not particularly fearsome looking dragon, was goofing around near the Raptor bench.
Seems Primoz Brezec, for some reason known only to Primoz Brezec, took great umbrage at a stuffed animal having fun and slugged the thing. Then he tells him, ‘bleep you, I’ll bleep you up.’
Yeah, that’s ‘manning up’ like the best of ‘em, smacking a mascot
Bush league, if you ask me.
Into the mailbag and let’s get this out of the way in a hurry
Q: Coach of the year calls a timeout to draw up a play for the last eight seconds of the half. Ends up in Humphries going 1 on 1 and putting up an air ball. Wow. Well at least they kept it close in the first halftime for them to get blown out, so I'll watch the Leafs. To think I was actually going to watch this game.
Grant C, Orangeville
A: This came in about two minutes into the second half, I wondered how long it would take. No, that’s not what the play was. Hump was supposed to hand the ball back off to Jose. Hope you enjoyed the Leaves.
Now, for some good news.
If I’m Bryan Colangelo, and sadly I’m not, this summer is time to make the bold move. He’s got expiring contracts worth any combination of salary from about $2 million to $20 million and he can mix and match Rasho, Garbo, AP, Joey, Maceo and Moon however he sees fit.
I know a bit about how the GM thinks and he’s pouring over rosters finding an impact two or three from a team that might want to save some money long-term and he’s ready to wheel and deal.
So, here’s my list of guys he can, and should, go after. It’s not in any particular order.
Andres Nocioni, Mike Dunleavy, Mike Miller, Richard Jefferson, Boris Diaw, Andrei Kirilenko, Al Harrington, Jason Richardson, Jamal Crawford, Josh Smith, Michael Redd.
What he’s got to do is find a team facing possible tax problems in a year or two – a team with a lot of young guys who’ll need to be paid at the same time – or a team that doesn’t quite work as it’s constructed.
Four situations jump out at me: Nocioni, Miller, Jefferson and Kirilenko.
Personally, of that group, I rank 'em Nocioni, Kirilenko, Jefferson Miller.
He can’t sell it as a purely present day basketball but if he tosses in a draft pick or two it might make it more palatable.
It’s not just that they can’t defend twos and threes, they can’t score with them, either.
Did you know, and I’m sure some did, that on 14 occasions this year, a small forward or shooting guard has lit up the Raptors for 25 or more points in a game, eight times a guy’s gone off for 30-plus and one was over 40?
On the other hand, Toronto has never had a two or three get 30 in a game, only for times has anyone hit 25.
We’ll end with two from the mail
Q: As a dedicated Raptors fan, I have a great deal of respect for Sam Mitchell as a coach. However, there are aspects of his coaching philosophy that I do find fault in. For example, I believe that he gives preference to certain players more, as in the situations with Bargnani and Moon.
I highly doubt that Bargnani would be starting on a consistent basis without the pointed push from the guys upstairs. Bargnani seems to be constantly in Sam's perpetual "doghouse", along with the likes of Rasho and Joey.
So with this in mind I have two questions for you:
Is Sam more partial towards those players whose careers and work ethics mimic his own NBA experience as a player?
Do you think that Sam lets his personal player preferences dictate his sub choices in a negative way?
Stacey M, Winnipeg
A: I don’t think it’s a personal preference, although that comes into play subliminally with lots of coaches.
Bargnani gets a wee bit longer rope than most because they have so much invested in him, they have to give him time to get better and the only way that’s going to happen is to play.
Moon? I don’t get Moon these days, either. Unless Sam’s just got so little confidence in either Delfino or Kapono that he sees Moon as the lesser of two evils, it makes little sense to me that a starting lineup change hasn’t been made.
Q: It seems to be etched in stone that the Raps won't get into a situation where they must pay the luxury tax. How many NBA teams are currently paying that tax? Is there a sound basketball basis for not signing players that force you to pay the tax or is it simply to save money for the paupers that run MLSE?
Eric E, Roslin
A: After checking my handy-dandy salary spreadsheet, I’ve got New York, Dallas, Denver, Cleveland, Miami, Boston, the Lakers, Portland and Phoenix paying tax this year.
The sound basketball reason is that if you look at that list, it doesn’t necessarily translate into success. Denver’s life and death to make the playoffs, so is Portland, New York and Miami are already thinking about next year, Cleveland’s hardly a world-beater and Phoenix has, um, issues. Dallas is old and not among the West favourites at the moment, that leaves the Lakers and Boston who could say they spent wisely.