Lots of Sam, and some other stuff
Know why I like Mondays? (Other than Warren Sapp, who I fear is destined to finish second?)
No games. Therefore no angst. And calm. A nice feeling of calm.
But what the heck, let’s rile some folks up. Too much calm is a bad thing:
Can I say this? It’s never a case of black and white. There’s never a clear cut cause to any team’s woes and it’s no different with these guys right now.
The roster has flaws (backup PG, wing depth), the coaching needs improvement (creativity on offence) and the players have to be more consistently good. It’s not one, it’s not two, it’s all three.
The quick fix? There is none. Everyone has to get better.
You can’t put it all on the GM, all on the coach or all on the players. Responsibility has to be shared.
Now, here’s some Sam stuff I hope answers a few questions:
The good players get better
|STEVE RUSSELL/TORONTO STAR|
|There's Good Sam.|
I don’t think you can make an argument against the fact Chris Bosh is better than he was four years ago; Jose Calderon has turned into a good player from a suspect one as a rookie and Andrea Bargnani is better today than he was as a rookie. The coach has put them in a position to improve and they have.
The combination of Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Bosh is working.
There were concerns whether he could make two bigs work together. In the five games before he got hurt, O’Neal averaged a double-double and Bosh had three double-doubles, a 40-point game and a 30-point game. They are a potent duo and the coach figured out how to make them one.
He has the respect of the players.
I’m sure there is some under-the-breath grumbling in the locker room – as there is in every single locker room in the NBA – but the players listen and generally play hard for the coach. No one has “tuned” him out.
Since Bryan Colangelo remade the roster after his first half season on the job – ridding it of a lot of detritus – the Raptors are 94-83, have won a division title and been in the playoffs two springs in succession. That’s an upward trend.
He can minimize the flaws in marginal players.
Kris Humphries has flaws that the coach can hide because when Hump tries to do too much, he sits him; Jamario Moon has flaws but somehow gives the Raptors what they need night-to-night. That he doesn’t drive the ball has as much to do with his mental makeup and ball-handling skills than anything.
A predictable offence
|DAVID COOPER/TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO|
|And there's Bad Sam.|
Far too much reliance on the high screen-and-roll, which teams are now finding ways to defend. I’m as sick of ‘horns-up’ as you are. And I imagine some of the players are, too. More ball movement side-to-side is a must. This speaks to the inability to find shots – open or otherwise – on a regular basis for a gifted shooter like Jason Kapono.
He can be intractable
I’m not sure how much advice he takes from his assistants, or even his boss. All coaches are paranoid to a degree, sometimes Sam’s degrees are too high too often.
Slow in-game adjustments
Maybe this goes more the flaw listed above but there’s no question he could better reacting to situations more quickly. When to double-team, when not too; when to ride a hot hand, when to call different sets. Room for improvement? Absolutely.
A forgetful mind?
Yeah, I think he should probably un-bury Joey Graham at the moment and let him get a block of games and minutes, mainly at the expense of Jamario Moon. Sam’s a big proponent of ‘how-you-practice-determines-whether-you-play’ and I believe some guys are far better game players than they are practice players.
I can think of a couple of occasions in one-possession games when we saw something different. Neither worked. I speak of the lob to Bosh in the last possession of the Nets series and the halfcourt lob to T.J. in that game in Atlanta last year that the clock operators blew. There has to be more.
On balance, it’s my opinion the good out-weighs the bad and I don’t believe firing a guy with a 6-7 record coaching this team is a prudent move. I respect and understand there are those who disagree, somewhat vehemently, and that’s fine. I would expect the same respect and understanding of my opinion.
And now, maybe some levity? After all, we’re as much about goofiness here as we are anything else, right. Someone asked in the weekend mailbag about players and smoking. This really didn’t lend itself to a story to tell there so I’ll tell it here.
World championships in Indiana in 2002, Yugoslavia, a big favourite to win it all, gets off to a start like 0-2 or 0-3 and something and it looks like they might not even make the medal round. Precarious, indeed.
A friend and I are talking to Peja Stojakovic one off-day at Conseco and we bring up the dire straits the team’s in and we wonder just how seriously everyone’s taking the predicament.
Says Peja, and I paraphrase a bit:
“Seriously? We’re taking it seriously. Vlade (Divac) is taking it so seriously he quit smoking.”
Must have worked because Yugoslavia beat Argentina in the gold medal game, one of the top five games I’ve ever seen anywhere.
And now some mail:
Q: Is it just me or has Kris Humphries looked descent in the past couple of days. He's been shooting pretty well and hitting his free throws. It didn't hit me that he's doing well until I saw Hollinger Stats on ESPN that ranks him #9 in the entire NBA, 1 spot above Bosh and 2 above Kobe. And the rest of the Top 8 are all All-Stars. Now I do agree if he plays more minutes, those stats will fall, but Sam should really start playing him at least 20 mins a game. What are your thoughts?
Serge A, Richmond Hill
A: The Hump’s been very good since he’s had some time in the rotation but the danger with him as always been the more he plays, the more he wants to and that’s where trouble lurks.
Maybe a couple of minutes more – he’s averaging about 20 – but that’d be it.
Let’s see, Eddie Jordan coaches a team that’s always injured, he gets the most of the mercurial Gilbert Arenas, he’s in the playoffs every year despite a spate of injuries, he somehow keeps the team together when two of his centres – Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas had fistfights on three different occasions, including once in the locker room. His GM can’t keep a key backup like Roger Mason Jr. when everyone knows Arenas won’t play a full year because he never does. He restores some sanity to a franchise after Michael Jordan, Leonard Hamilton and, yes, Doug Collins made a mockery of it.
And he gets fired after 11 games? Man, they should name the arena after him, not fire him
For some reason (pre- and post-games shows of games I wasn’t at and various out-of-market games that are available elsewhere) I’ve seen a lot of Raptors TV lately and can I just say this:
Surely to goodness there’s a big enough body of Matt Devlin work that he can do promo voice-overs rather than dredging up year old Chuck Swirsky ads, no? I bet Leaves TV doesn’t use Ward Cornell.
This is interesting. Or it’s not, I’m not sure.
With the firing of Eddie Jordan, Sam Mitchell moves up to second on the list of longest-serving head coaches in the Eastern Conference, behind only Lawrence Frank.
And, to wrap up:
Q: Never try to use MLSE having to spend money as a valid excuse for not making a good basketball decision. We have to pay $45 a seat to sit in the top corner of the ACC. We deserve better.
Mark F, Toronto
A: Ding! Ding! Ding!