So, how'd all these guys do this year? Well, we'll tell you!
Okay, sure, the season isn’t officially over yet but what the heck, let’s see how these guys did. (Besides, I don’t have a lot of witty things today on the last day of the regular season).
The bright ones among you will notice no grades, as is traditional, because I personally think they’re silly. Do you grade against the best in the league? The worst in the league? Themselves? Their past? Their future? See? Silly.
|What should Chris Bosh do this summer? Here's a hint.|
Oh, one thing first. Tomorrow, as you know, is the day after the season ends and what’s a better way of spending the day after the season ends than by having a wee chat with your favourite grunt? (That’d be me, sillyheads!)
So, if it’s okay with you, I’ll be around at 1 p.m. on Thursday to answer a few questions for an hour or so.
Now, let’s look at these guys:
Highlight: Should set all-time NBA record for free throw percentage; unless Calvin Murphy puts some long-distance hex on him tonight. He’s missed three all year; Dwight Howard’s missed three since you starting reading this.
Lowlight: Right, that pesky hamstring injury that robbed him of six weeks of practice in the middle of the regular season isn’t something anyone will remember fondly. Especially because it’s the one thing that ruined the season more than anything else.
Summer job: No one wants the little fella to turn into Lou Ferrigno or anything but he’s got to get stronger. Fighting through screens on defence is not one of his fortes; neither is lateral quickness and if he could find a sprint coach to work with, that’d be cool.
|TARA WALTON/TORONTO STAR|
|Teams are looking for what Anthony Parker brings to the table.|
Highlight: Who knew? Point guard becomes a very sore spot and there’s AP, bringing the ball up, handling pressure, making smart decisions. They found that out and it should be another reason to keep him around next year.
Lowlight: Got awful old awful early in the season, which led to another of his chronic slow starts. Oh, and posting career lows in field goal percentage (42.7) and three-point percentage (39.0) was nothing to write home about.
Summer job: Settling the future would be Job 1 – is Europe really an option? Would a team like, say, Philly or Atlanta, covet his leadership? That, and get used to a reduced role because that’s what he’d have in Toronto.
Highlight: It’s not like the Raptors were ever filthy rich in defending, rebounding, court-savvy small forwards so the simple fact he could do those things made uber-valuable.
Lowlight: Providing filthy richness in defending, rebounding and court savvy is one thing, but in the name of all that’s good in the world, couldn’t the guy be a bit better finisher around the rim?
Summer job: Wait for July 1, plan meeting with financial advisers, get out bankbook, find out how much of a salary hit he can afford to take because that’s what’s coming and whether that means he stays in Toronto or leaves is entirely open to debate for that reason.
Highlight: Blistering November may have been his best month ever as a Raptor (remember the M-V-P chants?) and showed how much his game could improve at both ends.
Lowlight: Another knee woe, although he did miss only four games, which is hardly a huge thing; there was that funk that enveloped him in December, just when the season really went in the toilet.
Summer job: Get some rest. Seriously. Do nothing. Do not play. Do not work. Sleep like you’re a worn out grunt. The last time he took a full summer off was 2005 and he came back to have an excellent season. Oh, and maybe figure out what’s what for 2010? Nah, that’s not going to happen.
Highlight: He improved in nearly every facet of the game, which is not a bad nor unexpected thing for a third-year big man. If there was a bright spot for the franchise, he was it. Anecdotically, he probably committed fewer silly offensive fouls than he ever did.
Lowlight: Okay, so he’s still not the Italian Rodman. He’s getting better but there were too many one, two, or zero rebounding games.
Summer job: If he does play for the Italian national team, and he most likely will, perhaps he could bribe the coach to run an offence centred around him in the low post so he can work on his game. Oh, and maybe develop some rebounding skills.
|STEVE RUSSELL/TORONTO STAR|
|Roko Ukic had some great moments driving to the hoop.|
Highlight: Say what you will about the kid, but he’s got ice water in the veins; not too many rookies can win two games down the stretch like he did against Orlando and San Antonio with big-time, late-game baskets.
Lowlight: Quarter’s ending. Ball’s in his hands. Teammates anxiously awaiting passes. Yeah, right. Working on giving the ball up every now and then would endear him to his coaches – not to mention his teammates.
Summer job: How’s 500 jumpers a day sound? No? Okay, how’s 1,000 jumpers a day sound? Kid’s a gym rat and a summer in some Croatia gym, working with the words of coach Gord Herbert ringing in his ears, would be nice.
Highlight: Showed more in four months under Jay Triano than he did in any other four-month period before; except for maybe that 16-game spell in ’07. Shocking athleticism was on display.
Lowlight: Showed little defensive consistency, even in that four-month stretch, and that’s been a sore spot for him for years.
Summer job: Sit back and wait because his future really isn’t his to decide. Other offers may come flooding in but he’s a restricted free agent so it’ll depend on what Bryan Colangelo wants to do. And in the game of Raptor Dominoes, he’s nearer the end than the front.
Highlight: Maybe you don’t remember them right away but there were a few games where he looked great, assertive on offence and hitting his shots. For real. Check the boxscores. There were. Honest.
Lowlight: How about a three-point shooter who doesn’t take a lot of three-point shots? And the little running hook in the lane? That’s gotta go.
Summer job: Work on lowering the old handicap would do it. Oh, and keep the phone on because there’s a high probability Colangelo will try to move him. And, if he wants to develop a, ahem, J Killa attitude in basketball, that’d be nice.
|ANDREW WALLACE/TORONTO STAR|
|The ball was a bit too slippery in his hands, but at least Pops was in the paint.|
Highlight: The kid’s crazy good on the offensive boards and his activity and effort gave the fans something to get excited about; without, you know, all that ripping off of shirt and faux wrestling persona.
Lowlight: This whole “grab-the-offensive-board-bring-the-ball-down-to-his-knees-where-every-little-guy-in-the-world-grab-it” thing has to stop. It sort of takes away from the whole rebounding thing.
Summer job: If he’s going to come back, he’s going to have to spend a whole lot of time working on the offensive parts of the game. If he can’t score, he really can’t be on the court at crunch time.
Highlight: Looks great in pre-game warmups and has had a couple of moments in games – he’s quick and long and not a bad finisher – that makes you go, “oh, that’s why he was a No. 9 draft pick.”
Lowlight: Never really got a chance to compile many of them, actually. But watching him get bounced around under the glass isn’t something the coaches want to see.
Summer job: If they decided to pick up his option for next year – and that’s a tough call because they need to add depth – he’s got to get in the gym and get stronger.
Highlight: Provided one of the best names in franchise history. But also showed he can handle both backcourt positions in nothing games against going-nowhere teams at the end of a lost season.
Lowlight: Never got a chance to play a meaningful minute in a big game. Raps really don’t know what they’ve got in the young guard.
Summer job: Kill at summer league so he can keep guaranteeing his contract.
Highlight: Was a big hit in Ask Hump over at From Deep. And the locker room byplay with him, Moon and AP was hilarious at times.
Lowlight: That whole broken fibula thing was a bummer.
Summer job: Get with the coaches – not with any friend or family members – and work on his game. Get strength coach Keith D’Amelia to work him back into shape.
Highlight: Killing the selfish style of play in the D League, not to mention slagging Idaha, was a pretty cool interview.
Lowlight: A pesky cardiac condition that robbed him of half his rookie year sucked.
Summer job: Play. Wherever he can.
Highlight: No, I can't think of one, either.
Lowlight: The season-ending toe surgery was pretty bad.
Summer job: Get back in shape, go play in the summer league, try to be more than an end-of-the-bencher next year.
Highlight: No one committed more smart, hard fouls. And he's a great guy.
Lowlight: The six fouls in eight minutes or whatever it was in Phoenix was a classic.
Summer job: Get his agent working because I cannot see how he can come back.
Okay, that’s a look at the players. We’ll have more, including some stuff on the coaches and the front office, over the next couple of days.
Oh, right. Award time.
All right, it’s time to put up or shut up on the last of the awards I’ve got to do: Coach of the Year.
Man, it was hard.
You know I think coaching is kind of over-rated (too much credit when they win, too much blame when they lose) and that’s primarily because talent wins out over all. To me, the secret of really good coaching is getting your team to play consistently, with effort and pride and being able to adapt to injuries, deal with knuckleheads and avoid any catastrophic personality meltdowns over the course of a long, long regular season.
So, when it comes time to e-mail my ballot away later on today, here’s how it’s going to look:
Stan Van Gundy
(Although I may flip a coin and put Nate McMillan in third)
Yes, Mike Brown has great talent in Cleveland and the best record in the NBA; sure, Phil Jackson dealt with no Andrew Bynum and convinced Lamar Odom to come off the bench; yeah, Jerry Sloan (of the eighth place Utah Jazz, by the way) is going to the Hall of Fame before he’ll be a coach of the year.
But Karl has the Denver Nuggets second in the West, integrated a new point guard after a trade, dealt with the rather diverse personalities of Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin and J. R. Smith and somehow kept it all together. That’s no mean feat.
All right, kids. A bit longer than usual today but it’s a special day. And don’t forget to check back here tonight at 8 for the final in-game Raptor blog of the season.