Good evening everyone
Good evening everyone
PHOENIX (7-9) at TORONTO (3-13)
Air Canada Centre
TV: TSN2; RADIO: FAN590
Phoenix: Goran Dragic, Shannon Brown, Michael Beasley, Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat; Toronto: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Linas Kleiza, Andrea Bargnani, Jonas Valanciunas.
Key backups tonight
Phoenix: Luis Scola (he’s as crafty a vet as there is), P.J. Tucker (one-time Raptor thriving with Suns); Toronto: Mickael Pietrus (newbie should get some playing time); Jose Calderon (coming off sluggish game in Memphis).
First meeting of the season; Raptors snapped 14-game losing streak to Suns with a win in Phoenix last season.
What happened this morning
The new guy’s in town.
Mickael Pietrus will dress (No. 20 for those souvenir shoppers out there) and will get some playing time. He’s been working out back home in France and although there will be some rust, he’s going to be thrown right into the fire.
“Points-wise, we were at a deficit at that position,” coach Dwane Casey said Friday morning.
And the others …
Andrea Bargnani is good to go after shootaround, Casey said, the ankle issue that kept him out Wednesday seems improved enough.
Amir Johnson, who rolled an ankle against the Grizzlies but came back later in that game, will be a game-time decision tonight.
The folks in charge
Referees are Mike Callahan, David Guthrie and Mark Lindsay, for those who just need to know such things.
What they’re saying
Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic had this to say this morning.
A familiar face
Yes, that will be Jermaine O’Neal you see in a Suns jersey.
He signed there as a free agent and has averaged 11 points and six rebounds in his last seven games.
Esoteric Raptor stat of the day
Jonas Valanciunas has had at least one blocked shot in his last seven games. He’s got 19 blocks on the season, leading the team.
The franchise rookie record for blocks in a season is 130, set by Marcus Camby.
A long time ago
The last time Toronto beat Phoenix at the Air Canada Centre, the starters were Alvin Williams, Jalen Rose, Vince Carter, Donyell Marshall and Chris Bosh. It was Jan. 4, 2004. The Raptors didn’t go too deep, the only subs to play significant minutes were Mike Curry and Morris Peterson.
Ah, the good old days.
Oh, that zany Gregg Popovich.
In case you missed it, Pop sent Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Danny Green home before the Spur game in Miami for no reason other than to give them a night off to rest and recuperate at the end of a long road trip.
It is disrespectful of the game, the opponent, the paying customers to pull such a prank.
There is a covenant between franchises and the people from whom they take money: You give us a lot of cash and we will entertain you; athletes are as much performers as athletes and I honestly think teams owe best efforts every night. It’s basically cheating the people to do otherwise.
But it’s not like Pop hasn’t done this before and, truth be told, I can see his point at some low level. He has to do what he thinks is best for his franchise and if we’ve come to learn anything about Popovich over the years, it’s that he doesn’t give a rat’s ass what people think.
Now, we can debate whether a night off in November will have any consequences in April, May or June – I’m quite dubious of that – and the Spurs did take the Heat to the final seconds before losing so the game turned out to be quite entertaining.
Was Popovich right to do what he did? I don’t think so. But there is a “plausible basketball rationale” for sitting four starters, I guess.
However, it was David Stern’s rather harsh rebuke – “I apologize to all NBA fans. This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming” – that got me.
While it is entirely within his purview to levy fines and if he’s ticked off there’s no reason not to let people know but I’m wondering why now?
Where was he when the Heat were taking “maintenance” days for their best players down the stretch of last season?
Where was he on other nights in other seasons when Pop gave his best players the night off for no reason? Remember the night in Toronto when Duncan didn’t play, a move chalked up to DNP-Old in the boxscore?
Where’s the commissioner late in every season when teams blatantly tank games, an egregious slap in the face of fans who paid money to see games.
But maybe that’s it?
Maybe, since there is no appetite to change the format for determining lottery odds, Stern is firing an early-season shot across the bow of all 30 teams, a very public warning that tanking games late in the season will not be tolerated.
I don’t know that to be true but I can see it being a small bit of the reasoning for all of a sudden coming out and publicly rebuking an organization that’s done almost exactly the same thing with no repercussions in the past.
Now I find out this has been National Peanut Butter month?
We all know these salient facts about peanut butter, which is often the snack sandwich of choice around Casa Doug.
It should be smooth, not crunchy.
It shall be eaten on bread, not toast or crackers.
And it should be eaten on its own, not encumbered by jam or bananas or even butter or margarine on the bread.
I’m right, right?
Yes, Mickael Pietrus (and I apologize now for the number of times I will type his first name incorrectly in the future) will officially sign his new deal with the Raptors today; the second that Dom McGuire clears waivers and there’s a roster spot for him.
I don’t know if he’ll be in uniform tonight – I would suspect yes – but no, he will not make a major difference. He is, however, an upgrade and teams should always be looking to upgrade their talent.
And, no, he’s not going to take minutes away from Terrence Ross so don’t sweat that. He is going to replace McGuire, who gave them nothing and it will allow Dwane Casey to use Ross where he’s best suited – at the other wing position, where he can guard shooting guards.
It’s a good move, not a great one, he’s not exactly the dynamic break-down three they’ve needed for, well, for ever, but he’s probably better than what they had.
Even as I type this, I’m sure there are stock boys in grocery stores all over crazily putting out new supplies of razor blades.
And all I can say is: Thank whatever deity it is that you worship that this month is coming to close.
Yes, I understand entirely that the fund-raising for Movember is significant and we all know that every dollar counts.
But how about this:
Today, sometime, everyone who grew a moustache but shouldn’t have takes a picture of himself.
And on Halloween next year, he – or she – shows that picture to all their friends and loved ones and says: “If you donate the same amount as last year, I promise I won’t grow another one of these things?”
Sound like deal?
Long flight to Denver tomorrow to work on stuff for Sunday so it’d be nice to have something to do.
Oh, and I don’t know who told me about Homeland other than Not Grace Kelly but thanks.
I’m about 30 minutes of the last episode before I’m finished season one – Brody was about confront Carrie at the police station when the flight attendant made me shut the iPad Mini down – and can’t wait to see what season two is like.
Pretty busy day for David Stern, as it turns out.
Before lashing out at the Spurs, he hit Boston’s Rajon Rondo with a two-game suspension for his fight with Hump the night before and levied a handful of fines, too.
I think Rondo got off easy, too easy. I understand the heat of the moment nature of those scraps but the underlying facts in my contention that he should have been suspended for at least five games is that he wasn’t even involved in the original Hump on Garnett foul (I guess I could more easily accept Rondo’s reaction if he’d been fouled) and the recidivist nature of his behaviour.
Precedent would have suggested a longer suspension, too.
But when I first heard it, I though David had gone a bit soft; hours late the Spurs thing happened and I realized he hadn’t.
They didn’t beat the team with the best record in the NBA on the second night of a road back-to-back?
Damn you, Andrea Bargnani!
Back to earth
Yes, Terrence Ross struggled a little bit – just 4-for-13 from the field and six missed three-pointers on six attempts – but there’s something about the kid in the last couple of games that you have to like.
He looked like a deer caught in some headlights early in the season but you can see him attacking the paint far more often and his confidence seems to be growing every minute.
At one point in, I believe, the third quarter, he got the ball in the far corner and could have hoisted a three. He knew he wasn’t shooting it particularly well and instead of hesitating and thinking about another here, he immediately went into the lane.
He didn’t make the shot but his coach and teammates noticed his aggressive move – it was mentioned in the post-game period – and they’re coming to like the way he’s playing an awful lot these days.
A hectic few minutes
Well, it was nice to see Quincy Acy get some time and he sure can liven up the end of a blowout, no?
A flagrant foul after he inadvertently smacked Kyle Lowry in the eye in about his first minute was kind of cool.
And then in the dying seconds he somehow got tangled up with Josh Selby of the Grizzlies under the far basket and was bumped out of bounds.
As Acy’s walking back in, he gave Selby a nice little shove in the back – totally missed by the three officials – and Selby ends up with a technical foul when he goes back at Acy.
Love the kid’s spirit, was kind of nice of him to put some juice in the last minutes of a boring game.
(And it didn’t have a huge impact on my filing at the buzzer so that’s okay).
What’s up with Pietrus
Wish I knew for certain but there is no question there’s a lot of legitimate interest and it wouldn’t surprise me if something happened quickly.
(An aside: Pietrus is going to have to pass a physical and it was a year ago now that they flunked him on one because of a knee issue so take that into consideration).
Anyway, here’s the thing: He could very well be the best small forward on the roster the second he signs but to think he’s going to come in and all of a sudden turn things totally around is silly.
He’s good – solid shooter, good athlete, can defend – and he’s an upgrade but don’t get your hopes up that all of a sudden the problems at that position are going away.
Here’s something to think about: If Bryan is going to pull off some deal where he divests himself of a significant player out of the rotation – and he shouldn’t right now – I think you need to put the fantasy of Pau Gasol out of your mind and go looking for a small forward to plug into your trade machine.
That’s the gaping hole in this roster, that’s what has to get fixed first.
And we move on …
Things you hear in airports because people don’t have the common courtesy to either speak quietly or find a private location for their telephone conversations:
A dude, obviously bit peeved, uses the phrases “dad-gum job” and “cotton-pickin’ business” in a three-minute conversation.
Gotta love the south.
I have to use “dad-gum” in some game story sometime.
No, you don’t often see a couple of guys from France – one wearing a cowboy hat and one who looked a lot like Harpo Marx (and didn’t speak, either) – sit in with The Memphis Blues Masters at the Juke Joint on Beale Street and knock off a passable rendition of Route 66.
But, then again, you folks don’t hang with me too often.
They weren’t as good as this guy but who is?
A random cabbie conversation on the way to the FedEx Forum
“How’s your team? You gonna win?”
“Why not? You’ve got that guy 7-feet and he’s shooting the three-ball like hell.”
(If he only knew)
A minute later.
“Yeah, your team might win, Conley’s sick.”
“Sure, but you’ve got Jerryd Bayless.”
“He’s no good. Can’t dribble. Shoots too much. He’s a shooting guard.”
Who knew scouts moonlighted as Memphis cabbies.
How about that little fracas in Boston?
Tell you what, if I’m the Celtics, I’m quite worried that my starting point guard is going to get hit with at least a five-game suspension – and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was seven or even 10 – after taking a couple of shots at Kris Humphries in a brouhaha that spilled into stands.
First, the league rightfully frowns on its players interacting with fans that way – I think it was Nate Robinson and JR Smith who got 10 games for a fight that put fans in danger – but the big factor is going to be Rondo’s history.
He got a two-game suspension last year for tossing a ball at an official and got one game in the playoffs for pushing a ref; he’s a repeat offender and that’s not going to sit well in the office.
Five games? Ten games? Neither would surprise me at all.
I think we’re going to do mail a couple of times on the weekend because it’ll help me with my travel plans so help a fellow out, will you?
Good evening, again.
TORONTO (3-12) at MEMPHIS (10-2)
TIPOFF: 8 p.m.
TV: Sportsnet; RADIO: FAN590
Toronto: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Dom McGuire, Andrea Bargnani, Jonas Valanciunas; Memphis: Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol.
Key backups tonight
Toronto: Terrence Ross (can he bring the same game two nights in a row), Amir Johnson (tough front line for Grizzlies a tough matchup); Memphis: Jerry Bayless (Conley’s been sick, ex-Raptor important), Marreese Speights (big man plays solid role).
First meeting of the season, Toronto won 114-110 in overtime here last season and won 120-106 in the pre-season last month.
What happened this morning
They slept, I flew
Raptors did the usual and took the morning off on a back-to-back; it’s not at all unusual, they would have walked through some Memphis stuff at the team hotel during the day.
Plus, they were here to end the pre-season and Memphis has been scouted extensively, it’s not like there are any surprises in store.
Talk is cheap, but entertaining
Former Raptor Jerryd Bayless kept up a steady stream of conversation with the Raptors bench, and Kyle Lowry, during a pre-season game. It wasn’t malicious but it was, um, chatty and it might be something to pay attention to tonight.
Bayless averages 7.4 points and 3.0 assists per game in about 17 minutes a game.
Esoteric stats of the day
Toronto is 0-11 this season when trailing at halftime, the Raptors are 0-6 when they’re behind after the first quarter. Puts those fourth quarter losses in some kind of perspective, doesn’t it?
Maybe game are won and lost early.
For what it’s worth
Tom Washington, Leon Wood and Karl Lane will be blowing the whistles tonight.
Much was made on how seamlessly Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay would mesh in the Memphis offence. They seem to be getting along swimmingly.
Memphis has four players – Randolph, Gay, Conley and Gasol – averaging at least 14 points per game.
Hadn’t seen one of those in quite some time, gotta say it was easier to write than a buzzer-beater and we know: It’s all about me, right?
Anyway, early flight to Memphis, can’t wait to see the comments when I get there.
Trade this guy, fire that guy, bench the other guy.
Let me ask a question of the collective minds who are cluttering up the comments and the in-box with “I’m never watching this team again” and “the season’s over” and “everyone’s got to go” stuff.
Where’d you think they’d be this year?
Mid-30s wins? Clawing at eighth? In the lottery?
Well, you may still be right.
Look, last night was bad but, truth be told, it was an aberration; we can all agree that they’ve been “in” most games, just unable to finish them for whatever reason.
So, they go in tank one night. Big whoop. It’s going to happen and, frankly, I’m surprised it hasn’t already.
So, with 67 games to go, all the realistic goals are still achievable; they are better, I think we can all agree that Valanciunas and, lately, Ross look like keepers as rookies and that DeRozan hasn’t been spoiled by his contract extension and Lowry looks good. We can agree on that, right?
So three years into this process – which truly began the year after Bosh left – they are where they probably should be.
The kids will get better, the schedule will turn and they will get to where all sane-thinking people thought they would: Somewhere in that 7-10 spot in the East; with some win total in the 30s.
And if they’re not? Well they maybe it’s time to change things at the top but, whether you believe it or not, there are pieces there and the process is moving forward.
And if any of you can prove to me that you thought they’d be better than scraping into eighth, which is the next step in the process, I’ll give you credit for being overly-optimistic.
Unless you hit some lottery luck on the very best year, or unless you run franchises in Miami, L.A. or New York, it’s a long, tough slog. They are on that slog.
We all knew it, you knew it in your hearts. Remember that the next time panic sets in.
Ross’s big night
Yes, that was a breakout kind of night for the kid, who not only made shots and had dunks but he defended James Harden pretty well at times.
Does he need to play more? Maybe a bit but 35 minutes last night would be about tops.
Does he need to start? No way.
They need his energy and talents off the bench right now; I don’t know that anyone would feel comfortable with Dom McGuire energizing a second unit and Linas Kleiza is simply too hit and miss.
So, by all means play Ross more consistently, let him finish games but leave him as the first win off the bench. It’s the best use of personnel right now
Ross’s big dunks
They were great, weren’t they? Yes. All but one and I’m sure Dwane and the staff will let him know about it.
It was early the fourth quarter, there was a loose ball at midcourt and Ross picked it up with no Rocket between him and the basket.
However, John Lucas III was about 30 feet ahead of him, equally open, and instead of passing the ball and staying back on defence, Ross took off and finished a dunk with a Rocket in hot pursuit.
Trouble was, it left Toronto with only three defenders back and the only thing that saved them from giving up an easy transition break and a 5-on-3 was a Houston timeout.
The right play would have been to make the pass and play defence; it wouldn’t have been as sexy, but it would have been smarter.
Hey, remember when we gave you this from the Broadway show Memphis and how I mentioned that relatively unheard-of Broadway actors and actresses were something else?
Well, this, from the same show and man, it’s good no?
And if we hear anything like that post-game at the Beale Street Juke joint, it’ll be fine with me.
Mail? Let’s start.
Here’s what should happen.
Every major league baseball player who has played since 1975 should wake up today and make some large, personal financial contribution to whatever cancer society exists where they live because they wouldn’t be nearly as wealthy as they are today had it not been for Marvin Miller, who died yesterday of liver cancer.
Now, I don’t know what your feelings are towards unions in sports and what they’ve done but we wouldn’t be where we are today – in any sport – had Miller not done what he did in the 70s for major league baseball.
I think things may have swung a bit too far towards the players but that’s neither here nor there, Miller took baseball players out of virtual servitude and into an incredible era and his work carried over into other sports.
And players should tithe some of their salary in his name; they wouldn’t have the money if it wasn’t for him.
Casey Janssen had shoulder surgery?
Even when things are going good, things are going bad, aren’t they?
I know, they said he’ll be back for camp and no reason not to take them at their word but, man.
Hello, fine people.
TORONTO (3-11) at HOUSTON (6-7)
TIPOFF: 8 p.m.
TV: Sportsnet; RADIO: FAN590
Toronto: Jose Calderon Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Dom McGuire, Andrea Bargnani, Jonas Valanciunas; Houston: Jeremy Lin, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson, Omar Asik.
Key backups tonight
Toronto: Ed Davis (does Sunday’s energy carry over to Tuesday?), Terrence Ross (can he have an offensive impact); Houston: Marcus Morris (young big man averages about 10 ppg), Toney Douglas (has been struggling from the field).
First meeting this season; Raptors have lost five straight in Houston.
What happened this morning
It’s all about Kyle
As you’d expect, ex-Rocket Kyle Lowry was all the rage at shootaround.
He denies there’s any special motivation tonight going against his old team but what he says and how he acts may be two entirely different things.
Toronto coach Dwane Casey knows this and mentioned this morning how he’ll have to make sure Lowry doesn’t try to do too much too soon.
Who guards Harden?
No one said it out loud but the Raptors are sure to have small forward and solid defender Dom McGuire spend at least a little guarding Houston’s Harden, who averages about 25 points per game.
Can McGuire be successful? Few are on their own, he’ll need help.
The Rockets will wear black patches on jerseys for Sasha McHale, the 23-year-old daughter of coach Kevin McHale, who died on the weekend.
And they will travel as a team to the funeral tomorrow after getting special – and correct – dispensation from the league to detour from their game in Oklahoma City.
They’ll get to Oklahoma City sometime tomorrow afternoon, normally, the league would insist they travel tonight.
No old friends
Ex-Raptor Carlos Delfino is out and injured for the Rockets and the guy Houston got in the Kyle Lowry trade – Gary Forbes – has been released.
Kelvin Sampson, the assistant who is handling Houston’s coaching duties in the absence of Kevin McHale, is an assistant on Jay Triano’s Canadian national team staff.
Houston’s Patrick Patterson is the latest NBA to get an official warning from the league for flopping.
It was an especially egregious performance as this link shows.
Esoteric stat of the day
Raptors swingman DeMar DeRozan is averaging 18.7 points per game this season; he ranks second in scoring among playersfrom the 2009 NBA draft class.
First? Houston’s Harden.
Interesting and quite telling, if you ask me.
The guy’s not quitting because the Jets are terrible, although that might be a good reason in and of itself, but he’s going to give up the gig because he can’t the treatment he’s getting from other fans.
He says he’s now harassed in the stadium and the parking lot and on the street. And for what? For doing something he thought was fun?
We’ve long gone past the point where civility was the norm, now it’s welcome but in far too many cases unexpected, and this is just another case of anonymous others disrupting the fun of one for no reason than to show that they can.
Look, I have no problem with healthy discussion and different viewpoints and even a little bit of respectful fun among fans as long as it doesn’t cross the line into the mean-spirited.
But I don’t know what it is that makes people feel some empowered that they can take shots – verbal or otherwise – that are cutting, intentionally hurtful and, well, cheap.
Booze? The societal norms they live under? Am empowerment that comes from knowing they can flee a confrontation any time they want? A chance to simply goad someone into something they’d regret?
This guy was making a point and having fun and I’m sure he took a lot of good-natured ribbing over the years. But, believe me -- and I know from somewhat personal experience – people go too far because they have little respect for other points of view or actions.
They think because a guy’s out there – and you couldn’t go to a Jets game without seeing this guy and hearing him – that they can be attacked, verbally at least, by anyone in the parking lot or the stadium. Not true, those kind of fans will accept the fun made at their expense, but if gets to a point where a guy feels he has to stop doing something he’s done for almost ever, it’s crossed line.
Civility, it seems, is near dead and it sucks
We’re not going to put that genie back in the bottle where we treat each other with respect all the time, where we try to make valid points and try to understand the valid points, or actions of others but we need to try.
People need to simply act more grown up. And be more respectful.
It is to dream, I fear.
Without doing too much research or even thinking all that much about it (yes, it was some idle time watching Knicks-Nets in the hotel last night) was thinking of top movies about or done around Houston.
The short list:
Friday Night Lights
Maybe a better TV series than movie, though.
Who hasn’t said, in some variation, “Houston, we have a problem?”
A bit of a stretch but it was West Texas, right?
Terms of Endearment
Yeah, a tear-jerker, don't tell anyone, okay?
And, a favourite …
Mostly for the music, as I recall. Bob Seger? Yeah, I’m okay with that.
So I hear the Grey Cup TV numbers were off the charts, maxing out at about 5.9 million and that’s pretty darn good.
But before we go all “yes, Canada is a football country” I think we need to recognize it for what it is:
Canada, and every country really, is an “event” country when it comes to TV and even attendance. We like the big show on the big stage with the big buildup. It’s why we watch the Grey Cup and the Super Bowl and every other one-off event we can. We see and read all week about how big a thing will be and then tune in to see if it unfolds as the experts suggest.
Toss in some cross-over appeal thanks to the elongated halftime show and extended pre-game event and you’re going to get big numbers.
It was a great one-off event, let’s not make it anything more than that.
I swear I looked up one time at the Knicks-Nets game last night and saw Jerry Stackhouse, Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas and Rasheed Wallace on the court at the same time and they’re like a combined 2,000 years old, aren’t they?
And I can’t believe no one wrote to suggest the Raptors blew it by not taking them in the draft. Well done, Irregulars.
Real life intersects on sports here in Houston and it’s going to be an emotional night, I’m sure.
If you hadn’t heard, Sasha McHale, the 23-year-old daughter of Rockets coach Kevin McHale, died on the weekend of complications from lupus, a disease that has cost me a few friends over the years.
There will be, I’m sure, tears and much emotion in the building and not limited to Rockets people since McHale hired Dwane Casey in Minnesota and coached Kyle Lowry here and was a colleague of Raptors PR guru Jim LaBumbard for years.
At some point, I hope when the mention of it is made on the broadcast that everyone watching takes a second to realize what they’re doing:
We are watching men play a game; it is a diversion and entertainment and sports.
It is not life and death or anything close to it and I’d hope that gives people some perspective. It will me.
The thing to watch for tonight if you’re watching?
Kyle Lowry and how he handles a homecoming of sorts.
We’ve seen a little bit of ‘hero ball’ from Lowry, a propensity to try and do too much too individually and I wonder if the prospect of playing against his most recent old team might have him in that kind of mood.
I’m sure Dwane will speak to him about the need to just play his game, get others involved, and not try to dominate. Wonder if the message will get through.
Doug Smith has been a sportswriter for more than 30 years, a journey that's included seven Olympic Games, numerous and varied championships and more dreary regular season games than he'd care to remember. Here, he'll talk about them all, as well as current events and pop culture. (Just don’t ask him about music nowadays — it's not his cup of tea).