Tonight, we're here.
Tonight, we're here.
TORONTO at DALLAS
TIPOFF: 8:30 p.m.
TV: TSN; RADIO: FAN590
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Landry Fields, Andrea Bargnani, Jonas Valanciunas; Dallas: O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison, Jae Crowder, Troy Murphy, Brandan Wright.
Key backups tonight:
Toronto: John Lucas III, Amir Johnson; Dallas: Vince Carter, Chris Kaman.
What happened this morning
Raptors didn’t have an official shootaround off a back-to-back but as visiting reporters were finishing up a chat with Vince Carter just before noon, Jose Calderon wandered into the American Airlines Center to get up some shots.
A distinct lack of marquee names.
Kyle Lowry is listed as “doubtful” after spraining his right ankle Tuesday in Oklahoma City; Dirk Nowitzki has been out all season for Dallas, Shawn Marion’s on the shelf with a sprained ligament in his left knee and Elton Brand is gone to be with his wife as she gives birth to a child.
There will be some recognizable names, promise.
An unkind place
Toronto is just 3-13 all time at Dallas, but that includes time at the old Reunion Arena, too.
Terrence Ross might be the beneficiary of Kyle Lowry’s injury, especially if Lowry misses more than a couple of games.
Jose Calderon was the de facto backup shooting guard for the first couple of games because Ross simply wasn’t ready and we defy anyone who saw his deer-in-the-headlights Opening Night run to disagree.
But now that Calderon’s a starter – and Ross looked much more comfortable in Tuesday’s Oklahoma City debacle – there may be more consistent minutes for the rookie.
Dwane Casey alluded to Ross looking a bit tuckered out during his extended time in OKC but the kid is just going to have to play through it and get more comfortable on the court.
One defensive stat Dwane Casey is often bringing up is field goal percentage allowed.
Well, chew on this:
The Mavs have shot better than 60 per cent from the floor in their last two games.
No, I don’t know how Lowry is; I don’t know if or how long he’ll be out, we won’t likely get word until mid-afternoon Dallas time and maybe not until we get to the arena about 5 p.m. eastern time.
I’ll make calls to the appropriate people when I can but I’m betting there are x-rays or other diagnostic tests in his immediate future and I fully expect to be told it’s a right ankle sprain and he’s day-to-day.
Trust me, when I hear something, I’ll let you know.
(And if that’s not a shameful plug for more twitter followers, I don’t know what is).
The kid’s big night
No, there was precious little to think fondly off after that beating.
Dwane made some very salient points after the game about them not being ready to play and not having any sense of resiliency and mental resolve.
But Valanciunas wasn’t bad, even before the eight minutes of garbage time at the end. Sure, Durant posterized him with a dunk – it’s happened to far better players than Jonas and will undoubtedly happen to others in the future – but the kid did play hard and compete and it was his best game since the first one.
He hasn’t truly arrived, that’s going to take up to half a season, I’m sure, but he’s on the right path.
And now the bad part
As we’ve mentioned many times before, the virtue Dwane Casey may appreciate more than any other is toughness. He wants men, he wants guys who are hard-assed and hard-hearted on the basketball court. He wants, to steal a term of endearment from my man Jack Armstrong, players with some sandpaper.
He sure didn’t get it last night and the post-game disappointment was telling.
“This is a man’s league, nobody’s going to feel sorry for you, if they get you down they’re going to put their foot on your throat. We have to have that fire, come out, have fun competing. First thing that goes wrong, our heads drop, we get down on ourselves and boom, that’s the game.”
It is permanent? Nah. But it better not become consistent.
A first glimpse
Didn’t see it too often but the zone defence made its debut in the second half last night.
I knew they’d been working on it – it was a way to use both Lowry and Calderon even against bigger backcourts – and I would suspect we’ll see a wee bit more of it now if Lowry misses even a game or two.
With all the focus they put on offence in camp and integrating three new starters into the defensive system, there wasn’t a lot of time in the pre-season for all the work that was needed.
Now, they’ve had it and the zone can be used to shake things up for a few possessions each night. It won’t become a staple, it will become something they can us.
Sure, we’ve got a little bit.
I don’t know why I knew this but I did know Stevie Ray Vaughan was from Dallas and I’m going to Dallas and I think Stevie Ray Vaughan was really cool.
You know one of the cool perks of the job?
Monuments and memorials.
Took a quick walk up to the federal building bomb memorial in Oklahoma City on Tuesday and once again was overwhelmed by it.
I remember the first time I saw it, has to be four or five years ago now, and a bunch of us walked up there with Sam Mitchell after a shootaround.
It was a moving experience then and it was a moving experience yesterday, the rows of faux chairs to symbolize the children so senselessly killed – part of the overall massacre – is incredibly touching and well done.
And heading to Dallas today evokes memories of the first time I saw the Texas school book depository – a long time back with a very good friend – and how powerful it was. Not quite as powerful as Oklahoma City but still quite something.
Toss in the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, and the subtly touching Holocaust memorial in Boston and this job can really be something sometime.
I don’t how many of you, if any, will get to those cities at any time but if you do, you should go; I consider it one of the great perks of the job.
Yeah, I suppose I could have moved the IGBT over to twitter last night (I’m @smithraps if you’re so inclined) but the thing that makes it unique is the interactive nature. I’m not sure anyone wants – or needs – to read a series of declarative statements; the fun of the gig is the other stuff we do there.
That said, it was a one-off phenomenon brought on by the election and all should be good tonight.
Speaking of you and I chatting, let’s get the mail started, shall we?
You’ll be glad you did.
Washington and Colorado voted to legalize marijuana.
But let me get this straight before I head off for a stupid 6 a.m. flight over to Dallas:
The United States:
Elected an openly gay woman senator from Wisconsin.
Passed laws to basically legalize marijuana in two states.
Re-elected an African-American president who showed more flaws in his four years than many thought he had.
Approved gay marriages in some states.
Repudiated disgusting Neanderthals who dared make rape some part of the election, as disgusting an act of politics as I can ever remember.
Yeah, you did okay, you zany Yanks.
Not sure why but there’s a big old glitch in the system – I’m blaming the election, over-lapping blogs and the sheer volume – so our regular IGBT thing is a no-go for tonight.
Am sure we’ll get it all worked out for tomorrow in Dallas but now I’m off to watch the game in relative solitude.
I’ll miss you but …
(Seriously, some of you I do)
Anyway, enjoy the game. Talk to you tomorrow.
TORONTO at OKLAHOMA CITY
TIPOFF: 8 p.m.
TV: TSN; RADIO: FAN590
Toronto: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Landry Fields, Andrea Bargnani, Jonas Valanciunas; Oklahoma City: Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins.
Key backups tonight:
Toronto: Alan Anderson, Ed Davis; Oklahoma City: Kevin Martin, Nick Collison.
What happened this morning
Much concern over Oklahoma’s mood coming into the game after the Thunder faltered in the second half and lost at home on Sunday.
Dwane Casey brought out a stat that says the Thunder are 36-4 following losses and here’s one for you:
The last time the Thunder lost two games uninterrupted at home (not a home loss followed by a road game followed by another home loss) was Nov 1-3, 2009. That’s a long time ago.
In case you care, or know one of these guys, the officials for tonight are Ron Garretson, Brian Forte, Eric Dalen. The league provides refereeing assignments each morning for that night’s game.
As Darnell Mayberry in the local paper points out, there’s even more incentive for the loudest fans in the NBA should be cheering even more loudly against the Raptors.
A future Thunder draft pick rides on the Raptors having a bad season.
Here’s a pertinent quote, given the way games have started this season:
"We can't be in cruise mode at the start of games. It shouldn't have gone back and forth. We're a defensive team and we just can't have that many breakdowns in a game, we just can't.”
Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant after the Thunder started Sunday’s loss slowly.
The only Raptor we spoke with at length this morning was Kyle Lowry and, yes, he did vote through an absentee ballot.
Dwane Casey, who also cast his ballot, said he hadn’t polled the players but he figures a majority of those eligible got their voting job done.
Raptors lost here last season in the only 2011-12 meeting between the teams and are 4-12 on the road against this franchise. That includes the time the club was in Seattle, too.
Yeah, this is late today, blame time zones. But with a 6 a.m. flight to Dallas tomorrow, we’ll be better.
I’m sitting on a familiar stool (that’s what you get after being here for a bit of the Western Conference final and the NBA Final last June) and my friend Tess is still pouring.
After a re-introduction (“you’re the writer from Toronto, right?”) it’s pretty easy to understand the mood here after the James Harden trade.
“It’s like one of our kids left,” she says.
And that’s what makes this little city kind of special.
Because it’s so small, and because the team is so good, there’s a sense of common ownership with the fans, who really don’t have a lot of other sporting options around here. They take to the players like they’re family, and the players seem to have taken to the fans as well, as least during the season.
You’re not going to get it in a bigger city – I can’t imagine you’d get in it Toronto, that’s for sure – because it seems everyone is a fan, everyone wants to know a player, everyone takes pride in what the Thunder represents.
It’s very cool, actually. Kind of refreshing to come here once or twice a year and listen to how much these people – all of them – love their team.
But now it’s a bit broken up, for the first time since the Thunder got here, one of the good guys on a championship team left because the nasty business of the NBA reared its ugly head.
I’m not going to say there’s a total loss of innocence among the fans but it’s close, they’ve had a guy they loved on a team they love sent away for financial reasons. It happens often around the league, the Harden departure is the first time it’s happened here; I don’t imagine it’ll cost the team any fans but it might be the first step in them becoming just a wee bit jaded.
So, Tess, how will they react when Harden comes back?
“We’ll cheer. It’s what we do.”
Speaking of Oklahoma City, My Man Perk found this gem of a local TV ad and it’s hilarious.
Wish there were some personalities or deals to be made with the Raptors because these things can be funny.
What’d we get?
Andrea and pasta.
Sam and cars in an ad that took away his personality.
Turk and pizza.
The best one was back in the day with the Leaves and the Raptors but that was so long ago few of you would remember it.
Yes, we’ll be here about 8 eastern time for the IGBT, we’re trying to work out the font issue with the questions and the Tall Foreheads know about the iPhone or iPad issues, too.
Not sure how many US Irregulars we have but if there are any out there, go vote today.
Vote early, vote often as my Chicago friends tell me because it’s the price you pay for the life you live.
I’m not going to tell you who to vote for (I like the guy who’s got the job, though) but exercising your franchise is not only a right, it’s a duty. Besides, as a wise man once told me, if you don’t vote, you can’t complain.
Look, I am of the believe to a large extent that the biggest goal of every politician is gaining power so they can retain it no matter what it takes but voting is one thing everyone should do.
And, who knows, it might make you feel good.
I can remember four years ago, well, four years ago minus one day, and walking into the Air Canada Centre for a morning shootaround before some nondescript regular season game.
And I will never forget the smiles on the face of Sam Mitchell and Alex English, I will never forget their feelings of satisfaction, that they had been involved with and witnessed history.
It was a great day for them, a significant day in the history of their country and it might be one of the most enduring images I’ll have of either man.
Yes, this is entirely the cliché song and I know there may be better ones out there but we’re in Oklahoma, Woody Guthrie’s from here and let’s go with the iconic, shall we?
Hey, how come no one told me Mandy Patinkin is in Homeland!
Just got to see a few episodes while flying yesterday thanks to the early Christmas gift of the mini-iPad from Super Family and there he was.
Have only seen a couple episodes but it looks like a keeper (Clare Danes is outstanding in her on-the-edge persona) and Patinkin’s better than he was at the end of his Criminal Mind days.
Nothing yesterday at all, in the middle of four games in five nights they took the day off before travelling here. They once again won’t have Linas Kleiza, he’s still dealing with a family matter but that’s the only thing close to news.
Maybe more after shootaround in a couple of hours, but I’d be surprised.
You know that I don’t thin too many sports translate well onto radio – baseball being the only exception because of the pace and the lazy summer nights listening to a game – but if there was someone in basketball who could paint a picture like few others, it was Jim Durham of ESPN.
He was pretty much the best there’s been and his passing at just 65 years old on the weekend – after working a game last week in Miami – was as sad as it was shocking.
RIP. A giant.
The Compton Worm?
That probably doesn’t stick but if DeMar DeRozan keeps getting seven rebounds every now and then, someone’s going to sit up and take notice, aren’t they?
Dwane has, as he mentioned after the game last night.
“DeMar’s rebounding, I thought that was huge. When we get that type of rebounding from our guards, those guys out-rebounded our frontcourt so … that’s huge.
“We knew Kyle was a big-time rebounder from the guard position, he’s tough, but that’s two big-time games from DeMar and I’m really happy to see him take that next step.”
Now, I don’t think we can put too much stock into DeRozan’s rebounding until it’s a 10-game thing but he has looked more assertive going to the glass, especially defensively, of late. He’s not looking to leak out as he did far too often in the past, he’s finding his man, wrestling him if has to and going to get the ball.
And – and I know how this is going to sound – the bigs must be doing their jobs unseen because there’s room for DeRozan and Lowry to get to the loose balls. It’s not translating into stats, it never will, but if the bigs engage their guys, DeRozan and Lowry should have the strength and quickness to get to loose balls and that should ignite some of the transition stuff Dwane wants to see.
I have to mock, at least a bit; it’s what I do
I know, first win, celebration, other teams do it, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Here’s what they should do instead of firing off confetti cannons after a win over Minnesota in Game 3 of a long season.
Fire off pizza slice coupons.
Now, that I could get behind.
A glimpse, perhaps
No, Landry Fields has yet to have an obvious impact on any game and I don’t know that he’ll ever be a guy who’ll score a lot of points or make a lot of noticeable plays and listening to Dwane before the game, I don’t think the team figures that’ll happen too often.
But there were a couple of moments Sunday night that showed what he can do, as long as he does it consistently.
One was a nice backcut along the baseline, he took a pass and finished with a dunk and that’s the kind of off-the-ball play he needs to make until his shot either comes around or is repaired, neither of which is likely to happen really soon.
The other was Dwane trying to get Fields more involved by calling post-ups for him and even though they didn’t work great against Minnesota – Fields held the ball too long before making a move – if he uses some of his basketball smarts to get the ball to open shooters quickly, it’ll make him a bit more dangerous.
Casey and the staff aren’t anywhere near ready to give up on him yet and more stuff like the few glimpses Sunday show why.
Sure, a little.
This came up on the iTunes shuffle the other day and since I see it’s Art’s birthday today, why not a little Simon and Garfunkel.
For a Grunt Of A Certain Vintage, this is part of the Music Of My Life and I have to say, I used to be able to croon almost every word to every song.
I know, it might be a tad soft but I really liked these guys when I was a young ‘un.
Remind me the next time I’m running through lists of the worst airports in the NBA to put the terminal at LaGuardia that houses Air Canada right near the top.
Few services, nothing approximating a good coffee place, gloomy, hot, cramped.
The place sucks.
Lakers 108, Pistons 79.
I have a feeling that says as much about Detroit as it does about Los Angeles.
So by all means continue with your Lakers angst.
Okay, I find Mickey Mantle’s a tad pretentious at times (although you can have fresh air in the separately-vented bar) and Blix is an excellent spot for a burger, a beer and a game and Beerwerks (hope I got the spelling correct) has a great, great selection, but if anyone with an OKC connection has another suggestion, I could be all ears.
After an eight-hour travel day between airport arrival and a layover in Chicago, may need a night to unwind.
I guess this is news because it’s not news and that’s a pretty good thing.
The NBA has added two female officials to the staff this season, bringing the complement of women referees to three.
They are Brenda Pantoja (she’s the one in the picture) and Lauren Holtkamp and they join Violet Palmer to give the NBA more femaie referees than its ever had at one time.
There was never really an issue with women doing the job in my opinion, they were no different than their male counterparts – they may some good calls, some bad calls and went about their business as professionals, trying to do their best every time they stepped on the floor.
But I do think it says something about fans, and reporters, that now it’s not an oddity to be explained or even noticed. The three women are just part of the staff.
That’s a good thing; we’ve taken another step on the road.
Good evening, all
Want to do this again?
(And I’m open to suggestions)
A fitting finish
As Dwane said after, and we all saw during, the game got away from them in the second quarter and nothing exemplified that more than the final minute or so.
With a lead and a chance to finish strong, the Raptors coughed the ball up for the eighth time that quarter, they committed a foul that cost them a possession and then a little gamble on defence led to a good transition opportunity for the Nets that ended with an open corner three-pointer.
It was one of the key stretches of the game, the kind of momentary lapse of concentration they simply cannot life with.
A bit of perspective, though
Lots of grumbling going on among The People. Got a few notes of condolence from readers for the long season ahead, a few comments suggesting this has been a horrid start the season and more than a few telling me it’s “same old, same old.”
About the only thing missing was a suggesting they start tanking the season.
Man, some of you need some patience.
They play perhaps the third best team in the conference to a buzzer beater.
They go on the road and play perhaps the fourth best team in the conference to a two-point game with about 90 seconds to go.
Sure, the rookie centre struggled Saturday a bit (if you thought he’d be good every game, you haven’t been paying attention at all) and, yes, they need more production out of their starting small forward (that’s a more troubling situation, for sure) but thing really aren’t in the toilet, people.
It’s been two games. Two freaking games.
Sometimes this rush to immediate gratification irks me no end.
Oh, what could be
Andrea Bargnani looked slightly disengaged for most of the night – maybe that flu bug isn’t entirely gone, maybe it’s just the way he is -- except for one moment.
There was an outstanding pass early in the game to Valanciunas for an easy basket and it’s got to be a bit maddening to know that kind of skill is there but only obvious on few occasions.
But the thing is, they might actually get something out of what should be an imposing big man duo because Bargnani’s passing skills are under-rated and Valaciunas is always going to be on the move.
Maybe it takes 10 or 20 games but that possibility is there and you know Dwane will be trying to exploit it. Hopefully the guy with the ball gets more energetic.
They trotted out Ralph Branca to take part in the pre-game ceremonies, and they were so under-stated they verged on boring and all I was hoping for was Bobby Thompson to show up and spoil the show.
In case you don’t get that reference, this stroll down memory lane might help.
So, what was it like here?
We really didn’t see a lot of remnants of Sandy; there was so obvious flooding noticeable on the descent into LaGuardia on Friday but Brooklyn, at least the part I was in, went unscathed.
I do have friends in Yonkers who didn’t have power or heat as of Saturday night and my man Kerber only got his lights back on over in Jersey at about halftime of the game.
Other than that, there wasn’t a lot of impact where I was; I just hope the folks in Jersey and Staten Island get the help the need.
There are still five- or six-hour lineups for gas, there are thousands of disgruntled marathoners in the area because the Mayor and whoever didn’t have the common sense to cancel the race five days ago like they should have. Things aren’t normal for a huge number of people, and it might not be raining or windy but there would seem to be lots and lots of work still to be done.
The Barclay’s Center?
It’s okay; nothing spectacular but it’s nice and new with a huge scoreboard but a muffled PA system and, frankly, it was underwhelming.
I guess $1 billon doesn’t get you what it used to.
The outside is pretty cool, it should help revitalize the area (although the people whose homes they took to build it might not care an awful lot) and that was part of the plan.
The game experience was no different than any other place and the people didn’t really seem overly-enthusiastic.
All in all, very good but I still have others in the league – Indiana, Houston (vastly under-rated) and even the new Orlando one – that I prefer.
But it’s about a hundred zillion kabillion better than either the Meadowlands or Newark.
Okay, we’re two games in and I have to talk to Scribble Live and the Tall Foreheads about the font on the questions/comments because you can’t read it easily enough and an iPad issue, right?
The hotel we’re at is housing what seems like a couple hundred FEMA workers who are out and about dealing with the Sandy fallout.
No, I didn’t seen Brownie and if I had, I wouldn’t have told him he was “doing a heckuva job.”
No, I don’t know where the missing ones went (tee-hee) but if the folks at the Air Canada Centre are reading this, something along these lines would be nice at dinner tonight.
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).