The Toronto Raptors have shut their best player down for the season. They've lost six games in a row. And with games to come against playoff contenders such as Miami, Detroit and Indiana there may not be much hope left for the club in their remaining games. However, as Sam Mitchell sees it, there's a silver lining for the club. Mitchell sees continued improvement from his young squad and as we see it here at the HQ, with no playoffs to play for, it's a great opportunity to give the younginz some burn to see what they can do.
Unfortunately, while Mitchell acknowledges that the team continues to improve in some areas, there are others that have been a lot slower to come. Lately, the biggest of these of course has been keeping the opposing team from shooting such a high number of free-throws in each game. Against the Celtics Tuesday night, Toronto sent Boston to the line an insane 53 times. Wednesday night's loss to Indiana wasn't much better with the Pacers shooting 45 from the charity-stripe in their 111-103 win over Toronto. Both of these contests were winnable affairs and without the free throw discrepancy, could have been easy wins for the Raptors.
Without Chris Bosh's scoring, other Raptors have had to step up their offensive output to compensate for the lack of the All-Star. In cases such as Joey Graham and Rafael Araujo this is a good thing as management has gotten to see some more of what these players can contribute. However when Mike James has been the main compensator for the loss of Bosh' offensive output, this has not always a good thing. Lately James has been both praised and scorned for his "free shooting" methods which have both helped and hurt the team at various times. As a result, James is someone Colangelo will have to take a good look at this summer before deciding on his future in purple however at this point it's safe to say that the Raptors' GM seems to realize Mr. Space Mountain's limitations.
Also this off season it looks like Colangelo will begin to fill out the rest of his brain trust and two of the most prominent names being bandied about are Detroit Pistons scouting guru Tony Ronzone and the former GM of the Orlando Magic, John Gabriel. This writer is particularly intrigued by Ronzone who is extremely well known in the scouting and international basketball world and who would be another instant step-up for this franchise's credibility - this time world-wide.
The Raptors have decided to keep Barrett for rest of season with an option for next season. The diminutive point guard has played fairly well for the Raptors offsetting James' gunning with some great passing abilities. However this HQ staff member wonders why Barrett is playing the backup point role when Darrick Martin was already signed to assume this role and while Jose Calderon, supposedly the team's point guard of the future, rots on the bench.
From rotting on the bench to playing consistent starter's minutes we turn to Charlie Villanueva. CV Smooth has been finishing his rookie campaign in solid fashion giving Steven A. Smith even more reason to rethink his "he won't fit in Toronto, what is Babcock doing" rant concerning the Raptors' first round selection last season. Incidentally, Mr. Smith appeared on The Score television network earlier this week to discuss the infamous draft-day incident of last summer. Apparently Smith has no problem with Villanueva, but he simply was airing his thoughts on Rob Babcock and the current Raptors' management. While RaptorsHQ will be breaking this interview down early next week, in the meantime, readers can watch the interview between Smith and The Score here.
From the video it's evident that CV Smooth bears no ill-will against Smith either, it's just that he doesn't understand why Smith made the comments in the first place. In any event it appears that Charlie is taking the high road on this one, perhaps mimicking the tendancies of his favourite rapper, Jay-Z.
Game day Preview vs. Hornets
Baron Davis who? The Raptors travel to Oklahoma City to take on Chris Paul and his Hornets this evening. Yes, this really is Chris Paul's team as evidenced by his dominance this season and in the past few days he's notched his first two career triple-doubles. The Raptors were the victims of his first and would like to try and keep him under control this evening. In fact with the Hornets injuries to key players like Desmond Mason, it's even more imperative that Toronto reign the former Wake Forest star in, preventing his penetrations. This task will likely fall on the shoulders of Mike James and while James must defend Paul at one end, he'll also have to do a better job with shot selection at the other if the Raptors want to end their six-game slide.
Without Chris Bosh the Raptors have become a largely perimeter-oriented club and I feel perhaps the key to a W will be the play of Charlie Villanueva and unbelievably
Rafael Araujo inside. If Toronto can win the battle on the boards and points in the paint, this should result in their 27th win of the season. And for those of you hoping that Toronto lose the remainder of its games to improve its draft position...it's unlikely that even if this occurs the Raptors will move higher than fifth in terms of the league's worst teams. Portland, New York, Atlanta and Charlotte all still have substantially worse records (Atlanta's the closest at 23 wins) and it's doubtful any of them will go on any sort of winning streak to close things out. Better for Toronto to get some moral victories and more playing time for the rooks than finishing 0 for.