Lacing Them Up –
If you were like me and listened to last night’s broadcast via the NBA.com feed, as grainy as it was, it was great to hear some semblance of Raptors’ basketball again.
Toronto even came out with a win, a 104-84 comeback over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Dinos’ first tune-up of the season.
Hardly. Lebron James played eight minutes and most of the Cavs’ heavy lifting was left to the likes of Tarence Kinsey, Daniel Gibson and Sasha Pavlovic.
On the Raptors’ side, it was mission accomplished for coach Sam Mitchell, who kept all his eventual starters (more on this in a minute) at 20 minutes or under in terms of playing time.
The high scorer for Toronto was Will Solomon with 17, while Andrea Bargnani and Kris Humphries chipped in 15 and 14 themselves.
A Numbers Game – 41 to 32
Preseason games are hardly an indicator of regular season success as we all know, but there are often things one can take away from the games. For instance, the Raptors outrebounded the Cavs by the above differential, something that was encouraging to say the least. While Lebron as mentioned was basically MIA, his bigs like Ben Wallace and Zydrunas Ilgauskas all played more minutes than Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal, meaning that Toronto’s entire squad contributed to this rebounding win. Andrea Bargnani had eight himself!
Temperature Check –
Hot – Andrea Bargani. It’s pretty hard to do a temperature gauging from last night’s audio but on stats alone, it was nice to see a good first game from Andrea. He had 15 points, eight rebounds, a block, two assists, and shot 50 per cent from the field. These are close to the numbers I expect from him this season (15 and 6 with a block) and from the description provided by the Cavs’ play-by-play, it just seemed like there was a more confident Andrea on the floor last night. Sam Mitchell this morning in the press even mentioned Bargs in terms of being one of his best defenders last night!
Cold – Jason Kapono. Yes Kapono hit 3 of his 5 shots…but he also had five fouls, with two of these in about a 10 second sequence. It’s not like this was Summer League reffing last night either. Steve Javie, Mark Lindsay and Mark Davis were on the call and it’s a bit concerning that Kapono had such a tough time considering he was mostly guarding guys like Wally Szczerbiak, Sasha Pavlovic and Tarence Kinsey. The Star’s Doug Smith is reporting now that Sam Mitchell will probably be leaving Anthony Parker in the starting line-up instead of switching to Parker and considering last night’s foul-fest, it’s tough to disagree.
Hot – The Cavs’ Rookie Bigs. Two players who stood out from the Cavs during last night’s broadcast were young big-men JJ Hickson and Darnell Jackson. Neither had monster nights but they did the little things that you often don’t see (hear in this case) from rookies. Tough play in the paint, shot blocks, rebounds and put-backs in traffic; these type of efforts. The Raptors’ brought the athletic Hickson in twice for pre-draft looks and I still think that he would have been their choice had the Jermaine O’Neal trade not gone down. I think the Cavs have two sleepers here as even Jackson, severely under-utilized at Kansas, looks like he might be a nice bench addition down the road.
Cold – No Michael Dickerson. You mean I listened to that scratchy audio feed for nothing!! I mean, give the guy at least some run in the final couple minutes!
Lukewarm – Toronto’s Back-up Point Guard Spot. Yep, just one pretty meaningless game but listening to the description of Will Solomon and Roko Ukic’s (who surprisingly played even with what may be bruised ribs) play was a bit unnerving. As mentioned, Solomon did lead the team in scoring and shot well from the floor but he did take the most shots on the team, not exactly what you’d expect from your point guard. He also made me cringe on a number of occasions as the Raptors would rebound and outlet the ball, only to have Solomon turn it over. He finished with six turnovers to only four assists but we’ll chalk this one up to nerves in his NBA debut. Roko was a bit more pass-happy but seemed to force things a bit himself. Of course it is game freakin’ one of the preseason so perhaps I’ll simmer down now…
Moving On –
Up next tonight, the New York Knicks.
To describe this Knicks team, the following is an excerpt from a conversation I had with one of our HQ scouts, who watched the Knicks’ practice on NBA TV’s recent series’ of "Live Training Camp looks:"
"This practice is just gold… Quentin Richardson looks about 30 lbs overweight and they’re raving about his conditioning… awesome!!!
- Mike D’Antoni looks defeated (and the season hasn’t even started)
- Marbury’s "Starbury" logo tattoo on the side of his head has to be the best cranium ink since Bam Bam Bigelow
- Allan Houston just took Marbury one-on-one and drained a pull-up on his head
- And Eddy Curry is just fat
Also, things I never thought I’d see/hear in my lifetime: Mike D’Antoni urging his team to "Pick up the pace. Pick up the pace."
To top things off, not only is the team horrid, but so is their play calling. Clyde Frazier, when asked by Rick Kamla about the Atlantic Division, just responded by talking about the Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards!
I wish I had a PVR for this… it’s just spectacular…"
After reading this note, I got thinking,
"Could this Knicks team be even worse this year than last?"
Consider this for a second; the majority of these current Knicks were brought in by the destroyer of worlds, Isiah Thomas. Think there won’t be some tension in terms of Mike D’Antoni’s attempts to get them to change the way they play this year?
Also, last year the team managed to keep Marbury and James far, far away. This year, both seem convinced that they’ll be big parts of the team’s um…success. How scary is this?
Add in the inevitable Eddy Curry and Nate Robinson issues, not to mention Zach Randolph’s "I play the way I want to play" attitude, and you get more entertainment value than anything on network TV short of Californiacation!
In fact, let’s move to our three questions…
1) As a member of the Knicks, if I were a Decepticon, which one would I be?
Isn’t this Knicks’ team essentially like watching the Decepticons in the original Transformer cartoon series? With Megatron, Isiah Thomas, now gone, you have a team of miscreants all attempting to be the leader and all trying to sabotage each other.
Mike D’Antoni I suppose is going to be Galvatron, the new version of Megatron, who will attempt to provide some leadership to this bunch of reprobates. How he’ll do this is beyond me but if D’Antoni is Galvatron, that probably makes:
-Starbury, Starscream – pretty self-explanatory.
-Eddy Curry, Bonecrusher – again, pretty evident.
-Jamal Crawford, Shockwave – terrible shot selection in real life and in the cartoon, yet one of the more trustworthy Decepticons.
-Nate Robinson, Ravage – Small, yappy and ferocious when deployed, both off the Knicks’ bench and via Soundwave in the cartoon.
-David Lee, Soundwave – sole voice of reason in the group, not to mention the biggest asset both in the animated show, and on the court.
You really could go on and on with this comparison couldn’t you?
In fact, forget the next Michael Bay movie, I can’t wait to watch this Knicks team in action!
2) Is there any light at the end of the tunnel for the Knicks?
I think so. I don’t know about the Gallinari pick (obviously "Kickback," one of the Insecticons), but at least the franchise is trying to start clearing house. But there’s still so much dead weight on this team (litteraly), that it’s got a long way to go. However the fact that Knicks management is so free spending certainly helps. I mean, can you imagine if this team existed in a smaller market like Milwaukee? David Stern would probably just kick it out of the league for a decade or so!
3) What will we be looking for tonight?
First off, I want to see the back-up point guard situation. Was last night a case of nerves and injuries (regarding Roko?) Or is Solomon really a 2-guard masquerading as a point guard? (Wait…does this make him an Autobot?)
Second, it will be interesting to see JO and CB4 on the court together and how they operate off each other. It sounded last night like there was little in terms of "new offense" from Mitchell and co, and plenty of the old high-screen-and-roll. Hopefully this repertoire expands as we approach the regular season.
Finally, Andrea. It sounded like he was Toronto’s best all-around player last night and if he can continue to play well in the pre-season, it should do wonders for his confidence and start to season three.
Another win tonight would be nice of course but more importantly, I want to see this team in action at last. Last night was a tease and even though it’s only pre-season, I’m anxiously looking forward to this evening’s televised action.
Now if we hear Sam Mitchell exclaim: "Autobots transform and roll out," my night will be complete.