At this stage in the life of RaptorsHQ, we wouldn’t say we’re old hat at the media thing, but we definitely have a better awareness of what to expect during these sessions.
Usually, things get underway a few minutes after their reported time and while it’s always good to get up and close with the team’s players, the fact is that an ardent fan could guess most of the questions that would be asked and the answers that would be given in turn for these sorts of events.
Yesterday was really no exception although as always, some interesting tidbits do end up coming to light, and that’s why we’re always extremely grateful to the Raps’ media folks for giving us access.
We’re not going to regurgitate all of the interviews, most of the press and blogs will probably be doing that today, but we do want to touch on a few things and if you want to check the discussions in full, the videos can be found here at Raptors.com.
I think the first thing that struck me was that all the players seemed to comment on how well the team finished and it was a little bit annoying. Factually they are correct in that they went on a bit of a run and won and handful of games, but if you look at their opponents and their wins, as Franchise mentioned yesterday, it is not something to get THAT excited about. Now it’s hard to determine at these sorts of things whether the players are saying what they actually feel or whether they are just going through the motions, but it felt like the late season stretch was a more accurate reflection of what this team is capable of than any other portion of the season.
From my perspective there are two ways to look at this.
If you are an optimist you are bullish on what this team, currently assembled, did and feel like the players are right when they argue that had this group been together all year, things would have been different. Calderon was finally healthy and the team started to look like a cohesive unit towards the end of things.
On the flip side the pessimist would say that the late season wins were simply a function of an easy schedule, and a team playing loose and with nothing to lose. Therefore when Toronto was forced to play mediocre and high competition, they showed their true colors earlier in the year; Marion or no Marion.
I for one think it is a bit of both. If fact, I think that AP was bang on when he thought that this team next year, should it remain intact, would compete with the likes of Chicago, Miami and Philadelphia. The question that has to be asked however is whether this is good enough. Is the ceiling for this team 41 wins next season? That’s not exactly something to get too excited about.
My next observation was that there seems to be genuine support for Jay Triano to become the full time head coach. I think this is going to get done and soon, not only because the players seem onside with the idea, but it also because it will not cost MLSE that much money. The franchise is still on the hook for Mr. Mitchell’s contract and it is naive to think ownership is going to want to dish out a big fat contract to a big name coach so long as it is already paying one head coach.
Despite the fact that the team seemed to gel towards the end of the year I am still not sure that Triano is the right guy however. He is definitely an adaptive head coach, the players seem to like him, and he has an enormous amount of basketball knowledge. However the question remains - what kind of basketball is "Jay Triano basketball" and how does that fit with BC’s vision?
Anthony Parker was the second Raptor to speak with us yesterday and it struck me as to how polished he is. Parker doesn’t just got through the motions when with the press. He takes his time, thinks his answers through, and seems very forthcoming regardless of the question asked. Based on his media session it was very apparent that he would like to be back with the Raptors and he is flexible as to what capacity that might be in, even as a back-up in limited minutes.
As a starter AP’s inconsistency on the court is a big detriment to the team, but if he were to be part of the bench rotation it would be hard not to welcome him back with open arms. He seems to genuinely love the city, the team, and he alluded to his family being comfortable here. I think AP coming back is a 50-50 proposition at this point.
Perhaps the first point that really echoed throughout the media, and something we mentioned yesterday, was the comment by Calderon basically saying that if the Raps didn’t want him to play for the Spanish National Team this summer, he wouldn’t. Although he said there is no connection between his hamstring injury and last year’s Olympics, it was nice to hear that Calderon is willing to rest up, work on his game, and come back next season at 100 per cent.
Over the past month his play has been what people expected from No. 8 when he took over the starting job. He acknowledged yesterday that he essentially couldn’t play defense for three months of the season because of his injury. We couldn’t help but wonder why he was playing if this was the case for such a large chunk of the season, but let’s not forget if Calderon hadn’t played, the team likely would not have fared any better with the likes of Roko Ukic, Will Solomon or anyone else on the roster for that matter.
For starters, it always impresses me as to how much media there is surrounding this team.
Yesterday we were packed like sardines into Toronto’s usual-post-game discussion room, and the combination of number of bodies and lack of space was akin to conducting interviews in an oven.
I mentioned to Howland post-press session that in 60 per cent of NBA cities, I couldn’t envision there being half that amount of media and outside select cities like New York, LA, Boston and Chicago, there probably would have been a decent number, but not the amount we were grouped in with yesterday.
It’s something that I think always surprises players when the first arrive in Toronto, not just in that there are two local and national papers that scrutinize the team, but a bevy of other print, radio and television media, on top of about 15 different Raptors’ blogs. Of course not all of these have media access, in fact I believe we’re the only pure Raptors’ blog that does, but the point here is that the coverage of this team, considering their recent history, never fails to amaze me.
Do you think 30 members of the press were waiting for the Bucks or Warriors when they were cleaning up shop yesterday?
Neither do I.
In terms of the player discussions themselves, outside of some of the more major points of interest like Bosh stating that this season didn’t affect his view of the team, and that he wouldn’t demand a trade, I thought one of the more interesting "read between the lines" notes came from Anthony Parker.
You can see it at about the 9:20 mark of this video and it was actually in response to a question I asked regarding the current style of play and whether it did a better job of utilizing his own talents.
As you can see, he didn’t really answer my question, but instead talked more about the style being better for the team in general. ("Running with a purpose versus just trying to run.")
His note of the change in styles >("players running because there’s a chance they know they’re going to get the ball versus just running to our spots…") struck me as both an acknowledgement that with Marion, Triano could finally implement the style he wanted and also, a bit of a "tell" regarding something us Raptors’ fans had been saying for quite some time; Sam Mitchell’s offense was simply too stagnant at times.
I’d mentioned before on the site that I thought Anthony Parker’s talents were better utilized in the up-tempo style since he was a good finisher in transition and unable to create off the bounce in a half-court setting. Under Mitchell, outside of the opening curl and jump-shot that AP would attempt to start each match, far too often Anthony was parked in the corner hoping to spread the floor, but often unable to really maximize his talents.
Mo Pete found himself in a similar situation in his final year in Toronto and I think it’s clear that going forward, whoever inhabits that starting 2-guard spot is going to need to be ready to get out and go.
Do I think Parker will be back next year?
Howland above put things at 50/50 but I feel it’s more like an 80/20 situation. Parker is comfortable here, I think Colangelo values his on and off-court contributions more than most, and considering AP discussed the need for a wing who can create off the bounce, it sounds like he has no illusions of retaining the starting 2 guard spot.
From Parker yesterday:
"Obviously if you can get a dominant perimeter player…but how many Dwyane Wades or Lebrons are out there?" If there was a player like that, that you could put beside a Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani it would make everyone’s life easier…the challenge is, where do you get a player like that?"
He’s right, and as much as I came away from everything yesterday feeling like fans will see a very similar team next year unfortunately, the hope is that comments like these by Parker, and a season of on-court evidence, will sway management into hunting down a player of this ilk.
A final thought on yesterday’s proceedings. A few of the players, AP in particular, acknowledged the poor state of the economy and that financial expectations may have to be tempered going into this off-season.
Considering NBA players are most-often painted with the "we live in our own world financially" paintbrush, I’m hoping this means that agents are already planting the "we may not be able to get that high-dollar contract this off-season" seeds.
Because as great as it was to hear Bosh sounding like there’s nowhere else he’d rather be, and Marion believing his style of play is a great fit with the club, things still come back to the numbers and right now, they don’t add up for the season after next.
Perhaps if Colangelo believes Chris is now on-board for one more go with this group next year, then he’ll cross that bridge when he comes to it.
But again, we’re just not sure that in this situation, it wouldn’t be better to be proactive about things, even if it means having CB4 in another jersey come the next full team media session we attend – training camp 2009.