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Archive for the ‘Basketball’ Category

March Sadness

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I won’t lie: I’m a NCAA hater. Basketball and football. I’ve never quite understood the incredible popularity of American college sports in Canada. Especially in Canada. Which means that every March, I abstain from the Madness. No bracket. I think I filled one out, years ago, and, in my hating, predicted zero upsets. I had all four number one seeds meeting in the Final Four. I hate fun.

A few days ago, during the second round of games, a friend of mine asked me why the hell everyone on Twitter was talking about brackets. More specifically: broken brackets. So I gave her the March Madness primer and, after detailing the tournament’s minutiae, I said: “On the surface, this tournament sounds amazing.” So, why, all these years, haven’t I been filling out a bracket? After much deep introspection, I haven’t come up with a good answer. Haters, as the saying so famously goes, gonna hate.

I’ve never found the basketball all that appealing. Yes, the intensity’s unmatched, but the quality, at least to a casual ball fan like myself, hasn’t stood out. The games are either a blowout, or 35 minutes of rampant chucking, followed by, if you’re lucky, five minutes of, well, madness. And, in between those final five glorious minutes, timeouts. A maddening, pun definitely intended, number of timeouts. During March Madness, no timeout is left behind.

At the end of the day, I love gambling losing money. And March Madness is every gambler’s dream. So: I’m in. I’m going to continue not giving a shit about this year’s tournament, while quietly supporting underdogs Richmond and Marquette, but next year, I’m letting the Madness, and fun, in. If President Obama’s all over the Madness, so too should I be. Sign me up. Come March 2012, I’m filling out a bracket. I might even fill out two brackets. Maybe even three. Madness, indeed. Or, because it is a one-and-done tournament: Madness!!!1

Image courtesy Neil Wadhwa.

Written by Navin Vaswani

March 21st, 2011 at 11:54 pm

Starting the year off right

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The Raptors won two games in January. Better than I remembered, actually. I thought they only beat the lowly Cavaliers, back on January 5th. But there was that magical Sunday afternoon, January 9th, when DeMar DeRozan scored 28, and Andrea Bargnani 30, against the Sacramento Kings, when the Raptors last tasted victory. They may never win again.

Twelve straight losses. At what point, exactly, does Bryan Colangelo fire Jay Triano? Is there a magic number? Say, a 15-game losing streak? Twenty, a nice and nasty round number? I wonder. And at what point does Colangelo himself get fired? I can’t imagine the suits at MLSE are looking to the Raptors’ final 33 games to make a decision regarding their lame duck GM. Bottom line: Do something. Shine the Wayne Embry signal into the Toronto night sky, if you must. Anything.

All that being said, I’ve grown rather fond of Triano. At the very least, he at least acts like he gives a damn, and that’s more than you can say for his players some nights. Surprising to absolutely no one, it was Triano who was most upset at Indiana’s Darren Collison for jacking a three with a second left on the clock in an already decided game Monday night. If I had to choose one of Triano and Colangelo moving forward, I might just pick Triano.

Let’s say for a minute, though, that Colangelo does get re-signed. Does he get a raise? How the hell do you spin that on the paying public? So many questions!

Earlier today, The Score’s Scott Carefoot tweeted a link to a rather depressing Sports Illustrated article, “On Andrea Bargnani and the East’s other pathetic team,” by Zach Lowe. That “other pathetic team” would be the Raptors, hence the whole depressive vibe of the piece. But at least there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. A couple of lights, actually: Ed Davis’ strong play, and the team’s 2011 first-round pick in tow. And, yes, it does feel fantastic to be able to write that.

Finally, on Bargnani: Since he began averaging more than 30 minutes on the floor per month, dating back to January 2009, Il Mago’s never had a poorer shooting month from the floor — 40.9% — and from beyond the arc — 27.9% — than January 2011. If that performance isn’t the definition of bad timing, I’m not sure what is.

Here’s to the next 11 months. Cheers.

Addendum:

Great column here by the National Post’s Bruce Arthur. Losing is okay. Losing is better than okay; it’s good. Losing is productive. And that bodes well, because lord knows we’re used to it around here.

I hate to say use the following, I really do, but: The Raptors are who we thought they were. Perhaps there won’t be any changes. Perhaps Triano and Colangelo will both be around next year, and maybe even the next year after that. Why not?

More good news: DeMar DeRozan’s off to the Rookie Challenge. And that’s exciting. I’m excited. I think. Yes, I am.

Image courtesy Andrew Stark.

Written by Navin Vaswani

February 1st, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Rebounding for two

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Reggie Evans is a rebounding guru. It’s almost religious, the way he goes about his business.

Twenty-two rebounds. In one game. Three more than all of his teammates. Fifteen in the first half. Five fewer than the entire Philadelphia 76ers starting lineup. Or, if you’d like to look at it this way: Twenty-two rebounds, as many as Andrea Bargnani has grabbed in his last 5 games combined.

But I don’t like to look at it that way.

Bargnani will never rebound enough. It’s best to accept him for who he is, love him, and move on. Plus, Evans is rebounding for two. Per 36 minutes, Reggie is averaging the fewest points (4.9), but the most rebounds (16.3), of his career. Combined, per 36 minutes, Bargnani and Evans are good for more than 20 rebounds. Good enough. Andrea will score, Reggie will rebound.

In conclusion: Reginald Jamaal Evans must never, ever leave. Thanks to his exploits, and the work of Amir Johnson, the power forward position is the only productive one the Raptors boast, and it isn’t even close.

Finally, a Canada Goose-inspired warm welcome to Jerryd Bayless. In his debut, the backup point guard combined with Jose Calderon for 29 points on 11-of-17 shooting, 11 assists, five rebounds, and only two turnovers, reminding me of the good old Caldeford days. It’s surely all downhill from here.

Four wins in a row. A half-game out of a playoff spot. Only two games behind the Miami Heat.

Image of Reggie doin’ work courtesy of Reuters, via daylife.

Written by Navin Vaswani

November 25th, 2010 at 2:38 am

Viva White Vegas

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On November 9, after Fox Sports’ Jason Whitlock tore Chris Bosh a new one, Jarrett Jack, Bosh’s bosom buddy and former teammate, opined on the quality of Toronto’s adult entertainment venues:

“I haven’t been to any of the strip clubs here, so they can’t be that good.”

Eleven days later, on November 20, Jarrett Jack was traded to the New Orleans Hornets. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Toronto’s reputation as White Vegas is taken seriously by the Raptors’ front office. It must not be compromised. Especially not by Jarrett Jack.

Jack, David Andersen and Marcus Banks for Peja Stojakovic and Jerryd Bayless. In reality: Jack, Anderson and Banks for Bayless and money. Stojakovic will shoot some threes for a few months, and be on his merry way. He could — and hopefully will be — traded at the deadline. As for Bayless, apparently he can defend. Something neither Jack nor Jose Calderon, once again Toronto’s starting point guard, do very well. Jack was brought to Toronto to appease Bosh. To convince the Raptors’ home grown star to stick around. Didn’t work, obviously. And with another two years and more $10 million left on his contract, he was more than expendable.

There is cause for concern, though. According to the National Post, the Raptors have about $24 million coming off the books next year. Add another $12 million and change to that total — what remains of the Bosh trade exception — and that’s enough money for the soon-to-be re-signed Bryan Colangelo to squash the rebuild Raptors fans so desire. The cycle of mediocrity in this town is nothing short of vicious.

But let’s focus on more positive developments: In their first Sunday home game of the young season, the Raptors beat the Boston Celtics. The first place Celtics. God bless 1:00 pm starts. God bless White Vegas.

Amir Johnson was spectacular off the bench, going nine-for-nine from the free throw line, the final two putting Toronto in the lead for good. More importantly, Andrea Bargnani, now the go-to guy for the young Raptors, dropped 29 on Kevin Garnett and the Celtics. That’s big. That’s clutch. In the previous three years, with Bosh as the number one option, CB4 dropped 29 or more points once against the Garnett-led Celtics. It was January 10, 2010. The Raptors lost 114-107, and Bosh scored 31 points on 9-17 shooting. Garnett wasn’t in the lineup that night.

Image courtesy of twoeightnine.com. Check out their extensive t-shirt collection, and buy your favourite. I own this one.

Written by Navin Vaswani

November 22nd, 2010 at 12:04 pm