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Archive for the ‘Toronto Raptors’ tag

Time goes by so slowly

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It’s amazing how much I’ve come to neglect this space — this corner – of late. My excuse: I’ve devoted myself to the Adventures of Joe West. If you haven’t noticed, Joe West’s silhouette has replaced that of a batter in the NotGraphs logo. Since Joe West’s first adventure just over two weeks ago, that’s how far we’ve come.

Time, and Toronto, rolls on. Postseasons are about to officially be missed, and new seasons are about to begin. Death, and rebirth. The cycle of life, yo.

1. Opening Day is less than two weeks away. That is insane.

2. Back in the day, learning about the happenings of Spring Training meant waiting for highlights — awful looking highlights, camera angle wise, too — found in the depths of SportsCenter. Today, I know when Edwin Encarnacion hits a fly ball to the warning track immediately after he’s sent said fly ball to the warning track.

3. The coverage has increased at least a billion-fold, but I still don’t really care about Spring Training.

4. If Rajai Davis hits home runs, Rajai Davis can’t steal bases. The legend of Dwayne Murphy grows.

5. This time of year reminds me of one word, and one word only: Thaw. It’s a fantastic word. Say it out loud: thaw.

6. Ron Wilson starting J.S. Giguere in Miami was straight disrespectful to me as a Toronto Maple Leafs supporter. I’m stupid, but I’m not that stupid.

7. I like to think I’ve made peace with the Phil Kessel deal. That I support it fully, and am glad Kessel’s a Leaf. He’s 23. Kessel won’t be 24 until October. He’s a child! But every now and then, I suffer through fits of doubt. And I’ll be honest: defending Kessel, and the deal, is bloody exhausting.

8. You know who else is only 23? Carey Price. Thanks to The Score, I’ve watched a ton of Montreal Canadiens games this year. Price is for real. And he’s only 23.

9. Michael Cammalleri looks nothing like the Michael Cammalleri of 2009/2010, let alone the Cammalleri of 2008/2009. His struggles, injuries included, are what’s known as sweet justice for not signing with the Leafs.

10. I desperately — very, very desperately — want Nazem Kadri to succeed in the NHL. It would make my life easier.

11. Tomas Kaberle will play in Toronto as a member of the Boston Bruins Saturday night. Awkward. The Bruins are 7-2-3 since the trade, Toronto 6-4-4. Kabba’s got three assists in those 12 games as a Bruin, and he’s +5. But I’ve no doubt: Tomas misses home. If you’re at the game, I hope you remember that Kaberle is love. Give it up.

12. Brian Burke’s got to sign one of Tomas Vokoun or Ilya Bryzgalov. As much as I can’t really stand Ron Wilson, Burke owes it to his BFF to hook him up with at least one year of NHL-calibre goaltending. Imagine the freedom.

13. That being said, thank you, James Reimer. You’ve been the most pleasant of surprises.

14. My brother tells me I’m way too hard on Mike Komisarek. I say I can’t be hard enough. Worst.

15. I’m headed to Detroit next week to watch the Leafs take on the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. If you’ve got any Motor City recommendations, I’d love to read them.

16. I still can’t believe George Packer doesn’t have a Twitter account.

17. I can’t point out the date on a calendar, but I checked out on the Raptors season a long, long time ago.

18. However, this — DeMar DeRozan’s spin move, posterization of two members of the Utah Jazz — might be the play of the year. As always, the reaction from the bench is almost as great as the dunk itself.

19. Re-sign Bryan Colangelo already.

20. What’s up with Gaddafi and the tents?

21. If you’re ever in the Phoenix area during Spring Training, make sure you visit Salt River Fields at Talking Sticks. Incredible facility. I’ll have a post about the place up at NotGraphs in the coming days. And, yes, hanging out with the FanGraphs staff, the best and brightest baseball nerds, in the desert was just as fun as I imagined it would be.

22. Tell me that Toronto FC, led by locals Dwayne De Rosario and Julian de Guzman, will make the playoffs.

Image courtesy Ronnie Yip. Davisville Village stand up.

Written by Navin Vaswani

March 19th, 2011 at 5:40 am

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

The week that was

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We have officially begun week 50 of 52. It’s about the time of year when I curse my immigrant parents for choosing Toronto and not, say, San Diego, and when I try to remember where another 12 months have gone. Time flies when none of Toronto’s pro sports teams make the playoffs.

Goodbye

Scott Downs joined the Toronto Blue Jays almost six years ago to the day as an afterthought. He became so much more than that. Today, he’s an Angel. And he will be sorely missed. Oh, Snakeface. Where do I even begin?

Signed to a minor league contract by J.P. Ricciardi in December 2004, Downs did it all for the Blue Jays. He came out of the bullpen. He mopped up. He made spot starts. He even closed. Through it all, and to very little fanfare, he became one of the best relief pitchers in baseball. Left-handed or right, it didn’t matter to Downs. He made outs, while seldom walking a batter.

What I enjoyed most about Downs was that he wasn’t a flamethrower. He was a pitcher. Fastball, curveball, slider, and a changeup. Nothing overpowering, yet always effective. That curveball; I’ll never forget it.

Over the years, Downs shared the bullpen with the likes of Miguel Bautista, Vinnie Chulk, Josh Towers, Jeremy Accardo, Brian Tallet, Brandon League, B.J. Ryan, Scott Richmond, David Purcey, Josh Roenicke, Brian Wolfe, Jesse Carlson, Jason Frasor, and Kevin Gregg. Save for B.J. Ryan’s freakish 2006 season, I was never as calm as when Downs was on the mound. Above all else, Downs was reliable, and it’s that reliability I’ll miss most.

By signing with Los Angeles, Downs nets Toronto a supplemental draft pick, and the Angels’ second-rounder. That could change, though, and Parkes has you covered on the details. In the end, Los Angeles isn’t Boston or New York, and you’re damn right I take solace in that. Unless Jose Bautista has something to say about it, and, believe me, I hope he does, I’m quite certain Downs will go down in history as Ricciardi’s best acquisition as general manager of the Blue Jays.

Thanks, Scott Downs. Was a pleasure. Enjoy Orange County, and may you write the initials of your children in the pitcher’s mound’s dirt forever.

Winter Meetings

As much as Brett Lawrie wants to begin his Major League Baseball career, there’s no chance that’s happening in April 2011. Lawrie will start the season with the Las Vegas 51s, which means we’re probably in store for more colourful pictures of his time spent away from the ballpark. I can’t wait. Because Lawrie’s the first 20-year-old to have ever been photographed in a compromising situation. In all seriousness, it’s the right move, especially if he’s taking up a new position …

Chalk one up for sanity: Alex Anthopoulos won’t be trading Travis Snider and Kyle Drabek for Zack Greinke. Personally, I don’t believe Anthopoulos considered it. Not even for a second. If we learned anything last week, it’s that Dayton Moore, the man who targeted Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera, should be getting Anthopoulos coffee, not putting together a Major League ball club …

I’m now more intrigued about the prospects of Magglio Ordonez in a Blue Jays uniform than Manny Ramirez.

Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome

I’ve watched the video countless times. If only Brett Favre was on the field, alone, at the time.

In the aftermath of the Metrodome’s collapse, I couldn’t help but wonder: Imagine Toronto was hit with the mother of all snow storms, and our very own SkyDome caved in on itself. Rogers would be forced to build a ballpark. And if they’re serious about buying MLSE, lord knows they can afford a new stadium. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, would spend a season playing in Montreal. Everybody wins.

Make it happen, Mother Nature. As much as I’m a Rogers Centre apologist, I wouldn’t mind some new digs, and this scenario is the only plausible one I can think of.

Saving Bryan Colangelo

On the evening of December 7th, based on Andrea Bargnani’s and the Toronto Raptors’ stats up until that point, here’s what C_R_Black at T.Jose Caldeford concluded:

In summation: Toronto’s offence is 3 pts better per 100 possessions when Bargnani’s on the bench; Toronto’s defence is 12 pts better per 100 possessions when Bargnani’s on the bench; and Toronto’s rebounding is 3 percent better when Bargnani’s on the bench. …

In another (final) summation:

1st point: Despite being the team’s focal point on offence, Bargnani is not a good passer.
2nd point: Despite being a 7-footer (and having a pretty soft touch inside), Bargnani remains a jump shooter.
3rd point: Toronto is better offensively with him on the bench.
4th point: Toronto is better defensively with him on the bench.
5th point: Toronto is better on the glass with him on the bench.

On December 8th, Andrea Bargnani scored 41 points. In one game.

On December 9th, The Globe And Mail’s Michael Grange wrote:

The extension [Bryan] Colangelo signed [Bargnani] to in the summer of 2009 might have looked rich then, but now? The four years and $42-million Bargnani has remaining on his contract look like spectacular value. … It might even make up for signing Hedo Turkoglu.

Conflicted? I’m not. For all his faults, I love the lanky Italian. Nothing would please me more than for Bargnani to be the best player to come out of the 2006 draft. Bryan Colangelo told us to give it five years, at the very least. While Brandon Roy paid early dividends in Portland, Bargnani might have been the best long-term option. I look forward to finding out …

Back to the timeline: On December 11th, Saturday night, after a 1-for-9 performance the night before, December 10th, Jerryd Bayless couldn’t miss. Making his second start at the point, Bayless scored 31 points to lead the Raptors to their largest ever come-from-behind victory. Stuck 25? No sweat. (The Detroit Pistons are AWFUL.)

Bayless for Jarrett Jack might be Colangelo’s Brandon Morrow for Brandon League. Like it or not, Colangelo’s getting an extension. And for the record, I like it. Colangelo’s entertaining. The roster turnover year-to-year in Toronto is nothing short of amazing. So many years later, and I’m still impressed at how immaculately Colangelo dresses. He still exudes confidence. And if the past seven days were any indication, there’s never a dull week.

Road Trip

The Toronto Maple Leafs’ season could have effectively ended Saturday night, after a stretch of fives games against the Eastern Conference’s five best teams. Boston, Washington, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Montreal. I figured they’d win one game, and lose another in a shootout. Three out of a possible 10 points. Instead, they picked up six. Of course they did. The misery must be prolonged. Heading out west, the Leafs find themselves nine points back of Atlanta for the coveted 8th and final playoff spot. Once again, if you’re a fan of the Maple Leafs, the playoffs will take place in mid-December, and early January …

Regular season playoffs!!!1 It’s just not the same …

If the Leafs are serious about making a run towards the promised land, the 8th and final playoff spot, their road record must improve; 3-8-1 just won’t get it done. And we’ll find out just how serious the Leafs are about turning around their season Tuesday night in Edmonton. The Leafs need to take this one. By any means necessary. I’m thinking 8-0. Or 3-2, in the shootout, using double and triple spinoramas. Hell, if the game is decided by penalty shots, I’m all for Phil Kessel skating backwards from centre ice on his attempt. The Oilers need to be embarrassed on home ice the way the Maple Leafs were. Period. And if Ron Wilson’s players don’t come out ready to play, that’s not on Wilson, that’s on each and every Maple Leaf on the ice. I’m so sick of excuses …

Speaking of excuses: Mike Komisarek. He is one. To quote a good friend of mine, Komisarek’s “THE WORST!” …

Mea culpa: I take back every bad thing I ever said about Colby Armstrong. Money well spent …

Waffles: The worst of our many humiliations …

Moving forward, do you go with J.S. Giguere or Jonas Gustavsson? In 15 starts, Giguere’s faced 406 shots, and stopped 363 (.894). Gustavsson, in 14 starts, has faced 407 shots, and stopped 367 (.902). I guess the difference is negligible. And that’s a shame …

Was that Clarke MacArthur/Jaroslav Spacek fight not one of the strangest altercations you’ve ever seen? …

One day, Nazem Kadri will score a goal. There might be a parade in celebration …

Thursday night, in Dion Phaneuf’s triumphant return to Calgary, do you think Flames fans have a “Sloppy Seconds! CLAP-CLAP-CLAPCLAPCLAP” chant in them? Props to them if they do.

Image of our frigid city courtesy Fuck Yeah Toronto.

Rough Weekend

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Four games, two each for the Maple Leafs and Raptors, Friday evening through Sunday afternoon. Four losses. Another shutout of the Leafs’ so-called “offence.” Another broken foot for Reggie Evans. His other one, believe it or not.

I miss the Blue Jays. No, they didn’t make the playoffs. They weren’t even close. But they won more games than they lost. And that fact wasn’t lost on my mental health.

I picked the wrong time of year to quit drinking for six weeks. But, deep down, I know the truth: There’s no right time to quit drinking. Not when you’re immersed in Toronto’s postseason abyss.

Jay Triano, fast becoming the best quote in town, with the final words:

“You go one-through-five. I’m not going to pin it on DeMar. DeMar got outplayed by Joe Johnson. Jose got outplayed by Mike Bibby. Andrea got outplayed by Josh Smith. Sonny got outplayed by Marvin Williams. Joey got outplayed by Al Horford. Fuck. Okay?  … I mean, I’m not picking on our starters for getting outplayed. Amir didn’t outplay anybody on their bench either. Leandro didn’t… They beat us. Every single position. Every single guy got beat.”

Drink.

Image, most apt, courtesy of Reuters, via daylife.

Written by Navin Vaswani

November 28th, 2010 at 3:57 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