SACRAMENTO — The Sacramento Kings needed a late change in defensive assignments to control Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry and pull out a win Wednesday night.
The Toronto Raptors have begun the NBA season with a very familiar 4-14 start, and it is time to start the blame game. The Raptors at the start of this season were talking about contending for a playoff spot. They look more like a contender to win the NBA lottery at this point.
In order to have a draft pick at all, that is what they will have to do because if they do not land in the top three, their pick now belongs to the Oklahoma City Thunder. This is a result of the Kyle Lowry trade and Houston using that pick as part of the package to acquire James Harden.
The Raptors could also make the playoffs and retain their first-round pick, but that is rapidly looking like an unrealistic goal.
Fans face another season where while not mathematically eliminated, Toronto seems destined to be virtually eliminated by the end of the calendar year. This is when the idea of who to blame becomes the focus. So why wait? Let’s get a jump on things and break down who is most to blame for the Raptors’ woes.
Some obvious candidates are Bryan Colangelo, Andrea Bargnani and maybe even Dwane Casey. We will try to make the case for reasons to blame them and maybe a few others along the way.
Who we won’t blame is the Raptors fans that once again have been promised more than they are getting from their basketball team. On some level, long-time fans of this franchise have become far too accustomed to these broken promises over the years.
DeMar DeRozan has finally started to take the word “potential” and is starting to change it to production for the Toronto Raptors. He has been one of few bright spots in an otherwise typical 3-8 start to the Raptors’ season after another loss last night in Philadelphia.
The season for DeRozan started out well, signing an extension with the Raptors just prior to tipping off the season with the Indiana Pacers. On that night, DeRozan was not exactly playing at high level, while on the Internet he was taking tons of shots from all sides on how the Raptors were crazy to pay him $38-40 million dollars.
DeRozan, since that time, has been tearing it up for the Raptors. He is becoming their No. 1 scoring option as a result of Andrea Bargnani having his struggles and Kyle Lowry being out with an injury since the Raptors fourth game of the season, before returning last night in limited action.
If you dig beyond the numbers and to the core of who DeMar is as a young man, it is impossible not to root for him. Personally, I share a common bond with him that will never stop me from cheering for his success.
His motivation to make life better for his family—specifically his mother—is the main reason he came to the NBA early out of USC.
Great human being aside, this is—at the end of the day—a business. Last season, even the people that support and root for him would admit that was not his best.
As we sit 11 games into his fourth NBA season, the superstar talents and athletic ability that were raved about when he entered the NBA Draft are starting to come together.
What can the Raptors expect to get in return for Jose Calderon? There has been lots of speculation that the Raptors would like to move him. That said, unless you are playing NBA 2k13, it might not be all that easy to come up with a deal that makes any sense.
Why is this problematic? Calderon being paid just over $10 million dollars is the major issue. There just isn’t a team out there with the space to take back that kind of salary without giving back a similar amount to the Raptors. Making that math work, combined with a deal that makes logical sense, is not easy. The Raptors are unlikely to be interested in taking back long-term salaries in return, unless it is an amazing deal for them.
This is also assuming the Raptors are still shopping Calderon, which might not be the case anymore. Kyle Lowry has been injured twice for the Raptors already, and we’re in November. He missed time in training camp and now is out with bone bruise for at least a week.
Calderon has recorded his first career triple-double, and he dished out 18 assists against the Orlando Magic. Calderon is one of the better offensive point guards in this league. If he was able to play even an average level of defense, the Raptors would not have had to go get Kyle Lowry.
It is easy to rant and rave on Twitter, or social media, that Raptors need to trade this guy. It becomes harder when you are forced to come up with an actual deal that another team would consider. It would not be shocking to me if the Raptors ultimately can’t find a deal at all.
One team that seems to be a good fit to make a deal for Calderon is the Detroit Pistons. You could come up with a couple logical trades that make some sense for both sides. Here are a couple deals that make some sense:
The Pistons do have Brandon Knight, but this gives them a proven option at the point that can try and address the Pistons’ problems. It also gives them the chance to bring Calderon back as the long term backup for Knight going forward. If not they get to unload the contract of Prince and get some needed cap relief heading into next year.
As for the Raptors, they are in desperate need of something at the small forward and they get a lesser point guard to play behind Lowry beyond John Lucas III. If they don’t like what they see out Bynum, they can let him walk at the end of the season.
A much simpler deal would be a straight swap of expiring contracts:
This deal is just two teams swapping expiring contracts for help at a position of need. Detroit has a lot of combo-style guards, Calderon is an old school point guard and maybe he can spark some life for this team on offense. If the Raptors went this route it would be a sign of pure desperation about their small forward position. There is no question Maggette comes with baggage, but if he is a problem, then you still have the same expiring contract you had with Calderon.
Where this deal may fall apart is if either side wants to throw draft picks into the mix. I don’t see either side liking these deals enough to part with a draft pick, especially not in the first round. The Raptors potentially may not even have a first round pick to deal for next season, with the Kyle Lowry trade and only having their first round pick should they make the playoffs or land in the top three in the lottery.
This could get more interesting for the Raptors if we add the name Andrea Bargnani to the package. Now you could see something big happen.
Here are a couple deals that might be a little crazy, but might not be, depending on how things go for these teams. The New York Knicks have surprised many with their great start to the NBA season. Many feel that when Amar’e Stoudemire returns, so will the same problems the Knicks had last season. Would they consider moving him to the Raptors?
It seems like a long shot, but keep in mind the relationship Bryan Colangelo has with Amar’e drafting him in Phoenix. It would not be the first time Colangelo made a deal for one of his former Suns, as he already tried bringing in Shawn Marion and Leandro Barbosa in the past.
The Knicks get a great three-point shooter in Bargnani to add to the mix that will not get in the way for Carmelo Anthony. Calderon is a solid option at point guard and offers the Knicks some money off the books at the end of the season. Although, this is not something the Knicks have been all that concerned with in the past.
If the Raptors are extremely lucky, they can get a pick out of this as well. This will take the Knicks having to fail again with combo of Amar’e and Carmelo Anthony to happen for this to be even considered. Also, trading inside a division is rare and risky on its own.
The other team that might be willing to gamble on this combo package is the L.A. Lakers. Ever since the trade that never happened for Chris Paul, things have not been the same with Pau Gasol. The Lakers have already been looking at making a swap for Josh Smith from the Hawks.
We’ll call this trade with the Raptors a decent plan “B” for the Lakers if things don’t work with Atlanta.
Why would this be good for the Lakers? Once Steve Nash returns, he gets a guy already proven to be a solid three-point shooter. Bargnani should be able to get lots of open looks from long range with Nash running the show. Calderon is the perfect backup to keep Nash from playing major minutes. He also is very skilled at playing pick and roll basketball like Nash.
Probably a pie-in-the-sky dream for the Raptors fans. Still, it might not be completely insane. However, the Josh Smith deal with the Hawks is the one the Lakers would really want at the end of the day.
This has been fun to play GM here, but realistically the Raptors likely are in no rush to move Calderon. The fans would like to see nothing more than Andrea Bargnani gone after his slow and sluggish start. it is likely a long shot at best right now. Many feel that Colangelo would never move Bargnani and admit defeat on his first overall pick in 2006.
While Raptors fans might be ready for a trade, they may have to wait for awhile, as the appetite around the league to make trades this early is never high. I think the Raptors will try hard to get something for Calderon. I do not expect him to return to Toronto next season given the Raptors’ history of trying to move him in recent years.
In other words, while these deals are possibilities, you should not hold your breath waiting for them to happen. It is just as likely the Raptors cannot find a deal and have Calderon for one final season with the Raptors. They can at least be happy that he is doing his part in helping keep his value high with Lowry out of the lineup.
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As someone who began his life in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, and is also a die-hard NBA fan, I’ve been dreaming about the Brooklyn Nets’ home opener since 2005. In the seven years that I have been waiting for this day, I’ve taken photos at 15 different NBA arenas and became a bit of an arena connoisseur. Join me on a photo tour as my passion and profession collide in Downtown Brooklyn.
The last professional sports game played in Brooklyn was on September 29th, 1957. My father was almost 14, living in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, when his beloved Dodgers went all Hollywood.
Since then, all had been quiet on the Brooklyn sports front until Jay-Z, Bruce Ratner and giant Russian Mikhail Prokhorov landed this rusted spaceship of a stadium on Atlantic and Flatbush Ave.
The stadium opener was scheduled for two days prior. It was supposed to be a knock-down, drag-out fight with the crosstown Knicks for the heart of New York.
Unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy and Mike Bloomberg (the NBA told me to blame him) had other ideas and the game was postponed. This meant the opener then became a game against an underrated Raptors team that was scheduled two days later.
If you look closely, you can see the arena’s scoreboard from the street. I don’t know any other stadium with that. This is the kind of innovative stuff they have going on at this state-of-the-art arena.
Inside it was a beautifully spacious stadium. Everything was a form of matte black, but it was balanced out by a ton of lights to avoid any dark, dingy feeling.
David Stern showed up to deliver a speech before the game. The crowd booed him, but I don’t think they really meant it. Amid the boos, Deron came over and put his arm around David and got a laugh and cheer from the crowd. See, we were just kidding, David, we’re just glad Roger Goodell isn’t the NBA commissioner.
Stern just announced his retirement last week. He will go down as the longest-tenured commissioner in all of sports, with a little over 30 years at the helm. A true legend.
The Raptors’ general manager Bryan Colangelo was in attendance. While his tenure in Toronto got off to a rough start (Rafael Araujo anyone?), Colangelo has been making much better moves as of late, including stashing prized Euro prospect Jonas Valanciunas and stealing Kyle Lowry from the Rockets.
We were also introduced to the Nets’ mascot, the BrooklyKnight. He looked like the love child of Iron Man and a medieval knight. He wasn’t the coolest mascot I’d ever seen, but I’ve seen worse.
Brooklyn Borough President and big time Knicks basher Marty Markoweicz made a speech also. I’m pretty sure he has the most New York accent of all time.
We were really robbed of seeing him collide with the throngs of Knicks fans that undoubtedly would have been here if the original opener not been postponed.
Hearing a Raptors fan saying “Please don’t be a jerk, aye” just didn’t have the same ring.
In a passing of the torch ceremony, Deron and Brook go to half court and exchange jerseys with surviving members of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Jackie Robinson’s wife was supposed to be in attendance at the Nets/Knicks opener, but that was just another thing ruined by Sandy.
Brooklyn’s own Michael K. Williams (AKA Omar from “The Wire”) gave a pregame speech against fan violence. It’s kind of ironic because he spent five seasons on The Wire making violence look cool as hell.
Deron Williams struts down the herringbone court after scoring the first two points in Brooklyn basketball history on a long jumper.
Courtside wait service. Stadiums are getting more and more opulent.
Jonas Valanciunas is able to slip a dunk in. The Lithuanian big man had double-doubled in his first NBA game, but would find much tougher sledding this time around.
New Raptor Kyle Lowry wasted little time lighting the Nets up; he was able to orchestrate an early lead for the road team.
Raptors coach Dwayne Casey seems to have borrowed Nucky Thompson’s carnation for his suit.
Nets coach Avery Johnson stood on the far side of the court, directly in front of one of his bosses, Jay-Z. It must be kind of annoying to have your boss setting three feet behind you while you’re trying to work, even if you boss secretly only owns one-fifteenth of a percent of the company.
“The Brooklynettes” is one of the more clever team specific names for cheerleaders. I wasn’t a fan of their outfits, though—they were trying way too hard to be urban and hip. It was kind of like when Poochie the Dog briefly joined the cast of “Itchy and Scratchy.”
The Lowry onslaught continued.
Remember MarShon Brooks? He went from being a cornerstone of the teams future, to being Dwight Howard bait, to being Joe Johnson’s backup, all in a year. It’s been quite a whirlwind for this young man who’s bent on emulating Kobe (even down to the early career hairdo). One thing we seemed to forget is that he’s a very good two guard in a league with a dearth of talent at that position.
The Nets have the stigma of being a bad team, but they do have a history of success thanks to Jason Kidd. When is trading away Stephon Marbury not the right move?
At this point security came over to me and told me to put away my big camera.
“You can’t use any cameras in here that have a screw on lens,” they said.
I had never heard this before in a stadium. Is this their way of cracking down on uncredentialed photographers like myself? Are they worried that the HD video quality that many cameras now have could lead to unauthorized broadcasts of the game? Is it Jay-Z not wanting people to snap paparazzi shots of Beyonce?
I don’t know what the answer was, but I figured it was time to get my Bourdain on and check out the food scene.
Ugh, twelve ounce Coronas for $9? That’s a $54 six pack. Considering I was able to buy a 24 ounce Corona for $11 in Foxborough two weeks ago, this was a disappointment.
Lucky for me I had filled up on some unfiltered and unpasteurized Zweickle beer at a local German Biergarten before coming to the game.
The Bed Stuy Grill. Bed Stuy is a rough part of Brooklyn where Jay-Z (and my dad) grew up in the projects. Now, he’s bringing that flavor to the masses.
The Avenue K Deli was closed on opening night? Stadium fail.
Wow, they have Habana here, a local Cuban food spot that I love (their Mexican corn is phenomenal)! Unfortunately they didn’t have anything their menu promised aside from nachos. Again, not a great start, food-wise.
There’s sushi, if you’re into getting that kind of thing at sports games. I’m not, so I kept it moving. My embargo against seafood at sports games remains intact.
I was going to buy a Nets jersey (Hump? Brook?), but they didn’t have any available at the team store. Did the concessions people even know they had a game tonight?
This part of Brooklyn was spared the wrath of Sandy, so I’m not sure what is up with the shortages. I know the Nets have a Russian owner, but do their concessions stands have to be as well stocked as a Soviet supermarket back in the day?
One of the most famous Brooklyn eateries is “Juniors,” home to the best cheesecake in the world (and, no, that’s not up for debate). As you can see, the line to fill up on a $8.75 slice of heaven resembles the gas station lines all across the Tri State area.
I bumped in to my old friend David Aldridge who I see at basically every NBA event I travel to.
I settled on the brisket sandwich from “Fatty Cue.” It featured pulled (not sliced) BBQ brisket with a sriracha aioli, pickled carrots and cilantro for a distinctly Vietnamese feel.
It wasn’t the best sandwich I have had at a sports game but I appreciated the creativity that went into it.
Nets fans were having their cake and eating it too, literally.
A Blatche‘d couple. The past year or so, Andray Blatche had become a league wide joke and the former prep-to-pro had seemingly washed out of the league. Similar to Gerald Green last year, the Nets rolled the dice on the big man with an unguaranteed contract (virtually unheard of in the NBA).
I’ve been a Blatche fan since he came into the league and I’m happy to see him getting another chance.
The front runner for “Unofficial Nets Mascot” is this guy, Mr. Whammy. I’m not totally sure what his sign means, but he was very popular with fans and TV cameramen.
I had noticed while ticket shopping that you could get “all you can eat” tickets. Usually at a stadium that means that you are in a section where you are fed a bunch of really generic hot dogs and nachos. To my surprise, these tickets were good at any food stand in the stadium, you just order the food and they scan it.
I see a “Man vs Food” -ish showdown with the Barclays concession stands in my near future.
I hit up Fresco by Scotto for some chicken meatballs. Unlike many sports arenas, the Barclays Center featured a lot of local restaurants, not just generic stadium food from ARAMARK. Bravo Brooklyn.
These were the best meatballs I’ve had at a stadium (not a very high bar to clear).
There was a pre-taped bit with a costumed Reggie Evans, where he told people what Halloween snacks he preferred. Surprisingly the answer wasn’t Chris Kaman’s reproductive organs. It was Starbursts.
Back to the game, the Nets battled back in the second half to take a lead that was at times commanding.
Like many new stadiums, the Barclays Center featured WiFi. Like many new stadiums, the WiFi sucked.
Former Euroleague scorer Mirza Teletovic made it into this ad for B&H Photo, but not into the game. Perhaps he isn’t up to speed with the NBA yet.
Leading the charge for the Nets offensively was Brook Lopez. I’m not only a member of the Brook Lopez fan club, I’m also the president, so seeing him overcoming a myriad of maladies (mono, calcium deposit in his elbow, broken foot) really warmed my heart.
Nice to see the Brooklyn hipster community coming out to support. I really wonder what this would have been like if it was Nets and Knicks fans clashing on the first night? We were all robbed of this experience by a hurricane, mixed with a northeastern, mixed with high tide.
Right behind Avery Johnson you see Ty Ty, childhood friend of Jay-Z, sitting courtside. It’s really amazing that these guys who grew up in Marcy Projects were able to bring a team to their home borough like this.
I grew up blocks away from the stadium (I lived on 175 Lafayette Avenue until I was six) and I share in their delight that Brooklyn finally has a team again.
Native New Yorker Stephen A. Smith looks on as the game winds down.
The score grew tighter than Jim Jones’ pants, but the Nets paraded to the foul line and made their shots. They secured a victory in their highly-anticipated Brooklyn homecoming. Brook Lopez paced the Nets with 27 points while Kyle Lowry finished with a ridiculous 28/8/8 line for the Raptors.
Nucky Casey leaves with a scowl on his face.
On the way out, I noticed a practice court that is visible from the Atlantic Avenue Starbucks. All in all, this stadium is pretty baller. What else would you expect from Jay-Z and an eccentric Russian billionaire?
Nets fans spill out of their rusted house of worship knowing they have just been witnesses to history. Brooklyn is back in a big way.
You could find flaws with the team (no cap flexibility anytime soon, paying Deron and Crash $140 mil instead of just drafting Lillard), but it’s not the time for that.
This city is still in the grips of one of the most serious natural disasters in the country’s history and life is not near returning to normal for most of these people. For a few hours they took a vacation from their power/gas/food/shelter-related struggles and were treated to an amazing stadium and a win for the team that now represents them.
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Toronto guard Kyle Lowry and forward Landry Fields didn’t travel with the Raptors for their game against the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night.
“Onions, baby, onions!” used to be the famous call of former Raptors play-by-play man Chuck Swirsky, when late game heroics were on display for the Dinos.
Lately, the Raptors haven’t had those onions—they’ve been more like sour grapes. At 1-6 the Raptors have struggled to close out games which they had controlled until the end.
When the going gets tough, the Raptors haven’t gotten going.
Who is the closer on this team? Where do the points come from when they are needed?
Below are the most likely options.
1. DeMar DeRozan
DeRozan has been playing inspired basketball since the beginning of the season. He leads the team in points per game with 20.7, averaging 5.6 of those points in the fourth period and overtime.
Although there’s been a small dip in DeRozan’s field goal percentage, he has shown more confidence in his jumper and has also exhibited a determination of getting to the rim. His free throw attempts are up to 6.4 per game from 5.3 a year ago, which would bode well in late game situations.
2. Andrea Bargnani
Bargnani’s versatility was supposed to be a major factor in the Raptors offense this year. His size and ability to draw larger defenders away from the basket was supposed to set up potential mismatches all year long.
We have yet to see this for a full 48 minutes.
Even worse, Il Mago has been virtually non-existent late in games, averaging 2.4 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. He needs to step up, especially in crunch time.
It’s been a small sample size of Lowry for Raptors fans, but reviews have been positive. His swagger and toughness were welcome additions to the team. Lowry has also been stellar in the fourth period of games, nailing momentum-shifting shots and averaging 4.3 points. Only problem is Lowry has only appeared in four games this season.
Injuries to key pieces Kyle Lowry, Landry Fields and Alan Anderson have forced new guys to step up and play bigger roles. We’ve seen some of these X-factors step up and play phenomenal for three periods—unfortunately for the Raptors this isn’t hockey.
A 1-6 record and the inability to close out games they are in command of may see things get a lot worse before they can any better.
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