Last week's Power Forward Friday was on everyone's favourite malcontent: DeMarcus Cousins. I won't take credit for the trade rumours that have blown up since this November 4 article, but I will say it was awfully timely.
Filtering by Category: Raptors
Don't sweat the small stuff. Here's a collection of my other news articles, game previews and recaps from the month of October.
After Friday's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, an early season test won narrowly by the Cavs, I broke down the game with Justin Rowan of Fear the Sword. This post-game show is part of my HQ Overtime series, which will be back for a few standout regular season games.
We’re just sitting down, but we already know how the movie ends. This season will end in an NBA Finals between the Cavaliers and Warriors, as it was foretold by a weak Eastern Conference and a Kevin Durant signing.
While giving a trilogy of Finals matchups its Return of the King moment is exciting, it can leave those on the outside of Oracle and the Q (we the 99%) feeling a little hopeless as the season gets underway. Sure, there are plenty of interesting things happening around the league — new faces, young powers, the almighty questions of continuity. But in a league where radio heads sit on weird podiums and tell us, “it’s all about a championship”, it can lead anyone to sigh and wonder... what are we doing here?
Thankfully, the Raptors have clamoured over the shoulders of other teams, and are one of a handful of prime spoilers, squads that are one piece (or one LeBron ankle injury) away from a Finals berth. Like we heard throughout the playoffs last year, you just have to win and be there to spoil the party. Toronto has balloon pins ready to go.
In order to really boost their chances, though, the Raptors need to acquire a starting power forward. Ever since Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan ascended after the Rudy Gay trade, Toronto has been tailor-made for a stretchy four that the guards can throw the ball into. Despite a 32-point season opener for Jonas Valanciunas, which suggests he’s ready to graduate from cleanup duty, Lowry and DeRozan still run this offense ad nauseam. To be a more well-rounded team, and to take a load off their backcourt minutes, Toronto needs that high post threat. And look, Jared Sullinger is hurt now. They need it bad.
So three years into heavy minutes for Lowry and DeRozan, and with the team closer than ever to breaking through (we hope), the time has never been better for an acquisition.
This is my attempt to diagnose the Raptors’ need. I want to dream out loud about power forwards who can fit the gap in the Raptors offense, and look at how they fit basketball-wise and feels-wise. Then we can pass judgment and deem the nominee fit or unfit.
Let’s start this thing with the man, the former Raptor, the Nickelodeon Teen Choice Award attendee pictured above: Chris Bosh.
Read the rest of my weekly column, evaluating different power forwards and their fit with the Toronto Raptors, at Raptors HQ.
Raptors games begin tonight, so this is my last opportunity to share season projections with the world. I was part of the annual Raptors HQ season preview roundtable, where we talked up the improvement of Jonas Valanciunas, expressed Pascal Siakam hope, and made very sober predictions for how the Raptors will lose. You can check out links to both parts of the roundtable below.
On this week's Raptors HQ podcast, we talked about Jared Sullinger's foot injury and how it'll affect the Raptors in the short and long-term. We also looked at rotation silver linings, the Fred VanVleet signing, and shared some Keon Clark memories (because why not?).
I appeared on Cincinnati's The Corner 3 podcast recently to preview the Toronto Raptors' season, with lots of discussion on the void left by Bismack Biyombo, expectations for DeMar DeRozan, and what the team needs to get over the top in the East.
Turning 30 is a big deal, whether you’re a regular dude facing existential dread, or a basketball player facing an exit from your prime. In the NBA, there are plenty of players who have impact well into their 30’s, but there’s no doubt that a decade rolling over changes perspective, and changes how we talk about a player, fair or not.
DeMarre Carroll just turned 30, as he enters the second year of a 4-year, $60 million deal with the Raptors. While his delightful fashion sense tells us he’s still feeling youthful off the court, there’s real concern about how young he feels on the court. Carroll played in just 46 regular season and playoff games in 2015-16, often fighting through a myriad of injuries that, when listed out, is fairly depressing...
Read the rest of my preview at Raptors HQ.
With the Raptors in a playoff run that's gone well beyond my early expectations, the last six weeks have been a bit of a blur. Here's a few links to things I've done, if you're curious to see.
The Raptors are better than the Pacers, and it's showing - April 22, 2016
After another Raptors collapse, the future will be decided Sunday night - April 30, 2016
The Raptors will be tested by the Miami Heat, and it'll be crazy fun - May 2, 2016
Kyle Lowry is back, and that changes everything for the Raptors - May 9, 2016
Lessons from Game 6, and what the Raptors must do to win Game 7 - May 14, 2016
I've also been hosting a post-game online radio show called HQ Overtime, which gets our writers analyzing the games right after the final buzzer. If you want to check out the archives, they're all up on iTunes. Here's the Game 7 show from the Heat series, with Justin Rowan from Fear the Sword.
Finally, I've been doing a number of interviews on radio and television to chat about the Raptors and all their successes. Here's a couple hits from CTV News Channel.
The NBA playoffs start Saturday, bringing with it two months of cool moments, competition and coloured t-shirts. I've already made obligations to stay up past my bedtime (tee hee!) to watch the games out west, and I've already implicitly burned obligations to do anything that doesn't involve sitting in front of the TV.
It's obviously special, too, to have the Raptors in the running for the third straight year. After a franchise-best 56 wins (and the best winning percentage ever for any Toronto pro team), Raptors fans can finally feel a little at ease with the prospects of winning a first round series. They have a good draw against the Indiana Pacers, they have a sustainable defensive strategy and the roster to carry it out, and there's generally less holes in the boat compared to last year. If they finally play to their potential in the post-season, this team should be good enough to take a game or two from Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals. This would both break new ground for Raptors postseason play and shatter expectations set at the beginning of the year.
There's never been more reason to be excited, yet you can't help but notice that insecurity abounds. Last night, the playoff schedule was released, giving Toronto the playoff opener at 12:30 EST on Saturday for the third straight year. This is the party-starter, sure. It's also earlier than all but a handful of NBA games played, and can theoretically mess with a team's preparedness and have low viewership for TV audiences.
That said, this is an unfavourable time slot in one game - possibly the most meaningless game of the playoff schedule. A first round Game 1 is rarely remembered in the annals of history. We get the warm fuzzies from seeing the fans outside, be reminded of the intensity of playoff basketball, and then we settle in for the long haul. (And, compared to other professional sports, it is stupidly long.)
Raptors fans, though -- god bless them -- are upset. I've seen a few different arguments, so let's go through my perspective on each of them.
Starting a game early is a competitive disadvantage
This one is easy. Last time I checked, the Raptors and Pacers are playing at the same time. In fact, 12:30 in Toronto is 11:30 in Indianapolis -- so if anything, the competitive advantage would be for the Raps.
It's also morning in Winnipeg, where I'm still safely in the "first coffee of the weekend" part of the day. You can't convince me that the NBA playoffs and the first coffee of the day is a bad combination. It's beautiful.
The NBA hates Toronto
The NBA does not hate Toronto. The Raptors are an exemplary franchise from an organizational level. They've built a 55+ win team through the draft, free agency, and development both in the States and abroad. Building on Bryan Colangelo's core, Masai Ujiri has worked the system and come out with a success story. There's simply no argument to be made here. If Adam Silver wanted to railroad a team by scheduling them early, he'd have Houston playing at 9:30 on the west coast -- not Toronto.
American television hates Toronto
Also not true, for two reasons.
First, dollars and cents. ESPN and Turner Sports paid an impossible sum of money for the rights to broadcast these games, and to get investment on that return, they need ad buys. To get ad buys, they need guaranteed eyeballs. American consumer eyeballs. ESPN is in Connecticut, Turner Sports is in Atlanta, and neither of those places benefit much from an extra buck or two. As for Canadian television? TSN and Sportsnet have simulcasts, but they're worth peanuts compared to the contract negotiated between the American networks and the NBA. Also, the Canadian networks have some guarantee that Raptors fans will watch, regardless of time of day. Across the border, the Raptors are just one of 16 teams - and frankly, both they and their opponent are not marquee teams for promotion.
Second reason: there is value in showcasing Toronto as the first playoff game. For the last two years, the scene outside Air Canada Centre has been a great boon for the NBA. Watch the video above and tell me that wouldn't impact decision-making. It gives both ESPN and the NBA the ability to start a game before noon and open a broadcast with rabid fans. It looks good on both sides.
The NBA family as a whole doesn't care about the Raptors
This one is silly, quite frankly. The Raptors are a well-regarded team in the NBA and American media, albeit with the same caveat that we've isolated from covering the team -- they need to prove their worth in the postseason. If Toronto moves on to the second round (and they should), they'll get a whole new set of eyeballs and a level of respect. Whether that matters to you is your personal choice, but it's the truth. The Raptors simply need to win a series to vault themselves on the ol' respect ladder.
Also, in the big picture, why do we care so much what the NBA and American media may or may not think of us? Even if this decision wasn't made with complete logic (it was), why are we so quick to play the victim? The end goal for being a Raptors fan should be for the team to win games, not to win air time out of Scott Van Pelt's lungs. People continue to dwell on "respect" when they talk about the Raptors and they deserve their fair share for what they've accomplished. They'll get more when they continue to win.
That journey, if you want to call it that, begins with a Game 1 at 12:30 eastern time. Even though the Raptors won 56 games this year, they're starting their playoff schedule in the early time slot. It's not a conspiracy, it's a perfectly logical decision. We need to be okay with it.