Sunday, February 28, 2010

Shock And Awe



The picture is fitting right? Because doesn't Kevin Durant remind you of that cheap video game player your best friend always created? You know what I'm talking about, the one that was taller than anyone else at their position, could score from anywhere, could move incredibly fast for their height, and had 99 overall everything?

Well, that's what the Raptors had to deal with tonight. Except in this scenario, you nor they could press pause or choose to play another game. Instead, this team was forced to sit there and witness an absolute blitzkrieg in the form of the Thunder offense.

It wasn't even fair. And that was made obvious from the start.

Yet though the Thunder dug our grave, we certainly handed them the shovel. I lost count of how many silly or unforced turnovers the Raps committed; only for OKC to run it down our throat right after. Which brings me to my next point.

This season definitely has had its ups and downs. You never know which Raptors team we'll get to show up. But one thing we can be certain about - night in and night out - is that this team will struggle against athletic squads. This game had shades of what happened when we ran into Atlanta twice this season. Not pretty at all.

With the Olympics now over, the question "Do you believe?" can finally be replaced with "When does Chris Bosh come back?".

Because if you haven't noticed yet, the Raptors suddenly find themselves on the verge of slipping in the standings:

(5) Toronto: 31-27
(6) Chicago: 31-28
(7) Milwaukee: 30-29
(8) Charlotte: 28-29
(9) Miami: 29-31

In what was first a situation that had Raptors players telling the media that the playoffs were a guarantee, and all that mattered was where they finished; has now turned into something far from that. Only 3 games separate Miami from Toronto. And as usual with tight races, one of these four teams will unfortunately miss out on the post-season.

Yes, Canada beat USA for the gold medal in hockey.

And of course, Canada set a new standard in gold medal count at the Winter Games.

Heck, even Canada's own Blueprint Cru is invading the America's Best Dance Crew show.

So with that said, I guess you can't win them all - as long as you win more than Chicago, Milwaukee, Charlotte, and Miami that is.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Canada's Got Talent; With Chris Bosh As Guest Judge



You can't tell me it didn't cross his mind. At least once. It had to.

Forget American Idol. Who cares about America's Got Talent. This is the Canadian counterpart of the NBA, and it was the only thing that Chris Bosh cared about on this night.

Yeah sure, Shaq was out. But no one in their right mind would say O'Neal's absence would have more of an impact than Bosh's absence. The Raptors rely on CB4 every night, and as their MVP, Toronto has every right to do so. Averaging 24 points and 11 rebounds a game, he is Toronto's centerpiece in the grand scheme of things. With that in mind, no one expected the Raptors to even stand a chance tonight against the first place Cleveland Cavaliers. Perhaps not even Chris Bosh...

But boy was everyone who doubted the Raps in for a treat.

Though Toronto was unable to come away with the win in an attempt to satisfy the ruckus sold out crowd at the Air Canada Centre, they did manage to impress the most important fan. Tonight, the Raptors proved several things to Chris Bosh:

1. He is surrounded by a team who wants to win as bad as he does.
2. There is talent throughout the roster; both young and of the veteran type.
3. This team has a city ready to back it up.
4. The roster is built for him, meant to take advantage of his strengths.

Make no doubt about it. Chris Bosh probably walked away from that game feeling more satisfied than any of those who managed to take in the game on a Olympic Semi-Finals night. The fact that he was so engaged through the entire game speaks volumes about what he feels in regards to this franchise and city.

With that said, it's most definitely time for the captain to return. Let's all hope that ankle of his feels better soon, because the Bucks and Bulls are galloping for us fast. Momentum is everything in the NBA, and it's starting to feel like we're losing the steam we built up before the All-Star break.

Regardless, great game tonight boys. This city easily forgives you for letting this one slip away. The team played with passion, and that's all we ever ask. On top of that, we're all hopeful Chris Bosh saw what we saw tonight.

You take James away from Cleveland, or Wade away from Miami, and I can guarantee you their respective teams don't put up as big of a fight as Toronto did without their star. Bosh has got to feel good about that, and Toronto should too.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cavs @ Raptors Preview: Reaching Over The Panic Button For My Coffee

It's not exactly time to push the big red button. Not just yet. Soon maybe. But not right now at least. Like Jarrett Jack always says - "It's best to stay even keel". Never get too high, nor too low. So with that said, let's look at what going good for the Raps, and what we can legitimately worry about.

First, the things that keep me up at night when it comes to our Raptors:

Since the team has come back from the All-Star break, they've been playing .500 ball with a record of 2-2.

Memphis L 102-109
New Jersey W 106-89
Washington W 109-104
Portland L 87-107

I'm going to ignore the New Jersey game, because any form of analysis that includes the Nets shouldn't be taken too seriously. So with that said, in our 3 most recent games, what I find most troubling is our defense. It feels like we've resorted back to our defensive ways from earlier on in the season. We're giving up 106 pts per game in each of our 3 losses. Obviously, the stats don't tell us everything, like the fact that the Memphis game went to Overtime, or that Bosh hasn't played in 3 of the 4 games. However, I can't even remember how many times I've heard Leo, Jack, and Matt Devlin talk about "Defense" during this recent stretch of games. With Bosh out, we lose a lot of our offensive firepower, and what's going to keep us afloat is steady defense. Gotta find it again!

The other negative: When's Bosh coming back?!?!

In these last few games, we've gotten a glimpse of what life would be like without Bosh. We had a scare in New Jersey, we almost lost to Washington, and we got our butts handed to us by Portland. To keep things short and sweet: Please hurry back, and please don't leave!

Now onto the greener grass!



Why exactly did I put up a picture of Hedo in his Magic jersey? Because that's the Hedo we've been seeing in the last two games now. Someone needs to look into the possibility that he may have an evil twin, before banning him from the Raptors locker room. This is the Turkoglu we've all been waiting for. One that's aggressive, willing to make the big play, and full of leadership. He doesn't exactly have that "Magic Swag" yet. But come playoff time, I fully expect him to start popping his Raptors jersey.

Secondly, how big has Jarrett Jack been? If there's one thing I've enjoyed while Bosh has been sidelined, it's the emergence of his fellow Yellow Jacket. Sure, he's had his big moments here and there, but lately, Jack has taken it to another level. It reminds me a lot of when TJ Ford took over when Bosh went down to injury in our Atlantic winning season. The guy has been smooth out there on the court. And speaking of smooth, I'm pretty sure I saw you downtown Toronto. I didn't bother you or anything, but you were wearing a hat that convinced me you could be Ne-Yo for Halloween. It's perfect considering that win against the Wizards was all "Because of You".

With all that said, it's time for another date with the Cleveland LeBrons. There's no Shaq, but there's also no Bosh. To me, that means no pressure! If Cleveland wins, we can genuinely point to the fact that we don't have our MVP. However if we win, it would be MAJOR IMPRESSIVE considering Cleveland was able to dismantle a Pierce-less Celtics team the night before.

It isn't the end of the world if we lose, but it sure would be nice if we could walk out of this with the win (especially with OKC and Houston on the horizon). Remember to catch the game tonight on TSN2 at 7:00 pm est.

P.S. Go Canada Go!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Blazers @ Raptors Preview: Raptors Roulette - Turk You're Up




Hey Hedo!

Remember that day? Raptors fans surely do. That was the day you arrived in Portland and gave the Trail Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard a false sense of security - all before backstabbing him for Toronto. Don't get us wrong, that was real sweet of you. No ones ever picked us before like that. But we're thinking the honeymoon may be over now.

So now it becomes a matter of "What have you done for me lately?"

And with the official word that 5 time All-Star Chris Bosh will sit out tonight, there only grows even more of an expectation that Hedo Turkoglu steps up. This season has definitely had its ups and downs. I would even almost call it poetic. Or to be even bolder - scripted. For those of you remember experiencing our first ever Atlantic Division championship season, you know exactly what I'm talking about. It all seems too good to be true, like the season could be turned into a movie.

I'm not J.J. Abrams, but let me bust out the scripts:

Film: Taking The Atlantic
Director: Bryan Colangelo
Producer: Sam Mitchell
Plot: An exiled basketball team does the unexpected and hires one of the most respected General Managers in the world of basketball to bring them to untold fame and glory. Realizing that very little players actually want to play for this team, the "Golden Boy" GM looks elsewhere and ends up hiring miscasts to play for him. With countless new faces, the team unfortunately struggles right away. There is no chemistry. There is no cohesion. There is no will to win. But most importantly, there is no belief in one's own ability. Until finally, a boiling point is reached and an individual finally accepts his destiny as leader. Suddenly, this ragtag team begins to find ways to win. Buzzer beaters. Blowouts. And a family-bond is forged. Together, they surprisingly win their division title. It's the true "Underdog" story, that comes to a thrilling climax when they face their biggest nemesis in the playoffs...

Film: Taking The Atlantic 2
Director: Bryan Colangelo
Producer: Jay Triano
Three years since their most successful season as a franchise, everything has finally gone downhill. The team is in total disarray. Players have come and gone. The "Golden Boy" has lost his following. And the team finds themselves back at square one. On the verge of possibly losing his leader and best player, the "Golden Boy" decides to modify the "Formula" that initially earned him his fame. This time around, not only does he revamp the team with multiple new faces and miscasts, but he also ends up acquiring the most sought after player in free agency. With countless new faces, the team unfortunately struggles right away. There is no chemistry. There is no cohesion. There is no will to win. But most importantly, there is no belief in one's own ability. Until finally, a boiling point is reached and they go through an "Emergency Team Meeting". The result? The team begins to hit their stride and play to their potential; ultimately becoming one of the hottest teams in the NBA...

***

See what I mean Raptors fans? It's like Disney's Mighty Ducks all over again! And how "Hollywood" would it be if Turkoglu's finest hour as a Raptor up to this point ends up being against the team he decided to ditch for us! So stay tuned tonight at 7 pm EST on The Score!

Lights. Camera. Action!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

With A Side Of Red [The Marco Polo Edition] - Feb.23/10

Aright, for those of you that have read my work before, you know that whenever I put a "With A Side Of Red" piece together, it doesn't involve any statistical breakdowns. I like to stay away from that stuff and keep it simple in this particular column of the GamePoint Blog, but I just couldn't resist today. I had an entire entry written about Marco Belinelli before somehow losing it...To be fair though, I won't go into as much detail about the topic from a stat perspective, because well - I don't want to remind you of algebra class.

Anyways, let's do this. Here's you favorite side dish to whatever it is you're doing.

First off the bat, let's start this snow covered Tuesday right. A fresh and youthful take on the Toronto Raptors is what this blog is all about, and I can't get anymore fresh and youthful than with this next piece of news.



Please tell me you guys know what that is. Hint: It's only the most famous sports video game loading screen of the 90s. That's NBA JAM! And it's being remade by EA Sports for old and new fans alike.

The bad news? It will be exclusively for the Wii. That's no jab at Nintendo, I just don't own one. Of course, I'm pretty sure I'll be tempted to grab the console once the game is released.

The Good news? The Toronto Raptors will be on it this time around. How sweet is that? Now, everything's all about the community, so EA Sports has nicely taken the fans into consideration. As the potential buyers of this game, they're letting us choose which players will be selected to represent their respective teams. And this week, the Raptors are up. So what are you waiting for? Even if you won't get the game, help the Raps become one of the more fun teams to play with. Here's the link:

Vote In Your Raptors Squad For NBA JAM

NBA JAM Before


NBA JAM After


Now, where in the world did that Italian sharpshooter's minutes go? And no I'm not talking about the taller one, apparently he's the "Defensive Stopper" (well at least that's what I think I heard Leo Rautins call him). No - I'm talking about the one and only Marco Belinelli. Hands up if you forgot he even played for the Raptors in the last few games? Yeah, me too.



In the last 5 games, Marco has gotten 3 DNP-CDs (Did not play, coach's decision). In the 2 games he did play, these were his stats:

PHI: 10 min, 0 pts, 2 reb, 1 ast, 0/5 shooting
NJ: 9 min, 1 pts, 0 reb, 2 ast, 0/1 shooting

Contrary to the belief of some of your friends, Marco Belinelli is and can be useful to this team. Unfortunately, he has to compete with a group of swingmen that include:

DeMar DeRozan (The Raptors are heavily invested into their lottery pick rookie)
Hedo Turkoglu (A 50 million dollar contract is always hard to beat in the rotation)
Antoine Wright (Arguably our most consistent swing both on offense and defense)
Sonny Weems (Consistent jumper, good defender, and always injects energy into the game)

Yes, he has been inconsistent. Yes, his unnecessary fadeaway jumper makes you want to throw something at your TV. But don't get it twisted, Marco has played SIGNIFICANT roles in the most of the Raptors' biggest games. Can anyone else say Marco wasn't a big reason why we were able to keep up with the Lakers and eventually win the game? I don't think so. He was key down the stretch. Also, take this into account. Against the Big 4 of the Eastern Conference (Cleveland, Orlando, Boston, Atlanta), this is what Belinelli is averaging in games that he played at least 1 minute in:

10 games
18.4 minutes
9.2 pts
1.4 ast
1.2 reb
12/22 from 3pt (55%)
36/75 from field (48%)

Believe it or not, but that's HUGE for someone who comes off the bench for around 18 minutes a game. It's basically a certainty that the Raps will end up playing one of those teams in the first round of the playoffs. And I believe if we're going to stand a chance, then Marco needs to find his game again.


LASTLY, I want to leave you guys on a good note, a shinning glimmer of hope in regards to the Chris Bosh and free agency drama. Here's an article from NBA.Com that has CB4's biggest hint about what may just happen this off-season. I won't spoil it for you, so check it out here:

NBA.Com - Free agency story won't end the way we think, says Bosh

ALSO, before I go, I'd like to give a big THANK YOU to two groups of people. The first being the good folks at RaptorsRepublic for putting up some of my articles on their website in the last week. They surely don't have to, I realize that, and I don't expect it to be a norm. But as an author of a totally irrelevant blog in the grand scheme of things, it means a lot and makes this 100x more fun.

The second THANK YOU goes out to everyone who voted for me in the Pros Vs. Joes Raptors Debate Tournament brought to you by Whotheman.com. I'm one round away from a dream battle with phdsteve of RaptorsRepublic in the finals. Win or loss, that would be a great experience for me. Keep the support flowing through!

Whatever it is you're doing Raptors fans, I hope you enjoyed it With A Side Of Red!

Monday, February 22, 2010

With A Side Of Red - Feb.22/10

Riding that GO-Train? Gotcha Covered. Waiting for the TTC? Yup, you too. Stuck in class? Definitely gotcha covered. I'm here with another edition of "With A Side of Red", your favorite side dish to whatever it is you're doing.

The first course of Raptors tidbits has us with the official Internet debut of Chris Bosh's First Ink commercial. It's been a highly discussed Raptors topic among fans because of the lyrics that accompany the advertisement:

"Rep T-Dot Till They Bury Me."

A teasing and/or cold hearted form of marketing? Or a sign of things to come? Either way, it's one of the best Raptors-related commercials I've seen awhile; and definitely a million steps up over Hedo's "Yes Coach" ad. Make sure to support our Raptors captain by picking up your own copy of Bosh's DVD "First Ink" at HMV or through his website www.chrisbosh.com.

And for those who haven't seen it yet, here's the video:



Secondly, how awesome has Jarrett Jack been?

So awesome that even David Aldridge of NBA.Com and TNT has taken notice. Here's a quote from his latest NBA.Com article:

"Dollar for dollar, Toronto's Jarrett Jack might be the best free-agent pickup this season. Four years, $20 million is pretty good value for a guy shooting 48 from the floor (and 41 from 3-point range), averaging 10 and five."

Reading that makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. Now only if Hedo can get it going. You can check out the rest of his article here:

David Aldridge

Alright, so it's Monday right? That means one thing in the world of the NBA. POWER RANKINGS! Let's check out where the Raptors finish at for this week in two of my favorite PRs.

NBA.Com Power Rankings
Raptors (8): With a home-heavy schedule, the Raps have won 10 of their last 12. They haven't faced a team with a winning record in almost a month, but will see four of them in the next eight days, a good test to really start the home stretch.

ESPN Power Rankings
Raptors (11): The Raps are 20-7 since their 11-17 start. They made it through the trade deadline having endured only minimal Bosh speculation. And they know Colangelo is staying as GM whether Bosh stays or not. Pretty good times.

Not bad Toronto. Not bad. Especially at this time of the year.

Lastly, Scott Carefoot of The Score managed to capture this picture from their highlight package of the Suns game last night. It has our very own National Basketball hero showing his displeasure in regards to Canada's lost to the United States in Men's Olympic Hockey. Classic.



It's a big week for Raps fans. Some crucial games coming up against stellar teams. Chris Bosh is looking like he may NOT be able to go this Wednesday against the Blazers. Yikes. Hopefully all goes well. It's time to turn the intensity up another notch. But for now, that's all I got.

Whatever it is you're doing, I hope you enjoyed it "With A Side of Red"!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Blood, Sweat, and Tears - Literally


Tonight, the sport of basketball was given a rare Saturday night spotlight at the Air Canada Centre. A national stage was made ready for showcasing; a stage usually reserved for a particular blue and white. Sure, there are traditions here in this country that have etched their importance in millions of Canadian hearts. But you know what? After that thrilling 109-104 win against the Washington Wizards, I'm sure the Raptors managed to win over countless new fans throughout the country.

Yeah. We get it. Toronto is a hockey town (but don't tell that to Chris Bosh). And yes, Canada loves their hockey. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. But understand one thing T-Dot: This Toronto Raptors team is a squad you can safely be proud of.

Don't worry, you can blindly put your trust into this Toronto-based team. You can put forth that hard earned money of yours to purchase a ticket to a home game, and you know what? You won't be disappointed. Why? Because this team has everything this city is known to love and value.

They're scrappy. They put their body on the line. They're blue collared. They're as diverse as a team you can possibly find in the NBA. They have that finesse game. They oohh. They ahh. And most importantly, they have that one figurehead, a captain, a star capable of being so big in this city that they could put it up on top of the CN Tower for Christmas.

And what a better time to showcase all of this than on CBC during a very rare "Basketball Night In Canada". That game had to rank near the top in regards to intensity this season for the Raptors. It had everything. Heck, both teams even drew blood. A Toronto team that doesn't take losing very well - it's refreshing and something we should embrace.

Whether it was Jarret Jack leading the charge, Turkoglu hitting timely buckets, or Bargnani defending the basket with force, Toronto and Canadian basketball fans were on their feet.

Basketball Night In Canada. It has a certain ring to it doesn't it?

With A Side Of Red - Feb.20/10

A Shoon Classic; More Info Below


You know what it is, another edition of your favorite side dish to absolutely anything and everything. With A Side Of Red - your source for random Raptors tidbits.

First off, an apology to Mr. Hedo Turkoglu. Two days ago, I put out an article wondering what Hedo Turkoglu's "My Player" teammate grade would be in his performance against the Memphis Grizzlies. Obviously, it was an article poking fun at Turk and his unforgettable stat line.

However, last night, it was revealed that Turk had been away from the team recently due to his mother going through an emergency open heart surgery. The dude is playing with a lot on his mind right now, and that I can fully understand. Family comes before basketball. Always. Here's Hedo's post game media scrum after last night's game.



Secondly, how awesome was Rasho last night? If only the world knew he could have saved many fantasy basketball teams this weekend...sigh. But seriously, the guy epitomizes what it means to be a professional. Time to grow that playoff beard Rasho!

Side of Red Note: That picture at the top has viral potential. The creator of the masterpiece is Shoon from REALGM RAPTORS. You can check out more of his work through this link:

Katsenhakeron Deviantart Profile

Lastly, tonight, the Raptors will be making history. Being that the Olympics have put the NHL on a break, the ACC will not be able to host their usual Toronto Maple Leafs.

Meaning?

CUE THE TORONTO RAPTORS AND THE FIRST EVER "BASKETBALL NIGHT IN CANADA ON CBC"!

*starts humming modified version of Hockey Night In Canada theme song*

Raptors Vs Wizards tonight at 7pm est on CBC

Until then, whatever it is you're doing, I hope you enjoyed it With A Side Of Red!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Raptors @ Nets Preview [Feb.19/2010]

After a disappointing loss to the Grizzlies on Wednesday night - a loss that snapped our season high 8 game home winning streak - only one question takes centre stage:

Which Raptors team shows up against the Nets tonight?

So which side of the Raptors coin do the Nets flip? After all, the dismal Nets (5-49) have been fortunate enough to see both sides of the Toronto Raptors.

Consider their first meeting with New Jersey. In that game, Toronto jumped out to a commanding lead right from tip-off and never looked back. The Raptors (or Huskies) made it a mission to establish they were the better team and managed to put up a dizzying 39 points in the first quarter. On top of that, the Raps also didn't take their foot off the pedal, something they've garnered a reputation for. Continuing to pour it on in a final score of 118-95, 7 Raptors ended up finishing the night with double digit scoring.

Fast forward to February 3 for the rematch, and immediately, a difference could be noted. There was no instant blitz from the Raptors' offense. And smelling that the Raps were not at their best, the New Jersey Nets took advantage. For most of the game, NJ played with a rare confidence, the same confidence that could be found in their 4 only previous wins of the season. The double digit scoring was something exclusive to only the starters this time around. But fortunately, the Raps were able to avoid that disaster with a final of 109-99.

Being division rivals, the Raps and Nets are scheduled to meet two more times, with the first of those two set to take place tonight in NJ. Excuses were being thrown around Toronto after their gut wrenching overtime loss to Memphis; the more popular one involving rust from the All-Star break. But tonight, there will be NO EXCUSES. Tonight is a must win. Will the Raps bounce back without their captain Chris Bosh? Or will they show up like the team that has disappointed Raps fans all over the country?

There's only one way to find out. Tune in tonight on TSN2 at 8pm eastern. Raptors Vs. Nets.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What Would Hedo's "My Player" Grade Be?





In a world hampered by the recession, there is one industry that seems to be immune to it all - the business of video games.

Video games have thrived in the past and will always continue to find success because it appeals to all ages. You've got your action and adventure games, your puzzle games, music-inspired games, and even games that encourage you to stay fit. But what's the one division of the gaming world that is basically foolproof when it comes to sales? You guessed it. Sports games.

So what happens when you take a sports game like NBA 2K10 and fuse it with our favorite NBA team? Simple, you get this thought-provoking mystery:

"What was Hedo Turkoglu's "My Player" teammate grade last night?"

If you own a copy of NBA 2K10, you've probably played their newest feature called "My Player". In this mode, you take control of one individual instead of the usual full team. Though it does have it flaws and bugs, the developers did a fair job in their first year with the game mode in regards to capturing what it feels like to play basketball in real life.

One of the key features of "My Player" represents itself through the game's grading system. In an attempt to give gamers something to play for, a player must gain skill points. These points can then be used to upgrade their player's abilities (these range from obvious skills like mid range shooting, ball handling, and on ball-defense to little things like clutch factor, stamina, and strength). Now, in order to gain these skill points, you basically have to earn a passing grade from the game. This can be done in each game by completing objectives such as "Commit less than 2 turnovers" or "Shoot better than 40% from the field". Another way you can gain points is by simply playing like how you would at your local community centre. In other words: "Don't be a jerk." Be productive. Be a good teammate. And don't goof around.

Which got me thinking about Hedo Turkoglu's wonderful performance last night against the Memphis Grizzlies.

29 minutes
1 point
1 rebound
2 assists
1 steal
3 turnovers
3 fouls
0% FG
0% 3pt%
50% FT%

Objectives

Limit your matchup to 15 points - FAILED
Commit less than 2 Turnovers - FAILED
Score at least 10 points - FAILED
Shoot better than 40% from the field - FAILED
Shoot better than 30% from the field - FAILED
Shooter better than 20%... - FAILED
10%? - FAILED
Entertain us with one word answers - FAILED
Finish the game with a teammate grade of A+ - FOREVER IN PROGRESS

The Good
Fill Lane Correctly - 2
Defensive Rebound - 1
Good Pass - 2

The Bad
Bad Shot Selection - 5
Turnover - 3
Bad positioning - 3

Lacking Effort
Assists - 1
Points - 1
Relevance To The Team - ....

Analysis
Individual Performance: -200 skill points
Highlight Plays: 0

Wise Words From The NBA 2K Insider
Wow! That was a great game...for the other player that had to guard you. Luckily for them, they didn't have to worry about you for an entire 4 quarters. Did you walk away from the television screen thinking you had pressed the "Pause" button? Fortunately for you, that contract of yours is unmovable. There's absolutely no advice I can give you at this point. Maybe we can just return the game from where you bought it?


Teammate Grade: F

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Race For Gold...Or 50

Sure, there aren't any ringing cowbells. There are no waving flags. And the world has not come to set up camp in our city. But in the city of Toronto, there too begins a race for something that has yet to be experienced in Canada before. Our torch? The hot streak that has laid even the strongest of teams as victims. Our uniform? This team also proudly wears the red and white into every competition. And our gold? The 50 win mark. A goal that Canada's only NBA franchise - the Toronto Raptors - view to be within reach.

But can we make it?

Going into tonight's game against the Memphis Grizzlies (26-25), the Toronto Raptors seem to be finally hitting their stride. The men in red have managed to win their last 8 home games, as well as 8 of their last 10 games in general. In what was a dismal start to the most important season in the franchise's 15 year history, has now turned into a magical season that has the city of Toronto buzzing. Sitting somewhat comfortably in the 5th seed of the Eastern Conference with a record of 29-23, exactly what needs to happen next?

Well the picture is clearer than ever. 30 games left on the schedule. The pace needed for this race? 21-9.

Here are the remaining games on the schedule:

February Opponent
Wed 17 vs Memphis
Fri 19 @ New Jersey
Sat 20 vs Washington
Wed 24 vs Portland
Fri 26 vs Cleveland
Sun 28 @ Oklahoma City

March Opponent
Mon 01 @ Houston
Fri 05 vs New York
Sun 07 vs Philadelphia
Tue 09 @ LA Lakers
Wed 10 @ Sacramento
Sat 13 @ Golden State
Sun 14 @ Portland
Wed 17 vs Atlanta
Fri 19 vs Oklahoma City
Sat 20 @ New Jersey
Mon 22 @ Minnesota
Wed 24 vs Utah
Fri 26 vs Denver
Sun 28 @ Miami
Mon 29 @ Charlotte
Wed 31 vs LA Clippers

April Opponent
Sat 03 @ Philadelphia
Sun 04 vs Golden State
Tue 06 @ Cleveland
Wed 07 vs Boston
Fri 09 @ Atlanta
Sun 11 vs Chicago
Mon 12 @ Detroit
Wed 14 vs New York

Looking at the schedule, here are my worst case scenarios. I see 3 wins for the rest of February, 7 wins in March, and 5 wins in April. Obviously, these are my predictions if the Raptors take care of business against lesser teams and in games where they are the favorite. On the flipside, the Raps have been known to be no-shows on some nights. But if the team is fine with playing at a mediocre level for the rest of the season, that would leave them with a 15-15 record in the last 30 games of the schedule, and a final record of 44-38.

Unfortunately, that's 6 games shy of the 50 mark. The Raptors have proven to be capable of stealing games from stronger opponents during this recent surge, but I don't expect them to continue to knock out every elite team they come across. Realistically, I see them sneaking out a few wins against teams with better records, but then I also see them giving games away as well. If the Raps want that 50 mark, they're truly going to have earn it. The rest of the season will surely serve as a proving grounds...

Here are certain stretches in the remainder of the season that I think every Raptors fan should have marked on their calender:

- The next back-to-back sequence involves dates with the New Jersey Nets and the Washington Wizards. Much has been made of the Raps' struggles in back-to-backs, but if the team wants to reach 50, these are MUST WINS!

- The rest of February goes through games against Portland, Cleveland, and OKC. These games have 1 day of rest in between each other. Neither of these teams will just lay down for us. Going 0-3 during this stretch is something the Raptors need to avoid.

- The 4 game West Coast swing in March will have the Raptors facing off against LA, Sacramento, Golden State, and Portland. Ideally, you'd want the team to split the 4 game set. The LA game looks bleak, while taking on the Blazers on the second night of a back-to-back during a tiring trip makes things tough.

- Feb.28/29 has us playing Miami and Charlotte on a back-to-back. This really has more significance to the playoff race in general than it does with our quest for 50 wins. Though, technically speaking, finishing above these two teams will probably go hand in hand with the 50 win mark.

- Wow. Just looks at April 6-11. There's Cleveland, Boston, Atlanta, and Chicago. These are guaranteed classics if the Raptors decide to compete. Each and every one of these games will have a lot on the line. At this point, Cleveland will probably be duking it out with LA for home court advantage throughout the post-season. While Boston, Atlanta, and Chicago will all be duking it out for playoff positioning.


And there you go Raptors fan, the race for 50 wins. Just like the constant barrage of Canadian Olympic advertising campaigns always asks:

"Do you believe?"

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Post All-Star Thoughts

Finally home. Part of me is going to regret taking my time in Dallas for granted, while part of me is glad it's over. The All-Star weekend definitely had its highlights, but it also had its lowlights. Either way, it turned out to be something I'll never forget. Let's get right into it.

Friday Night (Rookie game and Dunk-In)

I'll be honest - I was more interested in what was happening during halftime than the actual game. I practically ended up missing the entire first half because I was too hyped about what our Raptors rookie DeMar DeRozan had in store for us.

As we all know, the NBA is a business. And what better way to turn up All Star weekend a few notches by adding a little bit more of what all the fans came to see - jaw dropping dunks. And thus, the first ever dunk-in.

The result? Hmmm...Meh.

I should have known DeRozan was going to hold back. The rookie played it safe, perhaps too safe. Fortunately for DeMar, Eric Gordon had trouble throwing it down. I'm as biased as a Raptor fan can get at times, but if Gordon had been able to put down those dunks on the first attempt, things may have been different.

As for the actual rookie game? Three things.

1. I feel terribly bad for Brook Lopez. He has to put up with all the losing in New Jersey. And then he finally gets to play on a team that is favored to win; and then loses that game as well. Yikes.

2. DeJuan Blair is the real deal. He cleaned up the glass like it was no one's business. The Spurs rook just has that feel for the ball, that instinct you can't teach. You need a player that brings what Blair brings to the table on every championship team. San Antonio really lucked out on him. Hopefully those knees hold up for him.

3. There was a bit of a debate going among NBA fans about the MVP award for the game. But let's get one thing straight. Tyreke Evans' performance in the first half was a huge reason why the rookies were able to win the game. He really set the tone for the rookies and kept the sophomores on their heels the entire night.

Saturday Night (Skills Night)

Every year, this turns out to be my favorite night of All-Star Weekend. Every season, Friday's rookie challenge looks like a YMCA pick up game, while Sunday turns out to be a snooze fest (maybe that's because they always seem to freeze out Chris Bosh). So in at least the last couple of years, the one night I always tune in for the entire show is on Saturday. Part of the reason is because the events shown often remind me of the fun basketball mini-games I used to play at summer camp or participate in during high school pep rallies.

H.O.R.S.E - I was a bit skeptical about this last year. Little did I know, my skepticism came a year early. Last year's competition was actually fairly entertaining. This year's version of the popular basketball trick shot game was absolutely awful! No one busted out any real trick shots, the crowd looked disappointed, and I'm pretty sure even the eventual 2-time champ Kevin Durant didn't want to be there. It even got to a point where I thought players were missing attempts on purpose because they were running out of time. I DARE you guys to find me someone involved in the organization of the events to tell me that they actually thought they'd use up the entire 1 hour time slot put aside for this event. The only thing that kept it going was the fortunate presence of the TNT broadcast crew.

Shooting Stars - People hate on this part of the night all the time, but I don't see how anyone could use this particular one as an example of why they should just get rid of the "Shooting Stars" competition. This actually had me on the edge of my seat a couple times. From the last second half court shots, to the very impressive times put up by the Texas team, it was all good. Fun, fast paced, and a good mix of basketball players is always a good formula.

Skills Competition - Forget the dunk-off. Forget the 3-point competition. This is where it's at for me. What happens when you take some of the best point guards in the NBA, and throw them into an obstacle course? You get Steve Nash victorious of course. Like many other Canadians, I called that. You could see it on his face, Steve was still on a high from his experience of the Vancouver Olympic Opening Ceremonies. There was no way he was going to lose. As much as I love this event though, they seriously need to upgrade it some. Take away the carrying that most - if not all - the point guards do. And then add another feature to the obstacle course!

3 Point Shootout - Looking at the list, 1 through 6, this turned out to be a fairly respectable group of shooters. I wasn't really too high on Paul Pierce lobbying to get into the competition. But it proved to be worth the hassle he went through, as the self-proclaimed "Best shooter in the world" ended up taking the 3-point crown. I truly despise the Celtics (except Ray Allen). Why did it have to be Pierce? Anyone else could have won. My two sleeper picks coming into the shootout was Channing Frye and Danilo Gallinari. Unfortunately for me, not only did I feel they were slept on, but neither of them woke up for the competition. ALSO. Mark my words: Stephen Curry will win this shootout one day.

Slam Dunk Contest - Ugh. Sigh. OMG. Whatever words, phrases, symbols you can think of to summarize this year's dunk contest, throw it out the window because it wouldn't be able to describe the travesty that occurred in front of millions. Ladies and gentlemen, that WAS NOT a dunk contest. That was something else. That was the most disappointing thing ever associated with the NBA. Gerald Wallace didn't even look like he wanted to be there. He should be fined for pulling off the pathetic dunks he decided to go with. Shannon Brown - who will forever be mocked because of his petition website - put forth his candidacy for "Biggest Dud of the Weekend". DeMar DeRozan didn't show us the two dunks "no one has ever seen before", while also letting the title slip away from him. And the champion? Nate Robinson? The dude won the title using his old dunks from previous contests. What in the world was that? Did you see the looks on the faces of the audience? They looked pissed off! The NBA players sitting sidelines put away their camera-phones, the commentators were taking jabs at the participants. It was definitely a forgettable event. Yet I'll always remember it as the night DeRozan gave away the Slam Dunk title. He could have done anything but the last dunk of his, and he would have won the event. I've seen him do a 360. I've seen him bounce it off the glass/floor before doing a windmill. Any of those would have been better than that awful final attempt. Yikes.


Sunday Night (All-Star Game)

The night I usually end up flipping channels on turns out to save the weekend. It's like the typical story of the unexpected hero. The thing that had everyone talking about this year's All-Star game was the fact that it was going to be held at Cowboys Stadium. They say everything is bigger in Texas. And boy, is that an understatement. This building is ridiculous! Have you ever wondered where all that stimulus money went? Well look no further than Arlington, Texas.

How was the crowd and the entertainment? Mixed emotions here. This was the first All-Star game I had ever attended, so I can't really say I have a firm grasp on the typical All-Star crowd. But the apparently 100,000+ people that were there couldn't hold a candle to the crowd at the ACC. They were dead! And on top of that, there was an incredible amount of empty seats by the second half. Speaking of halves, the halftime show was hit and miss for me. Shakira wore her hips but forget her voice. Thankfully, Alicia Keys was amazing.

As for the actual game. What made it watchable for me was the fact that they actually got Chris Bosh involved. It's pretty tough to get your touches and shining moments on a team that has LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. Thankfully for Raptors fans, Bosh was playing in front of his hometown, and so it was expected that he got "HIS".

And for those who say Bosh can't hang with the best. Well, what do you say about last night's game? Chris Bosh looked like he fit right in with everybody, and it's been awhile since we could say that about one of our Raptors. He was one of the only players who cared about rebounding. He made sure not to be regulated to the role of "Inbounder". He showed off the full arsenal of offensive moves. And he made the fancy plays.

And on top of that? He provided the East with the game winning points. Had he not missed those two free throws earlier on in the 4th quarter, nor had he missed an open jumper, or botched that alley-oop from James, Toronto may had just gotten their first ever All-Star MVP.

And there you go. All-Star weekend from a Raptors fan's perspective. Thanks for reading! I'm out.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Calm Before The Storm

Tonight marked the night the world got a small glimpse of what Raptors rookie DeMar DeRozan had in store for NBA fans of all ages. Seated here in my hotel in Dallas - got tickets to see the game on Sunday - I sat patiently, eager to see what the "Compton Kid" was going to bust out.

And the honest to goodness truth?

I was left slightly disappointed. But that's my own fault really. I simply was just too greedy. As a Raptors fan coming off a high of the recent success the team has been seeing, I wanted DeMar to go out there and absolutely destroy Eric Gordon.

"We're always forgotten about" Chris Bosh said of the Raptors during his All-Star weekend scrum. "We don't get any nationally televised games in the States...the players don't get the recognition...DeMar DeRozan was even left off the rookie team."

It's that same lack of respect the Raptors usually get that fueled a strong desire in me to see DeRozan make a statement right off the bat. But DeMar played it right. And good on him for not busting out the bag of tricks tonight, something that any young player would have gotten caught up in doing.

He simply did what needed to be done, and that's advanced to the real battle tomorrow night. It's going to be special ladies and gentlemen. DeMar barely looked like he was trying during the dunk-in, and I'm glad both the commentators and the voters saw that as well.

DeMar's a showman. If you've followed him throughout his AAU days, during his high school career, and as well at USC, you know DeMar loves to put on a show. And let's be real here for a second - but DeRozan did NOT put on a show tonight. For someone as energetic and excited as he's been, he didn't show any of it on his face or in his dunks tonight. And you know what? That's exactly how he wants it.

He's promised us something special for this weekend. And I believe he'll pull through. Get ready Raptors fans. A storm is brewing, and your high flying rookie is in the centre of it all.





Thursday, February 11, 2010

With A Side Of Red - Feb.11/10

You guys feel that in the air? That - ladies and gentlemen - is the electric atmosphere that is packaged with every exciting NBA All-Star Weekend. Or it could be the odd snow falling in Dallas right now...

Regardless of that, you guys know what this is - another edition of With A Side Of Red! Your stop for your daily dose of random Raptors related news.

First off the menu, according to basketball-reference.com, the Toronto Raptors have the 3rd most loyal fanbase in the entire Association. They take into account a team's actual attendance and what their fans expect of them. Here's the top 5:

1. Chicago Bulls (Makes sense considering their Jordan years)
2. Utah Jazz (Not surprised when you consider how awesome their home games are)
3. Toronto Raptors (The best in my eyes)
4. Dallas Mavericks (Multi-billionaire owner always willing to spend for a good team)
5. San Antonio Spurs (That's what happens when you assemble a dynasty)

To see the rest of the list, check out Most Loyal Fanbases

Next up, TMZ is apparently reporting that our very own rookie DeMar DeRozan will be utilizing "Thriller" elements in the dunk off as a tribute to Michael Jackson. Honestly, I can do without the gimmicks, and would actually prefer straight up dunking. But that's just me. And yes, I understand, these days the gimmicks are just as important as the dunks. Oh well, call me old school, but I miss the days where dunk contests just had exactly that..dunking.

Regardless of that, I think it's smart on DeMar's part. If he plays it right, it could work in his advantage. Check out the article here:

DeRozan To Use "Thriller" Elements In Dunk Contest

The third course of the day is my favorite, and really doesn't have anything to do with the Raptors surprisingly. If you've been a follower of my blog, you might have read my little rant about the media and how they never mention anything good about the Raptors. Sure, that might have worked last year, but surely you can say something nice about the Raps this season...something...ANYTHING! On top of that, the American media always come out with the wildest reports of Bosh leaving Toronto. 100% this. 100% that.

And though the Raptors still don't really get the love they deserve, at least now it's not just the Raps' situation with Bosh they're sabotaging:

Wade Unlikely To Sign; Should Trade Him Now

Speaking of Bosh, the last thing we'll dish out has something to do with what Chris Bosh said last night during his post game scrum. His quote:

"Toronto being a hockey town...it's getting old."

Couldn't have said it any better Chris. Couldn't have said it any better. Check out his entire interview here:



And there you have it, a jam packed edition of WSR.

Whatever it is you're doing, I hope you enjoyed it With A Side Of Red!

Five Minutes Of Fury Is All It Takes To Impress Us

With the official word that Allen Iverson would not be able to play in last night's game between the Raptors and the Sixers, a portion of the excitement seemed to have died out. Even in the twilight of his career, the infamous point guard still draws a respectable amount of "Iverson" jerseys or "AI" apparel wherever he goes. And yet when all was said and done after a well earned 104-93 win, the locker room was still buzzing because of one particular player.

Cue Reggie Evans and his "Five minutes of fury"!

Having missed the first 51 games of the season, Reggie Evans could not wait to get onto the court. Yet after 5 minutes, he couldn't wait to get off it.

"He only knows how to play one speed." Chris Bosh often tells the media.

Yes, the Raps continued their winning ways.

Yes, they just put the finishing touches on a season high 8 game home winning streak.

And yes, the Raptors managed to pull within 5 games of taking the division lead.

But perhaps the most exciting part about last night was witnessing Reggie Evans play his heart out for those five minutes. In the short period of time he was on the court, he totaled 2 points, 3 rebounds, a steal, and one drawn charge. After his five minute sequence, Reggie just laid there on the court, exhausted beyond belief.

Compared to the Chris Boshes and Tim Duncans of the world, Reggie isn't exactly the most talented of bigmen. But what he lacks in All-Star talent, he surely makes up for it in hustle and heart. Note to the NBA: That's all it takes.

That's how players like Bonner, Pops, and the famous JYD managed to leave a lasting imprint on Raptors fans everywhere. Toronto sports fans have always been criticized of being too critical, too bipolar, too fickle. But there is one thing we can definitely be proud of, and that's our ability to spot hard work. In a city that isn't used to seeing winning teams, that's an impressive thing to hang our hats on.

"These fans work hard to see a game...so I work hard when I'm out there..."

Reggie's got it figured out. And that's why Raptors fans will always be there to cheer him on.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

With A Side Of Red - Feb.09/10

Here's the GamePointBlog busting out another edition of WSR. As always, we recommend you sit back, drink that coffee, and enjoy our serving of Raptors news With A Side Of Red.

First on the docket. What's this we hear? New Jersey Nets rookie Terrence Williams could possibly be in the dunk contest? Well according to DIME, that's the word on the streets.

DIME Magazine link

Woah. Woah. Woah. Pump your breaks everybody.

This is a prime example of why this entire "Dunk-In" was a horrible idea to begin with. Look, I have no problem with Williams being included into the actual contest; in fact he was one of my original picks to be in it. The dude is ridiculously athletic, and can dunk with the best of them. And have you tried him out yet in NBA2k10? Him and DeRozan are hands down the two players that are slept on the most in league fantasy drafts. Unstoppable!

My problem however lies with the possible free pass Twill may get that would ultimately land him directly into the dunk contest. Why does DeRozan and Gordon have to duke it out and use up two of their dunks during the dunk-in, while Twill sits and wait until Saturday.

They shouldn't have created this gimmick, and should just scrap the dunk-in entirely. People always talk about how great the dunk contest was with Vince Carter; well that had more than the usual 4 contestants we see these days.

Solution: Just put all of them in the dunk contest and let them put on a good show

In other news, it seems as though it has become official - Reggie Evans will play tomorrow against his former team. Reggie will not be the piece that puts over the top, but he'll be able to provide this team with all the energy, hustle, and leadership in the world.

For those that were lucky enough to see the Raptors play in pre-season, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. He became an instant fan favorite. In 17 preseason minutes, Reggie put up an average of 7.2 pts, 4.8 reb (2+ offensive), and 1.8 steals. In spot minutes this year, you can bet that Reggie will leave his mark night in and out.



I'm excited to see the team at real full strength. Let's finish strong boys.

Whatever it is you're doing, hopefully you enjoyed it With A Side Of Red.

Monday, February 8, 2010

With A Side Of Red - Feb.08/10

What's up Raptors fans, here's your post-Superbowl edition of "With A Side Of Red". So whether you're just in coming in from school, or find yourself in an afternoon class with your least favorite prof, bust out the headphones, the snacks, and enjoy the best side-dish any Raptors fan could want.

On a schooling note, let's bust out some definitions.

Home - dwelling: housing that someone is living in

Dominance - the state that exists when one person or group has power over another

Raptors Home Dominance - Winning 7 straight in the confines of the ACC; making it a total of 19 wins and 6 losses in the season.

Catch the latest successful defense of home court in the Raptors 115-104 win over the Kings. All in six minutes!



As during every Monday of the NBA season, the latest "Power Rankings" come out. Here are are three sets.

NBA.Com [Raptors #11]

"Their defense provided a November flashback in a 130-115 loss in Indiana, but the Raptors have won seven of their last eight, shooting 51 percent in that stretch. With the teams behind them faltering, they have a strong hold on that fifth spot in the East."

ESPN [Raptors #8]

"Since that 146-115 humbling in Atlanta on Dec. 2 and the team meeting that followed, Toronto is 21-10. Which almost -- almost -- atones for the 130 points allowed to Indy after we moved the Raps all the way to No. 7."

SI.Com [Raptors #11]

"Chris Bosh gets the headlines, but you can't overlook Andrea Bargnani's impact this season. The Raptors' fourth-year center is averaging career highs in points (17.7), rebounds (6.2), field-goal percentage (47.8) and minutes (34.4)."

Alright folks, that's it from the GamePointBlog for today. Remember, make sure to occasionally look up so that your Professor thinks you're paying attention - if not to just notice the increase of Raptors apparel your classmates are sporting.

Whatever it is you're doing, hopefully you enjoyed it With A Side Of Red.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Super Outing On A Super Sunday

Make that 7 in a row for the Raptors at the Air Canada Centre.

And on top of that, make that another monster game by Raptors captain Chris Bosh. With 36 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists, the Raptors were able to come away with yet another win in front of the home crowd. Bosh has said it so himself - he hasn't been this excited in awhile. And you know what? Neither have us Raptors fans. The Raptors are currently on pace to match the most amount of wins before the All Star break in franchise history. On top of that, the team is on pace to match their franchise high 47 wins in a season.

Things are looking good in Raptorsland. But you would have never thought that if all you watched was ESPN.

Highlights of the Raptors-Kings game were shown during the broadcast of the Celtics-Magic bout, and only one thing was made clear during the segment - Chris Bosh WILL leave Toronto.

What is their problem? It just never stops with these guys.

For example, every Raptors fan knows about the amazing win the team pulled off against Kobe and the Lakers. But the mere thought of the Raps winning would have never even crossed your mind if you saw the highlight package. Of course, there was the time the Raps played the Knicks on a Thursday, allowing them to show highlights on TNT. And out of nowhere, they talk about how the Lakers bigmen are more versatile and skilled than the Raptors' Bosh and Bargnani. Literally, OUT OF NOWHERE, they talk about the Lakers bigs, during an entire highlight package between the RAPTORS and the KNICKS.

And what about all these people on TV going about how Bosh will leave, and there's no doubt about it. Where are they hearing this from? Chris Bosh has made it a priority to leave all this free agency talk for the summer. We're in the middle of the NBA season, and what matters most to him is the success the Raps see this season.

ESPN, TNT, Andy Roddick, and whoever else doesn't follow the Raps but pretend like they tap Bryan Colagenlo's phones, go talk about something else! Go talk about DWade and how his team is on a 5 game losing streak and 3 games below .500. Go talk about how it's best for LeBron to leave for New York. But PLEASE stop acting like you actually watch Raptors games. Because you don't. Just leave your agendas at home, and don't worry about the igloos the Raptors players have to live in while they stay here - we'll make sure to keep them properly maintained.

With A Side Of Red - Feb.07/10

Good morning GamePoint readers and Raptors fans everywhere. Here's your order of everything Raptors news as we set for tip off against the Kings about an hour from now at the ACC!

- Word coming from the Raptors this morning are that all 3 of DeRozan, Turkoglu, and Calderon should be able to give it a go today.

- After the comedic "Mask-Gate" situation over the last few days, we've gotten a confirmation that Turk WILL wear the mask.


More than 1 Evans to talk about!!!

- Tyreke "Too Easy" Evans will be making his Canadian NBA debut this afternoon. The rookie sensation is a current favorite to win this season's NBA rookie of the year award. The stats speak for themselves: 20 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds. The last rookie to do that? Michael Jordan. Here's what the latest set of the NBA Rookie Rankings had to say about the explosive Kings guard:

"Evans is starting to feel the bumps and bruises that come with playing in the NBA. Evans bruised his hip against the Jazz on Friday and struggled in Saturday's game against the Bobcats, scoring four points in 29 minutes, his fewest minutes since Nov. 8. Evans then missed Monday's game in Denver with a sore right ankle. Evans is playing it safe, though. "You've got to take care of your body because it's a long season," Evans told the Sacramento Bee. "If you go out there and play hurt, you can mess it up and make the injury worse. That last game (against the Bobcats), I couldn't give it my all. I just didn't feel comfortable being out there and couldn't really play hard."

- The man. The myth. The legend himself. Reggie Evans will possibly attempt an early comeback for this Wednesday against Philly. Reggie has missed the entire season up to this point due to a foot injury he suffered in a pre-season game against the Celtics. His much needed energy and tenacity will be exactly what the doctor ordered.

Evans has grown to be a fan favorite in Raptorsland because of his enthusiasm and the fact that he wears his heart on his sleeve. He's also developed a habit of hooking up the Raptors faithful with tickets through contests via twitter. Make sure to follow him here:

http://twitter.com/ReggieEvans30

- Lastly, it seems as though Marco Belinelli will not be able to play today.

There you have it Raptors fans! Whatever it is you have with you, I hope you enjoyed it With A Side Of Red.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

More Than Meets The Eye; Drama In Disguise

Deceit.

Greed.

Conspiracies.

Friday, February 5, 2010 will forever go down as "Mask-Gate".

Well at least that's what Raptors General Manager Bryan Colangelo is hoping it doesn't turn into. With a couple of days in between games, basketball news is naturally very hard to come by. Combined with the relatively improved recent play from the boys in red and white, and the media folk are at a standstill.

Energetic practices.

Easy going atmosphere.

Winning ways.

This is not what the media thrives on. Give us something to work with here. Anything dammit.

And as quickly as we asked, an answer appeared. And of course, being typical Toronto media, we pounced on it. After Turkoglu suffered a small fracture to his right orbital bone during the home game against Indiana, the Raptors' prized free agent went through a protective mask fitting. The action?

“I told them it’s uncomfortable. I just have to do my best without the mask.”

And the reaction from Colangelo:

“It’s pretty simple: He’s going to have to wear the mask."

So now the question is - Who will budge first? One has to think the player will always fall in line with what the GM says. But something tells me Turk either isn't done protesting, or is quite irked about the situation. All year, he's come off as a guy who will do things his way. Now to his credit, he does put the good of the team first, but it's always been done in a way that he feels comfortable with most. For example, all year long, the fans have begged him to come out of his shooting slump. But time after time, Turkoglu has explained that he won't take the excessive amount of shots typically needed to come of a funk because that's not what his game is about. If Hedo could have it his way - which he often does - he would play an entire game setting up his teammates for easy baskets - which he has - and he'd be just fine with.

Then of course this mask situation. Hedo was seen sporting the mask this morning during practice in an attempt to get comfortable and appease the organization. But just imagine he pulls what he did in Orlando and ditches the mask after the first quarter? If the said scenario does take place, I'm hoping the broadcast crew pans the camera immediately towards Colangelo. Just because I know the look on his face will be avatar worthy.

Along with the pizza pizza commercial that provided us with "Yes Coach!", the infamous "Ball" quote, and now this mask ordeal - if there's one thing that Hedo has provided us, it's a season full of entertainment.

Friday, February 5, 2010

With A Side Of Red - Feb.05/10

Have you ever experienced one of those mornings where you wake up, wander around your kitchen for a little bit, have a glass of juice or milk, hop back into bed, then realize you're having trouble getting back to sleep?

Well readers, that's exactly what happened to me. And being afraid of having to deal with the grumpy mood that might rear its ugly head, I've decided to introduce a new segment to my blog called "With A Side Of Red". Its purpose? Think of it as a random collection of Raptors information just for the fans. Whether its media, the latest rumors, highlights, interviews - whatever it is - you can be assured that it'll be good enough to go with your coffee, lunch, newspaper, iPod playlist, or even your midnight snack.

So Raptors fans and GamePoint readers, I introduce to you the product of my lack of sleep, the first installment of "With A Side Of Red"

Check out Ahmad Rashad's All Access Interview with our franchise player CB4. It's an easy going interview that goes over things like Bosh's summer workout, Olympics, language barriers on the court, among other things. Enjoy.



In other news...

One of the more talked about topics in Raptorsland just so happens to be Andy Roddick's twitter account. The famous tennis player caught the attention of countless Raptors fans when he went on a twitter spree late last night. The message? "Bosh To Miami"

Here's one of his twitter gems:

"attn all raptor fans: lets be realistic with ourselves for a second .. he is not staying there.... let him be happy in sunny south florida"

I'm not really the biggest fan of tennis, and now no longer a fan of Andy Roddick, but I will admit that he knows how to be a jerk. You can check out the rest of his "tweets" regarding the matter on his official twitter account:

http://twitter.com/AndyRoddick

And there you go Raptors nation.

Whatever it is you have with you, I hope you enjoyed it With A Side Of Red.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ten Points Away From The End Of The World

Whew.

That was a close one.

And by a close one, I mean that we just avoided a 2012-esque world catastrophe. Imagine what would have happened if we had lost to the New Jersey Nets? You know, the same team that with a record of 4 wins and a ridiculous 44 loses! That would not have been a pretty sight whatsoever.

Many fans bought a ticket to tonight's game expecting one of the easiest wins of the season. After all, Toronto had no trouble dismantling the Nets in their first meeting. But not tonight. This rematch turned out to be a very tightly contested game. Don't let the final score fool you, from start to finish, neither team really broke away to take a commanding lead. Fortunately for the Toronto Raptors and their fans, the home team was able to pull it out with a final score of 108-99.

To tell you the truth, I was hoping the Raps would dominate tonight for a full 48 minutes. And though there will be more than a fair share of fans who would feel the same, I'm just glad we got out of there with the win. Remember, come the end of the season, there will only be two columns you look at. The win column. And the loss column. The most important thing to is to get the win; it doesn't matter how you do it, just win.

There had been a spell during the second quarter - after the Raps went 0/6 - when the fans began to boo mercilessly. This city is itching to get behind a proven winner, and rightfully so, they expressed their displeasure. Fortunately, the Raptors responded behind big nights from the likes of Chris Bosh, Jarrett Jack, Sonny Weems, and Amir Johnson.

Regardless of the win, questions do need to be asked and addressed. The biggest one has to be: Why do we keep falling behind teams by 10 or more points? This was the 6th game in a row that it's happened. Elite teams do have a reputation of slacking and turning it on when needed. But here's a news flash Raptors fans - WE ARE NOT ELITE! We can't afford to trail by that many, evident by what happened last night in Indiana.

Something's gotta happen to change that. I'm also looking forward to the team being at full health again. Yes, we're deep. Yes, multiple people step it up. But we're in a part of our schedule where we need everybody to be firing on all cylinders. I'm especially hoping Turk comes back soon so we don't go through another abysmal scoring drought.

But hey, congrats to us. Disaster avoided.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Raps Forgot To Pack Their Lightning In A Bottle

For the fifth game in a row, the Raptors allowed the opposing team to jump on them. And for the fifth game in a row, the Raptors thought they could just turn it on. Successfully coming back from 10+ point deficits four games in a row will do that for you. The phrase "Comeback Kids" get thrown around next. And before you know it, you come crashing back to Earth after being knocked in the face by the reality of the situation.

That's exactly what happened when the Raptors let one get away in a 130-115 loss to the Indiana Pacers. During yesterday's media scrum after practice, there was a bit of talk regarding the style of attack the Pacers played with. That small ball, green light on any shot kind of offence that gives most teams fits when the ball is going in the net at a good rate.

The Raptors' counter? Stick to your guns. Make Indiana adjust to how you play, and not the other way around.

Unfortunately, the Raptors fell into a trap and played the type of game the Pacers preferred. Nevermind the high scoring first quarter of 34-32. But any fan that managed to catch the game on The Score could spot it immediately - the game was hectic and unorganized. There was absolutely no structure on the offensive or defensive end. By halftime, I had even lost how many times a broken play had occurred, or how many loose ball situations there were.

By the time the Raps realized their season high 5 game winning streak was in serious jeopardy, it was already too late. With an injured DeMar DeRozan, as well as Hedo Turkoglu not being able to give it a go, Toronto already had more than their fair share of hurdles to overcome. And just to throw salt on the wound, the Raps also managed to lose Jose Calderon to injury after rolling his ankle.

With a must win game tomorrow at the ACC against the New Jersey Nets, the Raps must find a way to do something they haven't been capable of doing in the last 5 games, and that's dominate a team for a full 48 minutes.

DD and Turk Out; More Burn For Wright and Weems

In a few hours, the Toronto Raptors will wrap up their home and home bout with the Indiana Pacers. And for the second meeting in a row, they will have to somehow find a way to get things done without the services of DeMar DeRozan and Hedo Turkoglu. Fortunately for the Raps, one of their biggest strengths has been their depth. It almost seems as though every night, someone different is stepping up to be the difference maker.

With DeRozan and Turk out again, Sonny Weems and Antoine Wright are expected to fill the void. They're recent surge in improved play, usage, and minutes have come around the same time, so here are their stats in the last 3 games.

Weems:

25 min
9.6 pts
3.6 reb
2.3 ast
57% on 21 shots

Wrights

26 min
12.3 pts
5.3 reb
1.3 ast
63% on 22 shots
77% from 3 on 9 shots

It's a small sample size, but it's encouraging to see that these two have stepped it up when required. There was some talk about Marco getting more burn when DD went down, but Weems has been doing a great job so far. As for Wright, he's impressed me the most, and he's reminding me of Mo Pete and/or AP from our Atlantic division season.

Make sure to catch these two in action, along with the rest of the Raptors squad in action as they try to win the season series with the Pacers tonight on The Score @ 7pm.