Take a Chance on Me

Don’t back down now. It’s time to go all-in.

Bryan Colangelo has to push his chips in the middle and hope for the best.

In a draft class where sifting through the talent is about as difficult as getting the Raptors to play good defence, there is no better opportunity for the Toronto GM to make a bold move.

The Raptors should take Kemba Walker.

With each mock draft miles apart from the next, there’s no telling what player each team is going to draft. Even though the Cleveland Cavaliers, who hold the 1st overall pick, are reported to have decided on Kyrie Irving, sources are also saying that is far from a guarantee. The talent level for this draft class was already sparse before 3 of the top 5 prospects decided to delay their trip to the NBA. All that’s left in the lottery is supposed to be the scraps.

Okay, maybe not quite the scraps, but this draft is not the 2003 class by any means. That’s why the Raptors need to make a big splash. With each player even farther from a sure thing than usual, the best bet for Bryan Colangelo would be to put his money on a guy who has the ultimate boom or bust potential.

A college superstar who theoretically doesn’t have the attributes to translate those skills to the NBA. You hear the story every year. That’s Kemba Walker in a nutshell. Walker has the intangibles that others don’t have though. His great character and leadership are unquestionable while his upside is sky-high.

Colangelo has failed as a GM. He must carry a pretty big rabbits foot around because he is awful lucky to have received a multi-year extension. His bold moves have fizzled. The European movement, Jermaine O’Neal, Hedo Turkoglu. Nothing has worked for Bryan Colangelo.

The Raptors essentially fired their defensively inept coach Jay Triano and have hired Dallas Mavericks assistant Dwane Casey thus ushering in another new era under Colangelo.

The era needs to be started off with a bang. Kemba Walker might not possess all the qualities of the Raptors’ change towards a more grinding defensive philosophy but he does have exactly what the Raptors are missing. Star potential.

On a team lacking any direction, Kemba Walker could be the player to guide them to where they want to go.

Andrea Bargnani is a faux star. He wants to be considered the best but doesn’t want to put in the effort. The Raptors are getting away from that, the horrible pasta commercial and all.

Related: Andrea Bargnani Needs To Go

Kemba Walker should love the letter ‘e.’ He’s explosive, exciting, exhilarating and electrifying. Jaw dropping handles, cheeky floaters and freakish quickness. Kemba and his 6″1 frame aren’t close to being considered a true NBA ready point guard but he is an unselfish player, which is always a good place to begin.

Small forward may be the Raptors most glaring need but drafting another slasher with limited shooting range would be redundant and uncalled for. The Raptors don’t want another Demar Derozan. They shouldn’t shove just anybody into that small forward spot. They can wait another year to find a guy that fits the mould.

Drafting another big man would be wrist cuttingly painful for a front court that is already over capacity. Ed Davis and Amir Johnson will require more playing time in order to develop properly and Andrea Bargnani is still under contract for 3 more years. Stretching to find a legitimate big man in this year’s draft would be silly.

A team in the modern NBA must have a floor general. Jose Calderon cannot be a starting point guard on a contending team and Jerryd Bayless has proved that he can’t make the transition. Kemba Walker has the ability to be the Raptors very own General MacArthur.

Kemba Walker is not the safest choice. However, assuming Brandon Knight is unavailable at the 5 spot, Kemba is the right choice. Taking the safe route up to a certain point will only get you so far. The draft is where franchises can make-up for previous wrong doings. It can heal the wounds that have been left by the ghosts of seasons past.

The Raptors were unlucky not to be rewarded for their terrible season. The 5th pick in a weak draft doesn’t seem fair for a team that lost its franchise player. Maybe in the end it will all be for the best.

If they draft Kemba Walker.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Andrea Bargnani Needs To Go

Former first overall pick Andrea Bargnani has not lived up to expectations

When Chris Bosh decided to leave for Miami, the Toronto Raptors gave their key to the franchise to Andrea Bargnani. They should have shown him the door.

I wouldn’t have said that at the start of the season but as the year has gone on it apparent the Raptors need to go in a different direction. Bryan Colangelo needs to be a man, swallow his pride and cut his losses now.

As the go to guy in the Raptors offence, Andrea Bargnani has established himself as one of the premier scoring big men in the NBA. This past season he averaged 21.4 points a game. A fairly respectable figure.

Too bad that’s all he does. Sadly, referring to his offensive numbers as respectable discounts his decline in field goal percentage and increased turnover rate from the 2009-10 season.

What is worse is Andrea Bargnani’s insistence on slacking at the defensive end, which is simply inexcusable. It isn’t a coincidence that in the two years that Bargnani has been given a more prominent role in the organization, the Raptors have sported the league’s worst defensive efficiency.

I would say that Bargnani’s defence mirrors that of a stereotypically soft European but to say that would be an insult to soft Europeans.

Andrea Bargnani doesn’t possess the drive that the Kobe Bryant’s and Kevin Garnett’s of the NBA have. He doesn’t care that he provides no inside presence for his team. He doesn’t care that it is his job to carry a mostly hapless roster. He doesn’t care about his reputation as a marshmallow. He doesn’t even care about his statistics.

Surprisingly, Bargnani’s rebounding and block totals are down from 2009-10. He averaged a pathetic 5.4 rebounds a game for a 7 foot center playing over 35 minutes a game, which is down from his 2009-10 average of 6.2 rebounds a game. Could it be more alarming that his block average has been cut in half this year? Last season he averaged 1.4 blocks a game and hopefully you can do the math, but if you can’t, he averaged 0.7 a game this year.

As the supposed franchise player, his attitude shows no signs of the responsibility he should feel for his lack of hustle and dismal statistics. When asked about his poor defence he said that, in reference to his offence “I do things that are much more complicated than getting rebounds and playing defence. That should be the easy part.”

In an attempt to be hard himself either he’s incredibly naive, doesn’t understand what it takes or flat out isn’t concerned and doesn’t want to be bothered to correct his obvious laziness and ineptitude.

I’m thinking it’s the latter.

Bargnani also said that the team needs to get more guys that can help play defence.

Wow.

It may be true that management has done an inadequate job of surrounding the team with quality two-way players, but Bargnani’s outlook cannot be tolerated.

The way he plays speaks volumes about his attitude. Well, if his play speaks volumes then I must be deaf because his comments just hit 200 decibels.

The problem is that Bargnani still has 4 years averaged out at $10 million a year left on his contract. Is the possibility of unloading his contract about as small as the impact Bargnani has made on the franchise or is someone willing to take a chance?

Does any team want to take on a player with not only Bargnani’s defensive deficiencies but also his mental deficiencies? Obviously, playing on a losing team has dampened the big Italian’s spirit more than the thought of being the face of the franchise has motivated him.

I’ll slip a little bit of my distaste in for Jay Triano here because I am amazed that he has let Bargnani get away with this for so long. Granted, Triano was the one who saved Bargnani’s career after Sam Mitchell sucked almost every ounce of confidence from Bargnani. Nevertheless, not once this year has Triano sat or even threatened to sit Bargnani for his consistent laziness.

What I’m trying to get at here is that there might be a possibility that a better coach and/or team could inspire Bargnani to put some real effort into his game, which could be a selling point in trade talks with other teams. But that’s a big if.

It is wrong to solely blame Bargnani for the Raptor’s woes considering their line-up features some equally incompetent defensive players, namely Jose Calderon. However, a new wave of talent has come to Toronto with Demar Derozan and Ed Davis proving that they have some serious game. They may not be franchise players but they are good pieces to build around.

Like the other overrated Toronto GM, Bryan Colangelo insists on trying to build a winning team without truly rebuilding. He already traded the Raptors late first round pick that was acquired from the Miami Heat in exchange for another slashing wing player in James Johnson.

If Colangelo did in fact have an offer on the table for Bargnani, would he take it? Bargnani is the first guy that Colangelo drafted as Raptors GM.

Is his ego too big for him to admit he has made a mistake? He was able to get rid of Hedo Turkoglu who he personally signed to a brutal 5 year $53 million contract.

The Raptors will most likely have a very high draft pick as they finished with the 3rd worst record in the NBA. A change in direction to a grittier, defensive oriented team may be exactly the thing this franchise needs as it is evident that Colangelo’s European invasion has not flourished.

The departure of Chris Bosh has once again left the Toronto Raptors searching for an identity. Giving this Italian the boot would be a good place to start.


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NBA Going Global…At Least Trying To

International stars Andrea Bargnani and Sasha Vujacic battled it out at the O2 arena in London

The Toronto Raptors lost their franchise player in the off-season. The New Jersey Nets set the record for the worst start to an NBA season last year going 0-18 before getting their first victory. With that in mind, you have to ask why the NBA would choose those 2 teams to play the first ever regular season game in Europe. Why would the NBA ever think that this would be best way to build their brand overseas?

On Friday, the NBA played its first ever regular season game in Europe at the O2 arena in London, England. This endeavour is all part of Commissioner David Stern’s attempt to make the NBA a more global phenomenon. However, like the NFL, the NBA is going about this all wrong.

You think they would have learned from the majority of terrible games that the NFL has showcased internationally. Of the 5 games that the NFL has played outside of North America, only 1 of those games has been worthy of spending 3 hours of a Sunday watching. The Bronco-49er game this past season may have ended up being a good game, but the sound of Kyle Orton and Troy Smith facing off against each other doesn’t really make me jump for joy.

I can see why the Raptors were picked to play this game. They have a serious international flavour to their team. Most notably Andrea Bargnani (Italy), Jose Calderon (Spain), and Leandro Barbosa (Brazil). Not to mention the natural connection that many Englanders could possibly feel towards their commonwealth nephews. Still, with Bosh departing for South Beach there was no doubt that the Raptors would struggle this season.

The Nets, on the other hand, are just a confusing choice. The NBA was incredibly lucky that the Nets front office pulled off the unthinkable by acquiring Deron Williams because without him these past two games in London would have lost whatever small amount of lustre that it had.

It’s never a good sign when the biggest story of your team’s season is Kim Kardashian.

If the NBA wants to continue with this global expansion they have to fully commit to it because otherwise there’s no point. It’s obvious that they don’t want to burden possible contending teams like Boston or LA with a mid-season trip overseas. Seriously, you think Phil Jackson wouldn’t be mouthing off about the distraction of a London trip in March?

The atmosphere in London for the Raptors and Nets was comparable to a College atmosphere. Fans were chanting and doing the wave, but imagine what the atmosphere could have been like if the games had held any actual significance.

Sure, the two games’s sold out but that really isn’t that big of an accomplishment for a stadium that holds just under 19,000. Some fans are just so desperate to see NBA ball in person that it doesn’t matter who is playing. When exhibition games come to town in Vancouver the games sell out in a flash simply because there are a lot of people who need their fix of real basketball, not that an exhibition game exactly qualifies as real basketball. At least the games in London were both regular season games.

The NBA was bailed out this weekend. Fans at the O2 arena were treated to one good game and another exhilarating one, possibly the best of the year. You can thank the Raptors run and gun style as well as their 105 plus points allowed per game defence for that. The Raptors have put up some real stinkers this year, hence the 17-46 record. However, the Raptors shot very well this weekend and displayed lots of energy while the Nets were up for the challenge.

Very fortunate because I’m pretty sure the goal of this London trip wasn’t to showcase what the majority of the NBA really is. An overabundance of perennial bottom feeders that are unable to compete with the elite teams.

If the NBA wants to do this again next season they need implement a couple of games that mean something. If international is what the NBA wants it then meaningless basketball is not what the NBA should give.

The NBA was let off the hook this weekend by two teams energized at the idea of making history but if they try to pull this again next year the result probably won’t be as favourable.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. You can also follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favor.

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Head-Scratching Deals Highlight NBA Trade Deadline

Baron Davis is on his way out of LA

Generally the trade deadline is a rather uneventful time of year in the NBA. I guess you can call this year an exception. In the last 72 hours, NBA GM’s were more active than Charlie Sheen at a brothel. With a final flurry prior to the 3pm eastern deadline and team’s desperately trying to piece together a winner, it was almost inevitable that we see some mind-boggling transactions.

In sifting through the plethora of deals here are my biggest head-scratchers from the NBA trade deadline.

Clipper Calamity. Okay, maybe it wasn’t a calamity but it definitely should fall under the category of a head-scratcher. The Clippers traded Baron Davis and their 2011 first round pick to the Cavaliers for former all-star Mo Williams. I’m actually very surprised at the amount of people who felt this deal was a positive for the Clippers. Sports Illustrated writer Zach Lowe is one man who feels this was a success for the Clippers. Supposedly, it will also allow their young point guard Eric Bledsoe to take the reins of the team while allowing more cap flexibility for the Clippers.

The problem that I have with the trade is that the Clippers are likely giving up a top 10 pick. I don’t care that this year is supposed to be a terrible draft class. Besides Blake Griffin, didn’t they also say the same thing about the 2009 class that produced Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, Demar Derozan, Jrue Holiday and Darren Collison. Maybe you won’t find a franchise player but there is no reason that you shouldn’t be able to find some quality, impact players with that high of a pick. They need to be surrounding Blake Griffin and Co. with solid role players, not trying to save money.

Moreover, despite the fact that Baron Davis has proven himself to be a fat, lazy slob, it is evident that he has been a steadying influence on the Clipper team this season. They don’t need to win now, nor are they going to win with Baron Davis at the helm. However, a veteran guy like Davis is important on such a young team, and you can see it by how lost they are on the floor without him.

Sure, the Clippers gain flexibility to sign free agents in the off-season, especially if they are able to dump Mo Williams’ contract on someone. That’s not what they should be focused on though. Getting a quality player in the draft should be priority number one. The Clippers, in my opinion, have done it again. They had been in prime position to finally play the role of contender in 2-4 years, but yesterday they took a step backwards.

Boston Blow-Up. Kendrick Perkins is gone. Yeah, you’re probably thinking what we’re all thinking. Whaaa??? Perkins is well-known around NBA circles as an incredibly intricate cog to the Boston Celtics’ well-oiled machine. He represented the hardnosed, defensive force that is the Celtics. Not anymore. Perkins was traded alongside Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City in exchange for Jeff Green and Nenad Kristic.

Even this guy was perplexed by some of the NBA deadline deals

Obviously, there was an Orlando Magic-like need for a shakeup in Boston as they sit atop the Eastern Conference with a 41-14 record. Wait, I don’t think something is quite right about the last sentence.

With a team as thin at the center spot like the Boston Celtics are, you have to wonder what they are thinking giving up Perkins. They also traded rookie center Semih Erden to the Cavs, which leaves them with two old farts in Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal. Durability is such an issue surrounding those guys and even though Nenad Kristic will be added to the mix he doesn’t fit the Celtics mould of rough and tough. Of note today, Glen Davis started at center for the Celtics. Yup, Big Baby.

They did acquire a great piece in Jeff Green but where does he fit in? Does he take over the Marquis Daniels role? Is that why they felt that Perkins was expendable? Who knows?

For a team that has reached 2 finals with Kendrick Perkins and currently sits first in the Eastern Conference this deal is more peculiar than a dog riding a scooter.

Sun Setting. Steve Nash protégé Goran Dragic and a lottery protected first round pick was traded to the Rockets for soon to be restricted free agent Aaron Brooks. After being injured, Brooks lost his job as starting point guard to Kyle Lowry and like Goran Dragic he has regressed in his play since coming back from injury. I don’t see anywhere that Brooks fits into the short or long-term plans of the Suns. Nash is still under contract for 2 years and there is no way that Brooks and his undersized self can play alongside Nash at the 2 guard spot for the time being.

Obviously Goran Dragic is not the wave of the future but could someone please try and make some sense of this deal for me because I flat out don’t get it. I don’t see the Suns signing Brooks to be the long-term option, but hey, you never know.

Memphis Blues.
A sad trade for the Grizzlies that can only benefit this team in the short run as they hope to reach the playoffs in the ever weakening Western Conference. The Grizz traded former #2 overall pick Hasheem Thabeet and a first round pick to the Houston Rockets for an expiring contract in Shane Battier and guard Ish Smith. This is a head-scratcher for me just because it seems odd that the Grizzlies felt that they had to give up a first round pick to unload Thabeet. Sure, this move might put them over the edge in their playoff run this year but giving up so early on such a high draft pick on top of sending away a likely mid-first round draft pick won’t make things any easier as they try to build a contending team in the future.

Raptor Riddle. For my finale I have to vent about the Toronto Raptors acquisition of James Johnson. More specifically, I have to point out another blunder from the city of Toronto’s equally confusing General Manger. Bryan Colangelo obtained James Johnson by giving up the first round pick Toronto acquired from Miami in the whole Bosh mess. Johnson was the 16th overall pick in the 2009 draft and apparently the Raptors would have drafted him had Demar Derozan not fallen to them, at least according to the Colangelo.

The Raptors, in desperate need of more wing players, got hold of the lengthy 6 foot 9 Johnson to play small forward. As much as they need more depth on the wings Johnson is not a guy that they should be looking for as he is yet another wing player for the Raps who is unable to shoot from beyond the arc.

I realize that I sound like a broken record, nevertheless I can’t stress enough the importance that bottom teams should place on their draft picks. Colangelo has done a terrible job managing draft picks for the Raptors and the first time in a long time the team has multiple first rounders he decides it’s a good idea to trade one of them away. Great. I’ll just put it out there that I have zero faith in Colangelo’s overrated self. He has done nothing for the Raptors organization and the only thing keeping him alive is the fact that he signed Steve Nash. Great.

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Plea to Raptor Fans, Don’t Boo Chris Bosh!

Chris Bosh released his inner cave man more than a few times as a member of the Raptors

In a quiet, undramatic divorce, not like those ones you see on Divorce Court, Chris Bosh and the Toronto Raptors parted ways after a 7 year long-term relationship. The break up wasn’t messy but it was by no means mutual as the breaker certainly offended the breakee.

GM Bryan Colangelo went as far to say that Bosh didn’t care down the stretch run of the 2009-10 season. “Whether he was mentally checked out or just wasn’t quite into it down the stretch, he wasn’t the same guy,” Colangelo said. “I think everybody saw that, but no one wanted to acknowledge it.” Head Coach Jay Triano further stated that “When you talk about Chris being a leader in the locker room, I think it’s the one thing he wasn’t for us.” Hard feelings much?

Today, Chris Bosh returns to Toronto for the first time since his decision to join Dwyane Wade and Lebron James in Miami. Yes, Lebron James too.

With Bosh essentially leaving fans and most importantly the Raptor organization hanging, it is no wonder why many people expressed their resentment towards Chris Bosh. It wasn’t the first time that their franchise player bailed on them. 3 high draft picks in Damon Stoudamire, Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter that had the possibility to carry the franchise all stated their desire to leave the city at some point in their tenure with the Raptors. Not to mention Hedo Turkoglu who requested a trade after one tumultuous season.

It was all too familiar to Raptor fans. Except in this case, like a good stripper, Chris Bosh teased Canadian basketball junkies into thinking he might just come back. However, like a good stripper, the hope dangling in front of them never materialized.

Even though Bosh gave us Raptor fans a good long tease that only ended in disappointment, I am asking you not to boo the man who gave you seven hard-fought seasons.

I understand your pain, but this time the circumstances are entirely different. Chris Bosh didn’t quit like Vince Carter or cry to his General Manager like Damon Stoudamire. He played out the entire length of his contract like a real man should, and wasn’t making any excuses for his team’s lack of success. Almost every night Bosh put his heart and soul on the floor for the Raptors.

It was also the behind the scenes work that makes Bosh different from previous Raptor defectors. His mid-range jumper is as reliable as anyone’s in the NBA and while his size may still be a problem Bosh he worked his tail off in order to add muscle to his 6”10 frame. The growth of Chris Bosh is a product of his effort as Raptor colour man Jack Armstrong likes to say, “Input equals output.”

It became apparent that Chris Bosh was not a franchise player and building the team around him as your cornerstone was not going to work. Nevertheless, you can hardly blame Bosh for that. It isn’t his fault that he can’t carry an entire team on his back like his new teammates Lebron and Wade. His rebounding may not be that of a top NBA rebounder, but he was still a legitimate 20-10 guy. On a nightly basis you could count on his consistency. He didn’t get his shiny new contract for no reason now did he?

Chris Bosh might not have handled his situation as well as Toronto’s other former franchise player Roy Halladay, but he also isn’t a robot like Roy Halladay. Bosh doesn’t just exhibit human emotions either, he exhibits human emotions that are likeable and entertaining. His passion on the court at times was like none other. He was genuine in his attempt to make the Raptors a true contender.

I think after this divorce Raptor fans have forgotten what a great guy Bosh is off the court, which is part of what made us to fall for the guy. Remember this all-star advertisement?

The situation at hand isn’t about forgiving and forgetting because Chris Bosh has nothing to be sorry for. Bosh doesn’t deserve to get what seems to be the inevitable, a hate filled homecoming. He doesn’t deserve to get booed from the fans that he worked so hard to please for seven seasons. He didn’t Lebron James his city or Carmelo Anthony his teammates. Chris Bosh deserves a cheer and I ask you Raptor fans to give him one.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favor.

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