North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

Posts Tagged ‘Andrea Bargnani

Raptors rotations are rotating them out of contention

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Things have pretty much bottomed out for the Toronto Raptors.

After a brief period of looking good in the immediate Rudy Gay era and a five-game winning streak, the Raptors have come back down: they’ve lost five in row, including some to teams they’re supposed to be better than: Washington and Cleveland. And losing to Milwaukee was bad too: it set them back a ways in the postseason race. Over at Club Sport Stats, their playoff chances are at 0.4 per cent. That seems maybe a tad charitable to me.  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by M.

March 5, 2013 at 10:19 pm

Is this the bottom for the Raptors?

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Maybe you stayed up late on Monday to see the Raptors western road trip end in a disastrous 92-74 loss to Portland. Maybe you gave up halfway through. I wouldn’t blame you. Bargnani seemed to check out sometime last week.

The Raptors are coming off their worst road trip I can remember. They lost every game on the trip, have lost five in a row and 10 of their last 11. Kyle Lowry, arguably their best player this year, is hurt for the second time this season. So is Bargnani, which just might send his trade stock into the sub-basement. In so many words, things are not good. And everyone’s feeling the pressure.

Hours before gametime on Monday, Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo hit the airwaves for some damage control. He appeared on Sportsnet 590’s Prime Time Sports and later on TSN Radio 1050. Both times he talked about how the season is salvable. He insisted coach Dwane Casey is not on the hot seat. Never mind how he said the same about Sam Mitchell once upon a time, when the team was playing a lot better.

But the thing is, Casey should not be on the hotseat. Colangelo should be. He’s been with the Raptors since 2006, had three coaches and drafted at the top of the lottery. Under him, Toronto made the playoffs twice and lost in the first round twice. In one of those series Toronto even had home-court advantage. They have a young core in DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis and Jonas Valanciunas but he refuses to build around them: hence big contracts for Bargnani and the luring of Lowry.

I’ve written before about Toronto’s cult of the now: go big, swing for the fences and win now! It’s the rationale behind the Kessel trade, behind the Jays bringing in Roger Clemens. And it never works, either. None of the moves Colangelo has tried since 2006 has worked, really. It’s always a huge cut of a swing and it always whiffs. Just look at one such chain: at the 2008 draft, Toronto drafted, then flipped Roy Hibbert to Indiana as part of the trade bringing Jermaine O’Neal to Toronto. It didn’t work. O’Neal was later flipped for Shaun Marion, who was actually kind of a decent Raptor. But his expiring contract helped give Toronto room to trade for Hedo Turkoglu. Not only did this move fail to accomplish the noted goal of improving the team, but it helped force Bosh out the door. Eventually, Toronto somehow turned Turkoglu over to Phoenix for Leandro Barbosa. Still, look at this chain: the drafting of a young center – the kind of player they hoped Bargnani would become – into a revolving door of parts that didn’t fit.

And that’s what Toronto looks like now: a bag of ill-fitting parts. According to a recent Bruce Arthur column, tempers flared at a team meeting after an ugly loss at Utah. Sure, Bargnani got some blame, but anger was directed Lowry’s way too. Tempers continued to boil on Monday when Amir Johnson threw his mouthguard at a ref. Now he’ll miss the next game, too. The Raptors aren’t fitting together on the court: Ed Davis has been one of their best players – but he’s stuck in a  rotation behind Johnson, Bargnani and Valanciunas. All people he’s outplaying.

Things are bad here. I’m not too sure how they can get worse, but I’m sure they’ll find a way. I’m not sure Bargnani will last the season here, but I don’t even know if that’s the right move: he’s going to be hard to deal away after all this and you’d have to really sweeten the pot to get a team to bite. Sure, Toronto should try and play great this season since they’re not likely to have a pick this year – their pick is protected only if it’s between 1 and 3 – but is making another big splash going to improve this team? And given Colangelo’s track record with big splashy moves, is it worth the risk?

Written by M.

December 12, 2012 at 12:17 am

Trading Bargnani for a three-dollar bill

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I’ve written about this before, but my favorite Hunter Thompson line is the one he used to describe a meaningless NBA trade in a later column: Like flipping a used mattress for a three-dollar bill. The unwanted for the useless. It’s kind of sad how often I think about that line when I think about Toronto sports.

Right now the Raptors are sinking fast. They’ve lost three in a row, nine of their last ten and sit on the bottom of the Eastern Conference. They’ve lost every in-division game this season, only won one road game and have more losses than the hapless Washington Wizards (to be fair, the Wiz have played fewer games).

Toronto is losing games at the buzzer and losing games by 30 points. They’re losing thanks to blown calls and losing after a near-miracle near-comeback. In so many words, they’re finding ways to lose, new creative ways I’ve never seen before, even in those ugly post-Carter, pre-playoff years. It’s disheartening, at least when I can bear to watch. More and more this year, I’m finding myself listening to the games on the radio, where at least I don’t have to see the Raptors blow a lead or see Bargnani toss up another clutch airball. I try to be an optimist, but it’s hard with this team. I don’t think I’m alone.

I’m only familiar with him through his resigned-sounding Twitter account (example: a “topes lose” post after every Raptors loss), but National Post beat scribe Eric Koreen has turned on Bargnani, writing first how the forward’s pretty much what he’ll ever be and more recently looking at trade options. Over at Sportsnet, Holly MacKenzie recently wrote it’s time to break up with Bargnani, making a case that this season isn’t exactly Bargnani’s fault, but:

The reality is it has been nearly seven years and the Bargnani + Toronto equation has not produced the answer each side wants.

And that’s the biggest mark against Bargnani. Everyone likes to hammer the things he does wrong: his lackluster help defence, his tendency to settle for shots rather than going to the basket, the strange ability to be defended by someone much shorter than him. But those are all echoes. We know those, we’ve known them for years. It’s 2012 and as Koreen pointed out, we know who Bargnani is. He’s not going to walk through that door playing like Dirk Nowitzki anytime soon.

So, the question about him and this probably-lost Raptor season boils down to what happens next. I think it’s a safe assumption Jose Calderon will be gone after this year, probably to take a backup role on a much better team. With a recent contract extension, DeMar DeRozan is the de-facto face of the team. And waiting in the wings is Ed Davis, who can’t play while Jonas Valanciunas and Bargnani are on the floor. Something has to change.

Enter the trade rumours. One, which keeps getting word of mouth and got as far as sources telling ESPN about it’s rejection is a trade where Bargnani and Calderon would be flipped to LA for Pau Gasol. From a GTA-point of view, it sounds fantastic. From a LA point of view, not so much. I’m not sure there’s any reason why LA would make that trade: there’s not much of value coming to the Lakers, especially given Bargnani’s play of late, and it’s obvious Toronto needs to make a move. I can’t say I’d blame them for pressing to a move like this which also nets them DeMar and rids them of an excess point guard.

Enter the above metaphor. Given how he’s played this season, I can’t imagine Toronto will get anything of value back for Bargnani, unless he’s paired with one of the teams assets. But the Raptors have precious few: Jonas, DeMar and Ed Davis, all of whom I hope are the core of this team, making them nearly-untouchable. There’s no first-round pick to package Bargnani with. There’s one nice expiring contract, but good luck finding someone willing to ship you back nearly $20 in salary on a contract that won’t become an albatross around this team’s neck.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if the eventual Bargnani trade will end up looking something like this. It could be worse. They’ve made worse trades in the past.

Written by M.

December 8, 2012 at 11:54 am