Saturday, December 1, 2007

Puffer's Posts - Two Things About Last Nights Game...

...and they are not named Bargnani or Delfino. Despite the career highs those two recorded, something else caught my eye.

One of them was TJ Ford and the other was Sam's pattern of calling time-outs.

This is not the first and it will not be the last time this season when someone wonders when (or if) TJ is going to become the player he could be. I love his quickness and his creativity, but sometimes I wonder where his head is. The boxscore from last night flattered his performance. He is only down for 2 turnovers, as against 6 assists, but this doesn't include the 2 or 3 passes he made to teammates who had no place to go with the ball.

Tj's style of play includes far too many "dribble into that mess of opposing players and see what comes up" type decisions. One of his favorite moves is to drive to the basket, through everyone, until he splits the Bigs down in the paint, then turn left or right at the base line and look to see if any of his own teams players are open. Of course, normally they are standing there with their mouths open, wondering what the hell he is doing.

TJ doesn't value possessions the way those point guards he aspires to become like do. If he truly wants to be nominated as an all-star, and play in an all-star game, he needs to protect the ball, no throw it into opponents hands.

The other thing. The Raps are up by 20, with 9 minutes to go, and the Cav's get 3 virtually uncontested shots, closing to within 10 with 7 minutes to go. What looked like out of reach has now become a very winnable game.

No disrespect to Chris Bosh, but I would vote to have him sit out every match-up with the Cavs this year, if Mr. James would do the same. I would have been very, very, very disappointed if the Raps had lost this game. They should have been up by 20 at midway through the third quarter against their opponents last night. Having said that, when they were up by 20, Sam was content to watch the Kingless Cavaliers reel off 10 unanswered points in 2 minutes, without a timeout.

In the post game interviews Sam said something like, "Our guys have got to realize you need to protect a lead in the 4th when you are up by 20." HELLO. How about, if they don't remember, the coach should call a timeout and remind them. What are you saving your timeouts for Sam?

Okay, two little rants off my chest.

I can't say enough about the games Bargs and Carlos had last night. Mr. Delfino stepped up right on cue after I promised my next post would feature him, but I didn't get the time. Next one, I promise.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Puffers Posts - A Small Step for a Bball Player, a Giant Leap for Moonkind

Jamario Moon has burst onto the NBA scene as a non-drafted player who wound up with the Toronto Raptors after first being the best of 40 players invited to a free agent camp, then being asked to attend the Toronto Raptors training camp on a non-guaranteed contract. His play and effort during the training camp was good enough that Bryan Colangelo offered him a two year contract when the season opened.

Jamario elected to declare for the draft in 2001 after only one year at Meridian Community College.

Moon at the NBA 2001 Pre-draft Camp

Highly regarded, coming out of Coosa Central High School in Rockford, Ala. Jamario earned high praise from MCC head basketball coach George Brooks. Unfortunately he was suspended from the team after 12 games. This undoubtedly hurt his chances.

Early 2001 draft websites were effusive in their projections of his abilities and talents, expecting him to be a shoo-in for an NBA pick. It didn’t happen and Jamario spent 5 years in the professional basketball hinterlands. He played for 10 different professional teams:

(Gary Steelheads, Albany Patroons, Fuerza Regia, Mobile Revelers, Arkansas RimRockers, Rome Gladiators, Kentucky Colonels, Fort Worth Flyers, Dodge City Legend, Marietta Storm), in four different leagues, not counting the Harlem Globetrotters, who play in their own league. The different leagues have different start and finish dates, so a player could play on more than one team in a year.

Moon playing for the Patroons

There was never any doubt about his raft of abilities. Check out this 2003 summary from the InfoSport Pro Basketball Combine, a camp for professionals to highlight their skills as they try to land with NBA teams:

Physical & Mental: Long arms and very athletic. In very good physical condition.

Ball Skills: Very good perimeter ball skills for his size. Good handle on the fast break.

Good passer. Does well under pressure.

Offense: Very good! Solid jumper. Makes a lot of athletic plays going to the basket. Excellent in transition. Can easily jump over others to get to the basket. Quick leaper who knows how to score.

Rebounding: Athletic with long arms.

Defense: Good. Has quickness to guard smaller players and with long arms and height and athleticism, can easily guard in the post. Loves to block shots. Very long and mobile.

Game Knowledge: Good know-how. Understands the game.

Strengths: Athleticism. Drive. Slashing to the basket. Good offensive player. Plays above the rim. Can get to the basket any time he wants to.

Opportunities for Improvement: Extend jump shot range? Stronger body.

Overall Comments: One of the top ten players in the combine. The sky is the limit for him professionally.

Everywhere Jamario went he was noticed and was frequently a standout player. He was with the Marietta Storm when they set a league team high scoring record, recording another double double for himself with 11 rebounds and 25 points. In 2007, with the Albany Patroons, he was the CBA defensive player of the year with 2.0 steals and 2.4 blocks a game. Moon also averaged 18.8 ppg. and 7.5 rpg. He was selected to the All-CBA First Team and CBA All-Defensive Team that year as well.

When Jamario was offered a contract by the Toronto Raptors, CBA Acting Commissioner Jim Coyne had this to say. “Jamario is a unique talent that I was glad to have in Albany when I was with the Patroons. He was able to lead us to the CBA Finals this past year and was a fan favorite for both seasons he was with us. His jumping and scoring ability will be of great benefit to the Raptors. While I am sad to see him leave Albany, I am at the same time happy that he is able to make his dreams come true in the NBA.”

Coyne could hardly have predicted the season the Jamario has had so far. Fifteen games into the season and Jamario is part of the starting line up and number two in the NBA rookie ranking for week four. Here’s the good news for Raptor fans. He plays with such confidence, shoots such a high percentage, and makes such good shot selections that there is no reason to expect his performance to taper off. Moon is the real deal.

It’s hard to say why it took this long for Jamario to hook up with an NBA team. But like Anthony Parker, last years find by the Toronto Raptors, mark another one down for Bryan Colangelo. In a year when the Raps were without a draft pick, they got Jamario Moon, for nothing. Advantage Bryan.

(We will look at BryCo’s other 2007/2008 scoop, Carlos Delfino in my next post).

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Working Title.

This post has officially been censored by the admins of

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Puffers Posts - Pass the #$&^@*&^% Ball

Meriam Webster Online dictionary:
pass - a: to transfer or transmit from one to another
- b: to put in circulation

With apologies to MW, I thought I would just put my version of their definition up here in case any members of the Raps organization takes the time to read what their troubled fans write about them.

I usually like to have the boxscore open in front of me on the screen when I write these little missives, to keep myself grounded in reality (I know you won't agree I keep myself grounded in reality Scott) and to avoid making any wildly exaggerated claims. I couldn't bear to call up the boxscore for either the Bucks or Magic game. Nor do I think it necessary. I know, without looking, that the assist numbers are way down.

I know this because I watched the games. And, while they don't keep track of how many times a ball touches four pairs of hands before a shot is attempted, I have a great sense of how many times that has happened amongst the Raps players in the last two games. 0. Well, maybe I remember wrong. Maybe it ws 1/2 of 0. I know it wasn't 3, or 4, or 5 times.

What happened to the passing game? Why haven't I heard Chuck say "Now that's Raptor basketball" since last Sunday? It is because the whole squad seems to have devolved into some kind of ugly mob of one-on-one, 'I've got to save the team' mindless automatons.

Apologies to TJ, whose shot has been falling. And who starts the game out passing. But after 15 minutes of nobody managing to shoot above 15%, he believes it is up to him to score. Hey TJ, no one player not named Bryant or James, is going to win a basketball game by himself. You've got to keep passing the ball.

It's not all Fords fault, by any means. The whole team has lost confidence in their own AND their teammates abilities to score. That is the only explanation I can think of for the lack of 'swinging the ball around to the open man' effort. The open man has been clancking shots. It looks like the only passes occurring are from guys who are afraid to shoot.

The last quarter of the Orlando game showed some slight evidence of the shooting slump maybe going away. And watching Bargs take it to the hole did my heart good. Watching some semblance of the real Bosh appear once again also did my heart good. But maybe the best part of the night was the way the crowd gave extended appreciation to Garbo when he came on the floor and when he hit his shot. They were obviously sending a message. And by that time in the game, there was precious little to feel good about.

I don't even want to talk about Sam's rotations, or player combinations. He's sending messages too, and they don't have anything to do with how hard players are working in practice, or the kind of effort they are making on trhe floor. He's saying he has lost confidence in his own guys. And a coach can't send that kind of message.

For whatever reason, four of the starting five are clanking shots. Bosh may have injury, conditioning issues. With Bargs, Parker, and Kapono, either the Raps offense has changed and that is throwing them off, or their own heads (self-confidence) are screwing with them. Bring back Hopla, or get a team shrink.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Lansdell Lecture

Will the real Toronto Raptors please stand up?

We've played four games now, and seen four completely different versions of the team. Which one is the team we can expect to see more of? Which one should we HOPE to see?

Against Philadelphia, we saw a team that could get a big lead, lose it, and not get discouraged and lose the will to come back. They weathered a strong comeback and some shoddy defence on their part, and jumped on Bargnani's back to ride him to the finish.

Against New Jersey, we saw the team that everyone pictured in the off-season: a team that, on their night, when the shots are falling, can blow out the best teams in the league. But also, a team that had significant holes in their defence. Richard Jefferson abused the team, a pattern that would re-emerge on Tuesday against Milwaukee. More on that later. Carter was invisible, Kidd was subpar, but some of that was down to them having to work so hard on the other end.

The Boston game reminded me of the Kevin O'Neill Toronto teams. The defence was smothering, but they couldn't buy a jumpshot. TJ Ford was incredible, but he can't do it on his own. The fact that they shot 27% in the first half and were only down a handful, and shot 37% for the game and STILL ended up an All-Star shot short of winning the game, says that this team is very, very good. Was the shooting an abomination? Possibly. Certainly we've seen all the players, bar TJ, play much better than that. Garnett on Bosh in overtime was not bad play from Bosh, rather the ridiculous skills that the Big Ticket possesses.

Finally, the Milwaukee game. This was the antithesis of the New Jersey game: nothing worked. I don't agree with the doomsayers who blame the entire game on poor defence. For example, Desmond Mason's one-handed turnaround baseliners will miss 6 nights out of 7. Michael Redd is that good every night. Yes, the defence was bad, but it wasn't 65% opponent FG% bad. The offence, of course, was as bad as against Boston, if not worse. Jump shot after ill-advised jump shot. It's like everyone saw the way Jamario Moon played when he came in and decided to follow his example instead of vice versa.

What we, the fans, want to see, is the heart from the Philly game, the offence from the Jersey game, and the defence from the Boston game.

And the Kris Humphries and Juan Dixon from the Milwaukee game. These two players performed well, before garbage time, and likely moved themselves up in the rotation somewhat. Moon looked...well, starstruck (sorry). He's a great natural athlete (where have I heard THAT tune before...), but that won't make you an NBA player on its own. He needs to stay close to the hoop, jump over some people for some offensive boards, and dunk a few back again. If he has the talent, it will come through.

While we're looking for people, can someone see if they can find Chris Bosh? I suggest starting on Mars and working outwards, because the guy wearing #4 for us right now is clearly a poor alien simulacrum to take his place while they do tests on the real CB4. Orlando is not likely to herald the return either....Howard is a man-beast.

I'll be back next week with more on the boys. Lansdellicious – out.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Puffers Posts _ Raps Fall In Overtime

On a night when only TJ Ford and Rasho Nesterovic could come close to hitting their career numbers for field goal %, the Raps lost to the Big Three and company by 3 points in overtime.

After watching the game, all I can say is, if Boston is the favoured team to come out of the East, then the West should have no trouble. Unless, that is, the Raps are much better than they have been given credit for.

With Bosh shooting 5 - 15, Bargnani shooting 2 - 13, Parker 2 - 6, Dixon 1 - 4 and Calderon 2 - 11, the Raps still managed to never let the game slip out of reach. Bosh, Parker, Bargs, Kapono and Delfino managed to corral 32 rebounds and the Raps matched Bostons total of 42, with 12 of them at the offensive end. They actually outscored Boston at the free throw line by one, after getting almost no trips in the first half.

Ford had a bad night at the office, as far as turnovers to assist ratios go. The Raps only managed 17 assists in total, and only 5 for Ford to go with his 5 TO's. Too much of the first half of the game was firing the ball in to Bosh for an unsuccessful attempt to go 1 on 1 for a basket in the paint. Eventually it led to 5 fouls on Garnett, but the Raps were trying to dig themselves out of a hole by then.

Where was the crisp passing around the perimeter? Where were the open shots? After so many of the starters going 0 for their first 5 attmepts, Sam must have wanted them to work it inside. I think he should have just let them shoot themselves out of their slump.

Having said that, while the Big Three never looked scared, they did look awful vulnerable. If the Raps had even managed to hit 35% of their shots in the first quarter, this game would have been over halfway through the fourth. Of course, could'a, would'a, should'a. As our friend Scott will no doubt point out, live by the jump shot, die by the jump shot.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Puffers Posts - Raps over New Jersey

Well, where did that come from? No disrespect to the Raptors or any fans, but no one was looking for a 37 point drubbing of the team that put the Raps out of the playoffs last year. It kind of makes you wonder what happened. I watched the game last night, and it all kind of just unfolded in front of me, so this morning I decided to have a closer look at the boxscore. Here's what I found.

1. TJ and Calderon combined for 18 points, 15 assists and only 3 turnovers(all Fords)
2. Raps hit 15 of 16 Free throws (a 93.8% average)
3. Raps grabbed 37 rebounds
4. Raps shot 59.1% from 3 point land, making 13 0f 22
5. Raps shot 50.6% from the field.

Of course, the big question is why they achieved these marks? Are they likely to approach these kind of numbers again? Let's break it down.

1. Over his career TJ has averaged 7 assists to 3 turnovers. Calderon 5 to 1.5. So far this year they are 31 to 5. This is mostly due to a phenomenal improvement in the way Jose is taking care of the ball. This was evident in the preseason and it is holding true in the season so far. TJ is also playing much more controlled ball. I think it would have shown up even more in the preseason had the Raps not played against three Euro teams. Team defense is tighter and individual defensive skills are slightly higher in the top Erupean teams, I believe, than in the NBA.

2. The Raps starting 5, career wise, average 81% from the stripe. The next three, Delfino, Calderon and Dixon, average 78%. It isn't till you hit Nesterovic that there is any drop off. They have simply put together a good FT shooting team. The Nets starting five average 74%. They hit 72% during last nights game.

3. Kapono. Delfino, Dixon and Calderon combined for 18 rebounds against the Nets. Bosh only picked up 5 in 27 minutes, which is below his normal mark, but he is still rounding into shape. The large number of rb's from the guards and wing players speaks to the large number of outside shots and also the way the wing players are going for the glass, as per Mitchells instructions. Credit Bargnani as well, with having picked up his rebbounding. So far he has gathered in 11 in 55 minutes of play.

4. Three point shooting as a strength should not be a surprise on this team. Kapono was last years leader and, for his career, has always had a higher 3 pt average than field goal average. Parker was tied for 5th in the NBA last year and Bargnani, at the end of last season, was hitting a large % of his 3 pt shots.

5. The high % for this game is not going to be an aberation. (Not that I expect THAT high a % every game). The way the team can open up their offense should lead to high % shots inside, for Bosh and Bargs, driving opportunities for Calderon and Ford, and also leave Parker, Kapono, Delfino and Dixon relatively open from outside. The abilities of the second unit, when matched against other teams rotation players should also lead to higher % shots.

Obviously, New Jersey had a bad night. However, Kidd was harrassed by tight defense, as soon as he reached half court, and frequently before, leading to fewer fast break points.

Carter seemed entirely dis-interested once he reached his 15,000 point mark and particularly once he saw trhe game climbing out of reach. Credit Parker and Delfino for playing good defense on his as well, and for Dixon. The three of them did a good job of switching between Carter and Richardson. Of course, Richardson got his, but you have to let somebody score if you play help defense. You just don't want both to score.

This game was an encouraging sign of what could be. The team seems to have bought into the "Team Defense" concept, which includes guards and wing players rebounding, and also into the "Look for the best shot" philosophy, which should add up to numerous high assist to field goal ratio nights.

Now let's see how they do against Boston.