Tag Archives: Toronto Raptors

100 Ideas to Improve Saskatoon: 6. Do something with Cairns Field

I love Cairns Field.  It seats 5000 people which is small enough to feel cozy yet large enough to feel like an event.  The best part of it is that if you are there, you are watching some pretty good baseball being played by the Saskatoon Yellow Jackets on a warm Saskatoon summer night.

Cairns Field

The bad part about Cairns Field is it’s location.  It’s tucked away between Holiday Park and the South Industrial section.  It’s hard to get to and even hard to find.  I have had more than one person that was going to meet us at the game text and ask, “now where exactly is this Cairns Field”.

Cairns Field represents Saskatoon’s best chance at professional sports.  Professional basketball in Canada is the Toronto Raptors, we aren’t big enough for MLS or even NASL soccer, the CFL won’t put an additional team in Saskatchewan, and those that think that the NHL is coming are delusional (I’ve heard the arguments and they aren’t based in reality).  Minor league baseball (and maybe an AHL team) is the one team that can thrive in Saskatoon but it’s going to be hard if it is stuck back in it’s current location.

So where do you put it?  Well baseball needs to be close to downtown and close to amenities.  That is going to be a challenge anywhere in Saskatoon unless we can put it in the North Downtown redevelopment where the city yards are currently located.  

I am not saying it is ever going to happen but it would be an amazing place to walk down to and have dinner and then watch a game followed by a couple of drinks at a nearby pub.  They have done it in Winnipeg and for 50 nights each summer (plus playoffs) up to 7481 people come downtown to enjoy The Forks and watch a game (and spend money while down there).

A cozy stadium of 5,000 seats in the heart of Saskatoon with affordable ticket prices?  I can see that working.  Especially if we can find a way to up the quality of ball being played to A or AA baseball.

If that fails, maybe the city can build a decent website for the field that makes it clearer that it exists and how to get there.  That would be a good first step.

Masai Ujiri leaves Denver for Toronto Raptors

From Yahoo! Sports

From the moment he took over the moribund Toronto Raptors last month, Tim Leiweke vowed to make some significant changes to return the team to competitiveness in the Eastern Conference.

It didn’t take him long to show everyone that he means business.

Leiweke lured Masai Ujiri away from the Denver Nuggets on Friday, giving the Raptors the reigning NBA executive of the year and a rising star among the league’s front office ranks.
”We feel very lucky to have Masai in our organization,” Leiweke said in a statement issued by the team. ”He is a proven judge of talent and we look for him to be a big part of creating a winning atmosphere, leading us to the playoffs and, ultimately, delivering NBA championships for Toronto.”

It will be a homecoming of sorts for the 42-year-old Ujiri, a native of Nigeria and the first African-born GM in America’s four major sports. Ujiri was the assistant GM for the Raptors for three seasons before leaving for the Nuggets in 2010, where he quickly made a name for himself.

”To come back to the Raptors, to live in such a great city, and work in an organization that has committed all the resources necessary to win championships was a huge factor in the decision,” Ujiri said in a statement. ”I have already developed a great relationship with Tim Leiweke and I can’t wait to get back to Canada to build a team that is poised to take the next step in the NBA.”

Ujiri earned respect for his deft handling of the Carmelo Anthony trade to New York and his ability to assemble a relatively starless roster that still managed to be a formidable contender in the Western Conference.

With nary an All-Star this season, the Nuggets won a franchise-record 57 games and went an NBA-best 38-3 at home to finish third in the powerful Western Conference, helping Ujiri garner the NBA’s Executive of the Year honor to go with George Karl’s Coach of the Year award.

I am excited because I believe in Masai Ujiri but we all felt the same way when Bryan Colangelo came to the Toronto Raptors and we know how that turned out.  The mediocre culture of MLSE does terrible things to sports executives and their teams.  Let’s hope that Tim Leiweke can change that culture.

Another day of MLSE being MLSE

This new arrangement for the Raptors is messed up

The Raptors announced Tuesday that while Colangelo’s contract as team president is being extended, a new general manager will be hired within the next 30 days.

The changes were announced by Tim Leiweke, who is the incoming CEO of team owner Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. Leiweke also said he is moving up his start date from July 1 to June 3.

”We have a lot of work to do in this organization,” Leiweke said. ”We’re not good enough. I believe Bryan can help in a lot of those areas.”

The Raptors were 10th in the Eastern Conference this year, finishing out of the playoffs for a franchise-worst fifth straight season.

”There is accountability here and we need a new set of eyes and a new thinking,” Leiweke said.

Leiweke was hired last month after a successful period in charge of Anschutz Entertainment Group, owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers, the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings and the Los Angeles Galaxy of MLS.

Leiweke said Colangelo fought ”like heck” to keep his role as general manager.

”Bryan’s probably ticked off at me,” Leiweke said, then paused to chuckle. ”There’s no probably. He’s ticked off at me. This isn’t his perfect world, either. But to his credit, he accepts it.”

Colangelo said he was ”a little disappointed,” but denied being angry at Leiweke.

”It’s a unique situation for me to be in,” Colangelo said. ”Not an ideal situation but I’m going to embrace it and make the most of it.”

Leiweke addressed concerns that keeping Colangelo around would complicate things for any new hire by stressing that the new GM will have complete authority on basketball matters and will report directly to Leiweke, not Colangelo.

”If anyone ultimately disrupts that process, then I’ll clean it up,” Leiweke said.

Colangelo said he understood the message from his new boss.

”The bottom line is, if I get in the way, I’m not going to be around,” he said.

Of course Leiweke wants Toronto to become Canada’s team.

Leiweke said he wants Toronto to celebrate its 20th anniversary as an NBA city by hosting the All-Star Game for the first time in 2016, calling the game ”a must-have.”
He also said he wants the team to build a new training facility and hinted at changes to the Raptors’ brand, acknowledging ”specific” conversations with the NBA about potential changes.

”We absolutely have had conversations about the color and the makeup of our brand, our uniforms and our image,” he said. ”To me, we should be all about the Canadian flag and Canada.

”We are Toronto’s team but I think we have to learn how to be Canada’s team.”

If you want to be Canada’s basketball team, win something.  That is how the Blue Jays did it and that is what the Raptors are going to have to do.  No one feels good about themselves wearing a Raptors shirt because the team is unstable and most often a team of losers.  You want us to care, consistently win.

According to reports, Leiweke didn’t want Colangelo to be kept around and it doesn’t sound like Colangelo wants to stay around.  In other words despite having new owners and a new CEO, MLSE is still MLSE which is bad news for sports fans in Canada.

How the Toronto Raptors are using technology to improve the team (and find it’s flaws)

A fantastic piece from Grantland

It is a very impressive piece of work. “Most teams are using spreadsheets or just using our reports,” says Brian Kopp, executive vice-president at STATS. “The Raptors go a step beyond that, which only a few teams are doing, and their visualizations are the best I’ve seen.”6

That does not mean it has been an easy sell to the team’s coaching staff, though Sterner and Nori are enthusiastic about analytics and have helped craft the ghost defense. Everyone likes the ghost system, but some of the larger analytics-related issues have caused friction between the front office and some of the coaches — even if everyone involved is mostly polite about it. “It’s always going to be a challenge,” says Ed Stefanski, Toronto’s executive vice-president of basketball operations. “A lot of high-level coaches have come out against analytics, but it’s the wave of the future, and you’ve got to jump on.”

Bryan Colangelo, the Raptors’ GM, had already set Toronto on the SportVU path before hiring Stefanski in the fall of 2011, and Stefanski credited Colangelo with pushing the Raptors in the right direction.

The coaches, even the most receptive ones, seem to view analytics and SportVU mostly as a tool to confirm what they already think and know. Some samples:

Dwane Casey, Toronto’s head coach: “It’s a good backup for what your eyes see.” Casey added, “It may also shed light on something else,” a sentiment both Nori and Sterner echoed at points. “But you can’t make all your decisions based on it, and it can’t measure heart, and chemistry, and personality.”

Sterner: “It helps reinforce your gut. Most of the time, your gut is pretty much right.”

Nori: “More than anything, it’s a tool to help confirm what your eyes see.”

The analytics team agrees that most of the new knowledge will be along the margins — that coaches leaguewide get most of the big, systematic things right — but that the analytics will nonetheless offer more in the way of new discoveries that might contradict what we think we know. “A lot of coaches will say how great it is that analytics confirm what they already see,” Boyarsky says. “The fact of the matter is, that’s not really true.”

An example: The analytics team is unanimous, and rather emphatic, that every team should shoot more 3s — including the Raptors and even the Rockets, who are on pace to break the NBA record for most 3-point attempts in a season.

So basically the Toronto Raptor’s computers are analyzing and second guessing the play and coaching of the Raptors.  Amazing the amount of variables they are dealing with.

The wasted potential of Vince Carter

What went wrong with Vince CarterDave Feschuk tries to answer.

Vince Carter by RMTip21Why did Vinsanity peak so early? Wear and tear was a factor. His knees took a beating. And the off-seasons in which he infamously shirked serious workouts stacked up.

But it also came down to this: As explosive as Carter could be — he famously followed Allen Iverson’s 52-point performance in a Game 2 win with a 50-point outburst that propelled Toronto to a 2-1 series lead against the Sixers — his fuse didn’t light itself.

Former Raptors coach Butch Carter, speaking over the line from Orlando this week, was philosophical about what made Air Canada fly.

“Some guys are motivated from being poor. Some guys are motivated like Oakley, they play at a small black college and no one ever thought he’d be able to play in the NBA,” Butch Carter said. “Vince came from an environment where he had a mother and a male figure in the home; he had three good meals, a very clean and educated home.

“He had been told it was okay to be who he was. He was very good being what he was. The thing was, I just felt he could have been better.”

It didn’t turn out well.

Carter quit on Toronto, had a minor renaissance in New Jersey, moved on to Orlando with high hopes. But the Magic gave up on him this past December, when they dealt him to Phoenix, and he’ll arrive in Toronto for Friday’s game against the Raptors aged 34 and waning. The Suns are expected to exercise their right to buy out the final year of his current contract next season for less than a quarter of its $18 million value. The kid they called Half Man, Half Amazing is a step removed from becoming a full-on journeyman.

via

The Raptors start a new without Chris Bosh

From Marc Spiers of Yahoo! Sports

Andrea Bargnarni Gritty forward Reggie Evans, currently the NBA’s leading rebounder, is now the most popular Raptor because of his blue-collar style of play. Rookie forward Ed Davis is expected to make his debut sometime this month after recovering from right knee surgery, but no one is expecting him to make an immediate impact like Blake Griffin or John Wall. DeMar DeRozan is gifted athletically, but is inexperienced and still needs to develop a consistent jump shot.

That leaves Andrea Bargnani, the 7-foot No. 1 pick of the 2006 draft. While he was comfortable to defer to Bosh, Bargnani now has more freedom to grow his game. Bosh’s absence has also impacted him in more subtle ways: Bargnani said he’s getting more fan requests for pictures since Bosh departed.

Bargnani’s confidence received a boost during the summer when he averaged 24.1 points and starred for Italy’s national team in qualification games for the 2011 European championships. Through the Raptors’ first three games, he’s averaged 23.3 points while making 55.6 percent of his 3-pointers.

Bargnani is also averaging just three rebounds. And during two separate possessions at the end of the Raptors’ 111-108 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Monday, he failed to get the ball for a needed 3-pointer. Still, he insists he’s ready for the pressure that now comes from being one of the Raptors’ top players.

“Why should I hide from this?” Bargnani said. “This is everybody’s dream. That’s why you practice every day and get better. Otherwise, why should you practice so much? Stay home. The pressure is a good pressure. If someone is putting pressure on you, that means you were doing good and they expect more from you, otherwise no one is going to expect nothing from you.”

Why I have to cheer for the Raptors this season

Okay the Raptors are going to be horrible this season.  I really don’t want to cheer for them but according to the code of the sports fan by Bill Simmons I still have to, even after reviewing these exceptions.  My comments are in red

Once you choose a team, you’re stuck with that team for the rest of your life … unless one of the following conditions applies:

  • Your team moves to another city. All bets are off when that happens. In fact, if you decided to turn off that sport entirely, nobody would blame you.  If only I was a Vancouver Grizzlies fan.
  • You grew up in a city that didn’t field a team for a specific sport — so you picked a random team — and then either a.) your city landed a team, or b.) you moved to a city that fielded a team for that specific sport. For instance, one of my Connecticut buddies rooted for the Sixers during the Doctor J Era, then happened to be living in Orlando when the Magic came to town. Now he’s a Magic fan. That’s acceptable.
  • One of your immediate family members either plays professionally or takes a relevant management/coaching/front office position with a pro team.
  • You follow your favorite college star (and this has to be a once-in-a-generation favorite college star) to the pros and root for his team du jour … like if you were a UNC fan for the past 20 years, and you rooted for the Bulls (because of MJ) and then the Raptors (because of Vince). Only works if there isn’t a pro team in your area.  Not a lot of University of Saskatchewan Huskies make it to the NBA
  • The owner of your favorite team treated his fans so egregiously over the years that you couldn’t take it anymore — you would rather not follow them at all then support a franchise with this owner in charge. Just for the record, I reached this point with the Boston Bruins about six years ago. When it happens, you have two options: You can either renounce that team and pick someone else, or you can pretend they’re dead, like you’re a grieving widow. That’s what I do. I’m an NHL widow. I don’t even want to date another team.   This would give Toronto Maple Leafs an out.

So it’s going to be a bad season but I will continue to cheer for the Raptors as I have some faith in Jay Triano and Bryan Colangelo and I plan to channel a lot of my anger over this season onto Chris Bosh.   For those of you who are fans of successful NBA franchises, please be kind to me as this season is going to be a long one. 

Also I would like to extend my thanks to all of you who have not taunted me over the Denver Broncos debacle last weekend.  These wounds are going to take some time to heal.

Update: The Ego that is Chris Bosh

Staring at the swath of Boston Celtics banners hanging from the TD Garden and at more television cameras than he claims he ever saw at his only previous NBA home, Bosh essentially said what many in Toronto suspected:

We weren’t big enough for him.

“I mean, really it’s all about being on TV at the end of the day,” Bosh said following the pre-game shoot around, the first look at the Miami Heat circus about to play at an arena near you all NBA season.

“Seriously, a guy can average (20 points and 10 rebounds) and nobody cares. If you don’t see it, it doesn’t really happen.”

Toiling in the perceived anonymity of Canada’s biggest market doesn’t really cut it for any NBA star worth his ego. These are the guys who lust for Sportscenter (the ESPN version) not Sportscentre (TSN style). Tuesday’s tip off to the season was broadcast nationally in both countries, although only one apparently matters to Bosh.

While I am at it, I might as well roll this article about LeBron James into this post.

When LeBron James was running roughshod over the Cleveland Cavaliers, it became common for him to respond to tough coaching and differing degrees of conflict with the sheer shutdown mode. There goes LeBron, stomping off to the locker room with a staff member in hot pursuit to talk him back into practice. Come on back, King. We need you.

James would mope back onto the floor, reluctant to be told that someone disagreed with his belief on a matter. The Cavaliers’ culture of enabling, letting things go and go, exacerbated these issues. James stayed in a cocoon of perpetual adolescence.

“His coping skills,” one perceptive ex-teammate said, “had been largely underdeveloped.”

It’s what I have always said, LeBron James is a 15 year old in a man’s body.

Long Season in Toronto?

Yahoo! Sports feel that the Toronto Raptors will struggle to reach 30 wins this season.  It will all rise and fall on Andrea Bargnani.

I don’t think that sounds right at all. Even with Leandro Barbosa and Kleiza looking pretty "right" during the preseason, something in me had the Raptors working at least at 75 percent of where they were last season. That now seems terribly optimistic to me three months later.

How can they get there? Well, Andrea Bargnani has to stop being the player he’s been his entire career. Which is pretty impossible to do this late in the game, even if he is still young, and even if he supposedly will be allowed to flesh things out and explore the studio space with Chris Bosh in Miami.

He’ll have to become a lights-out shooter in order to justify how much he shoots from outside. He’s good, no doubt, but not money enough to make the lack of interior points or free throws worth it. He’ll have to find his teammates more often — and it’s not like those opportunities aren’t there when he pump fakes, drives and has a big man or guard come over to take a charge while a teammate waits wide open underneath the basket or in the corner. And he’ll have to not be one of the worst rebounders in the NBA, again.

After one of the more miserable make-good preseasons we can remember (Bargs is currently shooting at a 23 percent clip), things aren’t exactly looking up.

I’ll pick 25 games as my over/under with both Bryan Colangelo and Jay Triano gone at the end of the season.

Did Chris Bosh quit on the Raptors?

As Ball Don’t Lie sees it.

Did Chris Bosh quit? But Colangelo is right, and whether Bosh wants to delude himself or not isn’t our fault. Whether he likes it or not isn’t our fault either. I watched those games. Raptors fans, and there are many, saw those games. And I’m sure the bulk of them appreciated his amazing run over the first 50-plus games and can also understand why a guy takes it easy after being enervated by yet another middling season amongst a group of players who can’t defend or rebound. You’re still safer wearing a Bosh jersey in Toronto than you are wearing a Vince Carter jersey.

This wasn’t a tank job. And it certainly wasn’t every game. Maybe not even every other game. This was just Chris at about 85 percent of what we saw from him earlier that season (and his contributions agree with that percentage), and about 90 percent of what we’ve seen from him for his career. This wasn’t Carter. It wasn’t even Pau Gasol in his last year with the Grizzlies. But Bosh wasn’t going as hard in March. Especially on defense.

And when you act the way you’ve acted? Soliciting free-agent suggestions over Twitter on April 30 even though you’re still technically a member of the Toronto Raptors until July 1? Following Dwyane Wade around North America like a tagalong little brother? The Hamptons nonsense? The All-Star admission? Just being in the same picture as LeBron James, who has become public enemy No. 1?

It allows for those with long memories and nothing to do on a Tuesday night in March to recall what went down. That’s what you’re left with, Chris. And you’re best served not protesting too much. Better to let this slip away.

Kind of like you did with the Raptors’ season.

Contextless Links

Isiah vs. Magic

Magic Johnson and Isiah ThomasDespite growing up a Piston’s fan, I stopped being an Isiah Thomas fan around the time he failed in a power play to take over the Toronto Raptors.  By the time he ruined the CBA, I wondered if he was all there.  I lost whatever respect I had for him during his time with the New York Knicks and the allegations of sexual harassment started to come in.

I do feel some remorse for him after being blindsided by Magic Johnson the new book about Magic and Larry Bird.  I felt sorry for Thomas while reading this in the Sporting News about their relationship after Magic was diagnosed with HIV.

8bacacb3-5f22-4351-a515-f7410ff1679fIsiah and Magic were great friends during their playing days and have remained on good terms, so it’s not surprising to see him cut Johnson a little slack. But things get really hairy really fast when it comes to Thomas’s supposed gossiping about Magic’s sexuality.

As Zeke says, "What most people don’t know is, before Magic had HIV, my brother had HIV. My brother died of HIV, AIDS, drug abuse. So I knew way more about the disease, because I was living with it in my house.” That’s also where you get the sense that, for real, it’s on.

As much of a laughingstock as Thomas has become, you have to feel for him here. Not only does he feel betrayed, but he’s getting accused of spreading rumors on a subject that, based on personal experience, he’d never be so ignorant about. What remains to be seen is if he’s got enough credibility left to launch the meme that "There’s this public person and then there’s this b.s. person. There’s Earvin and then there’s Magic."

As Isiah said to Sports Illustrated

"It’s so hypocritical,” said Thomas, who was replaced by current Knicks president Donnie Walsh in 2008. "There’s this public person and then there’s this b.s. person. There’s Earvin and then there’s Magic. OK, I understand you’ve got to sell a book. But if this is how you sell it, then who’s kicking who in the stomach? And it’s just like the line he perpetuated that he got me the Knicks’ job. Oh, yeah? Ask [Knicks owner] Jim Dolan. Call Barry Watkins [the Knicks’ senior VP]. That’s a lie.

"You’re talking about being two-faced? Magic says he put me up for the job, that he was showing up in hard times and telling me everything was OK. And I come to find out he’s been the one stabbing me in the back. … I’m really hurt and disappointed, particularly with the Olympic team, if he was doing that stuff.”

Thomas said Magic has never confronted him about the HIV rumors or his true feelings about their relationship. As recently as August, Thomas attended a charity event in Beverly Hills, Calif., honoring Magic, where he said they greeted each other warmly.

"If he was feeling this way, why was he shaking my hand and kissing me and acting like he and I were such buddies?” Thomas said. "Why do you do that?

"People who know me and my family and what I stand for will laugh at Magic and his beliefs. I’m tired of getting punched and people using me because they think I’m not going to say anything. Those days are over. Game on.”

Okay, if I am Magic Johnson, I fly out to Florida, take my old friend out for supper and have a long talk with him before the book is finished.  I give him a heads up, I let him see the first draft of the book, I get his comments, I apologize, I even visit a few recruits for my old friend and sit on the South Florida sidelines.  Actually if I was Magic Johnson, I wouldn’t say those things about someone I called a friend.

Celebrating Hedo Turkoglu wants to be in Toronto

From the Globe and Mail’s Jeff Blair

Start with the fact that Hedo Turkoglu wants to be in Toronto and that his wife Banu loves the city, and Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo’s latest signing is a strong move.

Go from there and factor in that Turkoglu actually wants the ball late in a game and knows what to do with it, then couple in the pick-and-roll possibilities that have hoop-heads all agog and try to come up with a downside to the team’s free-agent signing.

Toronto Raptors Claw LogoAnswer? There is none – especially if you’re thinking about life after Chris Bosh, which, you know, you ought to be doing.

Colangelo has taken what is essentially the first step of a makeover that will be undertaken when Bosh leaves either as a free agent or through a sign and trade. He has ensured the team will still be competitive.

Turkoglu and Andrea Bargnani doesn’t whisper ‘championship,’ but with pieces added after Bosh leaves, the foundation is there to play a style of basketball that will keep the team competitive.

Turkoglu, Bargnani, Jose Calderon and Player A and Player B sound a lot better than Bargnani, Calderon and Players A, B and C. Besides, this is only money.

Whatever this costs the Raptors in renounced free agents is irrelevant.

Shawn Marion isn’t a difference maker, and in reality he and whoever else is renounced can be replaced, particularly in a buyer’s market.

For a team that is preparing to see yet another franchise player walk away and have its collective psyche dealt yet another blow, having a guy like Turkoglu who can play and actually wants to be in the city is something to be celebrated.

Blair gets to a good point and that is that is that the Toronto Raptors aren’t planning to keep Chris Bosh happy, they are planning for life after Chris Bosh. 

Contextless Links

Bosh

Chris Bosh dunking As I unwind tonight, I am watching the Raptors play the New Jersey Nets.  I am just going to come out and say this after watching many Toronto Raptors this season.  I think Chris Bosh is over rated.

Yes he is athletic and gets to the free throw line a lot but Raptor fans somehow think it will be the end of the world is Bosh opts out in 2010.  Losing talent is tough but Bosh seems to score a lot of quiet points and while he loves that jump shot at the top of the key, he misses that shot a lot.  Bosh is considered one of the three untouchables in Toronto but I say trade him now and get something back in value for him.  Build around Bagnarni and Calderon.  I know this will never happen and in 2010, he will be leave for New York or Cleveland but with the Raptors season slipping away, why not build a real title contender as opposed to a 40 win team.  I know the “eighth and final playoff spot” is the Toronto civic slogan but “Championship” has a nice ring to it as well.