Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Why Colangelo said yes to Triano

Many pundits and fans alike wondered aloud why the Raptors and Bryan Colangelo chose to remove the interim tag from Jay Triano's name and replace it with head coach. While I still remain skeptical, I understand the logic and reasoning behind the move. That's why I am here to give you 6 reasons why Colangelo decided to stick with Triano, without interviewing a single other coach.

1. When Colangelo conducted his end of the season evaluations with each player, one of his questions was to evaluate whether or not the players believed their current coach was the right man to lead the team back to the post-season. The players rallied behind their coach and responded with a resounding yes. They stood behind their coach and praised his work ethic and wealth of basketball knowledge. Triano's record as a head coach (25-40) obviously did not reflect the relationship he had built with his team. But the respect he had earned over the course of the season from the players did.

2. Andrea Bargnani's improvement after Triano took over the team is a huge factor in why he was permanently made head coach. Bargnani's stats under Triano were impressive as he became a bigger part of the offense and got consistent minutes. But Triano's biggest impact on Bargnani was his self-confidence. After a subpar year that saw his stats decrease and outside shot disappear, Bargnani responded with career highs in every category. Triano also had a positive affect on his defensive play as Andrea improved his footwork and toughness in the paint. Which led to his block total reaching over 1.2 blocks and 4.4 defensive rebounds, impressive numbers considering his slow start in the first half of the season. The most overlooked factor is that Bargnani's improvement under Triano and continued improvement under Triano makes Colangelo look good, as he has been widely criticized for his drafting of Bargnani first overall. So Bargnani becoming a force in the league reflects positively on Colangelo and his massive ego, which is almost as big as his massive collars.

3. A smaller factor was the Raptors winning streak and strong finish to season. After the firing of Mitchell and the acquisition of Marion, the Raptors finally gelled and played some good ball down the stretch, going 9-4 in their final 13 games. While Triano's overall record is mediocre at best, he seemed to put it all together towards the end of the season. Although the Raptors were well out of the playoffs by that time, who knows what could have been if the season was 92 games rather than 82.

4. Another important factor in the decision was the lack of quality coaching candidates available. The names out there being bandied about for Philly and Sacramento's vacant coaching positions are former coach of the year Eddie Jordan, legendary coach turned broadcaster Doug Collins, Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau and Mavs assistant Dwayne Casey. Eddie Jordan is too much like Sam Mitchell to hire, Doug Collins only seems to interview for Philly, Washington and the Bulls, Tom Thibodeau has been mentioned as a head coach for years but never seems to get the gig and Dwayne Casey was previously interviewed but was narrowly edged out by Sam Mitchell. Colangelo's close friend Marc Ivaronni is available and was rumoured to be Colangelo's eventual coach when he fired Mitchell but now seems likely to become Triano's lead assistant. Oh, and by the way Jeff Van Gundy and his manic depressive ass won't come out of retirement to coach a team that couldn't make the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference, so forget about it.

5. The Raptors will also benefit from the good PR involved with making Triano the first Canadian head coach. The fact the he is the head coach on the lone Canadian team is the icing on the cake. Triano is infamous in Canadian basketball history as he broke or equalled 11 school men's basketball records, including having the most career points with 2,616 at Simon Fraser University. Triano was a national team player from 1978–88, captained the team from 1981–88, and played in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics. He led the Canadian team that won Gold at the 1983 World University Games in Edmonton, Alberta. Overall he is a good ol Canadian boy who loves basketball and more importantly loves Canada.

6. Triano is well respected around the league and has a stellar reputation around basketball circles across the globe. He was just named lead coach for USAB's 2009 summer national senior team program in July, a precursor to the preparations for the 2010 world championships and the 2012 London Olympics. The former coach of Canada's Basketball program was also known for his role as an assistant coach of the USAB Select Team (2007 and 2008), the head coach of the NIKE Skills Academy in Vancouver (2006) and Toronto (2007), and as a coach at the prestigious EURO CAMP in Treviso, Italy for the six years prior to his role in the NBA. He is a well travelled and experienced coach, who has instructed some of the NBA's brightest stars and will continue to do so in Toronto for the next 3 years.

So if you had any doubts or questions as to why Triano was made the head coach and signed to a 3 year deal.........now you know and knowing is half the battle........holla at ya boy!!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Free agent frenzy - Part 1

While NBA teams are positioning themselves for the 2010 free agent market for a chance to sign perennial all-stars like Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and Joe Johnson, many are overlooking the free agent pool of 2009. At first glance the pool looks kind of shallow due to its lack of all-stars but on closer inspection, it actually yields a few diamonds in the rough and grizzled vets. Teams can look to sign young players to build for the future or add a player to put them over the top on their quest for an NBA championship. I will be discussing the free agents in a 3-part series: guards, small/combo forwards and bigs. So put on your swim trunks because its time to take a dip into the 2009 free agent pool and try to predict the future for some of the more notable players:

Mike Bibby
Raymond Felton (R)
Jason Kidd
Jarrett Jack (R)
Ramon Sessions (R)
Nate Robinson (R)
Andre Miller

Ben Gordon
Allen Iverson
Anthony Parker

Marvin Williams (R)
Linas Kleiza (R)
Ron Artest
Lamar Odom
Trevor Ariza
Hakim Warrick (R)
Jamario Moon
Desmond Mason
Grant Hill
Shawn Marion

Glen Davis (R)
Rasheed Wallace
Antonio Mcdyess
Charlie Villanueva (R)
David Lee (R)
Drew Gooden
Paul Millsap (R)
Carlos Boozer

Chris Andersen
Marcin Gortat (R)
Part 1: Guards

Jason Kidd signs with the L.A. Lakers: Jason's career is winding down and his assist and rebounding numbers have clearly made him a lock for the hall of fame but he has yet to taste the glory of an NBA championship. With that being said, I believe Kidd will sign with either the L.A. Lakers or the Cleveland Cavs on a 1 year deal. Kidd enjoyed his time on the U.S. Olympic team because he was playing with elite players who run to the right spots in the open court. Therefore making Kidd's job easier in facilitating and delivering the ball to the players in areas where they have the greatest success. Two of the players he enjoyed playing with the most were Kobe and Lebron. Kidd has also alluded to his desire to re-join his Olympic teammates on various occasions throughout the season. Some pundits believe Kidd will be lured to return to the Mavs but after two failed postseason attempts, Kidd will choose to ply his trade elsewhere next season. The Mavs have peaked and missed their opportunity to win with their current squad. Kidd knows this and will follow through on the supposed secret agreement between Olympians to join forces when possible through free agency.

Mike Bibby re-signs with the Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks are slowly rising up the ranks in the Eastern conference and much of their recent success can be attributed to the acquisition of Mike Bibby. After acquiring Bibby at the deadline last year, the Hawks came together as a team and began putting up wins. Enough wins to get them into the playoffs and push the eventual champion Celtics to the brink in a tight 7 game series. They followed that up by finishing 4th in the East this season and advancing to the second round, only to be swept by the Cavs. The Hawks lacked leadership and direction before the arrival of Bibby and due to the slow progression of former lotto pick Acie Law, Bibby is that much more important to the Hawks. Atlanta needs a contending team in the worst way in an attempt to fill seats in the perpetually empty Phillips Arena. While Bibby doesn't really draw fans to the gate, he knows how to win and if the winning continues, the fans will return.....and so will Bibby as he recently reiterated his desire to return to the Hawks.

Andre Miller signs with the Portland Trailblazers: The 76ers are in the midst of some internal dissension and turmoil, which all but gurantees Miller will take his game elsewhere. The Sixers had moderate success with Miller running the show but at this stage of his career Miller needs a to be with a team with higher aspirations than moderate success. Miller skipped the mandatory team metting after being eliminated in the first round by the Orlando Magic, a clear indication that he will also be skipping town in the near future. But Philly's loss is Portland's gain, the Blazers need a point guard that can control the offense and distribute the ball. That's why Miller's pass first game will be a perfect fit. He also has become a better overall offensive player in recent years and an obvious uprgrade over Steve Blake. Signing Miller would move Blake to the backup and give them one of the better guard tandems in the league, while allowing them to move Rodriguez.

Jarret Jack re-signs with the Indiana Pacers: Jack earned the nod as the starter over TJ.Ford towards the end of the season, gaining coach O'Brien's trust as the season progressed. Jack put up numbers that legitimized his status as a starter in the NBA and the Pacers will reward him with a long term deal. Jack displayed an all-around game and the level of maturity needed to run the offense in Indiana, a trait that TJ lacked at times as teammates were visibly upset with his shot selection (a problem he also encountered in Toronto and Milwaukee.) Look for the Pacers to re-up Jack and deal Ford for a power player, to fill a glaring hole in their lineup.

Raymond Felton re-signs with the Charlotte Bobcats: Felton has had to deal with trade rumours since his second year in the league, but still remains with the Cats after three tumultous seasons. Many thought last year's drafting of DJ Augustin spelled the end of Felton's time in Charlotte and it almost did as he was almost dealt to the Mavericks. The Cats eventually reneged and settled on trading Matt Carroll for Desagna Diop instead. A move that proved to be wise as Felton responded to the near trade by putting up his best numbers as a Bobcat. Felton solidified his position as a starter and never looked back, leaving Augustin in his shadow as the back-up. Felton proved to Coach Brown (who was not a believer in Felton's ability to run a team effectively) that he was the answer at the PG position. Felton posted career highs in single game and career scoring averages, while still keeping his assist number high and turnovers low. Felton proved invaluable as he led the Bobcats surge for the playoffs as Charlotte barely missed getting in as the 8th seed. Felton is a decent defender who can beat bigger guards to the spot with his quickness while still being able to find ways to score despite his size disadvantage allowing him to play both guard positions. A role he will flourish in for years to come in Charlotte.

Nate Robinson signs with the Sacramento Kings: The Kings have 7 million in cap space this summer and they need depth in the backcourt. The draft may provided the Kings with Blake Griffin or Ricky Rubio, lessening their need to sign a big ticket free agent. Enter Nate the GR8, Robinson proved he could be a Barbosa type scoring guard in D'Antoni's uptempo system, a similar style the Kings should adopt with their plethora of young athletic players. By adding Nate, the Kings get a guard that can play both guard positions and fill-in for injured starters. Plus Nate's infectious energy and penchant for the big play will endear him to the loyal fans in Sactown. Nate will never be confused for a distributor when he plays PG but he did average 4 asts, a respectable number not to be discounted. Crypto Nate's scoring and ability to play both guard positions make him invaluable to the Kings as he is content coming off the bench and adds depth to a backcourt that underperformed and was chronically injured.

Ramon Sessions re-signs with the Milwaukee Bucks: Sessions is one of the few restricted free agents that will almost surely garner an offer from another team and force the Bucks to match. The Bucks have 2 young free agents in Sessions and Villanueva and a tough choice to make as cap limitations will only allow them to sign one to a long term deal. Sessions should be the answer as he has put up staggering numbers when he starts including a 24 ast game two seasons ago. Villanueva is soft at the power forward spot and while he put up good numbers and improved drastically this season he does not fit coach Skiles hard nosed system. Sessions may want to sign elsewhere as he has been in and out of the starting lineup and never had a defined role in Milwaukee. Unfortunately his restricted status means the Bucks will pay whatever to keep him and deal other big money players on their roster to compensate.......namely Jefferson and/or Redd.

Ben Gordon signs with the Detroit Pistons: Joe Dumars has never been shy about making a big splash and thats exactly what I look for him to do this summer. Gordon is the exact player Detroit has been missing, a scorer who can hit a big shot when they need it(too bad they gave up Mr.Big shot himself for next to nothing.) Signing Gordon would give the Piston's what they thought they were getting when they traded for Iverson, but let's be honest they knew they weren't acquiring much more than cap space anyways. The Pistons still have a nice core with Prince, Stuckey and Hamilton, adding a free agent or two should keep them in the playoffs. Detroit would be wise to sign two players in a reduced market this summer rather than save their cap space for 2010. Let's face it, Detroit isn't exactly a place where top players in their prime look to sign long-term deals. Detroit lacks the media and advertising exposure to reap the full rewards of being a star in the NBA. Places like New York, Boston, Miami and Chicago are more likely destinations for these type of players (eg. Bosh, Wade, Lebron.) Gordon won't get the money he turned down last summer, but not many players will be getting thier full value as the 2010 free agency period looms large on GM's minds.

Allen Iverson signs with the San Antonio Spurs: A.I. is one of the hardest players to predict a destination for this summer. He requires special situations and certain offensive systems to be truly effective. His last two stints in Denver and Detroit have been utter failures, not to mention leaving Philly admist much controversy. So the team that takes the chance on signing the aging vet must have the right conditions and teammates. I believe San Antonio is that place, coach Popovich is one of the best at getting players to buy into his system. While Iverson is not really one to follow a restrictive system, the Spurs will look to use Iverson as a sixth man in the same way he used Manu earlier in his career and Finley more recently. Iverson will enter the game and look to score, as the Spurs most glaring weakness in the playoffs was the lack of scoring outside of Parker and Duncan. Much of that can be attributed to Manu's injury but also on a bench full of role/specialty players that is without any true scorers who can create their own shot. Iverson will of course have to buy into his role as sixth man and spot starter but it is possible in the right situation. Michael Curry was not able to reach A.I. due to his lack of experience and championships but the same cannot be said about Popovich. Coach Pops with the help of Tim Duncan, should be able to get the most out of Iverson and he may well be the piece that returns the Spurs to the NBA's elite.

Anthony Parker re-signs with the Toronto Raptors: Parker is a do everything type of player who never complains about his role....he just goes out and plays hard every game. The Raptors have glaring holes and need to add players from outside the organization but not at the expense of team chemistry. Parker is well liked by his teammates and within the organization. Parker also enjoys being a Raptor and the city of Toronto, a sentiment he has conveyed to the media and fans whenever he's had a chance. Parker will take a pay cut to help the organization add players to take them to the next level. He understands the team's success hinges on keeping Bosh happy and content in Toronto and most importantly playing in Toronto. Therefore he will re-sign for less money and be the teams sixth man, furthering his reputation as a team first player and a class act.

Monday, May 4, 2009

2nd round predictions

After a great 1st round of playoff basketball, including the most watched 1st round series of all-time featuring the Celtics and Bulls, the 2nd round has the potential to be even better. The Cavs proved to everyone that they are on a mission to the NBA finals as they swept the misfiring Pistons. The Lakers, Nuggets and Mavs showed the East that the West is still the best conference in the NBA by disposing of their opponents in 5. The Magic survived an early scare after losing on home court to the Sixers but internal dissent and a lack of intensity contributed to the Sixers practically beating themselves. They were blown out in the final game on home court by the Howard-less Magic, as "Superman" was too busy sitting in a hotel room tweeting like a 13 year old girl. The Rockets, Hawks and Celtics each squeaked into the 2nd round after an exhausting 7 game series. Luckily they will have plenty of time to rest after they are eliminated in round number 2. The Hawks should start making vacation plans and booking tee times now as they will be the first to say aloha to playoff basketball. The Hawks looked horrible in every loss to the Heat but managed to only kinda suck enough to be beat the Heat in one more game. So get your bookies on the line cuz I predicted every series right except the Bulls eliminating the Celtics, not to mention predicting the correct amount of games in all but 2 series because its time for my round 2 predictions.

Lakers vs Rockets: This one boils down to Kobe's George Bush like offense vs Ron Ron's border line sexual harassment on defense. Kobe was Kobe in the first series, flooding the stat sheet worse then Katrina did New Orleans in all but the one road loss to the Jazz. The Lakers had their way with Utah as a different starter had a starring role in each win. Kobe's supporting cast was superb with the exception of Andrew Bynum. Bynum wasn't happy with his benching by Phil Jackson but the Zen master has never cared about hurting his players feelings so he better get used to it. Phil will keep Bynum on the bench until Yao breaks out and stomps through the Lakers interior defense like Godzilla through the streets of Tokyo. Yao Ming had a relatively quiet first round while putting up solid numbers. He single handedly won game one with his offensive accuracy, going perfect from the floor in the first half. But Ming managed to hide in the shadows for the rest of the series.....which is no easy task for a 7 foot 6 Chinese guy. Yao will have to attract more attention in the bright lights of L.A. to have any chance of beating the lake show in this series. Kobe will continue to get the help from his supporting cast like he did in round one so the Rockets and Yao Ming are only 6 games from being done.........Lakers in 6.

Nuggets vs Mavericks: This matchup has the potential to be the best series of the 2nd round. The Mavericks shocked everyone by beating the battle tested Spurs in five games. But remember the Spurs were without one of their big 3, Manu Ginobilli. Mind you the Celtics got past the Bulls without Garnett but the Mavs have more playoff experience and are a far superior team to the young Bulls. The Mavs scored at will on the Spurs and played tight enough defense to contain everyone but Parker, who tore through the paint and scored with ease. That will prove to be the Mavs undoing as the Nuggets starting five excel at getting buckets in the paint. The Nuggets breezed by the Hornets led by Chauncey Billups outside shooting and their intimidating interior D. The Birdman is flying around the court like a ball hawk (no homo), K-Mart's got his swagger back (despite the wack, lips tat on his neck) and Nene's mean muggin more than Xzibit before he traded in being hard on albums for being a clown on MTV. The point is that the Nuggets play with a swagger and tough nosed edge that the Mavs won't be able to compete with. The trade for Billups has helped every player on the Nuggets roster improve and play within a team concept. We all know Melo and the rest of the team are susceptible to erupt at any moment, but with Mr.Big Shot keeping everyone in check and playing team defense, Denver will be too much for Dallas to handle........Nuggets in 6.

Cavs vs Hawks: The Cavs beat the Piston's like an old rug in every aspect of the game, leaving the Piston's lookin thoroughly beaten and.......well......old. The Cavs had fun and looked like a high school team playing against a wheelchair basketball team the way they danced on the sidelines and joked before games, showing no respect or fear for that matter. At no point during the series did they display any fear of losing even when the Pistons were charging hard in the fourth quarter. Cleveland's starting five simply re-entered the game and put the lead back up into double digits where it belonged and picked up the win. Lebron has his Cavs believing in him, the team and most importantly, themselves. Lebron leads his troops and has the love of his followers like the NBA has never seen. He is adored and admired on a Barak Obamaesque level across the country and the globe. The Hawks/Heat matchup was one of the worst first round series in years. There were no lead changes after the first quarter, as the team to win the first quarter went on to win the every game of the series. The Hawks were unimpressive even in their wins and don't look like a championship calibre team. They showed no grit or determination as they weren't able to mount a comeback in any of their losses which included one on home court. Legit championship contenders are never out of any game, double digit lead or not. The Hawks simply aren't good enough to challenge this year's version of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Lebron and the Cavs will breeze to the conference finals before they even lose a game........Cavs in 4.

Magic vs Celtics: The Celtics were able to prevail without the heart and soul of their team Kevin Garnett. The Bulls hung in and forced Pierce, Rondo and Allen to respond with superhero like performances to claw their way to each hard fought win. Their series win was a testament to their team unity and desire to not be content with their 2008 championship. The Celtics new big 3 are playing at a high level and demanding the team's role players keep up. Glen Davis played great and carried the teams scoring load in the frontcourt in Garnett's abscence. Big Baby's game has grown immensely without Garnett in the line up, berating him like an alcoholic father whose athletic failings have led to him live through the triumphs of his son who beats him senseless for reminding him of his own failures with each agonizing loss. Despite making him cry like a big baby on national TV, Garnett has made Davis into a true power forward who is capable of starting on a nightly basis in the league. The Celtics are no joke even without KG in the lineup and still are almost impossible to beat on home court. Which is why the Magic have to make sure this series does not make it to game 7. The Magic looked beatable early in their opening series with the 76ers until they got healthy and got the numbers they were used to from their all-stars. Howard was phenomenal throughout the 1st round and needs to continue his dominance into round 2. The Magic's key to success will be getting consistent play from the rest of their starting five. Lewis and Turkoglu both struggled but were instrumental in wins for the Magic. If Orlando can get a big performance or two from Turk and Lewis then the Magic may prove to be too much for the Celtics. Howard will stretch the already thin Celts frontcourt with his attacks on the rim and elbows in the paint (just ask Dalembert and Courtney Lee what they think about his elbows) forcing the C's to use every foul they have. With that being said the Magic will not be able to take any game lightly and must steal one of the first two games in Boston to win the series........and they will.......Magic in 6.

See you in the conference finals.