One Last Gasp (and some rambling)

Posted on April 12, 2010 | 7 Comments

Well, after a thoroughly embarrassing loss against Chicago, the Raptors almost redeem themselves by soundly beating Detroit, a team that has only won 26 games this year. If they can beat New York , a team that has only won 29 games, then Chicago will need to beat both Boston and Charlotte to beat Toronto for the final playoff spot.

In the game against Chicago, Boston has nothing to play for, but at least it’s not their last game of the season. If they were going to take the night off, I can see that being the one, the second night of a meaningless back-to-back.

Charlotte has played very well at home this year, and their only win against Chicago this season came at home. They still conceivably leapfrog Milwaukee in the standings, so they’ll probably be tough to beat.

That’s all good news for the Raptors, but one thing I’ve learned this season is never be too optimistic, or reality will throw you against a wall, rip your pants down, do it’s impression of a Catholic priest and kick you in the groin for good measure. Metaphorically speaking. Still, there is reason for hope, if not optimism.

Back to the Detroit game, though.

So Bargnani has something like his best game of the season and even chips in 7 rebounds. Of course, he only got to the line twice with 22 shot attempts. That’s a FT/FG ratio of .091 (Read this post if you want to understand what I am talking about). Still, 33 points is 33 points. If he can play like this against New York and then (if the Raptors make the playoffs) against Cleveland, will that make it easier to trade him? Of course, if that happens, does that give Colangelo a reason NOT to trade him?

Amir Johnson had fewer rebounds than assists, shot 6-7 from the line (where he’s shooting .607 this season), and outscored every Piston, including their prized free agent signing, Ben Gordon. You think Amir wanted to show the Pistons they made a mistake when they dumped him so they could open up some salary cap room?

Speaking of the Pistons free agent signings, their other prized one, Charlie Villanueva, who many Raptor fans bizarrely still pine after, apparently “guaranteed” a victory over the Raptors on Twitter. My head is close to exploding with the number of things I want to say about this. Are free agent busts of 26 win teams really guaranteeing meaningless wins now? Is this what the NBA has come to? Actually, I think this is yet another reason why this whole Twitter thing is immensely stupid. I don’t know which is sadder, that people are actually publicizing the minutia of their daily life and turning it into digital diarrhea, or that people actually are interested enough to take time out of their day to read it. CHARLIE! SHUT THE F**K UP!

Remember when Joe Dumars was considered one of the best GMs in the league? I, for one, felt he was overrated and basically fell into a Championship when Atlanta gave Rasheed to the Pistons. Reader, and fellow blogger, recently argued that any GM who has one a Championship is a great GM. I think Dumars disproves that. The Ben Gordon and Charlie Vilanueva signings have to go down as some of the most wasted cap space in recent memory. Think Dumars is regretting not holding off until this summer, when there are actually going to be some free agents worth signing, available? At the beginning of the season, I predicted Detroit would have to rebuild, and boy do they. He should have traded Prince and Hamilton last summer, back when they had way more value, and probably should have held onto Amir. Personally, I’d rather have Amir at $3.9 million for one season than Villanueva at $6.5 to $8.5 million for five years. Right now, they’re a fairly old team with a few mediocre young players. And absolutely no identity.

Back to Villanueva. Back when he was playing for the Raptors, I argued with other fans that he would never become a great scorer because he couldn’t get to the line. It’s then when I came up with my FT/FG ratio. Well, this season he averaged an anemic .150 FT/FG ratio. With his mediocre rebounding, horrible defense and penchant for chucking up threes, no matter what his percentage was, he would have fit in nicely with the Raptors. Oh, I forgot, Toronto’s already got one of those players.

OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS

Talk about peaking at the right time. When the All-Star break hit, Miami was a struggling team that looked like it would be lucky if it made it to .500 and were in a battle with Milwaukee for the 8th spot in the East. Meanwhile, the Raptors looked to be locked in the 5th seed and were cruising to a 45 win season. Two months later, and the two have switched places. Miami just hit 45 wins and are sitting in the 5th spot. Toronto won’t make .500 and will be lucky to make the playoffs.

AN EXTENSION?  REALLY?

So Zach Randolph, having the most successful year of his career, is asking for an extension. Sure, Memphis missed out on the playoffs (again), but Randolph made his first All-Star game and set a record with the most consecutive games without a complaint about him. Maybe he has smartened up. Then again, he’s claiming that he should make what Pau Gasol is going to make for his extension. His thinking is that Gasol and he signed their contracts at the same time and for about the same amount. Apparently he doesn’t take into consideration that Gasol is a much better player.

Let’s keep things in perspective here. While Randolph played well, he led a team with three other very good players (Gay, Mayo and the other Gasol) to 40 wins. If Bosh had that supporting cast, the Raptors might very well have home court in the playoffs.

SPEAKING OF DUMB IDEAS

Apparently Richard Jefferson is pondering whether, after the most disappointing season of his career, to leave $15 million on the table and opt out of his contract. Think the Spurs will be trying to talk him out of it? Think, if he does, they might regret extending Ginobili’s contract? Without his salary (and without Jefferson’s), the Spurs would have been approximately $15 million under the cap this summer.

HIGH EXPECTATIONS

I know the Spurs will likely finish with the worst record since Tim Duncan came into the league and are currently sitting in the 7th spot in the West, their worst seed since Duncan was drafted, but keep in mind that they will once again win 50 games for the 12th time in 13 years (the year they didn’t was the lock-out shortened season). Wouldn’t it be nice to be disappointed with 50 wins?

You think Dallas really wants to play them in the first round?

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  • http://khandorssportsblog.com/wordpress khandor

    Tim,

    1. IIRC, I didn’t say something like, “Any GM that’s won a championship should automatically be considered a top flight GM.”

    2. Not too long ago, many in the on-line hoops community thought that Steve Kerr was an idiot GM, for taking the Suns in a different direction from where they were headed under Bryan Colangelo and Mike D’Antoni.

    Unlike those individuals, I saw things differently and asserted my belief that Steve Kerr actually knew what he was doing and would eventually be able to right the ship in Phoenix and get bring some semblance of improved Rebounding and Defense to the solid core of offensively talented players on the Suns’ roster.

    Time has, once again, proven that what I said, initially was an accurate assessment of the situation in Phoenix. :-)

    You are certainly free to think that Joe Dumars is not a top flight GM in the NBA, however, because the Pistons have gone backwards in the Win column.

    IMO, what Dumars has done is make 3 poor choices the last few seasons when hiring Flip Saunders, Michael Curry and John Kuester [IMO].

    Once he gets the right head coach in place, it will be a relatively short period of time before the Pistons are once again operating in the upper half of the NBA.

    Top notch GM’s like Joe D. … who know what it takes to win big in this league … rarely stay bad for a long period of time. :-)

  • http://www.wearingfilm.com Tim W.

    My apologies. I could have sworn it was you who said that. I had a discussion about that with someone, but apparently it was not you.

    I had no problem with him taking the Suns in a different direction, I just hated the direction he took them. Getting Jason Richardson seemed like he was grasping without much of a plan, and getting Shaq was a disaster waiting to happen, and I said so the day it happened. I think he’s done better since, but I don’t see a true direction from him. I’m not quite sure what it is he’s trying to do. They won’t be a contender, but giving Nash the extension basically guaranteed they won’t rebuild, either.

    And Dumars has made a lot more than 3 poor choices. The signing of Gordon and Villanueva were incredibly stupid. As was not trading Prince and Hamilton last summer. I also didn’t like his drafting. The only thing I REALLY understood, amazingly enough, was trading away Billups. It was a gamble that backfired, but I liked that, at worst, it gave him lots of cap room. It’s what he did with the cap room that was ridiculous.

    And I don’t see the Pistons improving for a while. Not with the roster they have.

  • http://khandorssportsblog.com/wordpress khandor

    Tim,

    What I would have said, however, is something running along the lines of …

    When you look at the teams that have won the championship in the NBA, or at least reached the Finals … i.e. History of NBA Champions … what you see, by-and-large, is the list of GM’s who have also done a terrific job building the type of team which is capable of accomplishing this feat.

    It’s the names on this list, associated with the best teams in the NBA, that should be recognized as the top executives in the league … as opposed to the recipient of the annual NBA COTY Award [for example].

    Those who have actually won a championship, or two, at different levels of the game, know how difficult it is to accomplish THAT goal … and, just how good someone has to be at their job in order to pull THAT off, in a highly competitive environment.

    Conversely, those who may not have actually won a championship, or two, at different levels of the game, do NOT really know how difficult it is to accomplish THAT goal … and, just how good someone has to be at their job in order to pull THAT off, in a highly competitive environment.

    What someone who hasn’t won yet happens not to know about what it takes to win it all is so much more than can ever be described accurately, even by someone who has won themselves on countless occasions.

    It truly is one of those rare experiences in life that you can only really truly experience BY ACTUALLY DOING IT YOURSELF.

  • http://www.wearingfilm.com Tim W.

    I don’t debate your premise, but I don’t think a Championship necessarily means you’re a great GM. Danny Ainge and Joe Dumars are GMs which I don’t think are bad, but I don’t think they are great. Luck has just as much to do with a Championship as skill does, on and off the floor.

  • http://khandorssportsblog.com/wordpress khandor

    Tim,

    1. re: “Luck has just as much to do with a Championship as skill does, on and off the floor.

    While I would never discount the minor role which is actually played by “good fortune” in our daily lives, as mere human beings … IMO, the role of “actual skill”, wielded properly, so far out-weighs THAT exceptionally fluid element that it almost ceases to even register, as important, at all, in the grand scheme of things, on the championship-winning Richter Scale.

    e.g. If an overall score of “10″ is needed, in order to emerge victorious, then, “Actual Skill” is worth 9 of those 10 points; while, “fortune” is the worth the other 1 point. While it “might” be quite impossible to win without that 1 final point added, associated with “fortune” … IT IS a sheer impossibility to ever truly win in life [or in hoops] without first having the 9 points derived from “Actual Skill.”

    2. It isn’t “just” winning the championship which defines the Top Notch GM’s in the NBA but everything which goes into successfully navigating THAT obstacle-filled journey … which is strewn with ups and downs along the way … in a hyper-competitive environment like pro sports.

    - 1 year ago people were laughing at my suggestion that Steve Kerr actually knows what he’s doing

    - in your comment above, even you are suggesting that because you might not be able to see clearly the exact direction that Steve Kerr is taking with this year’s Suns team, this somehow means that he is not quickly moving into the upper half of GM’s in the NBA [based upon the vision he has for the team in Phoenix and his “feel” or “instinct” for being able to bring this vision to life in the Valley of the Sun, for an owner like Robert Sarver

    Joe Dumars and Danny Ainge have already scaled the mountain-top … on more than one occasion, as players and executives in the NBA … that Bryan [and Jerry] Colangelo is still searching for in the dark [if they're actually looking for it, at all, whilest trying not to trip and fall over their 'bags of accumulated riches'].

    At one time, there were plenty of NBA observers who doubted that Detroit was ever going to be good enough to win the championship one day:

    i. after losing Grant Hill, and then
    ii. trading Jerry Stackhouse for a player like Richard Hamilton, and then
    iii. acquiring a so-called under-achiever like Chauncey Billups, and then
    iv. inserting a super-skinny T-Prince, into their starting line-up,

    while being back-stopped by an offensively-challenged rebounding/shot blocking machine from an NCAA outpost like Virginia Union,

    etc., etc., etc.

    In my judgment, Joe Dumars proved those doubters wrong.

    At one time, there were plenty of NBA observers who doubted that Boston was ever going to be good enough to win the championship one day:

    i. after holding onto a player who had been stabbed multiple times in an after-hours attack at a nightclub, and then,
    ii. adding a much maligned head coach, like Doc Rivers, and then,
    iii. trading away the No. 5 [overall] draft in the 2007 NBA Draft for a supposedly diminishing incarnation of Jesus Shuttlesworth, and then,
    iv. be willing to RISK, when the time was right, the humiliation of trading a boatload of of draft picks and still youngish-on-the-floor talent [i.e. Jefferson, Gomes and Telfair] for an “under-achieving” PF who had NEVER before been able to “win the big one” or get his former franchise to the NBA Finals, and then
    v. go out and sign THE RIGHT COMBINATION of supporting players to a series of minimum contracts, because they were the RIGHT MIX and committed to WINNING a championship for the Celtics [e.g. including high-profile "stalwarts" like James Posey, Eddie House, PJ Brown, Sam Cassell, Brian Scalabrine, and Scott Pollard, some of whom were basically discards from distant outposts across the league]

    but who came together magnificently, as one, under the banner of “Ubuntu,” in a way that few teams have in the history of this league, with the help of a “Big Three”, or not.

    In my judgement, Danny Ainge proved those doubters wrong.

    “Luck is the residue of design.”
    - Branch Rickey

    Although you, and others, are certainly free to think otherwise, if you wish.

    Cheers

    PS. The Pistons are a better coach away from becoming a playoff contender, once again, in the EC, as soon as next season. Although the Celtics won’t win the championship this season, it’s a mistake in judgment to think that they are not going to remain one of the top teams in the EC for the foreseeable future, as long as their management team stays in tact.

  • http://khandorssportsblog.com/wordpress khandor

    Tim,

    Hopefully you can drop by for the LIVE BLOGGING EVENT I’ll be hosting this evening.

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