You are here: Home / Archive

Author Archives: Frank McLean

You are here: Home / Archive
NBA Cleveland Cavaliers Kevin Love and LeBron James

Cavs Kevin Love Isn’t Going Anywhere

By Frank McLean

Kevin Love is not going anywhere. If you don’t believe me listen to the guy who is listed as a player but acts like the real General Manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James.

As if to make a point, Marc Berman in the New York Post reported after the Cavaliers beat the New York Knicks 111-104 right in Madison Square Garden,

James said, “Kevin is here for a reason. We know why he is here. We know what he is capable of.”

James set Love up with the game winning three point field goal with 44-seconds left in the fourth quarter.

It’s the worst kept secret around NBA circles that the Knicks are looking to move Carmelo Anthony even though he does have a no trade contract.

Reports recently said that the Knicks offered Anthony to the Cavaliers in exchange for Love and well as you can expect the Cavaliers supposedly said no.

The Cavaliers are in a bit of a slump right now. They started the season going 23-6 in their first 29-games, but since then and counting last night’s win they have gone just 11-9.

A few weeks back James went public demanding that the Cavaliers find him a playmaker to get him the ball seeing that the Golden State Warriors went out and improved their roster by getting Kevin Durant in the off season.

After the game Saturday night Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue reassured everyone that Love isn’t going anywhere.

“Just because teams ask about you doesn’t mean you’re getting traded. Right now we have who we have and not looking to move one of our guys right now.”

But what does Kevin Love think about all this talk about him heading for Broadway? It always seems that since he came to Cleveland in a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves he is always being mentioned in a possible trade.

“Comes with the territory,” Love said late last week in an interview with long time basketball writer Fred Kerber of the New York Post.  “When that stuff comes along, I’ve done a lot better job of letting things just kind of roll off of me. I think it’d helped me out on the court as well.”

Love is averaging a double-double 19.9-points and 11-rebounds a game while battling spasms.

“It’s good to be wanted”, Love joked.

“I predicted that. I said it doesn’t matter if I have an All-Star year, one side or the other, it’s always going to be there.”

February 23rd can’t come soon enough for Love who I’m sure will be checking his messages every couple of hours just to make sure he isn’t leaving the Queen City of Ohio.

Nobody wants to be traded. The feeling that no one wants you any more stinks. The positive that somebody wants you helps you get over being traded for somebody else.

Love is still an important cog in the Cleveland Cavaliers offense, he helps make LeBron James go and it was evident in Saturday night’s win over the Knicks where he scored 23-points and grabbed 16-rebounds.

It seems that the Knicks can ask and ask all they want, but if LeBron James and Tyronn Lue have anything to say they still have a lot of Love for Kevin Love.

 

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 

 

L

The Magic Is Back With The Lakers

By Frank McLean

I’ve written many times about how the New York Knicks, one of the NBA’s marquee franchises, is a complete mess thanks to an owner who has no idea of what he is doing.

On the west coast another marquee franchise the Los Angeles Lakers have slumped into a poorly run lottery team since the passing of their owner Jerry Buss.

When the elder Buss passed away in 2013 the team was left in the hands of his two children, daughter Jeanie who would look after the business end of the operation and his son Jim who would take care of the basketball end of things.

Jeanie has done well keeping the business end of the operations going fine as the team is still a powerful brand regardless that it doesn’t show up in their win-loss record.

But the win-loss record is the problem and that’s where Jim comes in. The team stinks and instead of acting like an owner and hiring people who know what they are doing, he is running the show and has run the team into the ground.

Look at last season. Instead of trying to make the team better, it was all about the Kobe Bryant retirement tour and the celebration of a guy who’s best days were behind him.

He also began a feud with one of the all-time greats in the history of the Lakers history, Magic Johnson.

Johnson, who had a small ownership piece of the Lakers, became critical of the way Jim Buss was running the team. He didn’t like the hiring of Mike D’Antoni as coach in 2012. He thought they should have brought back Phil Jackson. He was also irked that they didn’t sign any high profile players.

“I’m going to say it again: I love Jim Buss. He should just be the owner, like his dad was just the owner,” Johnson said in an article in December 2015. “Let’s go back with facts, so I can back this up with facts: 27 wins a couple years ago (2013-14), 21 wins last year (2014-15). Three summers now, we haven’t signed anybody. I am backing this up with facts. We haven’t signed any superstar. We’ve had cap space. We had cap space last summer. We’re going to have more this summer.”

Jim Buss fired back in a USA today feature.

“Magic Johnson going nuts on me? It’s like, ‘Really, dude? My dad made you a billionaire almost. Really? Where are you coming from?”

Johnson left the organization becoming a part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and becoming a face of their ownership group.

That all changed on Thursday as Jeanie Buss brought back Johnson to be an advisor to her in all areas of business and basketball.

“We are thrilled and honored to add Magic’s expertise and abilities, and I look forward to working alongside him,” Jeanie Buss said about the hiring in a Lakers press release.

“Everyone knows my love for the Lakers,” Johnson said. “Over the years, I have considered other management opportunities, however my devotion to the game and Los Angeles make the Lakers my first and only choice. I will do everything in my power to help return the Lakers to their rightful place among the elite teams of the NBA.”

Ever since the death of the elder Buss there has been a power struggle between the siblings.

Jim Buss said in 2014 that if the Lakers are not a championship team by the summer of 2017 he would step down. A championship is not going to happen this year, the Lakers are second last in the Western Conference and will be a lottery team.

The Johnson hiring by Jeanie is a step in the right direction. It looks like she is slowly taking over the full operation of the team and she did say last year that she expects her brother to fulfill his promise – at that time.

“Jim is calling the shots,” Johnson said, via the Orange County Register‘s Mark Medina. “I want him to understand I’m just here to lend advice. I’m not here to be anything but just give you some basketball knowledge.”

For now, Johnson will be able to help greatly as an advisor and will be show those in charge of the team how a championship team is run. He should know, he was there in their glory days. It’s a no brainer.

The NBA is poorer when its marquee franchises like the Lakers, Knicks are suffering.

The Jeanie and Jim power struggle was like one of those 1980’s prime time soap operas Dallas or in this case Dynasty. It’s going to take a while for the Lakers to be a contender again. The hiring of Johnson and Jim Buss eventually stepping aside is just a start.

 

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey

Is A Trade The Solution To Toronto Raptors Olay Defense?

By Frank McLean

Olay, olay, olay, olay, the question Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey was asking after Sunday’s loss to the Orlando Magic was “Where did their defense go”?

The Raptors lost the game 114-113, but as the old saying goes, ‘The score was not indicative of the way the game went.’ The best way to describe the way they played defense was like a bull fighter, an olay defense.

After leading by nine points at the end of the first quarter the Raptors trailed by nine at half time after allowing the Magic to go on a 21-2 run in the final 5:45 of the half. The Magic run put the Raptors in a large hole to try and comeback from in which they ran out of time and lost by just one point.  

The lack of defense was the frustrating part of this game for the Raptors who should not have lost like this to a bad Magic team.

No disrespect to the Magic who came into the game 18-30, but they did have the riot act read to them on Saturday by their coach Frank Vogel after they as he said “didn’t show up” for their game Friday night in Boston where the lost by 30.

After the game Casey was lamenting that he couldn’t find five guys who could defend and as a result had lost six of their last seven games.

The answer to the problem might be over in the Magic locker room with Bismack Biyombo. The Raptors have yet to find a consistent replacement for him and yes that is a factor to why they are struggling with their defense.

Biyombo went on with the local media Sunday on what went right for the Raptors last year.

“I don’t think we play for any other reason than to find a way to get three stops out of four possessions and I think that’s what made us to be a great defensive team last year. I understand that the whole team relied on me to guide them. (Jonas Valanciunas) is a great player and I’m sure that they’ll find a way. Lucas (Nogueira), they are all great players, I know they (took) a step back, but you can only hope before the playoffs they can find a way to catch up to that because when the playoffs start, that’s when things really matter and I can only hope for them to get better.

“They have enough to get it done”, Biyombo added. “Hopefully they get to repeat the same thing that we did last year or go further, because the fans here deserve it more than anything. They came out, they supported the team every night, they bring the great energy and you’ve got to work with them, they work with you.”

So what do the Raptors do to correct the problem?

Well with the trade deadline coming up do they make a trade or look at a solution within?

Jarred Sullinger was brought in over the offseason to fill Biyombo’s role on the roster, but he is working himself back into game shape after a foot injury in the first preseason game kept him out the first two months of the year.

Lucas Nogueira is trying to grow into the role, but he is still green and is a work in progress.

If they go the trade route where do you go?

Nikola Vucevic of the Magic could be available. He had a 25-and-10 game Sunday going three-for-four behind the three point arc. It’s believed he was put back in the starting line-up for the purpose of showcasing him.

And of course there is DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings. He is a powder keg for sure with an explosive personality and a noted coach killer.

At the NBA D-League Showcase last week I came across my sources with the Kings organization. They said they thought Cousins could thrive with the Raptors for two reasons.

One, Dwane Casey is a respected coach that Cousins would not try to push around.

And two, he played with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry with USA Basketball at the Olympics and he respects their leadership and their spot in the Raptors locker room.

Regardless, the defense has to be fixed or a long playoff run could be jeopardy.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

  Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

NBA Orlando Magic Bismack Biyombo 2016

The Impact Of Bismack Biyombo Is Still Helping The Raptors

By Frank McLean

Bismack Biyombo makes his first appearance Sunday at the Air Canada Centre since he left town in the off season after signing a huge free agent deal worth $72-million over four years with the Orlando Magic.

You can’t blame the guy for taking the money and running to Florida’s Gulf Coast area after making around $3-million in his one season with the Raptors. He got the contact that has set him up for life, which is not bad for a guy who makes his living as an energy guy coming off the bench, a rebounder who struggles as a shooter from the field and the foul line.

His numbers from his one year in Toronto and his half a year in Orlando haven’t changed much. In Toronto he averaged 22-minutes a game, 5.5-points, 8.0-rebounds and 1.6 blocks. In Orlando in 47-games it’s 24.5 minutes, 6.3-points, 7.7-rebounds and 1.3 blocks.

Now don’t get me wrong. A player with Biyombo’s knack for rebounding is a valuable piece that is needed when a general manager is putting together his 15-man roster.  But 72-million over four years for a guy that mainly rebounds is obscene and it shows that with the salary cap rising each year thanks to ESPN and TNT’s television money that teams are overpaying for talent when they try and find it through the free agent route.

Biyombo’s influence in his one year in Toronto was felt in more ways than just the numbers on a box score. It was with the guy who has taken over his minutes on the floor and that’s Lucas Nogueira.

Nogueira was reflecting on that after Saturday’s practice with the media and he let everybody know that he’s not Biyombo’s replacement.

“I am never going to replace Biz,” Nogueira was saying. “The city loves him. I personally love him too and I am so thankful for what he did for us. I can block five shots a night like I did on Friday, but I’m never going to replace Biz. I do think I have the hardest job in the league trying to replace Bismack because he made a huge impact here.”

Nogueira did say though that Biyombo was his mentor.

“Of course he was my mentor,” Nogueira said of Biyombo. “He changed my habits. He made me become a better professional and he made me see how it was important to take practice seriously and take my basketball life seriously. In life sometimes you only get one opportunity and if you don’t take it seriously you might not get another one. He made me realize that. That’s the reason I say he was my mentor when he was here. His level of professionalism made me a better professional.”

Nogueira is averaging 21.3-minutes a game, but in the month of January it’s up to 25-minutes which shows the coach Dwane Casey has the confidence to use him more.

“He has done an excellent job of protecting the rim, blocking shots and doing what we need him to do in the paint,” Casey said. “He’s doing an excellent job of catching the ball out of double teams and quarterbacking, making teams pay when they do blitz Kyle (Lowry) and DeMar (DeRozan) and that’s what we needed. That’s a plus that Biz didn’t give us. He was strictly a defensive plus. Lucas gives us that guy who can quarterback, kick it out, he’s a huge target with great hands so he gives that to us on the offensive end as well.”

Casey did say that there is a missing link from the way the Raptors played defense last year to this year that Biyombo brought that he wished they picked up on.

“I wish one thing rubbed off more from Biz and I think it did but they seem to have forgotten it without Biz being around. It’s talking loud and confidently. And not just Lucas, but all of our centres — (Jonas Valanciunas), Jakob (Poeltl), and Pascal (Siakam). Talk loud and with confidence and that is what Biz brought. He brought an energy, but he rubbed off on those guys.”

As you can see, Biyombo’s influence is still being felt on the Raptors.

The Orlando Magic is a young struggling rebuilding team and new coach Frank Vogel is hoping Biyombo can have a big influence there as well and he has a massive four year contract to do just that.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry

Raptors Kyle Lowry Has Earned The Respect Of His Opponents

By Frank McLean

It was one of those things you took for granted was going to happen, but you weren’t quite sure until it was officially announced, the Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry would be going to his third straight NBA All-Star Game.

Lowry got the word Thursday night that the coaches had voted him on the Eastern Conference roster as a reserve and that he will be joining his Siamese twin in the Raptors backcourt DeMar DeRozan next month in New Orleans.

DeRozan, who had been a reserve last year, was named a starter in the fan/player/media voting two weeks ago.

Lowry has been one of the top guards in the Eastern Conference all season. He has averaged 22.7-points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.9 assists a game. You figured the coaches have got to pick him right?

“Of course I would love to have the fans voted me in,” Lowry was saying to the media on Friday.  “But for the coaches to vote you in, it means they respect your game, respect what you bring to the team.”

Meanwhile his coach Dwane Casey was saying he didn’t have to contact his fellow coaches around the league and put in a plug for his player.

“Not much (lobbying) because a lot of (the coaches) said they were all in. Kyle’s numbers and us hovering around second place spoke for itself .”

During his time in Toronto Lowry has become respected around the league. His play, hustle and the extra work he has put in the gym are major factors towards him making his third straight appearance in the All-Star Game.

Before Lowry came to Toronto he played in Memphis where he was drafted out of Villanova and then went to Houston. In both places he came with a reputation as an uncoachable player always arguing about the way he was being used and not going along with the game plan.

Lowry’s story is quite similar to that of another Toronto star of the past, center fielder Devon White of the Blue Jays. White came to the Blue Jays in a trade with the California Angels spent the next five years as an all-star and major part of Toronto’s two MLB World Championship teams.

White arrived in Toronto with the same reputation as Lowry, yet when you saw White play everyday, you saw a hard worker who played the game the right way and was a quality teammate.

When Lowry first arrived from Houston he knew he had a bad rap, but Dwane Casey and Raptors management showed him the right way to be pro and the results are there in black and white.

Lowry is ecstatic that he’s going to game again with his pal DeRozan.

“It feels great. It’s pretty cool to be able to say the things we’ve done from the end of May (including a gold medal win with the US National Basketball team at the Olympics) until now and continue to grow with me and him. It just shows the hard work, the passion, the dedication to be great and to win is there.

“He’s one of my best friends ever. We can hang out, go to dinner, hang out with our families.  My first year (with the Raptors) I really didn’t talk to anybody. I was trying to figure (things) out. It just happened to grow and we became leaders of the team, we took that upon ourselves on the basketball court and we developed a great relationship off of it.”

Lowry’s hard work and play on the court during his time in Toronto has made him a respected veteran and player any coach can trust with big minutes during a game.

This coming off season it will be time for Lowry to get the big maximum contract that veteran players get with his numbers.

It’s a no brainer that he will get that respect.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

NBA San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich

Spurs Plan On Interrupting Cavs Vs Warriors Part Three

By Frank McLean

It’s not a secret that NBA fans and those in the management offices at ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut want a Cleveland Cavaliers versus Golden State Warriors for a third year in this year’s NBA Finals.

With both teams being the winner of one of each of the last two finals you can imagine the ratings bonanza the rubber match would be for the self-proclaimed “World Wide Leader in Sports”.

Well don’t tell that to San Antonio Spurs coach Greg Popovich.

Making their annual visit to Toronto this week Popovich said he’s not ready to concede to the Warriors the Western Conference title for a third straight year regardless if they have added some guy named Kevin Durant.

“You do the best you can to take advantage of whatever weaknesses or strengths they might have. You have to go against their weaknesses, try to figure out what their strengths are and take’em away,” Popovich said about taking on the Warriors. “And that’s what this is all about. So the challenge is what makes it exciting. If you’re of the mindset that where you say what’s the point, then you’re in the wrong business.”

So Popovich is not going to sit down and kiss the Warriors championship rings and why should he?

Since he took the job in 1999 the Spurs have won five NBA championships, averaged 55-wins per season and are on pace for a second straight year of 65-wins.

When you see Popovich as a grumpy old coach in a wrinkled sports coat and khaki pants when he is interviewed on television, in most part it’s an act. When you ask him thoughtful questions he will give you thoughtful answers.

He is also humble.

His peers in the NBA, and that include Raptors coach Dwane Casey, feel that Popovich is not just the best coach in the NBA, but all of sports.

Popovich’s stock answer when you say this to him is that he had Tim Duncan for a long time and that made him look good. Popovich knows that if you don’t have good players a coach is not going to look smart. That’s something every coach I have ever come across well tell you, if you don’t have the horses, you aren’t going to win.

His theory of coaching a game is pretty simple and it explains how he lasted almost 20-years in the same job.

“The game starts and you play the game, you do your best. You make adjustments, make substitutions, get certain groups on the court, call timeouts, yell and scream and beg and love and be crazy and then you win or you lose and then what happens? You go to dinner. Sometimes the best part of the evening.”

He also had high praise for Dwane Casey who each year on the job has gotten his team to win more games than the previous year. Raptors fans may not want to hear this, especially with the club on a five game losing skid and social media is calling for his head as a result.

“It is difficult (to do that),” Popovich said. “You’ll see people have two good seasons or one, it goes down for two or three and then maybe it comes up a little bit and then the owner fires him. That seems to be the deal. But to sustain it and to sustain it and do better every year is a difficult thing. And what Casey’s done here is implemented a culture and a system. It doesn’t happen immediately, but as you all know by now, they’ve bought in, everybody knows what the deal is. He’s going to be consistent, he’s going to be demanding, he’s going to be fair.”

It’s too bad Popovich and the Spurs only come to Toronto once a year. Like I said, when you get Popovich engaged, he is one of the best quote machines in the league.

And as far as I’m concerned he is one of the best coaches in all of sports. The only person who comes close to him is in the NFL and that’s Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots who has won four Super Bowls in six appearances and is heading for his seventh appearance in the big one during his tenure there.

I’m sure the Warriors wish they only had to deal with Popovich and the Spurs once a year.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas and Patrick Patterson

Dog-Days Of January Stink For The Toronto Raptors

By Frank McLean

The month of January is the beginning of a new year. It’s a time of hope, a new beginning as we start a new year with a clean slate so to speak and we try and not make the same mistakes that we did in the previous year. In reality, the dog-days of January stink.

After all the excitement of a December holiday season with family and friends and ringing in of the new year, January is a like a lump of coal you hope wasn’t in your Christmas stocking. The formerly red hot Raptors went 6-7 after Boxing Day.

January is one giant party-pooper. The weather is cold and damp and cloudy. Daylight hours are short and it’s still pitch dark before 6pm. It’s called the blahs and we all get it.

The Toronto Raptors are going through their own period of January blah’s right now and it showed Friday night in Charlotte where they suffered their biggest margin of defeat this year, a 34-point beat down by the Hornets.

The score was 113-79 and the 79-points the Raptors put up, as well as the 33.7-per cent field goal percentage, were season lows.

After a big month of December where the Raptors put up a 10-4 record, they head into Sunday night’s home game against the Phoenix Suns with more losses than all of last month.

“Yeah, we’ve been in a little funk lately,” Kyle Lowry said after Friday’s game. “We’re not playing on all cylinders right now.

“I just think it’s that time of year. No excuses at all. There’s just this mental fatigue, a little bit of travel fatigue, but no excuses. I think we might have done something like this, maybe, about this time last year? I don’t know, I’m not sure, but it happens. As a team we will figure a way out of it.”

There is something to what Lowry said. It is that time of year, the mental and travel fatigue.

The calendar we use in everyday life says we are in the middle of the first month of the beginning of the year. On the basketball calendar it says they are at the half way point.

As we hit the middle of January teams are at the midway point of the regular season schedule. Teams can see the All-Star Game on the horizon where they get a nice five day break featuring no games, no practices, and a chance to walk away from the grind and recharge their batteries before they hit the stretch drive before the playoffs.

Right now, those playoffs that seems like light years away from happening.

That five day break is four weeks away which is not that far off, but in the case of the Raptors counting Sunday’s game there are still 14-games to play before they can rest.

Now this is where Raptors coach Dwane Casey has to do his best coaching job to help his team “keep their eye on the prize” so to speak. Keep the team focused and keep a little midseason funk from turning into a long losing streak.

Casey knows where the problem is.

“Right now we’re going through maybe a week of bad offensive shooting,” Casey said on Friday about how the last week went. “Against it still says nothing about your defense. That’s when your defense has to pick back up. Your defense has to carry you until your offense comes back around. You go through that during the season. The most important thing is we stay together, stay positive. Everybody goes through it. It’s not an excuse. We have to fight our way out of it. It’s up to us.”

Casey hit the nail on the head in his comments that everybody goes through this. Every team in the NBA goes through a cold streak during the season regardless if they are playoff contender or not.

If talk to the coaches of the other 29-teams in the NBA they will all tell you that, yah my team is starting to think about the break coming up and I have to work harder to keep them focused.

Just like school kids waiting for the winter break to come and week away from school. NBA players are no different.

The Raptors are going through their own January blahs right now. This is a very focused group of players in their locker room and the leadership in their will not let this slump fester.

So don’t panic Raptors nation.Their body of work over the last two seasons have shown that there is too much talent on this team for it to last long. With five of their next six games at the Air Canada Centre, things should turn around quick.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 

 

NBA New York Knicks Carmelo Anthony and Joakim Noah

The Clock Is Ticking On Phil Jackson’s Time In New York

By Frank McLean

Phil Jackson has to be hoping that this week is better than last week. Heck it couldn’t get any worse and you have to wonder with Jackson’s invisible act, if maybe the clock is ticking on him staying on as the New York Knicks President of Basketball.

It started (sort of) when Derrick Rose went AWOL hours before the Knicks were to play the New Orleans Pelicans. The players did not know where Rose was. Coach Jeff Hornacek did not know where he was and neither did the team’s PR staff. Afterward it was learnt he had went home to Chicago to attend a family issue regarding his mother.

There was not a peep from Jackson and you had to feel sorry for Hornacek as he had to address the media as to what happened. He had no answers.

Oh and let’s not forget that the Knicks, supposed to be a playoff team, have just kept losing. Counting the one point loss to Atlanta the Knicks have only celebrated a victory thrice in their last 16-games and have slipped to 19-26 good for 11th-in the East and three games out of the last playoff spot.

The cream came in Toronto when the Knicks were taking a 17-point beatdown by the Raptors where at one point the deficit reached 34-points.

A so called 30-year friend of Jackson, a guy named Charley Rosen wrote a column for FanRagSports.com that Carmelo Anthony’s time in New York is numbered.

Rosen alleged Anthony’s “legs are going, going gone’’ and wrote. “The only sure thing is that Carmelo Anthony has outlived his usefulness in New York. As ever, he’s still a dangerous scorer but resists any offensive game plan that limits his one-on-one adventures.”

Rosen on Monday wrote that he has never talked to Jackson and that his comments are his not Phil’s.

Anthony has a no trade clause in his contract so any trade can’t be made unless he agrees to it and to his credit he has not asked for trade. He’s 32 (until May) and his time to get a shot of winning a championship is running out.

“If that’s the case, if that’s where it’s coming from, that side, I guess it’s a conversation we should have,” Anthony said Sunday. “If they feel my time in New York is over, I guess that’s a conversation we should have.

“Listen, if that’s how they feel, if that’s coming from that side, then that’s what’s coming from that side. I haven’t thought once about that. I hear it, hear all the rhetoric going on out there. I still come to work every day, play and bust my ass and try not to worry about it. ”

Anthony isn’t pouting. The problem with the Knicks, all the dysfunction with this team, points to Jackson.

He is the boss and he has gone into hiding. Yes you see him and General Manager Steve Mills sitting in their seats during games in Madison Square Garden, but he has not spoken public about anything since December.

In that Jackson talked about how Anthony clogs up the flow of his sacred triangle offense.

He should have been the frontman when Rose went missing. He’s the boss, the top man, if one of your employees is missing you have to be the one answering questions. Instead he sends out Hornacek to answer questions. That’s not his responsibility.

The roster is a mess.

Yes they are missing second year center Kristap Porzingis with a sore Achilles periodically, but the Knicks don’t play defense. Joakim Noah all of a sudden can’t score and Rose is upset that the team can’t get it together.

You have to think Jackson’s time with the Knicks has to be coming to an end soon.

The roster is all on him, it’s not working and his insistence on the outdated triangle offense is not helping.

The problem is he really doesn’t know how to be a good manager. There is no communication with the players. Normally management and employees talk all the time because in every business, to be successful, everyone has to be on the same page.

Jackson should have been talking to Anthony on Sunday to say ‘hey I did not make those comments or yah I did I have a problem of the way you play and we need to talk.’

ESPN reported that sometime the two will meet. Sometime is not a day on a calendar.

If Jackson’s head is not in this job he needs to go and the Knicks need to find someone who is familiar with 21st century basketball on how to build a proper roster and run things in a professional manner. And not have your friends act as your unofficial PR guy letting the world know what you think about your team.

It looks like Phil Jackson has lost his employees trust and as a result his time in New York is running out. Perhaps the real question should be, what’s taking so long?

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan Has Become An All-Time Toronto Sports Great

By Frank McLean

In my 32 years of covering the Toronto sports scene I have been privileged to have covered a hand full of special athletes and better still special people.

Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar with the Blue Jays, Maple Leafs Doug Gilmour and Matts Sundin, Mike “Pinball” Clemons and Doug Flutie of the Argos and of course Vince Carter with the Raptors.

You can add DeMar DeRozan to the list.

Over the offseason DeRozan became the highest paid professional athlete in Toronto sporting history, five years 137.3-million dollars. Oh yes let’s not forget a little trip to Rio in August where DeRozan and teammate Kyle Lowry were part of Team USA’s gold medal win at the Olympics.

With many athletes when they finally get that big paycheck they hit that comfort zone. Their money is guaranteed so why put out. Not with DeRozan.

His game keeps getting better.

He opened the season tying Michael Jordan’s NBA record to start a season with five straight games of 30-or-more points. He already has 15 games of 30-plus where last year he only did it 14 times and he is third in league scoring with a 28.4 average behind only Anthony Davis at 29.6 and Russell Westbrook’s 30.9.

It’s hard to imagine that over the last couple of years pundits and fans have tried to say he’s not worth a max contract.

But other people in the NBA think he’s worth the money.

Take for example these comments a few weeks ago from Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brent Brown when they were in town.

“It may a combination of getting older or taking responsibility when somebody pay’s you like they paid him and they are expecting results. When I listen to him do interviews and I watch him play he’s class. I think he has his head on his shoulders. I think he deserves the contract he was rewarded with. Anytime you can find someone that good on court or off court the city of Toronto should make sure they wrap their arms around him and don’t let him go anywhere.”

That last sentence is a big one from Brown.

Where Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and Raptors first ever draft pick Damon Stoudmire all wanted to leave the 416, DeRozan never wanted to go anywhere else.

On Monday DeRozan was named Player Of The Week in the Eastern Conference for the second time this season.

The question at practice was why have you gotten better this year?

“If I had the answer I probably wouldn’t give it to you,” DeRozan said. “But I don’t have the answer. I just try to go out there and just play in the rhythm of what we do, be aggressive, just play my game. I think we all have a feel for one another, what we like to do with everybody’s strength and we always feed to that. I’ve got to give credit to my teammates for helping me be in a position in the game (to get his almost 30 points a night.)

The reason I think DeRozan is always getting better is his competitive streak. He never settles for what he is putting up on the boxscore. He is constantly working on his game. Ask any of the security guards at the Air Canada Centre it’s not unusual for him to be coming into the building at 11pm or midnight and heading up to the team’s old third floor practice facility just working on his game.

Those other Toronto athletes I mentioned at the start of this article all had that same driven mentality to always be better, always improving their game.

DeRozan heading into Tuesday night’s game against the Brooklyn Nets had scored 10,201 career points. That’s just 74 points behind Chris Bosh’s total while with Toronto of 10,275 for the title of Raptors all time leading scorer. He has played the most games of any player for the Raptors, is about to overtake Bosh in minutes played and by the end of the year DeRozan will pretty much own all the Raptors longevity and scoring records.

He deserves to be listed as one of Toronto’s all time greats.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mississauga Raptors 905 at the ACC

Red Hot Raptors 905 Invade Downtown Toronto

By Frank McLean

Usually when you see a convoy of yellow school busses making their way into downtown Toronto there is some kind of protest going on at Queen’s Park or City Hall or Blue Jays fans storming the Rogers Center wanting them to re-sign Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista.

Instead on Tuesday morning it was an invasion of school children, some 15,011 of them, at the Air Canada Centre which became the largest crowd to watch an NBDL game as the Raptors 905 hosted the Grand Rapids Drive in an early 11am tip off .

Mississauga Raptors 905 fans

The Pistons farm team made the 905ers looked like they were sleepwalking in this one as they were thumped 114-87 ending a franchise-high seven game winning streak.

Even the high energy of an arena full of kids screaming, as most for sure were strung out on sugary drinks and pizza, could not help the home side with some extra energy of their own.

Coming into the game the 905ers had a 10-2 record with a NBDL leading .833 winning percentage, but before the game head coach Jerry Stackhouse was prophetic in his comments before the game that “yes we are winning games, but we have a lot of work to do.”

“Today was just one of those games,” Stackhouse said after the game.

“We were ok in the beginning of the game in the first quarter then they took off and made threes. I think they set a new NBA(DL) record for threes in a game today.”

Stackhouse was right about that one.

This past Friday night the Houston Rockets in their win over the New Orleans Pelicans set an NBA record for three-point shots made and attempted as they went 24-for-61 behind the arc.

Grand Rapids tied that NBA record by making 24 trey’s but they did it on far fewer attempts, 48.

The leading scorer for the 905ers was Fred VanVleet who gets action with the 905 when the Raptors aren’t playing.

However, Tuesday was a little bit of a different animal for the Raptors rookie as six hours after the 905 game ended VanVleet will be in a Raptors uniform on the bench supporting the big club for their game with the Brooklyn Nets.

“I’m ready to play anytime I’m called upon,” VanVleet said about the possibility of playing a doubleheader on the same day.

“I’m always mentally prepared and physically prepared to play. It’s something that I put a lot of pride in.”

But the story of the day was the kids.

The 905 already had a school day game this year in their home arena in Mississauga where they filled the Hershey Centre with close to five thousand fans.

Bringing a home game downtown for the second year in a row is a no brainer as they expose their brand of NBDL ball to a captive audience of school kids just happy as heck not to be in class doing math or english just three days before they take off for their Christmas break.

These late morning games are done in minor pro hockey and baseball and have been a great success at selling their product and making fans out of the game with the kids.

I just wonder. Why didn’t they have these games for school kids when I was in school 40 years ago?

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas, DeMarre Carroll, Kyle Lowry & DeMar DeRozan

Raptors Are Ahead Of Last Year’s Pace At The Quarter Pole

By Frank McLean

As we sit at the quarter pole of this current NBA season for the Toronto Raptors things are pretty much the same as they were when the 2015-16 season ended in late May as Toronto was eliminated by the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Final. The Raptors are the second best team in the conference.

After the Cavaliers knocked off the Raptors on Monday night for their third win against Toronto this season the standings looked like this, Cleveland sitting in first at 14-5, and the Raptors sitting in second at 14-7. Although, after 21 games last year, these Raptors were 12-9.

Forget the rest of the Eastern Conference, and yes just like last year you still have nine other teams fighting for the other six playoff  berths in the conference, but realistically if the Cavaliers and Raptors are at full strength roster wise, those nine squads are just not good enough to win a best of seven series against either team.

The Cavaliers know that there is only one team that could be a roadblock for them making a third straight appearance in the NBA Finals and that’s the Raptors.

“They have had our attention for a long time,” LeBron James was telling the media earlier this week in Toronto about the team that actually fought back and lasted six games in the conference final last spring.

“I think they’ve had the NBA’s attention. You don’t need them playing well and us not playing well or us playing well and them not playing well for them to get our attention. I think it’s there.”

“It’s a team that’s first of all well-coached,” James added. “It starts with their two-headed monster, (DeMar) DeRozan and (Kyle) Lowry. Their complimentary guys have been playing great. Their role players have been playing great. DeMarre (Carroll) and Patrick (Patterson), Terrence Ross coming in and giving them big minutes, obviously Cory Joseph being a solid backup point guard for them as well. Even some of the younger guys, they’ve been coming into the game have come in and played some good ball”.

Kyrie Irving also talked about the Raptors one-two punch at guard.

“Their two-guard set is one that just separates them in the league. DeMar, Kyle, they do an unbelievable job of leading this team offensively. And defensively, they compete every possession. They take advantage of different lineups you have because one of (Lowry or DeRozan) is on the floor almost every minute of the game.”

But still the Raptors are just the second best team in the conference and until they figure out a way to beat the Cavaliers they won’t be taking the next step of playing in the NBA Finals.

So the ball is in the court of president Masai Ujiri and general manager Jeff Weltman to make the trade that puts them over the top.

The Raptors are in a similar spot that the Toronto Blue Jays were in at the start of the 1990’s. After making the American League Championship series in 1985 and 89 and losing to Kansas City and Oakland, they needed to make a roster shifting trade to become a championship ballclub.

GM Pat Gillick made the trade that put the Jays over the top sending Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff to San Diego for Joe Carter and Hall Of Famer Robbie Alomar and as they say “the rest is history.”

So when do Ujiri and Weltman make the trade that puts the team in a position to make a championship run?

They do get their free agent signing of the summer, forward Jared Sullinger back around the all-star break from his foot injury suffered in the preseason. His defence and rebounding will help and it will be like getting player in a trade deadline deal without giving up someone.

But the question remains, does the Raptors management do something this year or wait?

The Raptors are getting the best season DeMar DeRozan has ever put out, averaging 28 points a game with 10 games of 30 points plus already.

But then you have starting center Jonas Valanciunas still not playing in crucial parts of games where you expect your starting center to play.

This team will win 50-plus games again, win the Atlantic Division title for a third straight year, and finish no lower than second in the East.

That’s why everybody will be watching what the Raptors do between now and the March first trade deadline.

Do they make a run now for a championship or wait until later?

Time will tell, but opportunities to win can be fleeting.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 


 

 

New York Knicks Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis

Knicks Walt Frazier Talks Rose, Noah, Melo And Porzingis

By Frank McLean

Not long ago the Knicks were in Toronto for the first of their two visits this season to the Air Canada Centre and Pro Bball Report had a chance to sit down with former Knicks player Walt “Clyde” Frasier who for the last 25 years has been either the team’s radio or television color commentator and talk about the moves Knicks president Phil Jackson has made and the team’s start to the season.

Jackson remade the Knicks roster in the summer with one specific goal in mind and that’s make the playoffs come hell or high water.

The first big move Jackson made was raiding the Chicago Bulls of two of their stars from the last few seasons, trading for guard Derrick Rose and signing as a free agent center Joakim Noah to take the offensive load off forward Carmelo Anthony and improve the overall team defense.

“It was a great coup by Phil Jackson to bring these guys in,” Frazier said. “No one saw it coming. Rose will really help us, last year we were last in hoops transition. He gives us that type of quickness.

“In Noah he’s like Tyson Chandler who we had a few years ago. He was a former defensive player of the year and he plays that game.”

Frazier also loved another free agent signing guard Courtney Lee.

“He can play without the ball and gives you lots of energy because you have to be able to defend yourself”.

Even with the changes Frazier says 13-year veteran Carmelo Anthony is still ‘the man’ on Broadway.

“Melo is still one of the most lethal guys in the league in isolation,” Frazier said. “He has provided more leadership this year and he has taken more responsibility trying to galvanize the team.”

The man who is expected to become ‘the man’ sooner or later and likely sooner with the Knicks is second year center Kristaps Porzingis.

Porzingis started off slow this season, but he is getting 30-minutes a night laying time and averaging close to 19-points a game.  Frazier says he is on the “threshold of greatness.”

“He’s very precious,” Frazier said. “He came in a 20-year old, speaks fluent English. Says all the right things and wants to be good. His family is here, his older brother and his mother and he loves his mother’s cooking. He is going to be a force and going to be a superstar.”

“He’s not showtime,” Frazier added. “He is team oriented and a very conservative kid. When you talk to him he is aware of being on the biggest stage. It requires a lot of tenacity to play in the NBA.”

Since the loss in Toronto, Porzingis has averaged over 24 points per game, shot over 50 percent from the field, grabbed 8.8 rebounds, a steal and a block and has looked like a force on the court already. No waiting required.

One thing that Frazier is disappointed about is the play of the Knicks bench. Last year it was a strength and this year it’s a weakness.

Of course the biggest change Jackson made was behind the bench, where he fired Derek Fisher midway through last season. He then made assistant Kurt Rambis head man for the rest of the season, but decided to bring in former Phoenix Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek to take over the club and hand Rambis the title of Associate Head Coach.

Frazier called Hornacek laid back, something that doesn’t usually work in the mega fishbowl that is New York City.

“He’s laidback,” Frazier said. “Now that can be a problem in New York. He is unflappable and he does not get excited, does not yell at the players. The guys respect him and they will perform for him because they respect him.”

The Knicks have gone three seasons without making the playoffs and going four years in a row will get a lot of people fired Frazier said. And it’s not just the owner of Madison Square Garden Jams Dolan who is getting impatient, so are the fans.

“The natives are getting restless,” Frazier said about the Knicks fans who have not had a championship team to cheer for since 1973.

When the Knicks left Toronto with a loss they were 3-6. Since then they are 5-1 improving to 8-7, beating the Mavs, Pistons, Hawks, Blazers and Hornets, so the ‘natives’ should be pretty happy.

However, there is still a lot of basketball left to be played. Many of the changes to this year’s roster are veterans who have been injured at one time or another and it will be interesting to see if these guys can stay healthy. But the real hope could be with Porzingis.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 


NBA Denver Nuggets, Team Canada and Kentucky Wildcats Jamal Murray

Nuggets Jamal Murray Is Representing “We The North” Well

By Frank McLean

“We the North” was a marketing slogan the Toronto Raptors adopted a few years ago to announce to the rest of the NBA that the only team not located in the United States of America was finally a legitimate contender and it gave its rabid fan base a rallying cry so to speak.

“We the North” could also be a rallying cry for basketball players born in Canada as each year more and more players with a Canadian birth certificate can be found on NBA rosters making major contributions to their team’s fortunes.

On opening night this year there were 12 Canadian born players on NBA rosters. The only country to have more native born players in the NBA is the United States.

The latest is Kitchener, Ontario’s Jamal Murray who after playing one year at the University of Kentucky for John Calapari is now with the Denver Nuggets where the hope he is the last key to make them a legitimate playoff team.

Being drafted by the Nuggets (seventh overall) Murray was the player they had circled that they wanted on draft night. “It’s a good feeling to know that you were being selected by a team that really wants you.”

Head coach Mike Malone is bringing him along slowly, giving him a chance to just relax and learn how to play in the NBA. Mainly because this is a guy the organization really wanted and he is not going to ruin him as a potential NBA player.

“We tell Jamal (this) all the time. Listen, whether you go out there and score 20, or you score zero, we still love you, we still believe in you and we know that at some point, you are going to do great things for this franchise,” Malone said recently about Murray. “What I love about Jamal, and it’s a big credit to his mom and dad, he’s a well-balanced kid and for a young kid, he’s very poised. He doesn’t get too low, he doesn’t get too high.

“He’s a young man, 19-years old and won’t be 20 until February. A lot of poise, a lot of confidence, shot-making ability, can get his own shot, but he’s more than just a shooter and scorer, he can play-make and rebound for his position as well.”

When you talk to Murray he is very soft spoken. Like a true Canadian, not a braggart not full of himself, but he is confident of his abilities.

“Don’t look at yourself as a rookie,” Murray said. “A basket is a basket, free throw is a free throw,” was his advice to himself. “You just have to go out there and shoot efficiently and not over-think it. At the end the day it’s just a game so you can’t put things in your head to give yourself excuses.”

“I worked for it to happen, I truly believed it would happen,” Murray added.

Murray says the one big difference between college and the NBA is that everything about the game is faster and that you have to adjust your reaction time because everything is happening at a faster pace.

He is getting 20 minutes a night and averaging almost 8 points game which is a good chunk of minutes for a rookie to get his feet wet in the NBA.

He is with one of the good young coaches in the NBA in Mike Malone. He was doing wonders in Sacramento and winning games with another Kentucky product named DeMarcus Cousins until ownership fired him because the wins weren’t exciting enough.

He will make a great mentor for Murray.

Murray is in a great place in Denver and he’s going to be all right, making the basketball community in “We The North” proud.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 


 

 

NBA D-League Mississauga Raptors 905 Jerry Stackhouse

Jerry Stackhouse Takes His Next Step As A Coach With Raptors 905

By Frank McLean

After one year as an assistant coach with the Toronto Raptors, NBA great Jerry Stackhouse has taken the next step in the journey to become a head coach in the NBA someday by heading over to Mississauga and taking over as the head coach of the NBDL Raptors 905 in their second season.

The opening at the head coach’s seat came available when Jesse Mermuys, who ran the team in its inaugural season, took a job with the Los Angeles Lakers to be on new head coach Luke Walton’s staff.

In a conversation I had recently with Stackhouse he said that Raptors head coach Dwane Casey and team President Masi Ujiri thought that this would be a great opportunity for him.

Stackhouse also picked the brain of another Raptors assistant Nick Nurse who spent six years coaching in the NBDL and he decided to go for it.

“It’s an opportunity to get some coaching reps,” Stackhouse said.  “I get a chance to teach these guys (players on the 905) a lot of what I know. I’m learning a lot of different scenarios. I’ve got the first seat and it’s a good experience for me.”

The roster of the 905 this year is going to be able to tap in to a guy who during an 18-year NBA career was a Raptors killer on the court.

His career started in 1995 with Philadelphia and had stops in Detroit, Washington, Dallas, Milwaukee, Miami, Atlanta and Brooklyn.

It’s in Brooklyn in 2012-13 where head coach Avery Johnson used Stackhouse as a player coach and he asked him to join his staff, but that fell through when the Nets decided to fire Johnson.

When I asked him about his coaching style, Stackhouse said he has learnt from all the great coaches he has played for. However, the first name he brings up is that of the late great North Carolina Tar Heel coach Dean Smith who he played for at that university.

“I try to coach the game similar to Smith,” Stackhouse said.

“Doug Collins is one of my favorites too,” Stackhouse added. “He was the best Xs-and-Os coaches I ever played for.”

Being a head coach in the NBDL is more than just coaching basketball and Stackhouse knows that. You are dealing with young players who were drafted by NBA teams and did not make it or were not drafted at all. You have a roster of players who still don’t want to give up the dream of playing in the NBA.

“I’m a little bit of a father figure and a little bit big brother. These guys are really young. Some of these guys, I’ve got kids their age 19-20. Myself, I’m a father figure and I want to forge a relationship with them so they can be open and talk about their game and their goals.”

And what goals does Stackhouse have for the upcoming season.

“My goals would be to win the D-League championship, but my (real) goal is to help the guys get to the next level. If we get 10 of these guys here right now called up to the NBA that would be the best thing that could happen to me this season.”

That in a nutshell is the purpose of the Raptors 905, to get players ready for the NBA.

Last year you saw players like Norman Powell and Delon Wright parlay their time in Mississauga into minutes with the big club downtown. Stackhouse knows that being on the Raptors coaching staff last season and he’s ready to get this year’s crop of 905ers ready for the big show.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 


 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Norman Powell

Stuff Happens To The Raptors Powell, Siakam And Poeltl

By Frank McLean

The Toronto Raptors they were hoping the Celtics free agent big man Jared Sullinger could fill the one hole they had in their starting line-up, but sometimes in sports, just like in life, circumstances play a big part into how your lot with a team is going to go. Like the T-shirt says, “Stuff Happens”.

In the case of four different players on the current Raptors roster the “stuff” that has happened since the start of the off season has affected them good and bad.

First you have to feel sorry for power forward Jared Sullinger who signed a one year six-million dollar contract in the summer in the hopes of parlaying that into a long term mega-deal as an unrestricted free agent next summer just like Bismack Biyombo did.

Sullinger and bad luck hit smack on in the Raptors first preseason game when he landed on the foot of one of his teammates and will be out of the line-up till around the All-Star break. However, bad luck for Sullinger has turned into an unexpected opportunity for rookie forward Pascal Siakam.

Drafted 27th overall in the first round out of New Mexico State the rookie is getting a chance to start games and bring an element of his game, speed.

“Speed is a great advantage to have,” Siakam said. “As a big man being able to run the floor I think a lot of big men don’t do that. The fact that I can do that on a consistent basis is great. I’m just trying to use all my advantages and be able to help my team win.”

As a result of Siakam’s success a major contributor from last season’s playoff run, Norman Powell, has become a forgotten man. Powell says he just has to keep working hard and earn head coach Dwane Casey’s trust.

“I trust Norm,” Casey said. “It’s not about trust. It’s about it being hard to play 11 or 12 guys. It’s not trust at all. Hell I trusted him in the first round of the playoffs last year as a rookie, so it’s not about trust.

“It’s just he has a guy like DeMar DeRozan in front of him on a hot streak and DeMarre Carroll who is our defensive guy who is healthy now so it’s a tough situation for him to be in. Then there’s Terrence (Ross) shooting the ball the way he is shooting, so he’s got a triple-headed monster he’s fighting against.”

Meanwhile at center the Raptors other first round pick Jakob Poeltl is getting a chance to play some quality minutes because the Raptors did not re-sign Bismack Biyombo this past summer.

This past Sunday he got a chance to start against Sacramento with Jonas Valanciunas out with a knee bruise. He got a quick lesson in how to deal with big centers in the NBA. In this case DeMarcus Cousins.

“It’s like every other game,” Poeltl said about the Sacramento game. “Learn from it, watch what we did, what we did wrong, and try and improve that. Obviously, it was far from a perfect game from us today and from me personally, too. So look at it and try to learn from it.”

As you can see circumstances have changed the complexion of the Toronto Raptors line-up and with the playoffs not until the middle of April you can be sure that more “stuff” will happen to change the line-up a few more times.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 


 

 

NBA New York Knicks Derrick Rose

Don’t Be Fooled, The Knicks Are Still Struggling

By Frank McLean

Stop me if you have heard this before. The new NBA season is almost two weeks old and as the saying goes, “some things just stay the same”, the New York Knicks are still struggling.

Friday night the Knicks took a disappointing 1-3 record into Chicago where they took on a Bulls squad who had a 3-1 mark to start the campaign.

What made this a big early season match-up was the return to the Windy City of two former Bulls standouts, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.

Rose a Chicago native was acquired by trade in the off season where the Knicks parted ways with center Robin Lopez. Noah was signed to a $72 million free agent deal and neither player had been a factor heading into Chicago.

Noah was scoreless in two of the Knicks first four games of the season. He was brought in for defense, but was benched in this past Wednesday’s 19 point home loss to Houston.

Rose coming into Friday night’s game was averaging 15 points a game and shooting 47 per cent from the floor, but the knock against him is that he is not setting up his teammates. He only had 10 assists in their first four games.

“It sucks,” Rose said on Thursday of the 1-3 start. “I’ve been on teams where there’s a culture and we’re trying to build a defensive culture here and it takes time.”

“It’s us coming in with the right intensity and having the will to fight,” Noah contributed. “Obviously we have a lot of work to do. It’s not the end of the world. There’s a lot of talent on the team. We got to stay patient.”

“The defense has been taught and preached,” said Knicks new head coach Jeff Hornacek. “Sometimes it comes down to just taking it upon yourself to stop somebody and not look for help. We just can’t let the guy drive by and have two-step advantage and say: ‘Help me, help me.’ ”

The Knicks are desperate for help. They have given up at least 112 points in each of their three losses.

Hornacek also pointed out to the New York media on Thursday that he is not sure if the team is paying attention to the “scouting reports” they get on their opponents and also questioned their conditioning and if offensively the wrong players are asserting themselves.

Last season’s rookie sensation Kristaps Porzingis is having a bit of an early sophomore slump. When opponents put a small line-up on the floor he is having a tough time defending smaller forwards who have quickness and speed.

Porzingis misses Lopez who was able to get the ball to the 7’3 forward. He went scoreless on Wednesday night which had Hornacek scratching his head. Why can’t his teammates get him the ball to exploit his size?

Guard Courtney Lee added his “two cents worth” with an idea as to why their defense stinks. He said it’s because they practice against triangle sets and not the pick-and-roll offenses most other clubs use.

Well you know in any discussion about the New York Knicks sooner or later the dreaded “triangle offense” would be brought out.

Two years ago Madison Square Garden owner James Dolan paid $60 million to Phil Jackson to turn this thing around. However, Jackson won his NBA titles with the Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers as a coach, not the General Manager which is his portfolio in Gotham.

He ran the “triangle offense” as a coach and he insists his coaches run it as well.

It worked for Jackson because he had Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant to run it. It’s a scheme that does not seem to fit in 2016 because the game has changed, defenses are more complex.

However, Friday night in Chicago, the Knicks won 117-104 and their record is now 2-3.

Even though they pulled out a win, the Knicks are still 29th in the NBA for defensive efficiency and are giving up a brutal 109 points per game. They are also dead last at grabbing defensive boards pulling in just 70.1 percent of the available defensive rebounds. The median for defensive rebounding in the NBA is currently 77.9 percent. With just an average offense, this isn’t a formula for winning many games.

This team hasn’t made the playoffs in three seasons and Dolan doesn’t like to miss the extra revenue home playoff games at Madison Square Garden brings to his bank account. However, if Hornachek can’t get the Knick to defend, for the fourth straight year the Knicks will look like guaranteed win night when they show up on your schedule.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 

 


 

Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James

The Cavaliers Remain A Real Pain For The Toronto Raptors

By Frank McLean

The NBA’s schedule maker has teased fans of the Toronto Raptors this year. The official opening of the 2016-17 season had the Raptors open the campaign at the Air Canada Centre with the Detroit Pistons and there was time when the Pistons would be a very compelling opening game, but not anymore!

Detroit was a surprising eighth seed in last year’s playoffs, but the roster they throw out on the floor now does not have a Prince or a Hamilton on it anymore. Isiah Thomas, Dennis Rodman and Bill Laimbeer weren’t coming out on the floor either.

To make matters worse the Pistons best player, Reggie Jackson, was out of the line-up with a knee injury and not expected back until sometime in December.

The next tilt on Friday night was the real opening night. The team the Raptors have to beat to make it to the NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs made their first visit to the “SIX” since they knocked the Raptors out of the Eastern Conference Finals in six games back in May.

In the last five months Cleveland has been a pain in the backside of Toronto sports fans. It used to be a city whose professional sports teams stunk and broke the hearts of their fans just like Toronto has experienced in recent decades.

In a matter of five months the Cavaliers eliminated the Raptors and won Cleveland’s first championship since the 1964 NFL’s Browns did it in football. Then the Indians ended the Blue Jays dream of a World Series berth.

Toronto fans were ready Friday night and you could feel a buzz in the ACC like it was, oh I don’t know, opening night!

The Cavaliers did win a nail bitter, 94-91 and it was a defensive struggle that made an early October match-up look more like a playoff battle in May.

“Specifically on the defensive side, I thought we did exceptionally well,” Patrick Patterson said after the game. “Granted, they missed a bunch of shots, but I thought our communication, finishing plays with the rebound and just talking overall whether it was guarding our man or just help-side defence, I thought we did a pretty good job. Offensively, we just missed a bunch of shots we normally make.

“Defensive side of the ball, I think that is the only positive thing you can take away. Just our effort and our energy on that side.”

The Raptors did miss a few shots that if they made them maybe they would have gotten the “W”.

“Some of the same shots we missed, I know we’re going to make,” head coach Dwayne Casey said in his post-game comments. “There’s no consolation, they beat us. We’ve got to continue to believe in our offensive shots. Those are the same shots we’re going to make, but we have to take care of the ball. We can’t have 18 turnovers because it’s a jailbreak against that team.”

One big positive was DeMar DeRozan who had scored 40 points in the Pistons game and added 32 against the Cavaliers. His 72 point total for the first two games of the season is a new club record.

He averaged 23.5-points a game last season and is on pace to push that to an even higher average.

However one problem which has cropped up in the first two games of the season is three-point shooting where they have shot just 7-for-34.

A lot of that has to do with the extended absence of power forward Jared Sullinger who signed a one year free agent deal with the Raptors after spending the first four years of his career with the Boston Celtics.

Sullinger was supposed to fill the void of outside shooting, but he will not make his debut until February since he has a broken bone in his left foot suffered in the first preseason game of the year.

Sullinger should make a huge difference in the second half of the season and the playoffs for the Raptors.

However, it’s only two games down with another 80 to go before the playoffs begin and like last year, the 82-game regular season is just a glorified preseason schedule. Monday night’s game against the Nuggets should only serve to emphasize that fact.

This Raptors team has been built for a long playoff run, so don’t worry, time will fly, and April will come soon enough. In the meantime, enjoy the ride.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 

 

 


Toronto Raptors Pascal Siakam

Raptors Draft Double-Double Machine Pascal Siakam 27th Overall

By Frank McLean

With all the hype of the Raptors having the ninth pick overall as a result of a deal with New York that saw GM Masai Ujiri dump Andrea Bargnani on the Knicks, it’s easy to forget still they had a first round draft pick of their own this year.

At 27th overall, Toronto took sophomore forward Pascal Siakam from New Mexico State University.

Siakam is a double-double machine and this past season he led all Division One schools with 27 and ranked in the top ten in rebounds. The native of Cameroon averaged 20.2 points, 11.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks last season. He also received Honorable Mention All-American from Associated Press and was the Western Athletic Conference Player of the year.

His scouting report says he is very long, athletic and quick off the floor. He is a great rebounder and shot blocker with a range of 15-feet. Draft Express describes him as,

A 6’10” power forward with an imposing 7’3” wingspan, Siakam has several physical tools that give him a solid foundation as a draft prospect. In addition to his measurables, he has a motor that rarely stops along with great speed and agility to boot that allows him to move around the court with ease.

Siakim had a bit of a Canadian connection at New Mexico State. His coach Paul Wier was a point guard at York University in Toronto and was also head basketball coach at Don Bosco High School in Toronto.

The Raptors worked out Siakam in Buffalo, New York the same day they worked out Poeltl. Just like Poeltl, his visa could let enter Canada with no problems, but he would not be able to get back into the United States.

Siakam and Poeltl both have two years NCAA experience which gives them a chance to get minutes with the Raptors, but don’t be surprised if they end up with the Raptors 905 in Mississauga. However, as we saw with Norman Powell this past season, if you show you can play, Dwane Casey will give you a shot with the big club.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 



 

.

NBA Toronto Raptors Jakob Poetl

Raptors Get Their Man In Jakob Poeltl

By Frank McLean

The Toronto Raptors got the guy they wanted in the NBA draft Thursday night. With the ninth pick in the first round they took a seven foot Austrian named Jakob Poeltl.

Pronounced (Ya-hib Pert-l) his name is going be a nightmare for radio and television sports casters, but at forward, he is what the team is looking for.

He has spent the last two years playing at the University of Utah, and in 2014-15 he was a teammate of current Raptors guard Delon Wright.

He is a power forward and center. In his two years playing in the Pac-12 Conference he averaged 13.3 points a game, eight rebounds and one assist.

This past season he was the winner of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar award given to the top center in the NCAA.

In a conference call with the Toronto media, Wright gave Poeltl a glowing job reference and said he is a player.

“He was legit before he came to Utah,” Wright said. “When he came to Utah he could pick and roll. A lot of big guys can’t pick and roll hard, but he can hard and he’s got great hands.

“When he came to Utah he was learning English, but he could speak a little. He’s a guy that jokes around, a great teammate and a very hard worker.”

The hard work part is what you have to do stay on a Dwane Casey team. What impresses Casey is that he is schooled in the fundamentals.

When asked in Brooklyn at the draft about getting to play with Wright, Poeltl was excited to have a friend in already in the 416.

“I’m super stoked about that”, Poeltl said. “It’s so great to know that I’m already going to have somebody there that I know that’s my friend, and I talked to him a lot throughout this process and he’s told me only good things about Toronto. It’s like an unbelievable feeling right now.”

About being a Raptor Poeltl told Casey that he knew about the team and that he watched them in the playoffs. That was something that impressed Casey as well as his knowledge of the entire NBA.

“I’m so excited that the Toronto Raptors put their trust in me,” Poeltl added. “I think I can be a guy who’s out there always fighting, always trying to get better. I think I’m far from done being a player like I can improve a lot I feel like, and I hope I can help out this organization these next couple years. ”

“He is an excellent basketball player,” Casey said. “Fundamentally sound, he needs to get used to the NBA game, speed and quickness. His foot speed is quicker than JV’s (Jonas Valanciunas) was at his age.”

Casey and the Raptors front office saw that speed first hand on June 17th when they traveled down to Buffalo, New York to work him out.

Poeltl is in the United States on a student visa. There was no problem with him entering Canada, but he could not re-enter the United States, thus forcing the trip to the Chicken Wing capital of the USA.

In a year where there wasn’t one player that came out of college and jumps out at you as the first pick, the Raptors got a player at position, power forward, that they need.

It’s safe pick and he has the best chance of not failing at the NBA level where some scouts fear that Ben Simmons and Buddy Hield could end up as big time flops.

Casey did confirm that GM Masai Ujiri was working the phones all day trying to move up in the draft, but as it worked out, they got their guy when the it came time to make their choice at number nine.

Poeltl also plays center, so with the possible departure of Bismack Biyombo, he could fill a void there as well.

This pick could turn out to be a quiet steal and another feather in the cap of GM Masai Ujiri.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 


 

NBA New York Knicks Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose, What In The World Are The Knicks Thinking?

By Frank McLean

One day before the NBA draft the New York Knicks and the Chicago Bulls hooked up for the first big trade of the offseason.

The Knicks sent centre Robin Lopez, guards Jose Calderon and Jerian Grant to Chicago and in return, the Bulls sent guard Justin Holiday, the second pick in the 2017 draft and the big ticket item in the deal point guard Derrick Rose to New York.

Rose at 27 years of age is a former MVP and has one year left on his current contract at $21.3 million, but the knock on him is that he has a bad jump shot, can’t attack the hoop (any more) and does not play defense.

Oh and let’s not forget one important thing… He has a lingering bad knee.

When you look at the deal from the outside, this is just the latest dumb trade where the Knicks pickup another player who has bad wheels like Carmelo Anthony.

Rose first hurt his knee in the 2011-2012 season and when he came back, he had lost the speed he had when he came into the league.

The knee made him sit out the entire 2012-2013 season, play only 10 games in 2013-2014 and just a little more than half the games in 2014-2015, but at least this past season he was actually healthy enough to play in 66 of the Bulls 82 games.

For someone who the Bulls picked first overall in the 2008 draft, was the NBA rookie of the year and the 2010-2011 NBA MVP, the knee injury has made him a mere mortal.

In the first four years of his career he averaged 21 points and played in 89.4 percent of the Bulls games. Since then he has only averaged 16.9 points and only been able to suit up 38.7 percent of the time.

So when you look at his medical history you go great, he can’t stay healthy, hasn’t played a full season in over five years and if he gets hurt again and with Carmelo Anthony’s knee forcing him to miss time when the Knicks have to play on back-to-back nights, well this why this team keeps struggling.

This is a huge one-year gamble for Phil Jackson, and speaking of Jackson, he seems to be going against what he has said in the past.

First he wanted a coach who would worship his triangle offense. Then he hired Jeff Hornacek as his head coach. In the past Jackson has constantly told the media “I don’t need a point guard” – now he trades for Rose.

You wonder if someone other than Jackson is making these decisions? Like maybe Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan who thinks he is a basketball expert and the main reason the Knicks have stunk for the last 10 years or so.

The Knicks desperately want to make the playoffs this season. If this doesn’t work, they will be lucky to win 20 games.

However, there is an upside to this deal. The Knicks want to be a huge player in free agency next summer and getting the last three years of Lopez’s contract off the books, as well as Calderon and Grant, could leave them with just three players under contract and just $35 million in salaries when the salary cap is expected to be close to $110 million.

This future flexibility assumes Jackson (or Dolan) doesn’t wipe it out by signing guys (with issues) like Dwight Howard to a max deal this summer or maybe Rose’s former teammate and friend Joakim Noah who is coming back from injury.

Meanwhile over in Chicago the Bulls who finished ninth in the East and were supposed to be a major playoff player this year are shaking things up.

When Rose heard he was going to be shopped around in a trade he wanted to go to New York City. Bulls general manager Gar Forman said Wednesday the club was eager to add Lopez, who he said adds “toughness” to the Bulls roster.

“As we said at the end of last season, we are committed to exploring every option to improve this team,” Forman said. “This trade is a significant step in that process. Our goal is to get younger and more athletic, and this trade moves us in that direction and allows us to start changing the structure of our team. In Robin Lopez, we are acquiring a starting center who is a good defender, good rebounder, and brings a toughness to our team. Jose Calderon is a proven veteran who can run an offense and knock down threes. Jerian Grant was high on our draft board last year as someone with a great skill set and positional size. All three players are great teammates and have tremendous work ethic, and we are excited to welcome them to the Chicago Bulls organization.”

Forman’s comment about work ethic is the key phrase here, when I talked to members of the Chicago media who cover the Bulls they all said to man that work ethic was something the Bulls did not have.

So in a nut shell this a great deal for a Bulls team who are trying to rebuild and bring some much needed character to a roster that had none. In New York, this is another deal where it looks like the Knicks are trying to put together a fantasy league roster instead one that can win in the NBA.

Editor’s Note:

Rose is also mired in a sex scandal set to go to trial when the NBA preseason starts in October as reported in the NY Daily News.

The Knicks aren’t just getting a perpetually injured former NBA MVP in the blockbuster deal that will bring Derrick Rose to New York − they are also getting yet another player mired in scandal.

U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald scheduled the trial for Oct. 4 − the same day the NBA’s preseason begins.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini