Posts Tagged ‘Jonas Valanciunas’

Mmmmm....losing.

Mmmmm….losing.

Got some sporty friends coming over for a special occasion? Want to impress them with your ability to cook up failure, disappointment, and mediocrity? We’ve got you covered.

Chef Colangelo’s tried-and-true recipe should do nicely. First, the ingredients:

(Serves a city of 2.6 million)

  • 2 cups of marketing
  • 8 lbs of optimism
  • 1 tsp or less of talent (optional)
  • 1 point guard controversy
  • 1-2 talented but over-hyped rookies
  • 3 cups of NBA journeymen
  • 1 rock (for pounding)
  • 2 apologies for poor officiating
  • 1 secret ingredient (be sure to overpay grossly for this one)
  • A pinch of Primo pasta sauce
Directions:
1. Before cooking, tell your guests how awesome the meal will be.

In the pre-season, word was that the Raptors would be back in the playoffs in April. Last year’s defensive boost, thanks to Coach Casey, was sure to continue. We were a lock for the 8th spot, at least. And with Valanciunas the Lethal Lithuanian on board, this was bound to be a great year.

2. Start slowly. Very slowly.

One of the worst starts in franchise history had people screaming for a total rebuild before Christmas. Word spread around the league that this was a surprisingly bad team. One of my favourite quotes from the early season came from Ben Golliver at The Blazer’s Edge, writing after the 4-18 Raptors had visited (and lost by 18 points to) his hometown Blazers:

The horror stories bubble quickly around the NBA and the word has been out about the Raptors for a few weeks now. It’s never the same until you see it up close though. This wasn’t 2012 Charlotte Bobcats bad or 2011 Washington Wizards bad, but it was worse in a way, because the Raptors seem like genuinely nice and good people who are trying to win, or at least not actively trying to lose.

It’s a beautiful quote because it’s so completely Toronto. We’re the lovable losers. The dinner guests you invite over because you feel bad for them, and they bring you an awful bottle of homemade wine that tastes like tepid grape juice and gives you the runs.

3. After simmering for a while, change ingredients.

In one of the season’s most bittersweet moments, the beloved Jose Calderon was moved, along with Ed Davis, in a three-team deal that brought Rudy Gay to Toronto. Gay appeared to have an immediate impact, pouring in the points and hitting big shots. For the first time since Mookie Wilson, Torontonians had a sports star whose name could be chanted and sound like booing:

But the honeymoon didn’t last long, as folks started to realize that for every big shot he hit, Rudy was hoisting up about a thousand others that would clang off iron. His shooting percentage was shockingly low, and before you could say “buyer’s remorse”, fans were wishing we could go back to the days of a reliable, pass-first, shoddy-defending point guard.

4. Serve sheepishly, but with assurances that dessert will be amazing.

When the chefs at MLSE realized that they’d served Toronto yet another helping of lousy basketball, they were ready with 17 excuses reasons why fans should be ready for some serious contending next year. Seriously. For serious this time. They even made a website and video about it:

But in all honesty, we know what next year will be like. If the chef is the same, the meal will still have the same odd smell, the same mealy texture, the same bitter aftertaste.

The Raptors finish 2012-2013 moving into un-charted territory, even for a club with their sad history: for the first time, the team has seen five straight seasons with no playoffs. The drought has been on for so long that we’ve started to forget what water even looks like.

But don’t worry. Chef Colangelo’s cooking up something great for next year.

Advertisements
(cartoonstock.com)

(cartoonstock.com)

Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the midway point of the season. A variety of publications have released their “mid-term report cards” on the Raptors, which kind of made me feel bad for the Raps. A lot of them weren’t exactly the type of reports you’d want to put up on the fridge.

I know, I know, I spend a lot of time making fun of the Raptors. But like that parent who just can’t see how ugly and stupid their kid is, I’m an eternal optimist with this team. They’re all…special…in their own way.

So below is a summary of the grades dished out by the teachers at TSN and The National Post, with a special bonus from me. Because everyone’s good at something. Right?

Player TSN says… The National Post says… Yeah, but…
Quincy Acy C-
“Has to cut down on blown defensive assignments.”
C
“Has been a willing learner.”
Beard-growing: A+
Alan Anderson B+
“Game-altering performances.”
B
“It is difficult to get past Anderson’s accuracy from the field.”
Alliteration: A+
Andrea Bargnani D-
“His laconic play has finally soured the front office on him.”
F
“Ineffective offensively and regressed defensively.”
Looking slick in a suit: A+
Jose Calderon A
“His leadership has been invaluable.”
B-
“Struggled badly in his 15 games as Kyle Lowry’s backup.”
Ability to grow 5-o’clock shadow before noon: A+
Ed Davis A
“A revelation.”
B+
“A revelation.”
Being a revelation: A+
DeMar DeRozan C+
“His play has fallen off dramatically.”
C+
“His defense remains a mystifying negative.”
Having capital letters in his name: A+
Landry Fields C
“His jumpshot has remained horrendous.”
C-
“Still digging out of an early-season hole.”
Bearing an uncanny resemblance to Drake: A+
Aaron Gray C-
“Rebounding, his one great strength, has been missing all year.”
D+
“Has not been of much use.”
Looking confused: A+
Amir Johnson A-
“Still struggles to guard his position one-on-one.”
B+
“Johnson’s ceiling is limited, but he has maximized his ability.”
Hairstyle choices: A+
Linas Kleiza D
“Cannot replicate (or even approximate) his international effectiveness.”
D
“Has been totally ineffective.”
Being one of two Lithuanians I can name: A+
Kyle Lowry C
“Biggest disappointment of the season so far.”
C
“Lowry’s play has varied wildly.”
Making me nervous in close games: A+
John Lucas III C-
“Doesn’t offer enough elsewhere to offset his lack of scoring.”
C-
“Started off the year on a tremendous cold streak.”
Being more famous than John Lucas I or II: A+
Mickael Pietrus D+
“Doesn’t have it in him to contribute to an NBA team like he used to.”
C-
“Terrible offensively.”
Keeping knee doctors in business: A+
Terrence Ross C+
“He needs to shoot much better and learn to pass more often.”
C
“Flashes of brilliance to go along with complete no-shows.”
Potential to be the third Raptor to lose a dunk contest: A+
Jonas Valanciunas C+
“Fouls far too much.”
C
“Perhaps the Raptors’ worst defensive player.”
Looking absolutely nothing like his bobble-head doll: A+
Dwayne Casey N/A C
“Has relied a little too much on his veterans.”
Having gone from coaching a championship team to the Raptors without killing himself: A+

Over the holidays, the ghost of failures past visited Demar DeRozan to teach him the true meaning of Christmas. (Photo: bleacherreport.com)

Record:  10-20 (6-4 over the past 10)

Low point: December 10th vs. Portland: 5th straight loss. 11th straight road loss.  Bargnani and Lowry get hurt. Amir Johnson gets ejected. Portland sets an NBA record by going 0-for-20 from three-point land, but still wins by 18. 

High point: Bargnani and Lowry getting injured, allowing the rest of the guys to play like a team and win 5 games in a row for the first time since 1844.

Stuff I’ve Noticed:

  • Valanciunas has got hustle. He’s more energetic in warm-ups than most players are in the actual game.
  • Calderon’s bald spot is now visible from the upper bowl.
  • Once he’s no longer needed as Jonas’ translator, Linas Kleiza has got to go.
Memorable Quote:
“There’s been some slippage, clearly.”
-GM Bryan Colangelo exhibits interesting word choice while analyzing Toronto’s defensive focus.

Photo: fivechan.org

‘Tis the night before Christmas, and all through T.O.,
Not a commentator is stirring, not even Matt and Leo.
The Raptors have won five consecutive games,
With a lineup of youngsters, subs, and no-names.

The players are nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of playoffs dance in their heads.
But management can’t sleep. They’re not even yawny;
They’re trying to figure out what to do with Bargnani.

In the blogosphere there has arisen such a clatter,
And Colangelo knows it’s a delicate matter;
Do we trade Jose? But he’s playing so well,
He and the young guys are starting to gel…

And what about Lowry? Do we really need him back?
Is he our next Mighty Mouse? Or just our next Jarrett Jack?
And then there’s John Lucas, the infamous shot-taker,
Who hoists ’em up now and asks questions later.

One thing’s for sure: as the new year approaches,
Raptorland looks to its management and coaches
To make good decisions. To rid us of fear.
To give us a reason to stand up and cheer.

The players are certainly doing their part;
It’s hard to find fault with their effort or heart.
Jonas puts heart into each shot he takes,
No matter the cost, or how many fingers he breaks.

Lanky Ed Davis is making great strides,
And Ross makes us cheer when he takes to the skies.
Amir’s got our logo on the back of his cranium,
And Linas…well, he’s our second-best Lithuanian.

So as MLSE takes a brief Christmas break,
And tries to decide which moves it should make,
Perhaps what we need isn’t just a new player…
…what did Toronto do when displeased with its mayor?

Merry Christmas, Raptor fans!

Lithuania and the Raptors have more in common than you might think.

Today’s game was billed as “Lithuanian Heritage Night”, which made me stop and think for a couple of reasons. First of all, I wondered how a game played at 1pm could possibly considered a “night”. But more importantly, I wondered if there was more to our connection with Lithuania than just the two bearded gentlemen pictured above. So I did a bit of research, and found that Toronto Raptors organization and the country of Lithuania match up pretty well.

The Republic of Lithuania The Toronto Raptors
Country name begins with an L. Most games end with an L.
Located at the geographic centre of Europe. Located at the geographic centre of the universe.
Last occupied by the Soviets in 1990. Last occupied the playoffs in 2008.
President Dalia Grybauskaite, nicknamed “The Iron Lady”, has a black belt in Karate. Coach Dwane Casey, nickname pending, has a Frequent Buyer card at Baskin Robbins.
The Rock Pigeon, a national bird, is celebrated in the month of April. The Rock, a symbol of commitment to defensive play, is celebrated until the playoffs begin in April.
Part of the economically-challenged European Union. Part of the winning-incapable Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment.

 

Having slept peacefully for hours on the bench, Aaron Gray, seen here moments after being woken up, was put into the game to seal the deal. The strategy worked about as well as you would expect it to.  (Photo: Chris Young, Canadian Press.)

Well, it was exciting.

Until tonight, I’d never been to a game that had gone into triple overtime. I’ve got to hand it to the home team: they gave the crowd the most lively atmosphere since Linsanity. For a moment, it felt like the Raptors were playing for a playoff spot on the final day of the season, when actually they were just playing for the chance to boost their record to 2-5.

But it was exciting. And I learned a lot, too. Here are some things that I learned from tonight’s triple-OT drama:

  1. Jonas Valanciunas is not allowed to play after 9.30pm. Might be a curfew thing (he is young, after all) but I’d like to think it’s more of a Gremlins-type of don’t-feed-him-after-midnight thing.
  2. Having a jump ball at the start of each overtime period meant that the in-game DJ went through his entire repertoire of songs containing the word “Jump”. Van Halen’s getting some sweet royalties.
  3. No disrespect to the Spirit Squad, but after three and a half hours, free t-shirts just don’t excite me anymore.
  4. Aaron Gray is not a legitimate weapon in triple overtime. Putting him in cold with the game on the line is like bringing a wet noodle to a knife fight. Blindfolded.
  5. Losing feels the same, no matter how long it takes to get there. Remember when your parents used to put Cheez Whiz on your brussels sprouts to try to hide the fact that you were eating brussels srpouts? Yeah.

Oh, well. At least I can rest easy knowing that next Sunday is Jonas Valanciunas bobblehead night. And we helped the Jazz hit .500.

You’re welcome, Utah.

Things were going great, until the 4th quarter hit the Raptors like…well, like this.

 

It was a promising start.

The new faces were contributing, Calderon was playing great off the bench, and the Dance Pack did a passable rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” before distributing candy to the impressively large opening-night crowd at the ACC.

Then came the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, and the 10-point lead the Raptors had built just moments earlier began to collapse like a home-made robot costume in the rain.

As I watched Bargnani’s last-second shot fall 30 feet short, and the buzzer sounded on a 90-88 Indiana victory, my mind started to wander. I started to imagine what the players on the 2012-2013 Raptor squad might have dressed up as for Halloween. Here are my conclusions.

Suggested Halloween Costumes for the 2012-2013 Raptors:
Player Costume Reason
 Kyle Lowry  Damon Stoudamire, circa 1996  Small, feisty, exciting. Made the Raptors backcourt fun to watch.
 DeMar Derozan  Hurricane Sandy  Expected to be a big deal for Toronto, ends up being extremely underwhelming.
 Jonas Valanciunas  A Tim Horton’s coffee  Double-double. Quickly beloved in Canada.
 Landry Fields  A Tim Horton’s donut  Matches his number of points.
 Amir Johnson  Rambo  Shoots far too much.
 Aaron Gray  The James Bond villain ‘Jaws’  He just kinda looks like him.
 Andrea Bargnani  Roberto Alomar  A tribute to the 1992 Blue Jays. And I really want to hear him say “catch the taste”.

 

In the end, it was fitting that this game was played on Halloween. No matter how much the organization has been hyping the improvements to the team, dressing them up as playoff contenders, it’s nice to know that underneath the disguise, they’re still our lovable Raptors, able to throw a game away in the dying minutes, and send the visiting team home with a nice Halloween treat.

You’re welcome, Indiana.