Heading into what has become the first must win game of the season I had the opportunity to get the lowdown on what is going on north of the border with Sam Holako of the sensational blog Raptors Republic.
Roundball Mining Company: The Raptors are 3-7 since Chris Bosh returned from his ankle injury. Is that record indicative of the quality of the team or are they just in a slump right now?
Sam: It’s indicative of the quality of team. The Raptors have assembled a group of quality scorers, but they can’t defend to save their lives. Turkoglu has been a bust, and Bargnani has seen his production actually drop as the season has progressed (and has admitted to being lazy, swear to God). There is no commitment to defense, and it just seems as though people are going through the motions. They weren’t as bad as how they started the season (7-13), or as good as when they went on that tear up until the All-Star game (22-10), or as bad since the All-Star game (6-12); they are somewhere in the middle (give or take a game or two) and are on pace to finish right around where they should be, in the low 40 win range.
RMC: Jose Calderon was supposed to be the Nash to Bosh’s Stoudemire. While some of his statistics compare favorably to Nash he seems to be on the downside of his career at the age of 28. Are his struggles simply due to injury or is he no longer the player he was just a season ago?
Sam: He’s exactly the same player. With the additions of Turkoglu and Jack, he no longer has to produce as much on offense, since the three share the playmaking load. This has translated into less minutes, so his numbers are down. On a per 36min basis though, his numbers are almost the same as last season, so he’s producing at the same rate per minute. Simply put, Jose was overrated last season, and underrated this one. Full stop.
RMC: The Denver Nuggets traded Sonny Weems this offseason and he ended up on the Raptors. Weems was the lone youngster with potential on the Nuggets last season and his progress in the D-League and performance during Summer League was big doings amongst Nuggets fans. I always thought he had the midrange game and athleticism to be a rotation player and he is getting minutes in Toronto. Does he have a future in Toronto?
Sam: He definitely has a future here, and in fact, many folks think he should be our starting shooting guard. I personally think his energy and talent are better suited as that spark coming off the bench, which is his role now. His mid-range game has been a pleasant surprise, but his willingness to attack the rim every chance he gets, and his crashing of the boards are what will give him a career in the league if you ask me. He’s easily one of the best deals in the NBA when you consider he gets paid $736k.
RMC: Zach Harper wrote a fantastic comparison of Kevin Garnett and Chris Bosh that was posted on Raptors Republic Thursday. I know Raptors fans want to see Bosh play for a winner in Toronto, but are the fans nearing the point Timberwolves fans reached with KG where they practically wanted him to leave so he could be free from the organization that constantly failed him? If he signs somewhere else this offseason, will fans hold it against him?
Sam: If he signs elsewhere this summer, the fans will hold it against them for the rest of his playing career; much like how they do with Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter (VC played himself out of this team, he didn’t leave – although he would have if he was a UFA). The Raptor fans that want him to leave, are the few who (incorrectly) think that Bosh isn’t worthy of a max deal, and can’t lead this team to post-season success. The rest of us (myself included) are a selfish lot who want him to stay here forever because we can’t stomach watching a team headlined by Bargnani, flanked by an aging Turkoglu and an overrated Calderon.
Make sure you swing by Raptors Republic to see my answers to Sam’s intriguing questions. Both of these teams are struggling right now so we will find a little something out about both of them tonight.