Pick, Blog and Roll

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Rob Babcock: "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways."

It will be months before we know how Bryan Colangelo's Summer Magic Tour 2006 turns out. Predictions are all over the map: from David Copperfield making a 747 disappear, to David Blaine drowning in his own urine. In the meantime, we can all feel relief that Commander Rob is out of town, and share in the collective joy known throughout the league as "Babcock-watching".

For instance, check out this little gem on the Mike James signing:

    Rob Babcock was the Toronto general manager when the Raptors traded Rafer Alston to the Houston Rockets for Mike James, the new Timberwolves point guard, last Oct. 4. Now Babcock, back with the Wolves front office after about 18 months with Toronto, was instrumental in signing James, a free agent, to a $23.4 million, four-year contract. "There's a lot of things I like about him. One is he can shoot the three-pointer," Babcock said about James, who averaged 20.3 points last season. "He's got great range, and he's a legitimate three-point shooter, and that is something that you can never get enough of is having good shooters.
    -- Minneapolis Star Tribune
To recap the many reasons Babcock likes James:
1. "One is he can shoot the three-pointer"
2. "He's got great range"
3. "and he's a legitimate three-point shooter"
4. "you can never get enough [...] good shooters"

Having previously confessed that I'm not the bestest at English or Math, it should come as no surprise that I'm a little confused by Babcock's comments. Didn't he repeat himself four times in explaining why Mike James is the new hotness?

I'm probably just not reading it right.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Raptors Poach Salmons from Sixers

I don't really have much to say about this. Salmons is an OK player whose strengths are defensive versatility, and a name that easily lends itself to silly delightful turns of phrase.

In another developing story, the Toronto Raptors are now issuing press releases exclusively in Italian. Which is kind of odd, but indicative of the times, I suppose.


    Per Il Rilascio Immediato
    13 luglio 2006

    Direttore generale Bryan Colangelo oggi annunciato che Jonni Salmone ha firmato un contratto con Toronto Rapturri. I termini non sono stati annunciati, ma si crede che il Salmone abbia ricevuto un affare cinque anni, degno appena sotto ₤ 38,000,000,000 (lira).

    Dice Salmone:

    "It was down to the Raptors and Phoenix Suns. I'll be honest with you -- it was a tough decision. But Bryan Colangelo showed me that the opportunity in Toronto is [molto eccellente]. And I'm looking forward to adding more of an international flavor to this team, because most of the players are from Europe and Texas."

    Dice Colangelo:

    "Jonni is a good fit for our squad. He's versatile and a team-first guy. He'll get most of his minutes at small forward and off-guard, but can also play the point in a pinch. This signing strengthens our perimeter defense, and also gives us flexibility to explore trade opportunities for Morris Peterson. Throw in the contract of Alvin Williams, and we can take back close to $14 million in salary. ... Actually, don't print that last bit, ok? Is that thing recording?"

    Per le piĆ¹ informazioni, mettasi in contatto con prego il Maurizio Gherardini, Direttore generale di aiuto.

    - 30 -
And from the in case you were wondering file: Salmons' career high is 23 points, against the Raptors of course (2005-06 season). I almost didn't bother to look it up. I mean seriously, we're all well versed in the scientific method over here. And science is nothing to joke about.

Meet Your New Toronto Raptors, 2006-07 Champions

The Raptors are poised to add two of the best players in Europe to the roster, Maccabi Tel Aviv high-flyer Anthony Parker, and gritty Unicaja forward Jorge Garbajosa, aka "porno" -- so named because, they say, "he does everything obscenely well".

A quick review of the Euroleague's statistical leaders shows Parker and Garbaj ranked #2 and #5, respectively. In other words, these guys look like pretty good pickups. Even more so when you consider the dregs available in this year's NBA free agency market.

Which is why I simply can't hold back my enthusiasm any longer: the Raptors will win it all next year.

Bryan Colangelo is some kind of genius, I'm convinced of it. All that's left for him to do is convince Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment to approve the team's transfer to the Euroleagues, and we're good as gold.

What team can match this lineup?

PG: TJ Ford, Jose Calderon
Ford is an upgrade over Calderon. And Calderon was one of the best point guards in Europe. I'm admittedly not very good at math, but if 5 > 4, then I'm pretty sure that means 5 > 3. Which by my count makes Ford an unstoppable force of nature. I can't wait to see Roko Ukic try to guard TJ. I think the word I'm searching for is irony. But then again, I was never very good at English either.

SG: Morris Peterson, Anthony Parker
I cite, as evidence, the fact that Maceo Baston is ranked #15 in Euroleague efficiency as indisputable proof that nobody overseas will be able to stop Peterson from doing whatever he wants with the basketball. Nobody. Baston, you may recall, played 106 glorious minutes with the Raptors during the 2002-03 season.

At the risk of getting repetitive, I cite the now established rule that "5 is greater than 4, 3, 2, and 1".

I'm sure someone out there will read this and feel compelled to inform me that "4, 3, 2 and 1 is 10". And this person will be right. Missing a couple of teeth perhaps, but right.

SF: Andrea Bargnani, Joey Graham
We already know about Il Mago's Euroleague scoring, and his ability to handle big game situations with aplomb. What you may not be aware of is that overseas he can play 30 minutes a game without averaging 7.7 fouls in the process.

If Joey Graham lays off the endless shrimp at Red Lobster next year, he could have a decent season too. But I do know those endless shrimp sure can be tasty, so that may be asking a bit much of Joey.

(Speaking of celebrity sightings, I crossed paths with Susur Lee yesterday, who was pigging out at Island Roti. Pigs are generally considered "cute" in Chinese culture, so I don't think he'll take exception to this description, but I've been wrong before.)

PF: Chris Bosh, Jorge Garbajosa (Porno), Kris Humphries
Who's going to stop Chris Bosh, Dejan Milojevic? As if. Yes, he's the #1 ranked Euroleaguer in player efficiency, but his only other claim to fame is being the fastest moving tree in Serbia.

C: Rasho Nesterovic, Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani
Before coming to the NBA, Rasho played professional ball overseas. He knows the European game. He speaks a European language. He's tailor-made for the opportunity that stands before him.

Go Raptors! Go Porno!

Jokes aside, I am looking forward to next season. The chants of "Por-no! Por-no!" reverberating throughout the Air Canada Centre will be the greatest Toronto sporting experience in nearly 40 years. Only slightly less amusing -- the inevitable sea of "I [heart] Porno" signs and "Vote for Porno" T-shirts.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

"Hey Cletus, is you sure 'bout this Villa-nu-eva kid?"

Most of the press outside Toronto has voted decidedly against Toronto in ratings of the Villanueva-for-Ford deal.

ESPN's John Hollinger called it one of the most one-sided trades in recent memory. The Milkwaukee press gleefully praised the shrewdness of GM Larris Harris for "fleecing" the Raptors. Villanueva's agent expressed shock at at the trade. He's quoted as having exclaimed "that's all they got for Charlie" while yukking it up with his client, and comparing notes about where this deal lands in the list of all time worst trades.

(As if this could come remotely close to losing Vince Carter and buying out Zo for $10mm -- please).

Response in Toronto has been more positive. Dave Feschuk, the Star's resident hoops cynic, had good things to say, as did Doug Smith. In the blogosphere, Scott Carefoot seems content over at Raptor Blog. The folks over at RaptorsHQ were upset that their dream front-court of Bosh, Villanueva, and Olowanaki was not to be. (no comment)

Fans are divided into two camps: those who note that Villanueva once scored 48 points in a game (Group "A"), and those who note that he doesn't play a lick of defense, and costs his team as many (or more) points as he scores (Group "B"). Needless to say, the "A" folks are righteously pissed (being drunk, after all), and the "B" folks are looking forward to seeing the lightning-quick Ford in Raptors red next season.

So where am I going with all this? The 2006-7 season is still months away. Villanueva has yet to play a minute as a Buck. And the second-guessing in the land of Ol' Mil has already started:

    The word is Raptors GM Bryon Colangelo is ecstatic over acquiring T.J. Ford from the Bucks, and his jubilation is certainly understandable. Colangelo wants the Raptors to play a wide-open brand of basketball, similar to what his old team, the Phoenix Suns, is doing. Ford is not only the fastest player in the game, he is unquestionably one of the most talented young players at his position.

    Ford showed what he's capable of doing In his last 13 games with the Bucks. That's when Ford had seven games of 16 or more points, including 34 against the Magic and 26 against the Wizards. In that same span, Ford had six games of eight or more assists, including 15 in a playoff game against the Pistons. And he's just 23 years old. Unloading Ford may go down as one of the biggest blunders in Bucks' history.
No Cletus, Villanueva doesn't score 48 a game. And yes, I quite like TJ Ford too.

Frankly, all talk of "fleecing" and "one-sidedness" ventures into the realm of hyperbole. Both teams filled a need with this trade, and the Bucks do have talent at the PG position, so Ford was expendable. I know there will be nights that I look at the statsheet and will second-guess the wisdom of trading a guy who's capable of racking up 20 & 10 when he sets his heart to it. But I'm in favor of this deal. Defense is still important in the new NBA. And so is having a quick point who likes to share the rock.