(Credit to Paul Jay of CBCSports.ca for the initial report)
Well, the new season is around the corner and we all know what that means. Training camp!
Or, more specifically, analyses of how our favourite teams are coming together for the upcoming season.
The Raptors media day took place yesterday, and all indications have the Raptors gelling together with its new assets and further improvements in old stalwarts. Of course, a media day is intrinsically designed to promote the upcoming season, so one shouldn't take everything at face value. Let's see what the word is, and my interpretation of it:
Joey Graham looked good in some informal work outs
So? Joey Graham's always looked good going into a season. The problem is staying good.
He's always performed well in training camps and summer leagues, but when the regular season starts and things actually matter, he disappears to the back of the rotation, haunting the end of the Raptors bench, chained down by his ineptitude like Marley's Ghost. He has a supreme physic and a truckload of athleticism, as well as a nice jumper—but for reasons beyond my comprehension, he squanders it all.
My theory is that Stephen Graham replaces him at the beginning of this and every season.
Bargnani bulking up and mellowing out
This news is kinda, really, great. One of Bargnani's chief weaknesses was the softness of his game. No, not 'soft' as in 'suave' or 'finessed,' but rather soft as in melts like soft-serve ice cream when anyone puts a body on him.
At least now, there's hope that his added girth (which is hopefully more muscle than fat) can allow him to keep vertical when backing down, and minimize those cringe inducing circus shots.
The real litmus test is to see if he'll still bend and contort like a fig in a windstorm when guarded, or guarding, anyone larger than Earl Boykins.
Now, if only there was a report that he improved his footwork, too. Maybe this season he can cut down on the travelling calls against him to only a quarter of the times he puts the ball on the floor.
A note on Bargnani's apparent change in mindset—thanks for that. We could have used it the last two seasons, but that's okay, we forgive you.
O'Neal slimmed-down physique and defensive focus
Although fantastic that his dedication to rehabilitation (I fling mad rhymes) is finally paying dividends in a very physical way, wasn't this a given? I had thought a player getting paid $20 million had the obligation to get in shape.
So yeah—good job, O'Neal. You fulfilled your job description.
More importantly is the defensive focus O'Neal is bringing the Raptors, something the club has never been known for. Fingers crossed that the rest of the team is being indoctrinated into the cult of hard nosed defense. And hopefully there won't be a mass suicide in effort midway through the season. Stay away from the purple Kool-Aid of lethargy!
The new buzz word (er...number) is 50. Many are in agreement that if all things go according to plan, a 50-win season isn't out of the question. In fact, many believe it's a given. It's a nice little sentiment, and not one I'm adverse to.
That's it. No pithy comments.
I do think the Raptors are more than capable of getting 50 wins, especially in the Earnest East. Fingers are firmly crossed that O'Neal survives 50 games and Bargnani can finally become the Italian Dirk like so many people, me included, believed was possible.
If so, I have trademark dibs on "Dirkdrea Bargwitzki."