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Toronto Sun takes shot at Brooklyn Nets with newspaper cover

toronto-raptors-claw-logoAfter a regular season that saw the Toronto Raptors win a franchise record 48 games during the regular season, the team now has their sights set on an NBA championship as the NBA playoffs begin this weekend.

The Raptors secured the Eastern Conference’s three seed as Atlantic Division champs. Their first-round matchup will be against the team who finished behind them in the division, the Brooklyn Nets.

The Nets, of course, added 36-year-old Paul Pierce and 37-year-old Kevin Garnett last summer to bolster their hopes of hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy at the end of the season. When you have older players on your team, sometimes people take shots their ages, like the Toronto Sun.

Cold world.

The Nets had a chance to claim the fifth seed on the final day of the season with a win against the Cleveland Cavaliers, but Jason Kidd rested all five of his starters. The 114-85 loss (combined with a Wizards win over the Celtics) meant the Nets fell to sixth.

Did the Nets “tank” that final game to set up a series with the Raptors? Some around Toronto think so.

Raptors bringing back awesome purple jerseys next season

The Toronto Raptors will be celebrating their 20th year as an NBA franchise during the 2014-2015 season. If you were a kid who grew up in the 1990s, you probably had or knew someone who had a purple piece of clothing that was acceptable for a young boy to wear because it represented basketball’s newest team. That shade of purple is coming back next season.

Amir-Johnson-Raptors-throwback

The Raptors announced on Thursday that they will be wearing their original jerseys for select home games next year to commemorate the team’s 20th anniversary. Amir Johnson modeled one of the “Jurassic Park” throwbacks on Instagram.

I just might have to bust out my old Starter jacket.

Ex-Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo admits to tanking

Bryan-ColangeloThe NBA could be nearing closer to fixing its tanking problem. A recent proposal that was created by Boston Celtics assistant general manager Mike Zarren seems to be gaining momentum, and comments like the ones we heard from former Toronto Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo on Friday could help accelerate the process.

Zarren has proposed a system where all 30 NBA teams would pick from a specific draft slot once every 30 years. That would eliminate the draft lottery and, in theory, prevent teams from doing what Colangelo tried to do in the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season.

“I like (the proposal) because there’s no assurances (of getting a good pick) when you do tank,” Colangelo said, via USA Today Sports. “Admittedly, I will say, I tried to tank a couple years ago.

“And I didn’t ‘come out and say, ‘Coach (Dwane Casey), you’ve got to lose games.’ I never said that. I wanted to have him establish a winning tradition and a culture and all of that, but I wanted to do it in the framework of playing and developing young players, and with that comes losing. There’s just no way to avoid that, but I never once said, ‘You’ve got to lose this game.’”

The Raptors finished the season 23-43 and ended up picking eighth after losing a coin flip with the Golden State Warriors, who had the same record. Colangelo didn’t seem proud of his admission — it’s just simply part of today’s NBA.

“There’s no assurances (in the lottery),” he explained. “I do like the certainty of the (proposed) process. I think there are some merits to obviously take it to the next extent, except I wish we could start it sooner because there really is some ugly basketball being played.”

I’m all for it. Basketball is the only sport that can be so heavily impacted by one player, which is why we don’t see the tanking problem in other sports. As long as there’s a lottery, teams who know they have no playoff hopes are never going to put forth their best product on a nightly basis. Change is needed.

Rudy Gay has banned stat sheets from Raptors locker room

Rudy Gay RaptorsRudy Gay has banned stat sheets from the Toronto Raptors locker room in an effort to emphasize the importance of winning over statistics.

Each Raptors player typically receives a stat sheet after games that shows their individual and team stats for the game. The Toronto Sun reports that Gay has put an end to that practice.

“We’re not playing for stats,” Gay explained, via The Sun.

There was no specific incident or moment that led to the decision.

“I wanted to just nip it in the butt before it became an issue,” Gay said. “We come in here after losses, after wins and people are staring at those stat sheets, but that’s not what we’re about. We’re a team and the stat that matters is the W.”

Great, who wouldn’t like to see a player focused on wins more than anything? I’m sure the Raptors coaches and execs like hearing that. Toronto is 6-7 and leading the crappy Atlantic Division after all. But this is really just comical of Gay.

The obvious joke here is that Gay doesn’t want stats distributed so that everyone doesn’t see how many shots he’s jacking up and missing. Gay may be averaging 20.2 points per game, but he’s shooting a terrible 38.1 percent from the field, and he’s attempting 19.4 shots per game. LeBron James, by comparison, hasn’t averaged that many shots per game in a season since joining the Miami Heat. LeBron is averaging 25.3 points per game on 15.5 shots. He recently cracked that if he took 37 shots in a game (like Gay did in a recent loss to Houston), that he’d score 60-70 points easily.

Seein stats actually can be helpful. It can tell you what you did well or poorly in a game. If guys are busy playing in a game, they don’t have a chance to count stats as they’re going. Maybe by looking at the stats they’ll see what their strengths or weaknesses were and know what to work on. And in the case of Gay, it would probably be trying to increase his offensive efficiency.

Chest bump to Beyond the Buzzer

Raptors reportedly working to sign Phil Jackson as team president

Earlier this month, a report surfaced that indicated Phil Jackson is anxious to return to the NBA next season in some sort of capacity that may not be coaching. As you might expect, several teams have already expressed interest in bringing Jackson on board. However, it may surprise you to hear that the Toronto Raptors are believed to be a frontrunner.

According to ESPN.com, the Raptors have intensified their pursuit of Jackson in hopes of making him their next team president. The man now overseeing the Raptors is Tim Leiweke, who was once a big name associated with the Los Angeles sports scene and has a close relationship with the NBA coaching legend.

While many believe Jackson, who is 67 years old, would want to join a contender, that is not necessarily the case. Since Phil may not be interested in a head coaching position, he is looking to start out in a place where he would be able to oversee basketball operations and select a head coach. Now that Leiweke has taken control of the Raptors, head coach Dwane Casey’s future is in doubt. The team has also yet to pick up president Bryan Colangelo’s option for the 2013-2014 season, meaning Jackson could easily slide into his position.

One ESPN source said that Jackson is looking at his future options with an extremely open mind and is willing to listen to pitches from just about any team in the league. It seems like the question comes down to how big of a challenge Jackson is looking for. Given his resume, it’s safe to assume there will be no shortage of teams willing to carve out a role for him. Does he want that role to be with a team like the Lakers alongside fiancee Jeanie Buss, or with a team like the Raptors, who have been to the playoffs five times in their team’s 18-year history? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Chris Bosh is surprised Raptors fans still boo him, but he says it motivates him

It has been more than two seasons since Chris Bosh left the Toronto Raptors via free agency to join the Miami Heat, but many of the fans in Toronto are still bitter about it. On Sunday, a number of Raptors fans booed Bosh when they hosted the Heat. The 28-year-old center said he is surprised they have not gotten over his departure.

“Yeah, I’m a little surprised,” Bosh said, via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “They (fans) pay their money. They can do what they want. I hope they just remember the good times.”

While he may not have expected to be booed nearly three years after leaving the city where he began his career, Bosh said it helped him elevate his game.

“I was hearing a lot from the fans,” he said. “I thank them for continuing to stay on me and calling me names. That helped my focus a lot. I was like, ‘I need to get in this game to shut them up.”‘

He did just that. Bosh scored 28 points in the Heat’s 100-85 victory — 22 of which came in the second half. Perhaps Raptors fans have yet to get over the comments Bosh made about being on TV a couple of years ago. But if he’s going to react like that when the fans boo him, they should probably bite their tongues next time around. Clearly the heckling isn’t throwing the big man off his game.

H/T SB Nation
Photo credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Sam Mitchell: Raptors made me coddle Andrea Bargnani

andrea-bargnaniAndrea Bargnani was the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2006 and has not developed into the franchise player the Toronto Raptors hoped he would become. The team has had one winning season since he was drafted, and they actually started winning this season after he got hurt. Though he is talented, one of his big problems seems to be his mental toughness.

Sam Mitchell coached the Raptors four and a half seasons and led the team to the playoffs twice. He was the team’s coach when Bargnani was drafted, and he says he wasn’t able to coach the Italian player the way he would have liked.

During an appearance on “Tim & Sid” on the Fan 590 in Toronto, Mitchell says the organization coddled Bargnani.

“I would say my biggest problem with Andrea is I wasn’t allowed to coach Andrea the way I was allowed to coach Jose (Calderon). I was a hard ass on Jose. I was hard on him,” said Mitchell, “but look at the type of player he turned out to be.”

Calderon was drafted by the team the year before, and he has developed into a fine point guard.

“I was not allowed to be that tough on Andrea because the organization thought he couldn’t take it. My whole thing is, if he can’t take it, then we can’t build around him,” said Mitchell.

“No one thought Jose could take it, but look at how Jose did.”

Mitchell was asked by the hosts how early the team decided Bargnani couldn’t handle harsh coaching.

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