NBA PM: Toronto Raptors Trade Fix
Lately it seems that if you bring up the Toronto Raptors people immediately want to talk about trading Andrea Bargnani.
But why is that, exactly?
We’re talking about a seven-footer who shoots 37% from three, and has dramatically improved over the last three seasons. Last year he averaged 21.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game while shooting 45% from the field . . .hardly the numbers you’d expect from a guy who is widely considered to be trade bait.
The truth is that Bargnani is the new scapegoat for the Raptors’ losing program, a load once carried by Chris Bosh. Fans of the Raptors are understandably upset about the direction of the team, which has made the playoffs just twice in the last nine seasons, and lost in the first round both times. Coaches are usually blamed, but the Raptors have already fired two coaches in recent years, so fans have to look elsewhere for a scapegoat.
Let’s be clear, though. The Raptors are not going to trade Bargnani. Trading one of the best-shooting big men in the league isn’t the answer, rather the solution is to put the right pieces around him to allow him to flourish. Just ask the Dallas Mavericks, who had great seasons from Dirk Nowitzki long before they made it to the NBA Finals, but never made it to the promised land until the right players were around Dirk to make up for his shortcomings.
The good news for the Raptors is their new head coach knows a little something about that. Dwane Casey was a huge part of the Mavericks’ championship run last season, working as an assistant coach under Rick Carlisle, and being largely responsible for helping Nowitzki learn to be a good defender. Casey will help the Raptors build around Bargnani and also help Bargnani maximize his game.
If there is a player to be traded in Toronto, we would be better served to look to the backcourt, as HOOPSWORLD’s Stephen Brotherston writes:
Leandro Barbosa is a great vet to have on the bench – the guy puts out – even when hurt and he was hurt all of last season. Never complained to anyone – even though it was obvious he was by far the best SG on the team at both ends of the floor (even playing hurt) and he only got backup minutes. Barbosa was always happy and pleasant to be around. But his contract runs out at the end of this season – so without an extension in place – Barbosa is the most valuable trade asset the team has.
Calderon looked good at FIBA – but Colangelo has tried more than once to move him – maybe next year when he’s on an expiring deal? They only have 10 guys under contract – Barbosa, Jerryd Bayless, Solomon Alabi only this year guaranteed. Not a lot of players to trade or likely to be traded except for Barbosa, if we have a season.
All in all, the Raptors really aren’t in a bad position at all. They may need a savvy veteran to come in and teach the young kids how to win, but it will be interesting to see what Dwane Casey and his staff can make of the project that is the Toronto Raptors. Trade or no trade, there are better times ahead with Casey at the helm.
Playing Off Hatred?
The Miami HEAT generated a great deal of excitement last season, with many expecting their new trio of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh to lead them to championship. In the process, they also generated a great deal of hate, not only from NBA fans in Cleveland, who felt jilted by LeBron, but also by NBA fans in general, who simply disliked having the HEAT shoved down their throats by ESPN and disliked the way some of their players acted with a sense of entitlement – like the championship would be theirs without a fight.
As it turns out, the HEAT were fueled by a similar hatred . . .
Dwyane Wade was on Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s XM Radio show recently, and told his Olympic head coach his team wanted to win “to spite people.” He said they “played off hatred,” and went on to say “I believe that’s the reason we didn’t win the championship.”
The truth is, Wade is probably onto something. Set aside the idea that the HEAT were playing off of the hatred people showed them because of the way they, the HEAT, carried themselves all season. We’ll get caught in an endless Catch-22 if we go down that road. Instead, let’s talk about what it takes to have a championship mentality.
First and foremost, winning a championship is about putting the team above the individual, and not allowing outside distraction to cause the unified team to split apart. As Pat Riley emphasized to the 2006 NBA Champion Miami HEAT, championship teams win for each other, not for any other reason. It’s a point Rick Carlisle emphasized over and over again with his Dallas Mavericks last season. It’s also a point Mike Krzyzewski emphasized with TEAM USA, of which Wade, James, and a locker room full of other NBA All-Stars are a part. Wade did finally remember that valuable lesson, even if it was belatedly.
“That’s why I love this guy,” was Coach K’s response to Wade’s moment of reflection.
Wade has had a long time to think about what went wrong last June, and by all indications he’s going to have a while longer, too. A huge opportunity was missed, but with the young All-Stars locked in long-term there will be others. If Wade remembers the lessons of both Riley and Krzyzewski he might even help the HEAT come out on top next time around.
Thabeet Making Progress?
Fans of the Houston Rockets are still scratching their heads over this one.
Last year, just before the NBA trade deadline, the Houston Rockets sent prized forward Shane Battier to the Memphis Grizzlies in a deal that landed Hasheem Thabeet in Houston, effectively ending Houston’s big for the Western Conference’s eighth playoff spot and handing it to the Grizzlies.
Then-head coach Rick Adelman was so livid he could hardly hide his displeasure, and that move lead directly to his decision not to return as the Rockets’ head coach.
The Rockets’ front office felt the team was a long shot to make the playoffs, and therefore didn’t see it as a huge step back. They also saw Thabeet as a high draft pick, something they are rarely bad enough to land on their own. Of course, the odds that any team besides Memphis would have taken Thabeet with a high pick are remote, but that was the thinking, nonetheless.
Now, some nine months later, Thabeet is the only center on the Houston roster. Brad Miller was traded to Minnesota over the summer and Yao Ming has retired, leaving the Rockets with a gaping hole in the middle. For his part, Thabeet has been putting in the work, working with David Thorpe and Anthony Macri at the Pro Training Center, where fellow Rockets Kevin Martin and Courtney Lee also train. Macri shared some of his insight about Thabeet in his HOOPSWORLD column today:
It is a lot of fun to look at wingspan and standing reach. We see players whose hands hang at their knees and think about what kind of terror they can be on the defensive end. However, possessing freakishly long features is no guarantee of success. Hasheem Thabeet possessed a 7’6” wingspan and 9’5” standing reach in 2009, but his lack of fundamental understanding of the game has held him back from actualizing his potential on the court (full disclosure: Thabeet spent some time this summer with the Pro Training Center, and we are hopeful that he is able to live up to some of his measurements this season and in the future).
It’s a good sign that Thabeet has been working hard, and his coaches say he has made significant progress. Of course, he had a long, long way to go before he could even eat garbage time minutes in the NBA. Don’t expect Thabeet to be the starter on opening night (whenever that is), or even to see him filling major minutes. But there is optimism coming from the Rockets regarding Thabeet’s future, and after all of the injuries that have plagued them in recent years you would think the Rockets are due for a something to pan out.
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