Friday, November 28, 2008

What We Know So Far...

If TSN hockey analyst Pierre McGuire was asked to describe Chris Bosh, I’m pretty sure we all know what his answer would be: McGuire would take a deep breath, scrunch up his face, and then fire through 50 words in 10 seconds before finishing with “he’s a monster”.

Through 14 games Bosh is second in the league in scoring, averaging 27.6 a game (only 0.3 points behind Lebron James) and is fifth in the league in rebounds with more than 10 per game. In his 40, 42 and 39 point performances over the last 10 days, he took just 19, 27, and 20 shots, remarkably efficient numbers that have pushed Bosh past the All-Star level and into a whole new realm. He’s finishing everything around the basket, getting all the calls, and has single-handedly carried the Raptors to a 7-7 record.

If Sam Mitchell doesn’t run him into the ground first, Bosh will be a MVP candidate. (Is he going to win? No, of course not. Lebron and Kobe are head and shoulders above everyone else. Dwayne Wade would be close but his injury history keeps him off the very short list of the true elite. Chris Paul is gaining, but still too inexperienced.) The problem is, right now Bosh trails only Stephen Jackson when it comes to minutes played, and he’s the only big man amongst the top eight. Bosh hasn’t played less than 38 minutes in a game this year, and he’s coming off a summer where he didn’t have a break. Including the Olympics, Bosh is entering month 15 of what must feel to his body like a 19 (hopefully 20?) month season.

If Sam (or fingers crossed, Sam’s replacement) doesn’t start curtailing Bosh’s minutes, he’ll be out of gas by February. At the latest.

As for the rest of the team, well, here’s what we officially know about the Raptors one fifth of the way through the season:

• Bosh’s beautiful jumper seduces the rest of our team. He has great range, can shoot it from anywhere, and deservedly has carte blanche when it comes to shot selection. If he has the ball in his hands, he can do whatever he wants. He’s earned it. Problem is that everyone else watches Bosh continually knock down shots and then believe they can do the same. Which they can’t. We have Kapono, Parker and Bargnani who all shoot pretty well and a host of others who are adequate at times. But they all need the ball in certain places and shouldn’t be allowed to shoot it from anywhere else.

• Jose Calderon’s hamstring injury is lingering. Calderon was never going to make an All-defensive team, but he made up for it offensively by turning the corner and getting a few easy lay-ins every night. Yes, teams are trying to take that away from him, but Jose is smart enough to capitalize on the tiniest opportunity and because of the hamstring, he can’t.

• We genuinely like each other. Guys get excited when someone else makes a big play, rush over to help a fallen teammate up, and communicate positively while on the court. Even Hasan Adams looks like he legitimately cares. This matters.

• Will Solomon has a little too much Mike James in him…and Roko Ukic doesn’t have enough.

• Kris Humphries should be a regular part of the rotation, even when Jermaine O’Neal is fully healthy (notice I used ‘when’ instead of ‘if’. This is me being optimistic. Strange, isn’t it?). The best starting five for the Raps includes three big men (Bosh, O’Neal, and Bargnani) with Calderon and Anthony Parker. That should mean 12-20 minutes a night for Hump, spotting any of the three a break or protecting someone who could be in foul trouble.

• Jamario Moon is pulling a reverse contract year. Instead of doing all the little things while working his butt off in an attempt to secure a multi-million dollar free agent contract, he looks like he’s trying to play himself out of the league.

• We won’t have to worry about a new Kanye song during pre-game introductions, because 808s & Heartbreak is mostly garbage. Let's put it this way: I know of only two people left in this world who continue to buy CD's rather than download them for free, and I'll use this space to tell them both not to waste their money.

• The Raps will inevitably come up short in any coaching battle. The only adjustment Sam Mitchell has made this year is back to glasses. During the current 4-7 streak that followed the 3-0 start, Toronto has blown 10+ point leads four different times and have gone on to lose three of those games. Sam is a decent motivator but as a tactician he’s awful. Lawrence Frank, Doc Rivers and Stan Van Jeremy have all mopped the floor with him, a list that will undoubtedly expand as the team heads West.

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