Unfortunately, I haven’t spent much time watching the Raptors this year, so I don’t have a lot of perspective on this team other than what I saw the other night and during all those Sunday 1:00 o’clock tip-offs that I half watch while trying to shake a hangover. Honestly, they just sort of bore me. And since Bosh is probably bolting south of the border come Summer time, it sort of feels like a lame duck year in the T-Dot. So I just haven’t been paying attention.
Sam Holako of Raptors Republic, however, has a much more nuanced take of the team and has been covering it all year. And luckily for us, he was nice enough to stop by to share his dino wisdom. Below is a Q&A we did. Also, I returned the favor and answered a few questions on the Pacers generally and tonight’s game specifically for him as well. So be sure to stop by Raptors Republic and check out more from me and Sam over there.
Jared: An underrated story of late is that your Raptors are 15-5 since December 18, making it one of the most successful teams in the whole league over the past six weeks. What has been working so well over the last 20 games that wasn’t during the first 28?
Sam Holako: A few key things happened during this stretch:
- Bargnani has really stepped up his play. He is rebounding better and scoring more efficiently, but most of all, his defense in the post has been shockingly good from where it was — just ask Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard.
- Jose Calderon lost his starting role due to injury, but is proving to be far more effective coming off the bench since he has returned. He also is a team player and will do whatever it takes to win, so the move to the bench doesn’t bruise his ego as much as it would others.
- When the Raptors go to their bench, there is real production. Marco Belinelli and Sonny Weems are very aggressive on offense, Antoine Wright has been playing great defense at the 2/3, and Amir Johnson is a beast.
Jared: Hedo had a big game last week against the Knicks, dropping 26 points and 11 rebounds. And more importantly (to me anyway) is that he gave us the best postgame quote for the year with “Ball.” I think it’s safe to say that the Turkoglu acquisition wasn’t looking great at the beginning of the year. How about now?
Sam Holako: It’s still not looking great, but it isn’t ALL his fault. Hedo is the kind of player who needs the ball to be effective, and Triano is finding it hard to effectively use Hedo in a rotation where the point guards (Jarrett Jack and Calderon) also need it in their hands. His postgame quote was not only epic, but indicative of what it will take for him to get back to the levels he played at with the Magic. He isn’t helping the cause by not attempting to adapt to a new team/concept/style of play. Doesn’t look like a great signing, all things considered.
Jared: Amir Johnson looked very good the other night and that alley-oop was ridiculous. Discuss.
Sam Holako: Amir Johnson is a favorite of everyone. He’s one of those blue-collar guys who gets in the game and battles like a warrior. He is very aggressive, very athletic, reasonably consistent and gets after it. His only knock is that he gets something like 6.8 fouls per 36 minutes, which affects his minutes depending on how quickly he picks them up. When he plays in control, like he did Sunday against the Pacers (1 foul in 20 minutes of play), the guy is playing himself into a full mid-level contract at the end of the year.
Jared: Pacer fans aren’t going to get to see DeMar DeRozan in either game, but he has been playing pretty well. What type of player do you expect him to be around this time next year? Also, I have him winning the Dunk Contest. Is that correct?
Sam Holako: DeRozan is an interesting kid. We haven’t had an athlete like him since Vince Carter, but he is very raw. His jumper has improved significantly since the start of the year, but his career will be made on how aggressively he attacks the rim off the dribble. The guy is a gym rat and is always practicing, so it will come — just a matter of when. Truthfully, I see him as a poor man’s Vince Carter; he isn’t quite as explosive, but he will be a solid starting shooting guard in the league. The Dunk Contest is just a formality to make Nate Robinson feel important. DeRozan takes it.
Jared: Lastly, how depressing is it that Bosh is definitely leaving this Summer? Or are you still holding out some hope?
Sam Holako: I have always contended that he was going to resign with the Raptors unless they were just God-awful. With the Raptors trailing the Celtics by only 3 games in the division (and sitting in 5th place in the East), things are looking up. With the CBA up at the end of next season, he can’t afford to leave the $30 million or so on the table if he resigns with another team. The only way I thought he wouldn’t be a Raptor come next season is if in fact he does have a pact with Wade/LeBron to play together, in which case, Toronto wouldn’t be the destination for that grouping of talent with our cap situation and all. At the end of the day, the Raptors are HIS team, and Toronto HIS city; if he leaves to join Wade/LeBron, he loses that.