Tag: Anthony Parker

Toronto Raptors Media Day

Raptors, comfortable and confident, taking advantage of roster cohesion


BOSTON – Patrick Patterson – sent to Toronto in last year’s midseason Rudy Gay trade – joined a team searching for an identity. The Raptors had missed the playoffs five straight seasons and were on track to make it a sixth. At that point, just two players had been on the roster longer than a season and a quarter.

There wasn’t necessarily tension, but as Patterson tells it, all these new teammates needed a feeling-out period before becoming comfortable with each other.

As the Raptors won on the court – they went 41-22 after the midseason shakeup and won the Atlantic Division – they became closer off it.

This year, with nearly every key player back, Patterson said locker-room banter comes more naturally. Everyone knows where the lines are, which jokes are in bounds and which aren’t. Players kid each about everyday situations, how people act…

“The shape of someone’s head,” Patterson said.

Wait. Whose head?

“Can’t get into all that,” Patterson said.

That’s OK. These Raptors are candid enough about the significance of returning nearly their entire roster.

“Nothing has changed,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. “Our schemes are the same. Our philosophy is the same. Our personnel is the same.”

And their success is the same.

The Raptors, 4-1, sit atop the Eastern Conference, tied with the Bulls and Wizards.

Toronto assuredly won’t keep winning at this clip, but with Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas starting again – and Patterson, Greivis Vasquez, Tyler Hansbrough, Chuck Hayes and Landry Fields back in reserve – the Raptors have an early season chemistry few teams can match.

John Salmons, Steve Novak and Nando De Colo are the only Raptors to appear in last year’s playoffs who aren’t back this year, and they ranked eighth, 12th and 13th on the team in postseason playing time. In all, Toronto returns 94 percent of its playoff minutes – second only to the NBA-champion Spurs, whose only departure (Damion James) never never saw the court in the postseason.


Of course, the Raptors’ goal is not only to get a head start on clicking during the regular season. They want to go deeper in the playoffs than last season, when they fell in the first round.

Again, their familiarity should help.

In the previous five years, four teams returned five players who started at least 60 games from a team that lost in the first round. All four – the 2011-12 Spurs, 2011-12 76ers, 2010-11 Thunder and 2009-10 Spurs – advanced in the playoffs.

Obviously, there’s a selection bias. Only teams that believe in their starters bring them all back. But that’s the point. Toronto has a good general manager in Masai Ujiri, and he chose to keep this team intact.

Maybe Lowry deserves the most credit. A free agent this summer, he received interest from the Heat and Rockets before re-signing with the Raptors. But after taking care of his team’s top player, Ujiri re-signed Patterson and Vasquez on player-friendly contracts in order to keep the core together.

Ujiri also added outside help by trading for Lou Williams in June. Shortly, after the deal, Williams was contacted about offseason training, a call he figured was coming from the coaching staff.

Instead, it was Toronto’s players reaching out.

Soon, Williams joined a group that included Lowry, DeRozan, Hansbrough, Johnson and Ross in Las Vegas.

“Everybody was just hanging out there, kicking it, getting ready for the season,” Williams said. “So, it really surprised me, the closeness of this group.”

That closeness is paying immediate dividends, though it also comes with pitfalls.

No stat is more telling of the Raptors’ cohesion than their-league best turnover percentage. They cough up the ball on just 9.5 percent of their possessions, a mark TWICE as good as five other teams. Even if that turnover percentage regresses to the mean as the season progresses, Toronto has shown impressive early ball control after ranking 10th in the category last season.


But there’s a downside. Confident in what they can accomplish, the Raptors have dug themselves some early holes. In their last three games, the Raptors have fallen behind the Heat by 10, Thunder by 9 and Celtics by 16 in the first quarter. Still, Toronto rallied to two of those three.

“A lot of our toughness is self-inflicted,” Casey said.

In the end, their familiarity and the confidence it generates have helped more than its harmed.

That was literally true last night in Boston. With the score tied in the final minute against the Celtics, Lowry stole the ball and raced up court. With only a brief glance in his direction, Lowry passed back to DeRozan, who completed an incredible dunk.


“That’s our thing,” DeRozan said. “Whenever we’re on a fastbreak, he knows I’m trailing.”

“I know DeMar is always going to trail me,” Lowry said. “So, I just was hoping he was hurrying up.”

Lowry downplayed of his team’s continuity, saying it’s a new team each season, but his partner on that pivotal play went the other direction.

“It’s everything,” DeRozan said, “because sometimes, that chemistry can beat out a more talented team.”

Barring injury, a lineup change or trade, Toronto will have the same starters in consecutive seasons for just the second time in franchise history.* Everyone expects this is the group Ujiri and Casey will roll with.

Jose Calderon, Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani led Toronto in starts in 2007-08 and 2008-09.

The Raptors’ chemistry has led to early success, but the real test comes later. For now, a strong start is enough to make them believe.

“Last year, we had some changes during the season, so we tried to put all the pieces together. Now, we have all the pieces together, and we had some players experience – a lot of guys without it – playoff experience,” Valanciunas said. “So, no we can go. We’re ready.”

67RIEFNS No. 56: Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving in the playoffs

Cleveland Cavalier's Practice
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The NBA is full of talent, personality and suspense. During the offseason, It’s easy to forget how wonderful the league can be. So, I’ve assembled 67 Reasons I’m Excited For Next Season (67RIEFNS). They’ll be presented in no particular order.

Kevin Love might be the best player ever to miss the playoffs his first six seasons. The way the Cavaliers were going, Kyrie Irving was on pace to join the discussion.

Obviously, playing for the Cavaliers with LeBron James, Love and Irving will break that trend this season. That, in itself, is a good thing. It’s fun to see the NBA’s stars playing such meaningful games.

But just how much can two players without any postseason experience help in late April and beyond?

Since the NBA adopted its current eight-teams-per-conference playoff format in 1984, 47 teams have reached the playoffs with at least two of its top three players (judged by win shares) lacking postseason experience. Of those 47, just three have reached the conference finals (players without postseason experience marked with asterisk):

  • 1989 Suns (Kevin Johnson*, Tom Chambers, Jeff Hornacek*)
  • 2002 Celtics (Paul Pierce*, Antoine Walker*, Tony Battie*
  • 2007 Jazz (Carlos Boozer*, Mehmet Okur, Deron Williams*)

Those might seem like low odds, but consider: Teams led by players lacking playoff experience usually aren’t that good to begin with. Many just sneak into the playoffs with a low seed.

On a whole, the playoff teams with at least two top players making their postseason debuts actually advanced further than their seed would have projected. Here are all 47 such teams with their expected number of playoff series (gold) and actual number of playoff series (wine):




Click to enlarge

  • 2014 TOR: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan*, Jonas Valanciunas*
  • 2013 GSW: Stephen Curry*, David Lee*, Carl Landry
  • 2012 LAC: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin*, DeAndre Jordan*
  • 2011 NYK: Amar’e Stoudemire, Landry Fields*, Danilo Gallinari*
  • 2011 MEM: Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol*, Mike Conley*
  • 2011 IND: Danny Granger, Josh McRoberts*, Mike Dunleavy*
  • 2010 OKC: Kevin Durant*, Jeff Green*, Russell Westbrook*
  • 2009 POR: Brandon Roy*, LaMarcus Aldridge*, Joel Przybilla
  • 2009 CHI: Ben Gordon, Joakim Noah*, Derrick Rose*
  • 2008 ATL: Josh Childress*, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith*
  • 2007 UTA: Carlos Boozer*, Mehmet Okur, Deron Williams*
  • 2007 TOR: Chris Bosh*, Anthony Parker*, Jose Calderon*
  • 2007 GSW: Andris Biedrins*, Baron Davis, Monta Ellis*
  • 2006 MIL: Michael Redd, Andrew Bogut*, Bobby Simmons*
  • 2006 LAC: Elton Brand*, Sam Cassell, Chris Kaman*
  • 2005 PHI: Allen Iverson, Kyle Korver*, Andre Iguodala*
  • 2005 CHI: Tyson Chandler*, Kirk Hinrich*, Eddy Curry*
  • 2004 MEM: James Posey*, Pau Gasol*, Shane Battier*
  • 2004 HOU: Yao Ming*, Cuttino Mobley, Steve Francis*
  • 2004 DEN: Andre Miller*, Marcus Camby, Carmelo Anthony*
  • 2002 BOS: Paul Pierce*, Antoine Walker*, Tony Battie*
  • 2001 DAL: Dirk Nowitzki*, Michael Finley*, Steve Nash
  • 2000 TOR: Vince Carter*, Tracy McGrady*, Antonio Davis
  • 1999 MIL: Ray Allen*, Glenn Robinson*, Ervin Johnson
  • 1998 CLE: Wesley Person, Zydrunas Ilgauskas*, Brevin Knight*
  • 1997 MIN: Kevin Garnett*, Tom Gugliotta*, Dean Garrett*
  • 1997 LAC: Loy Vaught, Bo Outlaw*, Darrick Martin*
  • 1996 DET: Grant Hill*, Otis Thorpe, Allan Houston*
  • 1994 ORL: Shaquille O’Neal*, Nick Anderson*, Anfernee Hardaway*
  • 1994 GSW: Latrell Sprewell*, Chris Webber*, Billy Owens
  • 1994 DEN: Dikembe Mutombo*, LaPhonso Ellis*, Bryant Stith*
  • 1993 CHH: Larry Johnson*, Alonzo Mourning*, Muggsy Bogues
  • 1992 NJN: Drazen Petrovic, Derrick Coleman*, Mookie Blaylock*
  • 1992 MIA: Glen Rice*, Grant Long*, Rony Seikaly*
  • 1990 SAS: David Robinson*, Terry Cummings, Willie Anderson*
  • 1989 PHO: Kevin Johnson*, Tom Chambers, Jeff Hornacek*
  • 1988 SAS: Alvin Robertson, Johnny Dawkins*, Frank Brickowski*
  • 1988 NYK: Patrick Ewing*, Mark Jackson*, Bill Cartwright
  • 1988 CLE: Mark Price*, Brad Daugherty*, Hot Rod Williams*
  • 1987 IND: Steve Stipanovich*, Vern Fleming*, Wayman Tisdale*
  • 1987 GSW: Sleepy Floyd*, Larry Smith*, Chris Mullin*
  • 1985 HOU: Hakeem Olajuwon*, Rodney McCray*, Ralph Sampson*
  • 1985 CLE: World B. Free, Phil Hubbard*, Roy Hinson*
  • 1985 CHI: Michael Jordan*, Orlando Woolridge*, Steve Johnson*
  • 1984 KCK: Eddie Johnson*, LaSalle Thompson*, Larry Drew*
  • 1984 DET: Bill Laimbeer*, Isiah Thomas*, Kelly Tripucka*
  • 1984 DAL: Rolando Blackman*, Mark Aguirre*, Brad Davis*

Unlike many of those teams, the Cavaliers will actually be very good. Maybe Love’s and Irving’s inability to reach the postseason reveals defects in their games, but more than anything, I think it speaks to how poorly their franchises had built teams around them. With them – and LeBron – now joining forces, that has obviously changed.

Love and Irving will finally reach the playoffs. Once there, there’s no good reason to believe they can’t contribute to the Cavaliers advancing deep.

LeBron James’ admits recruiting failure in previous stint with Cavaliers

Miami Heat v Brooklyn Nets

Let’s rank LeBron James’ teammates during his first stint with the Cavaliers by their top win-share season, noting how Cleveland acquired each:


  1. Mo Williams (trade)
  2. Carlos Boozer (draft)
  3. Zydrunas Ilgauskas (draft)
  4. Drew Gooden(trade)
  5. Anderson Varejao (trade)
  6. Delonte West (trade)
  7. Anthony Parker (free agency)
  8. Wally Szczerbiak (trade)
  9. J.J. Hickson (draft)
  10. Donyell Marshall (free agency)

Just two of the top 10 and none of the top six were acquired as free agents. Parker, though he usually started, and Marshall were signed to be backups.

Not until No. 13 on that list – Larry Hughes, who followed Daniel Gibson (draft) and Jeff McInnis (trade) – do you reach a real high-priced free agent. Hughes signed a five-year, $60 million contract in 2005, but he never posted even an average PER season during it.

By the way, No. 16 would have been the biggest name on the list – Shaquille O’Neal – and he was acquired via trade.

The Cavaliers lured only  one marquee free agent during LeBron’s first stint, and he was a bust.

Obviously, getting help this time hasn’t been an issue. Kevin Love green-lit a trade to Cleveland, and Mike Miller and Shawn Marion also signed with the Cavaliers. James Jones followed LeBron from Miami to Cleveland – and Jones isn’t even from there!

Why didn’t LeBron try this hard to get help the first time?

LeBron, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

“I recruited [before] I left here, but I just didn’t win nothing so nobody wanted to play with me,” James said, pointing out that previously, the lone marquee free agent to come to Cleveland based on his influence was Larry Hughes in 2005. “I recruited. I recruited Michael Redd, I recruited Joe Johnson, I recruited Chris Bosh. I recruited a lot of guys. I just didn’t win, and they didn’t want to come to Cleveland. So, I guess me winning two championships, it helped out a lot.”

The rings obviously help, but so does LeBron’s maturation, which might go hand-in-hand. He’s a more appealing teammate than ever.

Cleveland’s market can be overcome. LeBron helped make Miami a more appealing market, and he can do the same in Ohio, even if Cleveland never reaches Miami levels.

The NBA promotes parity through the draft, rewarding teams for losing. But free agency is the opposite. The better teams have a much easier time luring players – as LeBron and the Cavaliers are discovering.

Dajuan Wagner attempting comeback after seven years out of NBA

Spurs v Cavaliers

Dajuan Wagner, chosen No.6 in the 2002 draft, last played in the NBA during the 2006-07 season.

And that was just a single game with the Warriors.

Wagner, who was drafted by and spent his first three seasons with the Cavaliers, hasn’t played in the world’s top league since. That’s seven years out of the NBA.

But Wagner, 31, wants to return.

Phil Anastasia of The Inquirer-:

Even though NBA training camps have opened, Wagner is not in a hurry. He said he wants to push himself hard for the next month and then gauge his strength and conditioning.

“I want to see how I feel,” Wagner said.

Wagner could play in Europe this winter or perhaps in China or Puerto Rico. He could test-drive his game in the NBA Development League.

Wagner said his comeback is “not life or death.” He’s fine financially after signing a $10.7 million rookie contract with Cleveland.

But he can’t help but wonder if he still can excel in the game he believes he was born to play.

This story comes up every few years, and each time, it becomes more unlikely Wagner succeeds.

Best I can tell just, just 10 players have gone at least six years between NBA stints:

  • Freddie Lewis: 9 (1966-67 to 1976-77)
  • Larry Jones: 8 (1964-65 to 1973-74)
  • Gary Plummer: 7 (1984-85 to 1992-93)
  • Alex Stivrins: 6 (1985-86 to 1992-93)
  • Andre Emmett: 6 (2004-05 to 2011-12)
  • Shane Heal: 6 (1996-97 to 2003-04)
  • Will Solomon: 6 (2001-02 to 2008-09)
  • Anthony Parker: 6 (1999-00 to 2006-07)
  • Victor Alexander: 6 (1994-95 to 2001-02)
  • Bob Cousy: 6 (1962-63 to 1969-70)

The first two players on that list, Lewis and Jones, played in the ABA in those middle years.

There’s just very little precedent for the path Wagner is trying to forge.

Undoubtedly, health issues diminished his chances of NBA success. The Inquirer article covers those in depth.

However, Wagner was still a 6-foot-2 shoot-first guard whose complementary skills were severely lacking. Not many players of that mold stick in the NBA.

I hope Wagner enjoys the path he’s going down. Maybe he gets paid for paying basketball – a wonderful thing – in a lower league. But I just see no reasonable scenario where he returns to the NBA.

Report: Cavaliers reach deal with David Blatt to be head coach

David Blatt

A lot of casual Cavaliers fans are going to say, “who?” and just shake their heads.

A lot of people around the NBA are going to nod their heads and say “good hire.”

The Cleveland Cavaliers have reached a deal to have international coaching star and innovative offensive mind David Blatt take over as head coach, reports Mary Schmitt Boyer at the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

David Blatt, who just resigned as coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv last week, has reached an agreement to become the 20th head coach of the Cavaliers, replacing Mike Brown who was fired on May 12, an NBA source told The Plain Dealer on Friday.

This will be the first NBA job for the well-respected Blatt, an American who played for Pete Carril at Princeton and has played and coached in Europe the past 33 years. He also will become the first European head coach to be picked to run an NBA team.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports add details.

It became clear this was the direction things were headed last night when Alvin Gentry agreed to take the job as Steve Kerr’s lead assistant in Golden State, the other job Blatt was considering. Blatt to Cleveland likely means Tyron Lue will stay with the Clippers and jump up a slot to lead assistant (Gentry’s old slot) next to Doc Rivers.

Blatt just led Maccabi Tel Aviv to a surprise EuroLeague title and before that coached Russia to a bronze medal at the London Olympics. However he was on the radar of NBA teams before that as a future NBA coach in large part thanks to what is seen as an innovative offense. He is an outside the box thinker.

A few may say, “this hurts the Cavaliers chances of getting LeBron James to come back this summer.” No, because that was not going to happen anyway. It’s like saying me not shaving today hurts my chance of a date with Kate Upton tonight. Besides, LeBron studies and knows the game, if he sees and offense where players share the ball, move off the ball and are unselfish he might think “I just got beat by an offense like that, I should consider it.”

The biggest challenge for Blatt is getting the players to buy in — in Europe (more like college ball) the coach has the power. There are also fewer games and more practices. The NBA it’s the elite players who have the power and the best coaches get those players to buy in. Blatt may well have that skill — and Kyrie Irving will love his offense (if he’s willing to move the ball to get it back).

Former Cav Anthony Parker, now an Orlando scout, played for Blatt in Israel and often cited him as his favorite coach, calling him one of the top basketball coaches in the world.