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Toronto Raptors

2014 MAMBINO NBA All-Stars

The 2013-2014 NBA All-Stars have been fully unveiled as of last night, with the reserves being named alongside the fan-voted starters. Just for those of you too lazy to punch in “NBA All-Stars” into Google, here they are:
Eastern Conference
Starters: PG Kyrie Irving, Cleveland; SG Dwyane Wade, Miami; F LeBron James, Miami; F Carmelo Anthony, NYK; F Paul George, Indiana
Reserves: F Chris Bosh, Miami; G/F DeMar DeRozan, Toronto; C Roy Hibbert, Indiana; SG Joe Johnson, Brooklyn; PF Paul Millsap, Atlanta; C Joakim Noah, Chicago; PG John Wall, Washington
Western Conference
Starters: PG Stephen Curry, Golden State; SG Kobe Bryant, Lakers; SF Kevin Durant, OKC; PF Blake Griffin , Clippers; PF Kevin Love, Minnesota
Reserves: PF LaMarcus Aldridge. Portland; SG James Harden, Houston; C Dwight Howard, Houston; PG Damian Lillard, Portland; PF Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas; PG Tony Parker, San Antonio; PG Chris Paul, Clippers
A great list to be sure…but not necessarily the right one.
The illustrious MAMBINO crew came together over the past week and threw down their All-Star picks because we’re smarter, savvier and just better than you, dammit. The following are the consensus group picks, as well as some pithy little commentary on how we reached our conclusions, including the snubbiest snubs (those that didn’t even get “snub” votes on MAMBINO). Read on!… Read more...

Instant Trade Analysis: Andrea Bargnani to the New York Knicks

YOUR New York Knickerbockers get: An Andrea Bargnani Turd Sandwich
Toronto Raptors get: Steve Novak, Marcus Camby, and other pieces TBD (latest word is that it’s at least going to be the Knicks’ 2016 1st round pick, as well as two 2nd round picks).
New York has agreed in principle to acquire the #1 overall pick of the 2006 NBA Draft, a man who stands 7 feet tall, weighs 256 pounds, and is in shooting range once he enters the arena. “Il Mago” has an offensive repertoire that is prime for a 20-point scorer on any given night. He can space the floor for Carmelo Anthony and can prove to be a matchup problem for the defense.
In basketball, and in life, we evaluate everything with specifics. I chose a work commute that was approximately 7.89 minutes faster than the alternatives. People debunked (relatively) the financial advantage Dwight Howard would get in Los Angeles by crunching the numbers on how much he would save by playing in state tax-free Texas. And aside from the height and weight measurements I gave you on The Andrea Bargnani Turd Sandwich, the paragraph above mostly had to do with generalities. Generalities are what we fall back on when we can’t give specifics. If your per-36 numbers don’t jump off the page, then you still have a roster spot because of your potential. If your rebound rate is anemic, it’s because you play with glass monsters.… Read more...

Instant Trade Analysis: Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors

Toronto Raptors get: F Rudy Gay, C Hamed Hadaddi
Detroit Pistons get: PG Jose Calderon
Memphis Grizzlies get: PF Ed Davis, SF Tayshaun Prince, F Austin Daye, Toronto’s 2nd Round pick
The Grizz finally jettisoned Rudy Gay out their hallway this afternoon, shunting off the extremely talented but often disappointing forward off to Toronto in a three-way deal that also involved the Detroit Pistons.
Today’s trade was the culmination of years of speculation. Gay had been on the block for years, ever since he was notoriously absent for the Grizzlies’ greatest run of success in their Western Conference semifinals loss two seasons ago with a shoulder injury. The summer before, Gay had signed a near-max contract extension with Memphis, paying him $82 million. Usually, money like that isn’t an issue with a team–after all, do you think Houston is blinking at the $80 million dollar price tag attached to James Harden’s beard?
The biggest problem with Gay’s contract wasn’t how well the team played without him, but that Gay simply hasn’t improved and shown himself worthy of his massive payday. Since his second season, Gay has remained nearly the same player–an athletic specimen who could use his size, strength and speed to get anywhere he wanted on the court, but simply lacked the outside shooting touch or post game to dominate on all angles. His statistics are extremely telling–season after season, he essentially looks like the same guy. Defensively, he remains an above average player, but offensively there hasn’t been much progress to his game. Just watching against other small forwards like Andre Iguodala and Luol Deng, it’s clear that Gay has more physical gifts than either–and yet, both have the All-Star credits to there name that Gay does not. There’s something to be said about fulfilling potential in this league, even if that player is still providing better than average production. Deng and Iguodala play extremely hard every night, and seem to hit whatever ceiling is in front of them. Gay as still left us wanting year after year.… Read more...

An Offseason of Hits & Misses — Toronto Raptors Preview

Starting Five: PG Kyle Lowry, SG DeMar DeRozan, SF Landry Fields, PF Andrea Bargnani, C Jonas Valanciunas

Key Bench Players: PG Jose Calderon, SF Linas Kleiza, PF Ed Davis, C Amir Johnson, SG Terrence Ross

Notable offseason additions: PG Kyle Lowry, C Jonas Valanciunas (5th overall pick in 2011 draft), SF Landry Fields, SG Terrence Ross (8th overall pick in 2012 draft), PG John Lucas III

Offseason subtractions: G Jerryd Bayless, F James Johnson

Oh, what could have been. Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo came out swinging this offseason, setting his sights on Canada’s prodigial and 2-time MVP Steve Nash.  According to the always fantastic Marc Stein, Colangelo called Nash’s agent at 12:01 AM when free agency opened to sell Nash on returning to Canada.  Later, a 7-man Raptors contingent flew to New York, where Nash maintains an off-season residence, and pitched him on why he should suit up for the Raptors come November 2012.  Nash then met with officials from the New York Knicks, and later the Los Angeles Lakers.

Then, puzzlingly, the Raptors signed former Knick Landry Fields to a “poison pill” offer sheet, paying Fields $8.5 million in his final year.  The assumption that many, myself included, have made from that offer was that Colangelo, nervous that the Knicks would include SG Landry Fields in a sign-and-trade with Phoenix, Nash’s old team, made Fields a Godfather offer to come to Toronto, blocking the Knicks from pulling off the sign-and-trade for Nash. Well, that sort of worked; the Knicks did not get Nash…but neither did the Raptors, as the chance to play in La La Land with Kobe outweighed running the pick-and-roll with Jonas Valanciunas in Toronto.  Colangelo was left with an overpaid Landry Fields.

Well, Colangelo was able to turn the offseason around by acquiring PG Kyle Lowry, and he may turn out to be a better fit for this team than Steve Nash ever was.  Funny how that works, isn’t it?  It’s obvious that the speedy facilitator and deadly scorer in Lowry will help the Toronto offense, but it’s his presence instead of the sieve that is Jose Calderon that will really help the tema. The Raptors turned into a defensive-minded team under first-year head coach Dwane Casey, who was the d-coordinator for the world champion Dallas Mavericks back in 2010.  In just one year, the Toronto moved up from 30th in the league in defensive efficiency (the number of points a team allows per 100 possessions) to 12th in 2012. Lowry is tough all-around player who should thrive in a defensive system pressuring the other point guard.  He had a break-out year last year (pre-All Star break per game averages of 16 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals) until a strange sequence of injuries derailed him in March.

The Raptors also will welcome Lithuanian big man Jonas Valanciunas, the 5th big in the 2011 draft who played in Europe last year.  Many had opined that Valanciunas, if he came out this year, would have been picked second overall.  The Raptors may have a steal with a a big who moves well, should thrive in the pick and roll, and help them in a big way on the glass.

Look, this Raptors team is young and talented.  Their starting 5 is good and will be better if Bargnani and DeRozan improve off of last year’s campaigns.  Ed Davis, Terrence Ross and the aforementioned Valanciunas are all very intriguing prospects that should have the freedom to grow and improve with a new point guard who will get them easier shots, especially in transition. Calderon, Linas Kleiza and Landry FiRead more...

Instant Trade Analysis: Kyle Lowry to the Toronto Raptors

(Another ITA from El Miz, this time on now-Raptors PG Kyle Lowry. An excerpt from this post appears on “Toronto Raptors Morning Coffee July 6,” located at

Toronto Raptors get: PG Kyle Lowry

Houston Rockets get: A future-first round pick and some guy named Gary Forbes

What is your plan, Daryl Morey?  Morey claims to be engaged in a seemingly infinite practice of “asset accumulation.”  The idea, as the story goes, is to continue to accumulate “assets,” which in basketball parlance means young, cheap players and the rights to future draft picks so that when the next Disgruntled Superstar – be it Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, or currently, Dwight Howard – demands a trade, the Rockets can exchange a heaping scoop of assets for the Disgruntled Superstar. 

To the casual observer, it feels like Houston has made lateral move after lateral move since the retirement of Yao and the decline of former basketball demigod Tracy McGrady, constantly exchanging good players for other good players, assembling a roster of good but not great talent, and finishing on the outside looking in come playoff time.

Last offseason, in the now-infamous “Basketball Reasons” trade which was nullified by Commissioner David Stern, Morey attempted to trade SG Kevin Martin, PF Luis Scola, PG Goran Dragic as well as a first round pick to get C Pau Gasol.  The rumor at the time was that Morey would then turn around and sign PF Marc Gasol, Pau’s younger brother, as well. Basketball Reasons prevailed, and Stern wound up vetoing the trade which would have also sent PG Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers.

In the weeks preceding the draft, there were the usual Twitter grumblings that Morey would once again accumulate assets, this time to get  child-man Dwight Howard. Kyle Lowry’s name was mentioned as possible trade bait, because after all, Lowry was so good through the first three months of last season that there was a “Kyle Lowry: All Star?” sentiment bouncing around the NBA Twittersphere. Not only was he just entering his prime and signed to an incredibly team-friendly contract through 2013-14, but he was putting up poor man’s Jason Kidd numbers – and I’m talking Nets Jason Kidd merged with the latest iteration who happens to shoot 3’s.  Through three months Lowry averaged 16 points, 7 assists, almost 5 rebounds, and 2 steals in over 35 minutes per game, plus a 40% 3-point stroke.  Lowry was filling it up, going for 18 assists on December 31st, 33/9/8 on January 14th, and his first triple-double on January 23rdin a head-to-head battle with Ricky Rubio (16/10/10).  Lowry played defense like a pitbull, and fought in the paint for rebounds like a forward.  He could push the fast-break, set people up, and hit the 3 when the ball came back to him.  He would presumably be a very nice asset.

At the night’s conclusion, however, Morey and the Rockets were left with a very nice haul out of the first round: SG Jeremy Lamb, F Royce White, and F Terrence Jones.  But still no Howard, still no superstar to build around, and still, Kyle Lowry was a rocket.
The Lowry made sense, to a degree, after Lowry’s backup, Slovenian Goran Dragic, had emerged as more than capable after Lowry went down late in the season with a slew of injuries (a bacterial infection and a sports hernia, among others).  Lowry remained a Rocket after the draft, and soon after free agency started on July 1 it was announced that Dragic had agreed to a deal with the Phoeni

Instant Trade Analysis: Landry Field to the Toronto Raptors

(Editor’s note: Some goodness from keeper of the Knickerbocker flame, El Miz. Enjoy.)

Toronto Raptors get: G Landry Fields, 3 years, $20 million

Landry Fields was good once upon a time.  For the first 40 games or so of his rookie season, Landry was the a surprising selection to be the starting 2, an unheralded second-rounder who most Knicks fans had never heard of.  The team was different back then, a Mike D’Antoni-coached, Raymond Felton-quarterbacked Knickerbocker squad that had New York fans excited.  Fields was a 10-point, 7-rebound per game SG who thrived in transition, making cuts to the hoop on a team that excelled at making an extra pass and pushing the ball.  He shot 41% from 3, he had good size for the position, and he seemed to fit right in with teammates Danillo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, and Amare Stoudemire.

Then the Knicks traded for Carmelo Anthony.  Then Landry Fields ceased being an above-average NBA player.

Fields more or less fell off once Anthony came aboard.  Gone was the free-flowing offense, where Landry’s ability to make cuts and score around the hoop were amplified by a team that moved the ball.  In came Melo, going into iso after iso, kicking the ball to an out-of-rhythm Fields every now and then for a corner 3 that Fields would inevitably brick.  He quite figuratively shat the bed in the first round of the playoffs, looking literally shaken (I sat about 10 rows behind the basket in Game 3 and watched Landry in warmups. I think he was zoned out like a nervous 8th grader about to make his class president speech in front of the school). He averaged 1 point per game for the series. Wow.

Look, I don’t mean to rip on Landry. He was a player who always tried hard and perhaps thought too much during the game, was a funny guy in interviews and became Jeremy Lin’s best friend on last year’s #Linsanity team.  But he was not a good fit for this current Knicks squad. The ball doesn’t move enough to highlight his strengths (back door cuts and moving without the ball), he is a good rebounder for his position, but so are Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony, who wound up getting many of the rebounds Fields got prior to their arrivals.  On the right team, in the right role, I have no doubt that Fields can return to form as a serviceable NBA player.

All of that being said…what in the world is Toronto GM Brian Colangelo thinking?  Three years, $20 million?  I laughed out loud when I read the e-mail. I predicted Landry would get something like 3 years, $6 million, and even that would have been generous. $20 million is staggering for a player who cannot create his own shot, is not athletic enough to guard the athletes at his own position, and has not been a good 3-point shooter since his first 40 games in the NBA (either a system thing or a total aberration…time will tell).  Not to mention, Toronto just used the 8th pick in the NBA Draft on Terrence Ross, a shooting guard, as well as rostering DeMar Derozan, another former SG lottery pick.  Some have alleged that Colangelo did this to “block” an imminent Suns-Knicks sign-and-trade which would’ve involved Landry Fields and Steve Nash.  Well, if the Knicks want Nash that badly, they will probably just double-down and give up Iman Shumpert, a much more dynamic shooting guard who will unfortunately miss most of (if not all of) next season with a torn ACL. Thus, signing Fields to such a ridiculous contract doesn’t even ensure that Nash will be a Raptor.  And I assume they will play him out of position … Read more...

MAMBINO’s NBA Preview Launch – Burning Questions for the UPCOMING 2011-2012 Season

Any text you get at 3:18 am at any point, any day, is most likely bad news. It means one of several things:

1) You’ve got an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend who either wants to pick a fight with you, or wants you to come over for an inter-coital incident that will leave you battered and broken the next morning, both physically and emotionally

2) You’ve got a current girlfriend or boyfriend that got too drunk and your car is now approximately 20 minutes away from being a $20,000 college trashcan

3) Something bad happened to someone you care about. Just got real there. Sorry MAMBINO readers.

4) Your friend needs a place to crash, and now your apartment becomes a $1,000 a month college trash can.

Friday night, nearly fast asleep at 3:18 am, Eastern Standard Time, I get a text message from my boy, OKC Thunder Fan #1 and the only owner of a Thunder Royal Ivey jersey in North America, Stolte, which read:


I put down my phone, not quite understanding what my almost assuredly shwasted friend was digitally blabbering about. About to fall back deep into my second tryptophan-induced slumber in the same number of days, I sat back up and clumsily jumped onto my Twitter app. Ken Berger, my new messiah and best friend, let me know that indeed, a handshake deal was agreed upon between the lawyers representing the players and owners and a 66-game 2011-2012 season was merely days away from becoming a reality.

Let’s set aside my abject and utter joy here. I will ignore the fact that I stayed up until 3:45am researching a news story that had zero actual information available other than the paragraph I just typed, all while knowing full well I had to be awake at 8am. I have sent out approximately 20 text messages to 20 different hoopheads throughout the day, with a dozen e-mails following suit expressing my disbelief. I just had a 20 minute conversation with a fellow member of Laker Nation that was actually about basketball. We don’t have enough time. Free agency will open in a week, with the season following a little more than two weeks after that. I was nearly resigned to a winter without NBA basketball (see my first post in a series of 6 detailing suitable WWE replacements for YOUR particular NBA squad) and having to follow a frustrating Jets teams, a Los Angeles Kings squad with no television out here in the East and a Boston College basketball team that’s already lost to Holy Cross by 11, barely edged out UC Riverside by 3 points and lost to UMass by 36 points…at home. Truthfully, and perhaps this was largely due to me wanting to preserve my sanity and not set myself up for disappointment, I haven’t even begun to think about the 2011-2012 NBA season yet.

So now, like a your lame friend who got to the party 4 hours late and decides to chug a handle of vodka to catch up to the surprise of no one and the embarrassment of everyone, we here at MAMBINO HQ will be playing vodka handle catch up with the nubile 2011-2012 NBA season.

In our darkest days of the lockout, BockerKnocker and I devised a sneaky way to discuss the NBA without having actual basketball being played by coming up with a series of posts titled “20 Things We’ll Miss About the Cancelled 2011-2012 NBA Season”. Despite the self-loathing, pathetic nature of such an endeavor, we’ve found that even with the season revived from the brink of an almost certain death, “20 Things” is still relevant.

Thus, over the next month or so, BockerKnocker and I will begin our “20 Burning Questions for the 2011-2012 NBA Season&… Read more...

WWE for an NBA Fan – How to Survive the NBA lockout with the WWE (Part 1)

The nuclear winter. This is what so many NBA fans, writers and even personnel are referring to this lockout as.

We’ve covered our NBA lockout thoughts ad nauseam on MAMBINO. There’s really nothing left to say. Both sides think that they’re more right than the other. Each have pointed fingers, proclaiming they want a deal done, and every single ounce of their beings wishes they could be on the court right now. It doesn’t matter if I believe them or not at this point. I’ve accepted that we will not be having NBA basketball this year. Following the 2004-2005 NHL season, the 2011-2012 NBA season will be only the second full season of North American sports to ever be canceled in the 100+ year history of the 4 major professional sports. Congratulations, gentlemen. You made history.

But let’s not drink that half-full glass. Let’s look at it, and fill it up to the brim. We here at MAMBINO HQ have some ready-made alternatives for those of you hungering for another waste of time to completely invest your emotions in, despite the fact that you have no true impact on the outcome.

The answer here is the WWE. It’s the nuclear winter, after all. Why not eat those twinkies?

Being a lifelong professional wrestling fan, I know that for every offseason and All-Star break, there will always be the WWE to fill that sports void in my life. As the WWF catchphrase said about 10 years ago, “We Have No Offseason.”

Professional wrestling is not a perfect comparative to professional basketball. However, there are a lot of qualities inherent in the NBA, its game and its players that would make even the truest hoopheads apt to take up Vince McMahon’s trained traveling circus.

1) Basketball can be played one of two ways: with finesse, grace and coordination (think Magic Johnson’s passing, Ray Allen’s jumper, or Kareem’s sky hook) or through a brutally bruising and physical game (think LeBron’s moves to the rack, Shaquille’s post game or Bill Laimbeer’s elbows). The best basketball players will combine a little bit of both for what the experts would consider the perfect type of game.

Wrestling is no different. Stone Cold Steve Austin, one of the greatest wrestlers to ever live, said that in order to be a true champion, you had to look like you could kick someone’s ass. Look like. A great wrestler has to have enough finesse, grace and coordination to make the moves look crisp but painful. He has to be big and tough enough to use his power to throw another man’s dead weight around the ring, and yet also have enough toughness to throw himself around the ring and make his opponent look like Andre the Giant. The professional wrestling skill set is similar to professional basketball – precision and control, matched with a certain amount of physicality.

2) Who are the most popular players in the last 10 years? Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Kevin Garnett, Dwyane Wade, Yao Ming, Dirk Nowitzki and Dwight Howard are amongst them. You know what all these fellows have in common? They all had characteristics that made them pop towards the audience. They each were either incredibly charismatic, freakishly proportioned or, in many of their cases, both.

The WWE is no different. Aside from the natural athletic talent it takes to succeed as a professional wrestler, there is a certain level of “freak attraction” needed to become noticed by an audience that constantly clamors to be amazed. For every Shaquille O&#… Read more...

If I were GM of…the Toronto Raptors

Look, Chris Bosh is a fine player. He can rebound a little bit, and is gifted offensively. I know that there was some level of uproar over him leaving Toronto last summer…but, what’s the big deal here? Were the Raptors really that good with him? Bosh led them to a high-water mark of 47 wins 5 years ago and they made the playoffs twice, winning 3 games total. They threw up a ton of points and GM Bryan Coangelo made a somewhat interesting sideplot with how many foreign players that he could bring onto one team. They were decent at best, barely mediocre at worst. The point is that this rebuilding project I’m going to propose here should have started two seasons ago, not in the upcoming one.

Jose Calderon: 9.7 million
Andrea Bargnani: 9 million
Leandro Barbosa: 7.6 million (team option)
Amir Johnson: 5.5 million
Linas Kleiza: 4.6 million
Julian Wright: 3.9 million (qualifying offer)
DeMar DeRozan: 2.6 million
Jerryd Bayless: 3.04 million
Ed Davis: 2 million
James Johnson: 1.8 million
Joey Dorsey: 1 million
Solomon Alabi: 830,000
Total: 45 million

Peja Stojakovic: 14.9 million
Reggie Evans: 5.08 million
Alexis: Ajinca: 1.46 million
Sonny Weems: 854,389
Total: 22.5 million

1). First and foremost, identify your core

This is something the Raptors should have done a while ago – correctly identify their core guys going forward, and try to dump everyone else. Yes, a full scale blow-up. Florida Marlins, 1998-style, almost everyone goes-type blowup.

The way I see it, their core guys are DeMar, Ed Davis (too early to give up on him), Jerryd Bayless and whoever they draft with the fifth pick. Everyone else is expendable. The way that things are set up now, either DeMar or Andrea Bargnani is going to be your best player – and I don’t care what country it is, a guy named Andrea shouldn’t be your best player. Let’s say that DeRozan turned into a less-skilled and crafty Manu Ginobili, Bargnani was a better Memhet Okur, Ed Davis wasn’t a bust already and Jerryd Bayless lived up to his college-reputation. They would still be a star short of being a contender. An entertaining team? Sure. Put up a lot of points? Most definitely. But not anything a playoff team. Think the Atlanta Hawks, but with even less defense. You need to blow it up, start over, like they should have done LAST YEAR when Bosh was almost-assuredly leaving. Now that we’ve established this, let us move on.

2) With the fifth pick in the draft, take Jan Vesely.

Look, I’m not Chad Ford, or anyone at, but I’ve heard that Vesely isn’t a soft Euro, He plays a genuine back-to-the-basket game and can throw it down. I’ll take that guy. If you are thinking that Bayless is your point guard of the future, then I’d pass on Kemba (for various reasons beyond just that one), Tristan Thompson and Leonard. They’ll need a center after they trade Bargnani.

3) Trade Andrea Bargnani

Oh, right. I know he was your number one pick, but it was a number one in a terrible draft. The best two players turned out to be Brandon Roy’s 2006-2009 seasons and LaMarcus Aldridge. Bargnani is owed a decent chunk of change going forward (42 million through 2015), but he’s got great numbers. There is going to be a GM that will pay for his services, especially at the price offered – think Al Jefferson trade (basically two first round picks, and an expiring contract). He’s a 7-footer that plays 30 feet away from the rim and rebounds as … Read more...