The Raptors went right at New York last night and this time once they established a big lead they never gave it up. There were some points in the game when they allowed the Knicks some life but in the end, they did enough maintenance on the 28-point lead they built, to hang on for the win.
There was a much, more aggressive attitude from the Raptors as Andrea Bargnani had a great start to the game. He scored 14 first-quarter points putting them on the board in every fashion as he made four treys and went thundering down the lane for a dunk that brought the entire Raptor bench to its feet. Bargnani finished with his second straight double-double as he had 24 points and 12 rebounds and maybe in the words of his teammate Chris Bosh, “he’s starting to figure it out.”
The other prong on the aggression prod was DeMar DeRozan who had 14 free-throw attempts on the night and saw some action late in the game with the game on the line.
The bench was shortened as Marco Belinelli was not feeling 100 percent and Antoine Wright’s knee flared up according to Jay Triano’s post-game comments.
Jose Calderon continues to look more comfortable as he tied a season high with 21 points and Hedo Turkoglu came to life in the fourth quarter when he scored eight of his 13 points.
I’m not sure how the Knicks game-ops staff let this happen on Italian Heritage night but Andrea Bargnani was introduced as being from Spain. What? No big deal to Andrea as a week ago he was introduced to the crowd in Philadelphia as a native of Argentina. “No problem,” smiled Bargnani. “Every time they introduce me from a different home town, we win.”
As one New York media member said, if he was Spanish, a front-line of (Pau) Gasol, (Marc) Gasol, and Bargnani would be pretty good in international competition.
Regardless, even though Belinelli was unable to play, Bargnani was proud that three Italian players were in the NBA and playing in the same game.
Some radio listeners were amused with my take on players as I talked about how my good friend, University of Toronto head coach Mike Katz, and I make some assessments on players.
There are some players that don’t do things. Katz always says that a guy sometimes can’t do something because he won’t and doesn’t deem it valuable. We call those guys the “can’t – won’t” guys. There are other guys that can’t do things because they are not capable and we call those guys “can’t – can’t” players.
Early in the season there were questions about Bargnani’s rebounding and I simply said he was not a “can’t – can’t” guy. He has shown in the past that he is a capable rebounder and he may be starting to demonstrate it more consistently now. In the month of January he is hauling down just under nine rebounds per game. As somebody said to me, “Hey Jonesy, ask Katz if that makes him a “can – can” guy?” Not sure, I’ll ask him.
For everybody that has been e-mailing and asking, there is a Reggie Evans update. Yesterday, at the morning shoot-around before the New York game, Evans talked about what he was doing and while there is still no live action in practice, he’s getting closer. He is doing shooting drills, 15-foot jumpers and the like, and he is working on his post-up moves as he continues to rehab his mid-foot sprain and work on the side in practice when the team has contact drills. Evans says there are some movements when his foot gets in certain positions and creates specific angles that cause him pain, but he is working hard to get healthy.
Let me end with a non-basketball item.
On Wednesday, Teddy Pendergrass, one of the great balladeers of my generation passed away. “Teddy P” was right there with the other greats that had that ability to croon out the great love songs for a generation of youngsters. I’m just reflecting on how we’ve lost some of the greats like Teddy P as well as Luther Vandross, and Barry White. Recently Michael Jackson passed away and just a while back James Brown left us also. Man, am I getting’ old!
But I had the occasion to meet one of the greats and it was thanks to Raptor assistant coach Alex English. We were in Los Angeles one night before a game at Staples Center before a Raptors vs. Clippers tilt and he says, “Hey come with me.” So I follow him and he introduces me to a friend of his named Philip.
We chat with this guy for a bit and then “holy looking at your records and CDs live Batman,” it hits me! This dude is Philip Bailey, the high-pitched falsetto voice from the legendary soul group Earth Wind and Fire. To a kid like me growing up in the 70′s and 80′s listening to all their music, with their renowned acclaim and popularity, it was akin to someone who is a Beatles fan (and I listened to the Beatles but wasn’t all over them like some of my buddies) meeting Paul McCartney.