Hebrews 11:1

Paul Poised To Tie Steals Record

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Going into New Orleans game tonight against Memphis, Chris Paul has tallied at least one steal in 104 consecutive games. With a steal tonight he will tie Alvin Robertson for the NBA record for games with a steal.

Sounds like a big deal, right?

Sure it is, but Sunday afternoon Paul was more worried about the one steal that he didn’t get credit for. When he was asked if he remembered the first one on April 13th, 2007, he tried to shrug it off but quickly confessed he thought more about the steal he didn’t get credit for.

“I’m going to tell you the truth,” Paul said while leaning against his locker and grinning. “Who was the game before that I didn’t get a steal again? Was it Dallas? Because I got a steal that game. We can watch the tape, I know I got a steal that game.”

After the chuckles subsided from the media huddled around Paul’s locker, the media returned to hanging on his every word. The same reporter then followed up by asking if he’s like a golfer and can remember each one.

“Yeah, some of them,” Paul admitted. “This will probably be the one I’ll remember the most because I didn’t expect to get one. Over the course of the game there’s so much going on. When it’s close like that you’re just trying to get the win.”

While Paul normally shrugs off personal accolades – last season whenever a reporter would ask him his thoughts on being named the MVP he deflected the attention back to the success his team was enjoying – yesterday he admitted he does think about the steals record.

“When it was 80-something (games) I didn’t think about it. But I’d be lying if it’s not something I think about a little bit right now. One thing I’m not going to do is I’m not going to take away from my team on the defensive end. The steals come just from being in the right place at the right time.”

There are different kinds of steal artists in the NBA; some that depend on passing lanes, timing and anticipation, while others like to take chances.

Luckily for Byron Scott’s sanity, Paul relies on his anticipation and being in the right place.

“Alvin (Robertson) was a gambler,” New Orleans Hornets head coach Scott explained to the media while relaxing in a leather couch prior to a game against Toronto.“He would break down the defensive scheme of whatever they were trying to do and he would take chances. He would end up getting a lot of steals off anticipation because he had great anticipation. I think that’s the key to being where those two guys are; the anticipation of where that next pass was going. Both of those guys had an uncanny ability to understand the game and understand where it’s going next. Chris gets a lot of his (steals) from everywhere. He doesn’t get a lot of his on the ball, he gets a lot of his off the ball when guys are driving to the rim and he anticipates the next pass. With bigs he anticipates them putting it on the floor. His anticipation that way is just unbelievable.”

After a brief pause, Scott was struck with another fond memory of Paul’s defensive prowess he felt compelled to share with the media.

“I remember his second year he had an uncanny ability to throw the ball away and then he would steal it right back. He would throw it away, the (opposing) point guard might get it and then he would steal it right back. I was amazed because you’re not supposed to be able to do that.”

There are a lot of things on and off the basketball court Paul shouldn’t be able to do.

The diminutive point guard shouldn’t have been an MVP candidate in just his third season into his NBA career.

Paul shouldn’t be able to take a franchise that averaged 35 wins over the past five season to winning a franchise best 56 games in just his third season in the NBA.

He shouldn’t be able to almost single-handily save professional basketball in New Orleans.

And he shouldn’t be setting records like this so early in his career.

But hey, this is all par for the course for growing legend that is Chris Paul.

Photo Credit: ICON Sports Media

Written by Ryan

December 16, 2008 at 12:46 am

Posted in Articles

Game Notes: New Jersey vs. Toronto

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* Before the game Jay Triano was asked the rational for signing Jake Voskuhl and he told the media scrum, “Jake’s another big body for us. We went three or four games there when Kris Humphries was out with only three big guys. We just felt like we couldn’t put ourselves in that position. We need to have a guy to go in and bang. It remains to be seen what he can give us in games, but at least now we can practice. We haven’t been able to big against big in practice… well, we haven’t even been able to practice for awhile. We haven’t been able to go big guy against big guy for quite some time now.”

* Voskuhl picked an unusual basketball number (#77) and when asked why he told the reporter, “I thought about 7, but then Andrea (Bargnani’s) got that. Nobody had 77 so it was just a process of elimination. There’s no deep meaning.”

* Sean Williams may be inactive because he’s lodged in Lawrence Frank’s doghouse, but the second-year player is doing whatever he can to get back into the Nets rotation. He was the first player on the court today and was working diligently with the Nets coaching staff on his game.

* Within the first few minutes of the game the crowd started a “V-C Sucks” chant. As Vince Carter ran down the court alongside Jamario Moon the two players enjoyed a good laugh at the crowds foolishness and needless resentment. Seriously, why are the fans here in Toronto holding a grudge so long? It’s time to let it go.

* Once again, the jeering of Carter didn’t even work as he scored the Nets first seven points and finished the game with a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds.

* Today I was up in the gondola to watch the game and something that really impressed me was the Raptors ball movement in the first half. They would swing the ball until the found an open man and more often than not they would find someone wide open. It resulted in the team getting out to a 16-2 lead to open the game while Toronto shot a sizzling 5-6  from the field.  New Jersey on the other hand was ice cold as they went 1-5 while committing two turnovers.

* In the first quarter the only Nets starter to score was Vince Carter (9 points). The other four starters were a combined 0-3 from the field and it took until the 9:56 mark of the second quarter for a Nets starter other than Carter to score.

* Roko Ukic had a sweet steal on Devin Harris early in the second quarter and I’m pretty sure Harris was having Stuart Tanner flashbacks.

* Chris Bosh scored his first field goal of the game at the 9:38 mark of the third quarter. While he finished with a respectable 17 points he also went 4-15 from the field.

* Devin Harris went on a 9-0 run early in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 72. Adding to the frustration for Raptors fans was  Toronto didn’t record a field goal until the 2:35 mark of the fourth quarter. Ouch!

* After the game Bosh was asked to explain the 25-2 run the Nets went on in the fourth quarter and he told the reporter, “We’re not getting rebounds right now. That’s our main achilles heal right now. We’re giving them multiple shots but for the game they shot 38%. And (normally) if I told you we held a team to 38% you would ask me how many we won by. We have to do a better job of only giving them one shot. We’re shooting ourselves in the foot right now and I think if we get better on the boards we’ll win a lot more games.”

* Triano echoed these sentiments when he vented to the media, “We hold a team to 38% shooting, when you consider what the percentage was on the second chance ones it was probably in the 70′s. So we do a pretty decent job guarding, but you can’t let a team take 14 more shots than you. They get 14 more shots because we don’t box out and we don’t rebound the ball.”

* A reporter followed up by asking if it was effort or concentration, and Bosh replied honestly , “I think it’s just concentration because all it (requires) is getting between your man and the basket, getting your body on him and going to get the ball. Positions one through five, it has to be a team effort. Everybody has to do it. I think if we do a better job of that there’s no telling what could happen.”

* Triano was asked if he was worried about his teams inability to finish games and he quickly interjected, “I’m not concerned about finishing games, I’m concerned about finishing possessions. I have talked about process before, the process of playing good defense and executing each time. You don’t have to worry about finishing games if you box out and you rebound long before the game gets into the final five minutes.”

* Ryan Anderson scored a career high 21 points off the bench for New Jersey tonight. For some insight into Anderson, click here to check out the interview I had with him the last time he was in Toronto.

* I had a great chat with Mike Ulmer tonight after the game. After busting his chops about the video of his dance practice with the Raptors Dance Pack we had a great chat about online media.

Photo Credit: Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos

Written by Ryan

December 15, 2008 at 11:14 pm

Posted in Game Notes

Chandler’s Latest Setback A Pain In The Neck

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Countless members of the media and fans who follow the NBA felt confident that New Orleans would rise to the top of the NBA standings this season. And why not? The team was blessed with arguably the top point guard in the NBA, an All-Star power forward and a roster of savvy vets and role players.

We’re now 20 games into the season and the Hornets have yet to improve upon the record they had last season. The team was 13-7 over their first 20 games last season and this year despite the added experience and addition of James Posey the team has an identical record to start this season.

What’s gone wrong?

Nothing, it’s just a case of the team missing one of it’s key cogs in Tyson Chandler for five games so far this season.

It’s rare for a head coach to openly admit a team missed a player, but Hornets head coach Byron Scott didn’t hesitate to talk about how big of a loss Chandler’s been for his team so far this season.

“It hurts us because he’s a big part of what we do on both ends of the floor,” Scott told Hoops Addict prior to a game against Toronto this weekend. “He’s our best screener, he’s our best screen-and-roll guy that we have and obviously on the defensive end he’s our best defender down there. It changes a lot of the things we’re trying to do. We still try to play the same way, but his absence is surely felt when he’s not in there. I thought it was evident the other night in Boston in a physical game like that when you have athletes like they have. He’s always matched up pretty well against Kevin Garnett, so we miss him, big time. And until he gets back we’re going to miss him. We’ll try to keep our heads above water but the other guys are just going to have to step up.”

One of the players who benefited the most from Chandler on the court last season was Chris Paul as the duo combined for a league high 109 alleyops. Not only that, but Chandler was a key part in their screen-and-rolls and the Hornets low post offense.

“Hilton Armstrong’s done an outstanding job coming in without T.C.” Paul boasted to a local beat writer Sunday afternoon.“But it’s a totally different game without Tyson (Chandler) out there because he gives us that lob threat. It’s great to see how we’re playing without such an important piece of our puzzle.”

The other player to see a change this season without Chandler in the line-up has been his fellow frontcourt mate David West. Last year West was able to post All-Star numbers of 20.6 points and 8.9 rebounds due to defenses being distracted by Chandler dunking on opponents when he was left open. This season with Chandler missing five games so far, West has seen his averages drop to 19.9 points and 7.9 rebounds.

“He’s just another presence, another anchor down there in the post,” West admitted to Hoops Addict when asked how Chandler makes the game easier for him. “We’ve got guys and when guys go down we’ve got other guys that are willing to step up. Tonight we played a little smaller and we played Peja (Stojakovic) at the four. But we’re pros, and when guys go down we’ve just got to step up and play.”

While the Hornets have raced off to an impressive 13-7 record by having role players step up, it’s clear the team is missing a key cog in Chandler.

Hornets fans are hoping Chandler’s able to get over his neck issues sooner rather than later because without him it doesn’t look likely the Hornets will live up to the lofty preseason expectations thrust on them by members of the media and countless fans.

Photo Credit: ICON Sports Media

Written by Ryan

December 15, 2008 at 12:53 am

Posted in Articles

UNDRCRWN Tested. Brotherhood Ready

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PRESS RELEASE: Adidas Remix has partnered for a third time with the Philadelphia-based basketball lifestyle brand UNDRCRWN on a limited edition footwear collection called adidas Team Signature Commander and Creator x UNDRCRWN.

The three sneaker series continues the REMIX tradition of bringing unexpected and bold statement styles to on-court kicks.

The adidas Commander and Creator x UNDRCRWN collection is based on the 2008/2009 adidas Basketball campaign, Command and Create. Two footwear concepts are designed to meet the playing styles that a Brotherhood is comprised of: Commanders and Creators.

Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard and Tim Duncan embody the Commander role with their formidable playing styles and dominating effect in the paint.

Tracy McGrady and Gilbert Arenas assume the Creator role with an aggressively smooth and stealth-like approach to running the floor.

The adidas Remix Collection first launched at the beginning of 2007 and was designed to bring a new element of freshness to adidas Basketball footwear. The Remix Collection fuses sport and style in a manner that consumers appreciate and have come to expect from adidas. Past collaborations have included Lemar and Dauley, Mama, Gabriel Urist and Robot Films.

Photo Credits: adidas

Written by Ryan

December 15, 2008 at 12:02 am

Posted in Articles

Christmas Came Early

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Christmas came a couple weeks early when a package from Converse showed up at my door on Friday. I realize that at 28-years-old I’m too old to believe in Santa Claus, but when over $200 in free swag shows up at my front door it’s enough to get me thanking Santa for my good luck.

Why did I get the new Elton Brand and Dwyane Wade kicks? Apparently I’m “friends” of Converse. If I had known making friends was this enjoyable, I would have left my lap top behind years ago and ventured out into the playground to make more friends.

Not only that, but Elton Brand took the time to write me a quick note:

“When I was growing up in Peeskill, New York, having a signature shoe was one of those things I’ve always dreamed about.

Encolosed is my first-ever signature shoe – the Converse EB1. The EBI is a durable, but fast and versatile performance shoe, which is perfect for my style of play.

It will be sold exclusively at JCPenny where my Mom used to take me all the time to get shoes growing up. I’m proud to have that $65 price point where kids can have a cool shoe that they could wear to school and stil look fly, then go to the court and put in some work.”

Wow, free swag and a letter from an NBA player? That’s enough to brighten my day.

In the box was a card from Elton Brand, two new pairs of kicks (EB1 and Wade 4) and two new shirts. I know I’ve been doing some work with adidas Canada, but this new friendship from Converse is enough to put them at the top of my Facebook friends list.

For your viewing enjoyment – or humour – I’ve attached a picture of me “modelling” my new swag below.

Written by Ryan

December 15, 2008 at 12:02 am

Posted in Articles

Game Notes: New Orleans vs. Toronto

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* Antonio Daniels has been with New Orleans less than a week but already he’s struck up a friendship with Chris Paul. The two were joking around in the locker room and warmed up together on the court before the game.

* I was able to score an exclusive chat with Julian Wright before the game that I’ll be posting within the next few days. Last year Wright was a big part of the Hornets run in the playoffs but this year he’s seen his minutes cut drastically. He was humble talking about the experience, why he’s had fewer minutes and what he’s doing to prepare when his number is called.

* Before the game Morris Peterson was trying to film a segment for The Score and Hilton Armstrong and Rasual Butler were clowning around trying to distract him.

* Going into the game Chris Paul had recorded a steal in 103-consecutive games and with a steal tonight he set himself up to  tie former Raptor guard Alvin Robertson on Tuesday when New Orleans plays Memphis. Before the game Byron Scott talked at length about this and after the game Chris Paul provided some great quotes that I’ll use for a story which I’ll post Tuesday morning.

* Chris Bosh got off to an uncharacteristically slow start shooting 0-for-5 from the field. While he had four rebounds in the first quarter he also had a couple rebounds slip through his fingers and seemed to be having an off game. Bosh finished with a team high 25 points but he scored 13 of those points from the free throw line and was an uncharacteristic 6-for-17 from the field.

* Andrea Bargnani may not have flashy stats tonight but I was impressed by what I saw from him. He was being aggressive taking his man off the dribble, he was shooting without hesitation when he was open and he was back to attacking the glass. Even though he only scored four points in 11 minutes of burn, it’s clear that his confidence is starting to come back.

* James Posey was on fire beyond the arc in the first half going 5-6 while scoring all 15 of his points. Even more impressive was the fact Posey wasn’t even looking for anything inside the arc. All six of his field goal attempts were beyond the arc as he would camp outside the three-point line and when a Raptor defender would sag off him Posey would make them pay by sticking a huge three.

* Jamario Moon had a nice block on Rasual Butler’s dunk attempt late in the second quarter.

* The entire Hornets bench stayed standing to start the second half until Chris Paul hit a jumper at the 10:30 mark of the third quarter.

* At the 3:12 mark of the third quarter the Hornets on the court mysteriously converged before Chris Bosh’s second free throw attempt. After Bosh hit the free throw the Hornets then pushed the ball all the way up the court in four seconds which caught the Raptors defense off guard and allowed Chris Paul to earn a trip to the free throw line after he was hammered on his drive to the hoop.

* Jose Calderon went a sizzling 8-8 from the field and 5-5 from beyond the arc. After the game a reporter asked about his night shooting the ball and the Spaniard shrugged off the question by saying, “It happens sometimes. It’s not like a big thing, it doesn’t matter. Today it went in, others day no. I just need to keep doing my thing and get everyone involved.”

* While Calderon wasn’t willing to brag about a solid night his counterpart, Chris Paul, was more than willing. When asked about Calderon’s game Paul’s face brightened up and he boasted, “Calderon shot the ball incredibly well. He was what, 8-8 from the field? He kept the pressure on (us).”

* Late in the fourth quarter Calderon threw Moon an alleyoop and Moon nearly hit his head on the bottom of the backboard trying to soar through the air. A couple possessions later Moon soared about the rim for a rebound and was knocked to the ground. You’ve got to hand it to Moon for playing with reckless abandon after he left Friday’s game with his ribs wrapped.

* Chris Paul made a genius play late in the fourth quarter which saved his team from taking a timeout. With just over three minutes remaining in the game James Posey hit the floor hard after a basket by Jermaine O’Neal. Instead of burning a timeout to let Posey regain his composure, Paul didn’t touch the inbound pass until Posey found his way to his feat. At the time New Orleans only had three timeouts remaining and with a seven point game it looked like they would need all of them. On the flip side, you have to wonder why a Raptor guard didn’t pick up on this and press the inbound pass which would have forced New Orleans to waste a timeout.

* When asked about his big night shooting the rock, a modest Posey shrugged his shoulders and told the media, “We did a great job today of running out stuff and making the extra pass. We have some very unselfish players on this team and we’re not scared to make the extra pass. The shots just fell for us tonight.”

* Posey got a fair amount of ribbing from teammates after the game when he decided to brush his teeth at his locker instead of in the sink in the washroom.

* Even though New Orleans might appear to be on a slow pace to start the season, they only had 13 wins through their first 18 games last season. Heading into the season they were heralded as being one of the top teams in the NBA but injuries to Tyson Chandler and having a bullseye on their backs have caused them to get off to a 12-7 start to the season after a loss to Boston on Friday. Today they improved to 13-7 on the season and Chris Paul feels they have the pieces in place to win an NBA Championship this season. After the game a confident Paul was asked by a reporter if his team can go all the way and he boasted, “We can, but we’re a long way away.”

* In the games prior to Sam Mitchell’s dismissal there seemed to be a cloud of frustration hovering over the Raptors locker room. Normally the players don’t like to lose but it seemed that the losses that mounted late in Mitchell’s tenure was something the players couldn’t shake. Even though the team was disappointed over the loss today, it seemed the players were able to cope with the loss. Don’t get it twisted, they weren’t happy with the loss, but they were at peace with the strides the team is making and the direction the club is headed. O’Neal addressed this after the game when he admitted to reporters, “Overall it seems to be getting better.  We feel more and more positive about the direction we’re going in and we know what we can do. I think the route looks a lot more clear now than it did the past few weeks.” Calderon also addressed this when he told the media, “Everyone’s feeling comfortable with the way we’re playing now. We’re going to be okay. I keep being positive because I feel like each day my teammates are getting a little bit better.”

* After the game Jermaine O’Neal was asked how he felt about the teams execution on the defensive end and he paused before admitting, “It’s getting better. Chris Paul puts extreme pressure on teams defensively with how he handles the ball and with his quickness. We tried a couple different things that worked but he’s probably one of the best ballhandlers that we’ve seen in awhile. He keeps probing and you’ve got to honour that because if you don’t stop him then he’s going to lay it up.”

* It was interesting to see Chris Bosh walk out of the Raptors locker room with a Chris Paul jersey. When asked why he had an opponents jersey, Bosh cracked a smile and told the reporter, “That’s my Olympic teammate, we have that bond.”

* New Orleans is now 9-3 with Rasual Butler in the starting line-up.

* The Raptors PR team sent out a press release this weekend about the current tally on All-Star voting. Chris Bosh is fourth among Eastern Conference forwards (274,195 votes), Jermaine O’Neal is fourth among centres (75,324 votes) and Jose Calderon is fifth among Eastern Conference guards (124,705 votes). LeBron James (643,786 votes) and Kevin Garnett (495,514) lead all Eastern Conference forwards,  Dwyane Wade (623,311 votes) and Allen Iverson (492,093) lead guards while Dwight Howard (775,933 votes) is running away with the centre votes.

* Today was Right To Play night at the Air Canada Centre. Right to Play is the foundation that Jose Calderon is associated with and it’s a great organization that I urge you to check out. According to their website: “Right To Play is an international humanitarian organization that uses sport and play programs to improve health, develop life skills, and foster peace for children and communities in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world. Working in both the humanitarian and development context, Right To Play trains local community leaders as Coaches to deliver our programs in more than 20 countries affected by war, poverty, and disease in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, guides our work. Right To Play programs target the most marginalized including girls, the disabled, children affected by HIV and AIDS, street children, former child combatants and refugees.”

*  Thanks for reading my Game Notes for the game this afternoon! Make sure you check back on tomorrow night for my notes on the game between Toronto and New Jersey.

Photo Credit: Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos

Written by Ryan

December 14, 2008 at 4:31 pm

Posted in Game Notes

Raptors Sign Free Agent Jake Voskuhl

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The Toronto Raptors announced Sunday after they had signed free-agent centre Jake Voskuhl.

Per team policy, financial details were not disclosed.

Voskuhl, 31, is an eight-year NBA veteran who has played for Chicago, Phoenix, Charlotte and Milwaukee, while averaging 4.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 15.1 minutes in 412 regular season games.

Prior to this signing Toronto only had 13 players under contract this season, well below the maximum of 15 that the rest of the league have had signed. With Nathan Jawai out for a yet to be determined time and Kris Humphries out with an injury to his toe, it’s put a strain on the teams trio of bigs in Chris Bosh, Jermaine O’Neal and Andrea Bargnani.

The Raptors play host to the New Jersey Nets on Monday at Air Canada Centre and Voskuhl is expected to be in town for that game.

Written by Ryan

December 14, 2008 at 3:04 pm

Posted in Articles

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