Well, I expected the Raptors to be up to the challenge and regain some grit but I had no idea they would take off. After falling behind 30-10 to the Clippers in the 1st quarter on Friday, they got on track and absolutely throttled the visitors 123-107. DeRozan put on a clinic just missing a triple-double. It was as lopsided a 2nd half as you could imagine and it felt great, especially with San Antonio coming in on Sunday. On Sunday morning I heard what was probably the most embarrassing sports talk radio show (obviously the programmers don’t care much for Sunday morning content) in which the host asked callers “why were the fans booing the Raptors in the 1st quarter on Friday?” Really? This is confusing to you? They were down 30-10. Do I need to draw a diagram? It is amazing that some people get paid to do their jobs. Anyhoo…Sunday night was possibly the best game played at the ACC since Game 7 last May and the Raps knocked off the defending champs 87-82 denying Popp his 1,000th career win. The defense was tenacious and James Johnson was on fire after being inserted in the starting lineup. I love the starting 5 with JJ, Amir, JV, Lowry and Demar moving T-Ross and Vasquez to the bench. The only issue is that other than Patterson, there are no spot-up defenders coming off the bench. I have a feeling that in the off-season the Raps will be saying goodbye to either Sweet Lou or T-Ross because we need another defender and another big man and I don’t think there will be enough minutes for both of those guys next year.
The big talk in town this morning was the Leafs possibly locking up Kadri to a long-term deal. Some feel they need to lock him up and others don’t. I absolutely do not see the point. He is a restricted free agent so the Leafs can sign him to a short term deal and see what happens unless he will sign longer term for less money. The analysts are saying $4-5 million per season is market value? That’s insane! I don’t care how much a similar player is getting paid, Kadri is not worth $4-5 million, especially as a 2nd-3rd line centre. The Leafs fell into this “market value” shit for Phaneuff, Kessel and Clarkson and now are trying to unload all three of them. Just because the market dictates a price doesn’t mean you should pay it. Kadri might be worth $5-million to one team but not to the Leafs. His value to the Leafs at this point is maybe $2-3 million per season and if he won’t sign for that, you trade him or let him walk. I am even surprised that discussions are happening since my guess is that Nonis will be removed and Kyle Dubas will be named GM by the time the draft rolls around. The bottom line is there are only a few players that should be left on this current roster when training camp opens in September and if Kadri wants to be one of them, it needs to be at the right price.
Under two weeks until Spring Training and it seems the final roster won’t be completed until the start of the season. It appears that unless something major happens, Pompey will be the starting Center Fielder (with Pillar platooning against lefty pitchers), Izturis and either Kawasaki or Tolleson starting at 2nd base until Travis gets some AAA at-bats under his belt and the rest of the bullpen coming from…somewhere. Gibby is banking on Delabar getting back to form and hoping that Todd Redmond and Kyle Drabeck can contribute as well. There will be guys available as cuts are made from Spring Training so I’m not that concerned about the bullpen. My concern would be that the starting rotation seems either incomplete or too young. You’ve already got Hutchinson and Stroman in there and now you are asking either Sanchez or Norris to be that 5th guy assuming Buehrle and Dickey (ugh) are the top two. We don’t have a J.A. Happ anymore to plug into the 5th spot if there is a problem so now they will be turning to a Redmond or pulling someone off the scrap heap if that young 5th starter doesn’t work out. Even though the off-season acquisitions were nice and the lineup from 1 through 5 looks great, there are some apparent holes and the window to win is only getting smaller with the ages and contracts of Bautista and EE maturing. It’s a win-now or go home type of season and with Beeston retiring at the end of the season, an underperforming team will definitely spell the end for AA and Gibby too.