April 6, 2012
Ugly loss for Raptors
By Mike Ganter, QMI Agency
For the second game in a row, Raptors forward James Johnson took his seat on the bench and never got out of his sweats.
His absence in the first game, Wednesday in Philadelphia, while noticeable, was not problematic as Alan Anderson filled in nicely for the Wake Forest product who has played the bulk of the minutes as the team’s starting small forward.
The fact that the Raptors won the game made it that much easier to accept.
At the time both head coach Dwane Casey and Johnson would only say it was an internal matter that they were going to keep between them.
Johnson said he would accept whatever decision Casey made.
Following Friday morning’s shootaround, Casey was asked if Johnson would play.
“I’m sure he will,” Casey said. “It’s an internal situation and I don’t have a doghouse so there’s no doghouse (to be in),” Casey said.
The matter was raised again Friday in light of the 84-80 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers and the fact that the Raptors got very limited offensive production from the small forward position.
Casey objected to the suggestion that Johnson might have been able to make a difference and remained mostly tight-lipped about his inactivity.
“We have an internal issue,” he said. “James is not in the dog house. I just thought (Linas Kleiza) and (Alan Anderson) did a good job at the three position. It (the loss) wasn’t because James didn’t play. He’ll be available to play on Sunday and he was available to play tonight but I chose not to play him.”
Casey then got as close to admitting Johnson had committed some form of team infraction.
“We are going to build the program the right way,” he said. “We are going to do things the right way and we’ll go from there.”
Johnson was no more forthcoming.
“It’s the coach’s decision and I’m riding with it,” he said. “Our guys have been playing well without me so I’m just cheering for my team and doing whatever any of them would do if they were a DNP.”
KEEP TWO, ADD ONE
Earlier in the day the Raptors opted to extend the two D-League graduates already on the roster — Ben Uzoh and Alan Anderson — to a second 10-day and then brought in a third in Justin Dentmon.
Then Anderson, who started for James Johnson on Wednesday in Philly, got the nod again to start and with Jose Calderon’s right eye all but swollen shut Casey had to choose between Uzoh and the newest Raptor Dentmon to start at the point.
Uzoh won out based on his five games of experience with the Raptors.
Throw in the fact that the Cavaliers started a 10-day contract D-League callup of their own in Manny Harris, and would have matched the Raptors with two starters in that boat had they not recently signed Donald Sloan for the remainder of the season taking him out of that 10-day classification, and you start to wonder how many season ticket holders were looking for refunds on this particular night.
DON’T PITY THESE CAVS
It has been a tough grind for the Cleveland Cavaliers this year and it’s only going to get tougher. Unlike the Raptors who got their three-games-in-three-nights lockout blemish out of the way in January, the Cavs get it next week. Beginning Tuesday they begin a stretch of seven games in nine nights which includes that dreaded back-to-back-to-back. Former Raptor Anthony Parker who sat out Friday’s game with a bruised sternum, said even anticipating the grind coming into the year really didn’t prepare him or anyone else for what it would be like.
But if there has been a saving grace for the Cavs this year it has been in the development of their two young stars from the 2011 draft. Brampton native Tristan Thompson has made steady progress. But the Cavs first overall pick Kyrie Irving stepped right in from pretty much Day 1 and established himself as the next big thing in Cleveland.
“Kyrie is special,” Parker said. “He’s so talented and at that age it’s amazing that he’s so mature. Usually with young, quick guys, they just go as quick as they can. He has a great change of pace. He’s knowledgeable about the game, he can read the defence, he can finish at the rim, shoot the three, he’s really a special talent.”
Parker doesn’t see any reason he won’t join the conversation of the league’s best point guards in the very near future.
KEEPING HIS DISTANCE
Casey knows enough than to step into the minefield that is the current Orlando Magic situation. For starters, it’s not his concern. Beyond that, there’s nothing to be gained by taking a side here. But you have to imagine that every coach in the league was just a little bit tickled to see Stan Van Gundy put his superstar in an awkward position by revealing to the media that Howard had been going behind his back to management and demanding he be fired. Howard thought his secret was safe. Van Gundy revealed him to be the behind-the-scenes manipulator that he is.
Casey declined to comment for the above mentioned reasons but pressed a little he did offer: “We have one of the most difficult jobs in sports, being a coach. A lot of times we have to tell a player no and we’re the only one’s in their lives telling them no they can’t do something. That’s just from a coaching standpoint.”