February 08, 2008

Deep Thoughts Vol. 4

Damon Stoudamire didn't become a Toronto Raptor for the second time in his career this week. Instead, the Raptors got even better news on Monday. T.J. Ford came back. Welcome back, Little Engine. You've been missed.

Watching Ford check into the game Monday night in Miami was something I won't soon forget. He had a huge smile on his face and Jose Calderon gave him a hug, a tap on the head, and some words of encouragement. Calderon seemed genuinely happy and excited about Ford's return, and that is exactly why I dig Jose. He's the ultimate teammate. He's not thinking that the Raptors number one point guard is back in the lineup; he's thinking that his friend T.J. Ford is back in the lineup.

The Raptors were buoyed by Ford's return. They made sure T.J. would get some minutes by absolutely thrashing the Miami Heat 33-12 in the first quarter. The game was over after 12 minutes. It was the perfect scenario for Ford to return to. Ford looked good in almost 17 minutes on the floor. After the brutal fall he took that night in Atlanta almost two months ago, it was great to just see him back doing what he loves and is pretty damn good at. The Dinos are a much, much better team with both Ford and Calderon in the lineup.

Speaking of Jose Calderon, it's a shame he didn't make the all-star team. He certainly deserved to. In Ford's absence, he logged a ton of minutes and his game didn't suffer. It actually got better. Jose's an all-star in my heart and surely in the hearts of many in Toronto.

The Raptors, however, will be well represented at the Association's all-star weekend in a couple of weeks. Chris Bosh made the team as a reserve, and is well-deserving of the honour. After a slow start, CB4 turned it up a notch the last month and a half. His youtube video helped, too. If you haven't seen it, it means you a) don't read Doug Smith's blog (which you should) and b) you live under a rock.

Jason Kapono will be defending his three-point shooting competition title - that'll be the only "defending" he'll be doing all year (zinger!) - and Jamario Moon will be taking part in the dunk competition. I am seriously stoked about Moon being in the dunk-off. It should be a doozy. Dude's got some hops.

Tonight the Raptors take on the visiting Los Angeles Clippers, and it is regular season game number 1,000 in franchise history. That means I'm old. And that time flies. I still remember that first game against the New Jersey Nets on November 3, 1995, at the freakin' SkyDome. If you're trying to wax nostalgic, Alvin Robertson hit a three-ball to open the game. It was the beginning of something special, but the best times are still to come. Here's to a thousand more...

So, how about those Toronto Maple Leafs? They bounced back from their worst beating of the season, a forgetful 8-0 whitewash courtesy of the Florida Panthers, and came out of Montreal with a 4-2 road win. Go figure.

The Leafs actually came up with a pretty solid effort last night. Inconsistency, and the inability to play 60 minutes, has really done a number on this team. But last night's affair was entertaining hockey, and a Toronto/Montreal game at its finest. It was fast-paced, chippy, emotional and intense - the type of game the Leafs have failed to play on too many nights this year. Although the Leafs do stink and need to lose more games in order to set themselves up for a shot at the number one draft pick, there still is a palpable sense of satisfaction that comes with beating teams like the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens.

I've got to admit, though, that the Habs are a pretty sweet team. They're only three points out of first place in the Eastern Conference. They've got great goaltending (Carey Price is only 20 freakin' years old!) and every player on that team, to a man, can skate like the wind. They are fast. Tomas Plekanec is turning into one hell of an offensive player and Alex Kovalev is playing with a sense of purpose. When Kovalev is in the mood, and he's definitely in the mood this season, he's one of the best in the business. Not too many guys can dangle in the opposition's zone the way he can. He is tremendous.

Bryan McCabe made his return to the Leafs lineup and the team played solid defense. I still stand behind McCabe and his $5.75 million-a-year contract. The Leafs record without #24 in the lineup speaks for itself. They were only able to win seven of the 22 games he most recently missed.

In the where-have-you-been department, Darcy Tucker, with two, and Kyle Wellwood tallied markers for the Buds last night. For Tucker, it was his first two goal game all season, and for Wellwood his first goal in 17 games. Both Darcy and Kyle have been huge disappointments this season, but it was good to see them contribute last night. Imagine where the Leafs would have been had these guys shown up all year?

Shout outs to Vesa Toskala, who was great in goal last night, as usual. He's the real deal. And I love him.

And before I bid adieu to the Leafs, how about that Mats Sundin fellow? He came to the defence of his young rookie winger Robbie Earl after Mike Komisarek took him out with a hit. Komisarek followed the hit with a couple of cheap shoves to Earl's head and back while he was on the ice - that's how Komisarek rolls. Sundin got right up in Komisarek's face and the two of them tussled. Sundin, it seems, must do everything. But that's why he wears the "C" on his shoulder. He is a beauty. And Komisarek is a douche. If there's one guy on the Habs I want to kick square in the groin, it's Komisarek.

Back to basketball for a second; Shaq traded to Phoenix? Wtf? I definitely did not see this one coming. I don't think anyone did. First of all, the trade says a lot about Shawn Marion, who would rather go to the absolutely pathetic Miami Heat than play for a title with Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns. Clearly, his motivation isn't what it should be. In my books, that makes Marion a douche.

It's understandable to write this deal off as a bad one for the Suns. Many already have. Adrian Wojnarowski really doesn't like it. The reasons are rather obvious. Shaq is breaking down physically at 36 years old, and he doesn't exactly fit in to the run-and-gun Phoenix offence. I don't, however, think Shaq can be written off completely though. He is a winner, and he wants to win again, and he gives the Suns the big man down the middle that they've lacked. Shaq's presence means Amare can play power forward, which will definitely suit him more. If Shaq can somehow get healthy, and embrace a defense-and-rebound-first type of role, I think he can help Phoenix, and hopefully get Nash a ring...

Guess what? Spring training starts next week! I know, it's hard to believe. Like I said, time flies, and the boys of summer are getting set to get the party started down in Florida. J.P. Ricciardi took care of his final piece of business on Tuesday, getting Alex Rios' autograph on a one-year contract worth just over $4.8 million. Rios is a certifiable rudey and one of the keys to success for the '08 Blue Jays.

It's turned out to be a pretty busy winter for J.P. and the boys. There are a number of new faces joining the squad: Scott Rolen, David Eckstein, Marco Scutaro, and Rod Barajas. Check this out for quick hits on spring training.

I haven't written about the trading of super douche Troy Glaus for Scott Rolen, and that's partly because I've been getting my Blue Jays fix over at Drunk Jays Fans. If you like the Blue Jays, booze, and profanity - not necessarily in that order - I urge you to check out the blog, subscribe to it, bookmark it; do whatever you've got to do, just read it. You'll thank me. Those thullards over at DJF are a comedic and foul-mouthed bunch, but they know their baseball.

A more-detailed Blue Jays post, and some serious Troy Glaus bashing, are to come in the near future...

Still with baseball, the Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee saga continues to play out on Capitol Hill. Clemens and his entourage continue to deny, deny, deny (read: lie, lie, lie) while McNamee is now saying he's got evidence - old syringes with Clemens' DNA - that Clemens did in fact take the juice. I find it fascinating that the U.S. government has nothing better to do than get to the bottom of this, but am looking forward to how Clemens, another super douche if there ever was one, is going to explain this one...