Category: Writers

From time to time, we try to add some writing content here, with the right amount of comedic and sportorific infusion to dazzle your taste buds.

FIVE FREDDIE FEELS: RAPTORS VS BUCKS

????LBJ and Kawhi are cute arguments, but Giannas is the best player in the world and has been since he turned 24. Yes, he still shoots 31% from 3, and yes, the Raps + Kawhi & Danny beat him last year, but he’s rocking the best PER of all time and is on his way to a potential unanimous MVP. The good thing for the league is that he has to play with other people.


????The good thing for the Raps is that they successfully walled him off all game long, limiting him to 19 points! He got 19 rebounds (who cares) and 9 assists (this matters). It wasn’t a shut down, but the Raps have the resources, even without Gasol/Norm/Pat to dictate how Giannas plays. This is a measuring stick game, so that’s really impressive and encouraging.


????The Bucks have a better ranked defence than the Raps, but I think our defensive versatility is our biggest advantage over this squad. Last night was pure scramble defence, which is great for holding a team to a bad 3 point % (they shot 33%), but unfortunately they also have guys like Kris and Brook who can get high % 2’s. This is where you miss Gasol’s elite skills. We can play drop down like Lopez does, scramble like we did last night, go huge with our bigs or even go full small ball with RHJ.


????Playoff auditions! This was my favourite part of the game. Davis, Boucher, Thomas and RHJ all proved they can make big plays against the best team in the NBA. This is massive because when Norm and Gasol get back; minutes will get tighter and Nurse will know that these guys are more valuable than a break glass scenario.


????These are the two best teams in the NBA. Last year, we outscored the Bucks by 6 points in the series. Basically, we outscored them by 1 point every game. It was tight. Kawhi scored more than a 1/3 of our points in that series, so we’ll obviously need to find production elsewhere. We know that Pascal can fill some of that void, but efficient offensive performances from everyone is a requisite to beating this squad in May. I’m confident it’s possible, and that the Bucks are breakable, but it’s on this squad to prove that they can do it, and they haven’t yet.

Five Freddie Feels: Raptors vs Blazers

????Just like we all hoped; this team is fun as hell. 11 games in and the raps are 5th on O, 5th on D and 3rd in net rating. Enough games have been played to officially declare any summer raptors pessimists straight up haters. Masai’s depth is only a secret if you don’t watch this squad.

????Who is Pascal? He leads the team in points (27), rebounds (9) & +/- (8.7). I’m curious how the league will game plan for him as the season/playoffs go along; but currently no one has any answers. He’s just too ????.

???? Nurse should already be in COY talks. He’s used every single member of the roster, flummoxed offence’s with his defensive creativity, kept guys hungry and built a very democratic offence that isn’t too reliant on any one player. Who needs coaches challenges anyway.

????Gasol is still good. Yea, I said it. I’m a Gasol stan. Here’s why; push ahead passes, deflections, calling out offensive and defensive sets, screen assists, box outs that lead to team rebounds and gretzky assists all don’t show up on the traditional box score. The best way to measure Gasol is team wins (8-3), and box plus minus (7.5) which has him 2nd on the team behind ????, 5th in the league for centers and 18th in the NBA overall. Those are winning numbers.

???? OG is Ron Artest and FVV is Steph Curry. J/k, but the development of these two has been ludicrous. Overall, our young players are making quantum leaps nearly every quarter. Once again Masai has managed to put a winning team out that is simultaneously developing. Bravo. It’s good to be a raptors fan.

How I Got Pumped For Basketball

By Matt Duncan

           One of my greatest sports achievements came while playing basketball. Another came in 2009 when I played lawn bowling in Ireland, but I’ll save that for a lawn-bowling podcast that I hope to produce one day. Now, I should point out that my athletic career comes with minimal levels of competitiveness. My two main sports as a kid were hockey and baseball, always in house leagues, never in rep. Not to say that I couldn’t have made a rep hockey team in my youth (I think I could’ve made A), but my father saw such commitment as a waste of time.

           My dad is a very good hockey player. He won Athlete of the Year at Sheridan College, played in Europe and has always been a top-line centre on whatever team he was apart of. “Terrible golfer, best player I ever played with,” his friends always tell me. He’d know better than anyone if his kid had the gift. So when my dad saw me skating around the rink “waving at the fans” rather than “keeping his head in the game,” he knew I was not going to progress very far in competitive hockey. To be honest, I just wanted an Aurora Tigers letterman jacket with my name embroidered on the breast pocket (All my goddamn friends had one!). Basketball wasn’t the next option, but attending a basketball camp one weekend in Aurora, Ontario, somehow happened.

            Sometime around 1993, my friend Pat had signed up for this basketball camp and I felt destined to join. I have no idea why. I never really watched basketball as a kid. Remember that this was pre-Toronto Raptors but present Jurassic Park. I was so terrified of that movie, I ran out during the big T-Rex reveal. I’m still scared of The Raptor mascot, especially when he does flips.

            Most of my friends who were basketball fans would be adorned with Chicago Bulls hats or Starter pullover jackets, but actually watching games was pretty impossible. Most of my basketball talents were limited to games of Bump or 21. Once basketball got competitive and defence was introduced, I got intimidated. The thought of really tall guys trying to block my shot was so, so frustrating. But I fought the whiny wiener embedded in my pouty sports soul and showed up to the basketball camp on a Friday, ready to rock.

            I remember arriving wearing my Reebok Pumps. Ah, those heavy balloon shoes that ended my high-jumping career. Shoe feeling a little loose? Pump it up, babe! But not too much. Every kid who owned Pumps eventually over-pumped till they popped and ruined their shoes forever. Asking kids to be careful with their shoes is a big ask. But these shoes made me feel confident and ready to embark on a wild weekend of basketball drills and scrimmages.

            I don’t remember a ton from one weekend 26 years ago, but I do remember feeling the organizers watching me. Like I was turning a few heads with my drive to the rim. I felt like my eyes separated a few inches apart and I began to resemble a young Steve Nash, making hot passes and dropping soft baskets at will. There was a prize given out to the MVP of the weekend and I wanted it bad: A pair of tennis wristbands.

            Whenever I see J.J. Barea play, I feel like that was who I embodied during that weekend back in 1993. Not only is J.J. my age, but he’s also my height. Okay, I might be a half-inch taller than him at 5’10” and a half but, man, that’s who I’d be if I played basketball: A little J.J. point guard cutie-pie. Feisty, tricky, not amazing, but also reliable off the bench.

            Of course I won MVP. I got the tennis wristbands and, yeah, I still have them. They’re dusty and gross and in a box somewhere. I would love to say that the basketball camp ignited a fire in me, that I became known as the guy who always played with tennis wristbands on, but that didn’t happen. As I released the air from my Pumps and felt the sweet relief of a loose shoe, I walked out of that gym feeling complete. Yes, I’d go back to playing Bump and 21 occasionally, but my fandom for basketball didn’t ignite until I began producing this podcast back in November of 2014.

            Listening to Freddie and Kevin and all our guests talk about basketball, it’s like they had discovered some secret gold mine and they’re all in on it. Each episode, at first, was as if I was forced to do a keg stand for an hour, but instead of stale frat beer, I’d be guzzling in-depth basketball observations and predictions about the NBA’s sole Canadian team. And now after five years and many, many keg stands, I have become addicted to the sweet Raptors elixir.

           What I’m really trying to convey to you is, if you find yourself to be excelling at something you’re mildly interested in, wait 20 years for it to really take hold and become a significant part of your life. If that’s true, then you can find me on a lawn-bowling podcast in ten years, producing a show for a comedian who is intense, insightful and hilarious.

Five Freddie Feels: Raptors Vs Celtics

By Freddie Rivas

Boston glee party. So many good things last night. If it wasn’t such an important game for both teams, you might be able to write it off as one team being off and the other team being on, but everyone tried, and everyone cared. Remember late last season when we lost back-to-back to the Celtics/Cavs? It underscored a sense of plateauing, particularly with Serge defending the PnR & the bench being less impactful in a high stakes game. Whatever this game was, it was the opposite of that; Raptors ascending????


????Worries about Gasol. Don’t worry about Gasol. This game should assuage people still wondering if maybe we shouldn’t have traded JV for an old Jedi like Marc. JV is good at what he does, but this game is a great example of just how much bigger an impact Marc can make, in ways that JV couldn’t dream of. Marc played Theiss off the court, had 8 integral assists, a +18 in 23 minutes and mitigated the Celtics single biggest advantage by outplaying Horford while the raps took over the game in the 2nd! Vital.


????Say it with me, ????THE RAPTORS ARE NOT ALL IN! Is Kawhi going to stay? Are Lowry and Gasol too old? Are they in a good position to rebuild after this season? As a Raptors fan, you can confidently answer all of these questions with one name: SIAKAM. Siakam is basically unstoppable every night and is one of the single best prospects in the entire NBA. He’s actually not that young because he’s 24? GTFO, the dude is a ????????????that is crushing everything in it’s path.


????Claw management & Cry-me Irving. If rest = this type of calm dominance from Kawhi, Philly & Boston don’t stand a chance. Giannas is a different conversation and Embiid might take over the league at some point down the line, but if I was a Boston fan, I would be terrified that Kyrie was my best player. Yes, he can conjure up 1-1 magic from time to time, but he is rarely the best player on the court, and won’t be against any of the major eastern contenders. Boston dodged a bullet last year by having an inspired and under-scouted Rozier come in hot for them.


????I had lofty expectations of Nurse heading into this year. He came into one of the most fortunate situations I could ever imagine, but, man, has he really excelled. Sure, there are things to nitpick, but a game like this really puts this teams potential on display. Nurse busting out new plays this late in the season for Kawhi☑️, giving Gasol more minutes than Serge☑️, knowing that Lin can guard Kyrie☑️, hiding Kyle in the post on D☑️, and somehow unlocking Norm’s sharp shooting + Pat’s beastly D in the same shift☑️☑️. Still gotta see him in the playoffs but, if this dude was in Bean Town, he’d already have a statue. Toast that bread, sir!

Toronto Raptors Jerseys, Ranked

By Kevin Dowse

It’s time for a ranking of all the jerseys of everyone’s favourite team! These are listed from best to worst, because I always put my best foot forward and keep my bad, ugly foot to the rear!

Tied for #1 – Red & White Jerseys (Any Era)

One thing anyone knows about me, is I bleed red and white. My doctor may be worried, but I’m sure not. It only means one thing: I. AM. CANADIAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And these Raptors Jerseys say that, more than anything else, and it is the most important thing there is to say.

They have Chevrons all over the place, too, which is incredible. They point up, making me think of the great white north, the true north strong and free, and the portion of the 401 around Whitby with chevrons painted on the highway.

As for the font – they’re all amazing. Pick any one of them throughout the years. You’ve got the current, fairly basic block letters which suit me just fine. I like my fonts like I like my oatmeal: plain. The older red-and-whites have a font that I find a bit much (pointy / corners), so they lose some points there for me. But they gain those points right back every time I see one of these jerseys while O Canada plays.

#2 – Camo Jerseys

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The only thing I don’t like about NBA basketball is that you can’t fly a fighter jet through the arena before the game. These get me that little bit closer to the weeping love of military that I crave. When I see these jerseys, I not only think “troops”—I scream “troops” through the entire game. Everyone within earshot can’t help but get into the army spirit.

They also have the added benefit of the other team not being able to see you. Check the stats, the Raptors have never lost a game while wearing the Camo jerseys (I personally haven’t checked the stats on that, but am positive I’m correct). How can you stop an opponent that you can’t see? Trick question: it’s impossible.

#3 – St. Patrick’s Day Green Jerseys

Rap4

A lot of my friends complained about these, but I bought one for every player the year they came out. The Bargnani one was especially poignant (#7 is a lucky number in a lot of traditions, and there is an expression called “The Luck of the Irish”). This rich shade of green ticks all of my boxes, aside from “Red and White for Canada, Please!” But not everything can have everything.

Ask anyone on March 17th what Toronto is known for. I guarantee they’ll shout what I shout: “the Irish. I’m Irish!!” And the only way I know how to celebrate that, is to wear an identical jersey to that of a division rival who also pay homage to their city’s Irish heritage.

More fiddle music at halftime, please and thank you.

#4 – Black, Red & White Jerseys (Any Era)

At least these have some red and white in them, but black jerseys are a clear indication of a villainous team. I cannot stomach the idea of any Toronto sports team being a “bad guy”. I have never, and never will, root for a bad guy wearing black clothes. Be it the Hawks from The Mighty Ducks, the Iceland team from D2: The Mighty Ducks, or Magica De Spell from Duck Tales.

If these jerseys aren’t conjuring up images of villainy, they’re frightening children by reminding them of the dark with no nightlight. Not the jersey you’d want around the Santa Clause Parade!

There is some merit in the black, red, and white: it makes me think of Canadian businessmen. Commerce is something I can always get behind, no matter how you slice it. These jerseys make me think of pulling up one’s bootstraps, and for that, they’re saved from banishment to the lower half of this list.

#5 – Huskies Jerseys

Listen – this blue and white nonsense has got to stop. Are the Raptors “Toronto’s” team, or are they “CANADA’s” team? Same goes for the Leafs, Argos, and Jays. These are all CANADIAN teams, so let’s get rid of the blue and white, huh? Makes me think of Quebec (more France than Canada), or France (which is even more France than Quebec if you can believe it).

As for “Huskies”? I was barked at once by a husky, so, no.

#6 – Black/White & Gold Jerseys (Any Era)

I don’t know too much about Drake (music, who is, what look like, etc.) – so I was incredibly shocked to see “OVO” in association with Raptors jerseys. I struggled to make sense of it. “Ovo…Egg? Dinosaurs do hatch from eggs…”

It was only clarified for me when my nephew, as part of a (rude) contradiction of several of my opinions at Christmas dinner, told me it stood for “October’s Very One” or something. Which makes even less sense to me. And making yet even lesser sense, we have the colour scheme: Black and Gold?!?! Well, I never thought I’d say this, but give me Blue and White! At least the newer ones say “North” on them. I would have thought the world was caving in, otherwise.

Maybe this is a generational thing, but I’ll stick with my parents’ (greatest) generation as my barometer, thanks very much.

#7 – Purple & Black

Rap11

While these were an improvement on the original jerseys (more on those below), they were still far too gloomy to make me cheer for anything. The only way these jerseys make sense is if Eeyores were the mascot, not Raptors.

The jersey has some meteoric highs (Kevin O’Neill’s tenure) and some lows, but it’s all buried under a blanket of blah. I don’t need to be immersed in a sea of purple and black throughout January and February! It’s dark enough! If I believed in seasonal affective disorder, I’d say it has an impact on that!

#8 (aka Dead Last) – The Jersey With an Actual Raptor on it (Classic or Throwback)

Rap12

NO.

TOO. SCARY.

A dinosaur with sharp claws has stolen a basketball, taunting us all. It dares anyone stupid enough to try to take it back, knowing it could tear us all to shreds with its (sharp!) teeth and claws.

Sharp teeth and claws, plus an “angry” face on the dinosaur itself, place this at the bottom of the pit for me. Basketball is meant to be a happy game, and I know for a fact that these jerseys were the inspiration for countless nightmares.

Don’t even get me started on how everything is jagged – the pin stripes, the lettering, the spikes above the name on the back of the jersey – it all just screams “ouch!” and makes me short of breath. Nothing about these jerseys feels safe. Throw it in the dustbin of history, and take all the sharp-cornered logos in existence with it.

PS – also the dinosaur is red—a colour I like!—but no dinosaurs were ever red.

Freddie Returns to NBA-XL

Have the Celtic’s luck run out? The real question is “How happy is Freddie that Brad Stevens is failing?” Check out Fred’s return to NBA XL!

The Line Up crew weigh whether the Celtics or Warriors have more to be worried about and if the 76ers are a legit threat in the Eastern Conference.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EF6HkR3Wnoc&w=560&h=315]

Five Freddie Feels

RAPTORS VS GRIZZLIES

By Freddie Rivas

????Nifty Nick: Welcome to the Nurse clinic! Game of the year from the coach. Played the starters heavy minutes because he needed too, prepped Kawhi for double teams, showed flashes of zone to slow up the Grizz in the 3rd and for the most part, made the right subs at the right time. Yes, Nurse has a stacked roster, but he’s done a fantastic job so far and games like this should have people talking about him as a COY candidate.

????What a second half and what a win! The raps dropped 34 in the 3rd and 29 in the 4th on the road, against the best defensive team in the NBA???? 

????FVV making that system work! FVV has been a career 3 point shooter and it was only a matter of time until the treys started dropping. Nurse’s system needs the ancillary guys to take and make 3’s at a high volume, and it’s starting to happen; which should terrify the rest of the league. So far this season; Danny is on fire, Delon/Norm have shot very well on a small sample size, Kyle/Fred are just above league average and Kawhi/JV/????️/OG are all shooting at a respectable level. That’s ????power!

????The raps biggest weaknesses may be superstar bigs + guards that can drop floaters. AD & Jrue put this team through the ringer. It was looking like forgotten stars Mark and Mike might do the same, but Ibaka hit some key jumpers while JV was on the floor for the takeover. Memphis gritty < Toronto committee

????This team is really gelling. Kyle went down hard near half court in the second quarter; and was Kyle angry about it, but then Kawhi hard fouled on the next play and I don’t think it was a coincidence. Kawhi was also pissed off, and Nurse seeing this, sprung into action and got a tech. This might all be meaningless, but I don’t think it is. Kyle/Kawhi/Nurse are all a bit angry and it’s kind of great when they channel it. In Kyle’s post game, he laughed about Nurse and him agreeing not to swear at the refs anymore in the second half, and also had the classic Kyle analysis when he’s in a great mood post game- “We were just out there playing basketball”. Yes they were, and yes we are.

Chemistry

By Kevin Dowse

It’s hard to quantify. It’s even harder to manufacture. It’s more valuable than talent. It’s the worst song ever released by Arcade Fire.

Chemistry: it’s a difference-maker on and off the court, and can salvage a season even when the wins aren’t coming in. It’s fun to watch and can swing a team over the hump of a talented playoff squad into a true contender.

It’s been a major theme this season, and it keeps popping up in the media feed. From the Jimmy Butler Effect, to Golden State, to our own Raptors and even the resurgent Memphis Grizzlies (!!) chemistry has driven some of the most fun storylines in the league this year.

The Butler Did It (Affected Chemistry, Jimmy “The” Butler Did That, haha, He Affect—guys, don’t leave)

Since Butler’s exit from Minnesota, the Wolves seem to be having actual fun playing basketball. Karl-Anthony Towns smiled for the first time in over a season, KG was in the stands wearing a “99” Prince jersey, and they even rattled off a couple of wins! Tom Thibodeau lost one of his all-time Thibs Types™, but maybe this will allow his grinch heart to grow a couple of sizes, and start embracing the team he has rather than trying to turn them into the 2012 Bulls. Since the trade, Dario Saric has been stealing minutes from Taj Gibson, which might just be a sign that Thibodeau finally realized that players’ ages are not some sort of real-life 2K rating. Plus we got to see Towns dunk so hard on Paul Millsap that all of Millsap’s fantasy stats for the night were disqualified.

The big question with Butler’s arrival in Philly was, of course, “how long until Butler calls a press conference to outline his specific hatred of each individual teammate?” Between Fultz’ and Simmons’ fear of shooting, and Embiid’s enjoyment of…enjoyment, it seemed like Jimmy would have immediate issues. Butler’s said and done all the right things so far though, between supporting Fultz, and draining a game winner against Charlotte. There may yet be growing pains, either through personality (how big a deal with this Fultz thing be?) or on-court product (it’s still hard to envision any game plan which takes the ball out of Simmons’ hands), but it’s looking all right so far.

“Steve Kerr says this has been his toughest stretch as Warriors coach”

First of all, that’s a real headline. Second of all, fuuuuuuuuuuuuck you if this is your toughest stretch as a coach. But third of all – GUYS Golden State is finally in-fighting and losing games! This will all blow over and they’ll for sure win another championship, but for right now it’s fun to watch and to speculate. On top of the inter-personal issues (read: two of their key players are weens), it’s really becoming apparent how much this is Steph Curry’s team and how essential he is to their system. The ball movement, the floor spacing, the calm demeanour comes from Steph. Klay and KD taking turns hoisting shots makes Golden State a far more human team. Steph’s constant motion, his ability to hoist 3s from the parking lot, and his promotion of ball movement, is what gives G-State their special something. KD is likely a better player pound-for-pound than Steph (though it might just be a difference of #2 to #5). And on a different team, maybe KD is the missing thing that puts them over the top. But for these Warriors, it goes how Steph goes.

Friendship Isn’t Everything

Yes it is. Don’t listen to me. Nothing is or could ever be as beautiful as the friendship between Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. This shirt comes close, but not really. But as we’ve seen from the Raps this season so far, sometimes you don’t need best-friendship to unlock chemistry. The additions of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green have awakened something with this Raptors team. We’ve seen Lowry playing, maybe, the best ball of his career. Serge is a new person playing at the 5. Pascal’s taken another step. We’ve even absorbed a slow start from Fred and Delon, and the GoDaddy-Cursed CJ, without much difficulty. And it’s clear we’re not even playing at our best yet. But there’s just…something, when you look at this Raps team defend, run the break, move the ball. The pieces are more complementary than they’ve ever been, and we have a bunch of different guys who mesh well together in different ways depending on what look we need. There have been troubling moments – some wildly unimaginative offensive sets from supposed offensive wiz Nick Nurse, and some difficulty executing across an entire game. But you get the impression that there’s another gear set to kick in at some point this season. With luck, the offense will become more consistently fluid (the open 3s starting to fall should help that considerably), and the Raps will get back to full health. When that next gear kicks in, the Raps will look (even more) like a serious contender.

Sure, They Can’t Score

But no one can score on them, either. Just a quick shout out to the old, forgotten, given-up-on Memphis Grizzlies. Their main lineup has only scored around 92 per 100 possessions, which is approximately what my team scored that winter I played pickup in a church basement. But that lineup also has a positive net rating, because they’re only allowing about 89 points per 100. The Grizz are somehow winning with a bottom 10 offense, and currently sit at FIRST in the Western Conference (as of this writing). Something’s working for Memphis, and it starts with the health of their veteran stars in Conley and Gasol. Both are having bounce-back seasons after dealing with injuries and general malaise. They look happy and healthy and are spreading that vibe across the team. People are settling into specialized roles: Shelvin Mack is giving them hot 3-point shooting, and a second steady ball handler with a comfy assist-to-turnover ratio. Add in Kyle Anderson, Garrett Temple and JJJ causing nightmares to their opponents on D, and Memphis is meshing in just the right way. They’re getting just enough done to come out ahead night after night. It may not last all season, and I think it probably won’t, but I would love to be proven wrong.

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