Weekly Countdown (cont.)
3 Reasons to visit Toronto in winter
3. Chris Bosh keeps improving. Bosh reports none of the usual fatigue from playing for the Olympic gold medal last summer. His scoring (24.1 ppg), shooting (52.6 percent) and rebounding (10.4) are all up.
"If anything, it helped me,'' Bosh said of his summer with USA Basketball. "You put some of the best players in the NBA on the same team, so when we started practicing it became like a competition. Who can be the best basketball player, the best defender, the best scorer -- unspoken things that guys try to compete over. We didn't take any days off. We tried to guard hard every single time we stepped out on the floor, whether it was a game or practice. We showed great concentration, but at the same time it was fun.''
Said Raptors coach Sam Mitchell: "Someone reminded me the other night that Chris is still only 24 years old. He's been around a while, but he's still a very young player. He has a chance to be something special. I tell him this all the time: He can be an All-Star, OK. But there's another level he can get to. And I think he's trying to get to another level.''
Bosh should continue to develop a more complementary relationship with Jermaine O'Neal, who is averaging 13.1 points and 7.5 rebounds as he recovers from two years of injuries while fitting himself in.
"It was a little tough at first trying to get used to him,'' Bosh said. "We need to get him the ball inside, and I wasn't really used to playing with a guy who can do well in the post like that.
"But as time has gone on, we've gotten more time together, and I see his tendencies. I know the different spots to be at when he has the ball, so I can make more space for him. And I see what he does when I have the ball, so it's working out pretty well.''
2. Jose Calderon may be the best point guard in the East. He leads the conference at 9.0 assists and is No. 1 among NBA starters in assist-to-turnover ratio (5.1 to 1).
"He's a scoring point guard who can really get people the ball,'' O'Neal said. "He's not a real big break-the-defense-down type of point guard.''
Calderon drew the attention of Kevin Garnett, who guarded him in the third quarter as the Celtics were coming back Monday from a 15-point deficit against the Raptors. Garnett waved a finger in his face while picking up the defense full-court, but Calderon yelled right back at him. The officials did Toronto a favor by declining to interrupt the exchange by whistling Garnett for taunting: It was a defining moment for the Spanish guard.
The crucial improvement for Calderon has been his three-point shooting; he made 16.3 percent as a rookie in 2005-06, but this year he's hitting better than 40 percent just as he did last season.
"The first year was bad, terrible,'' he said. "Coach was really hard on me every time, and I don't know, I thought about getting back to Europe because maybe it wasn't my time to be here. But I worked hard during that summer, and everything paid off, and I'm feeling happy to make the decision to stay in this league.''
After sharing the position with T.J. Ford the past two seasons, Calderon suddenly needs backup help. He's averaging 36.3 minutes and appeared exhausted in the fourth quarter of the loss at Boston.
He's too busy to worry about making the All-Star team for the first time.
"I don't know what's going to happen in February,'' Calderon said. "Right now, I just try to make plays, make things happen for my team, and if the coaches and the people vote for you, that's perfect. But I don't feel upset if I don't go. It's not in my job to decide.''
1. Toronto has become a stable market. A decade ago, it was viewed as a fragile NBA environment, but that changed with the rise of Vince Carter, who drew national TV coverage in the States while introducing Canadians to the NBA. They remained plugged into the team during the fallow years before the emergence of Bosh and team president Bryan Colangelo, who was hired from the Suns in 2006.
American players don't complain nearly as much as they used to about playing in Canada, though financial concerns remain.
"What got them afraid was the tax situation of having to pay Canadian taxes and U.S. taxes,'' O'Neal said. "It's gotten better, but it's still there. That's why guys are still veering away from coming across the border to Toronto.''
O'Neal said he loves the city and its support of the Raptors.
"The diversity in the city has been amazing,'' he said. "It's basically like New York City, but a cleaner version. I'm pretty happy about being there.''
"I knew about the [tax] situation before the trade was made,'' said O'Neal, who declined to talk specific numbers. "We tried to make some things happen [to ease the burden]; it didn't happen. But sometimes you've got to take a couple of steps back in order to take five steps forward. I've made a lot of money in this league, and I just wanted to be somewhere where I had an opportunity of winning. Sometimes you've got to pay the price financially to get to where you want to be.''
2 Perspectives on 'lame-duck' status
2. From Kings coach Reggie Theus, who is in his second and final guaranteed year with Sacramento (the Kings can choose to exercise their option to retain him next season): "I've had other jobs. This is not the end-all for me. If I had to quit today, I could get another job. I've worked extremely hard for everything I've got, and I know from my experiences I can only control certain things. I believe that Geoff [Petrie, the GM] and the Maloofs [owners Joe and Gavin Maloof] are just looking for some stability, some consistency. I believe that if I do my job, I will be rewarded for it. And I don't mind working for it. It doesn't bother me one bit. I don't feel like a lame duck. My players don't treat me like that.
"Yeah, it's a negative tag, but listen, I had to go work for free to become a coach. I volunteered as an assistant at a Division II school [Cal State-Los Angeles] when I was starting to coach. I coached in the ABA, I coached AAU basketball, I was assistant coach at Louisville and then I was two years at New Mexico State [as head coach]. I don't mind working for my stuff.
"My job status does not define me. I'm the same guy I was last year, the same guy I was before I got this job. I try to create an element of truth in the locker room where I can look my guys in the face and tell them how I feel, and I accept when they look me in the eyes and tell me how they feel, which sometimes is not always good. I think I've earned the respect by doing it the hard way. My owners and Geoff, they have to know that I trust them, and that if I do my job it will be fine. And if I don't, we'll move on.''
1. From Hawks coach Mike Woodson, who survived as a lame duck last year to lead Atlanta to the playoffs; he received a two-year extension and the Hawks are 6-1 this season: "It is not an issue. I don't think any coach in this league goes into practice any day or to a game thinking about losing a job. That's you guys. That's the media that always puts the spin on guys because they don't win at a high level.
"I don't know what people expected when I took this team over. It was a young team. You had to grow with the team. I've been in this league 26 years, man, and I've never seen a young team win at a high level. It takes time, and people are just so impatient that it makes you sick sometimes. But it doesn't change my direction and how I feel as a coach because I know the dynamics of the sport. So I just try to stay the course. You can't get rattled. I'm not a guy who can easily be rattled, so when people talk about your job, it's them talking. I'm still going to continue to do my job as long as I'm under contract.''
1 Thought on Antonio McDyess
1. Should he be allowed to return to the Pistons? McDyess is expected to re-sign with Detroit 30 days after the Pistons traded him to the Nuggets, who released him in a buyout of his contract. If so, we surely then will hear informed insinuations that McDyess's return was negotiated as part of the trade, as well as calls for the NBA to outlaw such shenanigans.
I couldn't disagree more. It's hard enough to make a trade in the NBA because (in most cases) the salaries exchanged must be of equal value. What happened between Detroit and Denver is not such a bad thing. The Nuggets met the necessary financial obligations of acquiring Chauncey Billups while saving more than $8 million on McDyess' contract; the Pistons got Iverson with a chance at retaining McDyess; and the league benefits from a trade that creates newfound interest in both teams.
A trade like this is good business, which is good for the NBA. Why would the league rewrite its rules to hurt its own bottom line?