TORONTO - As Dwane Casey reflected on some of his teams most pleasant surprises nearly halfway through the campaign, his eyes widened and a big smile came over his face as he mentioned the name James Johnson, a player that used to elicit a very different reaction from the Raptors head coach. Wholesale Asics Shoes Free Shipping . Nearly three years ago, Johnson - in his first stint with Toronto - was pulled from the Raptors starting lineup after getting into a verbal altercation with Casey during practice. Now, with the 27-year-old forward turning the page as both a player and as a man, Casey has given serious thought to reinstalling him as a permanent member of the first unit. Johnson, one of the teams most consistent two-way performers through 38 games, had made seven starts in place of the injured DeMar DeRozan, averaging 11.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, 1.0 steal on 63 per cent shooting, before returning to the bench in DeRozans return on Wednesday. With DeRozan healthy again, its no surprise to see Casey go back to his original lineups. Its the right move, at least for now. The Raptors have had all kinds of success with their starting group of DeRozan, Lowry, Ross, Valanciunas and Amir Johnson. That unit has won more games together than any other starting lineup in team history, going 29-21 last season and opening this year with a record of 11-2 before DeRozans injury, adding another victory after the 100-84 win over Philadelphia. Last season they outscored opponents by a team-best 43 points in 717 minutes together, each of them averaging career-highs in scoring and minutes played. This year, they were a plus-31 entering Wednesdays game. Torontos only five-man lineup with a higher point differential (plus-46) is its original second unit - Vasquez, Williams, Patterson, Hansbrough and James Johnson - a group Casey is just as motivated to keep together. Its been one of the leagues best off the bench. So, Johnson goes back to the bench in the hopes that DeRozans return will help spark the teams ailing defence and restore a sense of normalcy in Caseys rotation. But, in light of Johnsons improved all-around play, expect the leash to be shorter than it has been in the past, especially on the slumping Terrence Ross. Ross shooting and focus on defence has been up and down in his third NBA season. After averaging 36 minutes a night over the final five games of December, the 23-year-old has logged under 30 minutes in each of the first six contests in January, playing less than Johnson in three of the past four. Is there anything Johnson could do to supersede Ross in the starting lineup? Continue to play the way hes playing, Casey said in response. I mean theres nothing etched in stone. I really just think that [Johnson] being that wild card off the bench really kind of sets the tone for us, for that second unit. But never say never. I dont want to put myself in a corner and say its never going to happen. Its possible Casey may be trying to light a fire underneath Ross. When hes locked in as a defender at his position and hitting shots from the corners Ross is a crucial cog in the first unit, spacing the floor and opening up driving lanes for DeRozan and Lowry. In 213 minutes together this season, theyre shooting 49 per cent from he field and 43 per cent from three-point range while getting to the line at an impressive rate. Even on Wednesday, as DeRozan returned, Ross continued to struggle. He made one of four shots in just 18 minutes after getting the hook early in the third quarter and sitting out the rest of the second half. Of greater concern to Casey, he missed a number of defensive assignments and seemed a step behind for most of the night. Instead of Johnson, who logged just 15 minutes in his return to the bench, Lou Williams was the biggest beneficiary of Ross second-half benching. Williams played 23 minutes, scoring 19 to lead Torontos second unit. Every young player goes through it, Casey said after the game. You’d have to ask him what he’s going through but I just felt that Lou had it going, DeMar coming back in the picture and it’s just hard getting all those guys back in there and we’ve got to go with the guys that are producing on the defensive end. Changing up the two units, starting Johnson for Ross, would require a leap of faith on Caseys part. That group - Lowry, DeRozan, Valanciunas and the two Johnsons - has logged just five minutes together this season, hitting four of 10 shots, missing their only three-point attempts and holding opponents to 2-of-9 from the field. The sample size is far too small to read into its results. One thing is for certain, the Raptors would lose some floor spacing by making the switch, a legitimate concern with DeRozan and Lowry requiring room to operate on the perimeter. However, as long as the teams defence and rebounding continue to suffer and Ross remains erratic, the lack of outside shooting may be a risk Casey is willing to take. After all, Johnson has become more than just a defender and rebounder. Casey has raved about his improved offensive discipline, decision making, and passing, even out of the double teams he has seen recently. I just think hes more in a facilitating role when hes with the first group, Williams said of Johnson. With the second group we expect him to be a lot more aggressive, take more chances on the offensive and defensive end to anchor us. And on the first group I just feel like hes one of the guys. Obviously thats a group where Kyle leads and James just plays more of a defensive role on that group [He brings] everything, Lowry said. The intangibles, shot-blocking, big body, a playmaker. James can make plays. If people don’t notice, he can pass the ball. He can get to the basket. He can finish. He covers a lot of ground for our mistakes. For now, its Ross job to lose but whether or not he loses it may have more to do with the teams overall performance than his own. As long as the team is winning and the defence improves with DeRozan back, Casey will likely opt for status quo, perhaps continuing to cut Ross minutes if his slide persists. Altering the rotation all together is a risk that may only be worth taking if DeRozans return doesnt turn out to be the cure to their recent ailments. Discount Asics Shoes . PETERSBURG, Fla. Wholesale Asics Shoes . He had even more fun Friday. Coming off a sensational rookie season, Spieth opened the new year by never coming close to bogey and making a 12-foot birdie putt on the last hole for a 7-under 66. http://www.cheapasics.com/ .The law passed on Friday, in a 128-62 vote in the lower chamber of parliament, was prompted by FIFA bribery scandals in recent years.Switzerland-based sports leaders such as FIFA President Sepp Blatter and IOC President Thomas Bach are now classed as politically exposed persons in wider legislation covering money-laundering.There has been trade speculation about Carolina Hurricanes center Eric Staal recently – and even though he has a no-move control, it’s impossible to resist considering the possibilities. The organization appears headed towards a full-fledged rebuild, and Eric Staal – whose $8.2-million AAV contract expires at the end of the 2015-2016 season – is an asset that could be shopped to potential suitors. If Staal’s ever made available, expect numerous playoff-hopeful teams to show interest. A lot of this is because Staal has been durable for most of his career and has been a regular point-producer for as long as he’s come into his first-line, twenty-minute-a-night role. He’s averaged about 2.1 points per 60 minutes over the last seven years at five-on-five, which is in the upper echelon of forward talent. Like most players inching toward their 30’s – he actually turns 30 Oct. 29 - Staal’s underlying numbers have been in decline. It’s the type of trend less concerning if you’re buying Staal as a true rental at some point this season, but far more concerning if you are considering negotiating a new contract. Let’s focus on basic numbers at 5-on-5 for Staal since the 2007-2008 season to capture where things have slowed. In the table below, you’ll find his per 60 scoring rates and shot-attempt rates. So, for example, in the 2007-2008 year, Eric Staal scored 2.1 points and attempted 17.2 shots for every 60-minutes played at even-strength. Staal Shooting Year Per 60 Scoring (EV) Per 60 Shot Attempts (EV) 2007-08 2.1 17.2 2008-09 2.1 22.4 2009-10 2.1 18.9 2010-11 1.6 16.9 2011-12 1.9 14.8 2012-13 3.3 13.9 2013-14 2.0 14.3 The year-to-year, downward trending shot-attempt rate is alarming. Further, consider this: from 2007-2010, only six forwards in the league generated more shot-attempts per 60 than Eric Staal. From 2010-2014, 75 forwards have been better in the shot generation department. Only Alex Ovechkin, who still ranks first in the league over that span, has experienced a bigger decline in the individual shot-share. The point-scoring hasn’t caved yet, but it’s interesting to note that his high-scoring 2012-2013 was created almost entirely by unsustainable on-ice shooting percentage. That year, Eric Staal and his linemates – primarily Jiri Tlusty and Alexander Semin - shot a ridiculous 12.8% at 5-on-5, masking his individual shot generation numbers. One wonders where the point-scoring will go in a year where the percentages slide unfavorably, particularly since the shot generation has started to slide. Let’s look at a couple of additional data points for Eric Staal. In the table below, I have compiled Eric Staal’s RelativeCorsi% and Relative Offensive ZoneStart% over the same time span. RelativeCorsi% is simply a comparison of a team’s Corsi% with the player on the ice, versus a team’s Corsi% with the player off of the ice. The higher the RelativeCorsi%, the more favorable the numbers are when the player is on the ice. As for Relative Offensive ZoneStart%, it gives us a quick glance to how the player was deployed. Players with high numbers here start a lot of shifts in the offensive zone relative to the team average, deployed in a more offense-oriented role; players with low (negative) numbers here sttart a lot of shifts in the defensive zone relative to the team average, deployed in a more defense-oriented role. Asics Shoes From China. Staal Relative Stats Year Relative Corsi% Relative Offensive Zone Start % 2007-08 +4.6% +2.5% 2008-09 +15.2% -1.0% 2009-10 +6.7% +4.1% 2010-11 +11.3% +1.4% 2011-12 +6.6% +2.1% 2012-13 -4.2% +5.3% 2013-14 +6.8% +16.8% The RelativeCorsi% has held up for the most part, but the last two years make you wonder. The acquisition of Jordan Staal in Carolina has really given the coaching staff the luxury of deploying Eric Staal in big, offense-heavy minutes, but raw point-scoring aside, Staal’s 2012-2013 season wasn’t impressive – the Carolina Hurricanes were actually 4.2% better in Corsi% with Eric Staal off of the ice. These poor possession numbers in 2012-2013 were followed by extremely high offensive zone start numbers (+16.8%) in 2013-2014, which does raise the question of whether or not the coaching staff identified a problem and felt the need to insulate Eric Staal’s line. Is there something to the radical change in deployment, or are the last two years simply noise? If I’m a front office considering trading for and extending a player like Staal, it’s precisely the kind of question I need to find an answer to prior to making a move. There’s one other metric I like to glance at when it comes to pinning down whether players are losing a step via aging, and that’s penalty differentials. It makes intuitive sense that players who aren’t as fleet of foot will see a spike in penalties taken, and a drop in penalties drawn. Staal Penalty Differential Year Per 60 Drawn Penalties Per 60 Taken Penalties Per 60 Differential 2007-08 2.1 0.7 +1.4 2008-09 1.6 0.7 +0.9 2009-10 0.9 1.1 -0.2 2010-11 1.1 1.1 0.0 2011-12 1.1 0.9 +0.2 2012-13 0.9 1.5 -0.6 2013-14 0.7 1.2 -0.5 The early years of Staal’s career saw him drawing penalties like a maniac and basically never being shuffled to the penalty box. Put six years of mileage or so on Eric Staal’s body, and the story has flipped. He doesn’t draw virtually anything these days, and he’s committing penalties at nearly double the frequency. I think there’s merit to conducting this sort of multi-level data evaluation to any player, but it’s infinitely important when you’re talking about trading likely multiple assets for a player nearing the end of his long-term contract. In the case of Staal, you’d like to think that the trading team would like to extend him, too. In Staal’s case, I don’t think there’s any question he’s still an impact player. On the other hand, knowing what we know about the aging curve and the deterioration of players in their 30’s, there’s reason to be concerned about Staal before you even get into the declining shot rates and increased insulation and growing predilection for taking penalties. Thus, teams looking to go for it may be right to pursue Staal as a hired gun at the trade deadline. Teams looking to improve long-term? There may be better options. ' ' '