Toronto Raptors 103, Real Madrid 104

There was a little too much inflated optimism going about around the club and I’m sure with a loss to European Club Real Madrid, the balloon of false positives has been popped. In the European training camp all I’ve been hearing is this:

  • How great Bargnani is.
  • How great our PG duo is and how we really have two starting PGs who can do no wrong.
  • Garbajosa is like our Ben Wallace
  • What a genius Mitchell really is for holding us together last year
  • How nobody’s giving us any “respect” in the Atlantic
  • And other such uplifting theories that make you actually believe that we have a great team going into the season

Now while all the above may be true to some extent, it’s time for a big fat reality check. It’s important to figure out why we lost to Real Madrid, a very average European team with a helter-skelter style of play that relies almost exclusively on outside shooting and a big man that takes more time to turn than an 18-wheeler. The core of our problems tonight were on the defensive end which is no surprise but the level to which Madrid dominated the glass during key parts of the game was disheartening. How easy it was for Louis Bullock and Lous Llull to completely break down our perimeter defense and then kick it out to Charles Smith for wide open threes was reminiscent of Jason Kidd kicking it out to Boki Nachbar.

It’s evident that Bargnani will improve his defense this year but it’s even more evident that it might not be to the level which is demanded by the current roster. With that in mind we’ve got to look at some real options of bringing a tough interior presence which can help clean the boards, now Garbajosa might have the heart of Rudy but he’s still on the smaller/leaner side and is far from anything imposing. It happens that Sam Mitchell recognizes this:

“We’ve got guys who can shoot the basketball, we have guys who can pass the ball, we have to find guys who’ll go in there and do the dirty work, play that physical role for us.”

OK, so at least there’s acknowledgment that there’s a problem which is the first step to fixing it. Get it done Bryan.

Let’s turn our attention to some players that played like they were auditioning for the D-League, namely Joey Graham. Leaving numbers aside for a moment (2-8 for 5pts in 23 minutes), Joey’s got that ‘bull in a china shop’ look. He’s not quite sure how to break down his man so he just tries to force his way past him (usually towards the dead-end of the baseline) and throw up something similar to a shot-attempt. His other offensive move is the straight-up jumper from 18 feet which has a success rate of somewhere in the low 30′s. Simply put, he’s just not good enough to help us. There isn’t one part of his game which is superior to an average NBA player which unfortunately for us makes him the worst kind of trade bait.

I’ve never liked that we’re a perimeter team, I’ve lived with it and been glad when we’ve won but something about operating from 18+ feet most of the time gives me an uneasy feeling. Maybe that’s why it’s acceptable to tolerate TJ Ford’s occasional wildness, he’s one guy on his team whose first option is to get to the rim, not Bosh and definitely not Bargnani, our two cornerstones. Tonight the outside shot wasn’t going down (Kapono 3-10FG, many wide open, Delfino 0-5FG, Calderon 2-6FG) and the rebounding was missing and we were getting outhustled so it’s somewhat surprising that we didn’t get blown out. But then again we’re an NBA team and are supposed to win these games, even without Bosh. Aside from him, there isn’t a legitimate run-stopper on this team, somebody you can give the ball to who can put an end to the 8-0 run by scoring or going to the FT line. Even Bosh for that matter will rely on the outside shot in these situations but even then he’s the best we’ve got.

Maybe I’m overreacting, after all it’s a preseason game where the primary goal is to get your run in and not win the game but even then you still want to come out of it with a good feeling. That good feeling was nowhere to be found, except maybe in TJ Ford who was dominating the game in the first quarter but was taken out for Calderon because that’s just how Sam does things, doesn’t matter who’s in form and who’s playing well, you got to make the substitution. Hopefully this trend doesn’t continue in the real season. Why is Anthony Parker unheard from for looooong stretches of the game? He took 3 shots in 27 minutes, Juan Dixon managed that in 3. If there’s anybody who’s got the green light to do something it’s him, again, this is one of those things you just hope doesn’t happen in a real game.

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