It’s another loss but the spark we played with was good enough for me, especially when the normally stoic Patrick O’ Bryant shows signs of life. Spurred on by the unlikely closing combination (even for preseason) of Amir Johnson, Sonny Weems, Marcus Banks, Quincy Douby and POB, they almost pulled out a win with a spirited 4th quarter rally that came up just short for a second consecutive night. One thing is for certain: this team has some exciting players. It doesn’t mean that the Raps are going to be the 2009 version of the Showtime Lakers, but they have some basketball players which is more than what could be said of last year’s crew.
One player that stood out tonight was Sonny Weems. He ran the wing well and was the beneficiary of some accurate passes on the break courtesy of Banks and Jack; but more importantly, he was active on defense. Dare we say Jamario Moon but with a nose for the rim? Too early to say, but he definitely seems to have a smarter head on his shoulders. It looks like he can hit an open shot but so could Joey Graham, I’m not sure about his overall NBA game and I’m not one to fall in love with pure athletes (see Fred Jones). It does seem that he has the potential and motivation to put it all together than his previous incarnations. He just seems more fluid and knows how to run the lanes, let’s hope this isn’t just his pre-season form.
Reggie Evans brings that JYD element that Toronto fans seem fall in love with. As mentioned by others, the dude is everywhere and maybe the main reason why he only plays 15 minutes is because there is no way he could possibly sustain that for a minute more. Those 15 minutes though, goodness. I do hope that his energy is contagious on this team, but you can already see some of the flaws his critics point out. For one, he tries to finish every steal or offensive rebound he comes up with. I don’t know if it’s tunnel vision or a sense of entitlement, or currently the lack of a better option, but he just barrels his way in and you can tell he’s trying to draw some contact and some free throws. The refs (replacement or not) don’t but it. I’m not sure why he tries to get fouled considering his ability to shoot free throws, but it’s a bad feeling, to gain a possession like that and throw it away. Sure it’s sometimes better to do something before the defense can react, but you have to think a quick pass or two could do wonders in those situations. The replacement refs got to Reggie tonight, and he got teed up, but quite honestly I can’t blame him. More on the refs later.
Andrea Bargnani looked good in his limited time. A willingness to take it to the hole is welcomed. The rebounding, well that’s still coming around, right? I would like to see a preseason game or two where they tell Andrea to just play just like Reggie Evans and try to grab every board and do nothing else. But that won’t happen and I’m getting to used to it. I know there’s a whole legion of Raptors fans that are with me on this one and I suggest that they get used to it too and start appreciating whatever else he brings.
Of the remaining two bigs, Amir Johnson definitely stood out. He showed some good hustle and the ability to provide weak-side blocks one in a while. He surprised a couple of Sixers with quick hops to take away sure dunks, something he did the night before too. The thing is that he is quick, really quick for his size. That’s what the Pistons loved about him but the production wasn’t consistent and hence the multiple trades, hopefully the Raptors see the side Milwaukee and Detroit never saw . He hasn’t shied away from starting a quasi break and he doesn’t look out of place doing it. His athleticism, quickness makes me think he can guard SFs which should allow him to eek out a few more minutes on this roster. Whatever Triano does, he has to find a way to get something positive out of all that size and athleticism. But that’s what they said about Jerome Moiso as well. Just saying. POB scored a quick low post bucket today and showed a little bit of intensity at the end of the game, intensity that he usually saves for arguing foul calls. Of which there were many, many today.
The refs were brutal. They remind you of that supply school teacher that followed everything by the book. Or maybe they know that this is their 15 minutes of fame and the regulars will be back before the games mean anything. At least they were consistent. They called EVERYTHING. At some point you have let minor stuff pass for the benefit of the game’s watchability. It even made me miss Joey Crawford. Hell, more of these whistlefests and even Tim Duncan will be missing Joey.
Let’s move on to the guards, shall we?
Not much to say about Jose. Seems like he’s fighting the ball a little bit but he’s the kind of guy who needs to have the starters around him to do well. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but for what it’s worth, JJ didn’t do much either in limited minutes, although I do think he set the tone in the 3rd quarter during a Raptor run that brought the team back into the game. Quincy
Douby played okay, his defense was good and he looks like he can make some plays, but he has to realize he can’t finish the way he did in summer league. It’s not going to be the same result, Quincy. Marcus Banks, he tried really, really hard. Good job, Marcus. I really don’t even know why they are playing the guy as much as they are. Heck, I’d rather see DeRozan running the point. I mean out of 1000 possible scenarios of how the season will play out, can you figure out even one where Marcus will play in something other than garbage time? Let me know, I can’t think of one.
Demar Derozan played better today. He started off the game as well as one would hope, and ended it about as badly. In what was an eye-brow raising move, DD was brought in with about 6 minutes to go and then pulled after a couple of minutes. Not even. Sonny Weems hadn’t even made into Marcus Banks territory at the end of the bench before he got tapped to go back in. We found out why in the post-game presser…DeRozan was sent to the corner for being a bad boy. Initially it sounded like a harsh reaction, but you know what, good on Jay. You need to deal with these things early before they become habit. Jay was specific in his criticism: Settling on a couple of plays. Not initiating something towards the rim. I think DD is afraid of failure. He’s afraid of trying something that has a level of risk associated with it. I know it’s a Jordan commercial and it was probably the best one featuring him: The one about failing time and time again, and that is how you learn to succeed. That’s what he’s got to learn. It’s just how he’s wired, but you can see flashes of the talent. You can see by this treatment that the Raptors brass has high, high hopes for this kid. Hope he can handle it, as AltRaps alluded to in the Roll Call.
Marco Bellinelli played well. He showed great basketball IQ with an assortment of drives, fakes and his shot looks good. I think he will bring more offensively than Delfino did. Defensively, he has active hands and showed good instincts on a steal later in the game. He’s got that deceptive quickness and body control that allows him to dribble-drive effectively. He also knows how to kick out to the open man in those situations which Delfino wasn’t good at. I think his passing is an underrated asset and something that Jay will call upon time and time again this season. I need to see if he can continue this with more playing time and against serious competition.
A quick observation the Sixers. You don’t get rid of a guy like Andre Miller. They look like a team that is quick, athletic but will lack the guidance of an experienced floor general. Don’t know if they will meet expectations.
Jay Triano, welcome to the big leagues. I’m not talking about the quality of the play calls, but that shiny number you had on today. You’ve come a long way from being fired for Leo Rautins.
Ed’s Note: We’d like to welcome A-Dub, a long-time partner-in-crime and “day one” Raptors fan to the RR crew. – Arse