Jose Calderon

Sorry in advance if I don’t finish this article because my conditioning is totally off, it’ll probably take me till mid-November before I can write a grammatically correct sentence but I’ll try.

We should’ve taken those early pre-season games more seriously, we could use a couple right now just so Triano can validate whatever he’s teaching in a real setting without it having to count against the record. Forget about the defense for a second, we get the gist of what he’s trying to do there, the talk is that everything’s just dandy and if it weren’t for that gosh darn fatigue, we’d be solid as rock. The question is what the offense will look like. He acknowledged as recently as a week ago that absolutely no work was being done on that side of the ball and that he was quite pleasantly surprised how easily the team was scoring just by making basic reads. That’s the extent of what our offensive preparation has been. When Triano finally does call his first play, it’ll be against the Cavaliers.

There are too many questions and not enough answers with this team. Just like last year, we’re hoping for average players to have great years, if not career ones. Last year we handed the brunt of the wing burden to Kapono and Moon, hoping that a year’s worth of experience and some new thinking on part of the coaching staff could break them out of their ruts and convert them into real players. It didn’t happen, this year you can replace Kapono with Belinelli and Moon with Wright. Throw in DeRozan instead of Parker and although the rookie is a long-term upgrade, he is a complete X-Factor in the short-term. If you consider the best-case scenarios for these players, all is roses, but if you start thinking average ones, we’re in a heap of trouble with the burden falling on our big three.

I’m not being negative, I’m being realistic. From what I’ve seen of this team so far, we are nowhere close to being prepared enough to play high caliber teams and it’ll be nothing short of a small miracle if we don’t get murdered in the first dozen games. That early schedule is so tough that we’d have to be scrimmaging from day one of training camp to have a chance at full preparedness. The key will be to maintain effort, not let your head hang, keep faith in your system, and keep on running what you’re told to run. The good part about such a brutal stretch is that we’ll get to see the inner core of what this Raptors team is made of.

With so many questions hanging around, Bosh was asked to pick which one is most urgent:

“I think just our conditioning level. I think we get a little tired, the ball stops moving and we don’t make smart decisions on defence and offence. On offence anything can happen, but we have to stay solid on the other end and there were a couple of sequences in Sioux Falls where we gave up a lot of second chance points. It’s all about chemistry and a little bit of conditioning too. The coaches understand that and we did a lot more running today. We have to challenge each other and really push ourselves to get to the point where we’re not making those mistakes.”

Practical scrimmaging, yes, we need more of that. Triano’s early philosophy was to teach and then practice, and a lot of time was spent in the classroom, perhaps it should’ve been teach while practicing. Nothing improves chemistry like scrimmaging and from what we’ve seen thus far, we got a long ways to go. But as I said, we’re about to get baptized by fire in the first two weeks so that should be fun. Oh, BTW, I can already hear the excuses from all the major media types about the team.

Turkoglu also spoke about the conditioning:

“It was really important for our team, conditioning-wise to be really effective on both ends of the court. We are young and athletic and we really need to take advantage of that on both ends of the floor. Getting stops, we have to outrun people on the other end and we have to run back on defence, too. All-around it was a good conditioning practice….We are still not 100% on our conditioning. All around, fatigue or carelessness, we have to be smarter in those situations. Especially at the end of game situations. I know fatigue is going to be there all of the time when you’re playing hard, in a last game situation. That’s why we are working right now on conditioning wise, so we don’t have that fatigue problem at the end of games.”

OK, fine, but this is getting a little ridiculous. I’ve scoured other NBA teams’ blogs and not anywhere did I find conditioning to be such a major issue. Really hoping this gets sorted out in the next few days but not exactly sure how long it takes or should take to get ready for game-shape, maybe someone else can comment.

Triano on why this team can’t throw a rock in the ocean:

“I think it’s a lot of our guys trying to find rhythm right now. They’re trying to find out where they are going to get their shots from. We’ve got some guys shooting shots they won’t take during the regular season and I don’t want to take that away. Guys spend all summer working on their game and this is the chance to show it. Now is the time to tighten the screws as far as who is allowed to take what shot. Do I want to shoot threes? Yes. Do I want to shoot a better percentage? Absolutely. I thought our looks in Minnesota were good looks. I thought we had wide open looks and I cant ask for more. We’ve got to make them.”

That quote can be better summarized by: We didn’t make shats.

Earth to Marco Belinelli – wake up and do something, this is his statline from our four game losing streak.

   Min  	FG  	3Pt  	FT  	+/-  	Off  	Reb  	Ast  	TO  	Stl  	BS  	BA  	PF  	Pts
BOS 14:41  	1-5  	0-1  	0-0  	 -3  	0  	1  	2  	0  	1  	0  	0  	0  	2
HOU 26:59  	4-9  	0-0  	0-0  	 -5  	0  	2  	4  	2  	4  	0  	0  	2  	8
BOS 19:01  	1-2  	1-1  	0-0  	 -4  	0  	2  	1  	2  	0  	0  	0  	1  	3
MIN 8:32  	0-1  	0-1  	0-0  	 -1  	0  	0  	0  	1  	0  	0  	0  	0  	0

Is this guy going to make me miss Kapono? We’re counting on him to be an efficient scorer – low shots, high productivity, good athleticism and acceptable defense. If he can’t provide that spark off the bench we’ll be left asking too much of Jack, who is not a scorer but a playmaker. Belinelli’s a player that needs to be harnessed properly, if you ask him to go out there and play by making “reads”, you’re asking for trouble because his idea of a good read is a fadeaway three. I kid you not. Triano’s got to channel his ability properly, easily one of his biggest challenges. Here’s Triano saying that the reason Belinelli only played 9 minutes against the Wolves was because he was trying to get Wright some run:

“He wasn’t playing well. The last game was a little tougher because we wanted to get Antoine as much run as we could and find out where he was fitness-wise because that was the only game we had that chance. Marco played a little bit earlier and we had a chance to see what he could do.”

So while the team’s working away on conditioning and trying to run three suicides without collapsing, there’s also the question of the backup big. Early money was on Reggie Evans and he played as advertised, but you realize the reason he was only playing 14 minutes in Philly was because he’s tops on the team in fouls per 48. Although the rebounding and tenacity is welcome, you can’t rely on him for scoring, put-backs and block shots, which is where Amir Johnson comes in. Belinelli is my first concern but Johnson is a very close second, I’ve already pointed out his rebound positioning problems, weak finishing, unrefined post-moves and a shifty jumper, but the good news is that he’s not far off from making an impact. It comes down to the instruction provided by the coaching staff and whether they can convey to him what he has to do in order to play smart positional defense which maximizes his athleticism and reach, something he has in spades. As A-Dub told me, he’s this close to being Jerome Moiso and this close to being Keon Clark.

On to a sickness note, Jarrett Jack, Antone Wright and Alex English weren’t with the team on Sunday. They called in sick and the team didn’t reveal anything about it being the flu or not.

Other than mulling over stuff like this, all we can do is wait. And make predictions. Opinions of what this team is capable of seem to be divided and instead of sitting on the fence, it’s time to commit and answer 10 questions. This will serve as official record.