It’s very early but anybody a bit shocked at our 28th place defensive rating? That’s points per 100 possessions allowed. The new poll begs for your opinion on whether the issue is chemistry, laziness, inability or strategy. So far I’d classify it as the inability to execute the strategy. This leads into the question whether the strategy is even suited for the players we have and whether they buy-in to what is being preached. Laziness is the least favorable of the options and only becomes a factor if players don’t believe in the system they’re being asked to play; although we’ve seen some questionable effort in stretches, I think it’s way too early to label this unit as lacking effort.

First up, could Vince Carter be welcomed back in Toronto? According to the Orlando Sentinel, it might happen on November 22nd when the Magic make their second and last trip to Toronto. The Raptors will first ask first ask Carter if he’s OK with it and if so, they will go ahead with it. This only makes bloody sense to me since he’s, you know, the greatest Raptor of all time.

A couple of small things came out of practice yesterday, Triano was asked whether he’s considering starting Antoine Wright over DeMar DeRozan to tighten the defense. He said:

“Not for a second. No. I think the rookie has been very good in limited minutes and we’re happy with where he is right now. I don’t think he’s hurt us at the beginning of games. Antoine is going to play minutes. I’d rather have Antoine playing at the end of the game, getting stops than at the beginning.”

It’s a dumb question to even pose to the coach at this point. DeRozan isn’t the reason we got beat by the Magic or Grizzlies, he’s been consistent in what he’s doing, granted, he doesn’t do much and tends to take baby-steps but that’s the right way of bringing along a rookie. Yanking him after three games would not only send the wrong message to the man, but also hurt the rhythm he’s in. If anything, we should be incorporating him more in the offense instead of running two-man games.

Triano was also asked to name the reason we lost the Magic game and he said…wait for it…dribble penetration:

“Dribble-penetration was our biggest problem last night. We showed them three clips, I think we had 12 we could’ve showed. This means guys have to help and that’s how they allowed to kick for threes. We worked on our close outs today. We have to get better as a team. We’re not a super-quick team so we have to get better at closing out. I think when they make a few shots, you close out a little bit more, your hands are up and you become susceptible to more blow-bys.”

There are two main ways you judge a coach, there’s the technical aspect where you evaluate what he is able to bring to the playbook, and then there’s what he can bring out of his players. In other words, is he able to get acceptable effort out of his players. Sam Mitchelll was fired for both these reasons and Triano will face the same challenges, although, he is better equipped in terms of personnel. Dribble penetration is caused when you either don’t have the ability to defend or you’re just not trying hard enough, too early to say where are current failures lie but I hope it’s a system thing. The podcast touches more on Calderon and Jack’s ‘s effort and ability.

Jarrett Jack also talked about how annoying it is to get lit up by JJ Reddick and that we all need to see that something so disgraceful doesn’t happen ever again in our lifetime.

“You have an individual responsibility, but your team has a collective responsibility, so even if you don’t do your individual part to some degree, then that’s where the guys on the court with you have to pick you up where it’s needed,” Jack said. “It’s tough for anyone to do anything perfect all the time. You might not get beat for a basket, but you might get beat for a dribble so that someone may need to step up so we can force [the ball] to the weak side so we can force a contested jump shot.”

If I had to spend one whole practice on defense, I’d teach our guards how and when to fight through a screen, our bigs when to hedge and recover, and the rest of the guys their help responsibilities given matchups. Isn’t that what pre-game coaching is all about? Help off of Player A, don’t help off of Player B. If Player C has the ball in the post, the double (if we decide to) should come from Player D and so on. Most of the work on defense is spent on figuring out a game plan for how to help a beaten defender, and all through Mitchell’s reign we never managed to even slightly improve in that department. Our success this year will be dependent on whether he is able to convey what works perfectly in his mind to the players, and that is a great challenge.

Triano then touched on Bargnani’s rebounding which is always a contentious issue around these parts as most recently heard in the podcast:

“He needs to rebound the ball better. He knows that. He’s one of our five men and we expect that. He’s a scorer, we know that. This is a part of his game that he has to get better at. I think everybody got caught blowing him up after Game 1. The thing that keeps Andrea on the floor so that he can score is the way he rebounds and defends. It’s a work, not just for him, it’s for everybody. We all have to get better at it. I don’t think Chris is defending the way he should be defending yet, but we’ll get there.”

A-Dub believes that this team will always be poor defensively as long as Andrea Bargnani plays high minutes, unless of course he changes the way he plays. There’s merit in that argument and the case being made is that since we have a lot of offensive options, you’re better off having a defensively stronger player playing center while giving the 15-20 shots Bargnani would take to someone like, say, Turkoglu. You gain on defense while maintaining and/or improving offense. I try to counter but the argument is quite strong.

The argument that a player like him needs to produce extremely efficient offense for him to be an overall positive is also discussed and a similar theory is applied to Calderon. Bargnani’s man-defense is commended but fair caution is given that it need not be confused with overall defense, which is something very different. DeRozan, Triano, Belinelli, Turkoglu and Jack are also discussed with favorable reviews for three of them.

Anyway, have a listen if you got some time, he ends the podcast by pointing out to a play which speaks volumes about Bagnani’s mental state when it comes to rebounding. You can click the play button below or listen directly in iTunes. You may also download the file if you’re on a mobile device.

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