It has been a tough start for the Raptors, a team with nine new faces. They played seven of their first 12 games on the road, including a tough four-game Western Conference swing, and now play six games in the next nine days, including three in a row on the road starting tomorrow in Atlanta. Triano said the tough schedule and the new faces have slowed the gelling process. Even when they have a day at home to practise, as was the case yesterday, the head coach is reluctant to drive his team hard on defensive drills because of the glut of games on the horizon.
"We don't want to play a lot of zone if we haven't had a chance to practise it. And the next full practice we get is Dec. 21," Triano said. "I don't remember the last time we had (a full practice) where it hasn't been monitoring minutes because guys have to get rest. The schedule has been tough. But this is the NBA and we have to find ways to get around that."
They know. They know what they can and cannot do, they know what teammates can and cannot do. They are quite hard to bluff.
Look, the simple fact is this team doesn’t have a lot of great individual defenders and if anyone thought they did, they apparently hadn’t been watching.
Jay and his staff have decided that it’s not a bad idea to junk up a game every now and then, switch on screens a few times, show a few times, play a handful of possessions in a zone (usually after timeouts when opponents have likely called a play set up to work against man defence); anything to gain even a slight edge for a little time.
Maybe that works for a little while but it seems to me that clouding the issue with a variety of defensive schemes runs counter to finding one that works and learning.
On the other hand, maybe there simply isn’t one that works well enough and you gotta do what you’ve gotta do.
"Do we think about tweaking things a little bit? Yes," Triano said after the 7-11 team worked out at the Air Canada Centre yesterday. "But at the same time, we were committed to this from training camp and we want to give it a chance. If we need to tweak it at some point, that's what we'll do.
"We've got guys that are maybe not good individual defenders or (who) struggle guarding certain things and we have to provide help and assistance for them and I think that's up to me to find out how to best utilize these guys at both ends of the floor."
Who's hot? Since coming back from an injury that sidelined him for the start of the season, Antawn Jamison is shooting 50% from the field.
Who's not? Caron Butler is averaging just 16.4 points per game, his worst scoring output since 2004-05.
"Change doesn't always equal success," forward Chris Bosh said . "The only change that we can do right now is in the way we play, and that's it. Yeah, it has to come from within right now.
"You can't just let [a losing streak] dictate the whole season. Sometimes people are ready to panic and that's it. Come later on in the spring, sometimes you forget about this if you're successful."
It is hard, though, to imagine a more fortuitous time with the way the Raptors are playing defence. The problems are well documented: guards penetrate too easily, there is not enough help when that happens.
Recently, Toronto's transition defence has fallen apart, too.
With a month gone from the season, the Raptors are allowing 109 points per game, second worst in the league, and their opponents are shooting 48%, the fifth-worst mark.
But the second half of each of those losses has witnessed the NBA's fourth highest scoring offense grind to a halt. The ball seems to stop moving and the team's strength becomes its weakness. There have been a slew of turnovers, 30 in total over the three games, with a sub 20-point quarter thrown in during every contest on a combined 38.6 per cent from the floor and 18.5 per cent from behind the arc.
For a team that needs its offense to stay in games because the defense is not quite there yet, these numbers and this trend of poor second half production are not good.
How do you fix the second half offense? First off, convince the players that they can't all try to do it after one pass. With talented offensive players, it is common for each one to take it upon himself to make shots and get the team back in the game. This is where the team's strength becomes its weakness because the ball stops being shared.
The Toronto Raptors will trade Chris Bosh: The Raptors are four games under .500, and they don't look like a team that can challenge in the playoffs. If the trend continues, Toronto General Manager Bryan Colangelo will be smart to trade his star power forward since Bosh can leave via free agency after the season.
Firstly, let me get this out of the way, I fully agree that benching Bargnani will make the Raptors a better basketball team. Those who’ve read my thoughts on Bargnani in the past know why I think that (negatives defensively + rebounding outweigh the offensive contributions). However, while it helps, it becomes one of those situations where the phrase “short term gain, long term pain” applies.
Andrea Bargnani is a 24 year old seven foot sweet shooting center who scores 18-20 points per game and has potential. While he has serious flaws and while there are many teams who will be turned off those flaws … there will always be GM’s who see value + upside in a prospect like Bargnani. Seven footers who can score the ball like he can are rare + valuable.
The Raptors will need to dig deep during these games to break this trend of having a hard time in back-to-back nights, and these games will be no cakewalk. With four of the six games being on the road, and the fact that the Raps haven’t been good on the road and are 0-3 in back to back games, this is going to be a down-right tough time for Canada’s team!
I would naturally think that there would be an adjustment period when you bring in that many new players, but I mean, how long does it take guys to gel? How tired can Hedo be? People have been using that excuse since the summer. Oh, Hedo’s tired. He played a lot of ball for the national team, plus the playoffs last year, etc. Yeah, he’s also a professional athlete. It’s not like he was just sitting on the couch and all of a sudden was called into basketball action for his country. How tired can a guy be?
Moving Jack into the starting lineup would improve the defense of the starting lineup. The cost, of course, is on the offensive end, where Calderon is the better passer and shooter. Proponents of this point to the fact that Turkoglu can initiate the offense more, which would increase his value on the court. It’s really hard to argue the facts of this argument, because it’s all true. Jack is a better defender and would improve the defense of the starting lineup and moving Calderon to the bench would improve the offense of the second unit. It isn’t a perfect solution, however, which I’ll get to later.
I came into the week expecting a 2-2 split or even a 3-1 week. My assumption coming into the season was that this team would be alright if they escaped November with an 8-10 record. Things look a little different coming off of a 1-3 week and entering December 7-11. None the less, it’s way too early to panic, for the fans anyway. As for the team, they should be playing with a level of urgency before a manageable 7-11 record turns into an un-saveable disaster.
“I think we’re close. It’s just a matter of finding the best way to manage the personnel we have on the floor, at both ends of the floor,” said Triano. “Do we think about tweaking things a little bit? Yes. But at the same time, we committed to this (new system) through training camp and want to give it a chance.”
The Raptors get a bit of a break Tuesday when they host Washington at the Air Canada Centre. The 5-10 Wizards are not lights out on offence, averaging just 95.06 points — a good chance for Toronto’s new “defensive principles” to finally shine through.
Worst defensive player: Tough call, because they are so many of them. I say a tie between Bargnani and Calderon. Jose can’t guard a chair, and Bargnani has to be the worst help defender in the league. It’s real telling when of all people, Hedo Turkoglu has to yell at Bargnani about helping out on defense. Jose has always been a horrible defender, but he usually compensate on the offensive end. Right now he is not playing well on that end either. He has horrible instinct on defense and anyone with two feet can get by him.
The larger question for the Raptors is Chris Bosh, and whether it’s time to try to make a major deal. The Raptors’ comment always has been if Bosh, one of the major free agents this summer, chooses to leave, he’s best off with a Raptors sign and trade to make a probable maximum contract. That’s likely true, though you also wonder if Toronto would look into a deal at some point to remake their team.
It’s been a disastrous stretch for the Raptors with Antoine Wright telling Toronto reporters, “You've got guys in here eating popcorn, joking around before the game. And we go out there and lose by 40. It's a direct result of what's going on before the game. Guys not coming in with the right mind frame.” That was after a 35-point loss to Charlotte, after which the Celtics beat up the Raptors and Paul Pierce was called for a technical for standing over and taunting a fallen Bosh with no teammates reacting.
They had a better reaction on Sunday against Phoenix, when the Suns' Amar'e Stoudemire took a flagrant foul on Bosh. Toronto point guard Jose Calderon exchanged some words with the Phoenix big man.
"That's cool. It's good. But we still lost the game," Bosh said. "It's great to react like that. It shows the camaraderie of the team. There's not much you can do after you get up. You just get up, and that's it. Just to show the passion I think, people appreciate it and the fans get into it, and that's more for the intensity of everything."
# Bosh took 4 shots in the 1st quarter: the aforementioned dunk, a wide-open lay-up (that me missed) in which he blew past Channing Frye, an open jumper in transition and a face-up jumper contested by Amare. Bosh also made it to the line once on a shooting foul on another play where he beat Frye to the hole.
# Bosh finished the quarter with 3 points and 0 rebounds. Amare finished with 8 points and 2 rebounds.
For all the adjustments people think will magically change this team, the Raptors biggest problem is the attitude and culture on the team right now. Defensive assignments are being missed over and over again as the five guys in red look at each other dumbfounded “isn’t that your man?” Players are more interested in their points than hustling back to make stops, and the lack of focus and intensity is obvious. It’s palpable in the stands and it comes through loud and clear in high def for the folks at home.
Someone needs to man up and soon, because December starts with seven games in eleven days, including three back to backs. Good luck guys.
At 7-11, there is nothing more that head coach Jay Triano would like to do than to implement some tweaks on defence – including playing more zone.
Triano says the difficult schedule has thrown a wrench into that.
“We don’t want to play a lot of zone if we haven’t had a chance to practice it, and the next full practice we get is Dec. 21st” says Triano. “I can’t remember the last time we had one [full practice] where it hasn’t been monitoring minutes because guys have to get rest. The schedule has been tough, this is the NBA and we have to find ways to get around that.”
On the Raptors' third quarter collapses: "I don't know. Me and coach taked about it. I think his patience is starting to wear thin with what's going on in the third quarter and you know, it might be a quicker lineup change or quicker insertion into the second half lineup or possibly even not starting the second half with the same starting unit that started the game. Whatever we have to do to get that one thing turned around, we need to go ahead and get it out of the way."
RaptorsHQ had a chance to go one-on-one with Marco Belinelli pre-game, and Grant Hill post game yesterday…
After the cameras and most of the media huddle left Bosh's scrum, a handful of us stuck around and he was asked whether he ever asks if there can be anything else he can do for this team in addition to what he's doing: "I ask myself. I ask the coaches. I talk. I can say that. I talk on defence, I try to help different guys out, I try to be in the right position and at the same time I try to box out and just be a solid player on defence. I don't know what else… I've got to talk to Jay and see."
Earlier in November, Bryan Colangelo was quoted in an interview with Eric Smith [FAN590], as saying:
“ … we’ll know what we’ve got by the end of the month.”
For the benefit of those now looking ahead in the schedule:
You wonder how they are going to turn this thing around as well. They do have 2 games with the Wizards with a game vs the Hawks in the middle. The Wizards are so dysfunctional in comparison to the Raptors it is like night and day. Lot's of folks were high on the Wizards in the pre-season. I was not and they are a mess and that mess begins and ends with Gilbert Arenas. There is the usual number of injuries and Antwan Jamison has been on fire since his return from injury. The Hawks are a team that I do not like at all but that being said even I have been impressed with them this season. So if folks are waiting for a stretch of games for this team to turn it around it is a long wait. They play 4 in 5 nights in this upcoming week. 3 of those on the Road where the Raps are just 2-8.
In 18 games this season, Calderon's production is nearly identical to what he did last season — except a glaring drop from 8.9 assists per game to 6.4. It's nice that everything else is in order, but his assist production is the primary reason he was drafted in the early rounds. I really thought he would keep that up, despite the additions of Hedo Turkoglu and Jarrett Jack, but they've clearly chipped away at his dime dealing. I think he'll still have a month or two where he posts close to nine assists per game, but I've seen enough to believe that Calderon's teammates will keep him from maxing out this season.