Triano believes the Raptors can learn a lot from the Rockets.
"You can look at their size, but they execute very, very well," Triano said.
"They're going to make hard cuts, they're going to box out every single time. They do the little things, and those are things that we need to get better at."
Raptors star Chris Bosh concurred.
"They have a great system. They play hard and they play defence and if you have those things you can be a good basketball team," Bosh said.
The Rockets will be on national television today for the first time this season. It just won't be this nation.
Sunday's game in Toronto was moved to an 11:30 a.m. Central start to accommodate a CBC national broadcast in Canada.
“If you polled NBA players, I would say 85 percent of them would ban 12:30 starts,” Rockets forward Shane Battier said. “We're conditioned to have our energy peak at 7, 7:30 every night because that's when we need to be at our physical best. At 12:30, that's nap time for us most days. It takes a few cups of coffee and slaps in the face.”
With a 10-15 record, the season is at a crossroad. Currently, they’re a game back of the final playoff spot, but their next three matches are against the Houston Rockets, Miami Heat, and Orlando Magic.
All are formidable, so 10-18 or 11-17 is a real possibility. Then the hole to climb from just to make the playoffs would be very deep. Without a playoff race, questions about the future and Chris Bosh’s pending free agency would become overwhelming.
At a minimum, they must win two of the next three. An extended run wouldn’t hurt, either. Not surprisingly, change starts on defense. After conceding 117 and 111 points in their last two games, the Raptors have to get stops.
It has been discussed ad nauseum but the Raptors defense needs to improve. Last night while the Hawks still shot better than 50% there was at least one promising and telling sign all in one sequence.
Toronto plays decent defense and manages to trap the dribbler in the corner in front of the bench. The double team is well formed (hip-to-hip) and the hands are active, but not reaching in to commit the "bail out" foul.
They get exactly what they want in that the pass out of the double is a tough one and the next man is positioned perfectly to step into the passing lane for the interception.
OK, so much for the good stuff.
It then falls apart when the rotation is slow, the pass out of the double team is not intercepted and the Hawks manage to swing the ball right around the horn and it ends up in the far corner from where it started. It turns into a wide-open look as Atlanta knocked down a three-ball.
Good and bad all in one play and the end result is disheartening.
How soon we forget to look at how this team was built and get fixated on meaningless round numbers to draw our conclusions.
This Raptors team was built around offense. And when the Raptors hold their opposition to less than 115 points, they are a very respectable 10 wins and six losses. That is a lot of points, but these Raptors have the fire power to offset it.
Now when the Raptors give up a 115 points or more, they have zero wins and nine losses! Every team has its breaking point. And unfortunately the Raptors have been finding theirs far too often.
And so we wait to see how long this Raptors team will be without Jose Calderon. He exited practice early today (after spending the day on the sidelines), and had a smile for us, but didn't talk to the media. Coach Jay Triano said that Calderon underwent testing last night and will be re-evaluated in the days to come. Although it wasn't said, I wouldn't expect to see him for the next few games We will see how this all unfolds.
- Speaking of injuries, I think every Raptors fan and their dog wants to know what the deal is with Reggie Evans. I do, too. After being told there was no definite timeline for his return, I noticed that Evans had responded to a few fans via his Twitter page with January as a target date. When I inquired about this I was told that he will continue to be monitored until he is cleared to come back. In other words, we don't know when, but I'll keep you updated as soon as we do hear anything.
As for the Raptors, here's the rundown:
Jose Calderon and Reggie Evans departed practice early. They were both in full gear, but Jose didn't look like he was moving well and will likely be out for a while.
Evans was in full gear and had shoes on both feet for one of the few times this season and continues to maintain that he will be back next month.
Jarrett Jack jammed his finger in practice, but was only mildly concerned about it and it won't keep him out of the lineup.
I'll have more later, need to craft some brilliance for tomorrow's fish wrap.
The Toronto Raptors are not a good basketball team.
An over simplistic statement, perhaps, but after Chris Bosh uttered as much following Toronto's last meeting against the same Atlanta Hawks that thrashed them last night, little of substance has occurred to change that interpretation. The question becomes, then, what is there to do about it? To that end I've got some bad news for you, Raptors fans, because the answer to that question is simply 'nothing.'
There are certain guys that I don’t think there is anyway Oklahoma City as a market would have a chance to land a player like that. I don’t think Chris Bosh is in that category. He just spent his whole career up in Toronto. Toronto’s a great city, but in terms of NBA marketing appeal it’s not up there. It’s in Canada. He’s been up there and he’s been happy for the most part until this year. So I think Chris Bosh is a little different. His character and the things that are important to him are not the same things that’s important to some of the other marquee players. So I don’t think it’ll be out of the question that Oklahoma City can make a run at Chris Bosh. I know they’re in a good situation as far as the cap. They’re not going to get LeBron James. They’re not going to get Dwyane Wade. You have to start thinking about who else could have the kind of impact on our team that we need that can get us over the hump.
How many Raptors fans do you think would be upset if they “only” won 62 games in the regular season and “only” made it to the Conference Finals in the playoffs? I believe that a huge majority of Raptors fans would be ecstatic with such a result this season.
The players, however, should be setting their targets as high as they can, which would be a championship.
Somewhat ironically, however, the best way for them to achieve such a goal is for them to not think too much about it in the present. If they start thinking too far ahead, especially while playing in games, they can lose focus on the task at hand.
The players should take things one game at time and then, within each game, they should put their complete focus on what’s currently happening at any given moment.
Prior to the 4-team trade that involved the Raptors, Magic, Mavericks and Grizzlies, it was also suggested here that Toronto should:
1. Trade Jason Kapono.
2. Either: A. Re-sign Shawn Marion; or, B. Let him walk away, as an UFA.
3. Retain the services of their own Free Agents.
4. Retain the services of useful still-young players like Kris Humphries and Roko Ukic.
5. Retain the services of an experienced, NBA proven and successful head coach who prioritizes Team Defense and Rebounding.
6. Obtain the services of a cost-effective veteran Back-up Point Guard, Combination Off Guard/Small Forward, and Center.
If the Raptors would have followed those recommendations, instead of:
1. Drafting DeMar DeRozan [No. 9, overall]; and,
2. Acquiring the services of Hedo Turkoglu, Jarrett Jack, Antoine Wright, Marco Belinelli, Amir Johnson and Sonny Weems; and,
3. Giving Jay Triano a contract extension.
Jose is our best shooter and should not care if he takes 10 shots in a quarter. If they're open, I can safely say, any raptor fan would live with his shot. Hedo is our second best player but defers to almost everyone on the quart. Both players need to be selfish. Meanwhile we see Weems and Wright having no hesitation to jack up as many shots as they can. Even when Jack was shooting bricks, he never hesitated to shoot it. One thing that stands out to me about the raptors is you never really see anyone other than Bosh go off for big games. We're too much of a TEAM for that. Our best games are when everyone is in double digits rather than 2-3 guys having monster games.
Depth. With Jose Calderon leaving the game for good after aggravating that sore hip with just seven minutes of play logged, the Raptors were scrambling and ended up with as many assists as they had turnovers (17 of each). Starting point guard Jarrett Jack had double the turnovers (four), than he did assists (two). For the people out there who knock Calderon, keep in mind he has the 5th highest assist-to-turnover ratio in the league. Defensively he can be a liability, but when it comes to bringing a steadying hand on the offensive end, it helps to have him out there, calming things down. Sometimes safe is better than style. The Hawks meanwhile, showed their depth last night. With their bench scoring 55 of their 111 points, they had scoring from all over, including a crazy 13-for-15 effort from the floor from the reserves in the first half.
As basketball becomes increasingly global, teams throughout the world are competing against the N.B.A. for top players. Many European teams pay most, if not all, of the salaries for their American players up front, and often pay their local taxes. But many European teams do not provide a pension.
Brown is not alone among American basketball players abroad with scant N.B.A. experience who realize, perhaps too late, the benefits of a pension system.
“There is nothing like what the N.B.A. provides to whoever qualifies for the minimum pension,” said Maurizio Gherardini, assistant general manager for the Toronto Raptors and former general manager for the Italian team Treviso.
Sonny Weems finishes a break with a dunk, a pretty impressive runout on a night when they had so few, and he’s got a couple of teammates near the basket with him and, I think, maybe two Hawks.
A perfect time to apply some pressure in the backcourt, to stay up, maybe force the Hawks into a turnover and keep the momentum.
The coaches thought so, too.
Jay’s up off the bench, Marc’s up off the bench, Reggie Evans is up off the bench screaming “stay up, stay up, stay up” while waving their hands indicating they would like the Raptors to, you know, STAY UP!
What happens? All the guys in the front court retreat, the Hawks walked the ball up the floor and take the air out of the moment.
Not a big thing but something.
Franchise has seen enough. After a second straight lopsided loss to the Hawks, it's clear that this team needs some major changes if they hope to return to the post-season…
If I knew how to use youtube, I would create a Hawks highlight mix for this game, throw down some hip hop beats in the background, and inter-splice Dominique Wilkins quotes. Josh Smith dunk. "Man the Raptors just don't play defense." Al Horford lay in. "if you move the ball, this team will not stop you." Mo Evans drive. "This team does not try." I think this could have real potential. Toronto fans might like it at least.
Because man, is Toronto bad at defense. This truth might have been best personified by the Hawks in the half court, pass to a wide open Mo Evans who had been drilling three pointers. Not only did Toronto not close out on a hot shooter. They did not move. So Mo took the slightly higher percentage shot, which was a baseline drive and slam. "No resistance."
Calderon came in for Jarrett Jack with three minutes left in the first quarter and then left with 71/2 minutes remaining in the second quarter. He did not play any more and to hear head coach Jay Triano tell it, it might be a while before he plays again.
Triano was asked if he thought it would be a long-term injury. " I don't know because I haven't talked to anyone yet, but I would speculate yes," Triano said.
In the previous two games when Calderon was inactive because of the sore hip, the Raptors went with Jack starting and Marcus Banks as his backup. But Banks was inactive last night, which forced Triano to go with Marco Belinelli.
If Calderon's absence is long term, Triano will have to decide between Belinelli and Banks to back up Jack at the point.
Toronto the city was getting some love from Atlanta centre Zaza Pachulia yesterday on his Twitter account. "Can we say that Toronto is mix of Euro countries? I see all kind of people here. Actually it feels good. Toronto has a STYLE. Love it."
Pachulia is from the Eastern European nation of Georgia.
Head coach Jay Triano believes he has a pretty good feel for his nine-year veteran and what makes him tick but like everyone else still is waiting to see the complete package.
“He’s a guy who wants the basketball in the pressure situations,” Triano said. “He wants to contribute. But yeah, he’s probably a guy who has to be challenged. Hopefully, we are starting to do that more and putting him in the situations where we’re relying on him at critical points in the game.”
To date, Triano feels the team has got the ball in his hands when they needed to, but admits there is room for improvement.
“I’d probably like to see him have it a little bit more, but again, did he have it at the end of the game in Phoenix? Yes,” Triano said. “Did he have it at the end of regulation in Washington?
Yes. In overtime (in the same game)? Yes.”
Starting centre Andrea Bargnani also was back in the lineup after missing one game because of a sore right ankle. The Raptors clearly missed Calderon’s ball distribution. The Hawks finished with 25 assists to only 17 for Toronto.
None of Toronto’s starting five were outstanding, though Bargnani had 17 points (with three rebounds) and small forward Hedo Turkoglu had 12 points with seven rebounds and eight assists.
As for Bosh, it’s all relative. He recorded his NBA-leading 21st double-double with 14 points and 10 boards. He had averaged 25.8 points and 14 rebounds in his past four games.
Starting small forward DeMar DeRozan seems to be hitting the wall. After picking up only eight points on Wednesday in Milwaukee, the rookie managed just two Friday night, shooting 0-for-5 from the floor in 23 minutes.
"You look at the things that happened," said Chris Bosh, when the trend was mentioned to him. "They got on a fast run, there's no energy in the building, there's no energy from us. I think they get some wide-open shots, easy looks – they can just do what they want without being challenged.
"We just have to get up into guys and challenge them, especially when they start knocking down shots. It's like, `Okay, they're knocking down shots tonight, let's get up into them and make them do something they don't want to do' because that's what teams do to us."
"Our effort was there at the beginning but it slowly [began] to lack as the game went on," swingman DeMar DeRozan said.
He is correct. The Raptors kept touch with Atlanta in the first quarter, but the Hawks outscored the Raptors 28-14 in the first eight minutes of the second quarter to break the game open.
That stretch included two Atlanta offensive rebounds, four Toronto turnovers and a pair of Hawks three-pointers.
"I think we get a little deflated," Raptors coach Jay Triano said. "They hit a couple threes and we start to hang our heads a little bit and we don't have that same energy. We have to match [their] energy. At that point of the game, it's quite a few of the guys off of the bench coming in. Whether it's starters coming back at that point or guys that are coming into the game, we've got to fight and scrap for every loose ball and rebound."
Hawks score 49 off the bench to power past the Raptors
Zaza Pachulia talks about Atlanta's 111-89 win over Toronto. Pachulia scored 14 points off the bench in the victory.