With practice winding down and the media just getting into the daily discussion with head coach Jay Triano, the gym erupted as DeMar DeRozan came in from behind an unsuspecting Patrick O’Bryant and dunked over the 7-footer.
“That’s a statement,” DeRozan said. “I’m taking all big men out. That’s my new statement. I’m going to get CB next.”
That little bit of foolishness is a perfect example of how much more comfortable DeRozan is, even on his own team, than he was the last time he came home with the Raptors.
“I think the first time I think I was just a month into my NBA career,” DeRozan said. “Now I’ve got a few games under my belt. It shouldn’t phase me as much this time.”
That first time the Raps were in Los Angeles was for a visit with the Clippers and DeRozan’s night lasted all of 11 minutes and four seconds in which he managed to score two points, commit one turnover and get called for two personal fouls. The Raps came back to win the game, but by then, DeRozan was nailed to the bench.
It wasn’t what you would call a memorable homecoming, and DeRozan is prepared to make amends.
“I changed it up a little this time,” DeRozan said. “Last time was a little hectic. I’m just telling everyone, call my dad. Ask him (for tickets). He’s fine with that. He won’t have no problem saying no.”
Triano said he was worrying about scouting reports he had to take with him for the trip and everything else except for the game against the Sixers the next day.
“Every Saturday night I go home but I don’t go home until I feel good about my coverages and everything,” he said. “When I went home Saturday after I finished my prep I wasn’t thinking about the next day’s game. I was thinking about: ‘Do I have that scouting report from the last time we played Portland?’ so my focus wasn’t good.”
Triano can only imagine what it had to be like for the players who were getting their families settled before embarking on the extended west coast trip.
“We tried at 9:30 (Sunday morning) to go over all our coverages and you could just see we weren’t very sharp and sure enough we made silly mistakes,” he said.
“You really cherish how much you miss home when you play away from home so much,” he said. “It just feels good to be back. It’s Southern California. You can’t beat that.”
Not that his previous homecoming was particularly memorable. In his first L.A. appearance as a pro, he had just two points in 11 minutes in a Toronto win over the Clippers. But that experience came on Nov. 13, about two weeks into his regular-season NBA career. And DeRozan said this time he has changed his approach to handling the inevitable rush of ticket requests from friends and family.
“I just told ‘em to call my dad. He’s fine with that,” DeRozan said. “He don’t have no problem saying no. Last time it was a little hectic.”
It is not as simple as saying the Raptors again have lost the plot in their half-court sets. Turnovers, uncharacteristically, have become a problem for Toronto, and turnovers lead to transition baskets. Still, there has been slippage defensively, and not just in one place.
And then there is this: More than four months into the season, the Raptors remain undefeated — 19-0 — when holding their opponents below the 100-point mark. For 20 straight games from Jan. 6 to Feb. 20, the Raptors scored more than 100 points and were 14-6. Simply, the Raptors win when playing competent defensively.
"We’re not helping each other any more," Wright said. "We’ve got guys that feel like you’re on your own for the individual challenge. That’s not the type of defence that wins basketball games. If we have Andrea [Bargnani] out there on a quicker, smaller guy, we have to help him, and vice versa. We can’t lose these games by one guy having a matchup problem. We have to make adjustments and we’ve all got to help."
Who’s hot? The Lakers have lost three games in a row, but Kobe Bryant has averaged 33 points per game.
Who’s not? Ron Artest is shooting just 3-for-19 (16%) over the last pair of games. Plus his defence has slipped, despite what his new hairdo might indicate.
The Raptors have played just one game with 14 healthy players this season, Hedo Turkoglu (ankle) the latest player to go down with an injury. He is listed day-to-day. With a victory Tuesday, Toronto could sweep the season series for the first time in franchise history. The Raptors held off the Lakers, 106-105, on Jan. 24 in Toronto. Chris Bosh leads the Raptors with a 24.3-point average, while Andrea Bargnani is contributing 17.2 points a game. Tuesday’s game will be a homecoming for rookie DeMar DeRozan, who helped USC win the Pac-10 Tournament at Staples Center last season. Sasha Vujacic, who missed the past eight games because of a right shoulder injury, could be back on the floor against the Raptors. Luke Walton (back) remains sidelined.
Since the Raptors have now lost 5 of their last 6 games, and dropped into 6th place in the Eastern Conference, discussion [i.e. A and B] has been rekindled regarding the proper use of DeMar DeRozan/OG, Antoine Wright/OG-SF and Sonny Weems/OG-SF.
When making an initial evaluation of these 3 wing players for the Raptors, this season, it can be helpful to consider a simple stat, like KPER, which is derived from readily available boxscore information.
[i.e. khandor’s Player Efficiency Rating = FGA-FGM + FTA-FTM + TREB + AST + ST + BS – TO – PF + PTS]
And what better tonic could there be than playing Toronto in LA? They present the perfect opportunity for several reasons:
- They’re not an absolute crapola team that the Lakers will find it hard to get enthused about.
- They’re not one of the overwhelmingly elite teams tho’. The way LA have played their last 3 games, we don’t want that. Yet.
- Chris Bosh is back, reinforcing point 1.
- This is a bit of a revenge game too… with the Raptors having defeated LA when they played in Toronto…
- Can LA really put up a 4 game losing streak? I don’t think so…
LA haven’t panicked yet, and I’m not about to run around screaming "THE SKY IS FALLING"!
Quite possibly the most important road trip of the Raptors season kicks off on Tuesday night in Los Angeles. Unfortunately for the Raptors it isn’t with a match-up against the Clippers, its a date with the defending champion Lakers.
Having dropped to 6th in the East, and only 2 games up on 9th every game from here on out is that much more important. Nothing would help the Raptors more at this point than a surprise win against the Lakers, something that would definitely provide them with some much needed confidence.
The top five Raptors according to 82games.com’s Simple/Roland Rating? Bosh, Evans, Belinelli, Johnson and Calderon.
Things get even more interesting when you look at the Individual Player Floor Time Stats, the top five being Johnson, Wright, Bosh, Belinelli and Calderon.
Now, I don’t pretend to know what all these statistics mean, or whether or not they actually mean anything what-so-ever, but when you look at all the players, you realize two things. The first is that all, but one, are at least average defensively. The second thing you notice is that Bargnani, Turkoglu, Jack and DeRozan are not listed.