One of the enduring images of the loss was provided during a timeout when Reggie Evans huddled with his beleaguered players.
While Bargnani is the undisputed go-to guy on offence, Evans is the one who has taken ownership of the team, a guy who is simply too indispensable to even ponder a trade.
The time will come when Evans must be moved to make way for the team’s young power forwards, but now is not the time.
“We’re not doing what the coach wants us to do,’’ Evans said, his language more suitable to any audience when compared to the colourful words he expressed to his teammates during the timeout.
“We weren’t playing weak side, we weren’t helping each other out. I was just letting the guys know. I was putting the thought back in their heads, how we got to do this, this and this.
“When the ball is on the strong side, we got to help the weak side.”
On the ball, off the ball, the Raptors head into Thursday’s late-night tip against the Lakers, a team that can’t defend over the period of an entire game.
A very, very tough matchup for the Raptors against the reigning two-time defending champs. The triangle offence has been a staple of Phil Jackson’s team, be it in Chicago or L.A., a triple post set that demands movement and reading defences. It goes without saying that the Raptors must protect the ball, limit points in transition and second-chance points. Even if they succeed, they’ll be in tough against a team that has started the year with five straight wins, none of which have been even remotely close.
True, there is little stopping the likes of Williams, Rondo and Paul. However, if Jack and Calderon are going to continue to produce as little as they have on offence in the first four games — it does not help, of course, that both are shooting the ball well below their career norms — the they-are-too-good-to-stop defence is not going to fly.
What is to be done? Well, Jack, who started 43 times last year, has started each of the four games this season, too. Would putting Calderon into the starting lineup help things? History suggests no, as Jack has been more productive as a starter than as a reserve. So, too, has Calderon, but at least he thrived backing up T.J. Ford at a time.
Should general manager Bryan Colangelo try to trade one of the guards? Well, he almost moved Calderon in the summer, and he surely is not hanging up on executives now, either. But Calderon is owed US$29-million over threes seasons, while Jack is owed US$15-million over the same span. Those numbers would suggest Jack would be easier to move. Neither player, though, is a 36-minutes-per-game guard.
It has only been four games, so it is too early to say with certainty that the two players cannot work in concert this year. But over the last season and change, the Raptors are 32-40 when both point guards have been in the lineup.
With Andrew Bynum’s return from knee surgery weeks away – even if he can finally take the basketball court next week – Lamar Odom will remain key for the Lakers – especially against a Toronto team starting plodding Reggie Evans at power forward. Odom leads the NBA with 70 percent field-goal shooting. The last player to shoot 70 percent from the field through the first five games a season (with at least 50 attempts) was Charles Barkley in 1991. The last Laker to do it was Wilt Chamberlain in 1968. Toronto is led by sweet-shooting center Andrea Bargnani (24 ppg).