The key may have been a meeting earlier in the day called by Reggie Evans. The eight-year vet didn’t want to divulge too much calling it team business, but based on his comments the night before when he questioned the team’s collective heart, Evans wasn’t patting anyone on the back.
“When you address the problem and the effort that was not there … I mean that effort last night you get an F-. I kind of got the guys together at the hotel and we had a little talk amongst ourselves. It was a good talk and it showed today.”
The first half wasn’t exactly stellar basketball but the final two quarters were solid-team basketall.
With the game up for grabs in the fourth, the Raps held the Sixers to 5-for-16 shooting and forced five turnovers.
It was everything the Raptors showed absolutely none of 24 hours earlier in that embarrassing loss to Washington.
As much as the win that followed that Evans talk last night, identifying that guy who is not only willing to step up but has the collective respect from the rest of the team that his words have an effect.
Sonny Weems, who had career-high 25 points in last night’s win, including a team-high six free throw attempts, said Evans is ideal for the role of team spokesman, team conscience, whatever title you want to put on him.
“He tells you right,” Weems said. “He is one of those players who doesn’t care if he scores at all. He just wants everyone to play defence. He doesn’t try to score. He gets a rebound and he kicks it out. That is something everyone respects about Reggie. He is a team player, the kind of team player you want on your team.”
And based on last night’s result, a pretty solid motivator.
“Most of the games we’ve lost, we’ve been close in. And it’s just those stops in the fourth quarter that we haven’t been getting,” said Sonny Weems, the Toronto swingman who had 25 points. “We got those tonight.”
They got them, perhaps in part, because Reggie Evans, the team’s designated rebounder — and sometimes, by the looks of it, their only rebounder — called a team meeting in the hours before the game. Coming off an embarrassing blowout loss in Washington on Tuesday night, Evans said that “something just needed to be addressed immediately instead of waiting on it.” That something was, among other things, the giving of an honest effort on both ends of the ball.
“It’s just knowing that (not playing hard) is not going to be accepted, is not going to be overlooked,” said Jarrett Jack, the starting point guard. “When your teammates bring it up, you kind of want to come through for them. . . . Reggie is one of the older guys; I think everybody respects what Reggie does out there every single night on the court.”
Evans urged his teammates to take responsibility for their actions. While some critics have railed against Jay Triano, the head coach, during the club’s 3-9 start, it was pointed out by a couple of players that hustle, at the pro level, mostly amounts to a personal choice. With Evans’ message delivered, the Raptors perspired for their paycheques.
“Man, we control our own destiny,” said Weems. “The coaches give us the plays; they’re not out there playing. We’re the ones out there getting the rebounds, boxing out. They can’t coach boxing out. They can’t coach playing defence, keeping your man in front of you. That’s things you’ve got to know on your own, and we’re athletic enough to do them.”
Certainly, the season is young, but Wednesday’s loss had to be the most depressing for the Sixers so far because it came against a team that may have as many shortcomings as they do.
Both teams played in fits and starts, and it became apparent early on the outcome would be decided in the final minutes. And when it came to gut-check time, the Sixers checked out, unable to get anything more than one free throw after Elton Brand’s layup off his own steal with 3 minutes, 36 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
"I thought we had some guys do some good things," coach Doug Collins said. "You look at the numbers and we’re plus-18 points in the paint; plus-seven on second-chance points; plus-11 points on turnovers."
But the Sixers were a big minus when it came time for a clutch basket.
"You’ve got to be able to close out games," Collins said. "That’s the essence of the NBA."
After Andrea Bargnani tied the score at 85 with two of his game-high 30 points, the Sixers had six possessions and nothing more than a free throw to show for them. There were three turnovers, including one each by their young guards, Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner.
"I think we are going to pay our dues and, eventually, we’ll get what we deserve," Turner said.
Holiday also missed a runner that would have given the Sixers the lead.
"It seems like we could have pulled it out," said Brand, who scored 27 points. "We get turnovers, and we don’t even get attempts at the basket. We were getting stops. We just weren’t converting on our end."
the results for the Sixers thus far this season have been mostly frightening. Last night Raptors forwards Andrea Bargnani (30) and Sonny Weems (25) combined for 55 points, going 22-for-36 from the floor. Bargnani had his way both inside and out against the Sixers’ front line, which didn’t get much bench help on the night, getting just 14 points and limited defensive presence.
"[Bargnani] is a tough matchup," said Collins. "There was no question he was a tough matchup. He is a 7-footer who can shoot, he can put the ball on the floor, he can post. On a critical play of the game, they went to him and he scored."
Which is the kind of player Collins desperately wants on his team right now.
But he doesn’t have it. So he’ll have to draw up ways to somehow find it. Probably by going back to the basics.
Being seven games below .500, seeing the team struggle in almost every category throughout each game, and watching the teams sub par effort demonstrates that players as a unit and individually are not responding to Triano’s system. It’s been a long three years under Triano and he’s been given more than enough time to adjust and learn the ins and out’s of being a head coach in the NBA. Not only Colangelo, but the MLSE staff has been patient with the Raptors coaching situation but now is the time to implement change. Although Triano has had tremendous success coaching at every level outside of the NBA, it seems he’s more suitable and effective as an assistant coach. Toronto needs a coach who has experience with a “retooled” or “rebuilding” roster and that can instill a strong, never back down, play to the whistle type of swagger in this young team. Jay Triano might not have the most talented roster in the league, but success is achievable through hard word. Vince Lombardi one of the greatest coaches in the history of sports said it perfectly “coaches who can outline plays on a black board are a dime a dozen. The ones who win, get inside their players and motivate.”
If you’re going to trade one of the PGs, it seems to me that Jack would be the more sensible choice. He’s got more value, due to the fact that he’s younger, has a manageable contract, is more durable that Calderon and can play two positions. Plus, as I mentioned above, I’d rather have a true PG leading this team than a combo guard who doesn’t make his teammates better, especially when you’ve got so many young players who are still developing their game.