With Sonny Weems having turned in awful performances in four of his past five outings and with Linas Kleiza running hot and cold as well, Wright, arguably the best defensive player on Toronto’s roster, might be an ideal card for head coach Jay Triano to play.
Triano was pleased with Wright’s four-steal effort against the Pistons.
“Those guys (Wright and Joey Dorsey) practise (hard) every day and I threw them in the game and they brought an intensity, and that intensity becomes infectious,” Triano said.
Wright is limited offensively, but as Triano has repeated often this season, offence is not Toronto’s problem (Toronto is 13th in the league in offensive rating, but just 25th in defensive rating).
Wright’s length and athleticism improves the team’s ability to defend on the perimeter and beyond.
Kleiza struggled through a 16-for-44 shooting slump before going 15-for-22 the past two games.
“We knew (a Kleiza breakout) was going to happen,” Triano said.
“We knew he was struggling and his confidence was down but I played him quite a bit in New York and I didn’t think he played well (3-for-11 from the field)… Sometimes when you play a guy through the tough times like that, he’ll bounce back. I think he had a little something to show Denver (in a 26 -point, 12-rebound performance) and he was very good.”
Kleiza was quiet early against Detroit as the Raptors fell into a massive hole, but came alive with 11 points in the second half.
Bayless had made just 39 career three-pointers before joining the Raptors, but has already nailed 13 for the team, adding another dimension to a game that has largely been of the drive-and-finish or drive-and-kick variety.
The former Arizona star has carried a chip on his shoulder since slipping in the 2008 draft to No. 11 after being expected to go in the 4-7 range.
That drop and receiving up-and-down minutes in Portland and later New Orleans clearly didn’t cause young Bayless to second-guess his abilities.
“Confidence, well that’s never been a big issue for me; I’ve always got a lot of confidence,” Bayless said after the victory over the Pistons, when asked whether his performance will buoy him.
“(The comeback) is more a team thing. Now we know we can do it.”
Point guards are supposed to lead their teams and just a few weeks in, Bayless is already doing his part.
He was one of the most vocal players in the locker room at the half and let his teammates know everybody could do a lot better.
“The thing was, we weren’t communicating (on defence) and when you don’t communicate, it’s tough,” Bayless said.
“I wasn’t talking, it was the whole team. At halftime we were able to figure it out and make stops. I know when we talk we’re good, that’s what I said (in the room), that we can beat this team.”
After misfiring on trades for Jermaine O’Neal and Shawn Marion and the Hedo Turkoglu disaster, Colangelo has rallied with the drafting of Ed Davis at 13, the Leandro-Barbosa-for-Turkoglu heist and the acquisition of Bayless.
The run will continue if he is able to flip the Chris Bosh trade exception and/or Peja Stojakovic’s expiring contract for valuable assets or a standout player.
The Barbosa/Bayless backcourt has been very strong for the Raptors and odds are Jay Triano trots it out far more often from here on in.
Julian Wright has turned in two solid outings in a row and has proven himself to be a valuable player in certain circumstances.
The 6-foot-8 forward has spent long parts of the season buried deep on the bench but he provided 17 minutes of excellent defence—including four steals—in Saturday’s come-from-behind win in Detroit.
His defence was also a big part of a late comeback that fell short Friday against Denver.
However, it’s difficult to see just where Wright can get regular minutes.
There is no appetite among the coaching staff to make any significant changes to the rotation on a regular basis, leaving Wright behind Sonny Weems, DeMar DeRozan, Linas Kleiza, and Barbosa when Calderon returns, in the wing rotation.
The Raptors came back from a ridiculous 25 point deficit in the 3rd quarter on Saturday to (rather comfortably) pick up the road victory. Toronto and Detroit played each other close in the opening quarters of the first and second halves (combined 2 point differential), but the Pistons destroyed the Raptors in the second quarter (+18), only to give it all back in the fourth (-20).
Overall, Toronto has played some efficient offense. Last year, they quietly produced one of the league’s best offenses north of the border, fueled by the scoring of Chris Bosh, the offensive rebounding of Amir Johnson, the long range shooting of Andrea Bargnani, and the passing of Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack. This year, Bosh is gone, but the Raptors rank just behind teams like the Thunder and Mavericks in overall offensive efficiency.
Interesting to see the Raptors are about $3.5 million below the luxury tax.
What does that mean? Unless an all-star is coming here, the Bosh trade exception won’t be used this season to bring in a player. No way they go over the tax for the first time ever with this group, even if a low playoff berth in the terrible East is up for grabs. Expect the Bosh TPE to be used in the off-season once Reggie Evans, Peja Stojakovic, etc. (if they aren’t traded first) are off the books and the luxury tax is far off.
What might happen is a Stojakovic trade, as long as the player(s) coming back make less than $3.5 million more than Stojakovic.