Bargnani is used to being the focus now, it has been his role since Chris Bosh left town and he will have nights like these.
But, for DeRozan, this is all new.
And it’s extremely frustrating.
“Yes, the last two games teams have guarded me different,” DeRozan admitted.
“Just have to figure it out and things will come back around.
“It’s the NBA, everybody gets scouted (and that leads to teams playing) us differently. That’s what happens.”
Attempting to explain just what had changed, DeRozan said opponents are not letting him use screens as effectively as they were throughout his torrid January and the result has been less easy shot opportunities.
The next step in DeRozan’s evolution is to show he can respond to the new defensive looks he is facing by getting his shooting percentage up.
“I just have to figure it out and things will come back around,” DeRozan said.
The team will have to figure out how to stop losing.
The sting of 11 defeats in a row is being felt in the locker room.
“Everybody’s hurt and everybody’s upset that we’re losing. We don’t want to do this,” said Triano.
But the attitude remains at least a little optimistic.
“We’re bumped and we’re bruised but we’ve just got to keep going,” said the coach.
“Once we get that first win, I think we should be all right,” added DeRozan.
The 11 straight losses — the fifth-longest streak in the inglorious history of the franchise — have created all kinds of questions about what went on before and what will become as the team heads to a third straight spring without a playoff appearance.
While it was a stretch to assume a young team without a proven leader would be a legitimate playoff contender this season, what’s transpired lately makes the final 34 games of the season a test of their resolve, a referendum on the leadership of coach Jay Triano and general manager Bryan Colangelo and chance to further evaluate the fifth-youngest team in the NBA, a team that has been good at times good but not nearly good enough often enough.
“I’ve always said I don’t like to look back at how many it’s been, you have to keep looking forward,” Triano said even before the Raptors were hammered 103-87 by the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night.
“That’s the biggest thing for me: I want to see these guys get rewarded for the effort they’ve put in so far.”
But what of that effort? For the first half of the season, the Raptors were developing a reputation as a team greater than the sum of its parts, never conceding, and playing “hard” despite its relative inexperience.
That remains the case — there is no indication the desire to win has lessened but has it all caught up to them? Have the injuries that have robbed them of key starters and significant backups finally caught up to them? Have all the nights when they’ve played hard and not won finally beaten them down mentally? Or is it a regression to the mean for a team that’s not blessed with an abundance of talent.
“If you look at our schedule over the last two weeks, it’s been a little bit tough with the travel and the injuries that we have had and the number of minutes that we’ve had to extend for some guys I think that’s an issue but you know what, every team goes through that at some point of their schedule and you can’t use that as an excuse,” said Triano.
“This is the NBA and there’s going to be six in nine and there’s going to be stretches where you have to fight through and I think with our injuries we’re a little bit short-handed but that’s when other guys get a chance to step up.”
Toronto $12,207,400 Trade Player Exception. I think its highly unlikely Toronto will be a major player using their TPE at the deadline. While their TPE from the Bosh deal is large, they are only about $2 mil under the luxury threshold. As many of you know, for every dollar a team spends over the lux, they have to pay a dollar in penalty. Also, if a team is over the lux, they lose their lux share, which this year should be worth about $3 mil. If the Raptors used their $12 mil TPE, it would cost them about $25 mil .. pro-rated to about $16 mil. Other teams that don’t worry about the lux can make a better offer and still profit.
The Raptors cannot allow their opponents to dictate play in games. Recently, every game has seemed to follow the same story, the Raptors cannot stop teams from getting the shots they want and there is rarely enough energy and effort from the players to recover from this problem. This really came to a head in Minnesota on Saturday when they shot 33.7% from the field and turned the ball over 17 while losing by 16 to the lowly T’wolves.
Toronto should have 12 players available for this game and they have had a day off to recover so there are no excuses for lacking energy. What Triano needs to do is continue to search for people who are willing to play hard. If someone is not working then they need to sit, and it shouldn’t matter who it is; if Andrea or DeMar are not working hard enough sit them.
This game is a chance for the Raptors to reverse their fortunes and they cannot fail to show up for this game. A repeat performance of their game Saturday night will surely mean a loss.