I haven’t seen Band of Brothers, couldn’t get past the first 10 minutes. But I reckon it’s one of those shows when a man in injured in war, a “brother” comes and helps him out, maybe even does the fighting for him or at the very least makes sure that the poor sucker sees a doctor or something. That’s what today’s situation is like here at RR, Sam is injured, not by fighting in a war but likely by an overdose of cheetos and Friends re-runs, so I step in.

Last I spoke with the loyal and benevolent audience of RR was after the Minnesota game where the Raptors snapped a 13-game losing streak. Since then the road to a top three pick has gone according to plan with defeats to Milwaukee and San Antonio, both teams better than the Raptors. Tonight it’s no different as the Blazers visit the ACC sans Marcus Camby, Greg Oden (LOL) and Brandon Roy (HA HA! – Nelson from Simpsons style). Too bad they still have LaMarcus Aldridge, who makes it a point to stick it to Andrea Bargnani every time they meet – the head-to-head isn’t lying. The Raptors have also lost five straight to the Blazers, who have often benefited from late-game Brandon Roy heroics. There was this one-time where the Raptors overcame a Jamario Moon brain-fart to win the game in double OT.

Tanking is a very strong word with all around negative connotations about the players, the coaches and the franchise as a whole. This year, just like the ones before, I’m completely against it, yet at the same time I’m secretly hoping that the Raptors play hard in every game but end up on the losing end. Why? Because this team needs an infusion of talent. In the last month DeMar DeRozan has shown a considerable improvement in his jumper (thanks to assistant coach, Eric Hughes) and Amir Johnson has displayed a notion of consistency on both ends of the floor. However, the rest of the bunch have shown nothing. Sonny Weems, Jerryd Bayless and Andrea Bargnani are being sold by the Raptors as part of the “core”, except that if you’ve got half a brain and an honest disposition, you know that all three are very mediocre players for their position. It’s not even that DeRozan and Johnson are “better” players, they just happen to be unknowns that can be termed as interesting, much like Bargnani was three years ago.

Oh yeah, infusion of talent. Let’s look at next year’s potential depth chart lineup:

C: Bargnani
PF: Johnson, Davis
PG: Bayless
SG: DeRozan
SF: Kleiza

That’s only six players, and Kleiza’s only there because he’s signed to a long-term deal. At this point, Calderon, Barbosa, Evans and Weems don’t factor into the long-term picture, Ajinca, Dorsey and Wright are free-agents, and Alabi is closer to playing in Europe than summer-league. Who do the Raptors slot into next year’s roster? That’s where Calderon, Barbosa, the upcoming draft, and that TPE comes in. Ignoring the impending lockout for a moment, there’s an opportunity for Colangelo to take the next step in this rebuilding process, i.e., get some talent in here worth building around.

Rebuilding is always going to be a painful process, I expected a little more from year one but things are what they are. If we stop seeing this season as a development year and start looking at it as an evaluative one, we’ll find that it’s been a rather successful. one. We’ve identified about six players that don’t really fit and are candidates for replacement. The problem from my end is that I have no faith in Bryan Colangelo to actually be able to get the right six players to fill out next year’s roster.

The foundations of this Raptors team need to be defense. I cannot put it any simple terms, without that being the case we are going nowhere. The Raptors need to change their identity from pansies who let anybody walk into the lane to a team that doesn’t tolerate when guards prance around their checks and do a little skip on their way to a layup. Any tolerance of the kind of defense we saw by our guards against San Antonio, and the timidness displayed by our starting center against the Spurs lineup cannot be tolerated. It simply can’t. Somebody has to put a foot down and say enough is enough, for all intents and purposes, this year is over but the Raptors can still lay the foundations and principles for next season. Here’s some ideas:

  • Blow a defensive rotation, sit your ass on the bench.
  • Didn’t bother raising your arms on a three-point contest, sit your ass on the bench.
  • Didn’t fight through a pick hard enough, ass, meet bench.
  • Didn’t fight for rebounding position or make interior rotation, monsieur, s’il vous plaît s’asseoir sur le banc.
  • Didn’t run back hard enough in transition, Señor, por favor, se sientan en el banquillo.

You get the point. Bench is where it’s at. Now, I don’t know if Jay Triano has the balls or authority to do this. That’s the subject of a different post. I’d like to end with a clip from an ESPN 30 on 30 clip I saw about Reggie Miller and the Knicks yesterday. I’ve taken the liberty to cut up the clip to a part I enjoyed the most and want the Raptors to emulate:

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