I don’t go to many Raptors games, mostly for two reasons. I find that the tickets are too expensive for the product showcased on the floor, and that there’s always someone around who’s giving away free ones. Combine the two, and you’re reading a guy who went to only two games last season. The main benefit of being at the game versus watching it on TV is that you get to follow a lot of the off-the-ball action that the camera just misses, or maybe I find that when you’re at the game you tend to notice it more. A guy choosing to trail on a screen after seeing the action late, or completely not noticing a pick that was set on him, etc. It’s these little things that make basketball an interesting sport to watch, and it almost makes you want to take a pen and paper out and start taking notes.

Of course, if you’re into observation of the sport, the Raptors aren’t the only subject of examination. College basketball, which many of us will turn to for filling the void of the NBA, is complete with sub-plots, the game within the game, if you will. Many basketball fans I know prefer to watch the college game because it’s more than just variations of the pick ‘n roll, and the team on the floor is the vision of a coach, not one assembled due to salary cap constraints and budget considerations. John Chaney’s match-up zone and a deathwish for non-conference schedule, John Thompsons’ big men-heavy teams etc., before the season even begins you know what each team is going to be about. This is much different than the NBA where there’s a coaching merry-go-around, and tacticians don’t have enough time to create an imprint on the rosters they inherit. It’s a results-driven league, where if you don’t produce within a year or two at the most, you’re considered to be on the hot seat.

There are only a few coaches that have been able to hang on to their gigs for an extended period of time, there’s Greg Popovich in San Antonio, there was Phil Jackson in LA, and there was Jerry Sloan in Utah. Of those three, Sloan was the only one who didn’t win much of late, even in terms of playoff series, and yet managed to hang on to his job for longer than anyone. Utah was the only NBA team where you knew exactly what you were going to get game in and game out, whether it be Game #1 of the regular season, or Game #7 of a playoff series. It was an institution which, I’m willing to bet, will never be replicated in the NBA: 24 seasons with one team. Wow.

Watching the Jazz was as close as you got to watching college-type ball in the NBA, except at a much higher skill level. There have been some pretenders who sing the purist tune, for example Lawrence Frank and his supposedly Princeton offense, or even Dwane Casey and his vaunted zone-defense, but will these coaches ever stay in the same place long enough to ingrain their beliefs on one franchise? I doubt it. For a tree to grow, it can’t be uprooted time and time again, its roots need to grow deep, often within rocks for it to truly be strong. Where am I going this? Nowhere really, just thinking about how much of a chance Casey will get in Toronto?

If the organization (not just Colangelo) believe in him, then they should commit to him long-term, even though it’ll mean heavy amounts of losing in the early years. Rebuilding a franchise from the ground up – and we are ground level here – is a monumental task, made even more difficult by the scarcity of proven talent on the roster. The optimism around these parts is chiefly due to very favourable projections of DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis and Jonas Valanciunas, and as I’ve always said, it’s based on hope more than anything. What if DeMar DeRozan peaks somewhere near the Mike Miller level, or Ed Davis near Udonis Haslem, that would amount to a lot of losing which would eventually lead to restarting the rebuild with different components. Would the franchise still stand behind Casey?

I like Casey, not so much because of his technical mind which I don’t know too much about, but because of his convictions. I use the word ‘seriousness’ a lot on this site, and it’s because I feel that that is the element most missing from this franchise. He brings it. I think. To hire an experienced coach made sense to me, that is until you looked at it from angle of growth. The growth of the team as a whole, including the coach, not just one or two players who are considered “building blocks”.

As I look at my Raptors crystal ball I see a lot of losing on the horizon, except that this time, we’ll need to stick with the coach. Sam Mitchell, who many believe should never have been fired, was done so because the GM lost patience and wanted returns on what he thought were winning off-season acquisitions. Jay Triano was fired because he couldn’t instill any sort of defense, the latter might even be considered an attempt at long-term planning by Colangelo: hire a Canadian head-coach who will dovetail with the team and give it a distinct, hopefully winning, identity. It didn’t happen, I never was excited about the hiring, but did understand it. Now it’s Dwane Casey’s turn to lose, the question is whether we’ll lose our patience. Again.

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  • Sbrother

    Maybe you just aren’t sitting close enough to the action the 2 times a year you watch games?  There is a massive difference between live & TV – I’ve watched games on TV after being at the game and there is zero comparison – it’s like watching a completely different game.  You see way more in person – a lot more than just off the ball action – TV does not pick up what’s really happening up close between the players or the refs, the action on the bench, or between the bench & the floor…..  Really boring games on TV can be a great at-the-game experience.

    • Arsenalist

      Watching the player interaction is huge, forgot to add that.

    • Milesboyer

      I think the difference between tv and seeing a game live is so dramatic that I wonder why there isn’t an offensive co-ordinator much like the NFL.  I’ve sat in a lot of different seats but what you can observe from the (center) lower part of the upper bowl is pretty unique. If you’ve ever seen Joe Dumars on camera, that’s where he sits – you get a very holistic picture of the game from that vantage point

  • nosebleed

    Your “close enough to the action” qualifier is the key issue.  I go to the games if I can get tickets in the 100s (gratis, I can’t afford to actually pay for the tix).  I can afford tickets in the 300s and up but I find I can’t get as good a feel for the game or see the detail you’re talking about from up there.  If I ever win the lottery I’ll pay a scalper whatever for courtsides and cross that off my bucket list.

    • Sbrother

      Courtside is a great experience and you can buy tickets in rows B & C, scalping isn’t necessary – but you can actually see the game better 4 to 10 rows up from the court.

  • Real Hoops

    anyone else hyped about jonas valanciunas? yes im promoting my own site here but its revelant.


    • Bendit

      There are many on this site hyped about JV on draft day….and some before. Check out the Forum section. 

  • Nilanka15

    The best part about attending games is that you aren’t forced to listen to Leo Rautins tell us that the block/charge call is the most difficult play in basketball to officiate.  Thanks Leo, you’ve been telling us this for the past 16 years.

    The worst thing about attending games live is the ensuing log jam following the game when attempting to leave the downtown core.

    • Theswirsky

      Don’t worry.  BC has been doing a good job easing that log jam.

  • hateslosing

    Sometimes I wonder if changing coaches every 5 years is the reason this league has become all about superstars. Like Arse says in the article, systems are not really used in the NBA anymore. Basically every team runs man to man on D and various pick and rolls and iso’s on O. There are some variations but few teams implement true systems for years at a time. I hope we see that from Casey. I really hope we can have 5-6 years wih limited turnover in terms of coaching and front office people and that our team can start to work in a system and we can get the players to fit that system. That’s probably what I hate the most, coach’s come in and try to fit a system to players that don’t fit in it. You need to know what your trying to build and then get the players who fit it. GM’s need to learn some patience and start trusting in the guys they hire.

    • Nilanka15

      You make perfect sense, and I agree with you in theory.  But the unfortunate driving force in this league is $$$, which translates to immediate results.  If establishing a proper system comes at the expense of winning games now, teams are less likely to employ such a strategy because it’s not profitable in the short-term.

      There’s a heavy “what have you done for me lately” mantra in professional sports.

    • howlonghowlong

      I personally agreed with the firing of Sam Mitchell, and disappointed with the hiring of Jay Triano.  Mitchell, really never instilled any defense, if you guys recall he was fired after the raptors gave up 130+ points to Denver in regulation.  Triano was no better, if not, worse at defense.  Coaching is not the only reason you play poor defense, it doesn’t help when you don’t have the personal on the floor to do it.  Do you think the Celtics and Bulls would have the worse defense in the league if Triano coached them?  No – they have guys on those teams that wouldn’t let that happen, the Raptors don’t.  
      The problem with these coach firing as @Nilanka eluted to, you need to make money!  If you’re team only won 22 games, you’re going to stop watching.  There are two types of fans out there.  There are the fans that can only watch a playoff caliber team; and fans that would like to watch a playoff team but can appreciate non-playoffs developing teams.  I think most of the raptors fans are of the former.  Even if you have fans that can watch teams develop, they too would lose interest if their team is not developing in the right directions (as I personally lost interest midway of last season after getting annoyed with watching NBAs worse defense time and time again).  I truly hope Casey is given the chance to instill team defense and I hope the fans and management are patient with him. Even if the raptors are not a playoff caliber team, I’ll watch them if they are developing defensively.

      • Bo4

        How long? Maybe until the summer of ’13. More probably, until the summer after that.
        We still need 2 starters: One at swing, pushing James to a sub, where he belongs right now. (He MIGHT grow into being a starter, but he needs competition there anyway.) One at PG, unless Jerryd suddenly becomes a pass-first player.
        We’ll also need a sub at C, assuming that Jonas will be the starter (and that Joey will become the 12th man). AND a sub at swing.
        Finally, a wise GM would always have a decent 3rd PG, just in case either of the top 2 get injured. 
        Q1: Will Casey last 2 to 3 years?
        Q2: Will Bryan get 2 starters, 2 subs & 1 bench-sitter that fit in with the current core in the next 12-17-29 months?
        At least we have Amir, DeMar, Ed, James, (maybe Joey) & Jerryd to watch develop in the meantime, with Jonas and next year’s draft pick to add to that next year …

        • points

          what about our star player ?

          • p00ka

            Kid, isn’t there something in your life you can smile about and find more time for? Sport is supposed to be about fun and entertainment. Is it fun to spend every day whining and ranting about the same thing? Seriously, your pathetic even to some who support your view that Bargs isn’t up to snuff.

            • points

              buddy i get no fun watching this bitch just catch and shoot, watch her play for  her country so predictable.i’m suppose to be entertain by this bitch man get this pussy outa here . she has 4 more year left in the NBA then she’ll be ARUJO  back to ROME so enjoy the pussy while she is here , and i’ll keep ranting and whining until BC get the bitch off this team , like SHAQ said the bitch ANDREA will never never never be an allstar in the NBA.
              ANDREA=PETER FEHSE  and this dummy CASEY thinks he’s got a DIRK  in QUEEN ANDERA i got news for him

              • p00ka

                Folks, see what happens when mommy doesn’t give enough hugs. Accurately point out how pathetic it is to be whining and ranting about the same thing every day, and he shouts that he’ll damn well insist upon being pathetic for another 4 years. Hug a kid today. You could change a life forever.

                • points

                   the pussy will not be on this team for 4 more years you dummy what do you think their going to do  buy out her contract, what ever team she is traded to when they find out that she take 18 shots to make 23 points they’ll make her make her ride the pine until  she is ready to ARUJO back to ROME .

          • Bo4

            By ’14, Andrea, José & Leandro will all be past their peaks. We should trade all of them ASAP …

            • points


    • Theswirsky

      I’m not sure coaching has much to do with it.  Jerry Sloan has been highly regarded as one of the best coaches ever, but has also never had a “good” team without a superstar.

      Teams only ever have 5 players on the court at any one time and rarely top 7 players who get significant minutes.  Its easy to see how 1 or 2 players can have a huge influence on wins.

      I agree with your last part to a degree… but I think a big part of it depends on what kind of ‘superstar’ you already have and what kind of coach you have.  A good coach should be able to adapt and change to their situation, and if a coach can’t work with a Dwight Howard or Lebron James the coach needs to be replaced.

      • Basketball John

        Check out the 2003-2004 team.

        • Theswirsky

          They finished 42-40 with 5 less wins than the season prior.  Yes that was better than expected, but calling that team ‘good’ is stretch at best.

          Sloan’s teams do have a tendency to play above their ‘level’ so to speak, and that has a ton to do with his ability as a coach.  But he still has had Stockton/Malone and Williams/Boozer when his teams were truelly ‘good’.

      • hateslosing

        I think the issue is we have very rarely seen a team attempt to build around a system in this league. I’m not trying to say you don’t need good players to win, you obviously do, I’m saying that the idea right now is to gather a bunch of players, build a system around them, then fill holes after. It’s not a bad way to do things but it limits what a coach can do and basically makes them a motivator and a specific play developer, rather than an archetect. It’s a league where GM’s try to build a team around selling tickets rather than trying to win games.
        Sloan’s system, for example, basically required a good point to run his offense, someone to finish in the post, and then some guys who could stretch the floor and could learn the complicated patterns he liked to run with. So the Jazz always had a really good point and they always tried to have a good deep post guy (see stockton/Malone, Williams/Boozer). Maybe Casey comes in with his zone defense, which seems predicated on getting a big with a good wing span and fantastic ability to hedge on picks like Chandler in combination with a solid wing defender like Marion. So we go out and get guys to fill those roles in a set defensive scheme rather than looking at our roster and saying “let’s play Bargnani, Bosh and Calderon together and ‘Protect the House’ on defense. That will totally work!”. It will take longer to build, but once you have the pieces and your system starts to work, it becomes easier to stay good since there is none of this sign random player and change everything to try to fit them in (Hedo). Instead you only look for guys that fit the system you are running.

        • Nilanka15

          I betcha Hedo would say that we DIDN’T change the system to make him fit 😉


        • Theswirsky

          I’d say thats been more a problem with BC approach rather than a league wide approach though.  

          I still think it comes down to having a player thats good enough before anything else (which BC didn’t but treated the team like he did Bosh/Bargnani) and then building around them.  Every championship (and almost all contending teams) since the 80s has done that… (maybe one could make an argument that the 2000 Pistons)

          I still think ‘Superstar’ > Coach… so if you have a guy that can work with a coach’s plan great.  But if you have a player who can’t, then the coach needs to adapt or be replaced.

          • hateslosing

            You’re right of course, superstar>coach, but for a team like the Raptors where getting a superstar is something that happens every 20 years at best, I don’t know that it’s our best bet to sit and weight for Lebron 2. If you do get a superstar (meaning Kobe or Lebron level), design the system around there strengths but if you have a team with no one player that can dominate, you can try the coaching thing. The Pistons isn’t a great example of this since they were based on the overall talent level of the team and not on any system the coach implemented. It’s hard to think of NBA examples where this sort of plan was executed and the best example I can think of is what the Knicks were doing prior to the Melo trade. There was a offensive scheme they were working off of where you had a bunch of three point shooters and fast players to put up big numbers on offence and everyone they brought in fit that theme. Basically they were bulding around D’Antoni’s system. They ended up blowing up that team to get melo, but there was some potential there to have a decent team with no superstar. That is sort of the situation I’m referring to, except we would build around a defensive system. I really just want to avoid building around guys like Bosh and Bargs who are good players and could fit in a system but who we shouldn’t be basing our systems on.  

  • If you like College basketball better than the NBA then you clearly enjoy competition more than the sport itself because college basketball is like watching 5 year olds play soccer…mass confusion.  The games are often close because neither team can score.  Watch the NCAA finals from last year if you don’t agree.  Apparently the 2 best teams in the country could barely execute well enough to get a 25 foot jumper within the 2:30 second shot clock.  I’d rather watch baseball.  NOt really but its pretty bad.

    • Theswirsky

      college basketball is “mass confusion”?  There are more set plays (both offensively and defensively) run in college ball than in the nba….. but I guess when you are used to chaos, order seems confusing.

      • This is simply not an accurate perception concerning what actually occurs in a typical NBA game compared to the college variety. There are more “set plays” run in a NBA game, and by a fairly wide margin.

        • Theswirsky

          if you call a ‘PnR’ and ‘isolation’ a set play, but then you are really playing a semantics game.

          • No semantics on this end. More “set plays” are run in a NBA game than in a college game. Period. In fact, relatively few things occur at all in a NBA game that are non-scripted by a team’s coaching staff … whether called out by the head coach, or simply initiated by the players themselves.

      • hateslosing

        College Ball is often based on systems not set plays. If you run a triangle offense or something similar there is no “set play” there is instead a general scheme to what you are doing. When Jose carries the ball up the floor and calls for play 1, that is a set play. In college that is not what happens a lot of the time. I think this is what Khandor was getting at.

        • Theswirsky

          I’d actually argue the exact opposite.  The NBA has less ‘set plays’ and more individual choices based off the decision of the man with the ball, while in college you are expected to run a specific route/routine. 

          • hateslosing

            I guess it depends on what you consider a set play. You’re right that they run a specific routine in college but there is no one calling a “play”. You just do pretty much the same thing every time. In the NBA, there are more plays called, but those plays are also much more lose in their execution. For example, players in the NBA call for iso plays all the time but compared to an average college possension, the number of set movements on the iso is fairly small. All this varies of course from team to team.

            • Theswirsky

              and thats the thing especially to get back to Mark Nisbet calling it ‘chaos’.  NBA plays are (as you said) ‘loose’ and more close to ‘chaos’ (in that sense) than college because there are numerous variables dependent on another’s choice. 

              Thats why I see the NBA more as a system (as if you call for a PnR or an iso. there are X number of variables that could come off of it depending on players choices) and college as set plays (where you would call a play and everyone runs it the same way they did last time, the day before or in practice) 

              PS. I’d also mention that in college there is someone calling a play, but its the coach as opposed to the PG.

        • Most college teams run a few basic systems [e.g. 1 or 2] with a limited number of quick hitting “set plays” [e.g. 5-10] to deal with special circumstances.

          NBA teams, OTOH, have offensive playbooks which contain somewhere between 60-to-200 “set plays” per season, each with multiple variations and highly specific reads.

          When you factor in “set plays” on defense it isn’t really close at all, in favour of the NBA.

    • Gradgrind101

      NCAA is all about offensive/defensive systems and when one of the teams is over-matched on either side of the ball they will struggle and confusion/panic could set in. The NBA is all about running and defending isolation plays. Rebounding, accuracy and turnovers keep you in the game but most are won by the studs down the stretch. 

      Take the time to watch Arkansas this year with their new head coach Anderson and his “40 minutes of hell”. If the opponent isn’t prepared the Arkansas defensive pressure will cause them to panic and look confused. I’m a huge fan of his and love to watch his teams.

    • points

      big dummy

  • I think thst it will be the other way around: the raptors and the fans will test casey’s patience.

  • Gradgrind101

    I don’t believe coaches need 5 years to prove their coaching abilities…Not in the NBA where two seasons are the equivalent of 5 NCAA seasons. An NBA coach shows what he is about after the first season. You can tell by the way a coaching staff analyzes, adjusts and prepares for games against teams they have played 2 or 3 times. 
    For Example during the past season the Raptors were:
    1-2 against Boston and losing 4th game by 20 (Raps won because Rondo didn’t play)
    0-3 against Miami and losing 4th game by 18
    0-3 against Knicks and losing 4th game by 13
    1-2 against Detroit and losing 4th game by 14
    0-3 against Milwaukee and losing 4th game by 7
    0-3 against Charlotte and losing 4th game by 5
    In cases where the Raps played their opponents at least 4 games, with only one exception (Chicago), the Raptors did not improve against a team as the season progressed. That to me means the coaching staff was not up to the challenge of adjusting and playing up to the level of their competition. If the coach and his staff can’t make the necessary adjustments then they should be fired. 
    Casey will get enough time…Between one and two seasons to show improvement…Otherwise he needs to be replaced.

  • Juicey

    A lot of the people who attend games are not true fans.  I’m not saying that to be harsh, or to be like every Leaf fan and be the 1 millionth customer through the “there are too many corporate people wasting all of the tickets” drive-thru.  The truth is that the off the court (or field or ice) product is unparalled by anything in any other sport.  Raptors games have a comical dancing Raptor, Cheerleaders, a DJ, a band, contests, give-aways, loud music and shiney objects.  So the average person at a game is not looking at the subtleties of things like who sets a good pick, or who plays well off the ball.  They are watching the Raptor play with a kid and enjoying their bacon wrapped hot-dog.

    As far as what happens in the game, they are looking at it simplistically: did they win, and did I get a free slice of Pizza that I will forget to collect tomorrow.  This is the issue, there is a large population of the fan base that wont care about development, they will only care about Wins and losses, and well, pizza.  When Kevin O’Neill implemented a defensive system, offense went down, pizza went down, people got bored, hated the losing, and he got the axe.  Patience may be a lot to count on from those “fans”, and that’s too bad.  But if he can atleast keep the team exciting, even while losing, it might go a long way to job security.

    • Nilanka15

      During that Kevin O’Neil coached year, the Raptors were below the 100 points scored mark so often, that they changed the Pizza giveaway limit.  A random number (lower than 100) was drawn before each game, and that was the target to be chased for free pizza.  It was sad.

      • understanding_truth

        If the pizza giveaway is that important to people, all they have to do is change the rules to fit the new team defensive direction.
        If the opposition scores less than 100 points, the fans get pizza.  You may get the fans cheering for defensive stops at the end of the game which may help in keeping the players engaged defensively at the end of games

        • Gradgrind101

          I can’t stand that 100 points thing…Who cares if the Raps score 100 or allow 100…It should be if Raptors win we get pizza…That 100 points thing is like saying OOOPPPSSSSSSOOORRRYYY!!!! The Raptors suck!!! Here’s some pizza now stop your crying.

  • Bendit

    BC has come late to the party about what is most important in a winning and good basketball team…defense. This was something Sloan/Jazz innately understood. They didnt win championships but were always in the discussion. Paradoxically though they didnt tweak enough it seemed towards offense. In their defense though the West was a much tougher division.

    By his actions and deeds in the first years of his tenure here (and time in Phoenix) BC was somehow deluded about total reliance on offense, speed and athleticism to be prioritized seemingly at the exclusion of defense…so much so that early-in-the-shotclock shot taking and number of offensive possessions mattered and I believe imposed on coaches (Mitchell). He tried to transplant the Phoenix experience here…without the personnel.At least he has changed. But there has been a cost.

  • There’s good losing and bad losing. Jay Triano’s tenure would be on the bad end of the spectrum, and on the opposite end would be something like Scott Brooks’ first few years. My optimism will go as far as hoping for the good kind of losing.

  • Tervis

    The word you should be using is severity. Seriousness ain’t grammatically correct.

  • Ambidextrious

    I gotta love this one Arse!! The part that stood out for me was your opinion on Jerry Sloan i could not agree more. I hope this Organization will have the presence of mind to build a real winner. The best way of this is to keep DC for a long time and have a tonne of patience with the Development of our core. 

  • FAQ

    The question you should be pondering is how many of the new players will stay with the Raptors once their contracts are up for renewal and how many will go back home to the USofA .. because Toronto and Canada are not their cup of tea?

    e.g. Will Demar flee Toronto as did Bosh and vince?

    You can’t ‘rebuild’ on a shaky foundation as we all know.

    • Ambidextrious

      with the looming economic collapse south of the border. Canada will become an oasis. Want a salary in the powerful Canadian dollar? Or do you want to work flipping burgers at BK at minimum wage? lol I’m just joking. But Canada is a stable safe beautiful place to live in. This claim “some” players have had in the past just shows how much immature these few players can be. Don’t let the few bad apples dictate others opinions.

      • points

        if you build it they will come/stay ,BC is two players away i think from moving away from the 500 mark  now that we have Jonas and should speed up the rebuild and rebrand process by trading ARUJO WITH A 3 for a pick and filler i’m cool with that and i’m  also cool with building around JONAS

    • points

       you would leave too if you had jose and the pussy cats on your team and the GM is telling you that you have a competive team and a playoff team being led now by Andrea=Peter Fehse, trust me  these guy will stay when you have team mates like Jonas who fight for every ball and is ready to battle

      • Gradgrind101

        Man I love your optimism but the raptors are many players from a winning team with a chance  to advance deep into the playoffs…Remember my words…When the Raptors finally make the playoffs as serious contenders their roster will be totally different than what you see know. V may still be around as a key piece but there is no guarantee.  Dwight Howard was good from the beginning but it was his 4th year when he began to dominate.

        You can build a contending team in several ways but a serious contender will usually have the following qualities:1. Have the studs to score from either the paint or the perimeter at rate over 45% in the final 4 minutes of a close game.
        2. Has great defense on the ball (see Rondo or Chris Paul | Jason Kidd is the exception). Defenses tend to hold up better when they don’t have to switch off their man to cover slashers.
        3. Higher number of offensive possessions. Rebounds, steals and low turnover rate allows the offense more opportunities to score throughout the game.

        There are other qualities that lead to wins but over the long haul this is what the raptors must have to be successful. A good coach can help with point 3 but only quality players can cover the first two points.