I was at Real Sports Bar last night for a bit and and some guy I just met said to me, “Do the Raptors have the worst bench in NBA history?”. I pondered the question for about three seconds before involuntarily responding, “How the *&^% does it matter?”. I was right, it doesn’t matter how crappy this team is because they’re supposed to be that way. Being bad only really hurts when you’re supposed to be half-decent and end up being bad. So yeah, guy I just met, deal with it and come to terms with what this season is all about.

Listening to the player interviews here’s the deal:

Ed Davis is excited to have a training camp for the first time and welcomes the challenge for minutes at his position. He dropped the quote of the day for me when asked about what was missing last season:

“When the coach always preaches defense, you know you always have to be tough, you can’t be soft on defense.”

I know what you’re thinking: words, words, and more words. Don’t mean anything. Or maybe you’re wondering what exactly Triano preached in practice last year that the focus on defense is the first thing cited by a player when asked for a gap analysis. I don’t know where this team will finish in overall defense this year, what I do know is that they’re not going to be dead last and that’s on account of two things: the hammering of the defensive message through a loudspeaker held under the players’ ears, and a coach that evokes a response when you screw up. The players too, but I find it hard to believe that last year’s squad, as bad as it was, deserved to be dead last.

DeRozan’s already being asked questions about how he likes to play in Toronto, and what his thoughts on being the team leader is. If you’re paying attention over the last 16 years or so, you’ll notice these types of questions increase the closer a half-decent player gets to free-agency of any sort. Hey, humans need reassurance all the time, unless you’re Insanity Wolf who simply has no feelings. Is DeRozan a player that we need to be concerned about bolting? We got two more years to worry about that since we’ve already exercised the option year, and I think this season will tell you a lot about the man. If he again improves by the same measure he did last year, then you have to seriously ponder extending him. Or the Raptors could wait till the harsher luxury tax rules kick in, at which point there would be fewer team in the running for his services (theoretically, at least). My belief is that if you genuinely like a player and believe in his work ethic and ability, sign him early, lest he be Vince who quits before even putting the pen down.

There’s video of Amir Johnson working on his jumper and it looks to have improved. I don’t think the Raptors would release a video of him clanging the rims, so this is really the best-case scenario. Some observations:

  • The release is quicker and he’s in his shooting motion much faster than last year
  • The follow-thru is happening on every shot, this wasn’t a problem for him but it’s worth mentioning
  • The shooting motion is more compact and less wtf-is-wrong-with-that-guys-shooting-motion. He’s not bringing the ball up from his crotch anymore and gets into his motion right after the catch
  • Of note is that he’s hitting the same jumper over and over again, that video would have been more telling if he was moving around the elbows, catching and shooting

If you had to classify Johnson as a “roll” or a “pop” guy on the PnR, you’d invariably say ‘roll’, because his strength is going towards the rim, usually led on by Calderon. It’s no rocket science that adding this dimension to his game will make him a more dynamic player, what is not so apparent is that if Johnson is able to develop this portion of his game and nick a few minutes at the center, the combination with Ed Davis could be something pretty sweet. It’s not often that a team has two bigs they can use in PnR roll/pop situations on either side of the court, who happen to use opposite hands. You’ll often see NBA sets which reset into PnR twice or even three times a play, it’s not as often that the resets happen on different sides of the court using bigs who are dual threats.

Interesting to note that as of right now, Aaron Gray could be our starting center (link has ESPN Insider scouting report), if for nothing then because of him being a big dude who looks like a center more than anyone else on the team. How do I feel about this? About the same as when the Rogers guy told me he’d be at my place between 6pm and 10pm. It don’t matter, I’ll be here all night. In the Raptors’ case, no hurries or worries, we’re here for all 66 games Jonas gets here. I don’t want to disrespect Aaron Gray, he seems like a pretty nice fat dude.

Welcome, Gary Forbes. Prediction: Fans love this guy more than James Johnson by end of January.

Oh yeah, in case you missed it, there’s a giant rock in the Raptors locker room which is supposed to inspire them. Something to do with pounding the rock. I got a better motivational technique: 300 pushups for each blown defensive assignment.

Dwane Casey thinks Andrea Bargnani is just like Dirk Nowitzki. He’s right: they’re European, 7-feet tall, speak in funny accents, play basketball, have hot girlfriends, and like to take long walks on the beach. Oh yeah, one has a ring, an MVP award, and is a 10-time All-Star, other than that they’re the exact same. Seriously though, as someone in the thread said: positive reinforcement.

Final word goes to Kris Humphries who knows how to cope with the pain of divorce.

See ya, and watch out!

  • Sheptor

    I expect massive improvements on D this year with Casey. But Triano shouldn’t be used as a scapegoat by any players for their lack of defense last year. You think getting your ass handed to you might make you work harder on d.

    • Truthkiller

      Triano is in my mind a huge reason why the Defense sucked last year. There just wasn’t any accountability, goddamit you would think when Melo, Pierce or even Monta Ellis scoring 15 in a quarter would warrant him to make some        in-game defensive adjustments but nothing happened.

      I’m glad that MOFO is off the court. Canadian basketball what a joke!

  • Timo in Waterloo

    I like what I hear…. I am not as pessimistic as most on this site… I liked the effort I saw last year, in so many games down the stretch at the end with a short bench… I am expecting to see big improvement in many of the young players on the roster… so , the short answer is, show me… and show me every game.. and every quarter of every game

  • Moley

    So what do you guys think? A top 20 defensive team this year? 

    • cesco

      I don’t know about a top 20 but a top 30 defensive team for sure .

      • Theswirsky

        lol

        Rap of the Day

      • what the

        ??

        • cesco

          I just thought that a top 30 was a safe bet .

          • Bendit

            Should I short the Euro?

            • cesco

              Your choice , I will do it myself if I have any .

  • K.J.P

    Good Job Kris Humphfries!!!!!!

  • cesco

    Got a good laugh from the pictorial Arse .

  • Nilanka15

    Does anyone know if Sunday’s preseason game vs. Boston will be televised?

    Further to that, does anyone know when the regular season TV schedule will be released?

  • Daniel Rubin

    The answer is no, they do not have the worst bench of all time. Not even close. The problem with the team is precisely the opposite: that all their starters (save for DeRozan) should be coming off the bench. If Calderon, DeRozan, Butler, Bargnani and Johnson are the starters, then Bayless, Barbosa, Kleiza, J. Johnson, Davis, Magliore, Gray and Carter are the back-ups. There’s nothing wrong with that bench. The problem is that they should be the 8th and 9th guys, while the starters should be the 6th and 7th guys.

    • LinuxFTW

      Or they are all bench players (at least right now). We really have no “starters”, all our guys are just talent or beginning to get there.

  • jimmie

    Nilanka: I think Sportsnet is showing the Boston preseason game. 1pm start, IIRC.

    • Nilanka15

      You’re right, it’s listed on Sportnet’s TV schedule.  Thanks.

  • olapalomablanca

    hahaha as usual… blaming Bargs, but the rest of this -poor- team is improving. looool

  • Sam Holako

    Couple things:

    1) Dwayne Casey said that if the Raptors got just one more stop last season, they would have went from dead last in defense efficiency to 23rd. I expect that with defense being pounded into the players heads, we will see an improvement.

    2) Why the f*ck is that Globe article even a story? 

  • Bargsthepervtweeted

    AndreaBargnani i’ve been very busy with training camp,didn’t have much time to watch the news.But I’ve heard that Spadina station is a lot of fun..lol

  • Rapsallday

    Raptors will win more than 22 games this year…Who wants to challenege me??