It’s crazy man. It’s crazy how a guy can go 4-14, miss the game winning shot, and still be the player of the game and get rave reviews across the board, including from this corner. The Boston game epitomizes exactly what fans want Andrea Bargnani to do: put defense first. That’s all there is to it. Followers of his career have grown weary of the hit-and-miss offense which is as liable to win a game as lose one on any given day. It’s easier to be consistent on defense than it is on offense, and that’s what perplexes a lot of people about Bargnani, that he hasn’t yet developed a defensive game to fall back on when the offense fails. And the offense fails for everybody at some point, the difference is that when it fails for Bargnani, he’s got nothing to fall back on. Hopefully, that can change.

The reality is that the Raptors lost to a bunch of scrubs in the late fourth quarter and nobody seems to be quite upset about it. If you’re like me, then you’re just glad that for the first time in a while, the team put out a concerted defensive effort that lasted 48 minutes. And that too in preseason. If you sit down and think about it, it is quite unbelievable. In half of a short training camp, Casey appears to have had an influence that got these guys to treat a preseason game like it mattered. I know it might sound like I’m making a big deal out of one outing, and before you mock me for getting all giddy about this, consider preseasons past.

Remember the Turkoglu year when it was OK to just trudge along in preseason in the name of fatigue? Or how getting blown out somewhere in Western Canada at the hands of the Nuggets was accepted in the name of “gelling”? Or losing to Philly in Hamilton after a half-ass effort? If you search the archives of this site, you’ll find that the casual approach to preseason was admonished back then too. If you’re a title contender, you take it easy in preseason and the even the early part of the regular season, when you’re at the bottom of the NBA barrel, the preseason is the time where you set the tone. That tone was never set under Mitchell or Triano, and it is being set under Casey.

A few things popped up while watching the game. The Raptors had the Celtics’ first unit thinking hard on offense, there were a few instances where pressuring up-top and on the sides put Boston under strain and up against the shot clock. The coverage on Rondo was planned and executed with diligence. We’re used to seeing him scoring 23 points in a half by walking the ball up to the rim against us, and seeing a puzzled look on his face when faced with a hedge that forced him to give the ball up for once was pretty much a dream come true. Ray Allen didn’t hit eight threes, and had to work doubly hard to get a clean look. Breath of fresh air.

If Bargnani was the player of the game, then Bayless had to be the goat. He sure made those of us calling for him to start look like idiots. I don’t know how much of it was him trying too hard to impress, and how much was plain old bad basketball, or maybe one was the result of the other. He finished with four turnovers and all of them were ugly. Right now Bayless is average at too many things to be considered a player for the future, and the hope is that he can elevate certain components of his game to a level that make him a little special. Right now his shooting is inconsistent, his drives have a sense of recklessness, and his passing is downright dangerous. The Raptors passed up a couple point guards with their pick, and didn’t bother acquiring another to select Knight or Walker, so there is some level of faith in Bayless. I hope for the young man’s sake that this is a season where he grows as a player, instead of repeating the same mistakes again.

Switching to some practice talk. I love how Casey sets numerical goals for the team. He’s targeting seven consecutive stops per game, he’s set a rebounding mark for Bargnani to aim at, he wants to keep the opposition field goal percentage under 45%, and so on. Listen to the whole interview, and you’ll see a guy who has lived the game tape and is referring to specific plays and sequences, and has communicated to the team exactly what went wrong, and how it needs to be fixed.

Whenever you have a problem, the first thing to do is admit and take measures to address it. It never happened with Triano where even after brutal losses the post-game interviews and practice scrums never addressed the specifics. Maybe he just didn’t speak about them, or maybe he just didn’t know.

As a fan of a team that’s rebuilding, the first and most important thing you want to see is that the right approach is being taken. For the first time in Colangelo’s tenure as GM, I have a sense that that is the case.

I’ll end with a Casey quote:

“I was really, really impressed with Andrea’s defense.”

The temperature in hell is -24 degrees Celsius.

  • Truthkiller

    Bargnani played well above my expectations on the defensive end, inefficient on the offensive side but we all know he’ll find a way to score and it should come naturally to him. I know 1 game doesn’t change 5 years of crappy defense but at least it was a good start. 

    Bayless I was disappointed but I really am hopeful he’ll have a better game in Boston on Wednesday.

    • Triano?

      Yeah, he will find a way to score by taking 20 shots a game (and making 5).  

      • Ppellico

        exactly!!!

        I really need to know why this guy is getting the post game praise he is.
        First, let me say I LIKE him. I root for him.
        BUT when guys have shooting percentages like this, they actually KILL team runs and spirit. I had enough of this as a Bulls fan back when Ben Gordon was getting this same glory.
        Everybodt talking about his 27 points! But wait…he missed 60!
        His teammates began to stop moving around because they saw they were never going to get the ball or be rewarded for their movement.
        This kills teams.

        Play smart. Take high percentage shots. Keep giving the ball up until somebody has this shot.

        Basketball is simple IF they make it a team game, not a scoring stat!

        • p00ka

          Other team killers from first exhibition games:

          Dwight Howard, 2/9
          Iguodala, 0/6
          John Wall, 3/12
          Amare, 3/11
          Granger 5/17
          Deron Williams, 4/12

          Bunch of bums.

        • Statement

          People aren’t praising his offense.

          • Ppellico

            but praising his offense is what I like to call enableing!
            You give him permission to continue the same action.
            I say stop it.
            Stop shooting and start playing defense.
            Start passing out more to others with better position.
            You ain’t no Michael Jordan or shooting guards and do NOT have a green light to shoot yourself out of a slump!!!!
            Real shooters do hit slumps and have ice in their veins and keep shooting.
            BUT they do not do this habitually.
            They have freak bad periods but eventually regain their shot.
            This guy must simply NEVER think he should shoot his way out of a slump.
            Heavens NO!.
            When a guy like this gets into a 3 for 9 hole…STOP shooting.
            Pass and play heated defense.

            • CJT

              Derek Rose.  Does exactly this.  Did you watch the playoffs last year when the league MVP took every shot, did not involve his teammates at all and had more turnovers than assists.  He was rewarded with an MVP trophy and a massive contract extension.

  • CalgaryRapsFan

    100% agree about the comment about Casey setting goals for the team and each player… the first thing you learn about setting effective goals is that they must be tangible and realistic, as it is the only way to set a definitive target to aim for and objectively measure success in achieving them.

    My observations about the game (will exclude Bargnani in this one):

    1. Bayless was awful.  If not for his size, I honestly think PG would be the wrong position for him.  He has horrendous court vision and involving his teammates is clearly not his first instinct.   I hope the Raps target a young pass-first PG via draft/signing/trade for Calderon to mentor this and/or next season.

    2. I like DeRozan’s improved (and confident looking) 3-point shot.  However, he needs to be more aggressive in initiating his own offense.  Also, his defence is terrible, so hopefully Casey can work as hard with him as he is with Bargnani.

    3. James Johnson is a great backup SF.  A stud SF should be the primary target for the Raps in the 2012 draft, while keeping JJ as backup (trade or amnesty Kleiza after they get their SF in the draft).

    4. I like what I saw from Forbes.  He could be a nifty little backup SG.  If so, that paints an even bigger target on Barbosa’s back as the Raps’ #1 trade deadline asset, to hopefully acquire an additional late 1st round pick in the upcoming draft.

    5. I like Davis a lot; very promising on both ends of the court, with tons of heart and hustle.  IF Bargnani sustains the improvements on defense/rebounding, Amir seems to be the odd man out at PF and could become the Raps’ #2 potential trade asset.

    • TheR3dMenace

      100% agree with everything. Its gotta be that clear to Colangelo too, no?

    • FAQ

      Who is the Raptor’s game-changing, go-to player…. still playing college ball??!!!

    • blazersunited

      On Bayless: Coming from a Blazers’ fan, I hear your pain on Bayless. He presses too much, tries too hard, doesn’t have great vision or Bball IQ and usually looks like he has forgotten this is a team game. His one redeemable feature is the ability to torpedo through crowds and take it to the rack. We waited and waited and waited for his game to develop and it just didn’t happen. Too bad. Nice kid and competitive, but a terrible PG. Our commiserations…

  • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!

    Let’s see how much Casey likes AB’s defense after 50 games……

    • What the

      he’ll be smoking the ROCK !!!

  • Matt52

    Bahahaha, -24 in hell.  Brilliant.

    • cesco

      Impossible , ever heard of the expression ” when hell freezes over ” , it has to be Toronto , here in Montreal it is a balmy -5 celsius .

  • 511

    After all is said and done and even though it was just an exhibition game that didn’t count for anything … it would’ve been nice if that last shot had’ve gone in FTW. I’m kind of hoping it kept Bargs awake that night just enough to get him – and keep him – ticked off and determined to NOT miss that shot the next time. Sometimes, it is the difference between winning and losing, after all, so … let’s make that f***er the next time, Bargs. 

    • Triano?

      Ummm…maybe Bargs should made one of the other ten shots he missed.  Honestly, Bargs needs to get the f**k off the team.

      • Triano?

        *should have made

        • You’re Boring.

          Maybe it’s you who should be looking for a new team.  You and the rest of the hockey fans in T.O. might be the worst “fans” in the league.  You need to get you ass to an NCAA game and see how real fans treat their teams win or lose.

          • p00ka

            Right on!!! BUT, this sorry example, whatever number of tags he’s using, is all about getting his jollies through baiting. It’s taking me a while to learn that lesson myself. The most unfortunate thing is that I’ve grouped some others who differ in opinions from me, and capable of mature discussion, with these few sorry examples. I wish moderators would do something about these types.

          • What the

            i love my team it’s the player i hate

            • You’re Boring too.

              Well that makes perfect sense I suppose.  What is your team?  Are you one of those a holes that like the Yankees because they keep spending to acquire other teams’ talent instead of developing their own.

      • 511

        Ya well … as much as that’s an original and daring idea, if you watched the game, you’d know that he played harder minutes than anybody else on the floor, either team. 

        • Ppellico

          I
          will admit that not being in the TV market I could not watch. I had to listen on broadband.
           
          However, I will also add that I then cannot praise as well.
           
          I can’t just go by the stats.
           
          I know from years of the game that the devil is in the details.
           
          LOTS of players look bad because of others around them.
           
          Turnovers.
           
          Bad passes.
           
          Forced shots.
           
          Hell…a center will always look horrid if the outside shooters miss everything.
           
          The defense just closes up the middle and nobody can get anything going inside.
           
           
           
          So I did not see the game.
           
          I do not know if these missed shots were even contested. If they were not and he still had such a harrid percentage, then everybody please stop encouraging him to keep shooting.
           
           
           
          Look…if you are cold shooting…always fall back on defense. It is an old as the hills saying.

          • p00ka

            Sorry the truth hurts, but not seeing the game and relying upon stats to criticize what people who did see the game say, kind of puts you in a talking out of the wrong orifice category. As for your concern about D, in this game at least, one could make an argument that he was the best defender on the team.

    • cesco

      If Andrea loses some sleep because he misses a shot (first , last or in-between) , you might as well trade him right away . I think that the famous caliper test revealed his capacity to work under pressure otherwise he would have asked for a trade years ago , you can only accept mud slinging for so long .

      • 511

        Nobody’s slinging mud – not me, anyway – but there is a difference between missing during-the-game-shots that he’ll likely start making and missing the last-second-lay-up that’ll win the whole game. He’s capable of doing them both and because of that, I hope that missing that last shot burned him enough to make him want to have that chance again in the future, so he can get the different result. If we’re seeing a ‘new’ Bargnani, I want it to be new, through and through. And … I don’t think you have to worry about little Andrea feeling sorry for himself because nobody appreciates him. If he keeps working hard — and I seriously doubt that Casey will just let him take nights off without consequence — he’ll be fine. 

        • cesco

          I was not implying that he forgot right away about the shot . Seriously , what is he going to do to make sure he doesn’t misses the next time . Tell us how tossing in bed for two hours and resolving never to miss again is going to guarantee that he will never miss again , that is impossible .

          • 511

            cesco … shhh. 

          • cesco

             I am not implying that he does not care . I am sure he does but not to the point of losing some sleep .

            • 511

              PS – didn’t really mean the ‘shh’ the way it might’ve sounded. Generally, I appreciate your particular take on things. 

  • Rapsallday

    How is that you guys can’t give the guy a break. What do you mean it’s only preseason? When is Andrea supposed to start playing d? Although it’s his first game, it has to start from somewhere doesn’t it? Then on to the next, then the next… Let’s give him some praise and see where it goes from there. Sheesh….

    • Nilanka15

      “What do you mean it’s only preseason?”

      You should’ve asked this question every year for the last 5 years, when the Raptors (Bargnani included) couldn’t care less about improving their D during preseason.

      • p00ka

        I’m having a hard time understanding the point in this comment. Are you saying a fan shouldn’t make a comment, or ask a question, about current state of the team, unless it encompasses the previous 5 years? Just asking: What’s the point of your comment?

        • Nilanka15

          The point to my comment was that the concept of pre-season games being taken lightly by players/coaches isn’t a new concept in these parts.  As fans, we should’ve been asking for focus and commitment in the preseason years ago.

          • p00ka

            Well, nobody has a cure for the past, but Rapsallday was adding his two cents to try and cure some examples of current views.

            • Nilanka15

              I suggest joining the forum discussions.  They’re moderated much more vigilantly.

              • Nilanka15

                This was supposed to be in response to p00ka’s reply to “You’re Boring” above.

              • p00ka

                I’ve tried to register there and it didn’t work. Time to try again.

                • xxx

                  i don’t blame them

  • FAQ

    Gelling… developing… rebuilding… rebounding… defensing… running… scoring… drafting…… sounds familiar?

    Looks like the Raptor tribal honking fans are now equal to the Maple Leaf fans.

    Welcome to Toronto Canada, #1 draft pick… this is your team now!!!

  • sitnonDfence

    Slight correction Arse. You wrote 7 consecutive stops… hes looking for 7 for the games. Id prefer it the way you wrote it tbh.

    • p00ka

      I believe the target is 3 consecutive stops, 7 times a game.

  • j bean

    If you get a stop 2 out of 3 times you win the NBA championship even with todays lineup.  

  • nba_socrates

    Leave bayless alone and let him play his game. How many first pass point guards are good in the league part from CP3, D Will, Rondo,Kidd and Nash. 

    • cdub

      I’m not going to put him down, but it was very clear to me last year that Bayless is not a starter in the NBA.  He may not even be a reserve.  I don’t see it at all, but I guess someone does.  To me he looks too undersized, too out of control, and hes not a good shooter or passer or anything, so I don’t get it.

  • tonious35

    Can G. Forbes be Garbojosa 2.0?  With out looking Spanish and having fluffy hair?

    • knucknbuc

      I do like what forbes did this first game he just looked like one of those players that just know’s how to play the game and played all facets well

  • Jimbon1

    I don’t see the need for Triano be criticized, I felt that it is uncalled for.Because you don’t know the real story behind practices and team talks etc. He did for sure great things and not too great things with the team (like any other coaches and would be coaches. let us just focus on the great things being done at the moment without giving a touch of bias against or resentment from before that serves like a poison ang sour the flavor of todays potential.

  • Rpsfan95

    it could be entirely possible that Casey is more valuable than anyone on the roster or in the head office

  • knucknbuc

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Forbes takes the starting 3 spot away from jj the first month of the season. JJ has a good game as a backup 3 but his offensive arsenal is extremely limited. His D would be welcome of the bench because bayless,barbosa and ed are going to dominate the ball so much in that 2nd unit. Forbes could be a really good pickup. His defensive game was pretty good and pretty agressive eventhough not as good as JJ’s. But his offensive game is so much better and imo I think he would be better suited in the starting lineup because he can stretch the floor which will allow teams not to crowd the paint as much to stop demar’s drives because Forbes can make the 3 and the spot up jumper. 

    • tonious35

      If he can contribute like a Landry Fields to an Afflalo/Battier, it’s all good to me.  Anything better is friggin gravy.  Intangible SFs with a competent understanding of the flow of the game and a good 3pt shot is what a team always needs.

    • Nilanka15

      Casey told us not to think anything of JJ’s limited minutes on Sunday. He said he already knows (and likes) what JJ brings to the table, but wanted to see what Forbes has in him…especially since he joined the team late.

  • Akash_singh

     does anyone remember that old chris rock skit, where he talks about n-words vs black people? Well one thing he says is that n-words brag about something their “lazy ass was supposed to do in the first place” (his words, not mine) 
     
    I find it funny that this team is full of black ppl, but bargnani is the nikka. lol.  

    anyone who thinks this is racist im sorry if I offended you, but if you’re not stupid you’ll realize that is not my intention at all. thx.