This isn’t a huge revelation, but the centre position through two games has been a black hole for the Raptors. Coach Dwane Casey says he will go centre by committee primarily using Jamaal Magloire, Aaron Gray, and Amir Johnson with a little Ed Davis thrown in. He would like to use Davis more at his natural power forward position behind Andrea Bargnani. At some point though the Raps are going to have to get some production at centre.
Yes, it’s only two pre-season games but offensively the Raptors look lost far too much of the time. Johnson, who was the king of the put-back last season, seems to have lost his touch in that regard. From a shooting perspective, with the exception of Bargnani, the Raps are all very much still in pre-season mode. Normally that wouldn’t be a bad thing, but the season starts for real Monday. Casey felt the slow start — they didn’t score until the 7:38 mark of the first quarter on Wednesday night — really put the team on its heels and affected both sides of its game.
Veteran guard Anthony Carter, who did not dress, believes the offence will improve immediately once the Raptors start to set good, hard screens the way the Celtics do. The screens he was seeing in the first two games aren’t good enough or the Raptors aren’t waiting on the screens to get the open shots. Carter is still waiting on word of an MRI he had on his shoulder.
A few too many uncontested layups this game that will not make Casey happy. They’ll also be talking in the next few days about closing out on shooters just inside the arc. Rajon Rondo had far too much time to set himself and make mid-range shots Wednesday night, but for Casey the big no-no was the easy points inside the paint. That can’t happen under any circumstance.
“We have had a lot of change in this team, a lot of rules changes,” veteran guard Leandro Barbosa said Wednesday.
“It’s not that last year wasn’t professional but this year is much more professional when we do things on the court. If we don’t do things on the floor right, the way the coach wants us to do them, he is going to get us.”
Barbosa clarifies that when his questioner raises an eyebrow.
“I’ll give you an example,” he said. “If you don’t have your shirt tucked into your shorts, you are going to have to run. It’s something we need to pay attention to. The little things that they’re getting on us about so when it comes to defensive skills that he wants us to do or whatever else we’re focussed.”
For Casey it’s a matter of setting the tone right away. From day one he has asked that his players get to the arena not just in time for the beginning of practice but early enough that they can get in their individual work or their individual treatment done in advance.
“Attention to detail is one of the major things and if you don’t do it you are held accountable,” Casey said.
It has been Casey’s experience that not only is this type of approach necessary for success, it’s what most players want.
“Usually in the year-end review that’s the first thing you hear,” Casey said. “Nobody is being held accountable. They are sometimes afraid to ask for it because something’s going on. But it’s nothing unusual. We had a veteran team in Dallas and they were held accountable.
“You don’t have to be a dictator about it. Just do your job. You don’t have to be a tyrant. It’s just making sure guys do their job. It’s all about winning. It’s not about satisfaction or doing it my way or the highway. It’s not about that. It’s about building a program that is going to last.”
Jose Calderon is on his third head coach since arriving in Toronto and he’s already seeing the benefits of Casey’s approach.
He doesn’t like to use the word professional in comparing this year to last because he has felt the Raptors have conducted themselves professionally each and every year he has been here.
“It’s just different,” Calderon said. “It was professional last year. It was just different. Everyone has a different way they do things. Everybody look like a team when we’re not on the court or even when we are on the court. Professional is not the word I would use because I think everyone has been professional here every year.”
Job No. 1?
Work on the offence.
With disparate groups of player combinations struggling for any measure of cohesion or flow, the Raptors were at times dreadful on offence here Wednesday night, winding up 81-73 losers to the Boston Celtics in their final tuneup game.
And while the defence was again solid at times — maybe not as consistently tenacious as it was Sunday but an improvement over last year nonetheless — the Raptors simply couldn’t find enough offence to make it a game.
“We have to come out with more of a swagger, more confidence offensively,” Casey said after the game. “I thought we were tentative and it carried over to our defence.
“When we buckled down and played our principles, we were okay. But the key is you don’t give up layups, you don’t give up second shots.”
With a new starting five and a willingness to put odd combinations on the floor — at one time the backcourt was Jose Calderon, Jerryd Bayless and Gary Forbes — Casey got a look at a bunch of things that didn’t work. Now he’s got between Friday and Monday’s season opener in Cleveland to work things out.
While Andrea Bargnani (20 points) and DeMar DeRozan (16) were effective for stretches offensively, the Raptors got little or no production from anyone else, really.
Aaron Gray started at centre and provided zero points. James Johnson, the starting small forward, had four (double his production of Sunday) and starting point guard Jerryd Bayless had six points but was a non-factor for much of the game.
The Raptors will now sport four different jerseys at times during an abbreviated 66-game season. They have their traditional white home uniforms, red ones for the road, black ones as a “third” jersey and the camouflage ones. Gone are the green uniforms worn around St. Patrick’s Day and the blue Huskies throwback jerseys.
When head coach Dwane Casey said it was a goal for the Toronto Raptors to keep opponents under 45% shooting, he might have needed to specify a goal for his own club’s offence.
In their second and final pre-season game, the Raptors limited Boston to 39% at the TD Garden, but shot a woeful 32% themselves in an 81-73 loss on Wednesday.
Toronto outrebounded the Celtics 48-38 but made only one three-pointer, by Jose Calderon. Starters DeMar DeRozan, Jerryd Bayless and Andrea Bargnani were a combined zero for 12 from beyond the arc.
Bargnani was seven of 17 — missing all four of his three-pointers — and scored 20 points. DeRozan was four of 13 overall and scored 16 points with 10 rebounds. Bayless was four of 16 for 12 points.
Fact. Canada sucks. The way they pronounce about, how they suck at all sports, and how they keep giving us loser ass musicians like Drake and Biebs. Well all that is in the past now. Canada has taken drastic measures to make sure they are no longer the laughingstock of America. Starting with Toronto and their biggest contribution to the world, the Toronto Raptors. With Chris Bosh gone and their rebuilding process underway, the Raptors have unveiled their new jerseys today to show fans that they’re not fucking around anymore. We here at loudmouse love a good underdog story and I’ll be damned if we don’t stand for beautiful basketball jerseys and talented professional basketball teams
15. Toronto Raptors
I can’t believe that there is a question as to who the worst team in the NBA will be in 2011-12. I don’t even care about records. This team will NOT fill seats, make it on SportsCenter, or even provide the ladies with some eye candy. Rough times in Toronto right now.
John Schuhmann: I think it could be Rubio. He’s definitely got weaknesses to address, but his passing is a special gift that will set him apart from other young point guards. Iman Shumpert is my dark horse pick, and I think Jonas Valanciunas, who won’t join the Raptors until next season, could be better than any of this year’s rookies.
Though the Raptors did not present a difficult test for the Celtics, Rondo showed signs of being in midseason form with 17 points and six assists in a 22:30 stint. Rondo scored 12 points as the Celtics took an 18-7 lead eight minutes into the contest.
The Celtics starters sat out most of the second half, Jermaine O’Neal leaving the court in the third quarter for the massage table.
“He’s old,’’ Rivers joked. “I didn’t want him falling asleep on the bench or anything. He said I want to get a massage and I said, ‘yeah, sure.’
“He looks great. What you saw is what he’s been all camp. Coming out of mini-training camp he was our MVP. He’s a rare bird; it’s rare you see a guy who blocks shots, takes charges. It’s just unusual.’’
Rivers decided to try both Daniels and Pavlovic in starting roles at small forward during the preseason. Pavlovic was in the starting lineup last night.
The Raptors are a young team with budding potential, but they will have to wait at least one more year for their young players to develop and mature before being able to contend for a solid playoff spot.
However, if these young players use their youth and athleticism to their advantage, and new coach Dwayne Casey can get them to play some defense, they could legitimately challenge for the eighth seed in the weak bottom half of the Eastern Conference.
That’s a big "if" though.
2011-12 Record: 26-40
Now as I mentioned in the first post, PhDSteve, over at Raptors Republic argued in his latest podcast that it doesn’t really matter where the Raptors pick because there’s no real consensus #1 and the Raptors can get a good PG later in the draft.
That would make sense if the Raptors biggest need is a PG. It isn’t. The Raptors biggest need, far outweighing any position or skill, is a franchise player. Who cares if the Raptors get the best PG in the draft if they still don’t have a franchise player. In the NBA, teams generally only go as far as their best player can take them. Atlanta’s problem is not that they don’t have a good team. It’s that Joe Johnson is a perennial All-Star, but not a truly elite player.
In fact, Toronto’s history shows the limitations teams have without truly elite players. While Vince had the potential to be one of the greats, he never fulfilled that potential and the farthest the team could get with him was the second round. Bosh was a perennial All-Star, but simply not the type of talent that can lift a team above mediocrity.
While there might not be any sure-fire Hall of Famers, like Tim Duncans or LeBron James’, there are still a few potential franchise players in this draft. Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond , Perry Jones and Harrison Barnes have been the most talked about (although I personally am not sure Barnes has any elite skill that would allow him to be a franchise player), but Quincy Miller and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist also have some potential. That’s six players, but most likely half are not going to fulfill that potential, so getting first crack is all the more important.
4. Speaking of the All Star game/weekend … No, it’s not true that Toronto is on-board for the big game anytime soon. As I’ve written and talked about numerous times, T.O. likely won’t have a shot at the festivities until the organization and the city can figure something out with the long-standing mid-February tenant of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre: The Auto Show! The MTCC would need to be used for the “Fan Fest” that’s always connected with NBA All Star weekend and the lack of availability hurts the Raptors’ chances. Plus, while the ACC is world-calls in many of its amenities, trust me when I tell you as a guy that has seen every corner and bowel of that arena, there is VERY little space to do anything extra like accommodate throngs of media, celebrities, and VIPs, etc. Honestly, if the Raps ever make it to a Conference Final or NBA Finals, I really don’t know what the media relations and community relations staffs will do to manage the people and the numbers. Keep in mind: the ACC was originally supposed to be a basketball-only facility (thank Isiah Thomas for that). But then the hockey folks jumped in and extra spaces and dressing rooms and overlow rooms, etc. quickly became the Maple Leafs dressing room, visitors dressing room, rooms for referees, and much more. The press room, for instance, is at least half if not a third of the size it was supposed to be.
5. What We Saw On Wednesday:
– Toronto’s offence is still a ways away from where its defence is
– I still believe the Raps could/should go undersized with Amir Johnson or Ed Davis as their starting centre
– 32.4% from the floor and 5.9% from distance is going to put you on the wrong end every time
– If James Johnson can bring some consistent offence, he could be such a valuable piece to the long-term puzzle
– Gotta be impressed with Andrea Bargnani & DeMar DeRozan getting to the line
– I still put very little stock in the +/- stat in the NBA