John Lucas III should just retire right now, because this was undoubtedly the pinnacle of his career.

The New Orleans Hornets walked into the ACC last night with a similar record to the hosts, but if their last meeting was any indication, this was the Raptors’ game to lose. It did turn out that way eventually, but not without a little theatrics.

This team and drama? Go together like butter and toast.

The game started off on the right foot, with a burst of offence and some nice ball movement. Amir Johnson typically was on the receiving end of some nice dimes by Kyle Lowry. The Lowry we saw in the first quarter is the kind of player we saw to start off the season. Although he wasn’t able to maintain that torrid pace, partly due to being benched in favor of the great Lucas, it was an encouraging sign that perhaps everything is starting to normalize for him.

He’s the clear cut starter now. Rudy Gay has gotten acclimated to the team, and Lowry didn’t seem to force feed the swing man as much as he had in previous games. Kyle needs to be one of the top 3 scorers on this team every night. He’s got that kind of ability. Motivation should not be a factor as this has become his team after the trade. The annoying backup in Calderon who had Lowry constantly looking over his shoulder is gone. His best friend was acquired, perhaps with some of his prodding. Now he has to show us whether he can play at close to an All-Star level. The assists have been there, but the scoring needs be at 15+ per game.

So the Raptors held a cozy 11 point lead after one quarter. This game had the feeling of a wire-to-wire blowout, but the bench came in with one John Lucas, and horror ensued. It’s not that the Hornets’ bench closed a double-digit gap in the matter of minutes, it was the ease that they did it with. It didn’t matter that DeMar DeRozan was out there to lead the subs. It didn’t matter that the “untouchable” Terrence Ross is still nothing more than a glorified 3-pt shooter. And John Lucas, boy it’s been white-knuckle time with John Lucas running the show. Whatever transpired later on this night was a unicorn. It’s the aberration of all aberrations.

Maybe, just maybe, the tongue lashing the bench received from the rest of the team that Lucas referred to on the post-game TV interview, sparked the spark plug. If he can play more like that, which is a big if, then we might have something resembling an NBA rotation player. The step back long jumpers were fluky, that we could all live without. His quickness and dribbles that he used so aggressively to get into the lane, that was something we need to see more of. His spot-up shooting, that’s where he needs to be one of the best.

He was the story in the second half. The starters couldn’t replicate their first quarter domination, and this time when the bench were reluctantly called out on to the floor, the Third was ready.

Perhaps it wouldn’t have even mattered, as if this team has shown anything this year, it’s that it can put away lesser teams at home. Partly because the referees, who have been a real story this year, have just as less respect for the other team. The bigger reason is that this current outfit is more talented than New Orleans. That could all change if Anthony Davis could play like a first overall stud that he was hyped up to be, but right now Greivis Vasquez is the best player on this team and that’s not a compliment, as good as Vasquez has turned out to be this year.

Seeing the way Landry Fields defended a smaller quicker Eric Gordon, and the way Alan Anderson is starting to turn into another Mikes James situation, a lineup of Lowry, Fields, Gay, Johnson and Val/Gray would be intriguing (at least defensively).

Let’s end with a nice comment in the Reaction segment, about Alan Anderson, whom Raptor nation seems to have unanimously turned on. Couldn’t agree more, although it`s pretty clear not many will care to see the other side of the coin, it`s summed up nicely here.

This is by poster Ion66:

I get where AA is coming from. The guys had a long journey, lands an NBA job and his play and scoring were a big part of our “comeback” run. Now he’s got to worry about his position with the team and he’s playing like he’s auditioning for a contract, not just playing within himself. I totally understand that, and can’t say I’d not try and do the same in his shoes. I just wish he’d let the game come to him and not try and force it, because I think that’s a big part of why he’s not making those buckets, and trying to get hot and keep his job. I like what he did and has provided for us, so I’m not going to call for his head, but someone needs to sit him down and tell him to just relax and play.

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28 Responses to “The little engine that could”

  1. Eric Whitley

    Is anyone else noticing how easily T Ross gets burned in 1 on 1 iso situations? I feel like he’s always behind the ball handler right off of the first step and it’s making his defence look horrible. He’s extreme athletic and fast so I find it really strange how often this happens to the rook. Hopefully this is just a lack of experience and he will better learn how to position himself against certain types of players. 

      • voy

        the kid is playing against bigger, stronger and quicker guys than he ever has in college.  i think its a little premature to start angling future storylines that he is a defensive liability, especially when he’s been on such a short leash. 

        no question he has had a rough stretch, but i think some of that can be attributed to the quick hooks he’s been getting.  i think ross may be feeling the pressure to contribute positively as soon as he steps on the court. its possible he is trying too hard to make things happen rather than just letting the game come to him.

        as long as he’s working, i wouldn’d mind giving him extended burn with all of or a combination of  lowry, dd and gay and let him run and get some easy baskets.  with those guys on the floor I dont think he’ll feel the pressure to do as much as he may feel he needs to when he’s on the floor with less talented players.

        kid could be a dud. however i dot think you are learning much about him when you have him on the court with lucas or are pulling him after 7 minutes for an alan anderson.

        my thoughts. other opinions welcome.

        • 2damkule

          yeah, generally agree.  he is on a short leash, but hey, that’s the deal when you’re a rook on a team with playoff aspirations. 

          i think mgmt actually thinks that’s true.

          anyway, i see ross overthinking on D…he knows that if he gets burned, he’s taking a seat, so he’s kind of getting caught in the middle, and is waiting on his man to make a move, and hoping to be able to react to it, vs. just playing. 

          on offense, he’s just sort of lost, but again, somewhat to be expected…he’s trying to do something to keep his minutes up, and generally just ends up pressing.

        • ghotte

          I’mm in the camp to give him some extra time BUT when he comes out and plays like he did yesterday a benching is a good thing. Let him think about the things he should be doing on the court. A definite liability against NOLA. 

        • Dan

           It’s true. A lot of the rookies are slowing down. Jonas’s injury could be a blessing in that he will have energy now to finish the season strong. Look at Anthony Davis yesterday compared to his stat line the first game. I think they need to run more plays for Ross and encourage him to try to create for himself and not settle for just dunks and threes. He showed again last night a good little drive and kick to Jonas for a dunk. The problem is he is usually an afterthought in the offense.

  2. onemanweave

      This may very well be a dumb comment, but stupid is ….. .  Could Alan Anderson be opton 1b or even 1a at point guard?  Does he handle the ball well enough to split or take time from the Third?
       I know, I know, why replace a chucker with a bigger chucker?  The thing is, if you can get past the shooting compulsion, kind of like telling the Titanic captain — ‘if you can get past that first iceberg…’ — AA has a pretty good b-ball IQ when he chooses to exercise it.  He made some  heady plays at times when he was getting PT.
      He’s much better defensively than Lucas. He can shoot, we all know that.
       Why take a guy we’re scorching for Jamesitis at the three or two and make him a one?  Alan Anderson is a survivor. Perhaps, right now, he feels that re-discovering his shooting stroke is the only way he can stay in the league.  If he was moved to point, I believe he would be able to grasp that it required dishing more than chucking.
       Would it work? Who knows. JL111 will always be what he is — micro-wave offense or disaster. His size makes him a defensive liablity, lessened somewhat by his second string status, but what if Lowry is injured?
       This season is next to lost. We do not really need Anderson playing heavy minutes in the wing rotation. Is it worth trying him for stretches at the point?

  3. DumbassKicker

    “The annoying backup in Calderon who had Lowry constantly looking over his shoulder is gone.”

    You really wrote that? In a word, pathetic.

  4. 2damkule

    i don’t think nearly enough is being made of derozan and whatever that was last night.  i don’t often get angry watching a game, but when you break down what he’s doing out there, it’s just maddening. 

    off-the-ball, he can’t seem to get open, despite them running sets involving multiple screens designed to free him from his man.  they’ll run him around a staggered screen, bring him around the baseline for what should be a mid-range catch-&-shoot…except, he’s never open, because he executes the play soooo slowly that his man – despite having to fight through 2 picks, is usually right there when he gets the pass.  and since the defender doesn’t really have to respect DD’s ‘ability’ to put it on the floor & drive past, he can get up & take away the shot, which usually forces DD to pass it back out.

    the next time he beats his man clean off the bounce without a pick might be the first.

    why is he so slow handling the ball?  he puts ZERO pressure on the D, because he has no confidence dribbling with any kind of pressure or in any traffic.

    and yeah, i know, he gets about as little benefit of the doubt when he’s going to the lane as perhaps any player in the L. 

    ok, end of rant.  back to basking in the glow of the win!!!

    • Nilanka15

       By the time he realizes there’s no place left to go, there’s less than 10 seconds on the clock and the possession is largely wasted.

      • Dan

         He constantly dribbles into defenders and then rather then a quick pass out dribbles some more then settles for a contested jumper. He has improved a bit each year but there is no point having him and Gay. They are both volume shooters. Gay has a much better feel for the game and can create his own shot and has a more varied offense. Plus he rebounds , defends and passes better and has way more length. Raps need a shooter at the two guard spot. Someone who actually shoots threes close to 40%. Korver or Reddick. Right now they have Gay, Lowry and Demar all outside the three point line with only Lowry shooting a good%. Demar can’t dribble so it’s a waste having him out there.

        • Nilanka15

          Pretty much agree on everything, although I don’t think we need such a 1-dimensional shooter like Reddick or Korver.  I think Ross could (eventually) slide into that role, and still be a threat to score in other ways….in addition to being a reliable defender.

          • tmk

            I actually think Reddick would be a great addition, and not a 1-dimensional shooter at all. Now I have no idea about his defense  but the guy can actually pass and create offence, he’s averaging almost 5 assists this season. Again, I haven’t watched him much, but he doesn’t seem like a strictly catch and shoot guy like Korver, I think he can contribute in many other ways as well. If we did a straight up trade for the two players I think it would actually improve the team. Perhaps, DD has more “potential” as a scorer, but Reddick has grown in areas (like passing) unlike DD and complements this group of players better.

    • ghotte

      He had an off game. He wasn’t even rotating over on defense with any committment so it’s a good thing the backups ended up carrying the game. 

      DD really has to work on the mental game; if they are not giving him the calls, try to find other ways to impact the game (say, like assists which he’s shown he can do when challenged.) 

      Rather than redundancy, I think it’s a microcosm of the learning  the whole team is going through right now. 

  5. Roarque

    So everyone agrees that there’s something bothering DDR. No doubt about it. Whose job is it to see that and to find out why and to fix it? That’s why he gets the big (and I mean BIG) bucks. Can you imagine in your wildest dreams, getting PAID a million bucks to coach an NBA team. Pinch me – and a front row seat to boot!

    C’mon Dwane – solve this!!

  6. Raptorsss

    Roarqe it’s not Dwane’s job to deal with Derozan’s maturity and focus issues.  As 2damkule says, they throw out multiple picks to try and get him open and he can’t do it with  any consistency. 

    • Roarque

      I’ve never been in the dressing room of an NBA team so I actually don’t know what Dwane’s duties entail. I guess I assumed that the head coach is responsible for more than Xs and Os – ie, drawing up plays. When I have supervised high performance professionals in my line of business, I quickly learned that each one was an individual with their own unique motivators.

      These players are people like you and me and they each are motivated differently. I do believe that Dwane’s job is to get inside the psyche of each of the players so he’ll know HOW to push the buttons on each player.

      If DDR is “just having an off game” then as the head coach I want to know what caused that drop in performance. Was it a touch of the ‘flu, was it family problems, was it lack of sleep, an ingrown toe nail? If Dwane knows then why doesn’t he bench the kid and put in AA or TRoss. Having DDR trudge through his plays is frustrating and (on this team) unnecessary.

      And while I know you didn’t say this, I want to head off the comments from others who believe that the money is their primary motivator – that doesn’t resonate with me or my experience in life.

        • Roarque

          Steve, I’ve met a few professional hockey players socially and aside from their need to compete about EVERYTHING they do, they were just regular guys who had no idea about $$$. Their wives were another story altogether!

    • Roarque

      I hear you and your source material is noted. DDR produces 20+ regularly and then has a games with 4 or 6 or 8 points – for no apparent reason. So we can shrug or investigate. DDR gets paid $50,000 per game +/- which is so  much more than I make that it’s embarassing. If I have a bad day, my bosses can shrug and expect tomorrow to be better. At $50K per, I’d like to suggest that investigation is a worthwhile endeavour. 

      Say DDR always has a “bad” game after sleeping on a eurathane foam pillow or after eating roast pork or after having a screaming match with his sister over her ridiculous marriage to that nutbar brother in law. Why not check it out – if only to make sure that during the playoffs, the offending behaviour is eliminated?

    • Dan

       It’s not one bad game. He always does this. He will go a few games sticking to his averages. Then have a few  good games and then have a few terrible games. If you look at his stats they are barely better then last year and he is playing a minute more per game. The only time his ppg have risen are with minutes and not usually with efficiency. I realize Gay has nights where he takes a lot of shots to get his points too. He can also get those shots anytime he wants. Demar has to take what the defense gives him and he’s shown more then a couple of times this year a single solid defender can shut him down.


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