When the atmosphere is heightened, the stage at the ACC is among the best in basketball, even when the locals are pining for a slice of pizza or are completely oblivious to a run. Melo ranks right up there with the likes of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, hoopsters who, at times, are received more warmly than any Raptor. Given their athletic edge, the Raptors would be wise in trying to establish a quicker tempo.
What it really comes down to is rhythm. Guys like DeRozan and Gay are rhythm players; get them going and they can look unstoppable, but go away from them for too long and that rhythm breaks down. Since Gay’s arrival the two share more per-game minutes in tandem then any other two-man combo on the team, meaning that they are frequently forced to try and balance the offense between the two of them. That makes sense on the one hand because it splits up the defensive attention one would have to battle on their own, but it’s also an odd choice considering there are stretches when both are on the bench together rather than having one anchor the offense with the second unit.
“You’ve got to put guys out there and make sure they do the right things,” Casey said. “Winning is the bottom line, but for the future of the organization we’ve got to give JV big minutes, we’ve got to give Terrence minutes. We’ve got to look at some other people in certain situations. Sometimes it’s a detriment to losing a rhythm or losing a lead.” Still, Casey feels these opportunities are invaluable to his young players. “I’m putting the pressure on those guys to go into the game and to perform to win,” he said.
Coaches, like many of us I suppose, gravitate to lower-risk strategies even if it means trading off much higher rewards. In the article, Raptors assistant coach Micah Nori, noted the same is true with players: “It can be tough, say coaches, to sell players on drifting so far from their own assignment. Guys don’t want to be embarrassed, or see themselves on TV giving up a dunk or an open 3″ It is human nature. By relying on more three-pointers and helping more aggressively on defense, you introduce the potential for more blowout losses. However, you also introduce the potential for several more wins.
The word finally came down from the mouth of Dwane Casey himself, that the Raptors intend to play Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross more now that the playoff push is over. With the youngsters getting a longer look it is important to tout the future of the franchise. Valanciunas is a player that excites the fan base. He is beginning to show more confidence and skill in his increased playing time. On Wednesday in Charlotte he looked solid inside bringing down 7 rebounds and pouring in 18 points on 54% shooting. There is legitimate hope for his future in Toronto and now is a great time to play into that. Let the fans know this is a team on the rise and that there is a franchise player to get behind. It worked in the early days of Vince Carter and Chris Bosh and it should work now.
“He’s got a great head, he really does,” marvelled Leo Rautins, the Raptors television analyst. “It’s even more impressive when you know it’s an international guy because there’s going to be more adjustments. “He’s probably the most consistent rookie I’ve seen. His personality every day is exactly the same. He can have the best game in the world, he can have the worst game in the world. But he’s smiling and ready to work the next day.”