It’s difficult to know what the difference is between what you see in the preseason, and what you learn. You can see player-to-undoubtedly-be-released-in-January play a major role for his team, but you’d be foolish to over react to what you see (right everyone who vocalized a 2012 pre-season opinion about Gerald Green?). You could see the Spurs have a losing record, but if you think that means you know that they’ve lost a step, you’re crazy. You could see the terrible Philadelphia 76ers get beat up every game and think you know THAT OH MY GOD THE SIXERS ARE THE WORST TANK JOB OF A TEAM EVER! EVEN THE CHARLOTTE HORBOBNETCATS BLEW THEM OUT! You see what I’m getting at? It’s interesting to watch, it’s awesome to have the NBA (almost) back and there are some highlights and insights to be had. But mostly, it’s just irresistible temptation for over-reaction theatre. Let’s embrace this and have a little fun with it. What follows is a combination of what happened, what we can maybe learn from that, and unmitigated overreaction.
30 seconds in to the game:
Jonas Valanciunas is a full-fledged physical beast. Big Val opens the game looking like he can physically hold his own down low against the likes of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. That is no small feat. Having said that, he is very much still learning weak side defensive rotations the hard way.
The defensive plan looks to be for Lowry and the wings to duck under screens. Whether this is because Memphis can’t shoot or by design, we will see. Raps seem ok with giving up the deep shot.
Rudy Gay still dribbles WAY too high. Combine Rudy’s turnover-prone high dribbling, Marc Gasol’s no-jump jump-shot, Tony Allen’s ‘even I know this is a bad idea for me to shoot it’ offensive confidence along with Mike Miller’s haircut and you’re looking at the fundamentals of my pickup game.
Best way to sum up the focus and intensity of the first 6 minutes of the game: Amir Johnson corner three air ball.
Jonas has a new offseason tat hiding beneath his jersey on his right shoulder. Does anyone else see this as a genuine sign of development in his NBA game? Or is that a preposterous notion? Just me then? Cool.
9 minutes in to the game: ANOTHER AMIR JOHNSON 3 POINT ATTEMPT?! WHAT IS HE THINKING?! DOES HE NO LONGER WANT THE ADORATION OF THE NBA ANALYTICS NERD COMMUNITY? I DON’T UNDERSTAND!
I’m still trying to come to terms with cheering for Tyler Hansbrough. Amir Johnson offensive rebound put-backs help. The analytics nerd community just texted me and said that we’re still cool with Amir. Thank god.
The Raptors fast break and pacing potential is exciting. Everyone on this team can run, and while the bench isn’t exactly elite, they’ve got a lot of change of pace potential with enough bodies to give 4 starters a rest at a time. That wasn’t the case last year.
Landry Fields is a cutting to the basket savant. I don’t know who taught him this skill, but there is some unknown summer basketball camp coach in Southern California out there who is clearly the Mr. Miyagi of cutting to the basket.
Terrence Ross is playing with confidence and comfort. This has been a great pre-season for him. I don’t think that this is a case of him suddenly improve his game exponentially over the summer. It looks more like he’s just finally able to access what he already had now that he’s replaced hesitance, nerves and doubt with confidence. Also, it’s the preseason, but still.
I would like to see Zach Lowe’s bold prediction that DeMar DeRozan gets traded, and raise him a bold prediction that DeMar finishes the season in the top 5 for free throws attempted per game.
LANDRY FIELDS DRIVES AND SLAMS THROUGH TRAFFIC!! WE NEED TO BE PAYING LANDRY FIELDS EVEN MORE MONEY!!
DJ Augustin just missed a wide-open pull-up 3 in transition. Wait, DJ Augustin is on the Raptors? How did this happen? Who allowed this? I suddenly have no faith in Masai Ujiri! THIS IS THE WORST BENCH OF ALL TIME.
OK, DJ just subbed out. I love this bench unit again. Masai Ujiri is a basketball genius mind ninja.
Hey remember when Rudy Gay got votes for NBA All-Defensive team 2014…
Kyle Lowry looks much more comfortable being an actual point guard this season. While we’re talking about overreacting to things, let’s keep in mind when losing perspective on last season that Kyle Lowry is capable of being a top-ten point guard in the NBA. He talked about needing to change his attitude and embrace his role with the team at the end of last season. I believed him then and his play is showing it now. Buy stock in 2013-2014 Kylie Lowry.
There was a sequence with a minute left in the first half where Rudy Gay chased down a fast break for a Lebronesque block from behind that turned in to a quick DeMar basket. Liking what he saw, Kyle Lowry made a dirty block on Jared Bayless on the very next play, leading to a quick three from Gay. This Raptors squad has as much explosive athletic potential as any team in the league.
RAPTORS HOLD THE GRIZZLIES TO 27 FIRST HALF POINTS, ARE CLEARLY THE BEST DEFENSIVE TEAM OF ALL-TIME!!! Wait, what if I’m missing the point and this really means that the Memphis Grizzlies are the worst offensive team of all time? I WILL GET BACK TO YOU ON WHETHER OR NOT THE RAPS ARE THE GREATEST DEFENSIVE TEAM OF ALL TIME, DON’T NECESSARILY WANT TO OVERREACT.
I missed the first half of the third quarter, because I live in Canada and of course a mid-October snowstorm temporarily knocked my satellite signal out. My signal came back just in time to show Z-Bo getting booted out of the game for a flagrant foul. Of course I missed it and they’re already done showing the replays, because god hates me and there is purpose to life. Good thing I’m not writing about this game or anything, otherwise that would have been a major annoyance.
9 free throw attempts for DeMar through 3 quarters. I’m coming for your bold predictions belt @ZachLowe_NBA!
Aaron Gray is back on the court and back in our lives! And dare I say playing a meaningful part in the 2nd unit pick and roll game too? Do you think you could make it around an Aaron Gray pick before your man made it to the basket? I’m going to say no. There should be a game show where contestants try to guard a wing player while Aaron Gray sets high screens against you that you have to try and fight around. It would be like that early 90’s ‘Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?’ game show where nobody could ever win. On second thought, that sounds like a really terrible show. Let’s move on.
I’m getting the impression that the Quincy Acy: small forward project is going to be fun this year. I genuinely enjoy cheering for second round picks, great beards and good attitudes. If you don’t like Quincy Acy, you need a hug.
AUSTIN DAYE GETS BUCKETS.
Austin Daye is 10 inches taller than me but somehow only 30 lbs. heavier. I’m a skinny dude. So either every inch of height somehow only works out to 3 lbs. of body mass, or Austin Daye is a crazy skinny dude. Matt Devlin and Sherman Hamilton talked about how Daye needs to put on weight and develop an “NBA body”. But isn’t that what everybody is doing? Find me a pre-season interview-based article about any NBA player that doesn’t mention how ‘player x’ “put on 15 pounds of pure muscle in the offseason.” That’s what everybody else is doing. But if everybody else is doing it, then where is the advantage? If you want to stay ahead of the curve, you have to zig when everyone else zags, right? Maybe Austin Daye hooked up with the Billy Beane of personal trainers and now he’s outsmarting us all. What if skinny Austin Daye is the new market inefficiency? Ask yourself that question.
I’ve seen three different guys audition for the backup point guard role now, and I still don’t have any idea who it’s going to be. I don’t think that I’m alone in this.
It’s easy to forget that while a lot of guys don’t even get close to putting up a 75% effort level in these preseason games, there are a handful of guys on each team who are literally giving everything they have just to try and get a job. That’s an incredible amount of pressure for someone to try and perform under, and I can appreciate how big of a moment these pre-season games are for guys trying to earn a spot on the end of the bench, make a dream come true or maybe just not be unemployed. So while I kid about the pre-season, those guys deserve applause.
Toronto wins, 108-72!
I see you there, 8th place Eastern Conference playoff seed, I see you.
So, in all seriousness, what can we look back at this game and know that we’ve learned? Do we know who this team is and where they stand in the Eastern Conference? Is Valanciunas ready to make the leap? Have Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan upgraded and adapted their games to fit together and play efficiently? Will Terrence Ross be a meaningful NBA player? I think that, when asking these kinds of question from a game like this, we consider what Coach Dwayne Casey had to say in his postgame press conference. “As meaningless as these games are, you still can have a chance to work on some things.” Well then, maybe all we can confidently say that we know then is that this is an improving team with a lot of potential but who still has a lot of work to do and way to go, so temper your expectations accordingly. Having said that, THE 2013 TORONTO RAPTORS JUST MIGHT BE THE GREATEST DEFENSIVE TEAM OF ALL TIME!!!