Yes, there’s a game tonight against the 21-6 San Antonio Spurs, but first I want to discuss something that I have been seeing in Raptorland.

Being a fan of a sports team is not always easy. And when you’re a fan of a team that has had as little success as the Raptors have had over their franchise history, it’s even more difficult. Being a fan of a team often leads to disagreements but in the end, we’re all still Raptor fans.

We all still want the Raptors to succeed, in the end.

We all have different ideas and opinions of how that success can be achieved. In many instances, that can lead to passionate and intelligent debate. Other times it can bring out the worst in people.

And unfortunately that’s what I’ve been seeing a lot of lately, including here on Raptors Republic.

Football_Fan_Fight

The fact is some Raptor fans feel the only way out of the Raptors’ current predicament and what will give the team the best shot at real success is to tank and get a high draft pick. On the other hand, some fans hate the idea of tanking and want to build a competitive team without losing.

Two different philosophies with the same goal.

Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Sometimes it can be. A few months before he became a regular writer on this site, I was introduced to William Lou through a very passionate debate we had about tanking in the comments section. Despite the anonymity the internet allowed us, things remained respectful. He brought up points, I countered and brought up other points, and so on. In the end we agreed to disagree, but remained friendly. Sometimes we got frustrated when the other didn’t see it our way, but that frustration never turned personal. It never devolved.

We both understood that we had completely different ideas of what the Raptors needed to do and both of us were sure we were right. And we still do. And that’s alright.

For some fans, though, it’s not alright. For some fans, if you believe in tanking (or rebuilding or whatever you want to call it), then it’s okay to hate you for it. It’s okay to call you names and attack you personally.

And for some fans, if you don’t like tanking, then you’re the epitome of everything that has been wrong with the franchise for the last 18 years, and possibly even responsible for it. And you should be damned for it.

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And of course there are the ridiculous claims by both sides that only THEY are true fans, as if there’s some sort of empirical measurement of such.

Recently things seem to have taken a turn for the worse, and it’s getting out of control. When the Raptors win, the anti-tankers come out in force wanting to rub the tankers’ nose in it with unbridled glee. When the Raptors lose, the tankers yell at the top of their lungs how anyone who wants to win now knows nothing about basketball.

It’s pathetic and embarrassing.

I realize that this is the internet, and common courtesy often goes out the window, but all these people are doing is crapping in the pool which ruins it for everyone. Who wants to swim in a pool full of crap except people who like that? And what’s wrong with the people who actually like that?

Not liking someone because they beat their children or are promote racism or homophobia are good reasons to do that. Not liking someone because you have philosophical differences over a basketball team is silly.

Basically, I’m asking people to behave with a little more respect towards one another (at least on here) and act with a little more decorum. When you call someone a loser and they respond with an insult, it shouldn’t be a surprise. And it’s not exactly constructive criticism. All it does is bring down the level of debate to that of 10 year olds who don’t have the control over their emotions that adults are supposed to.

I mean, what I’m really saying is…

But onto the game at hand.

The last time the Raptors played the Spurs was just under two weeks ago and the outcome was pretty much what one would expect when a 15-4 team plays against a 7-12 team.

Since then, though, the Raptors have won four of five, including beating Dallas and Oklahoma on the road. If there’s no such thing as addition by subtraction, someone better not tell the Raptors because they are a completely different team without Gay, and a lot of it has to do with the fact Gay is not on the court.

The Raptors are 5-2 since Rudy Gay got on a plane to Sacramento, after going 6-12 with him. And it’s not as if the schedule has been any better since the trade. Since Gay left, six of the seven teams the Raptors have faced have had either the same record or better than the Raptors.

Of course, teams often have a bit of a honeymoon period after a trade or when a coach is fired. Players feel rejuvenated and the sum often looks better than the parts for a while. But it’s usually temporary. The same thing often happens when a star player goes down. The team bands together for a while, but in the end talent always wins out.

It’s a reality in the NBA.

The Spurs are still the Spurs. Ironically, they lost Saturday night against the very team that the Raptors beat last night, but they are also 5-2 since they beat the Raptors. And that’s despite Tony Parker sitting out a couple of games with a shin injury, as well as Tim Duncan and Ginobili sitting out a win against the Warriors due to advanced age.

Let me just reiterate, here. The Spurs, missing three of their top four scorers, and their only two All Stars, beat the Stephen Curry-lead Warriors who had recently gotten Andre Iguodala back from injury.

How did they do it?

That’s the interesting thing about the Spurs. While it’s true that, as I just finished saying, the Spurs would not be able to compete at the same level over a long period, what allowed them to do it against the Warriors, and more importantly, why they have the most productive bench in the league despite not a whole lot of household names, is because they are the best coached team in the league and run a system that allows them to plug in just about any player who knows it and they will compete.

 

Amir Johnson; Manu Ginobli; Patty Mills; Marco Belinelli; Boris Diaw

It’s not a coincidence that players tend to play most efficiently when they play in the Spurs system. Marco Belinelli has always been a decent, although inconsistent, player, but he’s having a career year with the Spurs. Boris Diaw looked as though his career was finished when he was in Charlotte. In San Antonio, suddenly he’s a useful rotation player, again. I couldn’t imagine what they might do with Rudy Gay!

Okay, maybe not.

The Spurs should be at full strength tonight, but watch what happens when the bench players come in. They end up playing the same.

Garbage time is usually unwatchable because guys who don’t normally play come in and try to do too much to show why they should play more, and it ends up making them look bad. It’s sloppy, selfish and just bad basketball. Not the Spurs, though. Spurs players are so well coached that they all do what they’re supposed to do when they’re supposed to do it even when they’re up by 20 with 2 minutes left. You’re still watching good basketball.

The Spurs have lost just 6 games all season, all against teams that are considered legit contenders (Oklahoma twice, Indiana, the Clippers, Houston and Portland).

The Raptors did get out to a 36-24 lead after the first quarter in their first matchup, but the lead didn’t last and when the Spurs turned it on, the outcome was never in doubt.

THREE BURNING QUESTIONS

Will the Raptors great play continue?

Like it or not, the Raptors simply aren’t talented enough to sustain the level of play they have been playing at. And playing against the Spurs is probably going to be a bit of a rude awakening. The Spurs are coming off a loss and haven’t lost back to back games all season. They are well-rested (relatively) and probably a bit grumpy from having dropped their second game to the Thunder.

This might not be the end of the good play, by the Raptors, but tonight will most likely be a hiccup at least.

What’s with DeMar DeRozan’s shooting?

Before the Rudy Gay trade, DeMar DeRozan was having his most efficient season since his rookie one, when he was the team’s fourth or fifth option most nights. In the ten games before Gay was traded, DeRozan averaged 24.2 ppg and shot below 50% from the field just three times.

In the six games since the trade, DeRozan is still averaged over 21 ppg, but has only managed to shoot 50% once, during that time. He is passing the ball more and racking up more assists, but it’s obvious he’s feeling the strain of being pushed into the number one option slot.

If the plan is to trade DeRozan, then it’s probably better to do it sooner rather than later, as his struggles will likely continue.

How well is Amir Johnson playing?

Back in the middle of November, I praised the game of Amir Johnson and opined the fact I felt fans were underrating just how valuable he is. At that time, Amir was not playing as well as we had become accustomed and some questioned whether his newfound parenthood was having a negative impact on him (those with children will understand why).

Well, in the last ten games, Amir is averaging 16.2 ppg on a sizzling .673 shooting, and grabbing 8.9 rpg. Those are better numbers than David West, and Paul Milsap is averaging 16.2 ppg, on .492 shooting and 8.2 rebounds in the same amount of time.

Both those players make substantially more than Amir does, by the way.

BREAKDOWN

I did the breakdown the last time the Raptors played the Spurs, and nothing has changed since then. The Spurs starters are better, their coach is better and their fans probably don’t hate each other nearly as much.

PREDICTION:

Yes, the Raptors beat the Thunder last night, but that’s all the reason they probably won’t beat the Spurs. Especially since the Spurs are coming off a loss against that same Thunder team.

Score: Spurs 108 – Raptors 94

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