Sure, it could simply be a case of a player overachieving in a contract year, knowing a potential payday is on the line. But this situation feels different. Lowry’s numbers and style of play are indicative of a player who has bought into the team concept and is ready to do whatever it takes to help his team win. It’s not the ‘me first’ style we’ve come to expect from a typical player gunning for numbers—both on the statline and the paycheque—which tends to comes at the expense of the team.
The notion that objective, data-driven analysis should inform decision-making and will result in better decisions is absolutely correct, and that can and should be applied in any industry. Leveraging data in professional basketball for competitive advantage will result in a superior organization (more wins over the long run, relative to the other 29 teams) and, based on the current landscape of how the game is played, a more exciting brand of basketball. Those two key factors—improved performance and a more engaging, entertaining style of play—will result in a superior fan experience and, and as a result, accelerated economic growth for our organization. Basic analytic concepts have become relatively mainstream in the NBA. A number of front offices have an analytics staff, and successful offences have been built around the core quantitative findings: the value of three-point shooting, the importance of getting to the foul line and the sub-optimal efficiency of mid-range jump shots. While data is driving decision-making, it’s not possible for every shot to be a dunk or a three-pointer; teams still need to figure out how to optimize within the existing constraints.
BIGGEST SURPRISES HALF-WAY THROUGH: Lowry’s all-star worthy campaign; Growth of Ross; record after dealing highest-paid player; The play of Patterson. BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS: Amir Johnson’s struggles; Inconsistency of Valanciunas. SECOND HALF KEYS: Get Johnson and Valanciunas back on track; Improve fourth-quarter shot selection; Keep defensive focus that powered winning streak; Stay healthy.
Jan 2 – Jan 21 – 42% Approve – 38% Disapprove
Dec 31-Jan 1 – 73% Approve – 14% Disapprove
Dec 8-11 – 91% Approve – 3% Disapprove
Oct 26-28 – 62% Approve – 14% Disapprove
Sep 3-5 – 66% Approve – 9% Disapprove
July 24-28 – 73% Approve – 11% Disapprove
July 10-13 – 79% Approve – 6% Disapprove
July 9 – 75% Approve – 5% Disapprove
Toronto is not a bad team. They’re still atop their division with a 20-20 record and a two-and-a-half-game lead on Brooklyn. Yes, the Nets are coming on strong and their lineup is stacked with former all-stars and champions. And, yes, the Raptors have many flaws. As head coach Dwane Casey often points out, they’re not good enough to take any opponent lightly. Consistency, commitment, experience and depth are all factors that continue to impact Toronto’s rise and fall in the East. But defence (most nights), chemistry and a group that seems to be ‘buying in’—even with a few young bodies in key positions—have earned the Raptors notice around the league.
The bottom line is the true test in sports isn’t just how you handle failure, but how you handle success. This team has gotten off track from the formula that it was using beautifully of late. The games against the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and Monday’s loss to the Charlotte Bobcats all had major stretches where this team looked like they acted as if they had already “arrived” and didn’t have to do the dirty work anymore and just wanted to win pretty instead of grinding it out and laying it on the line with great effort and passion. I felt bad for coach Dwane Casey in Charlotte. It’s a helpless feeling as a coach when you have a team that thinks that they can beat folks with talent and not have to do the work to win. He was scrambling, trying to mix and match combinations and burn timeouts to give wake up calls, yet in the end, a terrific desperate effort came up short. As you can tell, I haven’t even mentioned Xs and Os once and don’t have to or plan to – that’s not the issue here, nor is it talent. To sum it up, winning is really, really, really hard to do, but losing is really easy.
If Carter had featured on a title-winning team anywhere along the way, or managed to recapture his Face of the Game status, he wouldn’t care so much. If the Raptors had found his replacement, or been sustainably decent, we wouldn’t either. Success would have cut the last tether. The inertia of failure ensured that we would be drawn back together. So here we are — a pair of former friends who no longer speak, but can’t quite remember why they fought in the first place.
“I have to get more consistency and I’ll get there,” Vasquez said. “I did it last year – whether it was a losing team or not – you can’t take away what I have done. I was a Western Conference Player of the Week – that was huge. That is what keeps me motivated and confident that I can do great things. It just takes time. It is just the fit. If you are in the right fit that happens to a lot of players – Jeremy Lin when he was with the Knicks – and I feel that this is the right fit for me. It is going to take a little time as I just came here – It wasn’t like I went through training camp and got used to the players.”
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