Carrying The Fire
The 2009-2010 Raptors were tremendously talented. They were relatively athletic, they could score and they had the assets needed to play some good defense occasionally. They also won just 41 games. You can blame some of those losses on injury, some of them on bad luck and some of them simply on being outplayed by a better team. However, most of their losses were simply caused by a lack of effort and intensity. They would lose large leads, they wouldn't come back from adversity very well and they would be out-hustled and out-fought. At times, it looked like they simply didn't have a passion for the game. With the 2010-2011 team, it doesn't look like this will be a problem.
Last year the Raptors had a rookie head coach and an extremely unorthodox defensive system. The players were supposed to defend an imaginary house-shaped area that surrounds the paint, and the system was complicated and ineffective in the first few games of the season. I think that when players are forced to learn a new defensive system which struggles to provide positive dividends early on, they will become discouraged. This can cause the players to not close out on shooters well enough, to rarely leave their primary defensive assignment to play help defense, and they end up not being where they're supposed to be, when they're supposed to be. If the players don't trust the defensive system, they won't put their hearts and souls into its implementation.
Defensive effort does not look to be a problem this year. The Raptors have hired an experienced and relatively well-regarded assistant coach in P.J. Carlesimo and Jay Triano has an extra year of experience under his belt. They will play a more traditional and simpler defensive system, in which they won't have trouble remembering where they should be and what they should do. The coaches for the Raptors will be asking the players to play a brand of defense that they all should be familiar with. The players will be asked to simply play hard one-on-one defense and to help their fellow players when they blow their assignments or are asked to shade them in a certain direction. This system is simple enough that it becomes hard for the players to put the onus on the coaches when the other team scores. The competitive nature of professional athletes will cause them to always want to be the best they can be and to want to try their hardest never to be shown up by an opposing player. This leads me to believe that The Raptors will play as hard as their bodies will allow them to, in order to be the best that they can be.
The Raptors have a lot of unproven players on their roster who are likely to play hard in order to improve their reputation in the NBA. Demar Derozan, Sonny Weems, Amir Johnson and Ed Davis haven't done enough the league to warrant appreciation, Josť Calderon and Andrea Bargnani are seen as offensive players that are liabilities on defense, and Reggie Evans, David Andersen and Linas Kleiza are seen as being one-dimensional role players by most of North America's basketball media. The 2009-2010 Raptors on the other hand, were almost all established players in the NBA. Chris Bosh was a proven star, Calderon was coming off of a decent year, Andrea Bargnani had just completed a breakthrough season and most of the other players on the team had accomplished feats on playoff-caliber teams. This year's Toronto Raptors squad is much hungrier to prove themselves then last year's squad was.
The 2009-2010 Raptors were expected to make the playoffs and some basketball pundits even predicted that they would fight for home-court advantage. If this year's team isn't one of the worst team in the league, then they will be exceeding expectations. No team wants to be in this position, but the Raptors must use these predictions as motivation to play at 100% of their ability for the full 48 minutes, for all 82 games of the season. The Raptors want to prove their detractors wrong and become a respectable and hard working team. They are sticking together as a unit on the court and off the court so that they can be the best that they can be. They are building team chemistry and they are trying to become as cohesive a unit as possible in order to win as many games as they can. This year's Raptors team will be fighting for every single win.
The 2010-2011 Raptors will be carrying a fire in their hearts and souls and will fight to the end in every single game. This year's defensive system puts the burden on the players to perform, the team is filled from top to bottom with players that want to prove themselves, and the team wants to prove the world wrong and exceed expectations. All these factors show me that the Raptors will be a hard-working, scrappy team that finally sheds the franchise's reputation as being filled with weak-minded and underachieving athletes. I have no idea how many games the Raptors will win this year, but if they continue to carry the fire, then they will shock the world and gain the respect of the rest of the league.
Do the rest of you feel as I do about this year's Raptors squad?
(Any comments or criticism would be much appreciated. Also, how do I use indents for my paragraphs on this forum?)
I do not.
I feel that no matter how hard they try, mounting losses will be takes its toll on this squad. There will be alot of ups and downs this season with mostly downs with a few players showing glimpses of hope and then have Colangelo make couple of trades to keep things interesting.
The big problem I have seen thus far which I suspected even before the season started is that Toronto does not have the big time player to carry the heavy load when things gets tough. There is no that guy (yet) that in the end of the game like we saw versus New York and Sac that you pass the ball to in the last minute of the game that can make some magic happening. Instead the players are just scrambling to get something done against a very stressed and active defence and as a result cannot buy itself a win. You just cannot win many close games with borderline NBA starters.
It is been a long time (Carter?!?!) since Raptors had a "big time player" the way you describe. Chris Bosh was good to carry the team for 43 minutes, but the ball on his hands in crunch time was so painful to watch.
Sorry, your enthusiasm in the last 2 paragraphs have no real precedent in the nba....as far as I can remember/tell. We just dont have the talent yet. Some maybe in development to reach another level but regardless of how hard they play (and I certainly hope they do) the W-L record isnt going to be pretty. As an inexperienced team OKC of a couple of years ago maybe a good comparision but they had Durant and you just knew he was special and then they had a couple of good drafts. With constant losing a young team without strong leadership either by a couple of players and the coaching staff tends to fray and become individualistic in their play. They have careers to protect after all.
are you on crack? the ball in his hands during crunch time was practically guaranteed points. if he wasn't going to score then he was going to the line.
as for the the new go-to guy, I'm pretty sure that's Bargnani's job, is it not? Even though he's not cut out for it, he's the one that the team should be counting on during crunch time. It's really the only way that it will shut up one of the 2 camps (the pro-Bargs camp made up of Multipaul and 1 other guy; and everybody else, lol)
Bargs has the fire, so does jack, evans, barbosa, anderson, and a few others.
Stop all the hatin nubreed, you know Bargs is dee man.