# So is there any doubt now over the main ingredient missing from this team? And yes, there are plenty of ingredients they’re short on. But if there is one thing this team is generally absent of too often it’s competitive effort. How maddening is that? That was my takeaway from their win over the Rockets Sunday. When they actually, collectively compete and commit to running hard in transition and defending for the entire 24 seconds of the shot clock and gang rebounding and trying to be first to loose balls, they’re not a bad team. They’re certainly good enough to be better than 10-15.
# Now it’s easy to say a team doesn’t work hard enough, often enough. It’s hard to quantify and a losing record tends to be the trump card. And it’s not like the group is lazy or apathetic, necessarily, though there have been a few nights. And mere effort isn’t going to consistently allow you to beat the Celtics and the Magic and the Lakers etc. Those teams are stacked with talent and play with great effort too.
# But in the middle world where the Raptors live, effort is often enough. Look at the Rockets. They don’t really have any good players, but they’re 13-10 and no one expects them to disappear from playoff contention because of the way they’ve willed themselves into it. Shane Battier is the only lottery pick, and he’s not very good, at least in a conventional sense. Chuck Hayes? Luis Scola? The guy is a three-second violation every time he catches the ball in traffic. Trevor Ariza has some game, but not as a primary scorer: He’s shooting 39 per cent from the floor. And it’s not like their bench is stacked.