Haven't been posting much, but still reading. Been watching the games too, of course. A few games back I decided I'd wait to post until after the tenth game. Wanted to get a sense of how the Raps were coming together this year. Here's what I've taken from their first ten.
Up until now I've always thought the wins and losses were meaningless. What was far more important was how they won or how they lost. And the most striking difference between this team and those of years past is that they are getting beaten largely due to their overall lack of skill. And I'm absolutely fine with that. Past teams had the skills, they simply failed to execute, and it was immensely frustrating to watch. This year, I don't care if they miss their shot so much as I care that the shot they took was a good one. The skill will come with time: four of five starters last game were under 25. Two of them are playing in only their second season (DD and Weems - for all intents and purposes).
It's a blast watching this team because you're watching a team where 5 or 6 players might end up with anywhere between 10-20 points, and one or two might end up +20. Not only that, but they're playing legitimate team basketball: fast, athletic, tough, underdog-style basketball. Anyone who plays ball, and who's played on teams that have no business winning against obviously superior teams, knows how awesome it is to hang with your opponent or beat them outright. And that's what this years team is all about.
Derozan and Weems have made huge leaps from last year. Weems in particular. The game clinching 3-ball against the Magic is an indication of that. Derozan was the first guy to Weems in celebration. I can only imagine how great it was for those two, knowing their chemistry, that one of them won the game against one of the league's elite. That's a relationship that I think will carry the Raptors, so long as those two continue to improve. Derozan is less meteoric, but his potential is greater. You can see it in his face when he makes a mistake. When he does, he doesn't hang his head like, "damn, that sucked." His look is more one of learning and understanding. It's a calculated response to having done the wrong thing, along the lines of seeing mistakes as stepping stones to better things, nonetheless being frustrated that he made a mistake. Call it the Anti-Jack Response. It's his confidence and poise that has me most pumped about his ability to reach his potential. I see his trajectory not as one huge explosion to dominance, but as a steadily increasing plane, whereby, all of a sudden, you look at the game boxes and see that he's consistently scoring 20-25, and think, "hey, didn't he score that many last game?"
This year is all about development to me. Like I said before, the wins, not so much. However, they played tough against the Magic and Heat. Wins were meaningless before, but I want them to take their next game. Why? Because that's how you develop. You learn how to harness your momentum. Momentum in games and between games, it's the same thing. So, it's not the win-in-itself that's important, but the fact that the Raps will have taken the next developmental step as a team: consistency. And it's been their inconsistency that has been that largest culprit in their 2-8 record thus far.