Expectations were high in the offseason, and now we are hurting.
We have gone back and forth, attempting to pinpoint the issue holding us back from our promised playoff run. Is it Bargnani? Coach Casey? Landry Fields? Dominique McGuire? Bryan Colangelo? Referees? Matt Devlin?
Who knows, but it seems after every game we have a new name on our list.
I think we need to get a few facts straightened out, and I believe that when people take a step back from the emotions of the recent HEART wrenching losses, they will be able to recognize the reasons for optimism on this team.
Lets begin by listing our close games:
Indiana 90 vs Toronto 88
Dallas 109 vs Toronto 104
Utah 140 vs Toronto 133 (3OT)
Philadelphia 106 vs Toronto 98 [tied with less than 2 minutes to go]
Charlotte 98 vs Toronto 97 [NBA retracts no-call, by all practical purposes, this was a win]
Detroit 91 vs Toronto 90
3 games decided by 2 points or less (one shot/one call)
1 Triple Overtime, meaning it was tied by the games end (one shot/one call)
1 tied game with 2 minutes to go
1 5 point game (3 shots)
What needs to be gathered is that our 3-10 record is deceiving.
Charlotte I am going to chalk up as a win, because even the NBA agrees, it was. 4-9
Now besides Charlotte, I am not claiming that any of these games are wins, or should be considered potential wins. My point is that each one of these games couldve gone either way, and if one shot went in, the perception of the entire game all of a sudden becomes positive, where as if that shot does not go in, the perception of the entire game turns to complete crap and frustration.
I do not consider this performance by the raptors to be below expectations whatsoever. Very easily we could be at 6-7 (3 games decided by 1 shot/call), and if we were and all the performances were the same, the perception would be that the raptors are right on track to their development as a team, and frustration levels would be much lower.
Lets look at other factors that justify our crappy record:
-Rookie Starting Center
-Starting PG and arguably best player, hurt for multiple games
-Landry Fields nerve has missed enough shots to rightfully be accountable to some of those losses
-2 stretches of 4 games in 5 days
-5 back-backs (out of 13 total games)
Now that we have soften those losses, lets talk about positives, and why this team is exciting:
-JV is the real deal. Rookie mistakes and lack of experience still a factor, and will be for a while, but he has met my hype in the off-season and is right on track!
-Lowry came in with MVP numbers to start the season, before the injury. Before the game where he got hurt, he was tied with Harden at the top of the league in Eff. (Yet only Harden got any media attention for that stretch)
-Derozan has shown massive strides towards becoming a more complete player. He is right on track to developing into the player we all are hoping he can be!
-Calderon was the 2nd best PG in the LEAGUE during kyle lowrys injuries, including 1 triple double, an 18ast night, and 5 consecutive 10+ ast games. His numbers as a starter are incredible.
-Ed is showing an awareness and activity on the court Ive never seen before. Despite his minutes being shot in the arm, when he is on the floor, I feel it (whereas before, he did his work quietly) I love his development, and wish for him to get more minutes!
-Ross has the tools. A silky jumper + great defensive ability on the perimeter. From what I have seen, I consider him the best close-out defender + shot contester on this team. Wait for his nerves to cool, and for the game to slow down for him. He fits a much needed role and will succeed at it, but is currently failing to produce as a rookie.
Overall, not only do I see a stronger core than ever in a raptors uniform (JV - Derozan - Lowry), but I see the potential for others on the roster to join (Ross). Calderon, if he gets traded, will bring back sweeter fruits, and if he stays all the better!
Ages of our players going forward:
Lowry - 26/27
Derozan - 23
JV - 20
Ross - 21
Ed - 23
Amir - 25
Fields - 24
Seeing as how 3/5 of our starters are 24 and under, and our 'vets' are 27, I LOVE the room for improvement in this current squad.
I would love to hear of other reasons to maintain optimism that Ive missed. I hope it does not just sound like excuse making, I am not trying to excuse anyone! I am merely pointing out that our team is young, raw, and above-all, competitive (which is new). What's worse? A blow-out or a close loss? For a fans perspective, a close loss is MUCH more frustrating. From a practical perspective, close losses are the development we need. Im not sure if anyone remembers the days, of 40 point-losses (with bosh), or streaks of blow out losses, but I do.
Close losses are more frustrating and take their toll on fans
But let me just say this:
Growing is a frustrating process, but you cannot give up on it.