Monotony has countless results. It can yield efficiency, hive-minded and drone-like. It can yield consistency, the ability to hit targets with your eyes closed. But perhaps more than anything else, it can result in boredom. The yawning chasm of trying nothing new.
The Toronto Raptors hadn’t played an exciting brand of basketball for years now. They have been mostly good, but they have been monotonous. In plenty of indexes that you can use to describe “fun” basketball -- 3-pointers, dunks, drives, passes -- the Raptors have been at the bottom of the league. They have been a monotonous eye-sore, the ghost of Dwane Casey pounding the rock with Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam taking over the mantle from Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. They have been in many ways successful, but they have also been relatively boring.
The Raptors can finally embrace the unknown. Who will be in the 10-man rotation on any given night? Uncertain. Chris Boucher found himself on the outside of the rotation after a great preseason, but Darko Rajakovic insists he will play at some point. Where will Pascal Siakam play in a month? Hard to say. It's clear the team's new priorities do not center him. The team’s focus has drifted from a metronome obsession on the present to a free-jazz dream of the future. That is freeing. It is exciting. A hyperfocus on the now takes its toll, both physically and emotionally.
Last year, the Raptors played their starters more minutes than any other team in the league in a Sisyphean quest to win games and make the playoffs. They traded a first-round pick for Jakob Poeltl to fix their flaws and get back to winning. They strove and clawed and ended up falling flat on their faces for all their effort.
Now they’re just playing with vibes and seeing what happens. For one night at least, those vibes were good enough. The defense was stellar, the transition offense was great, the shooting was good, and nothing else mattered.