Now that the trade deadline has come and gone I can’t help but look towards the off-season. If you need to know why I have given up on this season just look at the box score from last night’s game. The Raps got destroyed in every aspect of the game.
Last night was a debacle.
It was disappointing.
It was unacceptable.
What it wasn’t however was surprising.
For the past little while this team has done a lot of talking. The message was that a sense of urgency has set in and it is time to pull up the socks and start winning games. It’s pretty clear now that it is all just talk, because as my grandmother told me, actions speak louder than words.
It was quite evident however last night that there is no sense or urgency with this team. None. All the players knew how important this back-to-back with the New York Knicks was yet this team came out flat. Actually saying they came out flat would be giving this team a compliment.
The reality is this team knows this year is over and they are playing like it. It’s too late now and the Marion acquisition is going to do nothing to change that.
Why has this season been a lost cause?
That’s the ultimate question and one that BC needs to find the answer to in a hurry. With 2010 looming in the distance the longer it takes for the Legomaster to fix this situation the less likely it is we will see CB4 wearing a Raptors uniform after that date.
Now there have been plenty of excuses bandied about when it comes to why this team has disappointed. Injuries, chemistry and even the schedule (an excuse that gets weaker by the day) have all been pointed to as reasons why this team has a record of 21-36 rather than 36-21.
There is however a bigger reason why this team has struggled - this team has no identity.
With the trade deadline having just come and gone I am left wondering just what BC is attempting to do. Moving O’Neal and Moon was a significant trade make no bones about it. In some ways I understand the move. In these uncertain economic times and with an ownership group not willing to enter the luxury tax, clearing space under the cap is sound business. It also gives BC more flexibility in the off-season. I get the fact that BC was unhappy with the results when Jermaine O’Neal was in the line-up.
The part I don’t understand is just what this move is intended to do outside of freeing up some money. Is the move strictly financial or is a bigger message being sent by BC? Is this move indicating a shift in philosophy or not? With JO, Bosh and Bargnani it was clear that playing in the half-court was the approach. It wasn’t that long ago there were discussions of twin towers and running sets similar to the Spurs teams that featured David Robinson and Tim Duncan. Now with the acquisition of Marion, a player who excels when running the court, is BC trying to change the identity of this team or are we just riding out the rest of the season waiting for some money to free-up? If Colangelo is trying to change the identity of this team I find that frightening. It seems like this team has tried to be four or five completely different things since Colangelo’s arrival. We all remember the 100 shots in a game fiasco correct?
It’s this lack of identity more than anything that is killing this franchise and the fault for that lies squarely with BC. At no point have I been completely sure what BC has been trying to build. Hopefully this off-season BC can send a strong and clear message when it comes to his plan and it all starts with the coach. Colangelo needs to find a coach with a strong system and he needs to find the players that fit in that system. He needs to commit to a direction and stick with it.
I am sick watching a team devoid of an identity. Please, no more flipping back and forth. A decision has to be made whether this team is going to be a half-court team that gets the occasional fast-break basket, or one that gets out and runs. You can’t be both. I for one think the best option is the former as we have a point guard who is conservative and does a good job running half-court sets.
Whatever BC decides though let me be clear - he can’t be shy to clear the decks when it comes to this roster. A commitment has to be made to a system (this includes defense!) and then to the players. The players need to fit in the system, not the alternative. There should really only be two untouchables. CB4 and Calderon. Everyone else I could easily get over seeing them in a different jersey.
Once a decision is made on a system or style of play then decisions have to be made about every other player on this roster and that includes Andrea Bargnani. People seem to forget that before we know it, Andrea is going to need to be extended and that could be costly. If you were a general manager would you be willing to give this guy a 6 year $60 million deal?
The problem is even if Colangelo does finally decide on what sort of team he wants to build it won’t be easy for him to make the necessary adjustments. Guys like Jason Kapono, Kris Humphries and Marcus Banks are not going to be easy to move. Only Parker, Graham and Marion are going to be free agents. When it comes to Marion I only want to see him back if the team plans to play to his strengths and he is willing to sign for way less than he is making now. Anthony Parker I have no issue with letting walk. In fact I am disappointed that BC wasn’t able to move him prior to the deadline. There are internet reports out there that he was sought after. Graham is the only guy I feel strongly about BC re-signing out of these three. He is one of the few guys on this team that seems ready to bring energy every night. Last night was a perfect example.
This team doesn’t just need a few adjustments, it needs an overhaul. BC sure has his work cut out for him this off-season and a lot of people will be watching very closely. The doubters are starting to accumulate.
It’s going to be tough to watch the remaining games this season, but hopefully this team doesn’t go into full tank mode like they did last night. Team’s and players should always be working for the W. With that in mind here are the three keys to Sunday’s game.
1. Close Out: The Knicks hit 19 three’s last night. What else is there to say? The Raps have to force these guys to put the ball on the floor. They have to get a hand up. They have to show some pride on the defensive end. The ACC crowd won’t stand for a performance like last night and they shouldn’t.
2. Leadership: Did anyone else get the feeling during last night’s game that this is a rudderless ship? Triano looks like a spent man. Bosh looked completely disheartened and no-one seemed to want to lead this team. You can knock Kevin Garnett all you want but even in the worst of times in Minnesota he still led his team. BC has to find this team some veteran leadership in a hurry this off season, but in the meantime someone has to step up.
3. Start Inside: The Raps started last night’s game with nothing but jumpers. This was hard to watch given the Knicks don’t exactly have any giants manning the paint. The Raps have not shot the ball well as of late so they must try and get the ball into the post. Obviously Bosh is the primary option here but Bargnani must show more of a willingness to get down on the blocks. If you want to win in this league your center can’t be shy of fighting for position.
PS: Sorry about the score mix-up on the home page. Can't seem to flip the numbers.