As the Raptors move towards completing the pre-season, more and more questions begin to be answered. However, against the Chicago Bulls, the Raptors may find an opponent who will make them question themselves.
Although there should have been little question as to which player Bryan Colangelo should try to keep, (sorry Ronald Dupree) your work during this pre-season has forced the Raptors into keeping you.
And boy, the Raptors may need to put you into service immediately.
"Da Bulls" recently completely destroyed the Raptors with some heavy work by their front court as the Raptors were completely massacred on the boards. A repeat of that scenario will be unacceptable even in pre-season. So Joey Dorsey, you may be put to use very soon.
However, there will be many other keys to tonight's game as the Raptors will need to continue to develop on their good play from their last game against the Suns.
1) Physicality: I was left trying to think of an all-encompassing trait that was sorely lacking in their last match up against the Bulls. It's hard to forget that Joakim Noah almost out-rebounded our entire front court, but at the same time, the Raptors were just coming out without any real energy.
Fine. That was the past.
But I also wanted to stress the importance of players like an aggressive DeMar DeRozan or Linas Kleiza who will also be an asset against players like Noah. Both players will also be able to attack the Bulls in the paint and they'll be able to draw fouls on guys like Noah if they refuse to back down. There will be some nights when the Raptors will face a front court which is bigger and stronger than their own and as a whole, how the Raptors decide to stand up to them with their physicality will determine if they can overcome one of their bigger weaknesses.
2) Get 'er Done Inside: A couple games ago, Triano seemed to send a message to his team by playing his hardest working players in a Celtics loss. I have absolutely no problem with this and if the Raptors need to send another message, so be it. If we have to have guys Andrea Bargnani ride the pine for guys like Joey Dorsey, Triano should have the endorsement to do so.
What happened the last game against the Bulls was downright embarrassing and accountability has to be a #1 priority. The Raptors coaching staff simply has to set the tone for what is acceptable and what is not in this young season if we hope our front court to play beyond their career numbers.
3) Starting Strong: By now, we know that our secondary unit has been looked upon constantly to provide a spark and create a situation for the Raptors to win. The pattern has been that the Raptors get into some sort of hole, then the secondary unit digs them out and establishes a rhythm or pace and the starters finally find their legs defensively and the Raptors figure out the game by then. This kind of pattern is not going to be acceptable against most teams and is not a recipe for success.
For one, most teams are playing their secondary units a lot more in pre-season which means that we will most likely not see the same effect when opposing teams play their starters more minutes.
Secondly, constantly climbing out of holes puts a mental strain on players. Imagine needing to always come into the game with a negative score and needing to pull the team back to even with the opposing team night after night. That kind of scenario can definitely be taxing on some of the players.
So while it's before the actual season, I'd like to see a quicker start from our starters and a more efficient use of their court time. I'd like to actually see some signs that this is not going to be the norm going forward. I'd like to see our starters establish and set the tone by starting out with energy and aggression so that when our secondary unit enters the game, they can be the "straight" to our starter's "left jab".
And while I know we have a million other little things to take care of (such as free throws, pick and roll defense, individual weaknesses, etc...) it's these three larger picture areas that I'd like to see the Raptors focus on for now. With four games left in pre-season, the Raptors have shown that they're in fairly good shape to start the season, but their obvious weaknesses have to be worked out before they head out west to start the season on a road trip.
There's still time to establish some of these larger ideas to make sure they're being done day-in day -out so that they become the norm for this year's squad.
So here's hoping that we see the Raptors come out firing by Nov 1st.