Before tipping off tonight's Easter Sunday match against the Golden State Warriors, the HQ looks back at yesterday afternoon's bizarre overtime win over the Philadelphia 76ers, a game that again showed the true colours of Jay Triano...
Last offseason, when it was announced that Bryan Colangelo was removing the "interim" tag from Jay Triano's coaching status, thereby making him the Toronto Raptors' head coach this season and possibly beyond, I was in favour of the decision. Once Flip Saunders was off the market, there just wasn't another coach out there that I pined for, and considering the team was still paying big dollars to Sam Mitchell, I thought it quite reasonable that TO look to retain Jay in a head coaching capacity.
This wasn't just some "I'm proud to say the Raps have a Canadian Head Coach" type PR.
I had seen Jay's coaching in action and between his basketball acumen and familiarity with the club, I thought this could be another Mike D'Antoni find for Colangelo; an extremely hard-working coach who never got a shot due to lack of NBA head-coaching experience, and yet who if given a shot, would thrive in a head-coaching role.
Things started off ok too.
Bryan Colangelo gushed to us during the Raptors' pre-season Media Day, stating that this was "the most prepared a coaching staff he had ever seen coming into training camp." He lauded Jay for his doggedness and you got the feeling that BC had wished he had made this move (making Triano the head coach) instead of keeping Sam Mitchell from day one.
I wasn't sure about this final point though.
As most of you remember, I wasn't a big Mitchell fan, but never thought firing him was the answer to all the team's issues. Again, I've always taken the stance that in the NBA unlike college, coaching simply doesn't have the same impact on games night in and night out. Yes there's a difference between a Phil Jackson and a Jay Triano...however between a Triano and an Alvin Gentry? I just don't see it.
There are no Bob Hugginsesque moments in the NBA (and as an aside, I still feel sick to my stomach for Da'Sean Butler) and to me, a team's success is still mostly dependent on the cast and crew of players on said team.
The Boston Celtics are a perfect example of this.
Celtics' fans went from calling for Doc Rivers head, to praising his "ubuntu" motivational techniques, to now once again questioning his decision-making abilities.
Folks, the only thing that's changed there is the players; new talent was brought in leading to a title, however that talent was on the "oldish" side in NBA years, started to break down, and now looks to be past the point where it can repeat as NBA Champs.
That's why when things went awry for the Raptors early in the season, I defended Triano. I maintained (and still do) that the major issue with this club wasn't the coaching, but the players brought in by Colangelo.
This all changed in Toronto's February 17 overtime loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
While I had indeed been critical of some of Triano's decisions prior to this match, it was this loss that shattered my faith in Toronto's head coach. If you recall, Jay made some very strange personnel decisions down the stretch, effectively costing the Raptors the win.
Since then, it's been one thing after another.
His stubbornness to remove certain players from the starting line-up, his decision to stick with various rotations even though it was clear to all they weren't working and most egregious of all, his continued "need" to give an under-performing Hedo Turkoglu major minutes even though they haven't been warranted.
Which brings us to yesterday's debacle.
In a game the Dinos led by 17 points, Triano stubbornly stuck with a faulty line-up down the stretch, and an over-matched zone defense.
A giant 76ers run which forced overtime in a game that never should have come close to that.
Yes, I understand Triano was going big to take advantage of Philly's "small-ball unit." But when that doesn't work, don't you try something else? Especially when the "big" line-up means sitting your hottest player (Sonny Weems yesterday, who was 9 of 11 from the field) for an entire quarter essentially?
I can't explain the frustration of watching the final 17 minutes of yesterday's match, and from the various comments on Twitter, perhaps I don't have to.
I think it's clear to all that either Triano is the world's biggest puppet dictator, or is in way over his head and the success of the club post Weems-Wright starting line-up switch, a move we here at the HQ had been suggesting since training camp, is a further indictment of either or.
Unfortunately much like many of the other onerous contracts Bryan Colangelo has brought on board, I'm not sure how this one can be moved. Toronto has been paying ex-coaches since the club's inception it seems, so I can hardly see Triano being let go at the end of the season so MLSE can pay two ex-ship captains.
No, I think again fans will be expected to ride it out, something we may be doing a lot of unfortunately over the next few seasons.
A win is indeed a win as they say though, and tonight the Raptors look to grab a fourth straight win in their continued push for a playoff seed in the East. While Chicago has been keeping pace of late, the Charlotte Bobcats have not and suddenly the Raps are only a game and a half back of the 'Cats for seventh place.
That's why tonight's match pitting the Raptors against the Golden State Warriors is a biggie...and here are our keys:
1) 3 Point Defence.
We all remember what happened last month when these teams met. Toronto was absolutely lit up from beyond the arc and therefore if the Dinos want any shot at winning this one tonight, they need to make sure history doesn't repeat itself.
2) Take Advantage of Size.
Let's face it. While the Warriors have loads of offensive talent, they're a pretty banged up club right now. In fact, the team is relying on various undersized forwards to man the middle, and tonight Toronto needs to exploit that in a big way. Who knows what Triano will do but I'm hoping to see the offense run through Bosh and Bargs down low all evening long.
3) Limit Fast-Break Opportunities.
This is one of the ways Philadelphia got back in the game yesterday, by running the ball down Toronto's throat. Golden State has the horses to do the same thing, and therefore besides controlling the glass, I'm hoping to see the Dinos slow it down, and force G State to beat them in a halfcourt match, instead of a full court sprint.