Raptors Give Game Away to Pistons; Time to Panic?

The Toronto Raptors dropped to 3 and 10 on the season, giving away another game, this time to Detroit. Is it time for fans to push the panic button yet?

As I continued to stare at the whiteboard, I realized, I had nothing.

I dug shuffled through the various slides I had put together, hoping something would jump out.

Nothing.

I racked my brain, had I forgotten something? Was there an angle I had overlooked? Surely our CEO would point out anything I had missed and due to the size of the situation, and the responsibility placed on my shoulders in solving our little conundrum, I really didn't want that to take place.

I would much rather our CEO told me I had covered all the bases, and that the only thing left to do was to start fixing the various problems I had identified one by one.

In my employment away from RaptorsHQ, I often serve as a bit of a problem solver and in one of my previous jobs, we certainly had a problem for me to sink my teeth into.

Without warning the sales of one of our products dropped off.t

We're not talking slightly either. The bottom literally fell out.

My boss and his, our CEO, asked me to investigate to determine if this was a matter of people no longer shopping for the product, or if they were still shopping for the product, but simply not purchasing it.

It seemed simple enough as usually in said line of work, it was one of those two things that was wrong. Sometimes there was an issue causing problems for both the shopping and converting sides of the equation, but in every case, there were reasons for the problems that were easily identifiable, and therefore one could make an action plan, and start to implement solutions to turn things around.

Only for this particular problem, that wasn't the case.

EVERYTHING WAS WRONG.

People were no longer shopping, people were no longer purchasing, and despite my best attempt at summoning the powers of Lt. Columbo, I couldn't figure out what the root causes were. In short, there were so many issues that the more I dug, the more problems I found that needed to be fixed, and because of the sheer number of said problems, it was very hard to identify their various points of origin and hence, go about making fixes.

Everyone know where I'm going with this little analogy?

As I watched the Toronto Raptors choke once more last night, falling 91 to 90 to the Detroit Pistons, I was reminded of the previous situation, and couldn't help but think that Dwane Casey must be going through some of the same things in his head that I touched on above.

Because right now this team can't win games, and it's hard to pinpoint exactly why they keep coming up short, and how to fix it.

The National Post's Eric Koreen captured my thoughts much more succinctly post-game when he tweeted:

@ekoreen: The biggest problem for the Raptors: There is no isolating what's wrong. A little bit of everything, as is the case with bad teams.

So where to start?

The defence that was ranked 20th in the league in terms of efficiency going into last night's game?

The offense that while a respectable 17th overall in efficiency, sputters and stutters its way through seven-point quarters at times, and seems unable to execute in key fourth-quarter moments?

How about the team's supposed cornerstones, Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan, the former who up until last night's fairly efficient 34 point outing was playing the worst basketball of his seven-year career, the latter who while having a better season overall, disappeared on cue completely last night?

Injuries? It's certainly hard to put together a cohesive offensive and defensive schema when 13 games into the season you're already missing key players for big chunks of that time.

Youth? We are talking about one of the youngest teams in the league, one without much in terms of a veteran voice in the locker room to help stem the tide when things get rough.

Or maybe once again, Bryan Colangelo simply did a poor job evaluating the talent he amassed? Is this team simply not that good?

It's a concern I noted 10 games into the season as to me, aside from Kyle Lowry, we're still talking essentially about a core of Jose Calderon, Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson and DeMar DeRozan. Those four players have had major roles on this team for the last three seasons and during that time, the club has a winning percentage of .37.

One of those seasons was with Chris Bosh, and therefore it raises the overall average, so the point here is that those four as the key players on a team, do not make for a very successful NBA club.

This isn't hockey where you need three lines of solid players to tip the championship scales. This is the NBA where LeBron James can mean the difference between your club winning 50 games, and 35.

You need top talent and aside from Mr. Lowry, I fail to see much that would fit in such a category. Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross have the potential to get there perhaps, but at present their impact is limited. (Especially Ross, who now twice has seen the player picked one spot below him, Andre Drummond, badly outplay him when their respective clubs faced off.)

So to start with, everyone's expectations likely got a bit overhyped. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results and that's a bit what's going on here in my books. Kyle Lowry is a great player and a difference maker. But if his wagon is hitched to the DeRozan-Bargnani-Calderon trio that has yet to prove a winning combination, I'm just not sure how we can expect a 50 win team to suddenly bloom and blossom.

As for the other issues above? We're going to tackle them this coming week one by one as I do believe all as well have played a role in the Raptors' ugly 3 and 10 record.

However to me there's something bigger that the club needs to identify before it starts attacking these problems and that's its current lack of identity. Last year's Casey club said "sure, we might not be able to crack 100 points, but we'll be damned if we let you get 95."

This year?

There's no feeling of what this club is about. If Toronto is again going to hang its collective hat on "D" and "pound the rock," it can focus in on that, and then start to address the other issues from there. (Sidebar, that's probably the best idea considering Casey got this club of mediocre defenders to step it up last year, and only added superior defenders in the off-season.)

Start with the D and work out, however until that's established, I think it's going to be hard to right the ship, a ship I might add that needs some righting in a major way, and fast.

With a .30 winning percentage the club is on pace to win 24.6 games. And with games coming up against San Antonio, Houston and Memphis, this thing could get ugly in a hurry.

And if that's the case, forget identity, a new word may be gaining traction amongst fans and media.

Panic.

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