3 in the Key: Raptors vs Nets

He's just going to tear apart our roster. - Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Raptors return home after a terrible road trip which may have broken their spirit. Kinnon Yee wonders if they can get back to any semblance of their previous selves before it's too late.

There's more than enough blame to go around the Raptors right now.

Fingers are being pointed, the team is stressed, and the Raptors have come out of their recent road trip a broken and defeated team.

Meanwhile, Bryan Colangelo continues to talk about the long term health of this team even though he was talking about an accelerated rebuild at the Raptors Media Day.

Doesn't inspire a heck of a lot of confidence, does it?

Yes, there are pessimists out there who will point to the fact that they never felt that this team was any good.

Still, I doubt many believed that the team would be so fractured with so much frustration and so little action to back up their words. At the very least, most people expected this team to be at least as good as last year's team.

This team didn't just lose on this road trip, they basically got blown out their past three games.

The only peep of a rumour was the Gasol trade, which I remarked to my friend that I might end up dying laughing. I can almost hear Colangelo saying, "I know you didn't sign with us Steve Nash. No problem. We'll bring the team to YOU!"

What's frustrating for some of us is that with no hockey, the Raptors have yet another chance to make serious headlines. It's yet another wasted opportunity.

Then, there's the waiting game.

Most of our readers are waiting for a trade to happen.

Here's the thing. If the team isn't going to be competitive and there are serious problems with the rotations, the Raptors need to continue to develop their players to make sure that this year isn't a complete waste.

As the losses mount and as this team gets their confidence further shaken,

I'm talking of course, about Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas.

While Ross has shown some spurts on this trip that he's figuring out his role on this team and is being led along slowly, having Jonas play alongside Andrea Bargnani is the biggest concern that I have right now. Playing next to a power forward who is often out of position and often late on rotations cannot be doing the rookie's psyche any favours.

Despite the strong start in pre-season, Valanciunas has shown that he has trouble fitting into the starter's offense with a driving point guard like Kyle Lowry and ball hogs Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan to contend with. He is often waved off and players do not use enough of his picks in their offensive schemes.

All that and allowing Valanciunas to play against the NBA's second tier athletes may help him to approach the game more slowly.

Against the Nets tonight, we can't really expect much more than that. The Nets are in the midst of their own four game losing streak, but if the Raptors think they are at the same level, they have another thing coming. New Jersey has a variety of weapons such as Joe Johnson and Deron Williams, but they even have other players like Andray Blatche step it up on any given night.

That's not even counting the fact that Kris Humphries and Reggie Evans both are on the Nets and are bound to chew up the interior unless the Raptors utilize their bigs such as Aaron Gray effectively.

That's especially true if the Raptors don't have a full roster to play with.

I'm hoping for a little addition by subtraction. If Andrea Bargnani remains questionable and does not start tonight, the Raptors probably have a stronger chance of making this game competitive. If Amir Johnson is suspended, the Raptors could be going into a tough situation.

However, I think three keys to victory tonight really have to get narrowed down to one thing.

This Raptors team needs to overcome themselves and play better than their record suggests that they are. They've lacked team play, rebounding, and the ability to finish quarters, let alone games.

Unless that mentality changes, and unless this team fights for every point, they're going to continue to lose.

If they don't stop it soon, they'll lose their fan base as well.

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