The Raptors dropped a 106 to 90 decision to the Celtics last night in pre-season action. But as Franchise discusses this morning, it's going to take some time for Toronto's upgrade in talent to all get on the same page...
One of my constant rants last year concerning this Toronto Raptors' basketball club, was that for all the talk Bryan Colangelo had done in the off-season about "his best Raptors club on paper," the talent just wasn't there. I wanted to scream at times when I saw a line-up of Roko Ukic, Joey Graham, Jason Kapono and Kris Humphries out there with the likes of Bosh or Bargs, and it was obvious as early as pre-season to me that we were dealing with at best a .500 club.
What about this year then? Through five pre-season games the Raptors find themselves with a 2 and 3 record, the third loss coming last night at the hands of the Boston Celtics. Are there early signs of another disappointing regular season?
The short answer to that question is that it's too early to tell.
It's pre-season, and a team with 12 new faces is still trying to figure things out at both ends of the court. Contrast this to the Celtics, who have the exact same core as the past two seasons and it showed last night as the game went along.
And of course, Toronto is still getting some healthy bodies in and out of the line-up for the first time.
Hedo made his debut last night and looked pretty much as I expected he would; some nice dishes (he led the team in assists along with Jack), some terrible shot selection, and some "I'm still trying to get into shape" attempts at guarding his man.
But Antoine Wright, a player who prior to the start of the season was expected to play a major role on D for this team has yet to play, and various others, from Chris Bosh to Jose Calderon, still look to be finding their groove.
Bosh had his best performance of the pre-season with 21 points on eight of 13 shooting but was hampered by foul trouble. However he does look stronger and more powerful, especially on offense, yet as lithe and slippery as he's always been. His jab step and pull-up from the left block is virtually unguardable and once he gets accustomed to his new peers, fans could be in for a real treat.
And I guess that's the long answer to the question I previously posed; the signs I've seen so far this pre-season indicate that there's simply too much talent on this roster for the team not to be successful.
The real challenge is going to be for Jay Triano and his coaching staff to maximize this influx of talent, and make it work as a cohesive unit, and last night's game was a perfect example of this. While Bosh was dominant on offense, he was a bit too dominant and other starters like Andrea Bargnani and Hedo Turkoglu weren't getting enough touches. It's going to take some time for these three to get acclimatized but once they do, they represent extremely tough match-ups for opponents.
And players like Sonny Weems and Amir Johnson, who were anticipated to spend time at the end of the bench, have really played well, while others like DeMar DeRozan and Marco Belinelli, who were suposed to take on a bigger role with the club, have been a bit underwhelming.
I'd even throw the point guard situation in the mix as point on Triano's "to figure out asap" list.
Calderon to me still doesn't look like he's got that bounce in his step back from two seasons ago at either end of the court and frankly, Jarrett Jack has been playing like the starter and Jose the back-up. With Jack's ability to bull-doze his way to the rim and create shots with the clock winding down, I'm sure I'm not the only one out there who found himself wondering if we'd see Jack closing out games at some point this season, or at least on the court with Jose in the game's final minutes.
The Celtics commentators last night mentioned that Toronto was probably Boston's biggest competition for the Atlantic Division crown but from what I've seen so far, the Dinos have a long way to go before that statement rings true. Hopefully tonight's game against the Rockets, which we'll be previewing later today, will be another step in the right direction.
Again, the talent is there, but I expect a good month or so of growing pains before we really start to see evidence of how good this club could be.