When you're good, your identity lets you specialize in specific aspects of basketball which overcome your weaknesses; how your team wins is a signature of who you are.
When you're bad, you find different weaknesses from game to game that overshadow the good that you do. How your team loses becomes a footprint of your unspectacular year.
In revisiting the Charlotte Bpbcats after a ridiculous 3-day break (after a back-to-back no less) the Raptors laid out a turd of a game in a 102 to 89 loss. Sure, Chris Bosh showed the most heart in a while, and Andrea Bargnani threw a nice shoulder check on Gerald Wallace that would have made even Wendel Clark proud, but the Raptors just didn't play with any intensity.
Nobody managed to keep their man in front of them.
Fundamentally, defense in basketball is getting in a position between your man and the basket at all times and it didn't matter who it was, the Raptors simply couldn't do this.
I mean points in the paint might as well have been total points scored by the Bobcats.
There was just too much for me to pick apart from yesterday's game. At the end of the day, you have to feel for the fans who came out in droves to watch this one. They got about six minutes of actual basketball energy from their Raptors and while I understand that no athlete likes to be booed in their own building, you have to take your lumps when you play without purpose. As much fun as it is to talk about trade scenarios and how to get this team back on track, the Raptors have a fundamental problem that's going to take more than just a change of personnel.
After all, how do you teach a dog to fight?
I've resisted throwing Jay Triano under the bus in all this time, but something has to give. Jay's a guy that has passion, who's well respected by his peers and players, and has shown good acumen for the game. In the end, Jay's now had four months with the Raptors, and we still seldom see any of the pick and roll plays that the Bobcats abused us with. Will that change just from getting a slashing guard? No. These are fundamental tactics the Raptors have to employ on a day-to-day basis that almost all good teams use in the NBA. The Bobcats are not a team that should be outscoring the Raptors 7 out of 8 quarters in the past two games, but here we are. Either Jay Triano hasn't been teaching the Raptors the right thing or the team isn't listening to him. Either way, it looks real bad on Triano.
I mean Gerald Wallace is a good player, but the rest of the Bobcats should not be schooling the Raptors in their own building.
Which brings me to this thought: Sometimes you pay for the trade you make and sometimes you pay for the trade you don't. Against the Bobcats, the Raptors faced two players that they possibly could have had last year. Much has been made about the lack of execution on the trade for Gerald Wallace, but the Raptors also had the ability to acquire the services of Boris Diaw, another player that burned the Raps in these past two contests. Or should I say, another affordable player that burned the Raptors, especially last night.
So how do we wash this horrible taste from our mouths?
How about a visit from the L.A. Clippers on Sunday? To defeat a team that actually has a worse record than the Raptors, we'll have to see some changes:
1) Move your feet.
It's pretty simple. In basketball, the best teams are the teams that move. They move to get in front of their man to take a charge. They move to cut off position on a dribble penetrator. They move to cover their teammate's man on a defensive rotation. The Raptors did none of that last night, and unless the players move with purpose, it'll just be another 48 minute pylon drill that will see guys like Baron Davis completely carve up the Dinos like Fred Flinstone.
2) Move. Again.
On offense, the Raptors just love to stand around watching while their teammates make a play. For a team that is pretty bad at one-on-one plays thanks to a lack of athleticism, the Raptors sure find themselves in that situation a lot. Sure, stand around until Chris Bosh or Andrea Bargnani make a play. Why not move, set a pick for a man that DOESN'T have the ball, and free some people up for open looks? Or heck, find that guy named Parker that's camped out in the corner. Yesterday, the ball was once again "sticking to the players' fingers" rather than being moved around quickly and efficiently.
3) You're at home. Play like it.
The Bobcats are a team that are about to finally make the playoffs and they can barely boast a half-filled building. The Raptors are second worst in the Eastern Conference and still managed a near sellout against a team that was never projected to do much. Chris Bosh says that if the fans were more into the game, it would help the Raptors. I don't entirely disagree with him on that point. Sometimes, a spark has to come from somewhere if the Raptors can't find it within. In Japanese baseball, crowds sing pop songs that are each player's personal background music whenever they're up to bat.
Could the Raptors use some more fanatical support? Sure. But Toronto has always been a town that waits to see if there's at least a spark of life from the team. It's pretty telling that Pops Mensah-Bonsu has quickly become a fan favourite because he just shows energy. That's all the fans want to get started, and it can't be the entire responsibility of a bunch of Torontonians to spark a group of multi-million dollar athletes.
So if the Raptors at least try and start out quickly and take it to the Clippers, the crowd will surely get behind them.
Pizza or no Pizza.