As the Toronto Raptors dropped their ninth straight game in a disparaging affair, but Franchise is concerned with not only the club's present trajectory, but that of the media covering said squad.
So Jay Triano and I got into it a bit post-game last night, after the Raptors dropped their ninth straight game, 107 to 94 to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Specifically, I tried to call out the fact that again, Andrea struggled to provide much benefit to the team when he wasn't scoring. It was plain as day, as again, a big man bench player from an opposing team, like clockwork, put up season best numbers against Andrea and the Raptors.
This time it was Marreese Speights, who was a ridiculous 10 of 12 for 23 points in only 17 minutes. He also had 9 rebounds and absolutely destroyed the Dinos.
However trying to broach this subject with the Raptors' coach post-game was obviously a touchy matter and the result, as can be seen here, was this exchange:
RHQ: "Is it tough to keep him (Bargnani) out there though when you've got a situation where someone like Speights is dominating inside, and he's (Bargnani) is not putting points on the board?"
RHQ: "But he (Bargnani) played quite a few minutes tonight...so you left him in...you were hoping he'd work his way out of it, out of the way they were guarding him essentially?"
Triano: "Look at the names on the list below that. I mean, where do you want me to go?"
RHQ: "Outside though of Bargs, had Ed Davis maybe given you..."
Triano: "...did he look like he had a good game?"
RHQ: "He didn't look that bad..."
Triano: "No...I didn't see that."
And that was that.
I had obviously gotten under Triano's skin, and while it wasn't exacted the smoothest media conversation I've ever had, even outside of a basketball capacity, it reinforced several frustrating points.
First, from a Raptors' perspective, the team continues to try and pretend that Andrea Bargnani is not causing serious problems in terms of winning games.
And they are problems, make no mistake about it.
It's ridiculous that every night, we fans can guess which big men from opposing teams are going to have huge games. Harangody, Armstrong, Speights, Gibson, on and on. How this club expects to start winning games, when it's supposed best player keeps turning in nights like this, is beyond me.
And I'm not naive.
I expect the coach to defend his players to a certain extent, but I was hoping Triano would extrapolate on my initial question, and at least talk about the challenges his club faces when Andrea isn't getting it done on either end of the court.
But no, this quickly turned into a "you never as media tell the coach which players he/she should or shouldn't have played" type situation, an unwritten media rule. Having been around the team via media for over four years I know that, but Jay's one word response to my initial query just didn't sit well with me, and so I tried to get a little more out of him for our readers.
Which brings me to my next point of frustration.
Why the hell is this an unwritten rule?
Isn't the job of a journalist to make like Mulder and Scully and get at the truth? Whatever happened to asking "the tough questions?" In my 9 to 5 job, often someone questions my decisions on a certain matter, whether it's why I used a certain type of medium for a marketing activity, or why we promoted something in a certain fashion. It goes with the turf, and frankly, if you can't take that sort of question from the media, maybe you shouldn't be coaching.
And if you're not asking those types of questions, what's the point of having press access?
It's extremely frustrating to attend games and hear media outside of earshot of the team ask each other great questions and make poignant observations, only for one reason or another, hold those same questions back in the presence of Raptors' players and coaches.
As a result you get the same old same old from the media, something that was reinforced when Sasha and I later went to talk to the 76ers Andre Iguodala, who jokingly stated upon our arrival that there was essentially no point in us talking.
We would only be asking him the same questions that the previous media group had asked.
It's a sad state of affairs, and the whole thing reminds me of a recent piece by Chris Jones, an Esquire columnist amongst other things, on how to be a professional writer. In the piece, he talks about the idea of "journalists" creating controversy to help themselves stand out in a crowd.
As he notes, "whatever happened to standing out by doing great work?"
And I couldn't agree more.
As it relates to yesterday's back-and-forth with Triano, shouldn't everyone in that media room have been asking questions about why the team continues to trot out the same problematic line-ups and rotations on a team that's won 13 games, and has now lost nine straight? This doesn't have to be done in an insulting fashion, but frankly fans pay the bills for sports teams and the media has an obligation to get answers for said fans.
Why instead do we as fans of the team constantly get these other "beating around the bush" type queries?
Of course I know the answer already, it's politics, and thanks to a long-standing relationship between many of these writers and the team, no one wants to step too hard on anyone's toes.
I'm by no means immune to this myself, and when present at the ACC, feel this need to "toe the line" at times as well.
And that's not to say I don't empathize with Triano and his staff to a certain extent.
Talking to Julian Wright and various players pre-game, it's obvious that winning games is very tough when you've consistently got only 7 or 8 healthy players to practice with. This makes solidifying all types of schemes, defensive and offensive, extremely difficult for sure.
But that doesn't mean there aren't in-game solutions available and last night was a perfect example.
Was Marreese Speights' impact simply a product of "having a good night?"
Not even close.
After Triano's comments Sasha and I headed to the Philly locker room to see if we could talk to some of the 76ers about their plan of attack on the night. There weren't many players left by the time we arrived, but we did luckily get to grab both Speights and Andre Iguodala before they grabbed the team bus.
Said Speights in response to my questions about his play:
"I just went out there and had alot of confidence. The zone was kind of weak and they had a lot of holes in it, I found the holes in it, stuff was going in for me."
He wouldn't bite on my direct queries about playing against Bargnani, but it was pretty obvious from the subtle smiles when I mentioned Andrea's name, that Speights enjoyed the match-up.
Even more incriminating were Andre Iguodala's comments in regards to Speights' play:
"We just looked for the open man, he was always in the right place at the right time, he did a good job finding the open seams."
"Their bigs were helping off, it was clicking for him tonight."
Iggy didn't go as far as saying that 76ers coach Doug Collins put forth the order to get the ball to Speights, but it was pretty obvious from talking to Iguodala that Toronto simply did a terrible job of containing Speights in any capacity.
Which at face value is pretty absurd.
Speights is hardly an All-Star nor will likely ever be, yet he completely dominated the Toronto front-court.
Post-game Triano noted that the 76ers were simply bigger and stronger down low, basically saying that they had lost that battle before they had even played a minute of the game.
However from my bird's eye view last night from the Foster Hewitt Gondola, it was pretty obvious that this wasn't simply a matter of "brawn wins out." I watched string bean Thaddeus Young deny Andrea post position all second half, something Bargs did little to battle through. And I watched 6-8 and 6-6 guys routinely grab rebounds over longer and taller players like Andrea and Amir Johnson, who simply did terrible jobs of establishing position on the glass.
And really, between the rebound disparity and the bench point disparity (Philly's bench outscored Toronto's 58 to 17), that was the match. The bench points can be explained in good part by Philadelphia's superior depth and Toronto's injury situation, but again, why Alexis Ajinca in the first half was playing more minutes than Ed Davis, and why Trey Johnson played nearly the same amount of time as Jerryd Bayless, fresh of a near tripled-double, was beyond me and many others.
But maybe this is all one big tanking strategy.
It has to be because at this rate, it's hard to envision Toronto winning 20 games let alone 25.
And that's fine in terms of grabbing a first-round pick perhaps, but it's going to make for an extremely long season, and not one that bodes well for the organization's culture long-term. You could hear it in the voice of last night's lone bright spot, DeMar DeRozan, post-game, as he spoke to us about the losing streak:
"Definitely frustrating, we have to keep our head up and keep playing...you can't put too much of your mind on it and we cant put too much on that."
46 games down.
36 to go.
A team that's headed nowhere at present, and a media that seems more concerned with rubbing MLSE the wrong way than being critical of a team that's been headed down this path for quite some time.
If I'm absent on the site for a few days, it's because I'm finding some way to to conjure up the ghost of Ralph Wiley to come and cover this basketball team.