The past two days I've been a bit MIA from the HQ.
Every year around this time, I head to Collingwood here in Ontario for a company off-site, an event that not only gives staff a nice break from the regular 9 to 5, but it also provides opportunity for team-building, a recap of company performance from the previous year, and a look towards the challenges in the present and future.
I always find it to be a worthwhile exercise as it really helps to put a number of things in perspective, especially regarding what our "team" has been doing well, and what it needs to work on to achieve better success.
We returned from said excursion last night, just in time for me to take-in and live-blog yet another loss by the Toronto Raptors, a 100 to 87 loss at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks.
It wasn't a terrible game from Toronto, they were in this one until the final quarter, but I couldn't help but think of my recent time in Collingwood while I watched the Dinos stumble down the home-stretch of a game for the upteenth million time.
This team could use a break.
And I don't mean a vacation, although that would be good too, especially for many fans who've grown tired of watching the losses pile up.
I mean a break from the constant injuries (Jerryd Bayless suffered a knee injury last night), media scrutiny, travel...a chance to hole up somewhere and do some bonding.
Because the team I saw last night doesn't look right at all.
Amir Johnson and DeMar DeRozan put up 36 points together, and while he wasn't as dominant as usual, Ed Davis turned in a solid effort, but outside of these three, the rest of the club looked fairly apathetic at best.
Said coach Jay Triano post-game when asked why he benched Andrea Bargnani for a good chunk of the second half:
"He wasn't playing very well. I thought Amir (Johnson) had an unbelievable game, and I wanted to keep him on the court as much we could. Ed (Davis) I thought had a better second half, and I didn't think we were getting much from Andrea, at either end, so..."
Yep, you could say that.
He, Sonny Weems and Jose Calderon combined for 12 of 38 shooting, and didn't seem interested in being in Atlanta for most of the night.
And that's why even though the Raps kept fighting back in this one, a chunk of it was a product of Atlanta turning the ball over and missing shots. (Mike Bibby, usually a Raptors' killer was 2 of 9 last night.) Once Atlanta hit Toronto with a big run in the mid third quarter, you just got the feeling the Raptors would fold, and indeed that's what transpired.
The scary thing is it's now hard to see this streak not ballooning to 23 losses if the Raps can't beat the Wolves at home tomorrow night. A loss would push the streak to 14 games, with the rest of Toronto's opponents in February being Milwaukee, San Antonio, Portland, the LA Clippers, Miami, Charlotte, Chicago, Phoenix and Dallas.
The reality is that I'd be fine if the losing streak continued, provided we saw more fight from the club.
Sometimes losing streaks like this can be good in the long term, as it forces a bit of a "back against the wall" mentality, bringing teams closer and causing them to start depending on each other, forging a much deeper level of trust amongst teammates. I've seen this many a time in the league, the best example being the 1996-97 Phoenix Suns, who opened their season by losing 13 straight, yet somehow finished with a 40 and 42 record and a playoff appearance. The team under Danny Ainge rebounded quite nicely and I can remember various players alluding to the losing streak as a sort of "galvanizing" situation.
The problem is that I don't see that being the case here, and if anything, it could snowball all the way to season's end.
And while I'm all in favour of a top pick in the upcoming draft, my worry is that the league's third youngest team needs some positives to build on and take from these losses. Without them, it's a dangerous precedent to set for a club that's going to have to rely on many of these guys in the very near future, and even with additional talent next year, the "stigma of losing" may not be one that's easy to shake.
In many ways then I'm relieved to see the Dinos back home for five of their next six matches, regardless of opponent.
It may not be a complete break like the type I alluded to off the top of this post, but some home cooking and a chance to get in a number of solid practices could be just what the doctor ordered.