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The Raptors are still trying to keep their resolutions

The Raptors promised us a culture reset. As we roll into 2018: how are they doing?

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Charlotte Hornets
Losing is sad, but it’s all part of the process.
Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

As many people do, I resolved to lose a few pounds this year. Unfortunately, I tend to revert to the old me under stress. By the end of the last few Raps games I have found myself wallowing in potato chip grease and crushed beer cans. My wife looks at me and I feel shame, and promptly recommit to my goals.

Like me, it seems the Raptors are having trouble with their resolution, their promise to themselves and to their fans that they would change their stripes. No more isolation ball, no more emptying of the proverbial clip, no more ride or die mentality. Until recently, that’s the promise they’ve been making good on. We’ve been spoiled by team ball that is fun to watch and the result has been more Ws. It’s also a brand of basketball that should translate better to the pressure cooker that is the NBA playoffs. So, why the recent setback?

In my view it’s just part of the process. Experts say it takes about 8-10 attempts to quit smoking. Meanwhile, it has taken me about five rewrites to make this article a Pulitzer contender. The point is, there will be struggle on the path to lasting change. When things go wrong, people, and it seems the Raptors too, tend to regress to what’s comfortable. As fans, we must trust that Dwane Casey is playing the role of my wife in making the team feel shame for backsliding into their old ways — no excuses muffin top. You could argue that Kyle Lowry is out with injury, or Serge Ibaka was ejected after that tickle fight (I’m guessing that James Johnson got his black belt on the internet), but if we were talking about the Spurs for example, they would have won anyway because they have become their system. They can mix and match, plug in players you’ve never heard of, and just keep winning.

From my coaching days, one of our favourite sayings was “fake it till you make it” — a fancy way of saying that you install change and repeat it until it becomes part of your identity. There is a magical point in that process where you “make it” and you’ll never look back. To my eye it seems as if the Raptors are still faking it at times. They have the veneer of the team they need to be, but in the face of adversity you can still see the old Raptors peaking through.

I don’t want it to sound like I’m down on the Raptors because I’m not. I have more hope than in any past season. They’ve embraced the necessary change and right now they are probably the best fakers in the NBA.

But I’m still waiting for that magical transformative moment when the Raptors go from fake to make. It’s close, and if we’re lucky that moment will occur before the playoffs, maybe even against Golden State or Cleveland this week. When that happens, the sky is the limit for this team and maybe, just maybe, I’ll keep the weight off.