How many times have people heard the saying "patience is a virtue"? It is been said so often that it has almost lost all meaning. When people are told that patience is a virtue, they are being told to develop the ability to wait for something without frustration. And therefore, Raptors fan, I am saying that we as a fan base need to learn that patience is a virtue.
Now that you have all finished rolling your eyes, allow me to explain. The 2020-21 season has been up and down so far for the Toronto Raptors. Players such as Pascal Siakam, Aaron Baynes, Norm Powell, and even Kyle Lowry at times all had rough starts to the year. When Siakam was benched for the game against the Knicks for "disciplinary" reasons, many in the fanbase were (and still are) calling for Masai to make a trade and send the struggling star out of town. Everyone had the trade machine fired up to find ways to bring in Harden, Beal, or Drummond while also calling out Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster for not making a move. But in fairness, I think Webster, and Ujiri even more, deserve our patience.
It's been a long time since the end of the 2012-13 season when the Raptors finished with a record of 34-48. Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan seemed to fight for shots at times on the court, while the legend himself Andrea Bargnani was, well, still on the team. During the offseason, new GM Masai Ujiri came in and immediately traded away Bargnani to the Knicks. Honestly, even if the Raptors never went on the run that they had, Masai would still be a hero in the city of Toronto for pulling off that move.
That offseason, along with the Rudy Gay trade in December, sparked an incredible run for the franchise. Seven straight playoff appearances, four different players being named to All-NBA teams, six division titles, one conference championship, and the coveted Larry O'Brien Trophy in 2019. Masai was able to take the Raptors from laughingstock to champions in only seven seasons. He made tough calls in the past. Not only the DeRozan trade but other pivotal moments as well. Trading for Marc Gasol at the expense of another beloved franchise player in JV. But also a more forgotten moment when he let Lou Williams, who had just won the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year Award, walk in free agency as Masai wanted to move the team in a more defensive orientated direction.
Also, it is clear the roster needs work. The only real Power Forward on the team is Siakam, who at times has struggled offensively. In many of his recent struggles, he's faced its come against teams where he needed to log minutes at the center position. While he's certainly capable of guarding centers, the toll it takes on his body shows as the game progresses. Aaron Baynes has been a disappointment so far this season as he is shooting well below his averages last year. (Side note, Baynes played so well for the Suns last year that there were some talks of having him start of Ayton). As of late, the chemistry with the starting unit has improved as Baynes is becoming more comfortable with his new team. Are his playmaking and defense as good as Gasol? No. But he is still a big who can play bruising basketball, which in the East is a necessity come playoff time. Not only that, but Baynes has looked a lot more comfortable off the bench, and Boucher has looked good playing at the 4 beside Baynes rather than at the 5. While still a small sample size it is possible that Baynes struggles were due to not being comfortable in the starting rotation.
The main problem for the team has been inconsistency as it learns what it has on the roster. With no training camp and preseason of only three games (in which Lowry missed two), it becomes understandable that the team would struggle out of the gate. It lost its anchor to the defense, the best locker room guy and backup center in the league, while players like VanVleet and OG have been asked to do more and expand their roles, both with varying degrees of success. The only way to improve is to try and try again.
This season has been and will continue to be a learning curve. Not only for the players, coaches, and front office but fans as well. After years of success, I will be the first to admit it is hard to watch the team struggle the way it has. The loss to the Kings stung for me, as Baynes looked a lot more like the guy from the pasta commercials than the future Hall of Famer he replaced. I also believe it is good for the fan base to be upset. No longer do we accept a losing culture in Toronto, and that's a good thing no matter how the team performs. But at the end of the day, Masai has never let us down. He came into a train wreck of a team, and within only a few months brought them their first playoff berth in six years, and we haven't looked back. And while the season has been very up and down, the team is in play for the play-in tournament.
As hard as it may be, we all need to learn that "patience is indeed a virtue." Because no matter how bad one loss stings, Masai Ujiri has never let us down since he joined the team. Therefore, Raptors fans, while it may be hard, maybe we need to stop calling for the second-team All NBA Siakam to be moved. Maybe we should give Baynes a little more leeway as he learns the system, and the whole team learns Chris Finch's new offense. And maybe, just maybe, we need to trust the man that brought the Raptors to relevancy.