These are the 2 most recent articles penned by Dave Feschuk, Toronto Star Sports Columnist, concerning the current plight of the Raptors:
Kings embarrass slumping Raptors 113-90 [Thu Mar 11 2010]
… the Raptors lost their seventh game in eight, 113-90, with a woefully heartless performance against a team they should have defeated.
Outscored by an astounding 43-23 in a listless third quarter that saw Toronto’s five-point halftime lead turn into a deep hole, the Raptors never recovered.
“We got very selfish,” said Jay Triano, the Toronto coach. “We had guys come down, take a shot, and I guess other guys are not happy because they don’t touch the ball. We miss the shot, it gets rebounded, and it’s fast-break points. And it’s a 10-0 run before you know it. And we cave after that.
[#1]“It’s part of the resolve we need to have. When a team goes on a run, we need to be able to come back and snuff it out by scoring points.”
A night after the Toronto locker room spoke of being encouraged by its feat of holding the defending champion Lakers to 45% field-goal shooting, albeit in a 109-107 loss, the Toronto defence laid down to allow the home team to shoot a remarkable 75% in the third frame, and 51% for the game. In those 12 minutes after halftime, a game was turned on its head. [#2] While Toronto had owned the trenches in the first half, outscoring Sacramento 32-22 down low at halftime, the Kings drove the lane and ran the floor without resistance in the third quarter, scoring 24 points in the paint to Toronto’s 4 while out-rebounding Toronto 13-4.
“Our body language at the start of the second half wasn’t very good. They came out and they went on a run … We never were able to get back into a groove after that,” said Antoine Wright, the reserve swingman. [#3] “That’s when the selfish play came in. Guys started holding onto the ball a little bit longer. I’m guilty of it as well as everybody else.”
Indeed, with two of Toronto’s top three point producers, Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu, continuing to struggle in the wake of respective ankle injuries, Toronto’s offence — a stagnant, selfish concoction that managed just 15 assists on Wednesday — couldn’t compensate for the deficiencies. [#4] Bosh was limited to 14 points on 6-for-20 shooting. Turkoglu was even worse, making just 2 of his 8 shots for 6 points.
“I would love to come in and play the ball I was playing before I turned my ankle. But it’s not like that,” said Bosh. “I’m trying to get back into the same mode I was in. It’s hard right now. I’m going to get there soon. We’re just at a tough stretch right now.
“It’s just getting a feel for the game. [#5] I missed a lot of easy shots today, shots I feel I should make, especially 15 feet and in. I can’t say much about that. They just went out. I don’t get too down about it. I know those shots are going to be there. There’s still plenty of basketball left to play. I just have to step up and make sure I play some decent defence and get some rebounds, and I can help this team out a lot more.”
Lapses leave Raptors coach to make tough choices [Fri Mar 12 2010]
… there is clearly much more to Toronto’s poor play than a rusty return by Bosh and the comatose Hedo Turkoglu. And certainly, at the very least, there is this: [#6] Triano is employing a flabby rotation that continues to tolerate repeated lapses from unfocused players who would be, under a less sympathetic coach, riding the pine.
“You’ve got to take away some of the freedom around here, what guys have,” said Wright, offering the coaching staff some unsolicited advice. “(The players’) leash is not going to be as loose as it’s been. If you’re not doing what (the team) needs you to do, you’re going to have to come out of the game. That’s the only way to address (the situation) right now at this point in the season.”
[#7] Wright’s agenda has been no secret from the beginning of training camp, when he began lobbying for the spot in the starting lineup still occupied by rookie DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan has long been underperforming on defence, where he is known for a wandering attention to detail. (Go figure that he was the only Raptor to play all 12 minutes of Wednesday’s disastrous third quarter, wherein the Kings shot an astounding 75 per cent from the field and outscored Toronto by a season-high spread 43-23.) [#8] So as shameless as his campaigning has been, inserting Wright into the first five is perhaps the simplest way to jostle the Raptors out of their current slumber.
But long-time NBA observers might also humbly suggest that Triano might think about making some additional hard choices, and soon, specifically by [#9a] paring down the rotation as the regular season’s 19-game home stretch continues Saturday and Sunday at Golden State and Portland. Amir Johnson and Reggie Evans, for instance, have been largely splitting minutes as the off-the-bench energy guy. [#9b] Neither has been particularly effective and Evans has been downright sullen occupying half a role.
[#9c] There’s a glut of reserve twos and threes in Wright, Marco Belinelli, Sonny Weems and, occasionally, Jose Calderon, most of whom can never be sure when and how long he’ll play on any given night.
[#9d] Conventional NBA wisdom says a lack of role definition is bad for morale. And even if that concern is sometimes overblown – these guys should be adaptable – there’s evidence it’s not helping here.
Triano spoke of seeing players pouting Wednesday and he linked the discontent to poor shot selection and a lack of ball movement. Jarrett Jack, the starting point guard, took issue with Triano’s view of the situation – pointing out that what is being construed as selfish play is simply the execution of Triano’s long-stated philosophy that every player should, as his first option, look to score.
“I don’t think guys were selfish. Obviously we encourage people to take shots when they think they have ‘em,” Jack said. “Maybe coach can elaborate on it if that’s what he saw. I didn’t see it that way.”
[#10a] So the hung heads and poor body language, if you read between the lines of the locker-room murmuring, aren’t simply a product of Bosh and Turkoglu forcing the offence. They’re also related to uneven, unpredictable playing time – not to mention the lack of repercussions for the slew of missed defensive assignments racked up by players like DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani on most nights.
Suddenly the conscientious few among the Raptors, calculating that conscientiousness isn’t being rewarded, are taking possessions off. With Toronto one game clear of ninth place, Triano doesn’t have much time to sooth their burn.
[10b] Said Wright: “That’s what our coaching staff is paid for.”
Here’s the take from this corner.
#1. When an opponent goes on a run the proper way to snuff it out isn’t by just “scoring points,” in return.
The proper way is by:
I. Getting stops on defense.
II. Getting the Defensive Rebound or creating a Turnover.
III. Scoring with an interior basket [either, in transition or the half-court] or from a free throw.
Until the Raptors organization clearly/fully understands this distinction they are going nowhere fast.
#2. This reality clearly illustrates the importance of:
I. Trench warfare, as a general concept.
II. Getting/stopping easy baskets [i.e. layups] scored in transition situations.
III. Getting/stopping interior baskets [i.e. scores in the paint] and free throws.
IV. Generating a high percentage of low percentage scoring opportunities for the opponent.
V. Getting a high percentage of available Defensive Rebounds.
Fail to do these things well and your team will lose.
#3. Selfish play, at any level of basketball, is a TEAM killer.
#4. Their 2 best players were a combined 8 for 28 [28.6%] from the field.
When your 2 best players under-perform, on offense, you are going to lose.
#5. When your 2 best players under-perform, on offense, it is often the case that they have not been placed in the proper individual match-up situations, positionally, in order to allow them to operate at their maximum level of efficiency, in terms of offense, defense and rebounding.
This is when seemingly “easy” scoring opportunities are inexplicably “missed” and seemingly “over-matched” individual checks exceed their customary levels of production.
For prime examples in this game, see [A] Chris Bosh vs Carl Landry [i.e. under-sized and too quick for CB4 to dominate], and [B] Hedo Turkoglu vs Donta Greene or Omri Casspi [i.e. too quick and athletic for Turk to handle].
#6. Play more than 8 [or 9, at the most] players in your regular rotation and your team will lose.
#7. Have individual players in your regular rotation with an “agenda” of their own and your team will lose.
#8. The easiest way to solve the Raptors’ deficiencies in attention to detail, re: consistent defensive/rebounding execution, is to remove Andrea Bargnani from their Starting Unit.
As a general principle …
1st unit players should be primarily defensive oriented, with the possible exception of the Point Guard or Off Guard positions.
2nd unit players, on the other hand, can be primarily offensive oriented.
At this point:
- Bargnani is an offensive oriented player, who fits best with the 2nd unit
- Johnson is a defensive oriented player, who fits best with the 1st unit
- DeRozan is neither an offensive nor a defensive oriented player, who should either [i] be used as a Starter or [ii] be removed from the regular rotation altogether.
#9a. An 8-player regular rotation is what’s needed, at this point.
STARTERS: PG + OG + SF + PF + C
KEY SUBS: PG + OG/SF + PF/C
This would provide the team with the highest possible level of GROUP COHESION.
#9b. Reggie Evans needs to be removed from the regular rotation.
There is no place for a “sullen” personality at this level of competition.
#9c. Sonny Weems needs to be used as the OG-SF off the bench.
He is the best combination wing player, who can provide offense, defense and rebounding, when coming off the bench.
#10a. Mistakes in the composition of the regular rotation are the primary source of the team’s current list of problems. It is the responsiblity of the coaching staff to manage these matters better than they have to this point.
#10b. A muzzle needs to be put on Antoine Wright, and he needs to be completely removed from the regular rotation … or, at least, until he gets this message loudly and clearly.