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Monday, 28 December 2020

Turmoil In T.O. #RPTZFLZ

      Geez!  It sure doesn't take a lot for some fans to turn their backs on a team that's just a season removed from winning an NBA Championship.  A feat, you should be reminded, that twelve teams still have yet to achieve, and of those twelve, five have been in the league twenty plus seasons longer than the Toronto Raptors.  So why the big stink?
      Well, for one, it's hard to accept losing when you've been winning as consistently as the Raptors have.  The Raptors have been a forty-plus game winning team since the 2013-2014 season.  It was going to be hard enough without Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol add the fact that there are going to be ten fewer games on the schedule for a team expected to win just over forty games.  The casual fans they attained after their finals win have already written them off as a non-playoff team.  The social media vitriol aimed at players like Norman Powell and Pascal Siakam has been nasty for the most part, and that's to be expected as fair-weather fans are known to be, but even die-hard fans are starting to question the legitimacy of this team.  Even Kyle Lowry is on record as being concerned about the season thus far.
       Should everyone really be all up in arms about the Raptors not having won their first couple of games though?  Really?
       What's Bad?: No Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka.  As underutilized as Marc Gasol was by the Raptors, his ability to control traffic and set brick wall screens to free up the guards on the team will be sorely missed. Not to mention his occasional three-point shot here and there.  And his defense and rebounding were underrated as well.  In Serge Ibaka's absence there's going to be a lack of muscle on offense and defense.  Yeah, you can say some of those qualities are still there in Aaron Baynes but not on the same level of energy.
        Energy.  Another key component that doesn't seem to be in the air the team's breathing nowadays.  I don't know if it's the short off-season and bubble fatigue and not being in familiar dwellings but there just isn't the same fire that was burning prior to last season.  
        When you look at the lack a training camp and preseason, you're looking at new, and in some cases, unfamiliar faces and playing styles and personalities to get acquainted with in a short amount of time.  It's definitely another aspect affecting not only the players but the coaches as well, as the rotation looked a lot tighter in the second game.
        Where are Norman Powell, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby?  While they're still trying to learn more about their new teammates and new roles off the floor, the same is happening on the floor and it shows.  Uncharacteristic turnovers, defensive lapses, indecisiveness and suspect shot selection have been on full display as a direct result of the combination of new teammates and roles in the start to this new season.
         What's Good?: The fact that they weren't thoroughly beat up in those two games, considering who they played.  The Spurs barely beat them and only by a couple of possessions in a game where the Raptors top players had a mediocre outing.
          If you're a casual basketball fan you only noticed what the aforementioned three Raptors didn't do and not what they did do.  They didn't fill up the hoop but they were able keep the ball moving and not try to force their respective games, which helped mitigate the number of turnovers they could have had.  
          A lot of fans didn't like that Nick Nurse didn't go further down the bench, but noticing right away that the on-court comfort level hadn't been adequately met by game time, keeping the most familiar players together on the floor kept the game closer than it could've been.  We didn't get to see a lot of Malachi Flynn which means we didn't get to see Malachi Flynn in the mix of potential blunders which would've made the fan-rage even worse.  The last think you need is a rookie with a ton of potential start second guessing himself a few games later after making a couple of mistakes in games prior, hindering whatever progress has already been made.
          Chris Boucher showed a great example of how advanced the Raptors scouting and development program is.  Beyond that though, he's a special breed of NBA player.  He's hungry, willing and learn and he has a great motor.  His basketball I.Q. will develop well as time goes on.
           I can totally understand the frustration, confusion and dismay of Canadian basketball fans with the Raptors thus far.  Even I had to re-examine my own playoff predictions, where I have the Raptors finishing sixth, and imagine a playoffs without them.  Having been a long time fan of the NBA and having seen the ups and downs of the league, teams and players, and I've learned to love all of it because eventually the light shines on the darkness.  This is the same team that figured out how to win a championship, they'll figure this out too.


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