In part of doing this blog, I try to read a lot of forums and see what fans our saying and thinking. That has been a pretty depressing task as of late. This latest loss for the Raptors has pushed a lot of Raptor fans to the brink. There are emotional and angry posts from fans. They are deeply upset and desperate for change and answers. When I turn on the Raptors post game coverage on Raptors T.V I see a different picture. The players are not happy or anything. But I do not see the anger or fire from anyone as well. It has been a growing concern for me and it makes me deeply concerned for the rest of this season. I have heard it suggested that instead of sending the message that the performance of this team was unacceptable. The firing of Sam Mitchell has instead given this team an excuse to use for it's lack of performance. There is a lot of talk of new systems and learning on the fly with little practice time.
But some of the things going wrong have nothing to do with systems or anything that advanced. Rebounding is basically, if you ask most basketball people a question of just simple desire. This team has not had that desire and has got beat badly on the boards, and given up many key second chances to other teams. I am sure teams keep this stat, but I am not sure where you would find it. But I am guessing that the Raptors defense on the first attempts of the teams they match-up against is pretty good. It is those second and in some cases third chances that are killing the Raptors. The other problem is the long droughts they have on offense and this team just continues to fire shots when it is clear that they need to be taking the ball to the basket and getting to the line. That is one of the things this Raptor team actually does very well. But you can't take advantage of a strength if you never use it. Jose Calderon is on a record streak to start the season for making free throws but you need to get to the line more to make that impact on the Raptors in a meaningful way.
I think at the heart of the frustration is the fact this team shows signs of being good. Last night the Raptors stormed out to a 12 point lead. We have seen this team build big leads against even the Boston Celtics. However they just can not find a way to hold these leads. Being honest who honestly thought we would beat the Mavericks last night? I am thinking not to many. But because the Raptors built up a lead it gave you reason to be hopeful. That hope gets crushed as fast as that lead fades away. Watching the Raptors can be like watching the stock market lately. When they go down at least it isn't costing you money. Well if you were not among those that bought tickets at the ACC. When is the last time you can remember Chris Bosh being booed at the ACC. Normally there are chants of M.V.P and nothing but love. However last night after he blew a dunk attempt the fans let him have it. Some fans are even saying we don't need Bosh and to let him walk in 2010.
That is how crazy it is getting. Chris Bosh even though he has struggled since the firing of Sam Mitchell is the best player the Raptors have by a wide margin. He had an unreal first month of his season. He had high expectations for this season as well. The reality of those expectations not being met could be catching up to Chris Bosh. The talk of what he will do in 2010 and comments made by Jalen Rose, Kevin Garnett and others is not helping. The million dollar question is does Chris Bosh still have faith in Bryan Colangelo and the Raptors. How is all this losing and the failure of this roster impacting on that. This is not the season that Chris Bosh had forecast for himself. It started the right way for him as an individual but the team after that 3-0 start has just gone south. Raptor fans based out of fear are worried that Bosh will go the way of Damon Stoudamire, Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter. I have never seen Bosh has that type of person. He wants to win though and he cares deeply about it. However he has said in the past that he wants to be part of the solution in making things work in Toronto. However he can not do it alone and can the Raptors find someone who can help him carry that load.
T.J Ford was suppose to be the guy that would help in that. The two Texas based stars were all smiles at first looking to build a long relationship that would lead the Raptors to success. Jose Calderon would end up being the reason that was not going to happen. Not that Jose did anything wrong he just got a lot better and challenged T.J for being a starter on this team. So the second try at bringing help for Bosh would be Jermaine O'Neal. However this marriage early on has not got off to a great start. J.O has battled to get back to be being healthy and play at a top level. There have been few nights when both he and Bosh have been good at the same time. Even in those brief times the rest of team as not always been there to support them. It is to early to say that this is not going to work. However the fact there is a rumour that a J.O for Shawn Marion swap has been out there makes you wonder. I am not sure how things have worked out with Bosh and O'Neal. There is no visible sign that the two do not get along. They have battled to find a way to work together on the floor. It has been a major adjustment for both.
This is the question for Bryan Colangelo. How do you help Chris Bosh now and still be able to help build a team around him and have the money to resign him in 2010? Colangelo gambled big time when he made the trade for O'Neal and the hope was he could find a way to build a bench out of the scraps he had left over after bringing in J.O's big contract and resigning Jose Calderon to a big deal. It just has not worked out and by firing Sam Mitchell he has put the spotlight on him. He needs to find a way to make this roster better and fast. This team is sinking fast and a mood for change in the fan base was not going to be met with just the firing of Sam Mitchell and hiring of Jay Triano. Colangelo is expected to make some kind of magic happen and make a trade that can fix this. It is not easy at the top and no one maybe be more disappointed at this point than Colangelo himself.
To give you some small form of hope for the future. Roko Ukic is showing signs of improvement and finally Nathan Jawai has been cleared and can start down the path to building his NBA career. The problem is that both of those things do nothing for the short term out look for this Raptor team. Triano even admitted that Jawai to his best guess may take a month to be actually ready to play a game. The Raptors will play next the Oklahoma City Thunder in the next game. That is a team that is truly in brutal shape. It is a chance for the Raptors to get a win and get that feeling back. However a loss and this season could truly go off the cliff. Even with a win the next game on the next night is against the Spurs who now have a healthy squad and are doing what the Spurs do. Quietly going about their business and winning games. They are always a tough team to play at home. The Raptors need to take advantage of a number of weak opponents on this road swing. If the Raptors can not pull off better than .500 on this trip they will be in pretty bad shape heading into the New Year.
So if you are looking for holiday cheer from the Raptors you may not find much. Beyond Jack Armstrong singing a Christmas tune you will not find much holiday cheer in Raptorland these days. The Raptors will have a lot of work to do in 2009 no matter what happens the rest of this year.