I took the weekend to re-charge my battery. But the Dino Nation Blog is back and it appears so are the Raptors. I think be it media or fans we all become pretty skeptical of things. When the Raptors had a meeting and came out of it saying all the right things you still likely were not convinced. When they were able to fight it out and get a win over the Wizards you still might not have been sold. On Saturday the Raptors came out and blew the doors off the Bulls. So I ask you, now do you believe? Even for the most casual fan the differences have been noticeable. You see the team moving around at a much faster level on defense. Some players hitting the deck diving for balls. It was like a brand new Raptors team. The Raptors really were in fact on the verge of having the season fall apart. But 2 wins in a row and the way hey won them have to at least make you feel a little better about this basketball team.
What may have been the most encouraging was Chris Bosh was back playing like Chris Bosh again. He had really gone in the tank after the incident in Boston with Paul Pierce. However whatever did go on in that meeting Chris Bosh seems to have bought in. He just gave you the feeling against the Wizards on Friday he was going to will this team to a win if it killed him. If the Raptors lost Chris Bosh and he had mentally checked out it would have been a long and painful season. However Bosh alone is not enough, as we learned earlier in the year, when he was putting up huge numbers yet the Raps were still struggling to get wins. He has been getting help and it has come from lots of folks.
Demar DeRozan got his career high in points in that terrible loss to the Hawks. It was something that was not really of note given what happened in that game. However since that game he has really picked up his game scoreing double digits in both wins. There was talk the starting line-up was going to change and everyone figured that the first change would likely be Demar. Triano would not make any changes. After how Demar has played in the last 3, it would seem that is starting spot is safe for now.
Jarrett Jack was one of the most vocal about this team and it's lack of performance. He was one of the people front and center in this turn around as well. Things were going so well he was able to stop and tie is shoe during the beat down of the Bulls. It was one of the most bizarre plays I have seen in a lifetime of watching basketball. The Bulls may want to have a meeting like the Raptors did as they looked lifeless and that play with Jack was a glaring example. But Jack was diving for balls and really busting his tail for the Raptors. It could be a moment that Jack has stepped up and become a vocal leader for this team which they clearly need. Bosh has never been one who has been great in that role. He would prefer to lead by example on the floor.
Finally we have seen some effort and results from Hedo Turkoglu. Even Hedo hit the deck for a ball and even won a jump ball. Fans have been deeply disappointed with his performance and rightfully so. He did miss the shot at the end of regulation in Washington but made a key shot in the overtime that would help position the Raps to get the win. Both Hedo and Demar will be moonlighting as male models today. The Raptors are going to show off there Huskies throwback uniforms today at the ACC. Demar and Hedo are expected to be on hand to show them off. Raptors will be wearing those new uniforms when they take on the T-Wolves on Tuesday.
Jose Calderon has been doing better as well. He is even managing to show a little more effort on the defensive end. I have come to accept that Jose is never going to be a good defender but at least you are seeing more of an effort in that regard. One of the other knocks against Jose has been his ability or lack of ability to throw the Alley Oop pass. However he has seemed to have found a chemistry with Demar DeRozan on the other end of that pass. DeRozan joked that Jose has thought him Spanish. So the "Amigo" Alley Oop has been working pretty well for both.
Amir Johnson was a beast against Washington and Marco Belinelli was very good against the Bulls. The Raps bench as a unit has been better with different guys stepping up on different nights. That is what you need to be successful in back to back scenarios which was something this team had clearly not done up until this weekend.
If there is anyone that is still of concern it might be Andrea Bargnani. There was not the noticeable change in his game for me. He was truly brutal most of the night in Washington and still his defense is leaving a lot to be desired. It would not shock me if we eventually see him end up on the bench at some point and playing in the second unit with Belinelli. The hope would be in playing with Marco that he would not go in the tank if he got shifted to the bench.
In general the Raptors effort on defense was far better. The rotations were quicker and there was a much more noticeable effort on that end of the floor. The Raptors seemed to have been embarrassed to the point of coming together and working out there issues defensively. There was just a better energy in how they played and it was nice to see. It is a but frustrating it has taken this long but perhaps the Raptors have turned a corner and will be a better team moving forward. Only time will tell if that meeting in Washington will be pointed to as the turning point of the season. However if you judge it based on what we have seen since it seems clear whatever was said has brought this team together and got everyone fighting hard and playing better basketball. This is what fans have wanted and now we are seeing it so enjoy it as much as you were frustrated by the low points.