It's seems pretty easy to please Raptor fans these days. Show up and don't get blown out and happiness reigns supreme on Twitter. The Raptors did show up in Dallas and they did try. Even had a lead in the 3rd quarter when their old buddy Vince Carter led another team back to beat his former club. In the end this was a battle of the Raptors wanting to win and give their new coach an unexpected victory. While there was a Dallas Mavericks team that was off to the worst start of a defending Champion in over 40 years. They needed to win and they did just that.
The new and improved Andrea Bargnani clearly came to play tonight. He was a big reason the Raptors could even claim to be in this game. While no one can deny his improvement this year my feelings on his future remain the same. It is kind of hypocritical of a lot of people to not agree. If you can say after Chris Bosh left town that you can't really win with him why should it be different with Bargnani? While Bargnani is less likely to leave the Raptors the same things that were said about Bosh and why the Raptors couldn't win with him apply. Bargnani is clearly this teams top scorer. But even now at his natural position that was once occupied by Bosh he can not provide enough to help this team win. Chris Bosh was often taken to task for the games he had big performances often came in games the Raptors lost. The same can be said for Andrea Bargnani. He was about as good as it gets for him tonight shooting 11-18 with 30 points and had 7 rebounds. There was only one assist in that though. Maybe that gets to the fundamental problem with a traditional four as your main piece. It is often said that your best player is suppose to make everyone around him better. I fail to see how Bargnani has done that today or ever.
But his improvement is a positive no matter how you choose to look at it. But to me it makes him an attractive piece to move not keep. In a stacked draft class coming up you would think a team would be willing to part with a first round pick to get a scorer like Bargnani. On a contending team he is a great second or third option. Raptors could get another solid pick and perhaps a player they could use at point guard or a legit small forward something the Raptors have failed to have since Vince Carter left. Never once have the Raptors traded a player at high point of his value. You only need to look at the Vince Carter trade and the next to nothing they got as Bosh left via free agency. Perhaps the last time the Raptors got any true value with a core player in a trade was when they moved Antonio Davis. They did alright in that deal despite losing a fan favourite in Jerome Williams as well. If the Raptors are truly rebuilding then don't go half way.
This of course would be a lot easier to do if Demar DeRozan was showing signs of taking the next step. While Bargnani has shined it has been a bit of a troubling start to Demar DeRozan's third season. There is no really dramatic improvement in his defence. While he seems to be forcing his offence and we have seen many more forced shots than we have highlight dunks. Tonight DeRozan had just 11 points with 4 assists and 4 rebounds. Shooting just 4-12 as well. James Johnson who was a big hit with Raptor fans since he arrived is starting to see his honeymoon end with fans. He did not score a point and was a -14 for a guy that is suppose to be one of you best defenders?
Another chip the Raptors have to play that is less attractive than that of Bargnani is Leandro Barbosa. He had 20 points will the rest of the Raptors bench had just 6 points. Barbosa decided to use his player option to collect his 7.2 million dollars owed for this season of service. He clearly can score and he clearly is not a guy that is ever going to be defence first. The Raptors may want to hang on to him to have his salary come off the books as it is a big piece of that 20 million or so Colangelo would have in cape space next season. But if you can get a player you like already under contract that you would control for a few seasons is that not a better option. Raptors have had their struggles being a player in free agency in the past. Colangelo's big signings have never been smashing successes. Hedo Turkoglu the most recent but there was also Jason Kapono prior to that. They still would have a decent amount of cash to spend as well. But the key is when you go to move Barbosa it is from a position of strength. If you don't get what you want you cash is your 7.2 million in cap room and call it a day.
Mavericks had 5 players in double figures three of those coming off the bench including Carter. Bargnani schooled that Dirk fellow as he not only outscored him 30-18, but even out rebounded him 7-4. But in the only stat that matters Nowitzki got the W. The Mavs get in the win column for the first time this year with a 99-86 win over the Raptors. Both these teams sit at 1-3 on the season but the difference between the two teams is massive.
I grow tired of hearing that it was a entertain loss. If this was a movie or a concert that would be great. But as much as sports becomes more and more entertainment based it still is about winning and losing. The Raptors have proven that while their effort level may be improved and there defence is with out question miles ahead of any point under Jay Triano. They held the Mavs to 44.4% shooting on this night. But at the end of the day moral victories are for losers. This whole attitude of the Raptors at least tried hard and it was more entertaining than watching paint dry concerns me. Great just friggin awesome. Look I get it and yeah there are some good things. But at the end of the day is this core group good enough? Not really sure. At the end of all of this have the Raptors actually solved any of their problems? I think they have solved at least one. Dwane Casey is a keeper it looks like to me. He is not taking any pride in the fact his team tried hard. He expects and demands more. As should all of you that are just satisfied with a team giving an effort. But can this team attract free agents? Remains to be seen. Will the ownership of this team be willing to go to that next level to make the Raptors a true contender when the time comes? Or will the be happy to have a team that is good enough to make the playoffs and do nothing really. See the Atlanta Hawks as the classic example of that. Although they have tried to spend money just maybe not always wisely.
I think what I find frustrating is people seem to just accept and buy in no matter what. While I truly admire the loyalty of fans, I am not ready to see the Raptor fan base morph into the one that cheers for the hockey team that hasn't won since 1967. In theory the Raptors are in a good position for success. But when you place that against this teams failure of the past how confident can you truly be? While I am not as over the moon about Jonas Valanciunas has some people. I think he has a good shot at being successful. However I need to see it against NBA talent under NBA rules to be convinced. Also as this season grinds along and people look to the future the amount of pressure on him will be intense. I mean it is almost now as some people see him as a Savior. Raptors still have no point guard and no real dynamic small forward. At best Jonas is a piece to your puzzle but he is not going to be able to pass the ball to himself. He also can't defend the wing position. Maybe you find that answer in the draft. But for tank nation you might want to look up the odds of worst team actually winning the lottery.
Speaking of point guards Jerryd Bayless turned his angle in this game and did not return. He did have an x-ray on the ankle that came back negative which is positive. That being said if you saw the replay of it on TSN it was a pretty nasty twist. We saw are first look at Anthony Carter as a result and got to see Forbes play some point guard. Along with a bigger dose of Jose Calderon who was having fun playing someone slower than him. A decent night for Jose with 11 points 7 dimes and a couple steals. Jose can defend people that are his lesser in terms of speed. Problem is that list grows shorter ever season. No one will cry more when Jason Kidd retires than Jose Calderon. As for Bayless his status vs Orlando is not known but safe bet he could be out. Aaron Gray remains out with a heart condition. This will take Raps fans back to the struggles of short lived Raptor Nathan Jawai. But we are told things with Gray are not as serious. He is still able to practice with the team despite being held out of game action. Obviously you hope for the best health wise. Basketball wise based on what we did see of him the Raptors are not missing much.
I guess the point I am making is that people tend to be far to accepting. Some of these people were the same ones that never thought we needed a coaching change but they now have fully sold out to POUND THE ROCK. If you have learned anything from reading this blog I hope it is that I don't just follow the crowd. I have been ahead of the curve on a lot of things. Long before you heard anyone questioning Jose Calderon I was. When people were applauding a trade for Jermaine O'Neil that was not me. I was the guy that told you Roy Hibbert was going to be good. The Raptors at the time felt he was to slow to play in their system. Well is Jamaal Magloire going to win a race against Roy Hibbert? Not likely. In terms of him I seem to be the only one that remembers how this guy consistently turned his back on this country and the national team. Only now at the end of his career when he has very little left to offer does he become a Raptor. Yet he is applauded like some hero cause he happens to be from Toronto. You want to applaud an NBA Player from Toronto? Tristan Thompson will make his only visit to the ACC on Wednesday. Applaud him. I never liked Hedo signing as well. This all may seem like bragging on my part. It is not meant to be. But it is to say and illustrate that I often have a good sense on things and have a good track record at being right. But just because I am a realist and I am not so willing to just accept everything at face value doesn't mean I want to see this team fail. I like everyone else want this team to be a success. But I don't do it with disregard or forget the long history of failure with this organization.
If the Raptors problems were simple and easy to fix there is no doubt there have been some smart people in this organization over time that could have fixed them. But it isn't simple, it is very hard. This Organization wants your patience. I say for some they have been patient for 16 years. Based on that it at the least should make you at best skeptical of the Raptors rather than to just buy into whatever they are selling to you. However you care to look at this season, it in many ways is a lost season. Some see it as a means to an end. But there is no guarantee it is a happy ending. Applauding effort and trying is ridiculous to me. That should be a given. Like I tweeted tonight. Yoda put it best....Do or do not.....there is no try.