Nine new faces, and Sam Mitchell – just kidding at the end of that last post (at least for now) - seems intent on getting every one of them some camera time.
Nothing much in the result came as a surprise: The experienced, together, division-favoured Nets - everything the Raptors aren't - turned it up when they had to. The Raptors can’t defend. Joey Graham is lost. The new Euros are going to face a rough baptism in this more athletic, quicker, more one-on-one NBA game. The Raptors can’t defend. Chris Bosh is labouring after his halting preseason. The Raptors can’t defend.
But there was some brightness in there, too . . .
Anthony Parker’s offence. Terrance Jerod Ford’s quicks. They shared the ball. Maurizio sounded good on Italian TV. Highlight moments: Tough call between a pair of pretty fast-break passes for baskets from Jose Calderon and, off his own steal, Parker, who really looked like an NBA player out there. Even if it was the same old Raptors script, they were far more entertaining at their best than the dross of the past three seasons.
But I’m wondering about this tinkering ahead. The defence continues to be awful (NJ shot 51 per cent, outrebounded Raps 52-38 and got to the FT line more even though they’re mostly a jump-shooting team – thing is, Raps are even more a jump-shooting team). But that's big-picture, full of so many variables it will take more than report cards to fix. In the smaller view, it’s hard to see from here why Graham should take minutes away from, say, P.J. Tucker, who earned some respect in the exhibition season and looked fine in limited minutes last night. Sam Mitchell’s all-inclusive rotation is no cause for alarm: all it means is that they haven’t moved out of the tinkering stage of the season. That won’t last. That can’t last.
|Terrance Jerod Ford at work.|
What’s intriguing about Tucker is that he could amount to a genuine departure for the Raptors, who under their previous succession of GMs have mostly ignored the second round of the draft, or more recently, gone with long-term projects. The season is one night old, far too early to make drastic decisions, but Tucker off what I’ve seen might well be the first Raptors second-rounder to play any kind of role here – and if it comes at the expense of Graham, well, all the kid appears to have done so far is deserve that chance. Yes, Tucker is listed as a couple of inches smaller than Graham, but he’s been playing bigger and more effectively. Last night Graham shaded Tucker in terms of time, getting nearly 10 minutes to Tucker’s eight. The changeover could well be underway already – when Mitchell went to his bench for a tweener as time ran down in the fourth quarter, it was Tucker whose number he called.
Calling the roll of Raptors’ second-round picks:
1995 Jimmy King
1996 No selection
1997 No selection
1998 Tyson Wheeler
1999 No selection
2000 DeeAndre Hulett
2001 No selection
2002 No selection
2003 Remon Van de Hare (CORRECTION: Matt Bonner acquired in draft-night trade with Chicago. My mistake, so I've amended below. Thanks, Tim, for the pointer)
2004 Pape Sow
2005 Roko Ujic, Uros Slokar
2006 P.J. Tucker
Not one contributor among that small bunch. No one’s ever going to argue that the NBA’s second round is going to yield quality or quantity, but it’s a place you’ve got to look to for buried treasure either now or, more likely, later. Bryan Colangelo’s staff appear to have picked up more than the usual lump of coal in Tucker.
As Mitchell winnows down the rotation – even if they’re going to run and gun, shuttling 12 deep won’t go – it’s Tucker who bears the closest attention.
And it’d be nice if Garbajosa got some arc on his shot. And Bargnani avoided silly fouls. And . . .