A long Raptors month ends and a team stumbles through a winter
I think maybe we’ve broken the back of this dopey NBA season with the eight road games in a nine-game stretch and a January from hell.
It always was about surviving this month for this team, brutal travel schedule, new coach, no camp, abbreviated pre-season, a few new faces and a brand new system.
How’d they do?
Pretty good, all things considered.
Now, 7-14 isn’t a record to be proud of at all, and there are still many issues to be addressed but as the month comes to an end, I think they’re further along in a lot of key ways than many expected.
They defend better than anyone thought they would – top four in opponent field goal percentage; Bargnani’s better than he’s ever been – coaches vote for all-star reserves in the next couple of weeks, too bad he’s hurt ‘cause that’ll hurt his chances; and they play well on the road – they’ve won five road games already and won six all of last season.
Now, with nine of the next 12 at home, including a seven-game homestand that will try the patience of Super Family because I’ll be under foot for a couple of weeks, it should give Dwane Casey even more time to work with a team that’s very much a work in progress.
There will be more practice time, which he loves, and more days off without flights that should lessen the physical toll on these guys.
No one’s really satisfied with where they are but given all they’ve had to deal with in the first full month of the season, there’s some reason for them to feel kind of good.
Now the question is: Can they keep it up?
Did you see this?
Pretty impressive, isn’t it?
I still like Vince over Weis and there’ve been lots of other impressive Griffin dunks but, man, that was something.
And don’t think NBA players aren’t paying attention; am told the twitterverse went berserk right after that play.
Oh, yeah, we’re back with an IGBT tonight, not to worry.
(Like so many of you were worried, I’m sure)
So I’m sure you all saw Griff’s report from the State Of The Blue Jays buntoss last night. It’s when Paul and Alex and John sit around and answer questions from often fawning fans.
Doesn’t sound like it was a contentious evening at all, despite what has to be considered a bad off-season to date. Face it, when the season ended last fall, there was all kinds of expectations that the team would do something bold to shore up the three or four areas that needed shoring up.
After all, this is a promising young team with perhaps the best hitter in the entire game playing right field and if this wasn’t the winter to take a giant step, when would be?
Well, some other time I guess.
We sit here about three weeks from the start of spring training (THREE WEEK!! Wow, where’d the winter go?) and the list of additions and changes to the team is, frankly, quite underwhelming.
Seems a wasted winter, doesn’t it?
There are all kinds of explanations for why they didn’t get the front-end starter, experienced closer and second baseman they needed; they missed out on Yu for money, lost Papelbon to a better team with a recent track record and there was no way Prince Fielder was coming here.
What I wonder is if this has turned off some of the new fans the team got last season when it was fun to watch, a group of talented youngsters coming into their own.
Fans are, as we all know, quite fickle but the Blue Jays fans who have remained loyal lo all these years of fourth place finishes have to running out of patience, don’t they?
I guess, as Beeston apparently pointed out last night, the proof of pudding is in the eating and we’ll see how things develop once they start playing for real in April but, right now, I fear a lot of the goodwill the team built last season is vanishing.
I’m sure you all saw the quote from Dwane at the end of my story today about the starting lineup and whether he can keep both Bayless and Calderon in a smallish backcourt.
“I don’t know if we’ll go with that lineup again, we’ll have to see. A lot of it has to do with matchups and who we play and we’ve got some tough games coming up this week. We’ll have to look and see what the matchups are.”
Not sure what he’s going to be feeling about Jeff Teague and Joe Johnson tonight here or Rondo and Ray Allen tomorrow in Boston but maybe he’ll decide that, yeah, let’s see if we can make teams adjust to us rather than us adjusting to them.
And that’s not a bad thing. I think I’d rather a coach be proactive rather than reactive and under these circumstances – and we don’t know about Barbosa and won’t until tonight, most likely – being proactive is the way to go.
Speaking fans and their reactions to the teams they follow, how do you think Argos fans are going to react to the new head honcho saying winning might not be the most important thing, as Chris Rudge did in this story with Dan Girard at our place yesterday.
Um, er, ah.
Isn’t winning something the people want more than anything? And aren’t Argo fans kind of deserving of, you know, wins?
I can kind of see what he’s saying, the “total entertainment package” has to be good but at the heart of the matter is wins.
Win and the people will come and forgive a lot of other sins.
I’d rather a new boss come out and say “we’re going to win and get to the Grey Cup in our city and do whatever it takes to accomplish that.”
That, rather than, “We were very proud of a team on the field that had a defence that bent but didn’t break … but I’m not sure people want to see a team at home that has a 9-0 record but the average score is 12-7.
“I think they’d much rather see us .500 at home with an average score of 38-34.”
I wonder if they would.