Was anyone in media land paying attention when the Toronto Raptors lost to the Denver Nuggets Monday night in the aftermath of what will forever be known as 81? It’s like realizing you’ve ripped your favorite trousers after being thrown out of the club and having your girlfriend stay inside with the bouncer who tossed you. Don’t let all the basketball chatter this week distract you from the fact that we went 1 for 5 on the road. Somewhere lost within this horrendous West coast swing, we must resolve to dig deep and find answers.
When the Raptors announced that Rafael Araujo would be sidelined due to a shoulder injury, I was the first to kick my shoes off in a fit of joy. Face it, 90% of basketball sports fans in Toronto were dodging shoes that day and rejoicing in their socks. Sam Mitchell quickly shoved Matt Bonner into the starting lineup and informed the assistant coaches that Pape Sow didn’t have to ride in the washroom of the team bus anymore. And in light of Jalen’s rekindling of sorts, the announcer at the ACC found it necessary to remove the taped recording of the starting lineup and actually read it live.
The mistake Sam made in recent days was forgetting about the one true constant that governs all in the cosmos. Sam overlooked balance.
You can’t sustain an ecosystem with an abundance of predators and not enough prey. You can’t win a chess game with only back row pieces and no pawns. You can’t have wings without beer. It’s this premise that explains why the Raptors have been losing.
God knows I love Jalen Rose, but inking both him and Bonner in the starting lineup is like beginning a boxing match with nothing but hook shots. You can not stack your starting line and have your rookies hit cleanup. Watching Calderon, Villanueva, and Graham on the floor at the same time is like watching 3 dudes lingerie shopping. Confusion, embarassment, and a lot of sweating.
Our roster has always left much to be desired, but it was much more effective pre-shoekickingdays. The attack was better balanced, and our defense wasn’t being exposed like Janet Jackson’s wardrobe. As much as I love Jalen, I’d like to see him settle back into the 2nd unit. Jalen is effective coming off any line, provided he’s given good minutes and freedom to run his game.
Putting him back on the secondary line would also establish some sorely needed roles on this team. At times there seems to be confusion as to who the go-to guy is, who’s rebounding, and who’s doing the dirty work. The coaching staff needs to spend time establishing jobs and assigning players to strictly focus on them. Bosh, go inside strong. Mo Pete, drain those 3’s from your office. Hoffa, foul and look bewildered. James, PASS THE BALL. D-Mart, finish that burger.
Rafer might have been right. Maybe our coaching staff doesn’t prepare the team for games. Maybe we need more structure and more preparation. But whatever was working prior to the road trip out West should be revisited. The Raptors have to finish the month of January off strong, because the last thing the management needs is the team to sink into a funk again and have the media on their back. Or, it might just be the case of having Hoffa coming back and shouldering that coveted responsibility.