West Coast Review, TJ and In-Laws

Well, it has been a little while since I have posted something, had the mother-in-law in town, so my access to the lair (the basement) was limited. No idea why it is necessary to check the weather in places where you aren’t, but oh well. Oh yeah, guys, always make sure you have beer in the fridge. The one time in my life I didn’t have beer in the fridge and I was DYING for a beer. WTF?

Anyway, the west coast swing ended up pretty much how most of us had it, with the Raps having their asses handed to them. Even the game that we thought they SHOULD win, but were probably going to take too lightly and end up with a loss ended up how we thought it would. I’m not completely sure if they took the Kings too lightly, but they sure didn’t look like a team that was ready to play and I think they really just didn’t have any energy in their legs. They were not concentrating, turning the ball over, not getting back down the court on D, not looking upcourt for guys who were actually making the break in transition, it was just a combination of almost every possible error you could imagine…in almost every game.

There has been plenty of talk about TJ lately and rightly so. His play has been terrible, his attitude has not been very good (from what we know…I’m always hesitant to talk about a guy’s attitude since a lot goes on behind the scenes) and he just looks lost out there. Things pretty much came to a head with his explosion and subsequent expulsion from last night’s game. I kind of see where he was coming from last night, but make no mistake, TJ getting tossed had about 50% to do with the things that happened in the five minutes before that last whistle and 50% to do with the past three weeks. The weight of not being a starter and not performing well in the backup role has clearly had its effect on TJ and it all just came out in that one moment. That was a picture of a man falling apart, trying to find his spot in a team.

The thing about TJ now is that he has clearly become a distraction. It’s bad enough when you are losing (and losing ugly), but it makes it that much worse when you are losing and then you have to deal with a headcase. Here’s the thing with TJ right now. Typically, when TJ is having problems, it is because he is holding onto the ball too long and forcing shots. Right now, TJ is doing both of those things, but he is also forcing passes and hesitating before making moves, completely throwing off his abilities. He just doesn’t have his head on right because he is thinking too much. To take a line out of Bull Durham, “Don’t think, you’ll only hurt the ball club.” If the Raptors could somehow just get TJ to not think about being a backup, to not worry about trying to score, to not worry about making the perfect pass, it would be a bloody miracle. But realistically, they just have to get him settled right now. I mean on more of a sense of being settled outside of basketball. This might be a time where you still have some time before the playoffs, you might want to say, TJ, take a few days off, relax, go spend some time with your family back in Texas, come back refreshed. God knows it won’t happen, but I really think at this point, in order to calm down TJ the baller, you need to calm down TJ the man.

But let’s also be fair to TJ, he hasn’t been the reason the Raptors have been losing. They have looked bad in just about every possible way that a team can. You can’t give up 70+ points in a half and expect to win. I mean, damn, some teams don’t even score 70+ in a game. The Raptors can talk all they want about Bosh not being there, but let’s remember that Bosh isn’t a great defender. Sure, having him on the offensive side effects the defensive side as he is able to wear down defenses and his length doesn’t hurt on D, but it would be irresponsible to suggest that Bosh being out is the reason the Raptors are losing.

Let’s take a look at the past 5 games. The Raptors aren’t having that much of a problem scoring, they are almost at 100 points per game (although let’s also take into consideration that they are facing some second stringers once things get out of control), but they are giving up almost 115 points per game and only Seattle is worse than that in the past 5. The Raptors have also been letting teams shoot almost 54% from the field, which is not a formula for success. They still can’t rebound the ball, so while it sucks, at least they’re consistent there, but what is really killing them are the turnovers. The Raptors are turning the ball over almost 15 times per game and they’re doing it early in the game, which is putting them in a hole. Guys can talk all they want about TJ coming in and things going crazy from that point on in the game, but realistically, by the time TJ enters the game, the Raptors are typically down by 10 points because they can’t hold onto the ball and can’t play D after they turn it over. TJ then comes in and tries to get 10 points back each time down the floor, which only makes things worse. But just keep that in mind next time you’re blaming TJ for everything…it’s the perfect storm when he gets the call to come in.

There has been a lot of negative talk about the Raptors and TJ in the last little while, but here are a few things to ponder. First, I actually don’t mind the Raptors having this bad spell right now, because I think it will help them get focused by the time the playoffs roll around. It’s good to have a few problems before the playoffs, it toughens you up and you get to look at a lot of weak spots that you might have thought you had taken care of. Also, there was a guy in Toronto once named Rafer Alston. People here couldn’t stand him and wanted him out of town. Now that he has his game back together, he’s looking like the best PG in the league running things for Houston. Things can change, attitudes can change. Ability is always there, it just needs to be harnessed.

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