Finally some basketball games to take in. Well, maybe not really. So far we’ve only seen an extension of training camp. They’ve been putting in full workouts before a lot of these matchups, and they haven’t treated them as games as much as conditioning exercises. There’s a good reason to not even watch these things, if you can’t keep yourself from making a lot of first impressions that are going to stick in your head. We haven’t seen anything close to a starting lineup or a group that will finish games. Poor play from one guy, or excellent play from another, just mean so little up to this point. What we see now from a guy like Sonny Weems for instance, and what we will see in the dead of winter could be as different as Sonny Corleone and Sonny Bono.
Aside from the sunny side of Sonny’s energy, there’s certainly been some terrible play on display from what appears to be some guys looking very tired. If that is due to just how much hard work we’ve heard them talk about, then it’s actually nice to see. Weems was interviewed on Raptors TV last week, and made a comment about how different Jay did things compared to how they were done in Denver’s camp last season. It was an awkward moment that I wish would have been followed up on to clarify just what he meant. It would be wonderful if he was expressing a little dismay over just how much work they were expected to do here. Already there has been some improvement in how some key components are performing as they work through the lactic acid buildup, and it’s only going to allow them to gain an edge over other teams, if the conditioning is indeed a big priority.
That has left me with only a couple of impressions that I can have a little bit of trust in. First, there are a few guys on this squad with some nice non-stop motors. Here I must again mention Sonny Weems, along with Amir Johnston, and Reggie Evans, all who do not show many signs of slowing down, and they’ve all seen a good share of minutes. I’m hoping to see these guys playing big roles in a few games when the schedule gets harsh and the season starts to become a slog. Again - the energy will provide the kind of edge they are going to need.
Secondly, the early offense is likely going to look better than the half-court sets as the season begins. That seemed to be the pattern in the closest thing to a real game so far, against the Wizards on Sunday. Maybe that changes as the starting lineup takes shape, along with something of a regular rotation, and we finally get to see Hedo’s playmaking abilities. But you have to think that they are going to really try to make use of a conditioning edge with some running and exploiting mismatches early in the clock, and work out the kinks in the halfcourt sets over time. It will definitely help to see Hedo taking aim in late-clock situations, since they’ve just had nothing to show in that regard.
May I add that the greatest importance for getting the conditioning to the highest level, is to be able to play all out on both ends of the court? Now that is where I hope to see them find something of an identity early, and only strengthen it as the season wears on. The signs have been promising so far, aside from a few problematic first impressions. As a team they are looking capable of covering for mistakes, and getting stops when necessary. And I’m seeing the ability to convert good defensive play into easy points. I’ve waited so long to see that. No more stopping and slowing down the pace while figuring out whether or not it’s going to be horns up again. A defense that brings rewards on the offensive end has a good chance to grow stronger and truly create that identity that is just a little seed of thought so far. They need to just go and try to make opposing teams pay, before settling into organized sets. It allows the ability to matchup against varying styles without sacrificing what they want to do game in and game out. It’s the stuff of teams that get to that next level. It’s the stuff of lasting impressions. Please let that little sprout take root.