My brain hurts a little. I saw Jay Triano talk about how this team needed to be a top 6 defensive team. I heard all the players signing on to that aspiration. Through the entire off-season, through training camp, pre-season, and into the season, there was nothing but talking about improving in that area. How does that translate into becoming an offensive powerhouse that can’t win, because they appear to refuse to defend at this point?
Maybe they should have done away with all the talk, and simply overpaid for Marion’s services. They had a known quantity of hustle, energy and a strong defensive presence that complimented Bosh and Bargnani on both ends. It might be hard to see how he could be overpaid if he was still here. But they made their choices, and certainly the frontcourt they have now is a force offensively. The question is whether it is ever going to work on both ends enough to win the amount of games their talent level would dictate. They made the decision to part ways with Marion and add overall depth. Now they need to make some decisions as to how that depth can look a little less shallow.
Triano went with an 11-man rotation against the Spurs. If Reggie Evans was able to play, I don’t doubt that he would have fingered 12 guys for playing time. The problem is that he needs a solid 8 that are willing to play defense every minute they are out on the court. Please Jay - find those 8 guys. It’s time to use the bench with a purpose. Yes - it takes time for the defensive principles to become second-nature. Yes - it takes time for all the new guys to gel. But it seems like decisions are being avoided in the hopes of lucking into some chemistry. Even then - when the team is rolling a little bit against Detroit, Triano was ready to throw the developing chemistry to the wind so that everyone could get their minutes in. It was his player, Antoine Wright, that made the decision for him - to stick with what was working. And I can live with the Jack-Calderon backcourt, but it’s starting to seem like a way to not make another decision about which guy gets some of the most meaningful minutes. The bench needs to be a place that 8 guys find their way off of, and another couple get some chances along the way, and it all has to be about what they show when they are on the floor. I’m missing the point of seeing the bench as a destination for guys that become spectators while on the court, to sit and watch off the court for a while.
If I see a glassy-eyed Bargnani become a spectator while his guy simply walks in front of him and casually allows the ball to fall into his hands unchallenged, then I’m not sure what kind of decisions I’ll be capable of as a fan. I mean I don’t need them to be a top-tier defensive team. If they could be close to middling it would make a great difference. They’ve shown enough promise at times. They just look as though they refuse to carry through with it often enough, with a guy like Bargnani proving to be all too revealing in that respect. Without the scrappy they are nothing but scrap, and it’s going to mean scrapping one plan or another along the way.
Decisions await Colangelo as well. Maybe, Bargnani and Turkoglu just aren’t going to work any better than Bosh and O’Neal did, in terms of netting W’s. Maybe Triano’s idea of defending the house is just a house of cards that has already collapsed and will never offer the proper rotations or weakside help. Maybe the coach needs one more personnel move to be made to have any kind of success with his ideas. Maybe the GM will find a way to replace Shawn Marion. Or maybe he’s right to defer such questions until Evans returns, but it makes me antsy as hell.
Colangelo is talking now about everything they are learning in the early stretch of this season. It’s time for everyone to take those lessons to heart by now. They are too obvious to ignore. Decisions decisions. Everyone in that organization has to decide if they are going to do something about it. There’s less and less time left for avoidance if they want to make way for the ample time they have to really make this thing work.