On Bringing It

It’s all about the effort right? Teams win when they play hard. That’s an easy cliche to go with. I still think that teams can play hard and lose badly, or more commonly, have the bulk of their players playing all out, but get held back by the mistakes of a few guys. Effort without a sense of purpose on behalf of one or two starters is going to be hard to overcome, and yet it’s still effort.

Let’s look at two starters like Jose and Hedo. One guy needs the ball in his hands a lot, in order to get into a rhythm and get good shots for other guys on the floor. The other guy needs the ball in his hands a lot to get into a rhythm and get good shots for other guys on the floor. How are they going to compliment each other while also making sure that Bosh is not forgotten for long stretches? Marion did not present such a problem, and an overall balance on the floor actually started to develop nicely as last season came to an end. Now we’ve got to see Turkoglu provide what Marion could not – getting good scoring opportunities for himself and everyone else, on a regular basis. That makes Jose a little redundant, unless he finds a new, and perhaps more suitable role off the bench upon his return to the lineup. At the same time it can make Jack, as a starter, shine much more as a guy that can bring a more aggressive approach against defenses that are going to have to focus strongly on Hedo and Bosh. With all of that happening, the same effort from all those guys, is going to be amplified, rather than counteracting what is there, and requiring too many other role players to try to do too much to make up for the whole mess.

Take things a step further and look at Bargnani. I’ll be the first to raise my hand and suggest that this guy looks like he is taking a breather at important moments of the game. But there is a chance that he has been one of those guys caught in the trap of trying to do too much. I think it could be possible that this is a guy that appears to be slacking whenever he puts too much weight on his own shoulders. I notice a lack of clear intentions on those occasions. And frankly when that happens it is more maddening than pure laziness. I can’t stand to see him improvising with the ball, noodling his way from behind the arc to a foot inside the arc, only to fire a shot that has the intent of being an attempt and nothing more. Those shots usually graze the rim and lead the opposing team to an immediate fast break opportunity. It’s like a big green light.

Bargnani has always been at his best when he gets his offense from the flow of the game. We see the pump fakes that lead to good passes or the ability to get contact or gain the space needed to find that spot just above the freethrow line. Or the ability to use his quickness to go right to the basket. All of those options open up much more when he is not compelled to be a game changer. He’s a guy that provides the exclamation marks when he’s one of five. Or he’s the guy that provides the question mark on wasted possessions, when he’s not in sync with the other four guys out there, and taking on more responsibilities than actually suit him.

It’s something we’ve seen with Bosh throughout his development. Why should it be any different for Bargnani? And my big point here is that with Hedo and Jack given bigger roles than before, the efforts of both Bosh and Bargnani are going to show up in ways that bring more impact. Add the athleticism of a developing Derozan, and that of Sonny Weems as well, to provide some of the energy and hustle they lost when Marion left town, and the recipe for success becomes much more clear than it has in the past couple of weeks. Hedo is the guy that is going to allow everyone else to understand what their clear intent should and will be, including with himself. If Hedo himself is left unsure what his intentions are going to be on any given possession, then that carries through to everyone else. He has to be the guy providing much more direction, or else there will be too many other guys consulting their GPS. And that means things like guys leaking out too early when defensive stands have not been completed with a secured rebound, and then getting back too late to defend in transition, because they are looking for an offensive rebound – in other words, misguided efforts that hurt more than help.

And since helping then comes to mind – it looks like Bosh is being asked to help much less on the perimeter, and instead is being allowed to stick close to home with his man, usually around the net. He has been effective in blocking shots, altering shots, and with some much better collapsing of helpers into the paint around him, he’s been good at extracting the ball from the crowd and getting the offense going upcourt immediately. And so the sense of purpose is much more evident on defense as well. And again, the efforts can be seen to be paying off in much more visible terms. The ball has to be stopped in or around the painted area before the ballhander can decide on any number of good options available when everything closes off too late. It’s not that they have to make every effort to keep the ball out of the paint entirely – those efforts will lead to more breakdowns on the back end of plays than can be tolerated, including kickouts for threes, and the inability to box everyone out for the rebound. They need to make life difficult for anybody who does get into the paint, and then rely on Bosh to provide his version of the exclamation mark on that end of the court.

My only question is why it has taken so long to figure out stuff that is pretty obvious, and why instead there was so much insistence that everything would work out over time with no need to make any changes? As RF’s wise young contributor, bjjs put it – Triano hasn’t been able to figure out which guys he can rely on to be his workhorses. And it seems to be a matter of avoidance that has only now been solved with Jose being injured. He has got to do more than try to manage minutes in a way that makes most everyone happy enough. Those workhorses have to be the ones that carry everything forward within games and from game to game. They’ve been there all along, but their efforts have not been rewarded to the point where it’s become clear that they are of the utmost importance to winning games.

Watching tape of Houston must have provided some kind of revelation in that sense. To me the game against the Rockets was over when Bargnani got right up into Scola’s face on one of their first possessions. It looked entirely unnatural for Bargnani, but it did show a clear intent all the same, and Scola appeared to be thrown, as though Bargnani was trying to steal his secrets to success. That set a tone that was not much altered from there. And it’s that kind of obvious thing that has perplexed me the most: we have smart players here who know how to take advantage of defenders when they play to their strengths rather than take those strengths away. How can those same smart guys not realize that other players are going take advantage of the same things if presented with the opportunity over and over? Just because we have some offensive-minded players should not mean that they have no clue as to what not to be doing defensively. I think the coaches, who should know better as well, have simply forfeited too much on the defensive end, and instead of a guy like Andrea pretending to be named Luis a little bit, they have the whole team trying to make up for the difference. And that’s not to pick on Bargnani. He’s been a victim of the lack of defensive intent as much as a guy they think they need to work around. Everything has to start with each guy carrying their weight to begin with, and help situations can get figured out from there. But this team has started off defensive possessions all too often with help in mind immediately, as though they had only four guys on the court. That’s going to make them all look bad, and it all goes back to coaches thinking they can make whatever they draw on the clipboard play out on the court, instead of looking for those workhorses and riding them the way Jarrett Jack was riding Carl Landry in the fourth quarter. I hope Triano has figured out his job, so that we can see a direct line from effort to result, rather than squiggly lines on the shards of broken clipboards. It means just about everything to this franchise right now.

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