We don’t have a coach of this team. We have a robot. A coach allows for players to compete for minutes and places in the rotation. Here we had the rookie inserted into the starting lineup, immediately after he was drafted, for his predetermined 8-10 minutes at the start of each half. A coach decides who will play the bulk of the minutes at a position, and who will be there in crunchtime. Here, playing the two point guards together in the backcourt was predetermined the second that Jarrett Jack was signed to an offer sheet, and both guys would be there to finish games. This team was going to play at a quick pace looking for early offense, while aiming to be one of the top tier teams on defense (two things which are a bit contradictory if we look at the history of the game). It wasn’t going to matter if it turned out that the players were better suited for a slower paced affair on both ends of the court. A coach would see those sorts of things and make decisions based on that. And we get a predetermined mess.

Did it matter that none of that stuff made any sense in the real world? I mean I have to say that I enjoyed Triano’s openness with his thought processes throughout the offseason. But can he please give his brain a restart at this point? The rookie needs to get more minutes on some nights than others, and he needs to be able to get his feet wet against players of a little lesser calibre than the average starter at his position. What about starting and playing his predetermined minutes helps this team discover it’s identity, or helps the rookie figure out how he can shape that identity himself? I’ll answer that one. Nothing. It just reinforces the status quo. And it allows Triano to think that he did all the required lifting with his great basketball mind, before training camp even began, and there’s just no need to make any further changes, even if that is technically his job.

The same picture gets filled-in with Calderon and Jack. No need to decide on which guy works best, with whom and when. Trot them out there together to even out the minutes and allow them to both finish games. How easy was that? But again, how has that plan done anything to give this team an idea of how it can win games?

Then you have guys like Amir Johnson working like a dog and getting results for this team, only to remain consigned to his predetermined bit role. Jack gets to start now, only due to Calderon’s injury, but even now with a role that is more suitable to him, he is getting hemmed in by Triano’s conceptual ideas.

I like the idea of looking for early offense, but being obsessive about it helps nothing. It has to be there to be taken advantage of. Otherwise you get guys rushing shots and failing to work with each other to get better shots. You get Jack getting stuck in situations where he’s going to turn the ball over. You get nobody in position for rebounds. Boom boom boom. Too many wasted possessions that lead to poor floor balance and easy fast breaks. This is a team with guys who can play the half-court game. They are more than capable of working off of each other, and of reading defenses. Hell – we’ve seen it to some extent. What’s holding it back? I’m guessing that Triano’s efforts to get players to gel involve his concepts about moving the ball to the weakside for open shots or penetration, or the need to launch more threes off of screens, or find the mismatches for early offense. And yeah, that’s good, but these guys are not robots. They need to figure out what they can consistently do instinctually with each other. I swear I’ve seen some of that in the first few weeks, and it just seems to have been drummed out of them now. Anytime they take things a little slower, they find some rhythm with each other on both ends of the court. But that doesn’t seem to be where the robot wanted things to start, and so they go back to being that team in the robot’s hardwired mind instead of becoming more of a real team on the floor. Now we get to see Bosh do his thing for a quarter. Then Bargnani gets his turn, and then Hedo. Jack always gets the last shot of the quarter and whatever layup he can muster.

And what I’m thinking, is that some of the guys could continue to make bad mistakes on defense if they didn’t function so robotically on offense. The constant one on five scenarios does nothing to help gain any momentum, and eventually just leads to a green light where passes are easy to read, rebounds are there for the taking, turnovers happen too frequently, and instead of the Raptors scoring early and often, it’s the other side. We have not seen any two or three players force opposing teams to consistently try to figure out how to adjust to keep them from functioning as a well run machine. Forget the concepts that players are not going to get squeezed into, and let’s see them actually developing some chemistry based on how they are able to make their playing styles mesh. Maybe if that trust can develop on the offensive end, then it will happen more defensively. Or maybe not, but at the very least we’d see fewer breaks and run-outs and turnovers.

Meanwhile the same concepts need to be trashed on the defensive end, and Triano needs to look hard at what guys are doing in reality, and figure out how to make things work to some degree. I’ve seen so much given away defensively, right off the bat, with the idea that a Calderon or Bargnani just weren’t going to get the job done without an intricate masterplan. It wasn’t until the game vs Houston, where a change in coverage was brought about by what was happening on the floor. Jack finally ended up on Landry and getting a couple of great stops with man defense that didn’t open anything else up to force the rest of the team to scramble or just get lost. Most of the time Triano opts for the predertimined concept that leaves the team generally confused. So whereas on offense he uses his concepts to kill the team game, on defense his mind leads him to kill the idea of individual responsibilities and puts everything on the team. And in neither case has any real trust or chemistry developed. A sense of inevitable letdowns is developing instead. Just play hard you say? Yes – just run into this wall as hard as you can. You’re getting paid millions. Knock the wall down and then win the game. No I say how about the coach does his job. On top of everything else, the robot’s skills at making decisions has not been given any kind of a workout. He’s not just a robot, but a robot whose systems have crashed and left him frozen.

I refuse to believe that this team is what it is and we’re stuck with that. There is so much more there, and there is a chance to start moving in the right direction now that an easier schedule has finally arrived. Let’s see something develop with the starting lineup aside from taking turns carrying the full weight of the offense, and trying to figure out how to defend while forfeiting certain advantages before the games begin. Let’s see some changes based on real results or the lack thereof. Let’s see an actual team, flaws intact, instead of Triano’s attempt at a pretty, predetermined concept of near perfection, that only mucks up any kind of team building while trying to hide the flaws. If the flaws are that much of a problem in reality, they can be removed and sat on the bench. Stop letting predetermined ideas get in the way of guys playing basketball as a team. If that doesn’t happen now, and we are stuck with the robot, then the Raptors are actually going to become much less than what they are now. Please don’t make it absolutely impossible to believe. Let’s get this team to .500 and discover a few things that actually work well enough to keep them there at the very least. It’s time to unplug HAL and escape from a predetermined hell of a season.

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