.500. I called it. Ho hum. Now do we minimize the feat and point to it as the greatest sign of mediocrity? Or do we see a clean slate for real now? I see a team that is better than their record yet, and feel confident that it will continue to rise and emerge above even stevens.
I loved to see the team beating Orlando with Bosh putting in an average game. And I enjoyed seeing Bosh not try to force his game too much. I particularly liked seeing the whole team trust in their halfcourt abilities when so much defensive effort was going into stopping Bosh again. Bosh’s numbers might go down if opposing teams play the same way, but to me he looks like more of a leader, and part of a legitimate team under these circumstances. He looks like a better player when the team plays well as a whole, and scraps the need for early offense as a gimmicky means of getting the ball in everyone’s hands enough. Again – unlike with Boston – there were plenty of good shots, and this time – unlike with San Antonio – a good number went in.
Meanwhile, seeing every last guy working hard on defense, and understanding how to execute on defense, again made Bosh look good as something of a defensive anchor, even with a couple of possessions where he needed to at least foul Lewis and Nelson as they entered the lane, and failed to do so. He made life difficult enough overall to make the difference all the same. And Bargnani has to be seen as a part of that anchor under the net as well. Between the two of them, they have done to the Spurs and the Magic, what was done to the Raptors in Boston just a few nights back. That doesn’t even seem real in a way.
Triano has done a nice job with some days in between games, to prepare this team. He had a lot of answers last night. Seeing Jose drive and kick out to Andrea on two consecutive possessions was a revelation. And overall this team has figured out how to not just take what the defense gives them, and forcing offense in ways the defense is entirely prepared to beat down, but they are taking what is there with enough patience and intelligence to get excellent shots instead of just the immediate open looks. Derozan continually brought the ball in from the arc to let fly from a spot on the floor he is obviously more comfortable with. Nice idea. Hedo gives up the open look to put the ball on the floor and draw Vince towards him, only to pass it out where rotations are slow thanks to Vince needing lots of help in the first place, and the ball not only comes back inside to Bosh where Dwight still remains fixed, but from Bosh it goes back to Hedo open under the basket. All that instead of chucking the open three. That my friends is what we’ve all seen from the wrong end since Vince was on our side. Credit Triano and the right mix of veterans to get it done. No amount of bad reffing was going to stop that kind of heady play at both ends.
But there is still a pre-determined feel to how the game played out. The preparation was clearly very good, but at some point some hard decisions are going to have to be made. I think putting both point guards in is something that can work. Is it something that should unquestionably be relied upon? Especially in crunch time? Are guys like Dirty Baby Amir, Weems, and DeMar looking at a ceiling on their minutes that is never going to change no matter what happens in games? And what is going to happen when Evans is ready? Will Triano’s head explode?
Evans gave me a little laugh during the Spurs game. The team is in the huddle, and Reggie and Jose stand on the edge of the huddle in their suits. When suddenly Reggie reaches across Jose’s back and gives him the phantom tap on the shoulder from the opposite side. Jose turns to look at air, and now that he’s on the court again, unless he gets his role firmly defined, I’m worried that there will be more such glances toward nothing, only more symbolically, and with yucks instead of yukyuks.
Triano is still using the Slap Chop where he needs to start using a regular set of knives. A bent blade at the end of a threaded plunger can work if everything goes as expected. Eventually that bent blade is going to get plugged up and everything is going to smell like onions no matter how much it gets washed. It’s time to bring the knives out, and sharpen them, and use the right ones for the right moments of a game. No more gimmicks used in order to avoid the tough decisions. As much as Reggie is sure to like any nuts he gets his hands on, all of the cheap kitchen gadgets need to go in the junk drawer by the time he returns.
The talent is there now, especially if Hedo and Jose have a decent set of wheels apiece. They all trust each other and work together. They should look even better than they have in wins against two good teams. When Hedo and Jose both looked iffy on their legs, it only made their overlapping tendencies worse. It was like my problem with having five remotes, with one that has conked out altogether and requires me to get off the couch to turn on the stereo receiver, and a channel zapper that gets jammed and leaves me pressing numbers hard enough to squeeze juice out of them, until instead of channel 56 I end up on 666, which is probably a pay-for-view porn channel, and I’m going to end up with my self-esteem completely shot, muttering to myself, “what kind of idiot pays for porn?”.
That’s where Triano and Colangelo were not too long ago. Except they ended up on a channel with infomercials. Can the Snuggie offense be far behind, where Jose and Jarrett both wear the same oversized jersey/poncho? I hope not. Having Jose out for a while with that hip, aided in the avoidance of the big decisions. It allowed Jack to find a real role that didn’t feel so much like a kitchen gadget. Calderon needs to find the right role for himself. If his shot looks as good as it did last night, and he can go all out like he did last night, then what is lost with a Calderon that shoots a little more, and defends harder and more competently within fewer minutes? Just like Bosh is giving more with less right now, Jose can as well. And then when his well-sharpened knife needs to come into play more on any given night, let Triano pull that knife out.
Games like the last two, should have been blowouts, regardless of bad calls or tough luck with shots. You can see enough in this team to see that. They could easily be seen in an entirely different light come playoff time, if the preparation gets backed up with with the use of not just option A and B, slap and chop, chop and slap, but instead with a whole lot of slicing and dicing and paring and peeling according to what dishes present themselves. Take that next step now Jay Triano. Make something more delicious than a .500 mix of garlic and walnuts and potatoes and Reggie’s big toe. I don’t want to see some great ingredients go to waste just to fit a recipe that might suit a local chain. It’s time to dip your finger in, taste, and make the necessary changes, then taste again. I’m a happy customer right now, but I’m getting ready to send the usual fare back, if I don’t start seeing some care going into the final result.