These are the dog days of the NBA. Legs getting heavy. Effort needed as much as sheer talent. And leadership comes into play. If the Raptors can summon up the determination they showed here against the Bucks, then they should be able to take advantage of their schedule right up to the break. And they really need to if they want to hit the final stretch well-positioned. Teams like Charlotte and Chicago are playing well, and the Heat might get on a roll with the addition of Rafer. Hopefully the dog days will not be as kind to those guys as they can be for our guys.
The big dog that the team needs to get into the hunt, is obviously Hedo. Is he missing the incessant barking and howling of Stan Van? Now there’s a voice that auto-tune cannot fix! But maybe it’s the voice that keeps on calling Hedo. Ever since sitting to end the game in Cleveland, he looks a little more ready to just fight through a sustained stretch and worry a little less about his role. Jarrett Jack went through such a spell himself, although without quite the threat of being embarrassed as a professional, and now that he’s found the dog within himself again, he’s just the right guy to help Hedo through this. You can see him being supportive, and it doesn’t just begin and end with his relationship with Hedo, or his former college roommate. A team is coming together, and he’s doing a lot of the lifting when it comes to getting the foundation in place.
I love how Jack is always ready to lead through his own example. Demar runs into a brick wall named Shaq, and Jack is there to pick him off the ground and get on him to do it again. Then Jack does it himself and the rookie comes over with a worried look. That’s when you can read Jack’s lips as he says, “kinda hurts, doesn’t it?”
Jack makes everything work for his coach as well. It looks like the two have formed a bond of sorts. That allows Triano to actually think on the fly a little bit, and really show his pedigree as a basketball mind, because he knows he not only has a guy that will implement and execute, but a guy that will lead the whole pack and be the coach on the floor. If belief reinforces belief among pg and coach, that can make up for what either of them might be lacking as individuals.The results are typically better at home than on the road, with Jack’s grittiness and Triano’s feel coming more to the fore, but with loads of home games in this stretch of dog days, there lies yet another advantage.
And then it’s going to be all about that final stretch. Hopefully the little bit of grittiness that has come along the way will get them rolling when they’ll be needing to the most. Will they have any changes to the cast as the trade deadline looms? Is Bosh going to maintain the added weight and strength? Will Bargnani continue to grow as a player? Will Triano continue to grow as a coach? And what will Turkoglu bring to the equation? Will the break and the lighter schedule be all he needs, or is he going to need a full off-season? Or is it all mental? Does he just need to work through the shock of being lowballed by the Magic last summer and move on?
There are plenty of questions in these dog days, and those surrounding Hedo are the most troublesome, while pointing toward some hopeful musings if they can be answered in a positive manner. RF’s own Clingrap put it all in a good perspective with these comments - I’m still concerned about his shot and lift. he’s got nothing right now. he’s backrimming so many shots because his legs aren’t in the shot. i love the effort. i love the hustle. but i think that’s the extra, not the norm in a more suitable situation. he’s here to score and playmake and make shots.
he’s not an energy guy. he’s brought in to be a game changer and if we’re going to rely on his hustle to change games then we’re in trouble.
I’ll be watching with my trusty pup Mochi at my side. He’s wearing a cone right now after having his nuts removed. They never descended, and the vet had to search right up to the area around his kidneys to find the damn things. I try to console him, playing the Jarrett to his Hedo, explaining how I had the big V performed upon my own precious parts. “There may not be much sack on the dog”, I tell him, “but there’s still plenty of dog in the sack”. Yeah. Mochi doesn’t get it either.