Archive for April, 2010

King of Babble On


I was in NYC 25 years ago, walking through Central Park, when I came upon one Mr. Spoons. He was an old guy in a lavish outfit, playing the spoons like only someone named Mr. Spoons could. He could play six sets of spoons at one time. A veritable spoon orchestra held within two manic hands. Really though, it was just a bunch of clickity-clack. But the guy’s passion shone through the nonsensical performance. I almost saw his name in lights above his head, in place of the felt marker on the cheap cardboard sign propped up at his feet.

I remembered that day in Central Park while listening to the endless rattling-off and babbling on of Bryan Colangelo’s season-ending presser. I wish I could still be that fan so easy to convince that the “gloom and doom” is exaggerated. Actually I never even needed to be convinced of it in the past. I always looked to the positives all on my own, even through some of the worst years of this franchise. But this season the positives just made the end result that much more infuriating. So telling me that for almost half the season this team was winning 70 percent of their games, just gives me another hit of feverish chills. I had been coming to terms with the sense of incompleteness with this team. Now I am simply struck by the incompetence that must have been exerted upon this entire organisation.

But it was actually just a bunch of different factors combined, right Bryan? Sorry, but that seems to be a good way of describing what happens when incompetence takes root. Yet the coach gets a return ticket. The players all are described in terms of their inherent value. Bargnani gets praise for what he did against two crappy teams with fishing tackle stuffed in their lockers, after failing miserably to take sole control of the team’s destiny in the games prior to that, or in any number of games within the horrible post-All-Star game implosion. Hedo gets praise for apologizing and being embarrassed. Triano gets praise for learning. The team gets praised for having such a good offense. The city of Toronto gets praised for somehow giving a shit.

Remember when Glen Grunwald simply thanked the fans for their support under difficult circumstances, and promised to make things better? I didn’t really hear that from Colangelo. Will Chris Bosh? Will any of the players who really want to win hear something that makes them hopeful? Will any of the players that might not care about winning as much as remaining comfortable, hear anything that makes them suitably a little less comfortable?

I just have to hope that this guy does all of his real talking with his actions. Just like Mr. Spoons, his passion does shine through. Please let all the talk about the value of his players be about moving some of those players to some place where they can be so easily convinced. Otherwise, as a guy who always sees a glimmer of hope in the future of this team, I’m going to find myself amongst all the miserable SOBs in this town. I don’t enjoy that picture I just put in my head there, but that’s what it has come to. That, and me explaining to my wife that I am a magnificent lover, at least for almost half of the forty-five seconds that it takes for me to get my rocks off.

Giving Up on My Team (and Reality)


OK. So I was fooled. Yeah - no big surprise. I mean I am the Fossil Fool after all. But to think I actually thought Bryan Colangelo had some idea what he was doing. What kind of a fantasy world was I living in?

Even though the season isn’t over just yet. I still can’t help but have the feeling that it was over before it began. There was Hedo and Bosh getting hurt in the summer and then missing camp. Then there was Reggie Evans getting injured. Boom. It was as good as done. Or at least that feeling started to creep into my consciousness. But I should I have felt a twinge of false expectations in the air before that, when Colangelo guessed that Reggie Evans would be the biggest surprise of all the newest acquisitions, not for his defense, which he figured we would all expect to be good, but for what he thought was a pretty good offensive game.

And then there was the moment of greatest unease early in the schedule. It should have been nothing. Just a statement thrown out there. But after months of Triano stressing defense, and stubbornly hanging onto his idea of “protecting the house”, he started to talk instead about playing an exciting brand of basketball as one of the goals they hoped to achieve. Excuse me, winning brings plenty of excitement my way. This sounded like excitement that could be promised whether wins came or not. I had to try to push his words out of my mind. But as the season wore on, and running on offense kept getting more emphasis than running back on defense, my mind began to turn as mushy as the legs of a Raptor team in the third quarter of the second game on back-to-back nights.

Oh yeah - there were some fun games. And that helped to keep me fooled. But the weaknesses on defense just took so much away from everything good, even the handful of big wins. Then the final crash and burn at the tail end of the schedule made me forget what basketball actually looked like when played properly. Now I can’t look at the future with Triano and Colangelo and see any promise. I see only a franchise that sells the promise of excitement and hangs it out like a little worm on a big hook.

That fantasy of a team that could edge into the upper tier of eastern conference teams has turned very ugly. And as Andrea Bargnani was killing every chance of winning the biggest game of the season, last week against the Atlanta Hawks, by tapping rebounds out to Hawks players when he had good enough position to just grab the stupid ball, and by chucking up enough terrible, long-range shots to make me wonder why they couldn’t just let Bosh fire threes with his head encased in plaster as the verifiably better option; a new fantasy took hold inside my skull. It wasn’t as good as the fantasy that played out on True Blood, when Jason Stackhouse gets his twinkie soaped up by the porn-ready wife of an evil, right-ring, fundamentalist preacher. That one gets me in a bigger lather than Jason Stackhouse’s twinkie, just thinking about it. The way it built up week after week. And the way it went on further, to sweet love-making right there in the balcony of the church. It’s defintitely at the top of my fantasy pyramid. But this new one of mine was not down far enough from there to be just a part of the wider, middle range. It could be part of an HBO series all it’s own.

And so since there is little else to ever again be excited about with this team, thanks to the “exciting” brand of basketball that the guys in the suits look to offer us from here on in; let me share what played out in my mind as my eyes glazed over that night. Sam Mitchell has been known to attend games in Atlanta. And Colangelo happened to be there with the team as well. I imagined Bryan stricken by a great revelation, and being so moved as to play things out in the fashion of WWE shenanigans outside of the ring, walking into the stands, pulling Sam out of his seat, bringing him down to the Raptor bench, staring down the hapless Triano until the boob skulks away humiliated, and telling Sam that since he is still being paid by the organization, he might as well try to do something with this disgusting mess. At which point Sam calls Andrea to him, and the moment that the 7-feet of hopelessness gets off the floor, he kicks his ass, yelling and screaming, all the way out of Philips arena, through the parking lot, and pulling him by an ear, along the side of the expressway, heading north for miles and miles, with verbal abuse growing louder and more profane with each step, all the way into the Chattahoochee River. Sam rolls around the bank of the river, laughing uncontrollably. And…end scene.

It’s only a dream that spilled out of a feverish mind, but it’s about the only suitable ending this season is going to get. The creator of True Blood could make it almost real. What’s his name? Alan? Alan Ball. BALL! Is Ed Begley Jr. too old to play Andrea?…

incomplete


Everything about this team draws attention to the lack of completeness. It’s just like my life. Incomplete tax return forms. Incomplete sex addiction therapy (it seems you need to actually have sex before they’ll follow through with that). Mochi the wonder poodle was recently neutered (and he’s handling it better than I am). And the Toronto Raptors. That’s actually a pretty complete list of incompleteness. I must be missing something.

With the Raptors, you have two point guards that must split time rather than have a complete impact on any game, and it’s questionable whether either one has the make-up to do so (although I think Jack could prove to be capable).

Our franchise player looks all-NBA for more than half a season, but has never made it through an entire year in good form, injury-free and dependable for 82 games. He’s a perfect fit for an incomplete team perhaps.

The guys relied on to win a few games without Bosh in the lineup, or at less than 100 percent, Hedo and Andrea, just aren’t the kind of threats that can carry a team. Does Derozan show the promise to be able to do so? Will he be able to balance out a frontcourt-heavy attack as he develops? Not from what I’ve seen so far.

We have no consistent three-point shooters on the perimeter, and not enough good perimeter defenders. We miss out on the benefits of the home-run ball, while remaining nearly helpless to stop the big shots coming from the opposing side.

With all of that considered, it means working harder on both ends of the court just to stay in a lot of games. It’s why we see two or three quarters of brilliance, and another one or two of abject failure. Successful play, as they are built right now, is not sustainable for them over 48 minutes, and the minutes where they run out of gas lead to them looking terrible. And no amount of Jose saying that they just need to be able to play a good 48 minutes is going to change that. Particularly when the team is in the hands of coach Triano.

We have a coach whose biggest decisions of the season came by default, once after Jose was injured, and then after Hedo effectively quit on the team and got himself stuck on the bench. We have a coach that preached defense throughout the offseason, all through training camp, and then spent the season opting to make choices that favor offense for defense, and never the other way around, unless I missed something. Defense has been an afterthought, with stronger defensive players coming off the bench and not getting enough minutes. Wright was finally made a starter, but that came along with Jose being moved back into the starting unit to entirely nullify the improvement. Triano has not been entirely incompetent. He’s just incomplete, in that he has not done that part of the job that entails making hard decisions and ensuring that important details are adhered to.

Now what happens if Bosh leaves? I have to think this team goes from being incomplete to being completely awful. But if he can be shown how this team can keep it’s strengths with him in place, and then take a big step with the right moves to become more complete, then who knows? Settle in on Jarrett Jack as the primary pg, find a perimeter defender that can hit from beyond the arc consistently, and get a player that can help carry the team above and beyond what Bargnani and Turkoglu are able to do, and you have a team that might look as good to him as just about any other. That would entail moving some players, and paying some tax. But if Bosh can look at how much he has invested here and remain committed to giving it one more try before asking to be traded, then Colangelo is going to have to finally complete the picture, and maybe get a qualified and proven coach to make it all work. The aternative would be to see an arena that is far from completely filled. There has been enough excitement this season, and all surrounding a team that just comes up short on so many levels. If this team would not have to work so hard to just tread water, the marathon of a schedule would not be so unkind, and hard work could be reflected in steady improvement instead of the constant ups and downs according to the strength of the schedule.

At least there is a certain amount of clarity going forward. The picture is incomplete, but not entirely scrambled. Hopefully Bosh takes note of that clarity, and can be convinced that the franchise will act on completing the picture.

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