Yes there is at least one thing we know for sure: this team is not going to have a winning record. Not a whole lot of people likely care, and for good reason. But there should be something to care about. All I can come up with is getting a good pick. It’s the players yet to be on this team that I care about more than anything else.
In a way that includes next season’s Ed Davis. I expect him to be a different player in his first full season. Already we have seen a difference from when he first took to the court. His knee is getting stronger. He’s got some improved quickness. Give him the summer and and a full camp, and I can’t see why he wouldn’t have an expanded role to step into.
James Johnson? Who knows? I like that he has been on the team’s radar for a long time. Picking him up was not just a whim. This was not just giving a young athletic guy a shot. In the minds of Colangelo and co., there was already some commitment to having him fill some needs on the wings. He looks like a guy that can defend. And he can pass the ball. The problem is that we have seen similar things from a couple of different guys named Wright, and a guy named Weems, and eventually some nice two-way abilities tail off in every instance. The question is whether Johnson has over-achieved thanks to the adrenaline rush of finally seeing the court. On a team that is sorely lacking in so many areas, just being able to exhibit some passion, intensity, and effort, can make any player look better than they really are. I’m trying to care about him. I just need to see guys like him and Davis and the guy that gets picked in a few months, able to fill enough roles properly to allow for any five guys to play off each other, and magnify some of the strengths that are starting to show through.
We have seen them look like a team that can consistently amount to more than the sum of its parts, precisely twice this season – in the win in Orlando, and last week against Chicago. Everything broke just right in both those games, but all the same it was nice to see 48 minutes of executing on both ends of the court. To be able to see more than two games where that happens might lead me to care. And I have to think we need to be seeing it happen at least in bits and pieces for the remainder of the season. The first quarter last night was a good example. Now let’s see where they can find some options once the easy scoring dries up, without resorting to one-on-five play. If we don’t start seeing more of a team coming together at times, then it’s going to be hard to give a passing grade to the coaching staff, or to assess which players are worth keeping. They will be in danger of starting from scratch next season. And that is about as happy a prospect as Franco and Hathaway hosting the Oscars again.
Twenty games doesn’t amount to much in the big picture, but they need to be able to extract some possibilities and get a sense of where a little fine-tuning can net a few good results. Right now they are looking through the wrong end of the binoculars altogether, so the fine-tuning knob isn’t going to make a great deal of difference for the most part. But there has to be a few moments where they get a glimpse though the small end and gain enough of a sense of the importance of details in making each other better, so that something can be carried over into next season. That is going to be Triano’s challenge. He doesn’t need to make me care at this point. He needs to be able to give his players a sense of a bigger picture of what they can care about. Otherwise a lack of details is going to magnify the obvious weaknesses: we’ll see guys like Bayless and Barbosa looking increasingly lost, we’ll see DeMar and Andrea looking as incomplete as ever, we’ll see Ajinca and Weems amounting to little. There needs to be some sense of certainty that can start working it’s way positively through the lineup. There’s not going to be a lot of it – they just need to make sure it doesn’t get lost altogether as the season winds down. And to be honest, I’m likely to miss it, because until the sense of a team being pieced together smacks me in the face harder than an ounce of Brut, it’s going to be hard to care.