I'll start with the pg's. I really think their situations are more similar than they are different. Both of them need to improve in the same facet of the game - in terms of their mental approach. Jose comes from a place where he played one, maybe two games a week, and the games were 40 minutes, and the pressure was much less intense on him as a point guard. In Spain, for long stretches, he often did little more than bring the ball up, pass to his shooting guard and watch. His biggest challenge has been to remain steady mentally every game, handling pressure defenses, and at the same time push the envelope in terms of making the opposing defense work hard. He has shown continued progress since his arrival. And right now in starting and playing big minutes he has shown real promise, but is still a little up and down during games and from game to game. That's not a big deal, since his ups are so good, but I think if he continues to split time for a couple of years then games like the Washington matchup, where he was plodding and sluggish, and too much of a steady hand in that the offense came to a halt too often, will come very infrequently. Getting a handle on such a full schedule and such large responsibilities should not be something he is asked to do overnight. The chance to start now has been good, but over the course of a full season, I think he will develop that much better while splitting time.
TJ also needs the time to gain mental strength. When his mind starts to wander, he relies more on his athleticism. It is his safety net, and it has the effect of causing the offense to come to a screeching halt as well, since it tends to take the team away from it's schemes overall.
You give both these guys shared minutes over this season and the next, and they both have a real chance to be where real elite, dominant guards are today. They will have the experience and the mental preparedness to weather the marathon that an NBA season represents. And in the meantime, over that same timespan, the combined production of the two, and the ability for each one to fill-in when injuries occur, gives the team a real jump on what would only be expected two years from now.
Speaking of two years from now - that's what I constantly think of when I think of Andrea Bargnani. Remember what Bosh
was like two years ago, especially when he was a little banged up? Why should we not expect the same uneven sort of play from il Mago? Yes much of the Raptors
hopes lie in his hands, but not really until the playoffs. So until the playoffs come, I'm not going to get bent out of shape over his learning pains. He's working on expanding his role with this team quite extensively. So let's allow him to put in the work that will be required.
I see little that can be questioned regarding the coaching. Settling on a rotation has taken longer than I would have liked, but then again, coaching a team as deep as this is fraught with problems and difficulties that can bite the whole organization in the ass. And that has not happened, nor do I expect it too, precisely because the roles are well defined and understood. Last night we saw two guys that have often not even been the 11th and 12th men in the lineup, showing the ability to fill in strongly, and make an impact that few guys that far down on the bench ever do, and all within the system.
The emphasis on defense, and the way that all the new additions have been used in that respect, has been something that the coaching staff does not seem to get judged on at all. And yet I cannot think of anything more important to this team at this stage. They are showing a good fundamental approach to the game that is going to payoff big when the most talented players are healthy. It might not mean an improved overall record if guys like Bosh
and Ford are sidelined more than not, but it will give the team it's best chance to make some noise in the playoffs, even if there are key injuries.
And those fundamentals include rebounding. Believe it or not - this is not a poor rebounding team at all. And it can be hard to believe. Good rebounding. Good defense. Attention to detail. It doesn't quite compute. But it's all there. It's just that it is only the beginning. Look two years into the future if you are not completely satisfied right this second. If you're still not at least somewhat satisfied, then you simply do not want to be satisfied.