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Join Date: Dec 2007
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Daily Raptor Dish - 09.01.11
Raptors: Communication is about confidence
Feschuk: Raptors GM gambles that card games foster camaraderie
When they talk the talk, the Raptors are an improved team defensively.
And by talking the talk, all we really mean is communicating vocally on defence.
All the talk coming out of Cleveland, where the Raptors had snapped a three-game losing streak earlier this week, was how much talk was going on as the Raptors defended their own end of the court.
Julian Wright, coming off the bench that night in Cleveland to help spark the win, suggested that was the key to the comeback.
But two nights later, playing the Boston Celtics at TD Garden, it was like the Raptors had all come down with a collective case of laryngitis.
Granted, Boston is a much more accomplished, not to mention dangerous team than Cleveland, but if talking on defence makes you better one night, it can only increase your odds against a better opponent.
So what gives, Jay Triano? How can a team have so much success one night doing one thing and then two nights later ignore that same winning formula?
“Communication is about confidence,” the head coach of the Raptors said. “The people who talk are the people who are super confident about what they are doing. We have some young players who are still thinking about what they are doing instead of knowing exactly what to do. When you know exactly what to do, you can talk.”
In other words the Raptors’ confidence against a lesser team like the Cavs allowed them to be more vocal. But going into a far more intimidating arena like the TD Garden, that confidence wasn’t there so the chatter on defence wasn’t either.
“It’s super loud, and they’re talking the whole time,” Triano said of the Celtics arena and the Celtics themselves. “I don’t know if it’s intimidation, but you lose your confidence when you’re playing against a team that makes you pay every time you make a mistake.”
Point guard Jerryd Bayless, who sat out the past two games and is unsure when he’ll be back as he nurses a severely sprained ankle back to health, is on his third team in two seasons and was asked if the Raptors talk less than his previous teams.
Ever the diplomat, Bayless’ reply was: “That’s something we have to keep working on.”
Bayless ready to return to hardwood for Raptors
Such a pious anecdote from a genteel corner of the league doesn’t necessarily jibe with this week’s news out of Memphis, where the Grizzlies banned gambling on their team charter after teammates Tony Allen and O.J. Mayo engaged in a physical altercation over a card-game debt. Perhaps because the incident came a little more than a year after Gilbert Arenas, then a Washington Wizards guard, escalated a dispute over a gambling debt by flashing a small arsenal of handguns in the locker room, these past few days have been rife with calls for the league to ban card games on flights and in locker-room lounges.
But Bryan Colangelo, the Raptors general manager, isn’t rushing to confiscate any decks. He said his current players aren’t much into in-flight card games, an assertion that was confirmed in a handful of locker-room interviews. And even when there have been Raptors who partook in high-altitude hands — and previous seasons have seen such action — the GM didn’t necessarily see it as a problem.
The only Raptor of recent vintage who has been banned by management from in-flight card games is ex-coach Sam Mitchell; Colangelo acknowledged he “didn’t think it was right” for the head coach to be gambling with the players, as Mitchell occasionally did.
“(Card games) actually can be a good thing for the players to spend time and have fun and form relationships,” Colangelo was saying this week.
Indeed, walk into many pro-sports locker rooms and you don’t always see a lot of brotherhood. You often see a handful of players plugged into iPods and iPads, complete with headphones and faraway stares. Every man’s an island. Chemistry’s elusive. Players sometimes express more loyalty to opponents who share the same agent or personal trainer than they do to their actual teammates.
So you can understand why many pro-sports executives aren’t keen to ban the last remnants of communal bonding, even if most major sports leagues have taken gambling-related public-relations hits in the past handful of years. For one thing, prohibiting card games on team flights won’t necessarily stop them from happening in hotel rooms and condos. For another, the vast majority of grown men are wise enough to govern themselves admirably.
Toronto vs. Sacramento
Raptors point guard Jerryd Bayless was quick to make his plans known when asked about his availability for Sunday afternoon’s home game against the Sacramento Kings.
“I’m playing,” said Bayless, who sat out games at Boston on Friday and Cleveland on Wednesday because of slightly sprained left ankle.
And no one will be happier to hear that than Jose Calderon, who averaged almost 36 minutes a game in Bayless’s absence, including a season-high 38 in Cleveland.
The increased workload is taking a physical toll — Triano said Calderon “can barely walk” after a game — but it hasn’t had an impact on Calderon’s productivity.
The point guard has had more than 10 assists in six of Toronto’s last eight games and has averaged 12 per game in that period.
With their two young stars apparently putting rough stretches behind them, the Sacramento Kings are playing some of their best basketball of the season.
Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins will now try to help the Kings stop a nine-game road skid when they face the struggling Toronto Raptors to open a season-high six-game trip Sunday.
Evans had 27 points and 12 assists to lift the Kings to a 122-102 victory win over Denver on Thursday. He went 11 for 18 from the field, following up an 11-of-19, 29-point effort Tuesday to give him two straight outstanding shooting performances.
The 2009-10 rookie of the year, who has dealt with foot problems and family issues this season, is averaging 17.2 points and 39.3 percent from the floor after scoring 20.1 points a game and shooting 45.8 percent last season.
Cousins has bounced back from being relegated to the bench for disciplinary reasons to regain his starting center spot. The rookie made a choking gesture at Golden State's Reggie Williams during an overtime loss Dec. 21, and was used as a reserve the next three games.
He had 21 points and 16 rebounds off the bench against Memphis on Dec. 29 and has started the four contests since, averaging 21.8 points and 9.0 boards in his last five.
Cousins had 20 points against the Nuggets in Sacramento's first victory of the season over a team with a winning record.
"It just took time," said Cousins, averaging 12.8 points and 7.6 rebounds on the season. "We're a young team. We just really had to find our roles. Now things are a lot better."
The Kings (8-25), winners of three of five after dropping 22 of 24, are 2-10 on the road. They'll try to take advantage of the Raptors (12-24), who have lost 13 of 17 but have beaten the Sacramento six straight times at Air Canada Centre, outscoring the Kings 111.3-94.3 in the last four.
The Raptors had six players score in double figures Friday in Boston but lost 122-102. DeMar DeRozan scored a team-best 20 points and has averaged 23.0 in his last five games - 10.0 more than his average in his first 31 this season.
Toronto, opening a three-game homestand, has dropped six of seven at Air Canada Centre