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Join Date: Dec 2007
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Daily Raptor Dish - 11.03.11
Injury woes means Raptors can't practise properly – again
Ragged Raptors try plan B
It might not be February any more, but Thursday morning must have felt quite a bit like Groundhog Day for Raptors head coach Jay Triano.
Yet again, the fates conspired against Triano and he was unable to run a full practice because so many of his players had to sit out.
“We didn’t have enough guys to do a whole lot,” said Triano, sounding a familiar refrain.
Part — but not all — of the team’s struggles this year can be blamed on a constant string of injuries, along with scheduling quirks which made full assemblage for practices difficult.
The rundown on this day:
Starting power forward Amir Johnson’s ankle, which was injured during Wednesday’s tough loss to Utah, “is not looking good right now,” according to the coach. Johnson is doubtful for Friday’s home tilt with the struggling Indiana Pacers. Floor general Jose Calderon was kicked in the calf against the Jazz and also could not practise, but is probable for Friday; sixth man Leandro Barbosa is also probable, but couldn’t go due to a sore back; Reggie Evans was very sore and sat out after gutting out 33 minutes against Utah in his first action since November but will play; backup big man Alexis Ajinca was held out and is questionable for Friday, while Andrea Bargnani was able to return from his second bout with the flu.
Bargnani said he is feeling much better — comforting news for the assembled media, who gathered a lot farther back than usual, fearful of his resilient virus.
Bayless remains a work in progress for Raptors
However, despite the lack of bodies, Triano expects to have everyone but Johnson available to play Indiana on Friday. He’s still not sure who’ll start in Johnson’s place. It could be Evans, although that would keep his minutes up, or it could be Ed Davis, who admitted to leg fatigue after playing extended minutes on Wednesday.
“A lot of it will depend on matchups and Andrea’s health, obviously,” the coach said. “If he’s not ready to go, which I assume he will be, then Reggie will be starting with Ed.”
If Davis starts, he’ll likely try to pace himself better than he did against the Jazz, when he scored all 12 of his points in the first half.
“Just got to keep working and stay in the best shape I can,” the rookie Davis said.
He had a season-best 13 field goal attempts against Utah, and was involved in Toronto’s high pick-and-roll play more than he’s ever been.
“I know some guys were going to take more shots with Andrea out, but I wasn’t going to try to take his role or anything,” Davis said.
Bird: Players, not Vogel, to blame for Pacers' woes
It is easy for Jerryd Bayless to say. Almost four months after a trade sent him from New Orleans to Toronto, he is still getting his basketball bearings.
It is understandable, given that the start of his year was so chaotic. On Oct. 23, he went from the Portland Trail Blazers, the only NBA team he had ever played for, to New Orleans. Less than a month later, he went from backing up Chris Paul to backing up Jose Calderon.
"The hardest part? Just the transition and learning all of the plays," Bayless said Thursday, as the banged-up Raptors prepared for Friday's game against Indiana. "I've learned three different playbooks, and each playbook is probably 60, 70 plays. So I'm learning 60 or 70 plays three times. Also, just finding out what everybody does well. With Portland, I knew because I'd been there for a few years. I went to New Orleans and I was only there for a few weeks. I tried to learn that. And then I came here. It's definitely been an interesting year."
Interesting is the right word, and Bayless seems to have become smitten with the situation he has landed in. "I love not only the organization but the city," he said.
Toronto vs. Indiana
"Our problem is internally," Bird said. "I see what's going on inside the locker room. I've seen a lot of it all year. I tried to address it with different people at the trade deadline."
Bird was unable to move T.J. Ford, Solomon Jones, Brandon Rush or Josh McRoberts, who has not been a locker room disruption, before the trade deadline last month.
Chemistry is not the only issue the Pacers face.
They have failed to break away from other struggling Eastern Conference teams in the battle for the final playoff spot. The Pacers, who play at Toronto tonight, hold the No. 8 seed by one game over Charlotte, which lost its sixth consecutive game Wednesday.
Player professionalism is being questioned. Some players have begun arriving for practice just before the scheduled start time. Others constantly joke around during workouts.
The lack of commitment in practice is showing up in games. The Pacers have lost by at least 10 points in five of their past seven defeats.
"You have to have the players behind you and they have to be willing to work hard," Bird said. "I know what's going on; the players know what's going on. We're just not getting the effort."
Despite Indiana's awful play, it is still one game ahead of Charlotte for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot.
"It's unbelievable, but yeah we're still in the playoffs as of right now," Hansbrough said. "That's why we need to turn things around quickly. It's been a goal of ours to get into the playoffs for a while. So we'll see what happens."
Hansbrough has been one of the few bright spots for the Pacers lately, averaging 21.3 points in his last three games - 11.7 better than his season average. He had 14 points against Toronto in January, while Roy Hibbert led Indiana with 24 points and 11 rebounds.
The Pacers have won both meetings with the Raptors this season but have lost four straight in Toronto.
The Raptors (17-47) are coming off a 96-94 loss to Utah on Wednesday, their third straight defeat. Toronto, loser of 23 of 27, led by 14 points with 8:21 to play but scored just eight more on 2-of-14 shooting.
Toronto was without leading scorer Andrea Bargnani (flu-like symptoms), but Reggie Evans returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering a broken bone in his right foot in a Nov. 26 loss at Boston. Evans, averaging a team-high 12.1 rebounds, grabbed 11 boards.
"He was a little rusty but I was pleased with his energy and his effort," coach Jay Triano said.
DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 17 points Wednesday and was one of seven Toronto players to reach double figures against the Pacers in January.