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Two games, some things, v3.20

The crisis has officially started. Getting roughed up at home Tuesday night by a still finding their way Wizards team is one thing. And there was not a bettor on the planet who would have picked the Raptors on the road over the Hawks, not when the Raptors are playing for the second time in two nights and Atlanta have been home waiting for three days.

Those are facts and human physiology is hard to ignore.

But the problem the Raptors face is that the Hawks embarrassment was merely an extreme variation on a theme. The Raptors defence is beyond awful and the overall energy the willingness of anyone not named Amir Johnson and Chris Bosh - obviously terrible last night, but that has been a rare exception - to do anything about it is shameful.

There's no point picking examples. Four times the Raptors have played on the road on the second night of a back-to-back and four times they've been drilled. Average margin of defeat: 26 points.

Something is wrong.

In no particular order, here are the issues that occur to me:

1. Athleticism: There are some serious athletes on the Raptors roster; the problem is they're not very good basketball players. Among their core, Bosh is a plus athletically, but he's not a super freak. Athleticism isn't really Bargnani's main problem - his general fogginess other than when he's not got the ball in his hands with a plan to score would top the list - but because he's generally a bit dopey and otherwise not particularly aggressive, the tools he has stay in the toolbox most of the time. Calderon? Presuming he's healthy the conclusion at this point is that he's incapable of playing even average defence in the NBA. Turkoglu? Try to think of a three-man against which he has an athletic edge. DeRozan obviously has some promise and he's showing signs of harnessing what he's got, but he's hardly impactful to this point.

2. Chemistry: Some serious issues emerging here: In Dave Feschuk's story Antoine Wright was saying certain guys aren't being called out for criticism because they're too sensitive. That sounds like Bargnani to me, and maybe a little bit of Calderon.

3. Which brings us to Turkoglu. He's been close to terrible as far as I've seen. And while he's probably worthy of criticism I can't imagine him being not being called out because he's too sensitive; that would imply he's paying attention. I wasn't at the game last night, but his quick and cheery smiles with former teammate Mike Bibby during the halftime warm-up kind of tell a tale. It's not like fraternization is a mortal sin in the NBA; it's just, can't you look like you're upset when you're down 20 at half? Did you notice? It takes balls to take and miss big shots down the stretch. It takes balls to call in tired your first two weeks on a new job, as Turkoglu did in training camp. You pull that stuff and don't deliver and there are going to be problems.

4. Coaching: I've definitely seen some good things from this staff. Out of timeouts they consistently get good plays and good chances to score. I can't tell you how many times I've heard them call out coverages for opponents' sets and be bang on - not that they get a stop, but it's not because of a lack of preparation. Wright told me he was very impressed with Jay in training camp. But the emphasis from the beginning of training camp has been defense. And let's face it; it's not like the standard was that high. The goal was to get middle-of-the-packish, and as I've written before, the Raptors would get a lot of mileage by just being a better defensive team than some truly terrible defensive teams: Per 100 possessions the Raptors give up 115.2 points. Memphis is the next worst team in the NBA and they give up 110.2. This is trending to a historic worst. I asked Triano about it the other day and tried to suggest otherwise, pointing out they're not last in key categories like opponents' field-goal percentage or three-point shooting percentage (they rank 27th and 28th, accordingly). Not buying it. The schedule has been challenging, sure, but it always is. The point is whatever message Triano has been emphasizing hasn't been getting through, and now some of his players are calling him on it. That's a problem.

5. Management: Bryan Colangelo can't be faulted for effort. And I was at the front of the line when he pulled off his whirlwind of moves this summer in praising his determination to act, the logic of it and the results. But now he's locked into some long contracts with some average to above-average players, but not his best player, with a group that is less than the sum of its parts. Twenty games into the season his club is 7-13,getting blown out regularly on the road and drew less than 16,000 for the first time in more than a year on Tuesday. This is his team assembled in his image and it's not working very well at all.

 

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