“Winning isn’t everything” is the old adage, but in the case of the Raptors recent visit with former teammates Vince Carter and Chris Bosh, that expression couldn’t be more true.
The two games played in Orlando and Miami offered Raptor fans a glimpse of what this young Raptor team is made of. Both contests were very competitive and the Raptors, owner of one of the worst records in the league, held their own against two of the best the association has to offer.
Here are some positive signs we saw from the Raptors this weekend.
The Kid is Alright
Demar Derozan is a player most fans want to become part of the future of this ball club. He is fast, gets to the line and is developing a nice mid range game as well. Over the weekend he played against some of the very best guards in the league and held his own on the offensive end. There is no comparing Derozan to the likes of Wade, Carter and Lebron just yet, but he was no slouch in either of those matchups.
This may not be the kid the team ultimately builds around. He doesn’t have the presence or skill level of a Kobe or a Lebron, but he is definitely cementing himself as one of the building blocks this team currently possess.
The best part of Derozan’s game this weekend, in Florida, was his ability to get to the line and the confidence his team is now showing in him. Coach Triano is calling Derozan’s number a lot more than he did last year and that is a good thing if you are a Raptor fan. Demar also got to the free throw line 12 times against Orlando and 11 times against the Heat. This trend is very exciting if you are a Raptor fan. Both because one of the most exciting high flyers in the game is taking the ball to the rim regularly and because it results in easy buckets for a team that has a hard time scoring them.
Derozan is a reason to get excited this season.
Triano is a Do-Something Person
Jay Triano has not been his typical Canadian self this year. He is not afraid to call a spade a spade and occasionally call his players out. Last week he called Sonny Weems out. Triano criticized his shot selection and Sonny has responded. Weems has been one of the best players on the court over the last week and is making the most of his shots (5 of 8 against Miami and 6 of 9 against Orlando).
Credit is due to Sonny, no doubt, but Triano wasn’t afraid to focus his young player and Sonny has responded with inspired play. Sonny sees himself as a rotation player in the NBA and with his recent play so do I. He is solid on the defensive end, something the Raptors have lacked over the last few years, and he is showing confidence and restraint on the offensive end. When he plays in control, he can be a very effective tool for the Raps.
Fight, Fight, Fight
The Raptors are made up of a mix bag this year. Players like Demar and Sonny might get burn off the bench on one of the top teams in the league, but David Anderson and Reggie Evans wouldn’t necessarily be one of your top options off the bench.
You cannot question their fight though, can you.
The Raptors have a group of young men who are not afraid to get dirty; not afraid to engage in battle against opponents who, on paper, are more impressive. Orlando and Miami are very likely to be two of the teams left at the end of the season when the dust settles, the Raptors gave both teams all they could handle this weekend.
Andrea, Demar and Sonny have been the offensive force of this team. Amir Johnson looked good, but needs to find a way to stay on the court. Reggie was a big loss in Miami, but looks to be the energy of this team. David Anderson, Joey Dorsey and Leandro Barbosa are providing meaningful minutes off the bench and Jack and Calderon are steady at the helm.
This is a team that may not win as many games as last year, but they are not going to ever be an easy W for an opposing team.
The Big Italian Awakens
Andrea Bargnani had two strong offensive games in Florida. what may be even more important in the loss to Miami was the way he fought for boards ( he finished with 9 of them). He was facing his former teammate (at least when Bosh was able to stay on the floor) and he held his own. Bargnani has a deadly shot, this is something no one can deny, but his defensive game and his rebounding skills are what need serious work. This is something the fans know, the coaches know, and it looks as though Bargnani is finally figuring it out as well.
The Raptors can add another building block to the puzzle if Andrea can strengthen his defensive game.
Being Prepared is half the battle. This is something that Triano and his staff understand. The Boys in red were ready to play Orlando and thy were ready to play Lebron, Wade and Bosh. You could see the intensity from the get-go in Orlando and the game plan on attacking Chris Bosh worked to perfection. This team is buying into what the coaches are selling and it is evident on the court. Defensive energy is up and the team is sharing the ball on offense. One of the best parts of not having a legitimate superstar is not having to get that superstar their share of the ball. The team came in prepared for the tilts in Florida and they competed against the best as a result.
*** Kristoffer Pedlar The Zan Tabak Herald *** Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @Zantabakherald