Still trying to figure out what went wrong last night? Me too. Perhaps the second half of my interview with Paul Jones from yesterday prior to that lose will help find some answers. The second half of our talk begins with some thoughts on Jay Triano. Who after last night's game looked pretty dejected with his team's performance. I started by asking Paul for some of differences we can look for with Triano and his systems. Which one can safely assume we did not see much of last night.
Paul Jones-" Offensively he is really trying to get movement, and get the ball moving from side to side. That is where you get the majority of your scores. You force the defense to play for more then 8 to 10 seconds. If you don't get a quick hoop, it is o.k to work deep into the shot clock as long as your moving the ball. Forcing the defense to continue to move and eventually breaking them down. I think that is something that people should continue to look for."
Jay is a guy that as always had his team play hard. I think the fans can look forward to consistent hard and full out effort from his team. The little things he will do in terms of match-ups. Against New Jersey you saw Jamario Moon and Joey Graham all take a shot at guarding Devin Harris. They had used Moon to try to guard J.J Barea to try to disrupt things. The little things like Jay going for ( Substitutions ) offense to defense. Those little things that might make a difference Jay is not afraid to try them. "
Last night to fans dismay we did not see much of what Paul was talking about. At least in terms of it working and being effective. I also asked Paul if he thought Jay Triano had a serious shot to coach his way into being a candidate for the head coaching job after this year. This is a very tough challenge and some feel that Triano has no shot and is a stop gap to the next coach.
Paul Jones- " I think he has got a legit shot. Let's face it this is a performance and results based business and he has to get the results. He is coming in now when he took over on December 3rd they were 17 games in and almost at the quarter pole of the season. There is no time for him to institute a training camp and institute his systems and practice. They have had 3 or 4 practices since he has taken over the team. I think it is legit to think that he might get a chance to hold on to this job and get a chance to start from scratch next year. At the same time Bryan Colangelo has got to look at results, who might be available on the market in terms of a more experienced coach depending on the personnel. So I think there are a lot of factors at work there. At the same time I don't see Jay Triano being the interim and then he is done at the end of the year."
This was Paul's thoughts before last night. I will not speculate on if they have changed for him after last night. I will say that for fans a lot of things have changed after last night. One of the things I asked Paul Jones yesterday was about if he felt Bryan Colangelo would consider moving Andrea Bargnani and his general thoughts on Bargnani. Here is what he had to say.
Paul Jones-" I am sure Bryan gets a lot of call about Andrea because other teams see some potential in him that Toronto sees. I am sure he is fielding those calls. Hang on to him. He is not playing well right now. He is going through a tough time. It is something that I have been saying the whole time. He spends his summer bulking up and working on his inside game. He was on the court with Chris or Jermaine at the start of the year. He knows what his role is. Then his role definition is changed. He becomes a three man. He has to be out on the perimeter. He is trying to guard guys like Lebron James and use his length. He is on the perimeter so he is not rebounding as much. The perimeter mindset is back in his head about shooting the three and playing on the outside. I think it is tough because of that role definition change, because he is not an experienced player. This is not a guy that has been in the league for 8 or 9 years that can handle and be adaptive to that.
It is tough on him. He has to deal with going for a starter to the bench. I think Andrea as a young player still equates scoring and starting with success. The fact that he is not scoring and he is coming of the bench, which is what this team needs him to do to be part of the big man rotation. He may see that has him not being successful. You can see him out there playing very timidly. Very unsure of himself without a lot of confidence."
Depending on what is the deal with Jermaine O'Neal who left the game last night with what was being called a sore shoulder.Andrea Bargnani could find himself back in the starting line-up again. He did play a bit better as a starter for the second half of the game last night. However I agree with Paul in that the Toronto Raptors must at least share in the blame for Andrea and his struggles. That is me saying that. But in Paul's comments he was saying that Andrea has been asked to make a lot of changes and that may just not be something he can do at this point. Many people think that Andrea and his problems are in his head. In fact the entire Raptor team could use some therapy at this point. I asked Paul about if the Raptors have thought about bringing in a sports psychologist on staff?
Paul Jones-" I know that Jay Triano is big on that. That was one of the things that helped the 2000 Olympic basketball team. David Cox who is a world renowned sports psychologist based out of Simon Fraser where Jay went to school. I can admit first hand. I have my masters in sports psychology and boy it helped me as an athlete at the collegiate level. You spend all of this money on strength and conditioning coaches and nutritionists and guys have personal chefs. You have the best in terms of equipment, in travel and in hotels. Why wouldn't you nurture the mental side of the game as well. If it is good enough for Tiger Woods it should be good enough for ever other athlete in the world. I know Jay is considering it. I do not know where that are at with it right now. But it is something that I would not be surprised to see in the future here in Toronto. "
I always knew Paul was a smart guy. Never knew he had a masters degree. I guess that is why after talking with him I feel like I have learned something. I would agree that with all that is going on with this team it may be time to bring in an expert and help this team in between the ears. The link on David Cox's name is a short video of him I was able to find. In the spirit of positive thinking I asked Paul for his thoughts on Roko Ukic and Nathan Jawai who both will be factors for this team in the long term. In Roko's case he is learning on the job. While Nathan Jawai is just trying to get caught up.
Paul Jones-" I think Roko has done well. We talked about the confidence thing with Andrea earlier. There is the confidence for Roko in knowing that he is primary back-up. He is the guy that they want to develop. He is going to get out there and play. He knows when he is going to be put in the game. He is not looking over his shoulder wondering if it will be him or Will. Jay Triano is letting him play through some of his mistakes. I think that is good."
As for Nathan, I just think he has to get himself in basketball shape before he attempts to do anything. It would not surprise me down the road want he does that to get a few minutes here and there."
Paul confirmed what I had been told as relates to Nathan. All he has been able to do before this point is shoot free throws. It will be a long road for Nathan to catch up on the time that he has lost. But at least he is back on the path to doing that.
Jose Calderon had a lot of expectations from fans heading into this season. Fans have felt a bit let down about how Calderon has done. There are two points of his game that I have always pointed to as clear weak points. I asked Paul for his thoughts on those issues. First his lack of skill as a defender and his unwilling nature to take any kind of risks. Paul talks about both of those points.
Paul Jones on Calderon's Defense And How To Improve It: " One he has to work harder. He has to take the challenge on himself. Two and I think Jay Triano is doing this, he is putting in systems so if they are going to get beat he knows where they are going to get beat. People who are helping know where they have to be to help. That is on the first rotation, on the second rotation and the third while Jose is recovering. It was to be both of those things. But the bottom line is it comes down to effort and taking some pride in accepting the personal challenge of staying in front of your man. It is not just Jose. I mean it starts at the point but there is a lot of guys on the wing that are guilty of that right now and it is hurting the team. "
Paul Jones On Jose And His Lack Of Taking Risk On Offense: " I think Jay just has to convince Jose that it is o.k to take calculated risk. Go look at who the leaders are in turnovers in the league. I always say this, home run hitters in baseball strikeout because they swing for the fence. People always talk about the dunk in the face of shot blockers like an Alonzo Mourning well he is a shot blocker so he is going to try and go get it. So every so often a shot blocker is going to get one thrown down in his face. ( happened to Jermaine O'Neal last night ) If you are a point guard that is into pushing the ball and trying to get that part of the game down you are going to have turnovers.
People unfairly at times were all over T.J last year at times. But he still had if I am not mistaken one of the top 20 or 25 assist to turnover ratios in the league last year. He was very effective on the break. Sometimes you have to live with those turnovers. I played with big guys that were great rebounders and every so often they would take a 15 or 16 foot jumper. You would be like, God don't shoot that, but the guy is rebounding and is working his back side off and doing all of that grunt work. You got to live with that. You make a lot of money and your wife is going to spend some of it. You have to live with it. It is just something that comes with the territory. I think Jay has to convince Jose, that it is o.k once in awhile to take a calculated risk or make a quick evaluation of a situation and give something a try. If it doesn't work it is not the end of the world. You are certainly not going to do that at the end of game when possessions are important. You push the ball early and it forces teams to get back and maybe you get stuff from trailers on the play making a jumper. I think that is something for Jay to work out with Jose. "
I made notice of the fact that Jay Triano is getting to work with Jose Calderon at roughly the same time he got to work with Steve Nash on Team Canada. Nash give Triano a lot of credit for helping him get to where he is at. Which is a 2 time M.V.P and an NBA All Star. Hopefully Triano can have some kind of success with Calderon to get him heading in that direction. However there are many issues with the basketball team for Triano to address. I would say at the top of that list would be rebounding. I got into that topic with Paul. I asked if it was a case of the Raptors needed to out rebound teams or just know how to get those key rebounds?
Paul Jones-" I think they have to do both. When you look back at the Suns prior to Steve Kerr making major changes to that roster. That was one thing that they were able to do to get them as far as they went in the playoffs. Although they ran up and down and were not a great rebounding team. They seemed to be able to get those key rebounds and get a stop or two at key points. Maybe it was because of the style of play that the used, that it would force team to take shots, from the wrong people, in the wrong places at the wrong times. If Toronto can do that it will go a long way. You have to do that by getting in there all the time. Sometimes the key ones will come to you if you are trying to be in there all the time. Rebounding and Defense are like working out. You can't do it once in awhile and expect to be good at it and say that you are in shape. If you are going to be in shape you have to work out all of the time. "
I totally agree with that. I know by my photo it may not look like it. But there was a time when I made myself a gym rat. I was able to lose 90 pounds. Everyone asks you when you lose that kind of weight how you did it? I would explain that I would spend like 3 hours a day in a gym like 5 or 6 times a week. I would do a ton of cardio as part of that. People were hoping to hear I had some magic pill or fad diet that made it happen. However it was all about simple hard work. I think on a different topic that the panic and fear of Raptors fans that was growing and is now likely at record levels was based on something. Yes the Raptors have played poorly and there is lots of reasons and fears tied to that. However in the past in the Eastern Conference you could realistically expect to make the playoffs even with a record below .500. A far cry from the West, in which a team who had more wins than when Raptors won their division 2 years ago missed the playoffs. I asked Paul if he thought the improvement in the East was a factor in the panic and quick frustration from the fan base?
Paul Jones-" Yeah, that is a good point. Better than it was 2 years ago when Raptors won the division crown. I think that is part of the panic or issue that causes people to look so far ahead. But Toronto I still think has a decent team. We have scouts that are sitting on media row and they say this team should be better than this. Form an optimistic outlook as a fan you can say that the Raptors have good parts they just have to put it together."
If I asked Paul the same question today instead of yesterday would his answer change? I don't know But even those in the media and the organization had to take that loss last night harder than your average loss. Now the Raptors did not hold a lead for much time at all last night. But through this season they have had very large leads slip away. Paul talks about that whole idea of leads going away and getting a full 48 minutes of effort from this Raptor team.
Paul Jones-" Keep the effort up. It is one of the hardest things to do in professional sports is to play with a big lead. When you get up 13-15 points you can't come down and take a bad shot. You have to get back and get stops like it is a one point game. At the other end treat the ball with care and make sure you get quality shots. You are only like 4 or 5 possessions away from building that 13 point lead to a 20 point lead. It is a bigger whole for them and it gives you a little cushion should they other team push back a little. I think that is something this team just has to pay more attention too. "
I wanted to close to ask a question about what has become a stable of my following the Raptors on the road. In Eric Smith's blog "The Rap", Paul has joined Eric for what the call Vlogs. They started out with Paul and Eric sitting in the hotel room on the road and talking about the Raptors and sometimes about the cities they are in. I have become a huge fan of them. Paul tells me that this was Eric's idea and it was developed at the meetings to start the year down at the A.C.C. I have enjoyed them. Paul and Eric have taken the suggestions of his readers and tried to include them in what they are doing. Sometimes they have found some locations out and about from the hotel room. The main thing is they have been a lot of fun. Paul says both he and Eric have enjoyed doing them as well. It gives me a feeling of connection to the Raptors and what is going on while they are on the road. I will link you up to an example from yesterday prior to the Oklahoma City game.
Vlog 13 OKC
I am a big fan of these things and I am a big fan of both Eric and Paul. So thanks to Paul for this visits and all the ones he has made in the past. I wish Paul and Eric and their families all the best in this holiday season. I am happy that they make time for me and inturn you the readers of the Dino Nation Blog. I love having are guests and I am happy to say I have never asked a question that they have not been happy to answer. When times are tough like this it is not always a lot of fun talking about this team and it's struggles. But in good times or bad times my guests answer the question I ask that I feel you will want answers too.
I will be busy working as I mentioned testing the new live blog for The Score tonight. I welcome you to follow along be it online or via your favourite mobile toy. I am going to try to get started and have a bit of a pre game show where you can have a say on the Raps. During time outs and haftime and post game you can have your input. While the game is going on I will be giving you the blow by blow or play by play. I am looking forward to it despite the kind of lousy mood in Raptorland.
Raps vs Spurs Live Blog
Obviously there will be no Raptor Rewind as a result. This may become a regular thing for me so if it does on those nights Raptors Rewind will be replaced with your invitation to join the Live Blog fun. It is not a chat but I will take your input when I can. Pre, Half, Post and Time outs I will include as much of your comments as I can. All depends on how many folks show up and have something to say. Given the mood of things lately a reminder that all comments need to be PG-13 or Better.