With so many new faces in town (and a few of the same), here is one wish for each Toronto Raptors’ player:
For Jose Calderon to turn the corner on the high screen. Instead of pulling up for the jumper, I’d like to see Jose go all the way to the basket, like he did consistently two years ago. The hamstring excuse was only good for one season.
For Andrea Bargnani to play hard, all the time. I could have said anything to do with rebounding, but that’s too easy. Yes, I want the Italian to crash the boards, but more importantly, he needs to stay focused, even after starting slow on any given night. Too many times, Bargnani seemed to shrink away after bad starts, and the Raps need him to continue progressing.
For Hedo Turkoglu to make big shots. So often, NBA games come down to the last second, and too often, Toronto had nobody to take the final shot. Yes, Chris Bosh was forced into that role, but how many power forwards (with the exception of Dirk Nowitzki) have the ball in their hands with the game on the line? Now, the Raps have somebody with playoff experience, who has made his share of game-winning buckets. Let’s hope it continues.
For Demar DeRozan to play within his game. The best part about the rookie’s summer league performance was his patience and recognition of each situation. The highlight reel dunks will be great, but DeRozan will need to remember what he does well during his early days as a Raptor. That means no forcing 3’s, Jamario-style.
For Antoine Wright to be Toronto’s Dahntay Jones. Sub in any defensive-oriented player here. In any case, the Raps have more than enough scoring and will desperately need ANYBODY to lock down opposing stars. One day, DeRozan might be the guy, but Wright will need to handle the task early on. And while DeRozan appears to have a great opportunity at the starting job, Wright will get his chance to play the part if the rookie struggles against elite talent.
For Reggie Evans to knock somebody down, early. The Raptors have long been called soft, and Evans can go a long way towards erasing that label. How many times have fans in Toronto watched an opposing player embarrass the Raps (see Bryant, Kobe), with absolutely no resistance. You can bet that Evans won’t hesitate to make a statement.
That Jarrett Jack will run the team efficiently when Calderon leaves the game. No more of Roko’s over-dribbling please. Instead, with Ukic out of town and Jack backing up the point, the Raptors should remind fans of the Forderon days. The former Pacer will be one of the league’s top backup point guards, and should provide toughness, defence and scoring when he enters the game. Most of all, he needs to involve the entire second unit, unlike anything Raps fans saw last season.
That Marco Belinelli will be instant offence off the bench. Jack is the team’s best backup, but Belinelli can flat out score. Let’s hope to see him shoot without hesitation (making him the anti-Jason Kapono) and give the Raps a boost when the stars are out of the game. Nobody really knows what the Raptors have with Belinelli, but he’ll earn his paycheck by scoring in bunches when he gets his chance. The same goes for Quincy Douby, to a lesser extent.
That Rasho Nesterovic will continue to be awesome. Sorry, but I have nothing bad to say about this guy. Let’s hope the big man resigns at the same dollar value next season.
That Amir Johnson improves as the season goes on. At only 22, Johnson should give the frontcourt a boost of energy off the bench, and has a chance to move up in the rotation. He needs to stay with his man on defence and maintain his focus throughout each game, something that has been a problem in the past. This guy has potential, but he needs to harness it.
For Sonny Weems, Marcus Banks and Patrick O’Bryant to play hard in practice. Fans are already sick of “money in the Banks” and POB, but hopefully they will keep a positive attitude and play hard against the starters in the practice gym. As for Weems, who knows. My wish is that he plays like “Good Joey” if he ever gets into a game.
For Chris Bosh to be a leader. As the so-called “franchise player,” it’s time for Bosh to prove his worth. Heading into a contract year, CB4 has every reason to be motivated, and he will have the chance to show that he belongs in the discussion with other elite players. If this team can’t succeed, a lot of critics will look at Bosh. If the Raps win, he’ll get tons of the credit.
And finally, for Jay Triano to put the pieces together. Triano has a tough job. Even with all of the great acquisitions, it’s never easy for a coach to work with this many new players. Triano will have to allocate minutes properly and find the right on-court combinations. There are a lot of guys who could deserve minutes with strong play, and the coach will have plenty of options throughout the season. Like Bosh, much of the praise or blame will fall on Triano.