Zach Randolph

On Sunday, writer John Schuhmann tweeted “Congrats to the Phoenix Suns, who now rank 29th in defensive efficiency. Your new No. 30, the Toronto Raptors, know that spot well.” Indeed they do, as the Raptors finished dead last in the NBA in defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) last season as well. In spite of all the new faces, the Raptors’ team defence still stinks and their offensive efficiency has declined from fifth overall last season to 16th in the league according to Schuhmann’s latest power rankings.

Whatever you think of Chris Bosh, it’s become clear that he wasn’t one of the main reasons for the Raptors’ porous defence last season. He’s now one of the main cogs on a team that currently has the fifth-best defence in the league. What hasn’t changed from last season for the Raptors is that Andrea Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan and Jose Calderon are still getting major minutes, Jay Triano is still the coach, and Bryan Colangelo is the architect of this mess.

It’s inevitable that Jay Triano will end up taking the fall for how this season has turned out, regardless of what kind of expectations most reasonable people had for this team going into the season. Without question, Triano should not be classified as a coach that knows how to effectively teach his players a sound defensive scheme. However, a man can only do so much with what this roster gives him to work with. If somebody like Scott Skiles or Gregg Popovich was coaching this team, I suspect he would give Colangelo a list of players and say, “Trade these guys. I can’t coach them to play the right way and you should get rid of them before I bench them and kill their value.”

I don’t know how many consecutive losses need to pile up (the Raptors are on a seven-game skid) before Colangelo puts Triano out of his misery, but I caution Raptors fans not to get too excited if the axe falls before the end of the season. Whatever you think of Triano, I really don’t think he’s anything close to the main problem. Do I think he’s the man who can eventually lead this team into championship contention one day? No, I don’t. But hardly anybody thought Doc Rivers was “a championship-level coach” and just look at him now. No coach can turn lumps of coach into diamonds — and whoever you think the brightest gem is on this team, he’s cubic zirconia at best.

Sorry for the gloomy introduction to this game thread, but I talked to some people over the past few days who seem to think that getting rid of Triano would make a noticeable difference in this team’s performance. I assure you that’s not the case, but it’s getting to the point that Colangelo would probably be doing Jay a favour by handing him his walking papers. He’ll probably never have another head coaching gig in this league, but I bet he’ll be happier when he’s an assistant on another team next season.

And so much for all that rubbish. Hey, there’s a game tonight! The Raptors kick off a three-game homestand facing the better-than-you-might-think Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizz have won two in a row and seven of their last 11, and they have to feel like they need to win games like this one if they’re going to make up the three-and-a-half games separating them and Portland for the eighth seed in the West.

The Grizzlies are far from an offensive powerhouse, but they do have a pair of 20 points-per-game scorers in Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay who are probably licking their lips at the opportunity to put up big numbers tonight. And the Raptors had better protect the rock tonight since Memphis leads the league with 9.3 steals per game.

Injury report

Toronto: Joey Dorsey and Linas Kleiza are listed as questionable for tonight with knee problems, while Sonny Weems and Leandro Barbosa are both still M.I.A.

Memphis: Xavier Henry is questionable with a sore right knee.

Five questions

1. If the NBA gave out “Worst Eastern Conference Player of the Week” awards, would Andrea Bargnani win for last week’s stat line? In four games, he averaged 16 points, 4.8 rebounds and a block per game while shooting 30.7 percent from the field.

2. Do you think Colangelo should fire Triano if the Raptors’ losing streak reaches double digits?

3. If Rudy Gay (who the Raptors could have drafted instead of Bargnani in the 2006 draft) has a big game tonight, will somebody catch Colangelo facepalming to hide his tears?

4. Speaking of draft mistakes, how much better would the Grizzlies be if they hadn’t wasted their second overall pick in 2009 on Hasheem Thabeet?

5. Does anybody still think moving the Grizzlies to Memphis was a good idea? They currently rank 25th in average attendance.

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Julian Wright, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani
Memphis: Mike Conley, Rudy Gay, Sam Young, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol

Today is my father’s 65th birthday, so here’s a Paul McCartney performance of The Beatles’ “Birthday” song for him. He never did tell me what he wanted for his birthday, so I’ll give him a shout-out here along with my gratitude for supporting me in whatever the hell I thought I was doing when I started this blog in 2002. Unfortunately, my attention to this team helped turn him into a Raptors fan — and needless to say, they’ve provided him with more grief than joy over the years. I think a game-winning shot by Jose Calderon tonight (probably his favourite player on the team if he had to pick one) would be a better birthday present than anything I could have bought him.