With All-Star break and then a crazy busy game schedule and then the trip to London, it’s been awhile since I’ve checked in with some thoughts on what is going on with this Raptors team. What better time to check in than after a triple-overtime thriller (no really), in London where the Raptors fell to the Nets, 137-136.

  • While the Raptors lost and everyone is sick of “moral victories” this was a great game for the young guys on the team to go through. Huge minutes, tired bodies and minds and playing in an arena that’s foreign to them: Even though they lost, there were lessons to take away.
  • If you’re Andrea Bargnani, you hope the lesson is to drive to the hoop in crunch-time rather than taking the tough jumper that failed you in a game-clinching position 10 minutes earlier.
  • If you’re Ed Davis, it’s knowing that playing hard every single possession does matter and that even if it feels like your minutes have a cap on them, keep fighting and your coach will start to trust you and give you opportunities when it matters.
  • Some of the minutes that guys logged were pretty incredible. Bargnani played nearly 52 minutes and DeMar DeRozan clocked in at just under 54 minutes. Those are huge, especially on a back-to-back. Whether coaches and players are willing to acknowledge the issue of fatigue or not, the fact is, it’s there. As the overtime(s) wore on, you saw silly turnovers (Hi, Jordan Farmar) and missed layups (Sasha Vujacic and Farmar) and rebounds that were given away (Hello, Raptors squad). As sloppy and frustrating as it can be, despite the turnovers and miscues, it was really entertaining to watch two teams scrap and fight for a victory that didn’t mean much to the rest of the NBA.
  • Ed Davis is getting better by the game. Give the rookie minutes and he’ll produce for you. He’ll be efficient and he will make you forget he’s only played professional basketball for a handful of months already. With 12 points and 15 rebounds on Saturday, Davis was balling. Now, to work on the free throws where he was just 4-for-8.
  • It’s fun to watch other writers/fans/media around the league see how much DeMar DeRozan has improved his game. While we get to see it on a nightly basis (and even then, it’s still impressive), their reaction is always awesome, because you know how hard he has worked to improve.
  • DeRozan hit a three today. Don’t hold your breath waiting on the next one. Seriously, his last make from deep was December 1st.
  • Julian Wright did not play in either game. That’s right, he didn’t hit the court for a single minute of game time while the team was in London. I knew they were committed to seeing what James Johnson could do for them, but I’ve got to say I expected him to at least see the floor.
  • Jerryd Bayless had some spirited celebrations from the bench when he was rooting on his teammates, but most importantly he showed some commitment on the defensive end of the floor. Speaking with a few of my fellow beat writers who are in London and the feeling was that Bayless may be getting some of Jose Calderon’s minutes when the team needs more defensive intensity.
  • Speaking of Calderon, it’s amazing how much better this team is when he is a scoring threat.
  • And speaking of James Johnson, he’s doing lots of things during his time on the floor. He doesn’t have the best shot selection and he takes too many shots for my liking (at the clip that he’s currently making them, at least), but the guy is getting blocks, steals and deflections and he’s always crashing the boards. Before the Raptors left for London, Amir Johnson said how much he loved playing with Johnson because he knew he’d have another body crashing the boards. Something the Raptors don’t do nearly enough, save for Amir and Ed.
  • While it sounds as though the team was very busy during their time in London, it also sounds like they had plenty of love from the fans and an amazing opportunity. They’ll be back here sometime tomorrow and likely will practice on Monday. I’ve got a lot of stuff waiting to roll out, just need to finish a few pieces up with some quotes from some key players. Wonder if that serves as a hint or two of what is coming soon.