As most of you are probably aware, John Hollinger is an ESPN NBA writer/personality and stat head who is best known for establishing P.E.R. or “Player Efficiency Rating,” an advanced statistic that has become as recognizable (and more dependable) as almost as any basic stat in basketball. In other words, to the modern day basketball fan, Hollinger’s a pretty big name.

But to DeMar DeRozan, Hollinger is just the “clown” who predicted the Raptors would finish a disappointing 12th place in the Eastern Conference with a 33-49 record. DeRozan wasn’t the first member of the Raptors to mention Hollinger’s name though, as earlier on Wednesday, Dwane Casey talked about how the not so flattering projection should motivate the team to work harder, calling Hollinger’s prediction a sign of “how much lack of respect the league has for us.”

To some, Casey’s and DeRozan’s response might seem petty, but I actually appreciate the fire. All too often, you hear from pro athletes, coaches and managers who claim that they don’t even bother to notice what others are saying about them and their team, or that what others do say about them means little. I like the fact that Casey and DeRozan publicly acknowledged either reading or hearing about Hollinger’s writeup, and the fact that they seem irked by it.

You don’t necessarily have to put any stock in it, you certainly don’t have to believe it, but as a professional athlete, a big name media personality questioning your team’s ability should at the very least motivate you, and there’s nothing wrong with admitting that new found motivation, though I suppose you can do so without resorting to name calling.

I hope that DeRozan isn’t alone in his frustration, I hope other members of the Raptors feel insulted, and if coach Casey can use negative projections to motivate his team, I hope he scours the internet for more Raptors related insults (Lord knows there’s enough out there) until even Andrea Bargnani, the king of critical indifference, is ready to attack, as I honestly do believe a more motivated team or group of players can be good for a few extra wins.

But that’s also the sticking point. Motivation alone won’t be enough to prove doubters wrong. Sure, a team good enough to win 33 games might be able to bump that total to 35 or 36, maybe even 37, on motivation and extra effort alone, but at the end of the day, with an assist from team chemistry and health, talent will usually be the key determinant of a team’s fate in a given season.

So sure, it’s great to see DeRozan angered and hopefully motivated by Hollinger’s 33-win prediction for the Raptors, but he and the team have to be good enough to prove Hollinger and other naysayers wrong, not just motivated enough. And that brings about the real question. Is this Raptors team good enough? Are they good enough to actually make something tangible out of that motivation, because a few good acquisitions and better defence isn’t enough to suddenly make the league take notice, nor should it be.

DeMar, especially, has a lot to prove this year, and at the end of the season (I’m assuming they won’t extend him by the October 31st deadline), the organization is going to have to make a decision on whether to extend him or let him loose. When that time comes, DeRozan will have to have proven that he’s a worthwhile player for the future, not just a motivated one.

If DeRozan and others can’t prove their worth, the pre-season talk and the scoffing at names like Hollinger will mean little, and will only add to the lack of respect Casey and the rest of us Raptors fans are painfully aware exists right now.

I like the chip on their shoulder attitude, now just go win some basketball games.


On a sidenote, this year’s edition of the annual General Managers’ survey had barely any mention of the Raptors in any major categories, but did feature some recognition. Kyle Lowry received a vote for most underrated acquisition, Terrence Ross and Quincy Acy received votes for being among the most athletic rookies (just as they did here), with Ross also receiving a vote under the category of which rookie could be a sleeper success.

The most noticeable Raptor mentioned in the GM survey was none other than Jonas Valanciunas, who was one of only four players to receive a vote for which rookie would be the best player in five years, while leading the way (with 17.2% of the vote) in the category of international player most likely to break out this season. You see, Valanciunas really is our beacon of hope, here to rescue us from that aforementioned lack of respect!