Archive for the ‘Jay Triano’ Category

Jay Triano

Jay Triano dropped by theScore Satellite Radio studio today for an interview with Tim Micallef and Sid Seixero on their Tim and Sid: Uncut show. If you’re not already a regular listener, then you might not know that Tim and Sid: Uncut is the best and funniest sports talk radio show in Canada. You can tune in Monday through Friday from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM ET on Sirius Channel 98 and theScore Satellite Radio website or you can subscribe on iTunes and you’ll receive each show in podcast format about an hour after the end of each show. While I highly recommend you download the show and listen to it, here’s a recap of the main topics they discussed.

Has Triano ever before seen the high quality of young Canadian talent coming up in the NCAA right now that could benefit the national team?

“Never. I don’t think we’ve ever been to the point where we are right now. I think it was about a month ago, I went on one of the draft sites and there were three Canadians in the Top 25 if they had declared for the NBA Draft. We’ve always had, you know, is this guy going to be a first round pick, or is he going to be a second round pick, or is he going to get drafted? I don’t think we’ve ever seen the likes where there are three Canadians that could be drafted in the top 25 or even in the first round of an NBA Draft. So I think the future in this country is looking brighter, and it’s all good. It’s good for the game and it’s good for our national team to get back on the map again.”

On the Raptors’ two games in London, England against the Nets:

“As far as the experience, I enjoyed going over with these guys. I mean, if we were in a playoff race right now, I think it would be very, very tough. Although, our players played very well. I thought the games we played over there, our young players are going to remember that trip for a very long time and I think it helps us as a young team to go through tough times and make things tough. I remember when I played on the national team, we would travel to Spain and we would have a game two days after we got there and you’re still trying to adjust to the time and the different gyms and the conditions that maybe aren’t exactly the same as we’re used to. But I think that helps build a toughness in you as a player. And it helps build a toughness to get through tough times, to fight through, to play when conditions are less than perfect. And conditions were not perfect for us over there just because it was a disruption to our schedule. We missed a night’s sleep in the travel and so on. But I think overall that’s going to help our young guys be a little more mentally tough.”

What was Triano’s mandate for the Raptors going into this season once he learned that Chris Bosh was gone?

“When you lose a guy like Chris, there were two thoughts. You either have him and you build around him and you move forward, although you’re going to be strapped, and where are you going to find players and the cash available? Or, if Chris is going to go, then you take that trade exception money, you see what’s available, you develop the young players, and if you can add a piece that’s going to help, then you do that. We did not expect to have the injuries that we’ve had this year. I think that really set us back — Reggie getting hurt because he really created who we were early and we surprised a lot of people. You know, Jose being hurt for a while, Kleiza — one of our other tougher players — gets hurt. Things just compounded. So the focus became around the younger players. You can’t say that it was not planned but (the rebuilding process) was probably accelerated because of the injuries, the fact that (the younger players) had to play as much as they did.”

On the Raptors’ rebuilding strategy:

“We’re going into our last 16 games and we’re looking at keeping our young players going, keep developing them. But we also have a top pick coming. We’re going to have money that we can use in free agency. And with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement — whatever happens there — we’re going to be in a position where the face of our franchise could change drastically within two or three months. And I think when you surround those possibilities with the development of our young players, I think that we’re in a pretty decent spot right now.”

On his drafting philosophy:

“I’m a firm believer that you don’t draft for position, you don’t end up taking an Araujo because you have a Bosh to play alongside him. You take the best player, you build up your assets. If that player has to be moved for a star, then you can do that.”

On Chris Bosh complaining about not getting the ball when and where he wants it with the Heat:

“OK, I’ll just be straight and say I was thinking, ‘If you wanted all that, why’d you leave?’ He knew when he was leaving that he was going to go to a team where he was going to be the third option. Late in the game, he had that opportunity in Toronto to do that and I’m not sure if I can say 100 percent for sure how much he embraced it. You know, we went to him down the stretch. But if you’ve got LeBron and Wade, I think that throughout they year you have to find ways to mix it up. You have to keep teams off balance — ‘I’m going to give it to LeBron a couple of times, and now I’m going to sneak Dwyane in there, then maybe Chris can get it. And I think that Chris was just being frustrated that he wasn’t getting the basketball or getting the touches that he felt he deserved.”

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Coming off of one of their most impressive efforts of the season in a win against the Bulls, and with 19 000 people jamming into the Air Canada Centre for an affair with Steve Nash and Vince Carter, the Raptors responded with a completely listless, embarrassing performance.

Andrea Bargnani appeared to be the only Raptor ready to play in the first quarter, as Nash and Carter put on a clinic. Kid Canada had seven assists in the first quarter alone, and Vince poured in 11 points, as the Suns jumped out to a 21-7 lead, and eventually a 35-14 lead after one.

DeMar DeRozan came alive in the second quarter, and the Raptors finally started showing some fight. To give you an idea of how ugly this game was, fans were excited to “only” be down 18 at the half.

The Raptors continued to build momentum in the third quarter, and actually had the deficit cut to 12 midway through the quarter. But as quickly as they had fallen out of the game in the first quarter, the Raps did again in the third. A couple of Vince Carter buckets here, a couple of Nash dimes there, and the Suns’ lead had ballooned to 24 heading into the fourth.

By then, there was nothing left to settle. The Raptors had no chance of even sniffing a comeback, the fans had no chance of even sniffing free pizza, and everyone came to the realization that the highlight of the night had been a halftime performance by Toronto legend, Maestro Fresh Wes.

Aside from the Raptors’ 50 per cent shooting night, there were no bright spots. Bargnani shot an incredible 12-of-15, but looked lost in every other aspect of the game, as usual. DeRozan provided a spark when in the game, but he struggled through foul trouble and played just 24 minutes.

The Suns out-worked the Raptors from the opening tip. They got to every loose ball, ripped rebounds out of Raptors’ hands and silenced a solid crowd early on.

The game was over midway through the first quarter. I don’t care how bad your team is, how good the opposition is or how well you played last game. When you’re out of a home game six or seven minutes into it, that’s unacceptable.

Finally, before we put this game out of our memories forever, I wanted to mention something regarding Jay Triano. For the record, I don’t think Jay is at fault for what happened tonight. We’ll never know if games like this are a product of poor coaching or the result of trotting out a gutless team.

But I will say this. There are those that randomly jump to Jay’s defence after a great effort, like when the Raptors beat the Bulls on Wednesday night. Those fans point to efforts like that as the proof that Triano is doing a great job with this young team. My question to those fans is this: If you believe it is coaching behind a young team giving a full effort and playing above themselves, then wouldn’t you also believe it is coaching behind a young team coming out flat and unprepared?

Just some food for thought.

Raptors Player of the Game: Andrea Bargnani -35 Min, 26 Pts, 12-15 FG, 2-5 FT, 4 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl

Suns Player of the Game: Vince Carter – 30 Min, 17 Pts, 7-12 FG, 2-4 3Pt, 1-1 FT, 7 Reb, 6 Stl, 1 Blk (I get the feeling the boos don’t bother him)

Goat of the Game: Sonny Weems – 12 Min, 1 Pts, 0-5 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 1-2 FT, 2 Reb, 1 Ast

You weren’t expecting anything else, were you?

Once again, the Raptors got off to a decent start on the shoulders of hot shooting by DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani and the usual intensity of Amir Johnson. Bargnani and DeRozan combined for 21 points in the first quarter, and the Raptors scored 29 points on the Spurs in that first frame, but they gave up 31.

Unlike Tuesday night in Milwaukee, the Raptors actually kept their hot shooters involved through the second and third quarters, as Andrea and DeMar continued to build on the solid games they were putting together.

Aside from an early scare that occurred when Amir Johnson sprained his ankle (Amir did return in the second quarter), the Raptors enjoyed a pretty successful first half, all things considered. They scored 56 points, were down just four against the league-leading Spurs and shot nearly 58 percent in the half. But the Spurs lead the league in wins for a reason, and they showed it in that first half with picture-perfect passing and ball movement that resulted in them shooting 62.5 per cent.

This was one of the rare instances this season where Toronto’s opponents’ efficient shooting had little to do with the Raptors’ lack of resistance.

The third quarter was the highlight of the night for the Raptors and their fans (unless you were really amped for Leandro Barbosa’s pizza-clinching free throw in the final minute). Roberto Alomar and a big Sonny Weems alley-oop jam seemed to liven up the crowd, and the Raptors used the energy to stage a 13-2 run that actually had them up by three heading into the fourth quarter.

But the fourth quarter is what usually separates the men from the boys, the contenders from the pretenders, in this league. Or in this case, it’s what separates a 44-win team from a 14-win team.

The final quarter was basically an elite, veteran team asserting their will and pulling away from a very poor, young team. The Raptors were held to just eight points in the first nine minutes of the quarter and were outscored 30-16 over the course of the fourth, as DeJuan Blair out-muscled the Raptors’ big men to provide San Antonio’s X-factor. It also didn’t help that Toronto decided to go away from Bargnani and DeRozan at this juncture of the game.

In the end, what was supposed to happen happened, though the Raptors did continue to prove that a young team will get up for a clash with an elite team more easily than they will for a battle with a fellow cellar-dweller.

Bargnani scored 29 points and was fantastic, offensively, looking more like the player who dropped 41 at Madison Square Garden than the guy who couldn’t keep up with Luke Harangody. Though Andrea’s rebounding total of two can definitely be called into question, specifically on some failed box-outs in the fourth quarter.

DeRozan finished with 25 points and was equally as impressive as Bargnani. It was encouraging to see the youngster get to the free throw line seven times, after going three straight games without a single trip.

Another positive for the Raptors was the play of Leandro Barbosa, who scored 20 points and looked comfortable on the floor, despite playing in only his second game after a long layoff.

As for the negatives, besides the team losing for the 15th time in 16 games, Jose Calderon continued to shoot the ball poorly, Amir Johnson sprained his ankle, Sonny Weems still looked lost on the floor for most of the night and Ed Davis didn’t exactly have one of his best performances. Although with Ed, he did take a nasty spill in the third quarter, and seemed to be having problems with his left wrist after that.

Another Raptors-related note I wanted to pass along was a scolding that Jay Triano looked to be delivering to DeRozan. In the second quarter, Triano called a timeout, and when the players sat down, Jay walked up to DeMar, and looked to be pretty pissed about something. I was nowhere near close enough to hear what was said, and it may not have been negative at all or it may not have even been directed at DeMar, but it definitely looked that way.

Lastly, I wanted to finish with some praise for the almost flawless Spurs. You’ll often hear that the best defensive basketball teams work like all of the players are connected on a string. There was a sequence of defensive possessions throughout the game where the Spurs demonstrated this better than any other team I have seen in person. To be honest, it was beautiful to watch as a basketball fan.

And yes, defence can be beautiful to watch. Let’s just hope we get first-hand experience of that in Toronto…in our lifetimes.

Raptors Player of the Game: DeMar DeRozan – 37 Min, 25 Pts, 10-18 FG, 5-7 FT, 4 Reb, 4 Ast

Spurs Player of the Game: DeJuan Blair – 36 Min, 28 Pts, 14-21 FG, 11 Reb, 1 Stl (Blair scored 14 of his 28 in the fourth quarter. He was his team’s most dominant player in their most dominant quarter)

Goat of the Game:  Sonny Weems – 34 Min, 8 Pts, 4-9 FG, 1 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Stl, 3 TO (How Sonny got 34 minutes tonight is truly a mind-boggling question. For the record, Julian Wright played less than a minute)

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If you tuned in to watch the 10-36 Timberwolves host the 13-34 Raptors, you got what you expected, or at least what you should have expected from two of the worst and coldest teams in the NBA. In fact, you probably got more than you expected, in a sick, twisted way.

Matt and Jack had to spend the entire first quarter talking about the contingent of Canadian/Raptors fans in attendance in Minnesota (which was nice to see and equally impressive) because there was no basketball game in front of them to talk about. Seriously, the first quarter was highlighted by the Raptors shooting 35 per cent, the T-Wolves shooting 29 per cent, and a dream one-on-one matchup between Alexis Ajinca and Darko Milicic.

From a Raptors perspective of disgrace, things were just warming up. On my count, the Raps shot 5-of-23 in the second quarter, refused to take a step in the paint on offence or move a muscle on defence, let the T-Wolves go on a 13-0 run and as you can tell, played with no sense of urgency, or pride for that matter, whatsoever.

Even worse, the team seemed to feel no shame for their atrocious first half display. In fact, Jay Triano’s halftime interview was totally calm, as he talked about how his team was doing fine defensively and just not making shots on offence.

Jay clearly wasn’t aware that those watching his interview had also actually seen the first half.

Toronto responded with their worst quarter of the night, and headed to the fourth down 21, shooting a feeble 27.6 per cent after three quarters.

Trying to bask in the glory of just their 11th win of the season, the Timberwolves enjoyed every minute of the fourth quarter. They hit some threes at the beginning of the quarter, laughed as the Raptors clanked jumpers and then got to watch Martell Webster take the ball from the three-point line, drive straight down the middle of what passes as Toronto’s defence, and throw down this jam. That made it 91-65 Minnesota, and it became painfully clear for Raptors fans that they were watching one of the worst performances in franchise history.

The Raps went on a bit of a run in the dying minutes to make the final score look somewhat respectable, but that’s typical of an NBA blowout. This game was ugly from the get-go, and only one team chose to jump up and fight for a rare victory.

The Raptors had no effort out of the gates, and no fight when they needed it. No matter how you slice it, they just didn’t want the victory. If you’re going to come with the “all pro athletes want to win” argument, then I suggest you review the game film from Saturday night.

The only player in black who demonstrated an ounce of competitive spirit was Ed Davis, but it’s hard for a 21-year-old rookie to carry a team. The other guy you can usually count on for an honest effort, Julian Wright, didn’t see the floor until there were seven minutes remaining in the game, because Jay Triano thought Sonny Weems had earned his way back into the starting lineup, gave him 28 minutes and went to Trey Johnson when Sonny needed a break. As if Jay hadn’t given Raptors fans enough reason to call for his head.

Then there’s this gem. After the game, Triano praised his team’s defence, even though anyone who saw the game knows the defensive effort was laughable and the Wolves simply missed a lot of makeable shots. But Jay wasn’t done. I kid you not, Jay said he thought his team “battled.” How does management allow Triano to insult fans’ intelligence like that, time after time?

You may have noticed that DeMar DeRozan has hit a bit of a rut after his stellar month. It’s no coincidence that this coincides with Sonny Weems’ return to the lineup. Both players have similar skill-sets, and it’s become clear that DeRozan thrives without Weems running alongside him. For the sake of DeMar’s development, hopefully there’s a team out there willing to give Sonny a chance to end the season with them.

Raptors Player of the Game: Ed Davis -25 Min, 15 Pts,  7-10 FG, 1-4 FT, 11 Reb

Timberwolves Player of the Game: Kevin Love -24 Min, 21 Pts, 6-10 FG, 2-4 3Pt, 7-8 FT, 12 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

Goat of the Game: Andrea Bargnani – 32 Min, 15 Pts, 5-24 FG, 0-5 3Pt, 5-6 FT, 3 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 Stl, 3 Blk

To clear things up before this blog post takes off, let me clarify a few things.

This will not be one of those idiotic posts in which the writer hints that he or she could do a better job running or coaching a team than the people in charge. Also, while I have criticized Jay Triano on multiple occasions, I do not “hope” he gets fired or wish failure for his career.

To be honest, I want Jay Triano to succeed in Toronto. I think it would be an amazing story for the NBA, the Raptors organization and Canadian basketball to have him survive these team struggles and ultimately lead the franchise into never before seen glory days.

The question, though, is does Jay Triano deserve to be given the chance to lead this franchise into what could be a promising future? Given what has transpired over the last couple of years, it’s growing increasingly difficult to answer that question with a yes.

After serving as a Raptors assistant under three different head coaches, Triano was promoted to interim head coach in the middle of the 2008-2009 season. That season will go down as one of the most disappointing in franchise history (along with 2001-02 and 2009-10), but Triano was spared much criticism because many felt he wasn’t given enough time with a new team, and an overrated team at that. The fact, though, is that Triano took over 17 games into that season, and had 65 games to get it right. The Raptors went 25-40 during that time, and missed the playoffs for the first time in three years.

When Sam Mitchell was fired in December of 2008, the Raptors were 8-9; one game under .500 in a season where the East’s eighth seed eventually went to a 39-win team and the sixth seed to a team that finished with a .500 record.

To many people’s surprise, Triano was retained after that debacle and given the reins as the team’s new, full time head coach. Bryan Colangelo then dismantled the roster Triano had failed with, and assembled the deepest, most talented roster the Raptors have had under Colangelo’s watch. They had the talent to squeak into the playoffs in an off-year, and the legitimate ability to contend for a top-five seed in the Eastern Conference.

With an actual training camp to work with this time, Triano stressed defence and a better work ethic.

And yet in 2009-2010, the Raptors were one of the worst defensive teams in recent NBA memory, they stumbled down the stretch to a 40-42 record and ultimately missed the playoffs by one game.

Triano was facing “strike two” in his short NBA head coaching career, but still, his supporters brought forward tangible excuses: Hedo Turkoglu never reached even a tenth of his capabilities in Toronto and Chris Bosh was injured during the team’s late season plunge.

Others could point out that Triano probably didn’t utilize Turkoglu correctly, and regardless of Bosh’s absence, Triano’s team failed to show up, for all intents and purposes, in the biggest game of the season: game no. 80 against the Bulls, with the playoffs very much on the line.

Had Bryan Colangelo decided that the Jay Triano experiment would come to an end after that disastrous season (which ultimately culminated in Chris Bosh skipping town), it would have been easy to understand and nearly impossible to argue against. However, once again, Triano was given another chance, only this time to coach a young roster with little-to-no expectations in 2010-2011.

As he did the year before in training camp, Triano talked about an improved defensive system. But this year there was a twist; with no star on the roster in Year 1 post-Bosh, Triano claimed that every single Raptor would have to earn his playing time. There would be no special treatment for anyone, or so we were led to believe.

This season may be Triano’s worst yet.

The Raptors are 13-33, already fading in a pathetic East playoff race and mired in a nasty nine-game losing streak. Sure, there are valid excuses for Triano again this season. The team is low on talent, incredibly young and inexperienced and currently ravaged by injuries.

So maybe the win-loss total shouldn’t be on Jay’s shoulders, but what about other facets of the game?

For the second season in a row, Toronto is the league’s worst defensive team (based on defensive efficiency) and that laughable defence has become an NBA punch-line.

There have been more than a few questionable decisions in relation to rotation management, with players like Sonny Weems playing their way out of the rotation in everyone’s eyes except Triano’s. Not to mention, the Raptors have been atrocious, for the most part, in play-calling out of late timeouts. As I’ve stated before, either Triano can’t draw up a competent late-game play, or his players aren’t listening to what he wants done. Either scenario reveals a coaching problem.

A good professional level coach, in any sport, should either be an “X’s and O’s” wizard or one hell of a motivator. A great coach is both (Think Jackson, Popovich, etc). Sam Mitchell had his strength, and everyone knew it wasn’t X’s and O’s. The motivational fire worked well for Smitch for a couple of years, but once it became apparent that Mitchell had lost his influence over the players, and it was clear he had nothing else, he was fired.

Triano was supposed to be the X’s and O’s guy, but he has seldom shown that in two-plus years. And it’s painfully clear that he is not the motivational type, either.

So, what does Jay bring to the equation?

His supporters point to the emergence of Andrea Bargnani, the effort Jay was getting out of this year’s team and the recent development of DeMar DeRozan. In the case of Bargnani, I doubt Triano did anything magical for Il Mago. He simply gave him more floor time and let him play through his barrage of mistakes. In fact, you could now argue that Triano doesn’t know how to limit Andrea’s minutes, even when it’s deserved. As for the “effort” argument, if you’ve watched the Raptors lately, then you know that the effort has been far from consistent for over a month. Yes, they’re young and banged up, but that does not, ever, excuse a lack of effort.

So then we’re left with DeRozan’s development. I’ll hand it to Jay. He’s handled DeMar the right way through a season-and-a-half, but what happens when the Raptors get some bodies back, and Triano can punish DeMar for his sub-par defence? Will he take a firm stance with DeRozan, or will he let the youngster get away with a lack of focus on the defensive end?

You sort through all of this and truly wonder what has kept Triano firmly entrenched as the Raptors bench boss. Perhaps Bryan Colangelo really does see Jay as “his guy,” and is going to stick with him through thick and thin. Who knows, with Colangelo’s contract up after this season, maybe it’s Bryan who is on his way out of town and currently stuck in lame-duck mode, though I highly doubt that’s the case.

We’ve heard for years that Triano is well respected throughout the league, has a great “basketball mind” and was always seen as a very good assistant coach. He’s clearly a great international coach as well, or he wouldn’t have found his way onto Team U.S.A.’s bench recently.

But has any evidence been produced through parts of three seasons to suggest he is a capable NBA head coach?

Some say Triano should be retained for the long-term for stability’s sake, as the Raptors have been known to be quick-triggered with coaches. But is it worth keeping what looks like the wrong guy in charge just to appear “stable?” Isn’t that as foolish as firing a coach you believe in just for the sake of change?

Again, I think it would be great if years from now, whenever it is that the Raptors take a step towards becoming an elite NBA franchise, Jay Triano is still at the helm. But in looking at things honestly, one would be hard-pressed to find a reason why Triano deserves that opportunity.

It’s unfortunate, but sometimes the truth hurts.