Coming into this 2012-2013 NBA Season I was definitely among the optimistic about the prospects of the Toronto Raptors. I recently said on one of our weekly 'Raps Talk' podcasts that we'd probably know by 24 games into the season (just over the quarter mark) how the team would look going forward.
The Raptors have 4 more games to play until reaching that point going to LA to face the Clippers, then to Portland, before returning home to face the Nets, and the Mavericks. The season has not been kind to the Raptors thus far.
Last night, the Raptors suffered their worst loss of the season in Utah, getting dominated by the Jazz by a score of 131-99. Kyle Lowry is usually short on words in interviews, but this pretty much sums up the effort in last night's game:
Injuries took their toll on the team early on, first Kyle Lowry, then Landry Fields, and Alan Anderson (the latter two who have yet to return to the line up), but roster depth was thought to be on the Raptors' side when facing those moments. There was even a recent roster change by releasing Dominic McGuire (despite the fact he has a guaranteed contract), and they brought in Mickael Pietrus who the Raptors had designs on acquiring last season but didn't end up passing the physical (although he looked fine on the floor last season for the Boston Celtics!). Unfortunately, we have not seen the Raptors rise to the occassion thus far.
A re-occuring theme for the Raptors this season has been a key lapse during the game which proves to be fatal. In all 16 of the Raptors' losses this season there has been one key point during the game (usually one specific quarter) which has either taken them out of the game completely, or they've had to play too much 'catch up' after that span of poor play and despite keeping it close have not been able to come all the way back to get the victory.
Lately there has been a lot of talk in the NBA world about a potential trade which would involve sending Andrea Bargnani to the Los Angeles Lakers and other players (possibly Jose Calderon & Linas Kleiza as well – based on rumours) in return for Pau Gasol. This would certainly push the Raptors into a 'win now' mentality, but there is no guarantee that acquring Pau will immediately provide wins (in fact Pau has been battling knee tendinitis and has missed the past 2 games for the Lakers). Furthermore, it was recently reported that one of the reasons Steve Nash went to the Lakers was to have a chance to play with Pau Gasol. Steve has been injuried himself and has missed practically the entire regular season, and the Lakers have been striggling this season (under Mike Brown, who was fired after 5 games, and again now under Mike D'Antoni). So It appears that any potential trade for Pau Gasol won't happen until the Lakers organization has a chance to see both Steve Nash & Pau Gasol on the court together in Mike D'Antoni's offense.
So, where do the Raptors go from here? That is certainly a discussion worth having given the disappointing start to the season. Ultimately, as Kyle Lowry said in the postgame interview above, all they can do is prepare, adjust and take care of business in the next game, and what the results are. To this point it is shaping up to be a MUCH rougher season than most Raptors fans had expected.