It's tension by the bucketful
By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun
The Raptors, who are averaging only 74.1 points per game this season and 67.8 points in their five losses, will play host to the Houston Rockets today. Statistically, the Rockets are the best defensive team in the NBA and the Raptors are the worst offensive team in the NBA.
This could get Biblical, folks. You know, end-of-the-world, plague-of-locusts, scorched-earth kind of thing.
Truth be told, the Raptors have been dramatically better in four home wins than they've been in five road losses, so who knows how they'll respond today? But coming off an 0-3 Western trip that ended with a humiliating 94-64 loss in Sacramento on Friday, you have to wonder just what direction this team is headed.
For a club that is 4-5, there is an incredible amount of tension in the air.
Raptors coach Kevin O'Neill is a noted defensive specialist, but the club's offence has been so inept, so rigid, so stagnant, so helpless, that some players understandably have expressed concern.
Unless you picked up the very latest edition of The Saturday Sun yesterday, you may have missed the refreshingly blunt and passionate comments made by frustrated Raptors forward Jerome Williams late Friday night.
"This is a game of basketball and everybody in this room is a scorer, whether people want to look at it that way or not," Williams said. "Everybody in this room got here because of what they do collectively.
"If we start singling people out, 'Oh, you're just a scorer, and you're not,' this is what you get. Live with it. I'm not going to sugar-coat it."
Certainly, O'Neill is pushing most of the offence through Vince Carter, who has been asked to be The Man and dutifully is trying to oblige. He's by far the team's best offensive player, and one of the best offensive players in the NBA. But he can't, and shouldn't be asked, to do it alone, as the recent point totals indicate.
Carter needs help. The big question is whether that help can be found on the current roster.
Some say no way.
Some say yes, if you look in the right places.
But whether another player or two gets hot, or O'Neill tweaks his system to better take advantage of the players he has, or O'Neill convinces general manager Glen Grunwald to make a trade, things can't continue like this. It's embarrassing.
Carter balked when a reporter asked if the players feel they are too restricted in their offensive schemes.
"How is it restricted?" Carter asked. "I don't think so. It doesn't have anything to do with that.
"We're getting everybody involved. It doesn't really matter who starts the play, the person who takes the shot needs to knock it down. I can't say it's because we're running this, we're running that. We're getting good shots. The way the plays are designed, where (O'Neill) wants us to get the ball in the scoring area, it's there. It's just not falling right now."
But clearly Carter was not speaking for everyone.
O'Neill pointed out the team still is adjusting to a new regime.
"I would hope we'll start to get better offensively," O'Neill said. "I would hope we'll start to make open shots. We're nine games in and we have a heck of a long way to go.
"If you look at it, we've played five pretty good games and four not-so-good games. It seems for us when things go bad, we let them go really bad."
A basketball season has many ups and downs. If the Raptors post a big win today, the perception will be that all is right with the world again. And maybe it will be.
But nine games into a season that supposedly represents a fresh start, the Raptors as a unit -- players and coaches -- have displayed a glaring lack of flexibility, execution, confidence and chemistry.
If this is progress, it's painful progress.