Loose and feeling pretty good about themselves sums up the Toronto Raptors at this moment in the season.
It's not every day that you see a rookie dragging a teammate around the gym on his back like DeMar DeRozan was doing with fellow Young Gun Sonny Weems to the amusement of those around him at the conclusion of practice on Monday.
That’s what comes with winning 10 of your past 13. Not even the prospect of a potential grudge match — with the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers carrying the grudge — on the horizon Tuesday in C-Town could dampen the mood at practice Monday.
When the head coach admits his biggest problem right now is finding minutes to compensate those who are playing well, what really is there to worry about?
The answer, of course, is there always is something that needs critiquing or tweaking and right now all that energy from media and fans alike is directed at Hedo Turkoglu.
Turkoglu is mired in a bit of a shooting slump since the calendar turned. For the month of January he has been good on just 35.4% from the field, so his scoring is down.
But ask Jose Calderon, who is at the other end of that spectrum and seemingly scoring at will these days, and you get a bit of a lecture when it’s suggested that Turkoglu may not be living up to the lofty expectations that come with his past and the five year, $52.8-million US contract he signed to come to Toronto.
Calderon says Turkoglu is doing plenty of things that help the team win that don’t necessarily involve the Raps starting small forward putting the basketball in the bucket himself.
“I think the people are looking at just the scoring,” Calderon said. “He does a lot of other things that help us. As soon as we get the ball in his hands, opponents are double-teaming him and he’s making passes. OK, maybe he’s not scoring as much as he was scoring in other years, but I think that will come. I think he’s doing a great job for us.”
Turkoglu is averaging 13 points a night, which is down just under four points from last season and seven from the year before that. His assist and rebound totals, though, are down only marginally from the past two seasons — less than one a game in both categories.
Calderon, who has always felt North Americans put too much emphasis on individual scoring (he doesn’t measure himself on his points per game output), says just having Turkoglu on the court opens things up for everyone, including himself.
“As soon as you give him the ball, the defence of the opposing team changes totally,” Calderon said. “That’s why myself, and (Chris Bosh) and Andrea (Bargnani) are getting those wide-open shots. They collapse on him. But everyone wants to look at his points.”
Calderon says Turkoglu’s shot will come around but he wants people to know that even without scoring, Turkoglu has been an effective weapon for the Raptors.
“For sure he is going to make more shots but he’s like anybody,” Calderon said. “There’s going to be times when they’re not going in. I’m not worried. I get more wide-open shots because of him. He catches the ball and my guy goes over to help. He’s very important to our offence. I want him out there.”
As for Calderon himself, scoring has not been a problem.
“It’s because I’m healthy,” he said. “I can turn the corner. I’m faster. I feel like I can react faster right now.”
And its all adding up to one of the better runs the Raptors have been on dating all the way back to the end of last season.