TORONTO - One doesn’t have to look too far to locate areas of concern on this Raptors roster heading into the regular season.
A poor defensive team last year that lost its best two defenders in Chris Bosh and Antoine Wright will have issues defensively.
They were a well below average rebounding team a year ago and have lost the 10 a game Bosh would pull down.
Offensively there are indications they can overcome the loss of Bosh’s 24 points but no one knows for sure.
But there is one area at least one member of the Raptors will say with certainty that is improved and that is the team chemistry.
Sonny Weems, the self-appointed ‘keep-the-locker room-loose guy,’ said the feeling of togetherness on this year’s Raptors compared to last season is like night and day.
“The chemistry is a lot better, way better than it was last year,” Weems said.
That’s interesting considering a clear-the-air meeting last November after a season-worst beatdown in Atlanta had at least one player suggesting there was a Euro/American split on the team that was contributing to the Raptor struggles on the court.
“I think a lot of players last year were new and a lot of players last year weren’t willing to get familiar with each other’s background,” Weems said. “A lot of players this year are willing to get along and willing to get to know each other.”
Weems says that can only help the Raptors chances of overcoming all the other issues a team lacking a bona fide all-star will likely, almost definitely, encounter.
In fact, Weems seemed to be suggesting that had last year’s team had the kind of togetherness he has seen from the 2010-11 version, the win total would have been a lot higher than the 40 they managed.
“When you have a bunch of guys who really like each other, you have a team that can be successful,” Weems said. “I don’t think we had that last year.”
Much has been made of the close bond Weems shares with DeMar DeRozan but it might surprise more than a few Raptor fans to hear that Monday after practice it wasn’t DeRozan but Andrea Bargnani messaging an invite to Weems to head over to his place and play a little FIFA 2011.
“He texts or BBMs me all the time now,” Weems said.
If there are two more polar opposites on the roster than Bargnani and Weems this team hasn’t seen them since the days of Vincenzo Esposito and Alvin Robertson.
Weems is as easy going and carefree as Bargnani appears to be tightly wound and cautious.
Weems though says he learned last year that appearances aren’t always what they are cracked up to be and has a completely different take on his Italian teammate this year than he did last season.
It began earlier this year when Bargnani by-passed his regular seat on the bus towards the front with the coaches and walked back to join the Raptors back-of-the-bus crew that had been just Weems, DeRozan, Amir Johnson, Joey Dorsey and Jarrett Jack.
“We were all on the bus and he got on late and he’s coming to the back of the bus,” Weems said. “We’re like, ‘Where you going, to the bathroom or something?’ and he just sat down. It’s all good.”
Weems was asked what he thinks of Bargnani now that he actually knows him.
“He’s a regular person,” Weems said sounding as surprised at revealing that factoid as his audience of media members was at hearing it. “He’s a real humble dude. Easy to talk to, easy to get along with. He talks about the same things we talk about. His background is way different than our own, but when we have a conversation, he’s jumping in. We joke about somebody, like I’ll start talking about DeMar and he’ll jump right in. It’s good having him.”