Raps a wait-and-see proposition

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:49 PM ET

There were moments of solid play and stretches when the Raptors looked lost and out of sync.

There were times when the ball movement was good and other possessions when it was hard to figure out what kind of defence was being played.

As much as some would like to point to a 4-4 pre-season, there really is no point in looking back on an eight-game exhibition when nothing, in all honesty, was to be gained.

There is no dominant personality for an offence to run through, replaced instead by ball movement, which was good enough for the Raptors to average 108.6 points, a misleading number given that two games were against the defensively challenged Phoenix Suns.

There is no obvious guy to run a play when a game must be won which, in theory, is both good and bad because an element of surprise suddenly exists.

What is known is that Andrea Bargnani is likely to get featured in isolations if such a scenario arises.

Leandro Barbosa, who is nursing a sore wrist, is by far the best the Raptors have in a guy who can break down a defence in the half-court.

The team’s best post scorer is Linas Kleiza.

As Wednesday’s regular-season curtain-raiser approaches, just what kind of team will these Raptors evolve into? It’s a query that was posed to head coach Jay Triano following Sunday’s fan jam session at the Air Canada Centre.

“You have to take the pre-season with caution,” be began. “You can’t get too excited when you play well and you can’t be too disappointed if your not playing well.

“The regular season is different. We’ve set some standards and hopefully we’ll be better because of that.”

The early portion of the regular season will provide a snapshot of what await for the Raptors, beginning with Wednesday’s visit by the Knicks and then a Friday home tip against the Cavaliers.

The East, for all intents and purposes, can be broken down into three categories: An upper echelon that features Miami, Boston and Orlando; a next tier that involves Chicago, Atlanta and Milwaukee, with Charlotte potentially being in that mix; and the unknown in the likes of every other team,including the Raps, because so many questions hover over each heading into the season.

The margin for error with these Raptors will be small, but if they play with energy and defend they will be in games and will certainly give themselves a chance to win against the likes of New York, Cleveland, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Indiana, Detroit and Washington.

What we do know is that the Raptors are athletic and will better defend the three-point line.

We know that Triano has interchangeable pieces, but none even remotely can be described as high-end.

There’s potential, but there’s also peril.

“We’re learning how to compete at the defensive end better,” Triano added. “We haven’t polished it and nor have we refined it the way we need it to be, but the players have bought into what we’re asking of them, which is good.”

The bad is that the players are still not comfortable in their defensive rotations, a work in progress that ultimately will decide what possible gains can be achieved this season.

Bargnani must step up defensively, be more decisive in knowing when to come with weak-side help and be a better rebounder.

Some questions were answered in the pre-season, areas exposed and strengths revealed, but the true test will soon await.

How this week gets played out will help answer a lot of the unknowns.

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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