Raptors bit by injury bug

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:18 PM ET

It was not the type of sight that instils a lot of confidence.

The Raptors have the Los Angeles Lakers in town for one of those early Sunday matinees today. The Lakers are coming off a win over the Philadelphia 76ers, their fifth victory in six games on a seven-game road trip that ends in Toronto.

But what has Raptors coach Jay Triano shaking his head is not the prospect of finding a way to slow down Kobe Bryant and company — although that is there too — but the reality that Saturday’s practice was all but a non-event because of the 14 players on his roster, only seven were healthy enough to practise.

The list of those unable to practise yesterday included Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon, Amir Johnson, Leandro Barbosa, Sonny Weems, Reggie Evans and Peja Stojakovic.

With the exception of Evans and Stojakovic, all have a very good chance of playing against the Lakers but were sufficiently nicked up on Saturday that it made no sense to subject them to any more potential harm.

Bargnani is dealing with left knee and right ankle problems and will be a game-time decision.

Watching Calderon make the walk from the weight room where he had been getting some cardio work done on the bike to the gym exit where the media awaited his arrival, Calderon moved remotely faster than the 84-year-old security guard who sat on the other side of that door.

Every step seemed to be more of a chore than the last, but Calderon made it sound like the prospect of missing Sunday’s game hadn’t even occurred to him.

“I feel better than I expected I would after Friday’s game,” Calderon said. “I twisted my ankle Friday as well and I was compensating a little bit because of the (sore left foot). It was just a little one in the second quarter but I woke up pretty good and we got some work in. We’ll see how it’s going to be Sunday but right now it looks pretty good.”

As much as we all enjoyed watching Jerryd Bayless attack the basket with impunity in Calderon’s absence, this team needs a veteran directing its offence to be most effective.

You only have to look at the basket that turned out to be the game-winner to see Calderon’s value. He drove the paint, sucked in the defence, and then without missing a beat made the pass back to DeMar DeRozan where the help defence had come from. DeRozan had a free lane to the basket and slammed home the winning points.

That’s what experience does for you. Calderon wasn’t worried about beating his man. As soon as he saw the defender leave DeRozan to help on him, he made the pass.

As big as that play was, ensuring Bargnani got the majority of touches was probably even more pivotal.

“You have to be able to see everything,” Calderon said. “Sometimes you have two or three guys who are hot at once and you still have to get everybody the ball. But Andrea is our guy. We need him to score and to get more involved than anybody. Sometimes you just have to realize that if it’s three up and downs and he hasn’t touched it, you have to go to him. It’s not just his scoring but we need their defence to be aware of him (which opens up the floor for his teammates).”

Again, something that comes second nature to a veteran but something that has to be learned by a younger player.

While Triano couldn’t give his club the physical workout, the day wasn’t a total loss. He did take the opportunity presented to address some bad habits he has seen creeping into his team.

Case in point was a play at the conclusion of the third quarter Friday night that had the normally in-control Triano physically pulling his players into an impromptu huddle as they left the court and berating them for a lack of effort.

The play in question came immediately following a New Jersey basket. The Raptors had 3.6 seconds remaining in the quarter but instead of making a concerted effort to get one more good opportunity, settled for a half-court shot.

“We stood and watched DeMar take a shot from half court so today I put Alex English under the basket,” Triano began. “I put Alvin Williams at midcourt. I stood at the other end and Scott Roth entered the basketball. After we showed video tape of what they had done I said: ‘Watch.’ Scott to Jay, Jay to Alvin, Alvin to Alex who scored 25,000 points in this league and we did it in 2.8 seconds. I just told them that’s a much better shot even if we don’t make it than DeMar shooting from behind centre. I just thought we quit on the quarter.”

That type of quit and an increasing penchant for whining to a referee over a missed call when the opposition is headed up court with the ball were both addressed. Triano is hopeful that even the young Raptors eventually understand they can’t afford to give any opposition that type of advantage.

mike.ganter@sunmedia.ca


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