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News » D shoe's on the other foot

D shoe's on the other foot

D shoe's on the other foot Jarrett Jack, the Raptors guard, made the most talked-about play of Toronto's season on Saturday night: In the final moments of the third quarter in a blowout win in Chicago, Jack stood at the top of the key, tucked the ball under his arm and bent over to tie his right shoe.

As he did, the clock kept running - which is more than you could say for the Chicago defence. Jack began re-lacing his black Nike with 14 seconds to go, and when he stood up to resume quarterbacking the offence, there were about six seconds left. In the intervening eight ticks, the Bulls, down 27 points, did little but glance blankly at each other.

"I saw (the Bulls) were kind of confused on defence. I was like, 'Hey, why don't I just get my shoe together while they're trying to get their defence together,'" Jack said Monday.

For a Toronto team that has been labelled the worst defence in the NBA - heck, they've been on pace to be the worst defence in NBA history - it must have been nice to see somebody else's D being mocked for a change, to hear somebody else's coach, in this case Chicago's Vinny Del Negro, calling a lay-down "not acceptable."

Riding a two-game win streak on the back of a five-game losing skid that led to an hour-long air-clearing on Friday, the Raptors are suddenly showing signs of cutthroat engagement. And while there are those waiting to gauge the longer haul - "Don't give us the title too soon," said Jack - there have been hints of palatable change.

Even coach Jay Triano's chief locker-room critic, veteran swingman Antoine Wright, has been improving his reviews - this as Wright has improved his play in the wake of Friday's team-meeting gut check.

"Coach is coaching us differently now. He's pointing out guys on tape and just holding guys accountable," said Wright. "And you can see other guys getting on guys."

Wright said Hedo Turkoglu, the soft-spoken forward, has even raised his voice.

"(Turkoglu) has been very vocal these last couple of days about what he wants from (Andrea) Bargnani and what he wants from (Marco) Belinelli. That's just been helping us a lot. Turks is talking. ... We need him to get those guys on track when we can't connect with 'em," said Wright.

The division Wright spoke of - he and other American-born Raptors have referred to the club's European players as "those guys," among other descriptors - is real, but not unworkable. And there are those who continue to reach out. On Monday, as practice was winding down, Italy's Belinelli swapped soccer kicks with Memphis's Sonny Weems.

"Where I'm from, we don't play soccer," said Weems. "(But) I love watching soccer, especially during the World Cup."

Bridges, indeed, can be built - and, if the coach deems it necessary, burned. Triano said he is well aware that, although he spent his first seven seasons with the Raptors a back-patting assistant coach, his duties as the head coach may mandate the occasional lighting of a fire under an old friend.

"I've known Chris (Bosh, the Toronto all-star) and I can tell from him how he's feeling, whether I can kick him in the ass and be a little bit of an ass to him, or whether I have to pat him on the back and bring him in," Triano said. "The nine new players, I'm starting to learn the personalities of these guys and what it takes. Even with my own children, sometimes you have to deal with them in different ways."

Note to the coach: The last Raptor brain who went down that road of reasoning - Rob Babcock, the GM who fancied himself a great mentor to his ball-bouncing young 'uns - isn't a GM anymore. Never compare NBA players to children. They're men, surely. They certainly tie their own shoes.

"You learn your lessons," said Triano. "If I give somebody s - one day and they don't respond for the next month, I've learned a lesson. We'd like to think that everybody's the same and everybody responds to different situations (the same), but that's not the case."

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Added: December 8, 2009


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