The Toronto Raptors are supposed to be an effort-first team but inconsistent energy has plagued the team all season long
Ask any Toronto Raptors player and he'll tell you he's working hard. Everyone on the team is putting in the maximum effort every time he takes the court. It's not just for wins and losses, but there are millions of dollars on the line for almost every player on the roster.
"I think guys are working hard. I think we are all working hard," said Pascal Siakam when the topic of effort was brought up following Sunday's practice.
And yet, something isn't adding up. The effort is there but the byproduct of that effort in terms of energy and focus has failed to appear far too often this season. It's been one of the biggest issues plaguing this underperforming Raptors team. After a three-game stretch in which the team looked good "energy-wise," as Raptors coach Nick Nurse put it, the team lost its mojo again in a lackluster performance against the Atlanta Hawks.
“I dunno. That’s a good question," Nurse said Sunday discussing the team's inconsistent effort. "I don’t really have an answer for you.”
That's the answer you'll get from almost everyone when it comes to the team's inconsistent effort.
"I don't know," Precious Achiuwa said on the same topic. "I think it’s just not paying attention to details. Think we get carried away sometimes. We’ve just got to be more locked in to what we try to do here."
The problem is effort is almost impossible to measure. As Nurse admitted Sunday, the team has accountability numbers it uses to quantify energy but those don't tell the full story.
Regardless of what the stats say, Raptors don't have the wiggle room to be having these conversations. It's their effort, energy, focus, and cohesiveness that's supposed to make up for whatever talent deficiencies they have compared to the rest of the league. When they found success last year it was because they were winning on the margins. They grabbed offensive rebounds at a rate like few other teams in the league and outran their opponents in transition at both ends of the court.
This year, effort, energy, focus, or whatever you want to call it has been the talking point almost non-stop. Nurse has repeatedly questioned it during the team's extended rut, most notably calling the team's effort "unacceptable" after a blowout loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. But nothing has changed.
"Do they need some extra prodding? Heck yes they do," said Nurse. "That’s what happens when you’re in a long season. They still get here and work very hard both individually and as a team, all that kind of stuff.
"There’s just been a few too many nights where there doesn’t seem to be a collective energy when we hit the floor. That happens."
Fixing it comes with no obvious answer. Every lever has been pulled, every tactic deployed, and whatever is missing from this team hasn't appeared nearly consistently enough. With less than a month to go before the trade deadline and over half the season in the books, Toronto is running out of options and it's clear frustrations are on the rise.
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