Triano's tall order

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New coach has work cut out for him turning around Raptors

Jay Triano will surely be welcomed with boisterous cheers when he's announced as the head coach of the Toronto Raptors when they return home to the Air Canada Centre on Sunday.

But giving the fans a reason to keeping cheering once the honeymoon is over will be a tall order indeed for the Canadian coach.

Jay Triano

Toronto - Jay Triano will surely be welcomed with boisterous cheers when he's announced as the head coach of the Toronto Raptors when they return home to the Air Canada Centre on Sunday.

But giving the fans a reason to keeping cheering once the honeymoon is over will be a tall order indeed for the Canadian coach.

The 50-year-old Triano, who was named interim coach of the Raptors on Wednesday to replace Sam Mitchell, has his work cut out for him, inheriting a team fraught with deficiencies, including - at the top of the list - a ho-hum approach to defence.

The Raptors (8-9) are 27th in the league in rebounding, 26th in field goal percentage by opponents, and 24th in opponents' scoring.

While Mitchell poked and prodded his players to play better defence, it seemed that more often than not they put up a token - read: turnstile - effort.

Triano promises to implement some new defensive schemes, but cautions it could take some time before there are any obvious results.

"There are things that I'm going to put in over the course of time that will be different defensively, but right now it's going to be tweaked here and there until we can get comfortable with our personnel and what we think we can do at the defensive end," Triano said in a conference call Wednesday night.

Triano, along with team GM Bryan Colangelo, would like to see the Raptors run more, which is practically impossible without better defence - it's tough to catch the other team on its heels when every play starts with inbounding the ball.

"Running becomes a mindset and a habit and if it's not enforced and pushed all the time, it's easy to walk the ball up the floor," Triano said. "Conditioning, getting up and down the floor is a mindset we're going to have to try to get instilled in these players. I don't think we're going to see 100 shots go up in the first game with these guys, it's something that is going to take a bit of time."

More flow to the offence would mean less reliance on all-star Chris Bosh, who's logging a career-high 41.4 minutes a night - second in the league only to Golden State's Stephen Jackson.

Toronto acquired Jermaine O'Neal in the off-season to shore up the frontcourt, providing Bosh with some breathing room. But the cost was the backcourt. The Raptors showed their confidence in Jose Calderon, making him the starting point guard when they traded away T.J. Ford for O'Neal, but Calderon has floundered some nights, as opponents are targeting the Spaniard's defensive weaknesses. The team is still missing an adequate backup at the point guard position.

The Raptors are woefully weak at the wing position, with Jamario Moon and Jason Kapono inconsistent at best. Anthony Parker is overmatched on any given night, tasked with guarding the likes of Vince Carter and Kobe Bryant. He's also 33 and not getting any younger.

The sharp-shooting Kapono, meanwhile, seems to have got lost in the Raptors offence, his 7.1 points a game his lowest in three seasons.

Perhaps the easiest fix for Triano will be eliminating the mental lapses that have cost the Raptors games this season - their poor execution down the stretch in the maddening overtime loss to Carter and the Nets, blowing a double-digit lead in the loss at Boston, and the 39-point debacle at Denver on Tuesday that finally cost Mitchell his job.

Organizations: Toronto Raptors, Air Canada Centre

Geographic location: Toronto, Golden, Boston Denver

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