ORLANDO — Scottie Barnes cracked the window open just a little bit wider than he normally does on Saturday afternoon.
Following a game in which his defensive focus and intensity wasn’t up to his head coach’s liking and eventually got him an early seat on the bench in the third quarter along with rookie Christian Koloko, Barnes conceded he wasn’t as active as he had been in some previous games.
But while conceding that, he also tried to explain why that was the case.
“They shot probably, like, 67% from the floor, so there wasn’t enough rebounds to be able to push,” he explained. “I would say that’s one of the main reasons. I don’t know. I’ve just got to try to stay active defensively. Pascal had a good night yesterday. The ball was in his hands more. He was being able to score the ball at a good pace and doing the things on offence. I’ve just got to stick to it on defence, playing better defensively. Every night’s not my night. Some nights it’s other people’s night. Last night it was Pascal’s night. Pascal had a great game. So I’ve just got to be more active defensively.”
Barnes and the rest of the Raptors were in line for a leisurely off day Saturday, likely limited to some film work and perhaps optional shooting, but the woeful defensive performance Friday night in that 113-109 loss to Orlando changed the schedule.
Instead the team was bused to Freedom High School, a short drive from their Orlando-area resort ,where they did both filmwork and were run through a rather lengthy practice to work out some of the kinks that have crept into their game.
Barnes is well aware he’s being singled out for a lot of what ails the team right now. He’s willing to take his share for the defensive woes, but on the offensive end, Barnes says there are circumstances people aren’t taking into account when the finger is pointed solely his way.
“So, sometimes people look at scoring, I feel like, a lot,” Barnes said. “But at the end of the day we have a lot of different scorers on our team. O.G. (Anunoby) can score the ball. Fred (VanVleet) can score the ball. Pascal (Siakam) can score the ball. Gary (Trent Jr.) can score the ball. Chris Boucher can score the ball.
“So sometimes it’s not my night to have the ball,” he said. “That’s the main thing people look at. (But) I impact the game in different ways. It’s not just about scoring. We have a lot of different scorers on the team. So, every night’s just not going to be your night. Unless you’re probably Pascal. He knows how to put that ball in the basket. So, every night’s going to be Pascal’s night.”
Barnes does not agree with the notion that he is having any less fun playing the game this year than he did a year ago.
“Me personally, I’m having a lot of fun,” Barnes said. “I’m having a great amount of fun. You guys probably don’t think that. But I feel like I have a lot of fun out there every time I step on the floor.
“I’m not worried about what’s happening,” he said of some heightened criticism both of the team and of him lately. “I feel like we’re going to be good. We’re just still fixing things, still got to better on both ends of the floor, get the party moving on the offensive end and just keep sticking to our defence, guarding the ball and playing our brand of basketball that we usually play.”
When it’s suggested it doesn’t look from the outside like Barnes is indeed having much fun, the sophomore bristles just a little bit.
“I don’t know how I look,” he said. “I know how I feel when I’m out there on the floor. I can be focussed and still have fun at the same time. I feel like I’m having fun. I guess you guys can say differently. I’m focussed on the floor, trying to win games.”
The truth of the matter is it doesn’t matter much what the media or even the public says about a player. It comes down to what team management and the coaching staff think and traditionally that message is delivered by when and how much a player sees the floor.
Nurse mentioned post-game Saturday that he might have to consider playing with his starting lineup again, as he did a little over a week ago, given the poor starts in games of late, a decision that could very well impact Barnes. Asked again about that on Saturday Nurse was non-committal.
“Maybe,” Nurse said of a change. “I don’t know if that will cause it again. We just got to make sure we get through the health part of everything here Saturday and Sunday so we have the decisions to make, so again it’s kind of always wait and see.”
It was revealed after practice that Anunoby, one of only two players to appear in every Raptors’ game this season, is no longer a certainty to play in Sunday’s game. The NBA steals leader came down with a sore left hip on Saturday and is questionable to play in the second game with Orlando in three nights on Sunday.
That might be the worst news a team struggling to find its defensive footing could ask for given how important Anunoby has been to the Raptors’ defence.
Anunoby is expected to get looked over by the Raptors’ medical people before a decision on his availability for Sunday is confirmed.