The Toronto Raptors have once again failed to become either an impressively good or unwatchably bad team in the 2023-24 season despite Darko Rajakovic being named head coach in place of Nick Nurse. Even Pascal Siakam is aware of how average this season has been.
Toronto's 9-11 record has featured alternating between impressive upset wins against teams like the Suns and Bucks as well as pitiful losses against teams like the Trail Blazers and Bulls. The Raptors haven't lost more than three games in a row, but they haven't won three straight either.
Rajakovic's idea to help motivate his troops is to dangle a very enticing carrot in front of them, promising to pay for a team dinner if they finally manage to crack that three-win barrier. This has been the object of derision on social media, with some comparing it to a pizza party for little kids.
While rival fans may not like this motivational tactic, what is the harm in this? In a year where a $500,000 In-Season Tournament prize has players making $30 million per season fighting like hell to win games, what's wrong with using a night out on the town as a way to help the team bond?
Don't mock Darko Rajakovic, Toronto Raptors for their winning streak dinner pledge.
Perhaps the main non-schematic reason Rajakovic was hired was his ability to create a positive environment for young players that Nick Nurse's abrasiveness was unable to mold. That's a tall task, considering how quickly last season went sideways.
To give Rajakovic credit, things seem to be generally operating smoothly. It's hard to build a positive environment around nonstop losing, but the locker room festivities after wins have typically been energetic and fun, which is a sharp contrast from the moribund, tense season from last year.
The Raptors are also likely self-motivated enough to try to win without the possibility of a steak dinner at the end of the rainbow. Three of the team's six best players are scheduled to be free agents at the end of the year, on top of the personal pride that needs to come into this.
If this ends up getting Toronto over the proverbial hump, Rajakovic will look like an aboslute genius. Motivation can come in many different forms, and the idea of getting a free meal on the house just by stringing together wins could be enough to galvanize the locker room and string positive results together.