Tuesday, March 18, 2008


The Raptors are Comin' Home-Thankfully!

The Raptors western road trip has finally come to a close, thank goodness.

Expectations were not terribly high when they boarded the plane at Pearson. They even wore green uniforms to close out the trip in Utah, to no avail. They fell to the Jazz, 96-79. Thus ended a somewhat miserable journey. “Six days on the road and I’m gonna make it home tonight” likely ran through the heads of the entire team as they limped back into Toronto.

Prior to that defeat, they had gone winless in the previous four games on the road-understandably so. The Western Conference continues to be touted as the place to come from in the NBA this year. All of the pundits predict the crown will be worn by one of those teams when the season wraps up.

The Raptors will enter the playoff fray, but it is still up in the air as to where they will finish. This will be the fifth time in their brief history that they have been involved in post season play.

In 2000, they lost in three straight to the New York Knicks. Those were the days of Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and company. The Knicks boasted a kid named Camby, with Patrick Ewing on the cusp of his career, and Allan Houston. Some talent there!

In 2001, the Raptors knocked off the Knicks and faced the Seventy-Sixers in the Eastern Conference semi-final. In game seven, with 2.2 seconds remaining, Vince Carter clunked a shot off the iron to dash further playoff hopes for the Raptors.

The Raptors lost the fifth and final game to the Detroit Pistons in 2002. Toronto led by four points in the fourth quarter with less than four minutes remaining, but could not maintain the led.

Las year, the Toronto squad fell to the New Jersey Nets in six games. They did not win a game at the Continental Airlines Arena all year. Rest assured, it also smarted a little considering that Vince Carter led the way for the Nets, after quitting on the Raptors.

In 2003, the Raptors drafted Noel and Freida Bosh’s boy. Chris was an early entry candidate out of Georgia Tech, spending only one season there. Prior to that he won “Mr. Basketball” honours in his home state of Texas, leading his Lincoln high school team to a 40-0 record.

Bosh is expected to return to the lineup soon, and none too soon. His presence has been sorely missed in the centre of the court. Another giant from Slovenia who stands seven feet tall, Rasho Nesterovic, has done a most capable job filling in for Bosh; however, there are a few extras that Bosh gives the Raptors when he is on the court. Nesterovic has been in the league nine years, and benefits from his experience. When he is on the floor, he will, in basketball terms, “take what the opposition defence is willing to give”. In other words, he knows how to burn the opponent for its ineptitude.

The Toronto Raptors will achieve success for years to come. A major factor in their quest for a championship comes from clever management. Bryan Colangelo has a number of official titles listed in the Raps media guide. But the bottom line is that he knows the game, and knows talent. He guided the team in the selection of Andea Bargnani as the Number One Draft Pick, and has seen the fortunes of the team rise dramatically since his arrival.

There are a number of roundball clichés that make sense for all hoopsters. Stay between your man and the basket when playing defence. Make the easy pass. Look for the open shot. Run hard. Get in a zone. No cheap fouls. When playing defence, deny, deny, deny. Keep your mouth shut.

The Raptors have fifteen games remaining this year, nine at home. There will be movement in the ranks of the teams in their division; nonetheless, there will be post season basketball in Toronto this year. Hopefully, plenty of it.

Many of the games are covered on most of the television networks. Leo Rautins and Chuck Swirsky handle the telecasts with vivid and intelligent accounts. Enjoy!

For more detailed information about the team, get yourself the team media guide, pictured above. On the cover: Parker, Bosh, Ford, Bargnani, and Jose Calderon.

James Hurst

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