Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Steve Nash-A Raptor Some day?

Last weekend, the Toronto Raptors hosted the Phoenix Suns. Included in the Suns' all star lineup is the greatest Canadian basketball player ever to set foot on a court, Steve Nash. Although he was born in South Africa, he came to Canada as a child, and has played for the Canadian side in international play for many years. He is fiercely Canadian.

Though short handed, the Raptors played gallantly up to the final buzzer. The fans rose to their feet near the end of the game to spur their team on to victory. Alas, Nash and the Spurs had other ideas at that point. He whipped a pin-point pass to an uncovered Amar’e Stoudemire at the fringe of the basket for an easy two points. Nash drove the lane unmolested for a couple more.

In a matter of thirty seconds, the game was out of reach, and the Raptors had again come close, but with no cigar. They are wounded, to be sure. Kapono had the flu, Calderon is nursing a tender hamstring muscle, and O’Neal has an injured right knee. There is also an element of controversy surrounding Jermaine O’Neal, the hulking star who came to the Raptors at the beginning of the season. O’Neal has not met expectations for the Raptors, and rumours have him moving to Miami.

Herbie Kuhn, the energetic Raptor announcer mentioned that January 30th is Jermaine O’Neal “Bobble Head Day” at the Air Canada Centre. The marketing crew for the Raptors will be wringing their hands at this point. If he does get traded, they could substitute shares in Nortel as a gift to all the fans.

Louis Amundson is playing in his second year for the Suns. He is a California boy, and played his college ball at Las Vegas. He told me he got a touch of the Canadaian winter the day before the game. “We went to a charity event organized for Steve Nash. I went outside for a little while. I could not believe the snow you have, and the cold.”

After the game, Nash was asked about his knack for finding open men on the floor. He chuckled, referring to his teammates: “We’ve got a lot of mouths to feed here.” He ended the game with 18 assists, his high mark for the season.

While savouring the win, Nash had some sympathy for his friend Jay Triano, coach of the Raptors. “I’m sad for him because I thought he did a great job. Guys enjoy playing for him. It’s such a great day for me to come back here and get such a nice reception from the fans.”

Nash figures he’s got at least three good years left in the game. He does suffer with a nagging back on occasion, but indicated it is not a problem at this time. “I feel as good as I have ever felt. I’ve never really thought about playing for Toronto. But it would be a dream come true for me. I love what the team has done here for basketball. If I had to move, Toronto would be on the top of the list.”

The English-speaking reporters scurried off to get some quick quotes from Shaquille O’Neal. Nash then continued to answer questions-in Spanish. His wife grew up in Paraguay, which would be an incentive for him to pick up the language. Incidentally, he had a good grasp of the language. He listened intently to each question, and went from there. He uses funds from one of his endorsements to help finance an intensive care, post operative, paediatric cardiology ward in a Paraguayan hospital.

Coach Terry Porter recognized that Bosh and Bargnani were the keys to the Raps’ success. After the game he indicated that his game strategy was to make both of them work hard. “I wanted our guys to only give them tough shots.” He also knew that “they (the Raptors) were wounded, but they really gutted it out.”

Coach Triano has his work cut out for him. His record has been dismal since taking over from Sam Mitchell. A coach is only as successful as the players on the floor. Hopefully, the raptors will pick it up as the season draws to a close. I hope he asked Santa for a few more points in the paint.

James Hurst

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