Tuesday, May 06, 2014


Tooronto Basketball 2014

The Toronto Raptors certainly captured the imagination of their die-hard fans, and a larger group of casual fans last week. They played a tight series in the first round of the National Basketball Association championships, losing 104-103 to the Brooklyn Nets in the seventh and deciding game. It ignited the interest in the game on a national basis. You will recall that basketball was tested on the West Coast, in the form of the Vancouver Grizzlies a few years ago. That franchise now rests in Memphis, leaving the Raptors as the only game in town.



My friend and basketball insider Grant Freestone attended one of those playoff games in Toronto. He was ecstatic with the frenzy surrounding the game. “The square outside the Air Canada Centre was packed with fans. Most of the estimates were in the ten thousand range. They lived and died with every basket. The atmosphere in the Centre was electric. And incredibly noisy too, I might add.



He also noted the behaviour of two of the veterans on the Nets, a certain Mr. Kevin Garnett and a Mr. Paul Pierce. They did not shut up the entire game. They spend the time nattering away at the opposition in an attempt to break concentration. I realize that happens in all sports, at various levels. In the NBA, it has become a science, and Garnett and Pierce each have their doctorates. They work under the direction of Coach Jason Kidd, sometimes known to be argumentative.



The Raptors are a young group, and that likely influenced the final result. One of their best players, Kyle Lowry hobbled through the last few games. Lowry is an experienced player, having spent time with the Grizzlies and the Rockets. He is an accomplished point guard, always ready to assist other shooters.



He was also asked to shoot the last shot of the game for the Raps, a shot that would have moved them into the second round of the playoffs against the Miami Heat. That organization puts Dwayne Wade and LeBron James on the floor, two of the very best in the game. They also field Chris Bosh, a former Raptor who skipped out to find fame and fortune in America. There was a distinct bad taste left in the mouths of the Raptor nation when he left, with just cause. That would have been an incredible matchup. Maybe next year.


 I would like to tip my cap to commentator Jack Armstrong for his coverage of the game. He fills the gaps with an incredible array of basketball lingo, and educates the fan on the immediate situation with ease. When there were 25 seconds left in the game, with the season on the line, he pointed out the number of timeouts each team had remaining. That is critical information in a basketball game, as the last 25 seconds on the clock can often feel like they last forever. He told us that the Nets’ Livingston had a difficult shot especially since he was playing in “a hostile environment on the road”. He sunk it easily.


Jack took us through the final seconds, relating that the Nets used some taller players, for rebounding purposes: “They’ve got a lot of length on the floor”. One of the Nets hit a shot with “a good quick trigger”. The Raptors Terrance Ross got caught in the corner with the ball, with seconds remaining, but had the presence of mind to slam the ball of the leg of a Net, sending it out of bounds to give the Raps possession. “You know you will have to make a major play under duress,” he told us as the clock ticked down. He wanted the Raps to try a shot that might result in a rebound, “so you can get the put back opportunity as well”. To no avail.



Kyle Lowry got stuffed in the lane with no time remaining, and the season ended, just like that. Unfortunately, the long-established custom of players shaking hands after a game is long gone in the NBA. There is little respect in that regard as well.



At least 25 sponsors got mention during the telecast. They are paying big bucks, and television is the engine that drives the train in professional sport today. Salaries, arenas, whatever. Part of the great excitement of professional basketball today.



James Hurst


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