Monday, September 10, 2007

Top 5

The top 5 Raptor story lines to watch for this year...

1) Defending the Atlantic - Funny how I never thought a divison title meant anything, and obviously still a championship or eastern conference championship is much more important, but I am very much looking forward to seeing how the Raptors do against the much improved Atlantic divison. Even though the Raps won it last year, already everyone is talking about the Celtics and how it is in the bag for them. Or how the Nets will be injury free this year and reclaim what they own. Or how the Knicks will suprise everyone with the one-two punch of Zach and Eddy. No one is giving the Raps any credit. So with the Raps being the underdogs once again, watching the 4 way race for the top spot in the Atlantic is one of the top stories of the year for the Raptors.

2) T.J. vs Jose - T.J. was brought in to be the Steve Nash of this team. And I am not saying that Ford had to play the exact same type of MVP game that Nash is playing, but it was Ford's job to get that ball pushed up the court and get those 10 assists a game. He even got a contract extension before the season started just to say "you are the man for the next few years". Listen to him in interviews in the first 2 months of the season, and you would hear Ford talk about this being "his and Bosh's team". A lot of pride in little engine, so it was nice to see no disruptions when Jose Calderon pick up his play in the second half of the season and at times look like a better version of the "Steve Nash" type of player. Not only was Jose playing well and forcing a time split situation with T.J, but the fans in Toronto let it be known that the preference was towards Jose, not T.J. Read Doug Smith columns at thestar.com once in a while just to see who the peoples choice is. Like I said before, T.J. and Jose are equally important to the team, and we got by last year with both players on the same page. And I have no reason to believe that anything negative will happen this year involving the two players and the egos (and the last year of Jose's contract). But 82 games plus playoffs is a long time.

3) The rise of Andrea Bargnani - A lot rest on this kids shoulders. After a very slow start to the season last year, he picked up his game and consistently got better until his injury in March. Even when he came back in the playoffs, he got better as the series vs. the Nets went on. So the question is "Can Andrea Bargnani take the next step up and play all-star level basketball next year?" I know that some of you will say "come on, it's only his second year and he was not even the rookie of the year last year". I think anyone who watch the Raptors play for any stretch after January last year saw that Bargnani contributed to this teams success (2nd best record in the east after new years) and saw the potential for some serious greatness from the kid. I am not saying he will be an MVP next year, but the improvement he made from the start of the 2006-2007 season till the end shows that it is not taking long for him to match up with the potential he has. And the bottom line is that an improved Bargnani will help make the Raptors one of the teams to beat in the East come April.

4) Is Jason Kapono worth it? - Really, who cares right now. If a few years from now, we need a free agent to help out and we can't get it because it is being wasted on Kapono, then we care. But if Kapono can come in and knock down the 3's like he did in Miami then hopefully he can appear worth the 5.5 million and this whole thing won't be an issue. It is not much of an issue right now, our Lord and Saviour Bryan Colangelo has already gained our trust, but if Kapono is not shooting over 40% from the 3pt line, then the slight backlash against him might start. Kapono will more then likely be a starter come November, so the spotlight will be on him.

5) The fans for the Raptors - Since the departure of Vince Carter, Toronto Raptor fans were a dieing breed. Losing season after losing season made it tough to get behind the Raps. Toronto is already hockey town, so having a successful Raptors franchise is even more important in keeping basketball relevant in the city. But I think what we started to notice last year, and will notice more going forward, is that the international growth of basketball and the influence on the Raptors team with the international players we have, is growing a much more passionate fan base for this team. Now we have people coming to games with Spain Flags and Italy flags and Slovenia flags. Last year I remember hearing more then a few times the entire 20,000 fans at the ACC singing "Joooose, Jose, Jose, Jose...Jose...Jose,Jose" like it was a soccer game. When Garbo hit a three pointer, the P.A. guy at the ACC gave out a "uno, douce, tres". Eventually it caught on where the crowd always finished that with the "Tres" part. The passion has grown here in Toronto. It helped that the Leafs had a horrible year last year and put more spotlight on the successful franchise. But this season, the Leafs should make the playoffs at the very least. The Raptors might not be as successful this season. How are the fans going to react? What if the Raps do well? How much crazier will it be? It was a very special atmosphere in game one vs the Nets at the ACC. I told many people that the first 20 minutes, from the singing on the national anthems were the crowd cheered for the U.S. anthem in a beautiful sign of respect not often seen in sports, to the ovation Jorge Garbajosa got when he hopped his way out to the bench, to the announcement of the starting line-ups and tip-off, it was all very surreal and wonderful. And the Raptor fans that we have here in Toronto helped make that experience what it was. As long as the Raptors staying above 500, I got a feeling that the fans are going to help make it even more special this year.

2 comments:

Tunez said...

uno, dos, tres.....

Mad Child said...

thank you tunez, I knew I should have reread that posting