Raptors Look to Right the Ship When It Matters Most

John DoeCorrespondent IApril 17, 2008

When the Toronto Raptors are on their game, they can play with any team in the NBA. The thing is, fans of about 15 other NBA teams will tell you the same thing of their team.

Every team in the NBA has its moments. When the three-pointers are falling, when the chemistry’s there, and when you’re truly proud to be a fan.

So what makes my claim different than all these other claims? The Toronto Raptors haven’t had any of those moments yet.

The Raptors have underachieved almost all year long. The lone bright spot on the season was Jose Calderon’s play as a starter from December to March.

Chris Bosh, Anthony Parker, and Rasho Nesterovic have played well, and Jamario Moon’s been a fairly consistent starter and a feel-good story, but as a whole, the Raptors just haven’t clicked like they can.

Andrea Bargnani’s second year has been a tremendous disappointment. Advocates preach patience, and use Nowitzki as an example, but the numbers don’t lie. Andrea’s a bust.

I’m not saying Andrea Bargnani won’t be a solid contributor in the future, but I don’t think he’ll live up to the hopes and dreams so many Raptors fans laid out for him when he was selected with the franchise’s first ever first overall pick.

TJ Ford has been another disappointment this year. While no one doubts his individual talent and athletic ability, his selfishness and lack of court vision are obvious faults. On too many possessions, the undersized guard dribbles the ball for a full 24 seconds before hoisting up a jumper.

Ford’s stats are decent, but the truth is that the team plays better with Calderon as the floor leader.

Players like Jason Kapono, Kris Humphries, Carlos Delfino, and Joey Graham, were unable to find consistent production all season long. They showed bright spots, as all everyone has, but never consistency.

So how could anyone pick the Raptors to make a run in the playoffs? How, after learning of all their aforementioned weaknesses, could anyone even suggest they might slip by the Magic into the team’s second ever second-round appearance?

Not only have the Raptors underachieved all season, but their past month and a half of play has been the worst! They’re in a free-fall, having lost to many of the weaker teams of the East, and having nearly slipped into a playoff matchup against the Pistons or the Celtics!

While the reasons for pessimism are apparent, as a whole, the Raptors have one unique strength: character.

This team is made up of hard-working, classy athletes, who will not go down without a fight. They will not lose a seven-game series to a team whom they’ve spanked on so many occasions over the past two years.

The Raptors are due at Amway Arena at 12:30 on Sunday for the NBA Playoffs. They’re also due for one of those great performances that they’re so capable of but has been just out of their reach all season long.