The Best And Worst The Toronto Raptors Could Be
Like a new strain of disease, or biological warfare, the GM's in the off season are trying to concoct the deadliest Basketball weapon known to man. All of these Basketball scientists stare at the photos, watch the tapes, consult with their teams, see who else they can add that will bolster the sheer killing power of their lineups.
I'm watching the fandom from some teams that are doomed to the bottom fifteen. They're screaming at the walls because their GM's seem like they are in a South Island somewhere getting greased down by beautiful almond-eyed women.
Maybe occasionally checking their pagers to make sure that their TiVo is still recording the summer reruns that they missed during the season.
The scribes and fans that line the streets in these cities are getting angry. Some of this animosity that I'm seeing is channeled towards the Raps. Some of it is obvious jealousy because MyColangelo, is taking a finger painting and turning it in to the Sistine Chapel (not really but I couldn't resist the metaphor).
The truth being that he has created some really interesting things out of thin air, and people are noticing.
Almost every article I read is screaming at their own monitor about how the Raps will suck because they have to suck...because they're CANADIAN! That's part of it. And the fact that a lot of the Raptors players are European in origin.
"Those damn Europeans are soft, and they make the Raptors softer." Don't get me wrong, some of these articles make very valid arguments about how the Raps have been a defensively deficient squad ever since the yawning year of Kevin O'Neill (let's never do that again).
They very validly point out that a lot of the Raptors players aren't very athletic, and don't spend enough time attacking the basket. They point out that for the lion share of last season, Calderon couldn't have defended against a girl scout pulling a wagon of cookies, because he had the lateral quicks of Roseanne Barr.
You can hear their microscope focusing purely on the Negative potential of the team. Every now and then they will begrudgingly give some ho hum credit to Bosh. But never leave that point before stating they think he's overrated. And then two sentences later talk with baited breath about how Bosh will leave Toronto for their team next year.
The Raps will be better next season. But how much better.
WORST CASE SCENARIO
Regardless of the fact that Colangelo has gone out of his way to construct a team of solid citizens, it's always a crap shoot to see who will get on board and constructively contribute to the identity of what's being created.
Does Jarret Jack decide in his heart before he gets here that he wants to supplant Calderon in the starting line up? Maybe Bosh has made up his mind that he will test free agency next summer and worries only about his personal stats, creating a culture of resentment on the court. How will rookie Derozan find himself, not being the offensive center piece of a team?
There are a lot of scenarios where meltdowns become inevitable. Like any team that is creatively restructuring itself.
Calderon's hamstring. Bosh's knee. Bargnani, Turkoglu...anybody can go down in a single moment changing the momentum of a season. Again, just like any other team out there.
The Raps will be far more capable to withstand those injuries because the bench is so much deeper this year. Last year the bench was a bit of a farce, particularly at point guard(arguably the most important position on the floor).
But if we have a reoccurence of last year, where we lost our big three for extended time then regardless of the depth we're fighting for eighth, with some of the teams that didn't do much this off season.
And Bosh leaves...and the suicide watch begins.
BEST CASE SCENARIO
Jack and Bosh played and roomed together for a year in college and are great friends. Bargnani and Bellinelli have played together for four or five years on the Team Italia.
Turkoglu is a glue guy who seems to define himself by his high IQ and ability to make everybody better on the floor. Rasho has lived and played here before and will find his role comfortable as a back up defensive center and teacher of Bargs.
Triano, after being the great facilitator of chemistry for the young bucks of team USA, brings a little of that home. He plugs into what he has and tempers his vision accordingly. With his unbeatable knowledge of the international game, getting the most out of those players should be easy.
If this team is lucky enough to stay healthy for a large part of the season then they have a real chance of developing an identity which could create nightmare scenarios for other teams. I just look at all the match ups this team can throw out there. It becomes a very versatile series of weapons because of that.
Toughness, and hungry competitive drive. The Raps have become the nice guys of the NBA. Oh please come in to our building and kick our asses. Then we'll laugh about it and get a drink later.
I want to see a team that takes losing personally. Who has they're collective eye on the prize. Who spends a little less time shaking hands and hugging and a little more time incurring the occasional technical because they knocked somebody out of the paint. Not dirty plays, but hard plays. Get Don Cherry in there for a practice or two (not really).
A team that hasn't played together needs to develop a playoff mentality on the fly. They need to risk the fouls by playing with a playoff intensity during different parts of the regular season. There's no way this team will just be able to turn on that type of intensity during the playoffs. It will not happen.
They need a few of those scramble for the ball, Sam Mitchell exercises, where the occasional bloody lip and swollen eye happens while grabbing a rebound. Ah, rebounds, those would be nice.
If they can exhibit that kind of toughness, they will surprise a lot of teams that will expect the exact opposite.
Colangelo has done a masterful job of resurrecting this teams potential. But as the great sports guru Forest Gump once said, "Potential is, as potential does."
I agree with a lot of the points that the critics have with the new Raps. I also think that some of the time they are choosing to be cynically myopic. Deciding that a statistic is a defining characteristic of a player without applying any context whatsoever.
And their glass half empty analysis can sound like weird, culturally-based spilled milk.
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