Raptors Opening Night Brings Optimism, Old Friends, and the King

Dannie HaynesContributor IAugust 24, 2009

TORONTO,ON - APRIL 24:  Chris Bosh #4 of the Toronto Raptors shows his excitment against the Orlando Magic in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on April 24, 2008 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario. The Raptors defeated the Magic 108-94. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

While opening night is still two months away, Raptors fans can’t help but look ahead in anticipation at what could be one of the finest Raptors squads assembled. On October 28, 2009, we shall see if all of Bryan Colangelo’s roster changes can mesh together to create a winning basketball team.

The ACC will no doubt be packed for the arrival of the King, LeBron James, and his new bodyguard, Shaquille O’Neal.

The Cavaliers were the best team in the NBA last year, but choked in the playoffs. They will be out to prove that last season was no fluke, and will be on their quest to “win a ring for the King” as Shaq puts it.

This game will also mark the return of some old friends, as Jamario Moon and Anthony Parker are now sporting a different kind of red in Cleveland. Both bring a defensive presence that the Cavs were missing last year, and should help to limit the damage newly acquired Raptor Hedo Turkoglu should bring.

The Raptors starting five of Bargnani, Bosh, Turkoglu, Wright, and Calderon, should match up nicely with the Cavs, who counter with Shaq, Varejao, James, Parker, and Williams.

While the Cavs should have the advantage, Shaq and Bargs will have trouble guarding each other, as will Williams and Calderon.

Turkoglu will have different defenders thrown at him throughout the night, as will James.

Parker and Wright will be looked at to provide tough defence, and hit the occasional open jumper.

The Bosh/Varejao matchup is completely one-sided, but Varejao should put up a fight defensively.  

This game should come down to the production of the bench, something that Raptors fans have questioned in recent years. That is where Colangelo’s offseason acquisitions really come into play, as the bench is composed of entirely new players.

Rasho Nesterovic, Jarrett Jack, Reggie Evans, Demar DeRozan, and Marco Belinelli will be the main players off the bench for the Raps, and provide much of the defence the starters’ lack.

DeRozan will be expected to come off the bench at first, and ease his way into the starting line-up.

Belinelli is a great three-point shooter who will provide instant offense, as well as the occasional careless mistake. 

Evans, Jack, and Rasho will be in there for toughness, defence, and experience, and should help guide the second unit.

Cleveland’s bench is much thinner, with Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Daniel Gibson, Jamario Moon, and Delonte West being the only legitimate options coming in.

All four of these players were starters in the past, however, and all have the experience and knowledge to be a factor in this game.

In the end, for Raptors fans this game is not about a win or a loss. This game is a testament to the Raptor faithful, as well as franchise player Chris Bosh, that things have changed in Toronto.

The Raptors will no longer be looked over, and should have a very successful year this upcoming season.

Will they win the Championship? Very unlikely, but they will return to the playoffs in April, and that will make Raptors fans very happy.

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