When the curtain is drawn on October 29, it will not only mark the beginning of another Raptors campaign, but also the start of the Jose Calderon era in Toronto.
The departure of TJ Ford via a mid-June trade has officially made Calderon the number-one man at the number one position—and while optimism is high in the T-Dot, there may because for concern. The point guard spot for the Raptors hasn't exactly been the most steady position since the franchise's inception—and if you want proof, look no further:
The man known as Mighty Mouse was the Raptors fans' first glimpse at an NBA star—and subsequently, the first chance to have our collective hearts ripped out and trampled on while they ran out of town. (No, I'm not bitter!)
After lighting things up in Toronto during his first two seasons (averages of 19 and nine with a Rookie of the Year award in '95-'96), Stoudamire would ask for a trade in his third year, after then-GM Isiah Thomas left the team due to an ownership dispute.
While traditional thinking would say that losing your team's best player and the face of the franchise would actually be a small price to pay for ridding yourself of Isiah Thomas, the trade was a major setback for the Raps.
Stoudamire ended up in Portland, along with Walt Williams and Carlos Rogers—while the Raps received a package that featured Kenny Anderson, Alvin Williams, Gary Trent and a slew of draft picks.
If there's a silver lining in this deal, it's that Stoudamire insisted on pulling off a travelling Cheech and Chong routine with Rasheed Wallace for the next fove years, and his stats declined.
Nevertheless, Stoudamire was arguably the best PG we've ever had, and the whole situation seemed to start a long string of problems at the point=guard position.
The aforementioned Anderson—who was the main player coming back in the Stoudamire trade—would refuse to report to Toronto, and was shipped to Boston shortly thereafter.
Anderson was averaging 12 and five at the time of the deal and would have definitely helped fill the void left by Stoudamire. But the part that really grinds my gears about this fiasco is how a GM could trade for a player who has absolutely no desire to even step foot in his city.
Aren't these the type of things you should be looking into if you're running an NBA Franchise? Was Glen Grunwald all out of daytime minutes or something? Are we sure Isiah Thomas wasn't still running things at this point?
Anyway, the Raptors would close out the '97-98 campaign with Chauncey Billups running the point, who we got from Boston for Kenny Anderson.
You know Chauncey, right? Mr. Big Shot. Three-time All-Star with a Finals MVP in his trophy case. Well, he averaged 11 and three for the Raps and would sign with Denver during the off-season. Oh, and the Raptors finished 16-66. Shoot me.
Let me preface this by saying that Boogie Williams was, and always will be, one of my favorite Raptors ever. Thrown in the Damon Stoudamire deal as an afterthought, Williams would slowly work his way up the rotation over the next four years, enduring himself to Raptors fans with his work ethic and toughness along the way.
He was the unsung hero of the Raptors' best team to date—the 2000-01 squad that was one shot away from reaching the Eastern Conference Finals. That summer, Williams would re-sign with the Dino' long-term, along with Antonio Davis, Jerome Williams, and Wince Carter.
It was a great time to be a Raptors fan—the team had a solid core locked up and things were looking great. Well, you know what else looked great? The first few seconds of "2 girls, 1 cup."
Over the next three seasons, the team's wins would shrink and the list of disgruntled Raptors would grow. And our man Boogie? His body would fall apart at the seams. He missed a third of the '03-04 season, the entire '04-05 campaign, and appeared in only one game in '05-06 before shutting it down again, essentially ending his career.
Williams never had the stats or shine that some of his prima donna predecessors did, but he was a guy that you felt comfortable going to battle with—and his sudden deterioration was a serious punch in the stomach for the Raptors.
After securing prized GM Bryan Colangelo, Toronto's first big move was the acquisition of T.J. Ford from Milwaukee, in exchange for Charlie Villanueva. Initially criticized by NBA pundits for violating the golden basketball rule of "Never trade big for small," the deal would pay immediate dividends, as the Raptors raced to their first ever Atlantic Division title the next year.
Ford excelled in his new surroundings, posting 14 ppg and eight apg. Could the Raptors have finally found a long-term solution at the point guard spot, a decade after the initial Stoudamire saga? Ummm, no.
Ford would have his '07-08 season derailed by a string of unfortunate injuries, and the emergence of Calderon in his absence set up a point guard controversy that—while downplayed by players, Mitchell, and Colangelo alike—was obviously a huge issue.
After waiting 10 years for a point guard that we felt comfortable moving forward with, we now had two—and that in itself became a huge distraction. Even when we won, we were losers in the end. Shoot me.
The Spanish Sensation enters the season with the keys to the team firmly in his hand.
The result? We'll have to wait and see, but at this point the only thing that would surprise me is if Calderon keeps playing at a high level for more than a year. I hope I'm surprised.