Thus is the reality of being a Toronto Raptors fan in January 2011. A long, drawn out Perry Jones/Kyrie Irving/Harrison Barnes pipe dream. Sure, Andrea Bargnani is averaging over 21 PPG, DeMar DeRozan has stepped up his game in his second year, and Ed Davis has exceeded expectations in his rookie season. Throw in a win in Dallas, a home win against the Celtics. There are some things to get a little excited about, but if you really analyze it, the sum of all the parts equals mediocrity.
The problem about mediocrity in the NBA is it doesn't eventually get you to the playoffs. It doesn't get you a LeBron James or a Blake Griffin. Unlike every other major sport in North America where sneaking into the playoffs could mean a lengthy playoff run and perhaps even a championship, seventh or eighth place in the NBA equals good night. The last NBA No. 8 seed to beat a No. 1 seed was the Golden State Warriors beating the Dallas Mavericks in 2007. The time before that? The New York Knicks beating the Miami Heat in 1999. The last No. 7 seed to beat a No. 2? The same New York Knicks against the same Heat in 1998. The latter is 12 years ago.
The young Raps are improving, but too much, too soon. Here's hope that for the rest of the season, the Raptors improve as much as the Sacramento Kings have in 2010/2011. Quality games such as last night vs. the Hawks should be a regular appearance, but there should be a lot of Raptor fan fist pumping; one similar to last-second three's by Mike Bibby.
At the end of the season, the Toronto Raptors are clearly not going to make the playoffs. All that is really left to be determined is which ping pong ball they get. Here's one time when the smaller the better.