Toronto Raptors' Road Back to Respectability

Stephen Brotherston@@ProBballNBAAnalyst IDecember 8, 2009

ATLANTA - DECEMBER 02:  Chris Bosh #4 of the Toronto Raptors yells to the defense against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on December 2, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Toronto Raptors had a team meeting after a five-game slide and hope to have cleared the air enough to begin a return to respectability in December.

But after going for seven wins and 13 losses to start the season, can the Raptors go 10-3 to close out December one game above .500?

The schedule says, “Yes!”

But the Raptors players and coaches have not proven that they have the “toughness” to take advantage of “soft” spots in the schedule yet.

Before the start of the season, it was predicted by some that the Raptors would have a rough start to the season.  A tough schedule combined with integrating nine new faces led some of us to predict a 7-13 start.  See Brothersteve’s Predictions for the Raptors and Atlantic Division .

The Raptors have won the last two games and those were games they needed to begin their trip back to respectability.

But Toronto has put together successive wins twice before this season and failed to win the important third in a row to begin a true winning streak.

This time it’s reasonable to hope that things are different. And winning streaks are possible because the Raptors next opponents (with current record) are:

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vs. Minnesota Timberwolves 3-17 and 1-8 on the road.

@ Milwaukee Bucks 9-10 and on a three game losing streak.

vs. Atlanta Hawks 14-6.  Raptors may want revenge.  But this is a likely loss.  (Try harder, Raptors!)

vs. Houston 11-9.  The type of good team the Raptors must beat.

@ Miami 11-9.  Another good team the Raptors must beat (again).

@ Orlando16-4.  Expect the Raptors to fall to 0-3

vs. the Magic.

vs. New Jersey 1-19. Enough said!

vs. New Orleans 8-11.  An important home game to win.

@ Detroit 8-12.  Raptors have to beat the teams they are fighting with for a playoff spot!

vs. Detroit 8-12. Raptors need both games here.

vs. Charlotte 8-11.  Revenge game against a team the Raptors can beat!

If the Raptors play up to their potential, eight more wins in December are there for the taking.

And the Raptors seem to have put some of their complacency behind them.  Losing by 35 points to the toothless Bobcats and losing at home to the struggling Wizards should have sent the message to the Raptors that no game is a gimme.

But even a strong month of December doesn’t mean Bryan Colangelo’s team visit and a players' meeting have “fixed” the Raptors.

The Raptors are still playing without a commitment to the team from their star player as Chris Bosh insists on waiting for the off-season to make a decision.

This situation still has the potential to create player rifts, especially if the team is losing while Bosh attempts to maintain his stats.

Both Colangelo and Jay Triano have to do a better job of keeping this issue out of their locker room.

And the Raptors are still playing with a rookie head coach.  A head coach who has and will continue to make rookie mistakes.  The best hope is the team plays hard enough to overcome Triano’s learning curve.

But this Toronto Raptors squad is loaded with talent.  If they don’t lose their focus, they will win a lot of games based on talent alone.  At least until the playoffs start.