10/21/09

From Summer Of Optimism To Fall Of Fear?

I think everyone was feeling hopeful this summer. Every time you thought Bryan Colangelo was done with this over haul of the Raptors roster he would have another trick up his sleeve. You could not help but be impressed. It helped wash a way what was a painful and forgettable season in Raptors history. It was an impressive list of new Raptors lead by Hedo Turkoglu and Jarrett Jack along with 7 other new faces. Chris Bosh was coming back for perhaps the most important season of his NBA Career. There was even some talk to be optimistic that he may stay in 2010. It was a much better summer than anyone expected or hoped for.

When the schedule was released some form of reality kicked in for me. The start of the Raptors Season is no joke at all. Here is the first 10 games of it to illustrate the point.

Oct 28th Cleveland

Oct 30th @Memphis

Nov 1st Orlando

Nov 4th Detroit

Nov 6th @New Orleans

Nov 7th @Dallas

Nov 9th @ San Antonio

Nov 11th Chicago

Nov 13th @ L.A Clippers

Nov 15th @ Phoenix

7 playoff teams last season and a Suns team that had they been in the East would have been one as well. If you can find 5 wins out of those 10 games you truly are someone the sees the glass half full. If you expand this to the first dozen games Raps have a road back to back with Utah and Denver. If the Raptors have a winning record after those first dozen there may be reason to start the parade.

Also I know it is just the pre-season and we are all programmed to say that it is only the pre-season and it doesn't matter. However even though it may not matter the Raps are 0-4 vs Atlantic Division and 2-5 overall. In contrast the Sixers under Eddie Jordan are 5-2 losing by just one to the Wizards last night. That you may be able to say so what it is just the pre-season. The Raptors have played half the games without Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu. But the defense has been a major concern and guarding the perimeter most of all. Jay Triano says that Raps are focused right now on guarding the paint and not to worry as the D will be addressed on the outside. To late for me as I am already in a panic over this as it has been a theme for years now. I would rather give up the odd dunk than an open 3 any day. The basic math supports me in this as 3>2 will always be true.

The fact Hedo has had a very slow start also is of great concern. Unlike some I was not doing back flips (O.K your right not that I could) over the signing. The contract greatly concerns me. But I did think at least in the short term it would be o.k. Well maybe not so much. Hedo has looked like a guy who needs so gas put in his tank. His extended rest in training camp and into the pre-season was needed but hurt in the development of this team as a whole. Riding a bike and being in meetings is great but it is not getting out there. This could be a case of De Ja Vu all over again next year as well with the World Championships in Turkey and Hedo being front and center in that. You have heard my rants on international basketball many times if you read this blog on a regular basis, so I will just assume you know I am not a fan of NBA players playing internationally in the summers in most cases.

We still have yet to see Antonie Wright this pre-season as he was expected to be one of the guys that was going to help on that defensive side of the ball. Reggie Evans going down in the pre-season was also something you could have done without seeing. It is encouraging to see Andrea showing signs of improvement in his defense. In terms of Chris you have to hope that we start to see the Bosh that we saw in China playing hard on D in the Olympics. I did briefly talk with Chris as he was exiting the Raps locker room on Sunday. He said that he is only concerned about getting W's this year and is not concerned with his own personal stats. If Chris is going to get those W's that he wants it is going to take finding that defense he played in China to help make it happen. He is trying to get back up to speed as a bad hamstring coming into training camp has had him playing catch up a little bit. He is bigger and hopefully that will mean better on the defensive end of the floor.

Based on what we have seen to this point the start of the season could prove to be very challenging for this Raptor team. Many comparisons have been made to the last time Bryan Colangelo over hauled this roster and the Raptors won their only Division Title in franchise history. The difference is that the East in the time since as become a much better conference in that time. The Atlantic Division itself has change in a major way with the make over the Celtics made with the big 3 and now they have a ever improving Rajon Rondo and vet in Rasheed Wallace to compliment that. I already mentioned the Sixers who look good but will be challenged with a huge whole at point guard. The Knicks are still not there and the Nets may struggle in major ways.

I still despite my concerns and fears think the Raptors are a playoff team this year. However I am not sold on them battling for a 4th seed and a home playoff series. Everything is of course subject to change but as of right now I am not prepared to say the Raptors are that good. Eventually I will do a season preview and tell you where exactly I see the Raps fit in the mix in the East. I am leaving to the end as I always do. Last season I was able to predict that NBA Finals so why break a system that works. But I did also think the Raptors would win a playoff series over Cleveland. So it was not a perfect prognostication on my part. I will say this no 49 wins for the Raptors will be coming from me this season.

But safe to say all the warm fuzzy feelings of the summer have been replaced by a real nervous feeling as we head in to the fall and the start of the season. At least I won't be complaining about how bad replacement Refs are as it looks like they will be back on the job when we throw it up on the 27th as a league and the 28th hear in Toronto. I heard the happy news watching a Knicks and Celtics game on NBA League pass VIA MSG. Confirmed by this post on NBA.com this morning. So welcome back soon Dick Bavetta I have missed you.

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