If you are a Toronto Raptor fan and did not wake up with a huge smile on your face, I got a question for you. What the heck is wrong with you? Last night was an incredible performance and really shocking for anyone that paid the least bit of attention to the pre-season. I am reminded how Sam Mitchell talked about not knowing what guys had until the lights came on for real. Well last night was the real deal and the Raptors answer the bell in a major way. The most shocking of it all was the way this team played on the defensive end of floor. Shaq last year had called out Bosh and along with calling him the Rue Paul line, he said that he made him quit. Well there was not quit to be found in Bosh or any of the Raptors last night. Last season there was always talk about playing a full 48 minutes. A dip in the 3rd quarter that saw Cleveland battle back to tie the game at 69 the Raptors gave that effort. I am only a sports fan of one team in Toronto but for those who are not they finally have a winner. The Argos, Leafs, Blue Jays and Toronto FC all have had disappointing seasons to date. This Raptor win was like a shining star in a very dark time on the T.O Sports scene.
As good as everything went last night, it all can be washed away with a loss in Memphis. The Raptors must have continued effort and not let up against the them. Memphis is a mess and Allen Iverson has yet to suit up for the team God told him to go to. Thabeet in his NBA debut did not have as good a time as Demar DeRozan. His team lost and he did not score a point in his NBA debut and only had 2 rebounds. Demar had 5 playing at shooting guard. I have been very disappointed in Thabeet's progress after being drafted second. O.J Mayo and Rudy Gay and the rest of the Grizzlies seem doomed for a very long season. The Raptors would lose everything that they gained from a win vs Cavs if they stubbed there toe and lost to Memphis.
If you were one of the people that doubted Andrea Bargnani... please join me in saying sorry. I was one of many that doubted if Andrea Bargnani could ever be great. Well if you don't consider him great yet, you have to at least admit he is on the verge of greatness. The one player that from when I was in Ottawa until now, that has looked solid to me has been Bargnani. He is adding tools to his game and was showing some of them last night. A very nice up and under move in the second half was something Andrea never had even a year ago. He now has a running mate from Italy in Marco Belinelli who actually struggled in the pre-season but had a great debut himself.
The Raptors in fact announced just today, that they are picking up the 4th year option on Belinelli's contract. Which will keep the 2 players together through 2010/11 season. Andrea of course signed his extension in the summer for 50 million. Which if you base it on last night may end up looking like a steal moving forward. It is a tandem that should be good for both players going forward. Andrea seems a lot more comfortable on and off the floor and adding Marco just adds to that.
Antonie Wright last night reminded me of Morris Peterson on the defensive end last night. He was taking charges and hitting the floor. We had all heard the praise of his defense from his former coach in Dallas and it seems that talk was genuine. When Reggie Evans gets back in the mix this team can improve more potentially. The effort we saw last night brought a smile to Reggie Evans face on the bench. He was not alone in that smile as one of the biggest concerns for most fans. Jay Triano had said a few weeks back that the defense was process and that he was not concerned with the lack of perimeter defense we had seen that was so glaring in the pre-season. Well I guess he knows what he was talking about. Although Cleveland did make some 3's to get back in that game briefly in the 3rd.
Chris Bosh had a hard night in terms of shooting. However when you get 16 rebounds and do a solid job on the defensive end that can be forgiven. Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack marriage looked to be working well. Calderon also had a terrible night shooting and even missed 2 straight free throws. However he had 10 assists and worked well with both him and Jack on the floor. In terms of Jack you saw a few glimpses of the chemistry he had and has with Chris Bosh. The two former Yellow Jackets looked solid on the floor together. The easiest way to put all the Bosh talk of 2010 to the side is for this team to win. If this team is a success that is the best selling point to keep Chris Bosh here going forward.
So the 15th season of Raptors basketball got off to a very positive start. Here is hoping that it will continue moving forward. There is still a very challenging schedule that lies ahead but a much more positive outlook for fans when they look ahead at it. The Raps did start 3-0 last season but they did not beat a team to the level of the Cavs in that stretch. This is a new team and a very different attitude and look. Have to say after the debut..I like it and I like it a lot!!!