The Raptors come home for the first time this season to play a basketball game. They limp in after their worst performance of the pre-season. The Raptors are heading in the wrong direction after storming out and blitzing the Suns, hanging with the Celtics blow for blow, they get demolished by the Bulls. They will get a chance to redeem themselves a week from today. I will be in the house for that one too. But tonight it is the Philadelphia 76ers who looked to the broadcast booth and Doug Collins to be their new coach. A season under Eddie Jordan ending up being a disaster for the franchise. Collins has been out of the league for quite some time as his last coaching stop was coaching Jordan and the Wizards. The Sixers have a slimmed down Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala and the second pick Evan Turner to name but 3. Turner struggled in summer league and is already being labelled a bust by some.
Speaking of busts, Andrea Bragnani has done nothing to dissuade his detractors. He has been just awful through 3 games for the Raptors. So much so that the visiting broadcasters for both the Celtics and the Bulls made a point of ripping him for his performance. Bargnani actually had his best performance numbers wise last night going 3-9 with 11 points and 3 rebounds. To a lesser extent Demar DeRozan has been struggling as well and he was pretty invisible last night with 6 points 2 assists and 2 rebounds. If the Raptors were to have a face of the franchise emerge the safe money would be on one of these two guys. Perhaps that pressure is getting to them? In the case of Bargnani unfortunately I saw this coming. His performances with Chris Bosh out of the line-up did not instill confidence. In general in his career under pressure Bargnani has melted. I do not find it surprising that his largest scoring output, was in a game that the Raptors were never in it. You would be hard pressed to find a point in last night's 109-90 loss where the Raptors were in it.
Sonny Weems has looked good through 3 games and you could make the argument that the Young Gun making the least money is providing the most bang. Weems had 12 points and was 6-9 last night. But he was also a product of a terrible night on defence and the glass. He had no rebounds no steals or blocks. The Raptors were crushed on the glass 44-22. When you look at what the Raptors will miss in terms of Bosh his rebounding is likely at the top of that list. Finding those 10-12 rebounds for this group is going to be extremely difficult.
I am excited to start a second season of having some access with the Toronto Raptors. Last season was a tremendous learning experience for me. It gives you a different prospective when you are around these players. It is easy for us as fans to take shots and at guys. Knowing that it is highly unlikely you would ever meet that player face to face. Even less likely that most people would say those things to their face. But when you do get the chance to talk with these guys even on a infrequent basis you start to get to know them beyond just stats on a page. You get to know them as people and get a small idea of what they are like. Granted most athletes these days are aware when the media is around so it is not a perfect picture but it is a little peek into who they are as people. So it makes total sense that this group believes they can surprise people this season. If they didn't you would question them as people beyond basketball players.
I consider it a privilege to be in the looker rooms and get the chance to talk with these players both for the Raptors and the various teams that roll through. It is under the premise of a working environment. Not like you are getting autographs or anything like that. Still I know that there are many people that would be happy to just be in my shoes. Both fans and other people that are covering the team in various ways that don't have access.
I go into the 2nd year of doing this feeling a lot more confident in myself. Looking forward to the opportunity to do more and be able to bring you folks inside the locker room with me. Here is hoping it is a successful night and successful season of me doing that for all of you. During the game itself feel free to go on the DNB Chat as I will be checking in from the ACC. I also will be tweeting updates on how things are going down there. This game is being broadcast on Raptors T.V if you are looking for it on the tube.