Rather than do a re-cap will just give some thoughts on my evening at the ACC watching the Spurs and Raptors. I chatted with Demar DeRozan prior to this game. We got into how the team had performed recently. Will have more on this later today in a feature on Demar but in general he felt encouraged from the play of late. The Raptors would be even more short handed than expected as Linas Kleiza had to sit this one out. Bayless is coming along and did come out for shoot around. He seems to be alright but after injuring the same ankle he is playing it safe. Trying to get it back to full strength so he can avoid a third occurrence of this injury in the future.
This game looked like it was going to be an ugly loss for the Raptors in early going. The Spurs jumped out to an 8-0 advantage. Troublesome in how they did with a couple early 3's. The Raptors would dig a deep hole but as they have done of late they kept fighting. It would have been very easy for this team to roll over and die after the first half. But Demar DeRozan came out in the second half determined to be a difference maker. The Raptors would get this game tied eventually but the Spurs would answer every Raptor push with one of their own.
Jose Calderon still had a solid night on offence but came crashing down to earth on defence. It is not the first time Tony Parker has schooled Jose and it won't be the last. Jose had 16 points and 11 assists and a couple steals. But it paled in comparison to Parker's 34 points and 14 assists which included in that was a 12-12 performance at the line.
I have always seen Parker as a guy that gets lost in the shuffle in a galaxy of great NBA point guards. He had the very public break up of his marriage but he seems back on track this season. He is going to the All-Star Game in Orlando and people got to see why tonight at the ACC. A lot fewer than saw the Jeremy Lin show the night before. Tony Parker has been doing his thing for years and not days. He has championship rings and all you could want on your resume. For as much as Jeremy Lin has dominated the attention of the media. I think Parker flies consistently below the radar. I am not sure if he ever has got his full credit for being as good a player as he is. If Jeremy Lin has as good a career as Tony Parker he would be fortunate.
Same would apply for Cory Joesph. Will also be doing a feature on him and his return to Toronto. He has some pretty nice guys to help him adapt to the NBA in Tony Parker and someone that has already had an influence in T.J Ford. It is not bad to have guys like that to learn from, Tristan Thompson also has a pretty nice role model to learn from in Jamison. Joesph has had a much different path than Tristan, but also has the advantage of a solid proven organization to be part of. He has spent some time in the D-League with Austin. But he still has just as big a smile as he did when he was in town to workout for the Raptors in the spring. The same he had playing for the national team in summer when I caught up with him here in Hamilton. It might have been a little bigger on this night though. It was no lock he would see the floor but with T.J Ford out the odds went up a little. He would get his moment late in the 2nd. He entered the game to a nice ovation and had a pretty uneventful 2:50 on the court.
But it was an experience he will likely never forget. When Tristan came to town for the first time he talked about being a kid sitting in the Sprite Zone. Cory talked in an interview during the broadcast about watching Mighty Mouse Damon Stoudamire. The Raptors as an organization get a lot of grief for their lack of success in their history. It is deserved without question. However, they also deserve credit for the fact they have made the NBA something that is a real goal for a generation of kids like Tristan and Cory and countless others. You only need to look at the NCAA today to see the amount of Canadians on the rosters in Division 1 basketball. When the Raptors and Grizzlies entered the NBA it was a big event beyond just the NBA being in Canada and having two teams. It took the game invented by a Canadian and brought it home with the greatest league in the world. Kids no longer saw their basketball heroes on just a T.V set they got to see these giants live and in person. Next time you are at a Raptor game just look at all the kids you see and imagine how that inspires their young minds. Maybe some of those kids will be having their night coming back to their hometown some day. They might even play for their hometown team. The Raptors just by existing at all have done this. Not to mention the probably thousands of kids that have went through camps the Raptors have put on for young boys and girls over the years. In covering games into my 3rd season the fact I was there to see both Tristan and Cory's debuts is a personal highlight for me. Not because of anything they did in the games themselves, just what it represents in the larger picture.
As for the bigger picture for the Raptors, you have to give them and Dwane Casey a lot of credit. I have not heard anyone make excuses for being undermanned. The Raptors have fought with whatever and whoever they have had the last 4 games. Despite just the one win to show for it, they have shown a lot of fight and been pretty fun to watch. It has become contagious at this point. If I had said in my preview that Butler and Carter would combine for 20 points, people would have questioned my sanity. But that happened on this night. What also did was Demar DeRozan having a big night and showing a real determination. This has been a tough season for Demar but it has not stopped him from having that same desire inside to improve and grow. He is starting to show some signs he might be turning the corner and getting comfortable again.
In the end it was a 113-106 loss for the Raptors the 4th loss in 5 games in this home stand that has just 2 games left, Friday vs the Bobcats and Wednesday vs the Pistons. I am going to be there for both and I hope we see the progress the Raptors have made pay off with a couple wins. This team plays like it has the last 4 games they will crush the Bobcats and Pistons going away. Let's hope that is what we see.