Normally the Pre-season is not as much of a grind. This season with all the changes here in Raptorland it has almost felt like the regular season from my point of view. I kind of took a mental break for a day or so to get away from things as much as I ever really do. Which isn't much. When you present yourself to the world as a basketball guy shockingly enough people want to talk basketball with you. Also adding the Bleacher Report duties to mix has increased my personal workload a little. Which by the way if you haven't seen it I break down the first 10 games and take the optimistic view of the Raptors being 5-5 after 10 games.
Also there has been some behind the scenes stuff going on planning future interviews, a couple of exciting things we hopefully can announce soon as relates to the blog. Basically the DNB and covering the Raptors has been my 24/7 job for the last five years come end of November. Minus a little break for a labou stoppage. I love it for the most part. I probably would like to earn more for all my efforts. However I just continue to work hard and wait for that day to come.
Now on with your regularly scheduled blog for the day.
The Raptors have had about as good a pre-season to this point as you can hope for. It has honestly changed my opinions on a few things. Which for long time readers will be rather shocking. I tend to be pretty set in my opinions and rarely waver.
This is a list of 5 things to be hopeful about and 5 things to fear as we enter this Raptors season. One of the things I would have thought for certain would be on the fear side of this equation would be Jonas Valanciunas. Do I still feel that way? How about the playoffs am I drinking the tasty red Kool-aid on that? Not drinking it but really tempted to try some. So here is the things that give me hope and the things that I fear in my sleep at night.
5. The Offense Can Score Points: I am somewhat convinced the Raptors will be able to score points this season. Dwane Casey put almost all his efforts into repairing the Raptors badly damaged defense last season. He needed to do that and the offense was a causality of that. Their were times I had not so pleasant Kevin O'Neil flashbacks. The additions made and more time put in, along with a change in philosophy on offense have me encouraged they are on the right track.
4. A Healthy Amir Johnson: It might get lost in all the Jonas hype and Lowry buzz, but Amir Johnson looks health and his jump shot and range seem to have improved. On a second unit lead by Jose Calderon who he has great chemistry with I think this could be a big bounce back year for hands down one of my favorite guys in the Raptor Locker Room.
3.DeMar DeRozan Sticking To Who He Is: Last night I went on a bit of a rant about what I am liking about DeMar DeRozan on the radio. I really think he is back to the DeMar he always should have been. A little bigger now too which doesn't hurt. He has not tried to be what he isn't. There seems to be this concern and worry about the fact DeMar not being able to make 3's. I say so what and to use a Deion Sanders line from Sunday Football "Do What You Do." DeMar is doing that and it is showing the boxscore with foul shots and points. No doubt the defense needs to get better but his offense was never as bad as people made it out to be.
2. Kyle Lowry Is Legit: Everything that Kyle Lowry has been billed to be he has been. A legit defender at his position, a lighting fast modern style point guard and a snarky disposition. Finally a guy that I can see as a leader on this team. It was worth the price and Lowry brings an end to Jose Calderon as a starter fiasco that has been not even close to good enough.
1. Jonas Is actually "THE ANTI-BARGNANI" - I bet a lot of people are surprised by this one. All I ever said about Jonas is I needed to seem him produce on a NBA floor with NBA Rules. Yes this is early days for the young man. I am impressed with his play on the floor and his attitude off the floor.
5. Small Forward Position Still A Problem: Landry Fields has been nice but I just don't see a lot of depth here at this position. Colangelo claimed to have addressed this issue. I feel still he has far from addressed it and not sure how he ultimately will. Some of you will say trade Jose and get a dynamic wing in return. I would say to you would you do that on the other side of that trade? Kleiza has returned to his non-olympics form and we could see DeRozan log some time there but I am just not sold on this.
4. Happy Jose....Not Likely: I hear it so much about what a great team guy Jose Calderon is. It kind of makes me sick to my stomach. Human nature for me out weighs past alleged good deeds and lip service. Jose Calderon has said all the right things while here. Yet in his own native language sings a different turn as he states he expects to be traded. This gets to the core of why myself and Mr. Calderon will never be amgios. This is the same B.S he pulled to get his over priced contract. While here he was happy with his role and then returned to Spain and proclaimed he deserved to be the starter. Forcing the Raptors hand and having them make a terrible trade that will see them match-up with Roy Hibbert on opening night. I don't buy Jose is happy and don't think he will ultimately end up being productive eventually.
3. DeMar DeRozan's Contract Status: If you believe like I do that DeMar is going to have an outstanding season if the Raptors fail to extend him the price tag to keep him will continue to rise as he does on each and every dunk he throws down. It looks like the Raptors plan to roll the dice on the soon to be restricted free agent and if they get what they want out of Demar that will be snakes eyes in terms of his contract situation. I like Terrence Ross in what we have been able to see of him. I am not sure or convinced he has as much overall talent as DeRozan and if DeRozan were to make his way out of Toronto that would be a bad thing for the Raptors. They can match any offer he gets but the higher the price tag that is the more likely the Raptors try and sell themselves that Ross is good enough and let DeRozan walk.
2: The Start of the Schedule: It is a daunting beginning the Raptors season and I hope they can mange it. There is a lot of tough games and if this team were not able to battle through and get behind early the chances they rally to a playoff spot in a competitive Eastern Conference would be less likely. The NBA Schedule maker did the Raptors no favours. But really has he ever?
1. Andrea Bargnani Is Who We Knew He Was: The pre-season for Andrea Bargnani has been less than spectacular. I was one of the people that while impressed with his brief stretch of dominance last season was not sold on it. You can argue if it was 13 games or whatever. Ultimately is was a short window measuring up against a long career of under achievement. What I find even more funny is some of the people that defend Bargnani were some of the harshest critics of Chris Bosh. You might not like Chris Bosh and he has given you more than enough reason to feel that way. Here is the thing though he was a better player in many respects than Bargnani. People that questioned Chris Bosh's heart and desire defend Bargnani's. It is Crazy. Jonas has already a better level of compete and hustle than both players combined. When you stick that beside Bargnani it will only make his lack effort and defensive short comings more glaring. On top of all of it the stuff he actually does do well in terms of scoring has not exactly been on full display in the pre-season. The Raptors may have to win in spite of Bargnani on a lot of nights instead of because of Bargnani.
So you decide are you a glass half full or half empty. We have given you fuel for both.