October 31, 2007

Guess Who's Bizzack?

Our favorite dinosaurs of the hard court, that’s who. The Toronto Raptors open their new season tonight at home against the Philadelphia 76ers, but I’m more upset than excited. The Raptors are being shown no love and I won’t stand for it much longer.

First of all, what the hell is a 76er? I’m curious as to:

a) how Philadelphia’s franchise got that name
b) why Philadelphia’s franchise got that name
c) why it hasn’t been changed

I guess I could Google it, but it’s the 76ers, so really, who cares?

The Raptors are coming off a ridiculously successful season. 47 wins, the franchise’s first division crown, a playoff series, Coach-of-the-Year honors for Sam Mitchell, and Executive-of-the-Year honors for His Majesty Bryan Colangelo. Yes, the playoff ouster at the hands of his whore-ness Vince Carter and the New Jersey Nets was tough to swallow, but it was vital experience in the evolution of the Raptors (get it, evolution and Raptors? You know, the whole dinosaur connection? Oh, forget it). Bottom line, it was experience this team needed to gain in order to take the next step.

What does it all mean for this year? To the NBA pundits and prognosticators, nothing at all. The Raptors are being slept on and being shown zero respect. What’s a basketball team got to do in order to be shown some love around here!?!?

The Raps boast one of the deepest rotations in the league, an All-Star power forward in Chris Bosh who is getting better every year, and super-sophomore Andrea Bargnani, who is poised to break out and become the star we, in Toronto, know he will eventually become. So what's the deal? As a buddy of mine would say, where's the love?

I’ve got a lot of love for Bill Simmons from ESPN’s Page 2. His column is one of the best in the business. I read it on the regular – got the RSS hookup on my Google Reader – but I was shocked and chagrined to see his predictions for the NBA’s Eastern Conference. Brace yourselves, here they are:

1. Chicago, 56-26
2. Boston, 49-33
3. Miami, 43-39
4. Detroit, 50-32
5. New Jersey, 45-37
6. Milwaukee, 41-41
7. Atlanta, 40-42
8. Indiana, 40-42

Where the fudge are the Raptors on this list, Bill?!?!? He’s taking Milwaukee, Atlanta and Indiana over Toronto?!? This has got to be some kind of joke. My guess is that, because the Raptors play in Canada, the great country to the north of our ignorant American cousins, Simmons has simply forgotten the Raptors exist. Or he’s still drunk from celebrating his Red Sox’s World Series victory (the latter deserves some serious consideration).

Bill, my man, these Raptors are not extinct! They are alive and well, and on their way to another Atlantic Division title (Dave Feschuk, of the Toronto Star, is predicting 50 wins).

Simmons has got the Boston Celtics winning the Atlantic – what a surprise. It’s the cool thing to do. Everyone’s doing it. Yeah, yeah, I know they’ve got Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. But who else? Name another two guys on that team other than Rondo or Posey? I can’t do it. The Celtics will be much improved, but they aren’t knocking the Raptors off their perch, no sir.

Simmons isn’t the only one disrespecting the Raptors. Sports Illustrated has Toronto pegged to enter the Eastern Conference playoffs as the eighth seed. The last seed.

It’s not just the media that's invited to the Show No Love to the Raptors party. In the NBA’s annual general manager survey, no one picked the Raptors to repeat as Atlantic Division champs.

I don’t get it.

Let’s not forget that this was a brand new team full of fresh faces last October. His Majesty Bryan Colangelo - I refer to him as His Majesty because of the way he turned the team around - is royalty. He’s a savior sent from the heavens, and after he managed to trade the lump of coal known as Rafael Araujo, it became clear that he is also a miracle-worker. BC came in and gutted the team he inherited, bringing in nine new faces. On a basketball team, that’s unheard of. And it worked.

After the team got off to a rough start – they were something like 2-8 or 2-10 – the calls for Sam Mitchell’s head got louder and louder, but BC stuck by his coach and his team. The team was able to stay above water with Chris Bosh on the injured list. Bosh returned, rounded back into All-Star form and the rest, as they say, is history.

BC and the Raps had a quiet off-season. Jason Kapono is the prized acquisition and he is the best three point shooter in the NBA. Not too shabby. He will help an already potent shooting team. If Andrei Kirilenko in Utah is AK-47, Jason Kapono is JK-47. He’s got a sweet stroke and can get his shot off in a hurry, a la Dell Curry (hey, that rhymes!). Welcome to Toronto, new friend.

Yes, the Raptors still can’t rebound and don’t play really tough defense, but with the talent Sam Mitchell has at his disposal, the best defense for the Raptors will be a strong offense.

With the point guard tandem that Toronto Star beat grunt writer, and one of the best in the biz I might add, Doug Smith calls “T.J. Calderon” the sky is the limit for this Raptors squad. Jorge Garbajosa, the blue-collar Spaniard is back and although he’s still technically playing on a broken leg, he looks like he’s ready to go. He was sorely missed last year in the playoffs. Here’s hoping his leg will hold up (literally), because his injury still sends a chill down my spine when I think about it.

For His Majesty BC, it’s all about continuity and chemistry, two things that are seriously overlooked when people try to predict how many wins a team will get. This Raptors squad is a notoriously tight-knit one. They’ve garnered a reputation of being almost too nice. They need to add a little Charles Oakley to their game, and I’m looking to Chris Bosh to bring it.

As upset as I am about the continued disrespect shown the Toronto Raptors way, a part of me is thinking it may be a good thing. Let the league sleep on the Raptors. Let the Raptors use it as motivation in their quest to an NBA championship. It’s going to happen, of this I’m sure, as long as His Majesty BC is at the helm.

Tip off’s at 7:00pm and Jason Kapono is in the starting lineup.

Monday night, while the Leafs were getting their tails handed to them, once again, by the Washington Capitals, a chant broke out in the third period of the 7-1 debacle:

“Let’s Go Raptors!” (clap, clap…clapclapclap).

Now that’s what I’m talking about...


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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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