Posts Tagged ‘Toronto Raptors 2011’

The Toronto Raptors are going to be a lot of things this upcoming 2010/11 season, athletic on the wings, a more up-tempo style on the defensive end and of course a very young and likely frustrating team to watch night in and night out.  The expectations from most ‘experts’ are pretty dim and I believe the over/under betting line for wins this season is around 27 at last check.  While I feel there is actually more to be optimistic about than most and we will likely surprise a few teams this season one thing I am not is delusional.  To that end I know the Raptors barring some unforeseen circumstances are not likely to be ultra competitive this season, and adding any band-aid solutions for this year is a complete waste of resources and more importantly playing time.

The latest rumours have the Raptors brain trust pondering the idea of bringing veteran big man Erick Dampier into the fold.  There is no doubt Dampier adds an element this team is sorely lacking, and has been lacking for some time.  Rebounding, size, strength, presence down low, defensive ability and toughness are all things Dampier can bring to the table.  However, is any of that really going to make one iota of difference in the grand scheme of things for the Toronto Raptors in 2010/11?  This is the type of guy you add as depth on a more seasoned roster looking to make a potential playoff run, not a team hoping to get back to the draft lottery and add a potential blue chip young ‘baller to help us down the road.

To add Dampier at this point in our franchise’s fragile history even for the veteran minimum salary hit is just plain ludicrous.  You are telling me that if given the exact same amount of minutes our very own Dwight Howard look-a-like Joey Dorsey couldn’t do exactly what we think Dampier could do?  Dampier is the very definition of a replacement level player who adds almost no value to a rebuilding team like Toronto and is actually taking a potentially valuable commodity away from the Raptors, playing time.  I’d be willing to wager that if given similar playing time Dorsey would produce better numbers in rebounding and shot blocking than Dampier.

In some shape or form Dampier would cost Ed Davis, Solomon Alobi and the aforementioned Joey Dorsey a chance to play those crucial extra few minutes a night that could help shape them as players sooner than later, or at least give the Raptors an idea if they can play or not.  Amir Johnson was just signed to a lucrative long term deal and any situation that might rob him of even 3-5 minutes a game is a negative.  Joey Dorsey doesn’t have the name, notoriety or awesome ‘Common’ beard but he does have a god-like physique that appears NBA ready as well as a motivation to improve and be a part of this young group going forward. 

Dampier’s primary (only) motivator will be to establish himself as a viable big man again and hopefully regain some of the lost faith in his game, however if that costs the Raptors even one cent or one minute of playing time a night from any of their young and improving big men than I say thanks but no thanks.  This year is about progress, making small gains and giving the fans some hope that the product on the court will start to show significant improvement as early as next year, and it’s also about scoring a hot new prospect in the NBA lottery. 

Lost in the allure of adding our first tough, hardnosed rebounding big man is a little thing called perspective.  This would be like the Toronto Maple Leafs having signed a player like Raffi Torres, brought him to training camp and realized he was completely redundant or the Toronto Blue Jays signing Vicente Padilla and blocking a Brett Cecil or Kyle Drabek plus getting worse production.  It wasn’t right for those teams and this move isn’t right for the Raptors.  

SHAQ SLIGHTS CHRIS BOSH AGAIN?

With one quote new Boston Celtics centre Shaquille O’Neal continues his extreme dislike for former Raptors forward Chris Bosh.  In a recent Adrian Wojnarowski column O’Neal is quoted “They got a great 1-2,” Shaq was obviously referring to the Miami Heat’s duo of Dwayne Wade and Lebron James but of course snubbing the third major piece Chris Bosh. 

I would have to think Bosh was praying his long time nemesis O’Neal moved back to the Western Conference in the offseason so he could eventually move past the ongoing feud, however with his latest slight it appears Bosh could be in for a few more long and potentially painful (watch those elbows) matchups involving ‘Diesel’.

No word yet if a Shaquille O’Neal statue will be resurrected at the ACC in time for the regular season.

So my television went through a hot tub time machine yesterday afternoon, all the way to the year 1999.  Ok, so in actuality I just tuned into Raptors TV on my day off from work and they were showing a retro game from 1999 featuring the Toronto Raptors against the Los Angeles Lakers.  Although I actually remembered this particular game and the end result I couldn’t bring myself to turn the game off.  The Raptors were in Los Angeles playing a prime Shaq Diesel, Rick Fox, Brian Shaw, Glen Rice as well as youngster Derek Fisher, among others.  Kobe Bryant wasn’t dressed for the game, but he and his afro did make a few cameo appearances during timeouts.

Watching an absolutely lethal Vince Carter operate with a youthful and reckless abandon was of course painful to watch.  To make matters worse Carter even toughed out a fairly hard foul from none other than Shaq and after heading to the dressing room for some repairs Carter actually made it back onto the floor and amazingly played even harder.  Tracy McGrady was getting some playing time off the bench and showing all of the early signs that a star was looming underneath that long and scrawny body, he made a few dazzling plays. 

But this isn’t another if we could’ve only kept Marcus Camby, Chris Bosh, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter and Damon Stoudemire/Chauncey Billups (what, you were expecting Kenny Anderson?) though seriously, to say Toronto hasn’t been a talent magnet would be a lie.  The thing I wanted to discuss was something that was so visibly evident while watching and clearly missing from today’s version of the Toronto Raptors – toughness. 

The Raptors were not pushovers for one second of the game, not even the huge frame of Shaquille O’Neal could push around or intimidate a Raptor without some form of retribution.  No, Colton Orr didn’t jump onto the court and pound somebody into oblivion but when Vince Carter was hammered by Shaq and sent to the floor, there was somebody else in his ear after it occurred – his name was Charles Oakley.

Outside of the hard foul on Carter, Shaq was relatively “well behaved” and while watching the game it was refreshing to see a level of compete, a level of disdain for our opponents and a measure of grit and toughness that I have honestly not seen from the Raptors in years.  Our toughest player last season (in terms of action shown) was Jay Triano – need I say more?  When I heard we were on the brink of adding (supposedly) Tyson Chandler and Matt Barnes I was excited more for the intangibles, edge and toughness they would hopefully bring to the team.  In our best years the Raptors were a collection of veteran defensive minded big men who played with an edge (in 1999 led by Butch Carter) with solid wing play (Carter and McGrady) and strong overall athleticism. 

Our roster against the Lakers in 1999 featured tough, strong and fierce competitors in Antonio Davis, Kevin Willis, Charles Oakley, Doug Christie, Alvin Williams and Dee Brown.  Needless to say we weren’t pushed around and Vince Carter’s defence didn’t look so porous when he was being helped by the rugged Davis, Oakley and Willis.  Our bench even included the little general Muggsy Bogues and the sharp shooter Dell Curry.

Fast forward to the 2010/2011 Toronto Raptors and the level of compete and intensity is cranked down about 100 km/h (or for Bosh, 60 mph) when compared to that 1999 team.  A part of me thinks the game has changed and the league no longer values the intangibles that an Oakley, Davis and Willis could bring.  Look around the league and try to name a player or two that are even comparable to the above mentioned trio of big men.  Outside of Reggie Evans, the Raptors roster is certainly void, and around the NBA the names aren’t exactly abundantly clear – maybe Rasheed Wallace, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, Andrew Bogut, Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, Matt Barnes or Kenyon Martin?

But if there was one area where I think we can all agree we need to address, and address it now, is our team toughness.  Colangelo obviously agrees as he was almost successful in retooling the roster by adding the aforementioned Tyson Chandler and Matt Barnes.  It would’ve almost been like adding Antonio Davis and Doug Christie all over again, and it would’ve been well received, Barnes would have assuredly become a huge fan favourite in Toronto given his blue collar style of play.  No offence to Reggie Evans (and maybe he comes into camp in shape this year) but a guy playing a tough, hardnosed style for 8-10 minutes a night just isn’t enough for this current roster.

Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson, Sonny Weems, Demar Derozan and Ed Davis should be forced to watch these old ballgames and almost be mandated to incorporate some of the edge and toughness shown from that group into their own games.  I watched Demar Derozan in the summer league a few weeks back and he looks noticeably bigger and stronger, his handle still needs work but he was being very aggressive at both ends of the floor.  I am not saying he will ever develop into this type of player, but he honestly reminded me a lot of a young Tracy McGrady with his raw athleticism and lean frame – this was also reaffirmed slightly after watching the retro 1999 game versus the Lakers.

It’s hard to question Bryan Colangelo’s insistence on turning the Raptors into a more European centric model, as the best American born players simply do not want to commit their prime playing years to the city of Toronto, do I need to go into examples?  Even role players or aging veterans weren’t exactly lining up to come here as we had to bribe Antonio Davis, Charles Oakley was on the last legs of his career and Kevin Willis was running out of options elsewhere.  But for the Raptors to truly start competing on the highest level again in the future we will have to look to our past and regain an element that has been lacking for far too many years whether of the European or American variety – balls.

BallHype: hype it up!