Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hardwood Paroxysm's 2008-2009 Season Preview: Toronto Raptors

The star of Canada is from Dallas and the star of Phoenix is from Canada.


Your opening preview is by Rob Mahoney.
The Raptors are tricky. Not because the team is that difficult to understand or because they completely changed their roster in the off-season (although the addition of Jermaine O’Neal is a pretty big splash). No, the reason why the Raptors are so hard to write about is because of bloggers. You may or may not be aware of this, but 99% of NBA bloggers live in Canada. Okay, okay, but there are seriously tons of them. And those maple syrup-loving Mounties are just waiting for an excuse to critique my spelling of Roko Ukic’s name (Ha! Triple checked for safety!). So, I’ve found that the best strategy when writing about the Raptors is either to be incredibly cryptic or to be completely objective. I don’t mean try to be as objective as possible, I’m talking completely undisputable statements. Thus begins a Completely Objective Toronto Raptors Preview:

(…It’s 48-34 though, good for 6th in the East and 3rd in the Atlantic)

The Toronto Raptors assimilated Jermaine O’Neal in exchange for the excommunication of Terrance Jerod Ford, Radoslav Nesterovic, and a first round draft pick in the National Basketball Association Draft of the year 2008 A.D.

The aforementioned trade changes the composition of the team.

The aforementioned trade adds a player who has averaged 1.9 blocks over the course of his career.

The aforementioned trade…will change everything. ERROR, ERROR, ERROR.

You know what? Screw the machine. I’m ready to talk Raptors.

Let’s talk Jermaine O’Neal: the guy is a defensive standout, a fact that was largely overlooked by solid scoring averages and a nice midrange game. He comes to a team that really struggled on the boards and in defending the low post. How is this not a match made in heaven? Chris Bosh needs a buddy to draw some attention away from him and Jermaine can do just that. The team needs interior defense and better production from the center position, and Jermaine can definitely take care of that. And Jermaine needs a place where he can take his shot at redemption after an injury-plagued, miserable ending in Indiana. Check.

Chris Bosh is awesome. Period. He can score, he hits the boards, he puts in consistent effort, he doesn’t complain but he still seems authentic. This guy is a franchise player, and if you’re not mentioning him whenever you mention LeBron, Carmelo, and Wade, something is wrong with you. The Raptors cashed in big from that #4 spot, and the cashed in big. Keep doing your thing, Chris; not everyone’s going to love you, but I will. Oh, and if you happen to get some fan mail with some umm, different photos of a young looking guy lying in bed shirtless with candles in the background, it’s definitely not me. B-but, a friend of mine t-told me he sent it to you. Hehe…what a loser, right?

The problem is, the Raptors don’t have the depth or the quality at the wing positions to warrant being called a contender. They will certainly make the playoffs and do so in style, but look at this bench: Bargs, Kapono, Kris Humphries, Hassan Adams, Joey Graham, Nathan Jawai (Ed. Note: Jawaibberwocky!), Jamal Sampson, Will Solomon, Roko Ukic. No, this is not a cruel, cruel joke. In terms of minutes per game for last season, the Raps lost Carlos Delfino (6th on the team), T.J. Ford (7th on the team), Nesterovic (8th on the team), Juan Dixon (11th on the team), and others towards the bottom of the list. That’s three solid rotation players and reliable contributors that have suddenly been transformed into just one productive player. It’s going to show. Delfino did a lot for this team last year, and he will be missed. Or at least, he should be. Toronto doesn’t really have a way to replace his production at the moment, so they’ll be relying on internal improvement (particularly from Bargnani and Moon).

This team is certainly good, and I know that most NBA minds have been saying that they were just one piece away from contending for some time now. But they’re still a piece away. Maybe they’ll grab some bench contributors in mid-season free agency or in some sort of trade, but until they do they’re slotted for a low seed and a tough match-up against an Eastern Conference powerhouse.



Go Canada's team! If you are a Canadian like me, you have to love the Raptors. It's that simple. For all of you out there who don't happen to live in this fine country, there are still lots of reasons to root for the Raptors. To start of the list we've got Chris Bosh, who kind of looks like a dinosaur. Bosh is the franchise player every team gets to be envious of. Or, at least his attitude is. He doesn't complain, whine, moan or ever get into trouble, he's an angel in the world of the NBA. And, he's also pretty funny. Besides Bosh, we've got Jose Calderon who is, I'm convinced of it, the nicest guy in the entire league. Check him out at halftime, he's the guy walking around the locker room handing out Gatorades to his teammates. He's an assist guy for real. If you like the underdog, then there is Jamario Moon, who had bounced around the world before finding a home in Toronto and if you like foreign action, check Andrea Bargnani (when he's not making you pull out your hair) and Roko Ukic. International hoops your thing? Check Will Soloman or Nathan Jawaii. If you like snarky quotes and sharp dressers, look no further than Coach Sam Mitchell and if you want excitement, check out a game at the ACC. Canadians love their Raptors and you should, too. Oh yeah, Kris Humphries looks like a preppy hockey boy when he has hair, another reason to love them.


Less Cursing. Yeah, doesn't sound like the most sound reason to hate a team. Well, if you think that, then F--k you. Because, the last thing that this Raptors team needs is less muthaf*cking cursing. Sam Mitchell, head potty mouth in charge, stated over this summer that he will leave the cursing out of his coaching this year. Oh hell, Sam, this ain't separation of church and state. This is coaching...GD it. How are you gonna get your point across in the clearest way possible if you are direct and pointed with your curse words. And now, I don't mean of that French cursing, sacre blue! I'm talking about good ole' American, straight shootin', root and tootin', fresh and fruity MUTHA-FRAPPIN' cursing.

I mean, really, how you do expect to get Chris Bosh to stop making all those awesome videos and work on post defense without belittling his manhood in front of the entire crowd? You really think Jason Kapono is going to traipse inside the arch unless you make him cry from constantly calling him things we can't even write here in the blogosphere. Does Jermaine O'Neal even know English words besides profanity? And we all want you to tell Calderon where to stick it. It? Well, anything. Stick it there and stick it hard, you Spanish (el expletivo)!

If you want to try and coddle your team, to speak eloquently, to gentle urge them towards playing a tighter zone defense, more ball reversals on the perimeter, better defensive rebound positioning and better ball security, you can certainly do that with a fresh, clean (call me when you get to this point, I need to discuss something with you). Just like all the WNBA coaches do (well, except Lambier). But if you want to be a real man, like Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy, then you will f*cking curse. And, if you don't, you can go to hell. With your team. Right after you get the 5 seed and lose to the Sixers. Damnit!
A Musical Interlude:


It makes sense that the O'Neal-Bosh tandem would gel first of the new twin tower pairs around the league. Both are veterans, both are smart, and both want to succeed very badly. The only problem is that the difference between the two may not be enough to create anything of appreciable difference. For a tandem like that, you need lightning and thunder, boulder and glacier, P-Diddy and Jimmy Page (or not). This is more like Nestle Quick and Ovaltine. Yeah, they're different, but it's still the same thing.

You ever think every time management or coaches come by to talk to Kapono about his play he just slides them a paper with Miami's record from last year circled on it, smiles, and then walks away? Me too.

No pressure, Jose. Seriously. Nooo pressure.

If the Raptors have any soul at all they will send Jawai to the D-League so I can write about him as if he were a folk hero.

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