Monday, March 03, 2008


Check out Dinosty if you're interested in what Raptors diehards are thinking today in the wake of last night's loss to, wait for it, the Charlotte Bobcats.

There's a divide between the hoopophiles and everyone else where the Great Raptor Redesign is concerned. The honeymoon is already over for the first group. Meantime, everyone else is just getting around to sending out congratulations cards.

That's why the initial reaction the other day upon seeing the latest Toronto Life tease an article on Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo as a profile on the man "who's saving our collective sports ego" was to laugh and say, "Nice, but it's about 12 months late." (That was before they gave 122 points at home to Indiana on Friday night.)

That's not a shot at Colangelo, who's going to save us yet. I'm the last person who should find fault with giving the man glowing coverage. This Raptors season has just been tougher to get through than the joyride of 2006-07. However, that's part of learning how to love something that is imperfect and being open to having your heart broken, instead of being cautious and non-committal all the time. (Oh, shut your word-hole, Sager. Like following a NBA franchise goes as far toward being a good person staying in a job or sustain a relationship for at least two years. How's that coming, by the way?)

There are too many nights when the Raptors can't buy a rebound or give up way too many good looks at a three-pointer. It doesn't inspire confidence that they can win a best-of-7 series, even in the Leastern Conference, but there's still some time.

There were warning signs that this might be a one-step-forward, two-steps-back season. Way back in October, the fantasy mag I picked up to prepare for my draft called a spade and spade and dug a 43-win grave for the Raptors, with a first-round playoff loss. That seemed about right (a lot more right than taking that late-round flyer on Corey Brewer, by the way).

The Raptors' window to do something will be open a lot longer than it will be for almost anyone else in the East. This season has been all about the nesting instinct kicking in (this from a single guy with no prospects, ironically enough). Like Chris Bosh when he has a choice to try and get to the rim and just put up another jumper, it's all about settling and hoping it will get better, not today, not tomorrow, but eventually.

At the same time, everything about the state of the Raps can be explained by Bosh being hailed as the new Mats Sundin when it comes to being Toronto's designated superstar. Does anyone realize Bosh and Sundin are basically the same guy? Both are talented and consistent enough to be the best player on most clubs in a 30-team league. Away from the arena, each of them is clean as a bean. They don't give the P.R.-paranoics down in marketing anything to worry about.

The trade-off is that Sundin, as good as he's been since 1995, was never that kind of elite where you could easily imagine him being the centrepiece of a championship team -- and that wasn't entirely because he played for the Leafs all these years. That might be where it's headed with Bosh and the Raptors. Like Sundin or Daniel Alfredsson with the Senators, Toronto's all-star (as he's billed during pregame intros) is a great player, but he's not next-level great.

That's an unreasonable standard for anyone shy of Gretzky status, but dumping on the star player has always been next to godliness in Toronto. It's a vestige of the long-gone Toronto the Good days when Presbyterian self-reproach was expected to trump the risk of appreciating or enjoying anything too much. Today, it just means having a star player whose purpose is essentially to be known as "that guy who's overhyped."

The having that essential T.O. sports figure instead of the Leafs is a sign they've arrived, made that long journey to the middle. This year is forcing the fanbase to grow up a little. Hey, it's not like people found fault with Pat Gillick during the Blue Jays' heyday when they didn't immediately become a dynasty. (Remember the "Stand Pat" jokes?) With the way it's gone this season, everyone eyes, like the other team's best shooters, are wide open.


Andrew Bucholtz said...

The Jays' analogy is a good one: right now, the Raptors are basically the mid-80s Jays, with tons of potential, lots of talent, a genius GM and a few glaring flaws. Hopefully, history will repeat itself and they'll win it all in a few years. As you point out, they've got a good long window. Things can also change quickly in the NBA with the right addition: look at Boston before this year compared to now.

sager said...

They're also basically the late-'90s Senators. How did that work out with the championships?

sager said...

Couple wings and another big, that's what it would take.

Joanna said...

Sundin, Bosh and I'd add Halladay. Incredibly talented, loyal (perhaps to a fault), clean, polite.