Alright I'm not jumping off the ledge just yet, but I do have some concerns that I hope are just there out of caring a bit too much for my team. But I have to say something, and that is the following:
The Toronto Raptors have had a very, very sloppy preseason in 2008...
Now exhibition games are not basis to plan a parade or to even throw a team under the bus, but there are still some issues at hand that must be answered (back-up Point Guard, starting Small Forward, Jemaine O'Neal's in-game fitness). These issues should be resolved far quicker than their broadcast schedule has, I mean I don't see O'Neal taking more than a dozen games to get back up to game speed, and they'll also figure out how their bench works together. However what truly concerns me is the high expectations for this team, this year and last season, working against all the progress the Raps have made within the city.
From all reports there's a new coaching philosophy to be implemented, the team is moving away from the high scoring offence to a more half-court offence - slowing things down and making the game less than exciting for casual fans not really interested in the intricacies of the sport. It does work in Toronto's favour, with a couple talented big men down low it will help to maximize their abilities. But if there's a lack of wins early on, it can also work against attracting fans. With the disappointing end to last season, and a big offseason move to propell the team forward in the standings - yes, even in the much improved Eastern Conference - a result like that of last year may wear on the patience of the new members of the Raptors fanbase.
It's frustrating because really, in all regards, Chris Bosh SHOULD be the face of the Toronto sports market right now - he's a budding superstar with a cool, calm demeanour who leaves it all on the floor. He has a great personality and the media is starting to embrace him, seen thru the popularity of his blog and his spots on Jay Leno last season. The Raptors are a playoff contending team and are showing signs that there are even better years to come, and soon too! And yet Mats Sundin's indecisive nature STILL trumps roughly anything Raptor-related in the media. It almost seems that even a Leafs season which pretty much guarantees a rather dismal finish won't allow basketball to move up into the spotlight. So an off-year for the Raptors may warrant a brand new campaign to reignite interest in the round ball for the average Toronto sports fan.
Let me go on record as saying this: in no way am I giving up on the team this season, I still see them making it thru the first round of the playoffs. They have a lot of talent on their team, one of the best frontcourts in the game and a superstar trio (Bosh-Calderon-O'Neal) that can rival any other in the Association. However the preseason has not reflected this yet, in any way really! It will likely mean that a little more patience is required this year, especially off the start, so hopefully other fans in Toronto get the memo as well.
Or even better yet, they prove me completely wrong in my assessment!