For those of you who want to fully enjoy an old fashion back-to-back, home-and-home weekend mini-series against our favorite and forever hated divisional rivals, the New York Knicks, than start by imagining that the Raptors and the Knicks are both engaged in a season-long heated battle for the 8th and final spot for the playoffs. No longer are we fighting each other for overall futility honours to determine our draft positions and ping-pong ball percentages. This weekend would be all about making a statement to our conference rivals that we are going to run-over, beat-up and punish any team that steps in front of us. We’ve got a new mindset. We’re focused. We’re aggressive. We want to scare you and we love to intimidate you. We love to bring the pain. As soon as other teams line-up for the tip, they already know in the back of their minds that we’re better than they are. We’re feared basketball assassins, trained to execute and built to destroy. Raps fans, it’s time to unleash our fury on our opponents and it just so happens that we’ve got a back-to-back home-and-home series against our favorite and forever hated divisional rivals, the New York Knicks. Game time is now; now is when we attack!

3… 2… 1… (Snap!)

You okay? Did we win? Did we kill the Knicks with a starting line-up full of Gerald Wallace basketball samurai’s?

After that enjoyable hypnotic trance, remembering what the current reality is surrounding these next two games, they just don’t offer the kind of anticipated excitement that’ll make us want to eagerly stay indoors and frantically watch them both unfold. However, if it happens to rain all day where we live, I guess fate will have us all tuning in. Since it just so happens that the weather forecast for tomorrow afternoon is calling for rain in Toronto, which is where I live, than I may as well accept the fact that my fate/my destiny may include a rare Saturday afternoon Raptors game.

As a certifiable Toronto Raptors fan-addict, I’m compelled to cheer for them to win every game. I really don’t care about pre-planning draft lottery percentages by staking claims on a specific non-playoff position in the overall league standing with 8-12 games still left to be played. I don’t believe in or care to participate in what many fans refer to as “tanking” (i.e. losing on purpose). The idea, the concept of a sports team purposefully developing a strategy to try to not win is philosophically, morally and culturally wrong IF a team values winning, especially for teams who’s players are not injured. Anyone that plays or lives to lose will never win or achieve anything. It’s pathetic.

(Tanking: Losing on purpose with a healthy roster).

I’ll always cheer for the Raps to try their best to win every game. And when they lose, at least we know what needs to be improved.

Straight up, those of you who argue that the team should tank are tankers. Do you know what a tanker is? A tanker gives up/quits and hopes to win the lottery. Those of us who want their team to continue coaching, practicing and playing as hard as possible to win every game regardless of past outcomes are gamers. And a gamer never gives up, never quits and wants to win a championship.

Are you a tanker or a gamer?

At the present junction, the Raptors are 22nd in the overall league standings, and Knicks are 23rd overall. (In draft speak, the Raps are 9th and the Knicks are 8th). If we happen to beat the Knicks in both games this weekend, it will help solidify our current positions in the standings. Which means, again in draft speak, that the Knicks might end up drafting the player before we do. If that ends up being the case, I’m wondering which player the Knicks might want to take off the draft board before we get to pick.

Looking at the Knicks current roster, they are seriously lacking size in their front-court. David Lee has been their starting Center for most if not the entire the season. At 6’-9”, 240 lbs, he’s playing out of position. Al Harrington is their starting PF. He’s also 6’9”, 250 lbs, but his rebounding numbers (6.2 rpg) are below average for his position. Off the bench, they have Eddy “Whopper” Curry (who’s played in a total of 3 games all season), Chris “Inconsistent” Wilcox; than there’s Courtney “2 yrs/13 min of burn” Sims and Jared “I Got No Jimmy” Jefferies.

We all know that Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni doesn’t want his players to play defence and that his “seven seconds or less” system is predicated on getting up shats. So here’s a “D’Antoni riddle” about the 29-46, lottery-bound Knicks: they are the 4th highest scoring team in the league, but they are 27th in rebounding differential and last in BPG. Do you think they’re losing because they aren’t scoring enough points, or, because they’re giving up too many points? (The answer to the riddle… is found in the blocks and boards.) Rebounding allows teams to control pace, create fast break scoring opportunities and eliminate your opponent’s 2nd chance scoring opportunities. It’s evident that they could use better rebounders off the bench. Shot blocking makes opponents take less shots in the painted area, which reduces the number of high percentage shots taken, thus leading to more difficult perimeter jump, and missed jump shots lead to long rebounds. Without a shot blocking presence whatsoever, the Knicks allow teams to score at will in the paint.

The Knicks also need to improve their starting point guard. Nate Robinson has been starting at SG since the all-star break and he’s been an incredible scoring run. That’s left Chris Duhon as their only PG, forcing him start. Duhon is undersized at 6’1” and his FG% is a lousy 41%. Where he earns his playing time is in his ball distribution. He’s a capable backup who’s forced to start and it’s evident that the Knicks need an upgrade at the 1.

Come June, would anyone be surprised if the Knicks drafted the best available big with the 8th pick? Or do you expect the Knicks will draft the best available PG? Either way, the Raptors will have one less player to choose from should they finish the season ahead of the Knicks.

But does that matter? If the Raptors have to pick after the Knicks, will it affect ours selection? Right now, there’s no point worrying about that. Our draft selection will depend entirely on whether we keep Bosh or not. (Whether he wants the full-max or whether we want to pay him the full-max. We shall see what happens). Personally, if we don’t get a top-3 pick and keep our 9-10th pick, the thought of packaging the pick with Kapono or Banks and using some of our cap space to make an uneven salary trade to get a starting-caliber SG looks as promising as any of our other 100+ roster options. I don’t see us getting a starting SG one via FA. We’ve got roster holes we want to fill just like every team, just like the Knicks. Which brings us back to our weekend double-header.

The Raps are looking for their 6th win in row, whereas the Knicks lost 3 in a row and are 1-9 in their last ten. If both teams continue to play like they have, we’ll see a repeat of our 111-100 revenge win against them on Feb. 22, as opposed to the 97-127 massacre at MGS we witnessed on Feb. 20.

Beating the Knicks is always a wonderful feeling no matter what the record or lottery aspirations.

You might disagree about being a gamer or a tanker, but we’re on the same page when it comes to the Knick City Dancers (only dance team to have their own subdomain in the URL).

The Vegas Line has the Knicks -2. I’m taking the Raps and the points on the road.

Finally, for small but strong contingent of hype Raptors Republic junglists massive, today’s RR pre-game theme track is for all y’all! (BOH!)

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