The Raptors may indeed finish lower than sixth in the Eastern Conference ? although it's a stretch to suggest they're a worse team than Miami or even Philadelphia, in the opinion of many ? but to suggest that will occur after studying stats requires a grand leap of faith.
Take Andrea Bargnani, for instance. It appears from the mathematical analysis that he's a stiff who bogs down his team whenever he's on the floor.
Yes, there are moments when he's not good but to peg him as "less than average?" I don't know about that.
Now that the tedium of pre-season hoops is over, the focus turns to Wednesday's home opener and the return of Shaq Daddy.
O'Neal lit up the Raptors in the desert last season and then lit a fuse with Chris Bosh by invoking the name of a drag queen.
"I heard what Chris Bosh said, and that's strong words coming from the RuPaul of big men," the Big Aristotle opined following his 45-point outburst, a total that helped his then-Phoenix Suns romp to a 133-111 win on Feb. 27.
"I'm going to do the same thing (in their next meeting) I did before — make him quit. Make 'em quit and complain. It's what I do."
The next time arrives Wednesday when the Raptors christen their 15th season in the NBA.
According to various ticket brokers in the area, this home opener has created quite the buzz.
Not only will fans get to see Shaq in his new Cavaliers jersey, but they also will get to watch LeBron James, the NBA's reigning MVP in what could arguably be his final season in Cleveland.
The Toronto Raptors will finish lower than sixth place in the NBA's Eastern Conference but remain in the hunt for a final playoff spot, says a leading sports mathematician who analyzed the team's prospects for the Star.
"The top six in East are almost surely Boston, Cleveland, Orlando, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Miami," says Wayne Winston, author of Mathletics and a professor of decision sciences at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.
"I believe Chicago, Detroit, Charlotte, Washington and the Raptors will fight it out for last two playoff spots. (The Raptors) will be in it till the end of the season."
If you insist on taking something away from the Toronto Raptors' preseason, take away the fact that if this is all going to work, it's going to take time. That means that for the next few weeks (at least), this team is going to struggle with consistency on the basketball court and everyone is just going to have to live with that.
Really, that shouldn't be news. Nine new players are suiting up for the club this season, and unlike in 2006 when the same number of new faces was brought in, the bulk of the new additions are untested commodities. When Anthony Parker, Jorge Garbajosa, T.J. Ford and Rasho Nesterovic were slotted into the Raptors' rotation three years ago, they were all fairly savvy and proven basketball commodities that knew how to slide into a new system. Even if Parker and Garbajosa were unfamiliar with NBA basketball, they'd both been playing the game long enough to know what it takes to succeed at any level, and both adapted to the league quickly.
Oh, boy. I?m afraid it?s going to feed in the level of hysteria that?s out there. They went 7-1 in that pre-season, rattling off seven straight wins before losing in Chicago. Beat Cleveland, sans LeBron twice, Boston before the Big Three twice and won over an Israeli club team, but still ?
Anyway, the dose of reality comes when it?s pointed out they began that season losing eight of their first 10, including six in a row on a western road trip that?s a lot like the first month they?ll have this time around.
They didn?t get back to the .500 level until Jan. 26, when they beat Boston to go 22-22.
The pre-season record notwithstanding, I can see many similarities. They have a bear of a schedule to start and there?s no reason to think they won?t be far below .500 maybe 15 or 20 games into the season.
One big question that may come around is whether the Toronto Raptors and Portland Trail Blazers did the right thing by extending Andrea Bargnani and LaMarcus Aldridge before it was necessary, and especially before their teams knew what the cap would look like for 2010-2011. Both players have been rewarded with eight-figure annual salaries for five years (starting next season) which, in this economic climate, might very well be overpaying.
A slow start to the regular season should be easy to explain and easy to accept, except that fans rarely find ways to accept losing streaks.
The Raptors face two of the top teams in the NBA at home to start the season and quickly follow that with a three game, then a four game Western road trip against teams expecting to make the playoffs. Early wins will likely have to come against Memphis on the road, or Detroit and Chicago at home.
Only winning two of these games is a real possibility and does not reflect on the team?s ability as the season progresses. There is no justification for panic over a slow start based on this opening schedule. Winning four or more of the first twelve is cause for genuine optimism.
Last season: 33-49, missed playoffs.
? Starting five: G Jos? Calder?n (12.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 8.9 apg), G DeMar DeRozan (rookie), F Hedo Turkoglu (16.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.9 apg), F Chris Bosh (22.7 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 2.5 apg), C Andrea Bargnani (15.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.2 bpg).
? Key additions: F Turkoglu (trade, Magic), G DeMar DeRozan (draft, No. 9), G Jarrett Jack (free agent, Pacers), F Reggie Evans (trade, 76ers), G Antoine Wright (trade, Mavericks), G Marco Belinelli (trade, Warriors), C Rasho Nesterovic (free agent, Pacers).
? Key losses: F Shawn Marion (trade, Mavericks), G Anthony Parker (free agent, Cavaliers), F Jason Kapono (trade, 76ers), F Joey Graham (free agent, Nuggets).
? Coach: Jay Triano, second season; 25-40.
? Blueprints: Adding Turkoglu to a nucleus that includes Bosh and Calder?n is beyond rebuilding. The Raps should be interesting. But successful enough to retain Bosh? Sure.
The topic of the day seems to be on the six-year existence of the Vancouver Grizzlies, their brief rise, quick fall and everything in between. David Stern has admitted that one of his biggest regrets in 25 years as commissioner of the NBA is mishandling the Vancouver situation. Though really, what could have been done differently?
Expand to Toronto first, let basketball flourish in Canada, then start up a franchise out West? Maybe, but what?s to say that the same thing going on right now wouldn?t have transpired? GTA basketball fans would be absolutely B-A-N-A-N-A-S for their beloved pre-historic creatures, while outside of that Census Metropolitan Area (for those of you technical Geography gurus), anything more than fair-weather fans would be few and far between.
The Raps' first-round pick joins Got Game? to discuss his long history of playing video games, and reveals his all-time favourites.
My take on it is that what you're looking for is a balance between these two things. I remember once having a conversation with a top executive with the Toronto Raptors. I asked her about the stats revolution in basketball and she just kind of shrugged and said, "It's interesting, and we look at those things, but you have to understand that for our purposes, it's all [about] character." The thing that separates players is that some have a work ethic, some don't; some are coachable, some aren't; some party all night, some go to bed early. From her standpoint, it's all those intangibles.
And for rebuilding teams, there may be hope yet. Donnie Walsh, the Knicks? president, has been focused on the summer of 2010 since his arrival.
?Everyone has their eye on the prize of the 2010 class from LeBron James to Chris Bosh to Dwyane Wade to Joe Johnson to Amar?e Stoudemire,? Miller said. ?If I?m Walsh and the New York Knicks, we know that your focus is LeBron James. But if you could get two of those guys in New York, I think that would pay bigger dividends than getting one big fish in LeBron James.?
6. Raptors: This is an interesting talent mix. Turkoglu, Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani on the front. Jose Calderon at point and rookie DeMar DeRozan at two-guard. They might not shoot as well as the Suns but they will look a lot like them.
I really would like some reason to believe that the U.S media is out to lunch and sleeping on the Raptors. Mainly because as they predict the Raptors being a borderline playoff team they also add the fact Chris Bosh will leave after this season. If you are to believe that Raps will be life and death to make the playoffs as most south of the border have been saying it's hard to argue if that comes to pass that Bosh will remain. He gave you a small look at what you will be losing last night, 27 points and 14 rebounds there is not a guy on this roster not named Bosh that can do that. Some might say Hedo Turkoglu but he has really been a concern and not looked anything like the guy that played for Magic last year. Andrea Bargnani is able to get the 27 points on a given night but 14 rebounds would be a dream that likely never comes true.
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