Are the Raptors bound for the NBA's upper class, ready to flex their uber-rich ownership's considerable financial muscle to add talent in search of playoff success with Bosh as the focal point on the floor and Colangelo the architect?
Or is yet more retooling ahead, with ownership's eye on the bottom line as much as any on-court prize in the increasingly have and have-not NBA, the long-term presence of Bosh and Colangelo very much in doubt?
"I'm at a point where I want to elevate my game and get better and all that stuff," the 6-foot-10 forward said on the eve of his seventh NBA season, the prime of his career at hand. "My numbers have plateaued and the wins have gone down, so it's either do or don't."
“It’s the unknown that is intriguing,” Bryan Colangelo, the Raptors president and GM, was saying Tuesday.
What we do know, mind you, is a little alarming. We know the club, on its second makeover in as many seasons, is assimilating nine new faces in a league where the best teams point to roster continuity as a key to success. We know they’ve got a hard-thinking coach in his first full season, Jay Triano, who spent the tail end of last year’s 33-win embarrassment lamenting his lack of a training camp. And we know the training camp Triano so coveted has been marred by injured regulars, among them all-star cornerstone Chris Bosh and much-needed grunt-work specialists Antoine Wright and Reggie Evans.
Chris Bosh is extremely hesitant to talk about where he may play next season or what it would take to sign another deal with the Raptors, the only NBA club he has ever known.
But the four-time all-star opened up a little when he said that what will make him content is making the playoffs, on a regular basis, with the possibility of going deep into the post-season.
"I think about all the games I watched when I was little. What games do I remember? Playoff games. You don't remember like: 'Hey, do you remember when Jordan had 30 in February?' " he said. "It's all about the playoffs."
The Raptors are entering their 15th NBA season. Here's a look at 15 names from the past, in no particular order, that resonated with fans, for good and for bad.
Teams in the NBA's Eastern Conference should heed the words of Hedo Turkoglu.
While players were asked yesterday for predictions on the coming season, which begins tonight for the Raptors at the Air Canada Centre against the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers, Turkoglu suggested that anyone who believes his club will not succeed is misinformed.
"We are as good as anybody out there right now," said Turkoglu, whom GM Bryan Colangelo brought over from the Orlando Magic in July. "We don't get a lot of credit, even to make the playoffs. But we really don't care. I'm very confident about myself and my teammates."
You can't touch it or smell it or measure it in any quantifiable manner. It's an elusive concept that many talk about but no one can really clearly define.
Yet it may be the one thing that determines whether the Raptors' season, which opens Wednesday night as they host the Cleveland Cavaliers, is a wild success or an unqualified failure.
It is team chemistry, which can be getting disparate personalities not familiar with each other to mesh into a cohesive unit or asking some to accept lesser roles for the common good or simply respecting each other as people and co-workers.
Cleveland at Toronto 7 p.m., Air Canada Centre TV: The Score Radio: Fan 590
Who's hot? After a slow start to the pre-season, Chris Bosh scored 27 points and 14 rebounds in his final exhibition game.
Who's not? The team shot 24% from three-point territory in the pre-season. DeMar DeRozan (27%), Hedo Turkoglu (25%), Jarrett Jack (7%) and Marco Belinelli (25%) were the worst offenders.
So, then, other than the obvious Bosh variable, what is at stake this season? Because it certainly is not money.
"I take the criticism as a challenge," Raptors president and general Bryan Colangelo said when his team started training camp late last month, referring to the dark cloud that descended over his reputation, at least locally, after last year's 33-win season.
"I try to funnel that and channel that the right way and apply myself even that much more. It's not that I don't work hard all the time, but when it's time to fight, I want to know that the people around me have the same attitude and mentality that I have, and people want to get in the trenches and dig through it."
With Chris Bosh's future in Toronto uncertain, Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo spent the offseason making moves to convince his power forward to stay and prove to him that the team is moving towards a championship.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are facing a similar situation with LeBron James, and hope the offseason addition of Shaquille O'Neal
can help the reigning league MVP win a title. However, the new tandem of James and O'Neal hardly made the team look like a title contender in its opener.
Prized offseason acquisition Hedo Turkoglu joins Bosh for the Raptors when they open their season in Wednesday night against a Cavaliers team still seeking its first victory.
After winning the Atlantic Division in 2006-07, and making a return trip to the playoffs
the following year, Toronto had high hopes for last season but never got in sync and finished 33-49.
Here’s the thing with trying to figure out what’s going to happen with these guys this season:
No one has a real clue.
Not you, not me, not Jay, not Bryan and not the players.
There are so many questions marks, so many new faces, so much still to be done that to make a prediction is, well, it is what it always is, a mug’s game.
You saw the point-counterpoint thing in today’s newspaper, right, three key issues that could turn either way and either make or ruin a season or a chunk of it.
But part of the reason we’re here is to make somewhat bold statements, generate conversation and, every now and then, get something right.
Big is bold
The Raptors start a front line of 6-foot-10 Hedo Turkoglu, 6-foot-10 Chris Bosh and 7-foot Andrea Bargnani, all capable of making outside shots, creating matchup problems.
Tonight at the ACC the Raptors 2009-2010 regular season will get under way.
It should be a rocking good time and if you have a ticket feel fortunate. Last time I checked the cheapest ticket on Stubhub was $85 and that’s for a single in row 16 of the upper deck. Not surprisingly it’s a hot ticket, in particular with Lebron and Shaq in town.
Make no mistake about it, even though the Cavs will be playing for the second time in two nights, this is going to be a mighty challenge for the new look Raps. It is also going to be a pretty good indication of where this team is after the month long preseason.
It’s hard to say what we are in for or what we should expect from the Raps tonight. Coach Triano played with a variety of different lineups during the preseason and by his own admission, was not running a lot of the offensive sets that the team intends to run from this point forward.
- Does he look at the game against Cleveland as a sort of "litmus" test? "One of the things we can't control. I'm not going to say its a litmus test and if we do really well we're going to be great and if we don't do well we're going to be bad. It's a chance to start the season and the one thing we really like is that we get to see them play tonight."
- How he feels on the eve of his team's home opener: "As a coach, I'm looking at the things I didn't like in preseason and trying to clean those up a little bit. For the most part, I'm comfortable with where we are. I don't think as a coach you're ever really satisfied. I think all throughout the year, even through the games there are going to be situations that we're going to have to stop and learn, redrill and recreate for our guys in practice. That's part of the growth of the team."
Cleveland likely Starting 5:
Mo Williams, PG
Anthony Parker, SG
LeBron James, SF
Anderson Varejao, PF
Shaq O’Neal, C
Note: Delonte West is not playing today against Boston, so I imagine him not being ready for tomorrow’s game. So this could be a nice way to see AP coming back as a starter for the best team in the East last season.
Raptors likely starting 5:
Jose Calderon, PG
DeMar DeRozan, SG
Hedo Turkoglu, SF
Chris Bosh, PF
Andrea Bargnani, C
“It makes it a little bit tougher for us because we’d love to be able to play our defensive principles over and over and over again, and basically that’s what we will do,” Raptors coach Jay Triano said. “But to go through all of it in training camp and then all of the sudden say, ‘OK, now we’re going to play a box-and-one on LeBron,’ I don’t think that helps us in our development as a team.”
Besides, James can beat a team in many ways.
“If you try to play tough defence, he will go to the line 10, 15 times,” said Turkoglu, who will likely start the night guarding James. “And in the end he’ll probably end up scoring 30, 40 (points). On the (defensive) end, what we have to do is just try to stay in front of him and accept him making jumpers (rather) than putting him on the free-throw line 15 times and getting you in foul trouble. You can’t leave your teammate alone in that situation.”
“We are as good as anybody out there right now,” said Turkoglu, whom GM Bryan Colangelo brought over from the Orlando Magic in July. “We don’t get a lot of credit, even to make the playoffs. But we really don’t care. I’m very confident about myself and my teammates.”
Perhaps it’s Turkoglu who is wearing the rose-coloured contact lenses.
Most basketball publications pick the Raptors, who finished 33-49 last season and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2006, to finish anywhere from fifth to eighth in the East.
It seems like it's been over four months since we had some NBA games that actually meant something. Wait, it has been four months. That's a long time! And there has been no shortage of off-season action and debate to fuel our appetite for tonight's season openers.
Before the big tip-off tonight at 7:30pm ET, I asked Holly MacKenzie, Tas Melas and Joe Casciaro to give me their predictions for the 2009-10 season. I combined their predicted team rankings with my own and averaged them out for the "official" Court Surfing predictions. Compare them to your own, mock our picks if you disagree, and we'll see at the end of the season who came the closest.
The Raptors open the 2009-'10 season Wednesday with five international players on their roster — Jose Calderon (Spain), Andrea Bargnani (Italy) and off-season acquisitions Hedo Turkoglu (Turkey), Rasho Nesterovic (Slovenia) and Marco Belinelli (Italy) — matching the Charlotte Bobcats and Sacramento Kings as second-most in the league.
Several prognosticators picked the Raptors to finish around sixth or seventh in the Eastern Conference this season.
There will be plenty of attention focused on the Cleveland Cavaliers for a number of reasons as he big "whatever-he's-calling-himself-these-days" has landed in Cleveland.
Shaquille O'Neal says the goal is to win a ring for The King, as in LeBron James.
But there are some interesting stories to watch unfold in other spots as Detroit has a new look and Chicago is looking to get back to the playoffs and out of the first round after an epic battle with Boston last spring.
Indiana and Milwaukee, on the other ha
Magic, Cavaliers, Celtics, Bulls, 76ers, Raptors, Pistons, Hawks. (And yes, we wrote that the Hawks wouldn’t be in the playoffs … but sometimes, we struggle counting to eight. Hawks edge out the Heat for the final spot.) Magic over the Cavaliers in the conference finals.
In the Toronto Raptors’ home opener they face last year’s best regular season team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. A team whose core of players has stayed together and has added veteran depth to play with the league’s best player, LeBron James. Shaquille O’Neal and Anthony Parker will make the Cavaliers an even better team.
Unfortunately for Toronto, last year the Raptors were an easy 20 point victim of the Cavaliers incredible regular season run. But with nine new players in Toronto, at least some of the match-ups have changed.
"You have got to look forward to it," forward Chris Bosh said. "You can't complain. It's going to happen anyway. Sometimes it's good to get the tough part of the schedule out of the way. That means if it's tough now, it's going to get a little bit lighter down the road."
"Hopefully it's through those tough times that we decide who we're going to be as a team and we turn that into a positive as we go down the stretch," Triano added. "I think it was three years ago we started off 2-10. And we ended up winning 47 games. We have to play every game."
Being a sports fan in Toronto has to be one of most depressing situations that a human being can ever endure. It is so much worse than being a Cubs fan, or L.A. Clippers fan, or a fan of any other crappy sports team.
Being in Toronto in general these days can be totally depressing. There's political stagnation, taxes and more taxes, a crummy housing market, bad roads, gun crimes, and other loads of crap.
- Who are we “supposed to” beat?
- Gameday: Raptors vs Cavaliers