There’s a special kind of pain experienced by Raptor fans. After more than a decade and a half the team has little more to show for their toil than a handful of playoff appearances and a pair of franchise players whose departures left the organization at a standstill. While it’s easy to wax poetic about how frustrating being a Raptor fan can be, one only has to look at other NBA teams to understand that things could be much worse.
The Orlando Magic have been perennial contenders in the Eastern Conference since they took Dwight Howard with the first pick in the 2004 draft, but in their current position Raptor fans can empathise. There are nine days until Otis Smith has to make a decision that will almost undoubtedly set the organization back a few years. Some hold out hope that Smith will be able to bring back a haul comparable to the one Masai Ujiri was able to get for Carmelo Anthony, a tall task with Otis Smith’s track record. I can’t help but draw the comparison between Otis Smith and Danny Ferry, and how they constructed teams around young franchise players and failed to surround them with the talent necessary to capture a title, or even convince the players to stay.
Switching to the game, the Raptors had a tall task taking on the Magic on the second night of a back to back. Amir was given the night off, and with Bargnani continuing his sideline modelling career the Raptors were forced to go at Dwight Howard undermanned. While I expected Toronto to come out a little sluggish after a hard fought win last night, they surprized with focus and aggression right from the tip. Aaron Gray was tasked with holding his own against Dwight Howard, and he answered the call commendably. He used his wide frame and high motor to bother Howard on both ends of the floor, but was hampered with foul trouble due to some questionable officiating (a theme for the game).
Ed Davis was given his eighth start of the season with Amir’s absence, and he looked to carry over his strong performance from last night’s game, with mixed results. Jose was unable to regain his pre-All-Star break form, which might affect his trade value, but more on that later. James Johnson put in another so-so performance that has me baffled as to how he projects going forward. Matt Devlin called DeRozan’s night “magnificent”, and while I wouldn’t be that complimentary, he was incredibly effective attacking the basket.
While the game was competitive throughout, Dwight Howard’s physical prowess set the tone. Even with Gray’s encouraging play coupled with Magloires dependable stoicism, Howard’s 36 and 13 was too much for the Raptors to overcome. I think Devlin unintentionally summarized what the Raptors were up against when Magloire entered the game and he commented “The Big Cat checks in to handle Superman”. The Raptors were outmatched, undermanned, but still somehow managed to put in a scrappy effort and almost won the game, pleasing tank nation while still giving the home fans a reason to show up.
Now to the Jose Calderon situation, which many RR readers have commented on, and I thought I’d throw in my two cents. When you look at successful franchises, no matter the sport, they tend manage personnel decisions without emotion. While this takes much of the perceived romanticism out of the player-organization relationship, it allows for teams to look after their own interests. While the needs and considerations of the player should be taken into account, they should be secondary. So when people accuse the Raptors front-office of being cold-hearted in their treatment Jose, I side with the front-office and applaud their efforts, despite the bad taste it leaves.
Ed’s Note: This is David Helm’s last casting call.