Staying positive.

Quiet summer, ain’t it? Picture day’s about a month and a half away, and there’s not much in the air in terms of Raptors news. There might be idle talk and speculation of how good someone might turn out to be, with the conversation mainly focusing on Jonas Valanciunas, probably the most anticipated player coming in. Judging on the Olympic performance there’s clearly work to be done on that front, and you might even find a bet or two where Terrence Ross would be picked to have a bigger impact than the big Lithuanian.

The basketball itch hasn’t been too severe this summer, maybe because the off-season was quite busy and the season did end later than usual. A training camp on the horizon does breed excitement, even though it’s not in the sense of anticipating a winning team. It’s more of a curiosity at this point, to see how these different components – Lowry, Valanciunas, and Ross – fit into the existing setup. Everyone has a role and a metric or two which they will be measured in:

– Ross – three point shooting
– Lowry – steals, assists, FTAs
– Valanciunas – rebounds, FG%

Something like that. If things click, the Raptors might find themselves as being a true “up and coming” team for the first time since 2007. If they stay more or less the same in terms of wins, it’ll be chalked up to progress and the positive would be experienced gained, with verdicts on DeRozan and Bargnani likely to follow. If things go south, the portrait of the Raptors as a perennial loser will continue to be painted and a couple heads will roll, maybe something like ushering DeRozan and Bargnani out, and buying stock in Valanciunas and Ross – the age old transition from mediocrity to likely more mediocrity.

Let’s stay positive though, and hope that the blend of youth and experience (mostly youth) can thrive under Casey and that the coach’s message stays fresh. The Atlantic is sure to be a struggle with New York, New Jersey, Boston, and Philadelphia all currently stronger than the Raptors. Throw in Chicago and Indiana from the Central, and Miami and Atlanta from the Southeast, and the playoff spots dry up quickly. I’ll settle for a legitimate battle for eighth spot next season, even if we don’t get it. I do mean legitimate though, not 12 games out like last season, or 15 the year before.

To draw a comparison, the Raptors need to make the same run Indiana made in 2010-11, where on the backs of a point guard (Lowry/Collison), a big (Valanciunas/Hibbert), and a wing (DeRozan/Granger), they announced themselves by grabbing the final playoff spot. What followed was a prompt first round exit, but the signal of intent was made and look at the progression the following year. It’s getting that foot in the door that’s essential for the Raptors this season. If they get the eight spot, it’ll mean something and we’re not talking instant gratification, they’ll be planting a seed which they shall reap in years to come.

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