“The last two games (close losses in both Miami and Indiana) should tell us how far we have to go,” he said. “Those are two very talented teams, established programs. They have tasted the finals of the conference. They’ve tasted championships. They know big play moments. You know, you think you’re playing well and then, boom, here comes a haymaker. They know those moments and those are the moments with physicality and toughness and focus and concentration that you as a player have to recognize and we’re still trying to get there. That’s our challenge. So there is no reason for any of us to be content or satisfied or be able to be happy about what we’ve done. We should still be hungry and we have to play as a hungry team.”
The Raptors are not only a good team, but a feel-good team. The franchise has managed to scrape out of the hole that former general manager Bryan Colangelo dug for them, dealing BC favorites like Andrea Bargnani and Gay for both draft picks and eventual cap relief. In return for two starters, the Raptors received no starters, and no talent that is likely to be retained, should Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez leave the team this summer as the Raptors chase down cap room. Ujiri didn’t bring in the players that have sparked Toronto’s turnaround – Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas and the reborn Terrence Ross were all Colangelo acquisitions – but he did mold a plan for the future that seemed cogent in the wake of Colangelo’s missteps. The team could have in upwards of $14 million in cap space this offseason if all the free agents flee and Johnson’s $7 million team option (great value) is kept around, along with that likely lottery pick in a stacked draft.
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Given the fact that Bosh spent nearly three-quarters of a decade “north of the border”, he should know the reality of Toronto as a city, marketplace and organization within the NBA community. It is one with challenges; no doubt. But are those challenges related to coloured currency and chilly winter weather, or are they directly related to the fact that the Raptors have qualified for the post-season only five times in 18 seasons and are currently mired in a five-year drought?
Lowry really took on the leadership role on and off the court once Rudy Gay was traded away. Although DeMar DeRozan is the go-to-guy on the team, Lowry has been the catalyst and one of the biggest reasons for their success. He does a fantastic job running the point and constantly puts his teammates in the best position to succeed. He moves the ball well and that type of play has become very contagious with the Raptors over the last month, leading to more assists and easier buckets.
The Raptors have proved themselves competent, and that suffices in this conference. While they lack star power, the Raps have a nice collection of good players. Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson, DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross comprises more talent than most teams out East can cope with on a given night. Now that Gay’s selfish style has been jettisoned, they’re playing better on offense and defense.
But beyond the everyday, run-of-the-mill pessimism heard from the countless naysayers, the fact remains that if the playoffs began today, Toronto would be making their first venture into the post season since the 2007-08 campaign as one of the top four seeds in the East. Understanding that the season is still not even halfway complete, there’s plenty of time for almost anyone in the East to emerge as a playoff contender, but the new, wide-open style of play that Toronto has employed since Gay’s departure will likely go a long way towards overall team development.
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