First off, let me say, I am a die-hard Raptors Fan. I have been there since the days of Isaiah, Damon, and Vincenzo Esposito. I have seen the highs (very few), all of the painstaking lows, and through it all, I remained as optimistic as possible, always believing that there was a bright future ahead for the Dinosaurs from the North. I?m still not over the entire Vince debacle, and I even had hope for Rob Babcock, but just like all Raptor employees, they never failed to let me down.
When the Raps fired Babcock in February of ?06, I knew things were going to get better. He failed so miserably with Vince and Hoffa, that he never gained the trust of the upper management, he disappeared quickly, and will hopefully be forgotten as well (even though we all know that will never happen).
Then, the rumors started. Could it be true? Could Bryan Colangelo, the reigning Executive of the Year, the Current GM of the best team in the league possibly want to work for the Raptors? Does he know they suck? Has he been watching the same team that I have?
For whatever reason, the rumors were true. Bryan signed on the dotted line, and that was it for me.
To put it simply, I had blind faith. In my eyes, he could do no wrong. To also put it simply, he couldn?t do any worse. The Raptors were one of the worst teams in the league, and all they could really brag about was CB4 and our ?incredible? 3-point streak.
The new general worked swiftly, cleaned house, and set up the Raptors like they have never been before. To top it all off, his good karma rubbed off on the team, and we got the first pick in the draft as well, landing that sweet shooting Italian Boy.
Rasho, TJ, Fred Jones, Anthony Parker, and Jorge Garbajosa give this team something they have never had?Depth.
For the first time in team history, the Raps have a surplus of quality players that will actually battle for minutes. I know this situation seems foreign to Raptor fans, but this is the sort of problem GOOD teams have to face. This year, training camp will decide who will be starting at the Shooting Guard and Small Forward, and I can?t wait to see who emerges as the best of the bunch. Either way, this new lineup ensures a solid second unit, which we have simply never had before. I?d say our best 2nd unit player ever was Keon Clark, who provided a huge spark off the bench, with great energy and always attacking the ball. If he had only managed to like Basketball as much as smoking weed, he may still have been one of the Raps best player?s, but we all know how that turned out.
This year, it?s different.
All but 1 of this years players arrived in Toronto a full 2 weeks before training camp. Every player is eager and ready to play; ready to prove why they are worth the millions they are getting paid. Even though every off season acquisition has a great deal they can bring to the team, I believe the key is TJ Ford. His speed, skill, and most importantly, his friendship with Bosh will at the very least make this an exciting team to watch. The smart money is that he signs a contract extension before the Oct. 31 deadline, and I?d be very surprised if this didn?t happen.
This year is going to be different. Colangelo has brought a new team, a new attitude, and even new uniforms. BC has talked at length about having ?character? guys in the locker room, and that is exactly what he has done. As all Raptors fans must know, it is very difficult to convince American born players to sign here, and one ?character? guy that doesn?t fall into that category, is Fred Jones.
FREDDIE JONES PEOPLE!!!
SLAM DUNK CHAMPION!!!
He is going to run and gun with TJ and Bosh for the next 3 years (assuming TJ signs that extension), and I honestly think he has a chance at sixth man of the year if he comes off the bench.
The time is now. The Raptors are for real, and they will at the very least compete for a playoff spot this season. When you look at the Eastern Conference, and how many glaring holes each of the teams has (except Miami), it is not crazy to suggest that the Raps may even end up in 5th or 6th, and have a chance at winning a playoff round or two.
I know, I know, some people may call me crazy, but it will happen one of these days, and if, for whatever reason, the Raps can not live up to expectations, I have all the faith in the world that Big Bry can turn it around. Because if he leaves us, it?s sad to say, but the Raptors will be not be far behind.
If I haven?t said it enough, this year is going to be different. Training Camp is starting, and every team is undefeated, including the Raptors, and I can?t wait to see what happens. I?ll be watching every minute of Raptors ball this winter, and hopefully, CB4 and his new crew will not let us down.