Trying To Sum Up This Raptors Season Is Far From Easy

So how do you sum up this season and this series in words? Unbelievable is the first word that jumps into my head. This season was never suppose to happen let’s make that clear. The Raptors were the Knicks accepting a trade away from it not happening. Kyle Lowry now becomes the focus of this off-season and his re-signing with the Raptors and playing to the same level he has shown this season is vital to any of what has happened this year continuing. DeMar DeRozan seems confident that he will but he hasn’t been here for 19 years to have the fragility that Raptors’ fandom is. We saw the city of Toronto rally behind this team to numbers we have never seen in the past. Not just Toronto but this country and it is proven by ratings. The Raptors ratings were off the charts in this playoff run even bigger than when Vince took that shot that didn’t fall in Philadelphia.

Speaking of which how this all ended was painful. It made you cringe that the Raptors could allow Kyle Lowry to be triple teamed and have no chance to get a shot off at all. It was over and if not for this magical season and the fact no one expected the Raptors would be here there would be a lot more questioning going on.

This series for me had three parts to it that defined it. The Raptors in the first three games played like the underdogs that didn’t have any true belief in them winning. In Game 4 and most of Game 5 the Raptors found a swagger and suddenly had the confidence that they were good enough to win this series. The third and final shift the Nets made a furious run to close game 5 and that while not getting the win showed the Nets a path to victory.

In the very end the Raptors as they always seem to do found a way back into a game that they really had no business being in and had that chance to win that we already talked about. I am in the end so proud that Amir Johnson and DeMar DeRozan got to experience this cause they both deserved to see what this city and country can be like for the playoffs. It was so big that even people from the Nets and from the NBA in the U.S could not deny. I prefer not use made up MLSE catch phrases like Northern Uprising but it was something. It was validation the Raptors can be as big as the want to be if they only give fans some reason to hope and believe.

It remains to be seen if all of this is real and can continue going forward. The signs are that it can but the Raptors have been hopeful about the future before only to have things blow up in their face. That is the real task ahead for Tim Leiweke and Masai Ujiri to prove that they are not just simply the latest smart people to claim to have answers for the Raptors.

Dwane Casey deserves a ton of credit for taking this team to this point. He has his contract up and it would be a huge shock if he was not back. I have been in that locker room and know the respect he both demands and gets from his players. That is not in question what is though is a lot of decisions Dwane made as a head coach in this series. This was his first playoff experience as well but against Jason Kidd in the same circumstances he was out duelled.

I want to believe this can all work and move forward I think we all do. In fact more people than we ever imagined do as was proven by fans in square that was named after a hockey team that was taken over by basketball fans in just as big numbers and maybe more at the end of the day. The Raptors had people talking about them that I didn’t even know watched basketball. Will they be back and will the Raptors give them reason to be back.

In the end I didn’t pick the Raptors to win this series and they ultimately didn’t. I take zero joy in that and honestly tell you that they changed my mind during this series. Anyone that knows my history the amount of times I change my mind about anything are rare events indeed. I for a time thought they were going to win this series and in the end they came so close to doing it. That has always kind of been the Raptors mantra in their history. Raptors have been close too something or on the verge of breaking through before. We arrive at another one of those points of being on the verge of better things and brighter days. I can’t tell you they won’t come anymore than anyone else can tell you that they will. I hope for all that they do and the horrible history this franchise has can finally be but in the past. That maybe we can move on from Vince Carter being some jerk and realize that Vinsanity was pretty cool and whatever happened we all were lucky to have seen it happen. It’s hard to let go of that history and not fear it. To simply ignore it I think is naive and not acknowledging the elephant in the room.

Now we see if things have really changed and if the Raptors can really build something. Can they keep Kyle Lowry and have him be as successful as he was. Not just that but can they get others want to come here and be a part of things. If all those people standing outside wasn’t good enough to make a NBA player want to call Toronto home than nothing will.

I am proud of the Raptors for believing in themselves long before any of us truly believed in them. It was that belief that carried this team this far.

All of this being said I made some comments on Twitter that I am considering the future of the DNB. As great a season as it was for the Raptors it was by far the toughest for me. I struggled to keep this thing going and live up to a promise I made to myself to make it through this season. I have done that but beyond that I am really not sure. I will probably write a few more blogs and tie a bow on this season and likely reach out to Jack Armstrong and get his thoughts on everything. After that I am going to take a break and consider if I can keep doing this going forward. I am not making hardly anything in terms of income and have worked hard for 6 years looking to build to something else to support me. It hasn’t happened despite my hard work and dedication. At some point you have to consider if things make sense and that is where I am at with the DNB. If I decide to stick around or not, I promise to explain my complete thoughts on all of this the good, the bad and even the ugly. The truth is though if the DNB is going to be done I have had a lot of good and I am grateful for all of it.

So that is it for now. Thanks for reading today and for all the other times you have.


Raptors Look To Avoid The Unknown Of A Game 7

Even in the best of the times the Raptors can so frustrating. That thought had to cross your mind at least once during game 5 on Wednesday. Before the Raptors decided they would make things interesting for the viewing audience in the fourth quarter they were playing awesome basketball. I am convinced the Raptors had something click in game 4 and realized they are not the underdog in this series and they are better than the Nets. I was extremely hard on this team in games 1-3 in my opinion they easily could have found themselves down 3-0 in this series.

Obviously in predicting this series I have gotten it wrong by calling the Nets winning this series in 6 games. I was even more wrong about something else though and that was the Brooklyn fans. I naturally assumed with all the F-Brooklyn nonsense it would fire up the people of Brooklyn. They were told by their own twitter account that they could take a lesson from all of you Raptors fans.

As we look to tonight the Raptors obviously want to get things done and finish off this series if possible. There are two real reasons to get this done now and not roll the dice on game 7. The first one is the Miami Heat have already been sitting and watching the Nets and Raptors beat the heck out of each other as they sit back and wait in South Beach. If you can save the wear and tear of yet another game it only makes sense.

The other reason is game 7 is a whole different animal and who knows how the Raptors will react to the environment. Why take the risk if you don’t have too if your Raptors. They may do just fine in a game 7 after all they said coming in the Raptors had no experience and it would cost them.

Kyle Lowry was the guy that saved the day in game 5 and proved that the Raptors really have no choice but to get him signed this off-season. If they don’t I still remain unconvinced the Raptors can build on what is going on from here. He means that much to what is going on with this team this season.

Raptors have been able to build advantages in the first half of both game 4 and 5 and I feel that has been essential to their success. It has been proven by both teams in this series that coming from behind takes a toll on you and catches up with you in the end.

If the Raptors finish off the Nets when they shake hands and hug it out after the series they should be asking how to beat Miami. The Raptors have no idea how to do that while the Nets had great success against the Heat this year. There is no question the boys down in South Beach are rooting for the Raptors to come out of this series. Is that as insulting as Brooklyn losing to get this match-up? Probably not it just is common sense as the Heat has never lost to Raptors since Chris Bosh left the Raptors for the Heat in 2010.

Miami has seen a Raptors crowd that is energized and pumped up before. Still this maybe on another level than Chris Bosh, Vince Carter or other former Raptors villains have seen in the past. All that said it would take some kind of fairy tale to see the Heat fall to the Raptors. It really is just not something that using logic you can see happening. True we have seen some upsets in these playoffs but generally in a seven game series the cream rises to the top.

Raptors still have work to do before they get to pint of worrying about that impossible task. Even though I started picking the Nets in this series I now believe the Raptors can and will win this series. I am not sure if this happens tonight or back in Toronto on the weekend.


If Only The World Was As Easy To Understand As The Raptors and Basketball Can Be

My opinions on this series and in fact this season have not exactly made me Mr. Popular. It’s a good thing that was never a goal in doing this for me even in the times my views were or are popular. I think regardless of what people think of my thoughts and ideas it gives me some sense of consistency and credibility. What exactly am I getting at with all of this? I have as most people are aware have not picked the Raptors to win this series. Heading into game 4, as I said the last time I wrote about this series it had gone to script.

All of this said the level of how impressed I was with the Raptors play in game 4 is beyond words for me to express in some ways. The fact that Amir Johnson and DeMar DeRozan were at the core of the Raptors best effort in this series by far makes me smile. The Raptors won game 4 by fixing one of many issues they have had in this series but it may have been the most important one. They took control of the game early and built a large lead.

Yes they would let that led completely go away and the Nets would take the lead at some point in the third. The thing was the Raptors had more energy to fight back having not had to expend as much when they were in control of the game. People try and make this game far more complicated than it actually is with all of their analysis. They want to appear to be smart and know more than you. Keep in mind these were the same people that gave the Raptors no chance to be good this season. None of us did if we are being completely honest.

What has got this team to this point is a lot of heart and effort and self believe. They fought through injuries in this game and showed an inner toughness that they may have even not been aware they had. The ability to be able to do that had its root in the there great play in the first half.

This was far from a perfect performance they still continue to be far too sloppy with the ball and far too dependent on three point shots that are not falling. The Raptors need to attack this team and smack them in mouth if we have learned nothing in this series other than one thing it is the Raptors have an advantage inside. K.G is an old dog whose bark now far exceeds his bite at this point in his career. They need to go at the Nets and attack again and again. This will help with another problem that has been far overblown.

The conspiracy theorists want to desperately believe that the Raptors are being hard done by the NBA and its officials. I would humbly suggest to you with events going on in L.A with the Clippers and trying to find out how to deal with something far great than the result of any basketball game. Adam Silver is dealing with how to get rid of racist owner that is an embarrassment to everyone that considers themselves a NBA fan. We all should not be proud of what Adam Silver did today,he only did what was the obvious thing to do. We should instead wonder why we all stood by and accepted someone that we all were pretty aware was a suspected racist be an owner in this league for over 30 years. We should be concerned that legally he likely can keep ownership of that franchise and profit from the work of people he clearly sees as lesser than him.

If you think that racism does not exist in this world you are fooling yourself. The problem with this politically correct world that we live in is people are afraid to express how they truly feel. So they hide in the shadows not saying anything. The United States elected a black president and it was seen as historic moment and great step in race relations for the United States. It was a tremendous moment and one I will remember even as a Canadian till the day that I die. But it did not bring an end to racism anymore than what Adam Silver did today. While Adam did the right thing and it was a big moment in his first few months on the job it didn’t solve the problem or address how it was allowed to happen in the first place. We all own a piece of that blame by turning a blind eye to something we had been made aware of. We also should not feel this is a problem solved and it is time to move on.

I care deeply about civil rights and one of the people that were part of that struggle that I respect the most was Malcolm X.  If he had survived to be alive today I seriously doubt he would deem today as any kind of success. This was just a realization of a failure that had not been addressed for far too long. Here is the harsh reality that most people don’t want to address but if not for TMZ the reality is Mr. Sterling would still be the owner of the Clippers and sitting court side for game 5 of the Clippers vs. Warriors series.

So what was it that started that whole conversation again? Oh right the NBA being out to screw Canada and the Raptors as some evil plan that is formed in the offices of New York City. A secret conspiracy with all the refs that the NBA employs to make sure the Canadian team doesn’t win the series.

To say I think all of people moaning and complaining about officiating is completely laughable is a huge understatement. The simple reality is the refs have not been as good and consistent for both teams in this series.  There were four straight calls against Brooklyn in the close to game 4. Was anyone complaining about them at that time? Not really no because that kind of kills the whole idea of the evil refs being real.

Raptors fans are loud and passionate but when you turn that passion to anger towards the refs that is not helping the Raptors or doing them any favours. The Raptors do themselves no favours by complaining about and losing focus on the task at hand to beat the Nets. When you let the refs enter into the equation now you are battling your own thoughts and the other team. It also makes you not focused on the task at hand. Do your job and let the chips fall where they may. If the Raptors take the advice I said and play aggressive and attack the basket that is the best way they can handle things. Put it on the refs to do their job and if they do, things should take care of themselves.

I mentioned my love and admiration of both Amir Johnson and DeMar DeRozan. I love them as people and never once did the colour of their skin matter to me. Just like in high school one of my best friends was half black but for me he was just my friend Chris.

I watched a bit of the most recent edition of Open Court and saw how much DeMar truly loves his daughter. I hope and pray for a world for that little girl that doesn’t see colour and treats her like anyone else. Likely she will be ok to some extend by having a father with the money to give her a good life. Still the amount of money you have, the job you have or any other thing doesn’t change the fact that we still live in a world that is not as tolerant as we want it to be.

You can bury your head in the sand to that or you can wake up to the fact we may think we have come along way but we really haven’t come as far as we think. Paul Jones said today that whole matter of racism is a marathon and it takes a long time to finish a marathon. The one way you can’t finish that marathon is to stop running.

So yes this series is a big deal in a certain context. In another it really is just a game and there are bigger and more far reaching things in life. It really isn’t worth cursing a city because they happen to be your opponent. I have had a lot of things change for me in this season in how I view a great many things.

This is supposed to be fun but in a lot of ways at least for me it hasn’t been. I am different and unique from a lot of folks. I don’t see the world the same as a lot of people. But at the core of everything I am, it comes down to some simple things. I am honest and say what I feel is the truth. I am loyal to the people that have earned my loyalty.  I respect all people that respect me regardless of who they are or what colour they maybe.

The Raptors have an opportunity to win this series. Regardless of the outcome they have earned some respect. They may not being playing as well as they should in this series but their effort can not be questioned. Regardless of what the future holds beyond this season this is a special group of people. A group that is made up of people from many places and cultures all working together for a common goal. That can happen on a basketball floor making it happen in the world as whole is far more difficult. 


Raptors vs Nets: One Series Sticking To The Expected Script

I think it’s safe to say that I disagree with majority of folks about a great many things about this team and this series. What we can all agree on is the Raptors effort level and that almost won them a game they had no business winning in game 3 of this series. The Nets though they had it won and took their foot off the gas and the Raptors kept coming and almost made a comeback that in all honesty I feel would have led to them winning this series. It didn’t happen though and the Nets through some good fortune and just waking up managed to hang on for the win.

I will admit to be wrong about the environment for this game I was pretty shocked at how tame the Brooklyn crowd was given all of the stuff that went on back here in Toronto. Rihanna clearly was not chanting anything negative and was at the game to be seen. Drake may do the same up in Toronto but have to give him this much he gets involved in the game. I still would rather see Rihanna at game 5 instead of Drake for obvious reasons.

So why are the Raptors losing this series? Pretty basic and simple to me and one of the things I was saying as far back as January about this team. It is that they take far too many three point shots and have no idea when to give up on them and attack. More to the point their offensive attack was flawed based on this and would never translate well to the post-season. I rarely get into stats because I just don’t feel the need to have numbers to validate what we all clearly see. The Raptors have attempted 61 three pointer is this series making just 17 for a 27.8 percentage to long range.

It speaks to the Raptors lack of discipline and the Nets defensive abilities to defend the three point shot. The Raptors have had their best success in this series attacking the paint and using Jonas effectively. Seems pretty obvious from the outside looking in might not be in the heat of the battle. Raptors went away from Jonas after early success in Game 3.

The other elephant in the room is 59 turnovers through 3 games are just unacceptable above anything else. The Raptors have been sloppy and the Nets defensive effort has been targeted at certain players to make those turnovers occur. One of those being Jonas and that might explain the hesitation in using him in the post.
I am being honest in saying this series has gone much to the script that I had laid out in mind for this series when I picked the Nets to win in 6. I see the Nets holding serve at home on Sunday and giving the Raptors a do or die contest back home on Wednesday. Which I expect the Raptors to win and have the series end in Brooklyn in game 6.

The Raptors have not controlled this series in any way and they have been passengers along for the ride. Kyle Lowry got really banged up and regardless of if he goes in game 4 he is not going to be 100% and the Raptors desperately need him to be.

In the end the Raptors just haven’t been good enough and people wanting to find evil refs that are against the Raptors can do that all they like. I am here to tell you the Raptors have player 3 games in this series and have not been the better team in any of them. They got a win in Game 2 but were pretty fortunate to have been able to win that game. They have had poor starts in all three contests and have struggled to have consistence on both ends out the floor.


Raptors Have A Receipt Coming To Them In Brooklyn

In wrestling there is a term for what the Raptors have coming to them in game 3 tonight in Brooklyn. It is called a “receipt” but not like you get at the grocery store. In wrestling that term means you landed a hard blow in the course of a match and now your opponent owes you one back. Safe to say Raptors fans have run a muck with all of this F-Brooklyn stuff started by Masai Ujiri saying it at pre-game peep rally prior to game one. Well now you are in Brooklyn for game number three and safe to assume the Brooklyn crowd will have some kind of retort for all of this.

More to the point I expect this to be the most hostile environment the Raptors have ever played in. Even more than in a Philadelphia back in the day in a game seven. I say this because while all of this may seem like fun and games it has made this very personal and not just a battle between players on a court but of people and cites.

I also find it all pretty stupid that by the way one of the most beloved people the Raptors have Jack Armstrong was born and raised in Brooklyn. Jack Donahue long time coach of Canada’s national team also has roots in Brooklyn if I am not mistaken. Point is Brooklyn has actually given Canada a few good men in terms of basketball in this country.

Aside from all this potty mouthed nonsense there is a real basketball concern that ties into all of this. While the Raptors do have the best road record in team history that may not matter based on a couple of things. Based on how they have started games and how likely hostile this Brooklyn crowd should be towards them this game could be in trouble from the start.

Jonas Valanciunas has been the one guy that I can honestly say is playing above expectations for the Raptors in this series. He has been tremendous averaging 16 points and 16 rebounds in his first two playoff games of his NBA career. On the opposite end of that has been Terrence Ross who has been highly ineffective. To the point it gave Landry Fields an opportunity to play in game two and actually do a decent job on the defensive end. When you consider the lack of playing time he has had this year decent is likely understating it.

The Raptors are going to be hard pressed to win a game on the road here especially if they can not figure out how to get out of the blocks quicker. You have to think though in order to win this series they pretty much have to win one of these two games to stand any realistic chance of doing so.

The tougher of the two will likely be tonight as there is no doubt all of what has went on in the first two games up here in Canada has served to fire up the Brooklyn faithful and that receipt is coming for the Raptors tonight.


Raptors Survive Game 2

Toronto Raptors survived game two is the best way to describe it for me. They shot 2/16 from three point line and had 21 turnovers on the night. The reality is Paul Pierce had to open looks for a three that he missed and if he makes them this is likely a much different story. Toronto gets their first win 100-95 and was the first playoff win since Game 3 against Orlando in 2008 at the ACC.

The Raptors started out really flat for the second time in this series. This happens in Brooklyn in game 3 they are likely dead. I fully expect this to be the most hostile environment the Raptors have ever played a basketball game and it is of their own making.

Terrence Ross long before F-Bombs were flying and Nets were tanking to play the Raptors said that the Raptors wanted to play the Nets. Maybe he meant the rest of the team and not himself personally as he has been invisible for the most part. Let’s see just 2 points to match his 2 turnovers shooting 1-8 from the field in game 2.  He got in foul trouble in game 1 early and only had 3 points shooting 1-4.

Jonas Valanciunas has been the Raptors best or most consistent player through two games. This is despite him and DeRozan combining for 11 of those 21 Raptors turnovers. Still Jonas had 15 points and 14 rebounds in Game 2 and 17 points and 18 rebounds in game 1. DeRozan was a different story 3-13 with just 14 points in game 1. He would will himself to 30 points in Game 2 and player down the stretch with 5 fouls. Making key free throws as well going 12-14 from the line was vital to the victory. 

Maybe the Raptors themselves got confidence as a team but as an observer I do not have such confidence. The Raptors have not looked very good at all and to me are somewhat fortunate to be heading to Brooklyn tied at one in the series.

Shockingly one of the reasons why was Landry Fields who was inserted into the game to guard the Nets weapons on the wings that have been abusing the Raptors. He did a solid job considering I can’t remember the last time he played meaningful minutes for this team.

Amir Johnson also had a redeeming performance with 16 points shooting 8 for 10 from the field finishing things off with a big slam to close this game out.

The Raptors still are being very stubborn or stupid depending on your point of view in taking the three point shot.  I said long before the Raptors ever made the post-season this was going to be an issue and two games in I feel confident in saying I wasn’t wrong. 10-39 in the series and 2-16 in game two this team is not getting it done from beyond the arc simple as that.

Brooklyn is going to be all fired up by the events that took place prior to game one and in this series since. I expect a hostile and bad environment for the Raptors to deal with. Which did I mention how poorly the Raptors have started the first two games? That could be a death blow on the road in hostile enemy territory.

This series is technically even but doesn’t feel like it is at all based on the first two games. Raptors should still be very concerned. They are about to experience a ton of adversity and it is going to be even harder than it has been.


The Raptors Face An Uphill Climb In This Series

I would like to say what I saw in game one was a surprise to me but it really wasn’t. The Raptors came out a little bit intimidated by the moment perhaps. The Nets took control and led through the majority of this game. The Raptors defensive play was struggling down the stretch in the regular season and no surprise it continued here in game one. What added to that was Terrence Ross getting into foul trouble and when he checked out John Salmons was no match for Joe Johnson.

I also commented during the season the Raptors reliance on the three point shot would cost them in the playoffs and it would not be as effective. In game one the Raptors were struggling from the three point line and did not have a lot of success with it. Some of that was feeling forced to take some with no shot clock for part of the game. Which as it turns out was caused by the ESPN broadcast but can’t blame them not like they are ever here right?

DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson who I expressed my personal joy they got to experience this playoff atmosphere did not exactly thrive in it. DeRozan could not make a shot to save his life in this game and Johnson was not nearly as effective and I think before this series ends we could see Patrick Patterson inserted in the starting line-up.

All of this said the story of this game and perhaps the series happened before the ball even went in the air for it to begin. Masai Ujiri was out from of the ACC in Maple Leaf Square that had been occupied by Raptor fans in a friendly takeover. He addressed the crowd that was in the thousands and looked tremendous for people across this country and an eye opener for people south of the border.

But on to the reason we started this story as Masai addressed the crowd he concluded his remarks with F- Brooklyn which drew a massive roar from the fans. Ujiri would make a half hearted apology at halftime but stating that he still doesn’t like those guys in reference to the Nets.

Many are wondering what could have happened to Masai to cause him to lose his senses like this. He claimed the excited crowd got the best of him but I am not buying that. I think Masai knew exactly what he was doing and it was pretty damn brilliant. The focus after game one was on what he said before it started and not how bad his team played in the game.

Maybe I am giving Masai Ujiri more credit than he deserves with this but I do not think I am. Masai is not a stupid man and I am sure he knows realistically his Raptors are in tough in this series and wanting to take the focus or pressure off of them makes a lot of sense.

If anything it got the media talking about this series and made for some titles in newspapers that were colourful to say the least. In the end this series is playing out as advertised as Paul Pierce showed why the Nets wanted him in the first place in the off-season. He has experience and is a clutch performer. In these playoff games when it can come down to just a couple possessions he is the most clutch guy in the series.

Masai will not be able to come up with anything that changes the fact that Raptors must win game 2 to have any chance in this series at all. Heading into this series I thought it might compare to the 2007 series between the two franchises. It might actually end up like the series in 1999 with Knicks where a young and talented Raptors team was swept aside by a very experienced Knicks team.

The Raptors looked out classed and despite the fans and Raptors complaining about the refs it only served to add to the problem and took away their focus from the actual task of beating the Nets. It is getting to the point where the Raptors and fans come off as whiners about the officiating which doesn’t help the situation at all. It is almost becoming a conspiracy like theory at this point. I have argued and debated this with Raptors fans on Twitter to the point I am tired of doing it. Even if I am going to accept the theory that the refs are against the Raptors I am pretty confident fans chanting things like “Refs You Suck,” and F-U Refs is not helping. Nor are players constantly questioning calls and Dwane Casey as well. Someone suggest Casey should take a tech and make a point. It would only cost Dwane money and is not going to change anything in a positive way.

Here is the thing and it’s tough to admit or accept but at the end of the day the simple fact was that the Nets were better. It really is that simple. The Raptors will need to be much better to avoid the same fact in game number two.


Many Emotions As Raptors Return To Playoffs

I am writing this about an hour before Game one of the Raptors return to the playoffs. I find it a time of a lot of emotions rolling through me. While I have went on the record saying I don’t expect the Raptors to win that doesn’t mean I am not proud of them or cheering for them.

I just look at things through two heck maybe even three different lenses. There is the one that I have always tried to maintain in 6 years of doing the Dino Nation Blog.


That means being straight and not getting caught up in all the hype and hoopla that surrounds this team. Let’s face it people have been dying for this to happen for years to see this team return to the playoffs. Vince Carter and Chris Bosh both lost faith in this franchises ability to compete for a NBA Championship. They left and we remained and in that sense this is some form of validation for the fans that have remained.

I don’t think this group is as good as that team Carter took to one shot away from being in the Eastern Conference Finals. I don’t think anyone can honestly think the Raptors will get that close this time around. Even if I am wrong and the Raptors do find a way past the Nets the Miami Heat would be the next opponent and that will not be pretty.


I think of the six year journey of the Dino Nation Blog and think of two Raptors that have been here for the majority of it. Amir Johnson and DeMar DeRozan have been here to pick up the pieces and deserve a moment and a day like this.

I started to have access to this team and on that trip up to Ottawa to cover training camp I met a young man who like me loved his mother and wanted to succeed in part for her. Something I can relate to on a personal level. That young man was of course DeMar DeRozan and to have watched him work and grow and now have a daughter of his own has been a tremendous thrill.

To get to know this loveable guy that has embraced this city and the fans in it like no guy since Jerome Williams was barking up a storm has been great too. I have always supported Amir Johnson and DeMar and loved them for all the effort they put in even when not as many people we cheering and supporting the cause.

I was one that always was against the people that wanted to see both of these guys traded and moved during the rough times in the last 5 years. When some prior to this season suggested the Raptors should keep Gay and trade DeRozan I said they were wrong. When Colangelo gave DeRozan an extension that many said was crazy and to much money I said just wait DeRozan will grow into that contract and earn that money.  Years earlier I said the same about Amir Johnson.

I have love and faith in these guys as people regardless of if they play for the Raptors or not. I am happy they made it to see this day.


I remain somewhat grounded in the not so great history of this franchise. We have seen these optimistic moments before. It has not always worked out in the end. While many say this is different and this is the time the Raptors will finally get it right I am one of the few that remains unconvinced of that fact.

I kind of get made ill by the marketing madness of MLSE as they push this return to the playoffs for all it is worth. I am not down with RTZ or WE The North or any other marketing slogan. I am also not down with ticket prices going up across the board at the first sign of success.

I hate to see the loyalty of this fan base exploited but in some strange way I admire how MLSE is able to do it without blinking.

It has been a great year for the Raptors while for me personally it has been a year of struggle. It many ways feels like the end of a journey to get to this point. I see history repeating itself like 2007 when these to clubs met. I am not that big into believing in miracles but I realize they can sometimes occur.

Still this is a moment of survival in many ways and for those of you that have stuck with it with this team and with this blog today regardless of the result of the game is some reason to celebrate even if it might not turn out to be as good as advertised. The point is we all made it to see this day. A day that when this year started, truly no one could have imagined possible this isn’t suppose to be happening but it is. 


Raptors Vs Nets Could Be A Replay Of 2007

If the Raptors are just happy to be in the playoffs they will be out of them pretty quickly. The Nets have made it pretty clear that they targeted the Raptors to be their first round opponent.  Go back further though and Terrence Ross as part of a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) said that the Raptors wanted to face the Nets. So it is safe to say that with this series of Division Rivals it is likely to get heated in a hurry.

Many look back to the Raptors last team to win the Atlantic Division that faced this same Nets franchise and it was a similar storyline. The much more experienced Nets against the young upstart Raptors. The main difference in that series was the presence of Vince Carter the public enemy of Toronto. Still a lot of things that applied to that series apply to this one as well.

The pressure in this series is squarely on the Raptors to begin with. They will have to defend their home court while trying to get out all the playoff butterflies that are sure to be there. A task the Raptors in 2007 were not able to accomplish losing the first game of the series and having the play catch-up the entire rest of the series. The main advantage this Raptors team would have compared to the 2007 Raptors is the ability to win on the road. That might be negated by the fact the Nets will be playing in Brooklyn not New Jersey and the excitement level of that crowd will be far greater you would have to imagine.

The Nets entered this season with big expectations and in the regular season they failed to live up to them. The Raptors entered the season with next to no expectations and a fan base that had strong support for looking to land a top pick to draft Andrew Wiggins. So the biggest thing the Raptors may face is the whole mindset of being happy to be here. Even the idea of brighter days ahead is nice to think and say but nothing is for certain. That begins with Kyle Lowry who will be a free agent when all of this playoff madness comes to a close. Things like injures and other unknowns can always happen.

If the Raptors have any kind of doubt the Nets will smell it like a shark smelling blood and the veteran team they have should be able to take advantage.

The other key to this will be the Raptors struggle to close out close games. It has been the one thing that the Rudy Gay trade has cost this team. Gay was the clear choice to finish games out and take the big shots. The Raptors have struggled to find a replacement for that. Lowry has at times filled the role or attempted too. DeRozan has as well both failing to have positive results.

The advantage in coaching experience the Raptors have is somewhat balanced out by the fact Kidd played under Casey in Dallas and should have a fairly clear understanding of his defensive sets and philosophies.

It should be a good series but all the little intangibles in it seem to favour the Nets if you’re looking at it objectively.  Objectivity has been in short supply during the last month or so when it comes to the Raptors performance. This team being declared the best of all time for having the most wins is really not exactly putting much thought into things. These Raptors do however do one thing that will serve them well in these playoffs and that is they always seem to fight and scrap no matter how far behind they might get. They will give you an honest 48 minutes of effort. It just might not be enough.

If you have any hopes of the Raptors winning this series they must win Game 1 if they fail to do so I see a fate that is very similar to that of the team in 2007 that lost to this Nets franchise.

Boo and hiss at me and hope as I do that I am wrong but I see this series as the Nets in 6 games.


Shuffle Up And Playoffs

The Raptors are going to the playoffs and will be hosting a game 1 these things we know entering into Wednesday. What remains unclear is what seed the Raptors will finish and just who they are going to face. Based on last night a lot of people are raising an eyebrow wondering if the Nets are trying to get away from the Bulls by losing. Washington plays Boston on this Wednesday night and with a win and a Nets loss to Cleveland would leave them with the same record but Washington would gain the 5th seed.

The Nets are banking on the Raptors winning against the Knicks and securing 3rd or the Bulls losing to Bobcats who could move up to 6th with a Wizards loss. Basically the only series in the East we know will happen for certain is the Pacers will play the Hawks in the 1 vs.8 match-up. Everything else is up in the air. When the wheel stops spinning the Raptors should hope for the Wizards to be their dance partner. Regardless of if this is in the 3 vs. 6 or 4 vs. 5 match-up.

Some talk about trying to avoid the Heat in the second round but in all reality when you haven’t made the playoffs in so long can you really is thinking beyond the first round? I would say no considering the Raptors have only won a first round series once and it was so long ago it wasn’t even a best of 7 series.

The NBA starts all games at 8pm in order to keep teams from knowing results and in theory playing to win. Safe to say everyone will be scoreboard watching and looking to do what they can to get the match-up they want.

For what it’s worth if I had to pick the Raptors three potential match-ups I would go with the following:

  • Nets over Raptors in 6
  • Raptors over Wizards in 7
  • Bobcats over Raptors in 7

So safe to say for me the Raptors getting a Wizards match-up is the only way I see Raptors advancing. Some may see the Bobcats prediction as insulting but given the Raptors terrible history with Charlotte and match-up issues I see it as a very challenging series.

In any case by the end of the day Raptors will be back in the post-season and have a first round opponent who  would have thought that at October. The answer is pretty much nobody.


Raptors Lose and Win In The Same Night

The Raptors continued to play very concerning basketball and finally paid for it losing at home to the New York Knicks battling to just get into the playoffs. The Raptors with a win would have secured their second Division Title after first winning one in 2007.  By the end of the night a Nets loss would give the Raptors their second Division Title.

People seem to be all caught up in the fact the Raptors have been winning but paying little attention to how they are winning and who they are actually beating. Instead dreaming some pretty unrealistic dreams of what this team could accomplish in the post season.

Look closer and you see the cracks in this team and the fact their defensive play which becomes vital come the post-season has been taking a dramatic decline. The Raptors despite winning the Division did slip to fourth in the conference and a match-up with the Nets in the first round.

This is De-Ja-Vu to the Raptors first division title when Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and crew faced the Raptors in the first round. In the end the Raptors were dismantled by the Nets and lost the series in 6 games with Jose Calderon committing a turnover to lose game 6.

Kidd now coaches the Nets and they call Brooklyn home and not New Jersey. They have battled back from a poor start to the season and have been playing some excellent basketball to even get in a race with Raptors for the Division Title. The most impressive thing on the Nets resume is a season sweep of the Miami Heat a team the Raptors have failed to beat ever since James and Bosh arrived in Miami.

Some fans are just satisfied with the Raptors unexpected success and are just happy to be back in the post season. So are the folks at MLSE who have rewarded fans with about a 6-7% hike of ticket prices for next season. They want your money long before Kyle Lowry has decided to stay or go as well.

As I have consistently said I am thrilled for DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson to get to experience the playoffs here in Toronto. They have earned that right going through some just terrible years to get here. I just don’t like their chances as the Raptors are far removed from playing their best basketball of the season.

The Raptors are labelling this playoff run “Northern Uprising” but the reality is more likely it will be just another disappointment unless some things change between now and the start of the playoffs. The Raptors have been trying to outscore people and not stop people of late. That is not the way the playoffs work.

It would not surprise me to see the Raptors fail to make it out of the first round. A match-up with the Nets would likely make that a reality. Even playing the Bobcats would not make me feel all that good given the Raptors failure to perform against this team over the years. The Wizards is the obvious match-up the Raptors would be a legit favourite in. John Wall in his first experience in post-season could be a tough task to deal with.

In the end this was an unexpected and great season for the Raptors compared to their lacklustre history. Still even if this team gets the most wins in franchise history which is very likely with only having to win two of their last 3 games against the Bucks, Pistons and Knicks. I still would not consider them the best Raptors team in history. Vince Carter’s 47 win team was better than this group. You can even argue Bosh’s group that won the other Division Title might be as well.

What the real story will be is what happens next season and can this team maintain and improve in an Eastern Conference and Division that will both most certainly improve around them. The Raptors I said back in January at best would get to the second round and nothing has changed my mind to think anything more than that.

I totally understand why long suffering fans just want to enjoy the moment and this return to the post-season. I just don’t see the Raptors as any real contender or threat and when they are that I will get excited. To me this is just something I have seen before and really doesn’t get me all that excited.

Miracles can happen I suppose but when you have never beat the team that will win the Eastern Conference since 2010 it is hard to imagine some magical run to the finals. Heck the way the Raptors are playing of late it is hard to imagine them surviving the first round.

Life is about timing and most of the time the Raptors timing has been terrible in their 19 year history. This just might be the latest example of it.

I leave you now to rose coloured glasses and dreams of grandeur about the post-season. While I get told for the millionth time this season what a negative person I am for being realistic and honest about my feelings and thoughts on this basketball team.

I will give this group this though they will go down swinging because that is something they have done all year. In the playoffs though given their play of late I am not all that optimistic that alone will be enough.


How Important is Winning Is A Question For All Of Us To Answer

The Toronto Raptors keep finding ways to win despite injuries and not really playing at a high level at times. This team will more than likely end up having the best record in team history and already is the first Raptors team to have a .500 or better road record. Yesterday another hurdle or distraction came about with the early morning DUI arrest of Jonas Valanciunas.

While this team will build a case for being considered the best Raptors team of all time I remain unconvinced that they are that. They are for me the most over-achieving Raptors team of all time without question. They have some how managed to keep this train on the tracks despite facing all kinds of adversity in the last few weeks. It has been pretty remarkable to say the least. Getting wins over Houston and Indiana without Kyle Lowry was to say the least unexpected.

This Raptors team seems to rise and fall to the level of competition that they face on a given night. They struggled just as hard to beat the worst team in the NBA the Milwaukee Bucks as they did the Pacers or Rockets. I am not all that confident in where this team can go once the playoffs arrive but they should be able to maintain their position with the schedule they have remaining. That said I expect them to make that more challenging than it should be.

The Raptors while losing Kyle Lowry and Amir Johnson for the last few games have welcome back Patrick Patterson who has made an impact. Still for the Raptors to have a serious chance in the post-season they need to be healthy to have any chance.

The Raptors announced that Jonas will indeed play despite his legal issues which should surprise no one. It should disappoint you though, but with all that is going on for this team in terms of winning likely won’t most. The Raptors will no doubt stick to the standard of everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Which is technically true but the moral message that one of your players is driving around while under the influence is something that should not be taken lightly.

Issuing statements of disappointment and the fact they take these matters seriously is all well and good. However the matter of drinking and driving is a serious one and unfortunately one that sports in general as I said yesterday in talking with Lawyer Tina Kaye is not taken serious enough.

This is the time when that sports being a business stuff I am not all that cool with. The Raptors at the end of the day want to win basketball games and by not playing a healthy player that has an impact on them winning and losing they aren't going to do that. An organization that in bad times has preached about integrity and players being good representatives in the community at the end of the day is about winning. It is no shock really and the Raptors are not unique to any other sports team in what they have done.

Still it is not being over dramatic to say that anytime anyone gets behind the wheel of a car and is under the influence of alcohol they are risking their own life any passengers they have and most importantly the lives of innocent people. I could care less about the Raptors playoff chances in comparison to the lives of innocent people.

I have always stated in this blog consistently over a great many topics that at the end of the day while I may love basketball there is a greater things in this world and life in general. It is in these times where you realize that this is just a sport at the end of the day meant for are entertainment and enjoyment. It is not something that means more to me than someone’s life and well being.

You will get the standard stuff that Jonas is young and this is a stupid mistake that someone makes when they are young. It is true but it is also true this is a mistake that could have and thank God didn’t have far greater and more significant consequences. 

Winning over everything should never be the mindset. Sometimes you need to realize that there are more important things than that. I have no doubt that by the end of all of this the Raptors will have and maybe legal system as well requires Jonas to do community service on this matter.

The hope is at the end of the day he has truly learned something from all of this. The fact he got caught rightly or wrongly makes you assume this was not the first time it has happened. The thing that is most disturbing or distressing about this for me is professional athletes with the money and means they have this should NEVER happen. If you want to have fun and drink go rent a limo and party it up. I have no right to tell someone how to live their life. That changes when they make choices that could take lives away of others.

Many times on Twitter during holidays or times of the year when people indulge in alcohol I have always encouraged them to have fun and not drink and drive. It is something I firmly believe in and any time someone does be it a friend’s dad or a pro athlete it makes me shake my head that people are still doing this in 2014 with all the work that people have done to prevent it from happening. Clearly that work is not done and may never be. 


Valanciunas Arrested For DUI.

News broke late this afternoon that Jonas Valanciunas was arrested on a charge of DUI. Here is the full story and details from story on News Talk 1010. The Raptors have issues statements on behalf of the team and one from Jonas himself.

TEAM STATEMENT "We were made aware this morning of the incident involving Jonas Valanciunas and are disappointed he has put himself in this situation. We take this matter very seriously as we have the highest expectations for all members of our organization.At this time we are continuing to gather information and we will comment further when appropriate"

JONAS VALANCIUNAS STATEMENT "I hold myself to a high standard and take my role as a member of the Toronto Raptors very seriously. I apologize to the organization, my teammates, my family and my fans, and regret any negativity this incident has brought upon them."

Here at the DNB we reached out to Toronto Criminal Attorney Tina Kaye to walk us through the legal issues involved.

The audio cut out at the end all you missed was the word seriously. One thing we did not touch on is how long this would take to get to court assuming it gets that far. According to Tina Kaye the standard length of time would see an initial court appearance 4-6 weeks from the arrest. If it were to go all the way to trial it would take up to a year. Obviously that court appearance based on this standard time line could occur somewhere in the second round or conference finals.However, I have been told that it most likely would not require Valanciunas to appear only his counsel would be required.

Raptors have been chugging along on basketball court fairly well despite injuries and now this latest distraction or hurdle has been placed in front of the Raptors. More importantly this is an issue with athletes that make millions of dollars that just shouldn't happen in 2014 and still does. It is unacceptable and there really is no excuse.

Thanks to Tina for her explaining the legal issues attached to this matter.  


Raptors Immediate Future Takes A Major Hit In Miami

Raptors had nothing but bad news from last night in Miami, first some fun news from wrestling world that relates to the Raptors from last season.  We all remember that local rapper from D.C right? Wale was back in the news as he went to Monday Night Raw in Washington D.C. He was being heckled by wrestling fans which is shocking to no one. So Wale still has anger management issues it would appear as he decked a fan and apparently ended up being arrested. Thanks to Live Audio Wrestling for this info.

After last night Raptors fans could use the distraction after a costly loss against the Miami Heat. It started off positive with the Raptors actually building a lead against Miami. Lebron James even tweaked his back but he would stick around and Heat would take control. Raptor would make a push to comeback but Miami would turn on the jets and leave the Raptors with another loss as they have done ever since Chris Bosh left town. 

Sure that was bad but for fans that are realistic nothing that wasn’t expected.

What was worse was going for a rebound Kyle Lowry ran into Lebron James and he fell to the ground tweaking his knee. No word on how bad it was but there were reports that Lowry was assisted to the team bus via a golf cart.

The Bulls defeated the Celtics in other action from the night. They now are tied with Toronto with a 42-32 record. The Raptors with Lowry out at least in the short term you have to figure may well be kissing home court advantage and match-up with Wale’s Wizards good bye. Who lost in Charlotte on the night.

The Raptors had good fortune in terms of injures this season but of late Patrick Patterson goes out and now the heart and soul of this Raptors team Kyle Lowry is down.

It really has been a bad week for Toronto Sports. Defoe left the TFC game injured; Reyes earlier in the day left the Jays game after his first at bat of the season and now Lowry. The Hockey team has struggled as well rumour has it?

The Raptors without Lowry are just not the same team at all what ends up being the verdict on his knee may well determine the Raptors season and than leads to the drama of what will become of him in the off-season. This all seems similar to the Bosh situation with the large exception the Raptors have already clinched a playoff spot.


Raptors Return To The Playoffs: A Story Hollywood Would Never Believe

The season started with the Raptors being upstaged by the announcement of Drake as their Global Ambassador and the NBA All-Star Game coming to town in 2016. The expectations of this team were next to nothing. Masai Ujiri many felt was going to gut this roster and look to join the pack of teams looking to cash in on a rich draft class that featured a Canadian Star Andrew Wiggins.

When you consider that was the reality in October the fact we sit at the end of March with the Raptors already having punched their ticket to the playoffs is just too unbelievable for words. What on earth made all of this madness happen? It is always a combination of things for something so unexpected to take place.

The one thing that everyone points too is the trade of Rudy Gay to the Kings after the Raptors had what at the time was an expected poor start. That trade made one of the most unique and fascinating turnarounds in the history of this team take place.  The only thing that rivals it would be the Raptors rallying after Vince Carter went down to injury to make the post season. They won something like 15 of their last 17 games and only made playoffs on the final day of the season.

This Raptor team got on quite the little run after the trade happened. It almost never happened though if you believe the reports that came out a few weeks after the Gay trade. Most saw the Gay trade as not an attempt to transform the Raptors but as the first step to dismantling them. Masai Ujiri was set to make another bold move in that deconstruction with the New York Knicks. The team in the summer he was able to unload Andrea Bargnani on cutting that dead weight from his roster. Bargnani’s lack of success in New York was predictable, but what wasn't was how that would impact on this Raptors season being what it came to be.

The Knicks had a deal on the table to acquire Kyle Lowry who has been the heart and soul of this Raptors turnaround. Knicks ownership was scared of getting burned by Masai Ujiri for a third time. He had got the better of them in the deal for Carmelo Anthony back in Denver. He came to Toronto and gave them the Andrea Bargnani problem to deal with. The Knicks got scared and backed out of the deal that was on the table. Rumour has it that James Dolan himself was the one that said no to this.

Safe to say if that trade happens this magical season would have been over before it started. Ujiri after failing to get that deal done sat back and waited and watched to see what would become of this group. He had given the Raptors some much needed depth with the Gay trade. They added a full group of players that became the Raptors bench more or less. It would also propel Terrence Ross into the starting line-up ready or not. In addition established DeMar DeRozan as the true face of the franchise.

The success the Raptors enjoyed along with the Eastern Conference crumbling all around them saw them rise from the depths of tankers to the line to get in the VIP section of the Eastern Conference. As the season reached the trade deadline with DeMar DeRozan fresh off his first All-Star appearance and Kyle Lowry widely considered the most notable snub not to go to New Orleans things seemed very clear.

The Raptors would roll the dice and bet on Kyle Lowry and being able to keep him as a free agent. This is a gamble not unlike the one the Raptors took with Chris Bosh. That ended in disaster with Bosh being hurt in the first game after the All-Star Break and only returning to be injured again and the Raptors would miss the playoffs finishing ninth.

This story while incomplete has worked out far better in the short term as the Raptors will in fact make the playoffs. The future for Kyle Lowry is the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about right now. Still the first part of the gamble has paid off no one can deny that.

If you are a believer in destiny or fate how the Raptors finally locked up their return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008 seemed perfect as a movie script. The two soul survivors of the post Bosh era DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson hit the final two shots to secure the win and return to the playoffs for this franchise. Johnson has embraced this city in a way that few Raptors ever have. While on the floor he has been a warrior to the point of you question his judgment for his old age but not his heart. No one deserved a moment like this more. While DeRozan has constantly had to fight critics that always felt he was good enough to be a true superstar or an All-Star. Despite improving year after year the team around him was not following suit.

That was until this year when finally the Raptors found some chemistry and some fight. You can obviously find some flaws in this rise to where they have gotten too. The Eastern Conference may never have been worse than this year. It doesn’t take away from the pure joy of fans that have suffered along with Johnson and DeRozan wondering if they would ever see a day like Friday happen.

Fans and those guys deserved this moment and regardless of if the Raptors future takes a negative turn as it often has in history that is not the point at the moment. It’s about a story of two guys that survived though times and all the people that supported them and stayed in their corner.

Lots of fake Raptors fans will come out of the woodwork as they often do when a team has success. Those who are the true meaning of the term fan, those fanatics have earned the right to have a moment like this.  Not unlike DeRozan and Johnson have earned it through their work and dedication, not just this season, but in the seasons when this team stunk.

I personally have taken a lot of flack this year. I have to admit I am a bit angry about it. Just because I am not ready to have a parade about this season doesn’t mean I haven’t respected what has been done. I have and it also doesn’t mean I am not happy for the people that have stuck with this team.

I am sorry if I am the one that keeps my head when everyone around me seems to be caught up in the wave of excitement. I still don’t forget the reality of things. This at the end of the day was never the plan and was not suppose to happen. It was the Knicks accepting that trade and it never does. It has been in large part a run that has been driven by Kyle Lowry. He has played with motivation and heart that you have to respect. You also have to realize he has all the personal motivation in the world to do so. He could re-sign but he could walk away and than what did all of this mean in the end? Just another chapter of “what if” in Raptors history like what if Vince and Tracy had stayed together what might have been.  Even if he does stay can he honestly match this season he has put together? I don’t know the answer to that and at the end of the day no one does.

In 19 years this is only the sixth time the Raptors will play in the post season. They have only won one playoff series and it was so long ago it wasn’t even seven games. What I want for all of you, for myself and for this franchise is something that is lasting that can grow and build. The Raptors as crazy excited as you may well be and rightfully so are not a contender in to make the Eastern Conference Final or NBA Finals.

Granted they never were supposed to be. The key is can this lighting in a bottle actually be something that lasts. That is going to be largely riding on the future of Kyle Lowry. He has been the key piece to all of this and will be the key piece to if this is just another blip on the radar where the Raptors tease us all or if it is something more.

People that have supported this team through a ton of terrible and at times insulting seasons deserve a team that can be a consistent playoff participant and a true contender to win a championship. If you’re satisfied with anything less than that I can not get on board with that. I want more and a future that I can believe in. After all at the end of the day sports is all about one simple word at the end of the day.


If you have hope everything else comes from that. If you don’t you at the end of the day have nothing.


Raptors Not Exactly Peaking At Right Time

I first off apologize for not having written in the DNB for what seems like ages (10 days). I tried a couple times to write something and just never got to the finish line. How ironic is it that I find it hard to write about this team now as they are on the verge of a return to the playoffs. They just reached 40 wins for the first time since that guy left and took his talents to Miami. I see all the excitement in fans on Twitter and other forms of social media. I just am not in tune with everyone about all of this.

This team of late has played some of their most average basketball since the Gay trade that started all this turnaround. Perhaps the most note worthy piece coming back in that trade being out has been a part of that. Patrick Patterson according to the Raptors remains on schedule in his recover from his elbow injury. Whatever that means is a mystery to us as a clear timetable to a return has not been provided.

The Raptors miss Patterson but he alone can not be the cause of a fundamental breakdown in this teams rebounding. They have been pretty brutal most nights at that aspect and when you look at potential first round opponents for the Raptors that should legitimate scare you. It is a symptom of some larger issues with this team of late.

One thing that has been fairly consistent on the negative side of things with this team even when they have been winning is their lacklustre starts to games. It really has been disheartening to watch this team get off to horrible starts against teams that they are clearly better than. It makes a night that should be an easy night at the office turn into a long night at the office regardless of the outcome.

The Raptors also have fallen into the trap of playing to the level of their competition. How can a team that took OKC to overtime get completely pounded by the Cleveland Cavs? Well one of the reasons was the aforementioned lack of rebounding. However in general that was one of the Raptors worst road performances of the season. Toronto is only one of 4 teams in the East with a winning record on the road. Only Indiana, Miami and Washington join them above .500 in the East on the road.

The Nets who are in pursuit of the Raptors for the Division Title are just 14-22 on the road this season. They only have 5 of their remaining 12 games on the road though. This is in addition to only one of those being against a playoff team against Miami on April 8th. But shockingly enough the Nets have beat the Heat in all three previous match-ups. The Raptors will be seeing Miami coming up on their schedule shortly as well.

In looking at the Nets schedule it is fairly easy much like the Raptors down the stretch so the Raptors may need all of that two and half game lead they currently have in the Division. That lose to the Nets that would have secured the tiebreaker would be pretty nice to have right about now. Just 3 teams currently in the playoffs remain on the schedule for the Nets. This includes Miami as we mentioned a meeting with Houston next Tuesday and facing the Hawks two weeks from today.

Getting back to the point of the Raptors playing down to competition they better fix that issue as both they and the Nets have very easy paths to the end of the season in the last 5 games assuming this race is still alive for the Division. Toronto plays: Philadelphia, New York and Milwaukee at home and Detroit and New York on the road which that Knicks game is the final game of the season.  Brooklyn meanwhile will also finish the season on the road at Cleveland and have one other road game at Orlando in the final five. Sandwiched in between those games is three game home stand against Atlanta, Orlando and New York.

The last and only time Raptors won a Division Title it didn’t help them much come the post-season as they faced the New Jersey at the time Nets and Vince Carter. In the end winning just 3 of your last 7 games and you most impressive outing was in a loss is not a good look for the Raptors regardless of who lies ahead of them in the playoffs.

It also has become painfully clear that Kyle Lowry is what wills this team to be different from past versions of the Raptors. He is, as everyone not living under a rock knows is the one guy without a contract for next season that Raptors don’t control.  While all I hear is people telling me not to worry that things are different now seeing is believing to me. Even if the Raptors get Kyle Lowry’s name on a contract signed will we get this type of performance from him in the future? Raptors were convinced Jose Calderon once upon a time was worth 10 million a season and was the future for them at the point guard position. He had a spectacular run that ultimately ended with a disappointing playoff loss in 5 games to Orlando Magic. This Raptors team could be on a similar path to that one in terms of the playoffs. They could end up getting that match-up that everyone says is the best one for them against the Wizards and find a similar fate. Kyle Lowry against John Wall will make for a very interesting match-up one that Raptors fans would give the advantage to Kyle but Wall is a former top pick for the Wizards and like the Raptors has never got to taste what the Playoffs are all about.

In the end Raptors fans have been caught up in this magical and unexpected season while I personally have looked beyond it and see ghosts of Raptors past failures staring at me in the face. Should I just be naive and ignore all the signs I am seeing that this might not be the start to some great rebuilding project for the Raptors? I sometimes feel I should as it would save me a lot of headaches but I have always done one thing for six years of doing this and that has been trying to be honest as I can about my feelings and impressions of this team. While all of this gets classed as negative by people, I point out I have been one of the few that has always been a supporter of DeMar DeRozan. While some of you who will remain quiet now wanted DeRozan traded and to build this team around Rudy Gay. Yeah that would have gone well.

I never ask you to believe me or share in my opinions. If you want to be excited about this team’s turnaround go ahead and enjoy it. All I ask is that if it doesn’t turn out as the magic carpet ride to success you remember who the person was that was telling you that long before all the other people praising this team pull a 180 degree turn and act like they were. At the end of the day I don’t want to be right it would please me just as much as anyone to see this team finally having some sustained success.


Less Than A Month To Raptors Return To Post Season

The Raptors now have less than a month to go in the NBA Regular Season. They currently have a 3 game lead over Nets for the Division and just a game up on the Bulls as we enter play on Tuesday. In theory you would like to see Raptors win the Division Title and finish as high as possible. In reality that might not make much practical sense.

I think regardless of what happens the Raptors would like to face the Wizards if we are being honest. Regardless of if they win a Division Title or not this gives them the best opportunity to advance. Also if they currently hold their position in third likely means a second round match-up with Miami. The Raptors lack of success against the Heat is well documented since Chris Bosh and friends got together in Miami. The Raptors success against the Pacers can leave a little more optimism for an upset to steal a game vs. the Pacers.

After the game against the Suns that the Raptors lost on Sunday there was speculation on if Lowry perhaps got a concussion from getting kneed in the head. Maybe speculation is to strong perhaps the suggestion of it would be more accurate.  In any case a loss of Lowry for any amount of time would be a major blow to the Raptors efforts in this last month of the season. However fear not as Lowry claims he is 100% and ready to toll and even after the game claimed he was fine.

The Raptors have had a notable absence in their roster of late with Patrick Patterson being sidelined. The Raptors provided an update on his status this morning. His right ulnar collateral sprain (elbow) is healing as expected and he is expected return to limited basketball activity. He will be re-evaluated after a week and it is still not been made clear when he could be back in the line-up. The original estimate was 7-10 days but that already seems to be out the window.

The Raptors have missed Patterson to some degree as he spreads the floor much more than the Raptors options without him.

The Raptors are in Atlanta to take on the Hawks that have been dying a slow death since losing Al Horford to injury. Once upon a time prior to that injury the Hawks were the team in third in the East ahead of the Raptors. They now sit eighth trying to hold off the Knicks trying to salvage their season.

The Knicks are making big news today as Phil Jackson is being announced as their president. This obviously will be a great story of interest for the Raptors Division in future years not to mention the NBA as a whole. The Raptors are always going to have a challenge in the Atlantic Division battling with the two New York based franchises for years to come.

As for immediate future the Raptors last month of the season it is about positioning in terms of match-ups not what number seed they draw. The playoffs are just days away from becoming an official reality for the Raptors. It now is more about the path they will set for themselves in those playoffs. 


Raptors Playoff Push Doesn't Have Me Excited

I have been racking my brain trying to figure out why I am not excited about this Raptors run to returning to the post season. I do admit I enjoy the way the Raptors play a lot this season. The mix of defensive intensity and offensive firepower has been significant and enjoyable. Still I find myself being somewhat disinterested by it all.

I am sure the uncertain future of Kyle Lowry is a big part of this but I don’t think it is all of it. I guess I look at this and feel that we have seen this story before for the Raptors. Toronto has been having an unexpected and great season that happened in the midst of a down point for the Eastern Conference. I also am pretty confident in saying at best the Raptors get to a second round. There is no chance the Raptors beat Miami or Indiana in a 7 game series.

In fact when you look at the potential first round opponents it does not inspire a ton of confidence about the Raptors being successful. Match-ups with Chicago, Brooklyn and even Charlotte would concern me. The only match-up that gives me some confidence in the one with the Wizards. Even in that one I could see the Wizards winning.

I recall the last time the Raptors made the post season where Raptors fans drooled for a match-up with Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic. That didn’t work out so well for the Raptors as it turned out. The same could happen with Wizards just as easily in my view.

The game on Monday was very entertaining against Brooklyn but in the end the Raptors fell short in a game where they could have made a major statement and secured their playoff position somewhat. As good as the Raptors have been they have had a lot of games where they have played well and fought hard but come up short. The Nets have beat Miami 3 times in 3 tries this season. The Raptors have had some competitive games against Miami but in the end fell short.

At the end of the day I have seen the Raptors in the playoffs, I have seen them win a round once as well. What I haven’t seen is them enter a post-season as even a dark horse candidate to make the NBA Finals. The Raptors if they keep all of this together and continue to improve might have a chance to be that. History of the Raptors suggests it likely won’t last. Maybe this time is different and maybe I have just been beaten down to having little faith.

The one thing that does bring a smile to my face is having DeMar DeRozan develop into a legit All-Star Talent and heading to his first post-season. He has worked so hard for his own individual success as well as it being part of some team success.

I am also thrilled for Amir Johnson who has given back to Raptors fans perhaps more than any other Raptor in this team’s history. There is only one guy that I would even consider in comparison is Jerome Williams who reminds you a lot of Amir.  I had said to Amir after one of the many times he has talked with me for the DNB that I believed he would be remembered in that same light as the JYD for years after his days playing were behind him. He seemed genuinely touched by the suggestion of that.

Perhaps the greatest example of his giving nature is his Roll with Amir Event that is entering its fourth year. This year going all medieval as the event will be taking place at Medieval Times in Toronto. It is without a doubt the most unique and from the heart gesture I have seen by an athlete in any sport. This is a guy that legitimately loves his fans and takes the time to plan out cool events and contests to show them that he does. Often times by taking money from his back pocket to put these events on.

So for those guys I am extremely happy. As a Raptor fan of 19 years and someone that has covered this team for 6 of those years I am far less excited. I just feel like I have seen this all before and have a hard time seeing a different outcome for this group as compared to ones in the past. Some of the same issues still remain to be proven if things can really change.

Can The Raptors keep a guy like Lowry? More importantly can they actually build on the existing talent they already have. You have heard for many years a lot of people say that winning will cure all the issues the Raptors have had with attracting free agents and keeping their own talent. That theory is going to be put to the test once again. Which in the past the Raptors have won and still had these issues. If Vince Carter as one of the top 3 players in the NBA can’t attract people to come here honestly can anyone on this group stand a better chance? Chris Bosh certainly failed at it so much so that he decided to leave.

The Raptors while no one will debate have had a miraculous turnaround still have not taken those big steps to make it to the next level. Those should naturally come in the future after all this is just a season of success. The question is can they honestly maintain this level of success and that leaves me with a lot of doubt.

Masai Ujiri and Tim Leiweke are both very talented and intelligent people at what they do. I just believe the Raptors have had a lot of talented people prior that couldn’t find the answer to basically the same puzzle that lies ahead for them. I hope for Raptors fans they have the answers but I am not as blindly faithful in it happening just based on the history of what we have seen.

If all you require is the Raptors to be competitive and fun to watch they have already achieved that goal. If you desire something more than that, I am not sure anything is different from past versions of success we have seen in Raptors history. Time will tell but for whatever reason my passion or more to the point my belief is not very strong that anything will change.  


Raptors Play The Most Important Game In At Least 5 Years On Monday

The Toronto Raptors have come into March like lions and are officially already better than last season with still 20+ games left to go in the season. The Raptors get a win in Minnesota and now head home for perhaps on of the most important game remaining on their schedule against the Brooklyn Nets.

Brooklyn has finally battled back above the .500 mark but still sit 4 games behind the Raptors who are 9 games above .500 for the first time since 2007. If the Raptors win they would be up 5 games with 20 games to go. Basically in effect wrapping up the division based on the Raptors remaining schedule.

Kyle Lowry continues to tear is up coming in off 18 points 12 rebound and 11 assists for a triple double as part of the 111-104 win Sunday night in Minnesota. He and DeRozan have been playing like All-Stars since the break and providing the leadership that has led to this turnaround.

Despite the Nets turnaround the Raptors have still been better 8-2 in their last 10 compared to the Nets 7-3. Raptors lead the season series 2-1 and with a win would hold any tiebreaker between the two. There is really no way to express how important this game is for the Raptors final month and a bit of the season. If they win they can likely focus on the playoffs and perhaps rest some people down the stretch and focus on positioning. If they lose the division is now no longer a lock for the Raptors.

The Raptors of late have had some playoff style battles with the Wizards and Bulls to prepare for a big night like this. One bit of bad news prior to the game in Minnesota that Patrick Patterson will be out at least 7-10 days as he re-aggravated an elbow injury that will require surgery after the season. Patterson was playing through the injury though. No work on if this recurrence of the injury has changed anything in terms of making the injury worse. It already was going to require surgery as previously stated.

Tyler Hansbrough and Chuck Hayes may be called in to fill in gap going forward. They obviously do not offer the offensive skills of a Patterson though. This does come at a time where Amir Johnson seems to have caught a second wind and is playing some of the best basketball he has in quite some time.

Raptors will need all hands on deck in Brooklyn to get a really important win that could make their path to the playoffs a much easier one. The fact they will make the playoffs is really no longer a question at this point.

What this season will mean will remain uncertain until after it is over in July. Most fans don’t seem to be concerned with that and are just enjoying what has been an unexpected rise of the Raptors that no one saw coming. Which given all that folks have had to endure in the last 5 years or so is very understandable.

It has been a long time since we could talk about important games in March and April but we have arrived at that point. Not many will be bigger than tomorrow night until we get to the playoffs themselves.


Rudy Sucks....Even He Says He Did

Raptors announced they are bringing back the purple and the team that currently wear purple in the NBA roll into town. Rudy Gay basically admitted to the fact he sucked with the Raptors. Well he said he wasn’t efficient so that is as close as you’ll get. It is a well rested Raptors team that played their only game in March last Sunday with a surprising win over Golden State.

The Raptors have had very few bad losses since the Gay trade but one of them was against these Kings in Sacramento. It wasn’t exactly because of Gay it was more because of DeMarcus Cousins who has been historically great against the Raptors.

This will be the first time Gay has been back to Toronto and I would suspect he gets the traditional welcome for guys that had bad endings with the Raptors. Not expecting a Vince Carter like response more like a mild Chris Bosh response.

Will see if Terrence Ross is back for this one if he isn’t the Raptors might have a bit harder of a time dealing with Gay. They also miss Ross’ scorning at times especially from beyond the three point line. The Raptors will have a lot of these games where they will be the clear favourite down the stretch and they need to take advantage and get their playoff business taking care of sooner rather than later. If the Raptors can rest some of their key pieces over the final few games that would be helpful.

The obvious being an Amir Johnson getting some rest but also a DeRozan and Lowry would likely benefit from a little break to take a breath before the playoffs.

While the Raptors have been on a break they have moved percentage points ahead of the Bulls despite having one fewer win and into third once again in the East. Meanwhile during this break in on court action there has been a lot of talk that Masai Ujiri has been having conversations with Kyle Lowry’s agent to look toward what it is going to take to keep him a Raptor in the off-season.

All this going back to the playoffs is great and bring back the old purple uniforms with the red dinosaur too, but without Kyle Lowry next season all this hope could be gone as fast as it came. If the Raptors want to be a good team during their 20 season celebration they are going to need Kyle Lowry to be here for that.

You kind of have an idea of what the Raptors future is as far as this season goes. They are at best going to make it to the second round and lose to either the Heat or Pacers probably in short order. How this Lowry situation plays itself out remains more of a mystery. The fact Masai is having talks and conversations can only be viewed as positive even if they might not lead to anything in the here and now. At worst Kyle Lowry should be fully aware of the Raptors strong desire to keep him. That he has a very key role on this team as part of this group that will not easily be replaced.

If it comes down to dollars the Raptors have the money to keep him that is not in question. How much Lowry thinks he is worth and what both the market and the Raptors think he is.

While most Raptors fans focus is on seeing late April basketball for the first time in a long time. My focus is on July and what becomes the future of this group that has a number of moving parts to it. Not just Lowry but decisions on potential restricted free agents like Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez also need to be made. It will be a busy off-season for Masai Ujiri trying to figure out the next step for this group filled with a lot of potential moving forward.


DeRozan Enters March Like A Lion

DeMar DeRozan had a February that put him in the company of the NBA Elite. He started his March in much the same fashion with 32 points helping the Raptors to an unexpected win over the Golden State Warriors on Sunday.

DeRozan has quickly proven himself worthy of the contract he was given by Bryan Colangelo which at the time was highly criticized. I was one of the very few that said DeRozan would play his way into being worth the money he was being given. I have to admit even I am surprised at how quickly he has accomplished that goal. Not unlike his long time fellow Raptor Amir Johnson went through the same thing a few years back. Both guys have gone on to make their contracts look like bargains in comparison to the NBA landscape.

The Raptors are just one win from matching their win total of last season with 23 games to play in the season. They are a full 4 games ahead of the Nets for the lead in Atlantic Division and tied with the Bulls for third in the Conference. It has been an amazing turnaround this season and combination of Kyle Lowry and DeRozan has been at the core of that change.

About the only thing the duo has not been able to figure out is how to get a big shot to win a game at the end of it. However, if you play well enough it never gets to that you don’t have to worry about it. That is what happened at the end of the game with the Warriors that had been close all afternoon long but at the end the Raptors made a final push to get in front to stay.

The fact that all of this is being accomplished by DeRozan with still seeing areas he can improve in has to be the most exciting thing. While the most concerning thing is if the Raptors can keep this Dynamic Duo of Lowry and DeRozan together. It is clear the two like each other and Kyle Lowry has been photo bombing and always seems to be fooling around with DeRozan at the end of the day money often trumps friendship in the NBA.

If Lowry is willing to take the money he has earned with a fantastic season in his contract year will his level of play be maintained? DeRozan has clearly shown that the numbers on his pay check have not impacted on his effort and improvement. If anything they have only proven too solidify them. Lowry is a much different case as his play and more importantly how he entered into this season in tip top shape suggest he was well aware of what was on the line for him this year.

In a perfect world the Raptors will be able to resign Lowry and his play will maintain at this high level with DeRozan by his side. No one is ever going to compare the duo to what a Carter and McGrady could have potentially done together in Toronto. A Carter and McGrady combination that Kobe Bryant went on the record to say he would have expected to battle for championships for years to come. Bryant also has been an endorser of the talents of DeRozan in the past and praised his work and dedication on improving.

The Raptors success is beyond just those two players but they own the biggest piece of it. DeRozan himself talks about how key Kyle has been to his own rise and success this season. The Raptors are on a roll like we have rarely seen from them in the team’s less than impressive history. The question now becomes is this just a moment in time or something they can maintain going forward.

Things are only going to get tougher as the seasons go along as the Eastern Conference should start to gain some balance and have more teams actually trying to win and compete. Clearly some teams at the bottom of the Conference have been targeting the draft and looking to hit is big in the lottery. Bryan Colangelo’s comments of a few days ago just confirm what we already know about the tanking problem in the NBA.

With all of this being said, for a kid from Compton, California this has been his coming out party this season that everyone is taking notice of.  He grew up watching a Kobe Bryant dominate the NBA and now he is showing some flashes of his own brand of dominance. I have always seen an inner fire in DeMar DeRozan what has been happening this year is he is channelling that into being a basketball killer on that floor. Something that the guy he grew up watching has become the best in game at and one of the best all-time.

In a world that is often pretty cynical so much so that believing something like good things happen to good people seems naive. DeRozan is that good person that has worked hard and has found his way to the top bringing his team and Raptors fans along for the ride.      


Bryan Colangelo Was Part Of Tank Nation....Who Knew?

This season started with a debate on if the Raptors should tank or not heading into a season with the top prize being Canadian Andrew Wiggins. Who knew that keeping Bryan Colangelo as G.M likely gave the Raptors a better chance at accomplishing that goal?

It would seem that Colangelo would have been open to the idea of it as he has admitted to attempting to tank in the lockout shortened season of 2011-12. He made this statement at Analytics conference in Boston and was feature in an article by SI writer Matt Dollinger.

This really isn’t a surprise as Colangelo once joked on a Raptors broadcast about his choice for Coach Dwane Casey winning too much in his first season on the job. It looks like it wasn’t a joke at all as Colangelo wanted to tank and have a shot at one of the top picks in the draft. As things worked out the Raptors ended up drafting Terrence Ross but would have been happier with Harrison Barnes or the Rookie of the Year from that season’s draft class Damien Lillard.

Colangelo also referenced a game which I wrote was one of the biggest disgraces in NBA history between the Nets and Raptors to close that season. I was there covering that game and I was sad for anyone that spend a dollar to have to watch that contest. The Nets did all they could to not win that game including starting 3 players that began the season in the NBDL.

This all leads you to the simple conclusion that can the NBA honestly keep burying it’s heads in the sand to tanking without altering the lottery system to try to combat it?  This season has been a season filled of teams trying to tank. It kind of pours some cold water on what the Raptors have accomplished when you realize that likely 6-10 teams in this league have the goal of losing as much as possible. Many of those reside in the Eastern Conference.

For all of those that defended the concept of not tanking they clearly have some explaining to do. Tanking was happening right under their noses if we are to take Colangelo at his word. Which why would we not seeing as he really has no reason to lie about his past with the Raptors to any degree.

The fans that support Tank Nation had a supporter at the highest levels of MLSE in Colangelo. This makes you believe that MLSE ownership had to be in on it too. This calls to question how you can justify fans spending money on a product who at the end of the day was attempting to be a losing one.

It will be interesting to see if we get any response from MLSE, Casey or any of the Raptors in general on this topic. Even Ross who clearly was not the first choice of the Raptors as it has become painfully clear and obvious based on Colangelo’s comments.


Raptors and Wizards: Give Me More Of That

Let’s start by saying that last night’s game against the Washington Wizards was one of the most entertaining games of all time in Raptors history. It was the longest Raptors game in history, while the Raptors will be concerned about Terrence Ross and Kyle Lowry and how they came out of this marathon, it was tremendous. Ross left long before this game was over with a turned ankle. Lowry also tweaked an ankle but remained in and fought to the bitter end when he eventually fouled out of this game.

The Raptors were in a sense fighting an uphill battle most of the night. The Wizards last loss was the last time they faced the Raptors which was a hard fought contest that the Raptors would hang on to win.  After a rare strong start of a 7-0 run things would get difficult for the Raptors and they would eventually be fighting from behind for a good portion of this game in regulation.

Toronto would get behind by as much as 12 in the third quarter and with Ross already out and the Raptors struggling to keep their heads above water it seemed like it was not meant to be for them on this night. As in the game they won against the Wizards John Wall was proving to be quite the challenge to deal with. Overall the Raptors just looked like they did not have an answer this time around.

DeMar DeRozan would lead his crew all the way back to just 1 point down before the Wizards pushed back to make it a 5 point advantage heading to the fourth. What would go on for the next 27 minutes was a blow for blow battle that would rival any UFC fight. The Raptors had several chances to knock the Wizards out and steal a victory but could not get it done.

The lone issue the Raptors have faced in this post Rudy Gay era is who is going to be the closer for them in tight games. In a couple of games they have went to their All-Star DeMar DeRozan and had some terrible results so in this game they looked to Lowry and he too was unable to deal that knockout punch.

In the end the Raptors lost the battle in a game that took on a life of it’s own at some point. It still does not change my view that Wizards are the perfect team for the Raptors to face in the opening round of the NBA Playoffs and after last night there is a bunch of casual NBA fans that would welcome that series into their lives.

Toronto and Washington are in similar situations with limited playoff experience for their main stars. In fact next to none would be a more accurate statement. As the Raptors did with the Gay trade the Wizards were able to add some depth to their roster prior to the deadline. It showed in this epic war of attrition.

These teams have similarities being built around top level guards with Wall and Beal for the Wizards and DeRozan and Lowry for the Raptors. The Wizards when healthy have the better front court and should have an advantage on the glass. Raptors are the better defensive squad overall in comparison.

We may get to talk about all of this at length in April but I think the Raptors best and most exciting option for a series in the first round of the playoffs was and still is the Washington Wizards. Last night’s epic thriller at the ACC just made more people aware of the match-up and wanting to see it more.

The Raptors finished February with the same 7-5 record they sported last season it is about the only thing similar in comparing the two seasons to this point. Despite the outcome the Raptors should be able to win a series against the Wizards but as it was proven last night that will not be an easy task. Still the excitement and playoff atmosphere at the ACC gave you a taste of what a magical playoff series this could potentially be.

If you’re old enough to remember the epic Vince Carter vs. Allen Iverson battle in the seven game thriller with Sixers it could be that good. While the result of that series is well documented and known for a lot of things it to this day remains one of the best NBA Playoff series I have ever watched. It was thrilling and this new growing rivalry between the Wizards and Raptors could offer the same type of high drama. We can only hope it does at this point.