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.