For many reasons this was always going to be a big season for the Raptors. It marks 15 years in the NBA. Where has the time gone seriously? I was hanging around Toronto on Friday and was around the Skydome. You may prefer to call it Rogers Centre. But is was the Skydome when the Raptors called it home. I never attended a game at the dome. It was not the most ideal place to play a basketball game. Damon Stoudamire was booed in that same Skydome and he would have the last laugh being named rookie of the year. It was kind of proof that Toronto had a long way to go as basketball fans. Damon was a good player from Arizona but the people felt Ed O'Bannon was the guy based on being part of a championship UCLA squad. Damon was the little man that would lead what was the first era of Raptors basketball. Mighty Mouse may never be as popular in Toronto or anywhere else ever again. Be it the cartoon character or the man who took on the nickname.
The smiles and happiness would not last long. A struggle, both on the court with the young expansion team going through growing pains and one off the court for control of the team would lead to a short time on top for Mighty Mouse. Isiah Thomas would make a power play that would fail to get into the ownership of the team. He would end up leaving and Damon would follow not long after him.
Glen Grundwald would replace Thomas and it would be a move he made on draft night that would launch the next era of Raptors basketball. The Raptors headed into the draft and took Antwan Jamison but it would not be for long. He had mad a deal and swapped Jamison for Vince Carter. Air Canada "Carter" would soon take flight. He would just explode on to the NBA scene and became a Sportscenter hi-light favourite. It would lead to another Rookie of the Year award and excitement to come. Vince would become the first all-star in franchise history. He would not just become an all-star he would lead the voting for several years.
Vince would bring back the Slam Dunk Contest and win it in jaw dropping fashion. The Raptors had entered a whole new world. Games on national T.V in the states on a regular basis and a legit superstar in the NBA. The Playoffs would come as well. After being swept aside by the Knicks the Raptors would return to the playoffs and win a 5 game series over the Knicks with the deciding game on the famous MSG hardwood. A classic battle with the Sixers would follow. A UNC Graduation and a shot that was short from the corner and the Raptors were inches away from the conference finals.
The Raptors had arrived or so we thought. But that would end up being the high point of the Vince Carter era. The next off-season Glen Grunwald attempted to keep his team together. He would over pay for all the role players and re-signed his star in Carter. A failed Hakeem signing and it was all about to fall apart and no one at the time could know just how bad.
The years after would be full of injuries for Carter and frustration all around. The guy that once owned the Air Canada Centre had the building booing him and most people had lost their Vinsanity. The bad contracts and losing would cost Glen Grundwald his job ultimately. Rob Babcock would come in. He would be forced into trading Carter as the superstar made his intentions known that he wanted out. The hiring of Babcock had been the last straw for Vince. Carter had wanted Dr.J a hero of his to be considered for the job as G.M. MLSE did not hire him they took Babcock. He would make one of the worst trades in NBA History ending the Vince Carter era.
But the last move Glen Grunwald made or one of them was to draft Chris Bosh. When Carter was gone the position of face of the franchise became Bosh's in the eyes of fans and the media. Big shoes for a young kid that was if you remember pretty quiet and soft spoken when he first came to Toronto.
4 all-star appearances , a Gold Medal on Team U.S.A , A Division Title and no playoff series wins. Also the evolution of Bosh to media superstar. He made his famous Car Salesman You Tube Video that put Chris Bosh on the map in the world of pop culture beyond basketball.
Coming off a season of true disappointment the question of 2010 have got louder and some people have gotten louder in their disapproval of Bosh. It all sounds similar for Raptor fans. I outlined where we have seen it happen before. I also could have included Tracy McGrady who cut bait on the Raptors and has still never got to experience(as a player) the second round of the NBA Playoffs.
So will history repeat itself? Bryan Colangelo has worked his butt off to make sure it does not. We have talked about all the moves that he has made to improve this basketball team over the summer. Colangelo has done all he can to make the Raptors an attractive place for Bosh to want to remain. It will take this team winning to make it happen. However despite the speculation in the U.S Media that Bosh will bolt in 2010 it seems there is still hope that he can remain.
Bosh regardless wants to have a great season if he is staying or going. This could be the best season of a career that has been impressive to say the least. If that happens and the Raptors can be successful perhaps Chris Bosh will break the trend and remain with the franchise. If he does not it could cast a huge shadow on this franchise and leave you to wonder if you can ever truly believe that someone will remain part of the Raptors for the long haul.
If Bosh goes who is next to fill that role of Franchise Superstar? Andrea Bargnani would be the answer for some. I am not sold on that personally. I think Bargnani is a long way still from being a 4 time all-star and being ready to lead. Jose Calderon is not a guy that fits the role. Despite fans wanting to think Jose is ready to become an all star and take things to a new level it seems he is short of those lofty expectations. Perhaps Demar DeRozan? It is far to early to tell. However he does have talent and could be a star. He would be in a spot like Bosh when he took over the role. It would be something that he would need to grow into for sure.
However the best case for the Raptors is to see the CB4 era continue on. If it does this basketball team could finally turn the corner and build some consistence and become a contender in the East. The Raptors have never really been that. If Bosh does not remain, even though the team has been constructed in such a way it could deal with that, it still will be a blow to this franchise. This season will mark the Raptors 15th in the NBA and they are still a team looking to find that true formula to lasting success. Having comets shooting through Toronto only to burn out and die is not going to be the answer. Never has more been riding on a season for the Toronto Raptors. This season is going to be one that will define the franchise one way or the other.
Raptor fans have stuck with this franchise from beginning to now, I hope and pray for a happy ending for Raptor Fans. I think that as a group they have earned it.