It was December 19th 2008. The Raptors started a 5 game road trip in Oklahoma City. The Thunder were 2-24 when they entered that game against the Raptors. The Raptors would of course lose that game 91-83 and for many that was the point hope died last season. The Raptors were 10-16 after that loss to the Thunder. When you fast forward to almost a year to the day the 11-17 Toronto Raptors take on the 2-24 Nets. This one is at home at the ACC and not a road game. However the situation is all to similar for the Raptors and it makes you think this game could represent a breaking point for a lot of fans and perhaps for this organization as a whole.
There was a realistic belief this team had made big steps in improving in this off season. But as you look back a year ago the improvement has not come and the Raptors face a no win situation for the Raptors. If you beat the Nets really no one is going to be excited and if you struggle to win that would not be good. The worst case scenario is if the Raptors were to lose to the Nets. If that happens you can expect all hell to break loose around this team. There is a legit anger and frustration in the fan base for this team. There is also a legit frustration from this team's star player in Chris Bosh. I would venture to say both have a pretty short fuse at the moment.
There comes a point where you have to just blame someone or something. Fans have not missed a shot, blown a defensive assignment or lost a single game this season. I think most fans believe right or wrong that they care more than the team they cheer for at the moment. I really do not think that is the case and if I was wrong in that I really don't want to know. If only fans had the athletic ability to play the sport. Fans think if they did, they would bust their butt and not get beat or die trying. If you have every watched the movie Rudy, I think that is the passion we want to see in athletes. That is coming from a Michigan fan saying that.
It is not very realistic to think that way. If you are the New Jersey Nets don't you think they want to win games? Everyone does and at the end of the day the team with more talent usually will win. However sometimes you fall into the trap of thinking talent is enough without effort. That is what I personally think of as the whole Vince Carter way of things. Unfortunately when teams lose games you see sometimes misguided effort. The Raptors or the Nets woes can not be put on just one individual. We try to do that in sports and often it is the coach who takes that ultimate blame. If you want proof just ask Lawrence Frank who is no longer coaching the Nets. Players often try to do more than what is required and in the end cost the team. Basketball is team sport and it is rare that an individual can consistently carry a team on his own to victory. That is what makes night's when a Kobe or Lebron James go off and win a game on their own amazing. However despite a ton of individual success Bryant has never been able to win a title without a solid supporting cast.
While some people have wanted to point the finger of blame at Chris Bosh a lot of time for me it makes little sense. He is just one guy out of 15 and can only do so much. I think he wants to win more than anybody I have seen him say it from his own lips. He is counted on to be the leader of this team and I understand that. He also needs people that are willing to buy in and follow along and fight with him. In his time with the Raptors that has not happened. If you think back to the Vince Carter days he never real was able to lead this team as well. Yes he was the best player on the team by a wide margin. However it was not until guys like Antonio Davis and Charles Oakley came along that the Raptors started to have some form of success. I am not sure if Bosh has ever had that kind of support in terms of leadership. J.O sure wasn't much of a leader. In fact J.O wasn't much of anything in Toronto. Hedo Turkoglu was expected to be some form of a leader for this team. He has lead in terms of being at the head of the list of inconsistent players on this roster.
This game will not solve much should the Raptors win it. However if they are to lose it, this season and Chris Bosh are both likely going to be lost. Despite some folks already starting to think that this team would be better off that way in the long run, I am not in that camp. When you look at the other 2 members of the Raptors supposed core, in Calderon and Bargnani really how good have they been? If those 2 guys were free agents coming up in 2010 to you think there would be a long line of people wanting them? The answer is likely not. They have been bitter disappointments in terms of production and in leadership. This Organization gave both players new contracts and since signing them both have been far below expectations.
A loss to the Nets on Friday may be looked back on as a Doomsday type moment for this franchise not unlike when they traded away Vince Carter. If you think about it Vince was not convinced this team could be a winner moving forward and to this point he has sadly been right. I am not a huge Blue Jays fan by any stretch of the imagination. However when I watched them trade away their franchise player. It made the sick reality hit home, that if things don't drastically change, I am going to be in the shoes of Jays fans, watching my team's franchise player walk away. It won't be because he hates Canada or Toronto. It will be because he wants to win and it will be as simple as that.
Which Ironically is what we all want as well, but fans don't sign contracts and have free agency. Maybe we should and we could not have to suffer with the same old things year after year. The Raptors will lose a lot more than a single basketball game if they lose to the Nets. The may lose Bosh, The passion and interest of this fan base and most of all hope. Sports is all about the concept of hope and without you are truly screwed.