Disclaimer: Please note the following prior to reading this. The Suns were on the 2nd half of a back to back, This is the pre-season, The Detroit Lions in the NFL had a 4-0 pre-season prior to a 0-16 season, Suns are far from a defensive juggernaut. This team still has no one that will be in the running to be an All-Star. It is only October 6th.
Ok all of that out of the way, boy was that fun to watch. I guess we can start with Linas Kleiza who continues to impress. I admit to being wait and see about how good he can be for the Raptors. Carlos Delfino came back to the NBA from Europe and had a pretty good year with the Bucks last year. Kleiza by all indications could be on the path to do that as well. It would take something pretty remarkable to see him not a part of the starting 5 at the small forward spot. He has been everything that Hedo was suppose to be and tougher. Speaking of Hedo he was welcomed back to Canada with Boos from the folks in Vancouver. You mess with the Raptors I guess that is proof you mess with Canada. The fact Hedo will be coming to Toronto as well for pre-season has to make him feel a little bit ill. I see a tummy ache in Hedo's future but don't worry he will be out at the clubs by 10pm tops.
This Raptors team if they hit the clubs seem like they will do it together. I think we all can easily be jaded. All of this talk of team effort and it will now be a team that is one for all and all for one can ring a little hallow. I mean, what else is a team that lost it's 5 time All-Star for nothing more than a trade exception and a couple draft picks suppose to say? But it may not be all hype as this Raptor team really has seemed together off the floor and at least 1 game into things on the floor as well. Ironically the 2 guys that you would hear the most in terms of being the Raptors next one were not exactly great tonight. Both Bargnani and DeRozan have looked far better in the past. Bargnani had just 3 points while DeRozan did end up with 2nd most points with 16 and to be fair was not horrible at all. Everyone else in red was looking good. I mean everyone from Marcus Banks to Joey Dorsey and all points in between. Ok that might be a slight exaggeration. But seriously this was a two and half hour informerical for why watching the post Bosh Raptors could be fun.
Fitting of this team concept everyone that played for the Raptors scored led by Kleiza with 20. Only person that didn't score was Ed Davis, who was watching still on the mend from his knee operation, that will see him miss all of the pre-season and likely the first few weeks of the regular season as well. Reggie Evans can relate to that last year getting hurt in the pre-season as he was hurt. Tonight he was hurt again but came back only to be ejected for slapping Grant Hill in the butt who also did the same to Reggie and both were tossed. Reggie had banged heads earlier with Robin Lopez who also did not make it to the end of this one. He racked up two technical fouls and was gone. The NBA has added my tougher fines and is said to have a low tolerance policy for players complaining about calls this year. These refs tonight clearly got that memo and totally screwed it up and ran a muck with it. The incident with Hill and Evans reminded me of the ejection of Morris Peterson, when Vince Carter started play fighting with his former team mate, only to have Mo P be unamused and then was tossed for slapping Carter's hand away. It was bizarre as was the Evans and Hill ejections.
There has been talk all summer and into the pre-season on how the Raptors were going to be better on the defensive end of floor. I think we all kind of felt like this was the little boy crying wolf once again. I mean we all remember Jay Triano talking about protecting the house last year. We all remember how that house would get bombed night after night. The fact is since the Raptors had Kevin O'Neil as head coach the concept of defence has been a foreign concept in Toronto. But I never remember Kevin O'Neil's Raptors scoring 129 points in any game ever. The Raptors looked solid for 4 quarters on defence. How many times could we have said that last season? Once, Twice not many more than that.
I know it is only the pre-season and game number 1. In fact if you are not saying that to yourself while reading this go back to the top and read the disclaimer again.
The Suns shot just 37.8% while the Raptors were a hot as a pistol 50.6 with an economical 6-10 from 3 point range. Joey Dorsey was the only Raptor with a double double as he had 13 and 10. as for the point guard battle advantage Jarret Jack who had 10 points and 7 assists and was going full out not playing like a starting job was a given for him. Calderon did have a steal that is always of note also had 6 points and 3 assists.
In the end as corny as it may sound the Raptors were as advertised a team with everyone chipping into to the overall effort. Which there was a lot of in terms of effort. While some will say this team never played this way with Bosh and use that as ammo to slag him. It is true the Raptors never did. However, maybe that is the point that it is because he is not here and everyone knows that. No longer is Chris Bosh here to bail this team out with his standard 20 and 10. It is now everyone's responsibility to rebound to defend and to score. The example that gets thrown around is the Blue Jays and the loss of Roy Halladay, who threw a prefect game for the Phillies tonight as an aside. But the fact with him gone the Jays stepped up and the pitching staff most of all is not dissimilar. Chris Bosh is still really good and you saw that if you happened to check out his Heat debut. Just like Halladay is still very good. Both may end up winning Championships when all is said and done. I guess the point is no one on the Jays or the Raptors has that big star to point to and say that guy will get it done I can coast. Everyone has to look in the mirror and say what can I do to make us better.
Let's not forget at the end of the day this was one game but it was a much better beginning for the Raptors than anyone could have imagined. A 128-79 thrashing of the Suns pre-season or other wise is highly unexpected. It makes you wonder almost as much about the outlook for the Suns as they also lost a big piece to there puzzle in Amare Stoudamire. After an off-season that was anything but fun if nothing else Raptor fans deserved this night and win to feel good about this team if only for one night.
ESPN is not going to retract their 20 win predictions or anything. NBA2K11 is not going to improve Linas Kleiza's pathetic rating in the 50's. But if nothing else the Raptors made you sit up and take notice that the reports of their death this season may be as bogus as those of former Leafs Coach Pat Burns. May God Bless him. While the Raptors may not be in need of blessings they do deserve a well deserved round of applause for putting on quite the show in Vancouver. Reality may come very quickly as soon as Sunday as the Boston Celtics will be the the Raptors next foe. They play defence just slightly better than the Suns do.
So after the Summer we have all endured together.....enjoy this one. But don't go planning a parade just yet. The T-Wolves beat the Lakers too. It is just pre-season. Add that to the disclaimer.