I could have done a recap of the Raptors glorious win over the Nets that may cost them a spot in the draft lottery order. But after a long and great day in Toronto decided it would be old news by now and with Raptors right back at it tonight with the Bucks what would be the point. So instead of that thought I would share my thoughts as I have come to a conclusion of my second year covering this team with access. I was able to cover even more games this year and build on things from year one.
If I stop and think about all the great players I got to see and or talk with this year it would amaze me. From Steve Nash to Kevin Durant and many more. It really is amazing to have that privilege and be able to call it your job. In terms of Steve Nash, I can tell my grandchildren (assuming I have any) that I got to see Canada's greatest basketball player up close. When the Dino Nation Blog started not sure I could have dreamed for all of these great experiences. I am sure that when the NBA first came to Canada I dreamed of covering it someday. But back in 1994 who even knew what a blog was, who would have though there would be this thing called Twitter. You may have a plan and dreams for you life, but the path you take to get there always has some things you could have never expected.
It is a great experience to get to know players and this season I really got to build relationships with some of the players I have been covering for a couple years now. At the top of that list are Reggie Evans and Demar DeRozan. When I first started covering this team up in Ottawa at training camp a couple of years ago they were first two guys I spoke with. Over those two years I have spoke with both to many times to count. It makes you have a greater appreciation for both their successes and failures. Reggie has had a tough 2 seasons in Toronto and injuries have made it tough for him. But watching him fight back from both gave me a greater respect for Reggie, more than I would have had without having access and knowing him on professional basis. These are some of things I value about having access to the team. It allows you a opportunity to get a better sense of everything to a degree.
In terms of Demar the person I met in Ottawa was a nice young man, that was for all his talent and skill, still a shy person in terms of talking. But he has grown and become much more confident in that respect. I got to see first hand the great relationship he has with Sonny Weems. I also got to see a kid who the first time I talked with him told me "I want to be not just good but great" start the long path to making that reality. I understand how much he wants to succeed and have got to be a spectator to that. Demar will always have a special place in my heart. He came into the NBA as a freshman out of USC in part to make sure his mom got the best care possible. She suffers from Lupus and he wanted to make sure he was able to help provide the best care possible. As someone that has made sacrifices to care for my mother I really respect that. So does it make me root for Demar to be successful? It sure does and there is nothing wrong with that. He works hard and think everyone can agree Demar has taken strides towards the greatness he desires to achieve.
You also learn that all the relationships that you have can be gone like that. I always enjoyed talking with Jarrett Jack and he was there one time I covered a game and was gone the next. It is always a weird feeling when you enter that locker room and their is a new face in the place of an old one. So you start that process of getting to know that new person. Jerryd Bayless is a super young man. He has struggled this year but has started to show some signs here late in the season. Still it remains to be seen how much this means. The one thing I have learned about Bayless is in a season that a team has to endure a ton of losing there is no one that takes that more personally than him in that locker room. It is written all over his face and without him saying a word you can know if the Raptors won or lost.
As I left that locker room and the ACC last night I had a number of thoughts running through my head. Was that the last time I was going to get to laugh at Sonny Weems for some silly thing he did in that locker room? Sonny is always fun loving and always heard in that locker room. He may be the most fun loving guy on this team. Even with his roll reduced by James Johnson it has not stopped Sonny from being Sonny. Logically his future with the Raptors for next season seems bleak. While personally I would love to see him again, I know logically that is probably not likely. It may have been the last time I get to see Reggie Evans in that locker room as well. His situation is a little less clear. Reggie has shown some things that some feel there is a chance he could stay. Time will tell on what ultimately happens.
There was also a strange vibe with everyone I spoke with as it was my last time seeing a lot of these folks for the season. That strange vibe is the fact that everyone I have spoke with to a man or woman seems to feel an NBA Lockout will happen. So it is not just a simple case of see you next season. No one is really sure when that will be and some wonder "if" that will be. Everyone in that bubble that is covering games from staff, to players and folks in media. We all wonder what the future brings with no control or say in it. Everyone has an opinion on it though. But the one thing that would shock almost everyone is if we were playing games in late October to start the season as would be the normal practice.
You have to hope that people will be able to keep going and everyone on the other side comes back to be doing what they do. It is a scary awkward time for everyone. When you think about that it makes the fact the Raptors season itself has been one of the worst ever not mean quite as much. Is a terrible season better than no season at all. As much as this season has been frustrating and a true grind to get through, it is far better to have a season and be able to work. No season is so bad that it doesn't make you want to come back for another.
So I close off this 2nd year of having access with the Raptors hoping there will be another but having no idea when that will. It is a pretty sad way to end a season. A pretty scary summer to look forward too. But all that being said I have been fortunate to have another season covering this team and appreciate the opportunity to do so. Jim LaBumbard has been so kind to allow me that opportunity and ask anyone that works covering this team, you are likely to hear nothing but great things about Jim and I am no different. It was a fun year and I really felt like I belonged this year. Last season was like a blur trying to fit in and feel like I belonged to be there. It takes awhile but I truly feel comfortable now and have got to know lots of great people through it.
Oh yeah and Raptors beat the Nets 99-92.