The NFL finally got a deal done yesterday and will not miss a game of the regular season. If you ask most NBA experts for that to happen with the NBA Lockout it will take a minor miracle. As I had said if that schedule that was released is actually used I would be stunned. So what that means is in a best case we are looking at a shortened schedule. Back in 1999 the Raptors would play a 50 game schedule and went 23-27 under Butch Carter. The Schedule did not start till February 5th and the Raptors would get off to a very slow start. Starting 5-10 in the first month of that season. In the end that bad start would cost the Raptors from making the post season for the first time.
That season was the introduction to Vince Carter. He exploded on the scene from the opening game a win over Boston and set the NBA on fire going on to win the rookie of the year. It was the start of perhaps the most successful era in the history of this franchise. The next season the Raptors would make the playoffs.
While there are some similarities to where the Raptors were heading into that season and where they are now it is not exactly the same. Raptors came off a dreadful 16-66 season prompting then G.M Glen Grunwald to take to the court and promise fans that things would be better. Bryan Colangelo did not take to the floor after the Raptors closed the season against the Miami Heat. But he would promise brighter days and changes after the season ended should he return. Some of those changes have already happened. Jay Triano was shown the door. Dwane Casey enters promising a new culture that will be based on defensive end of the floor. Butch Carter had come in during that terrible 16-66 season. He would have to bring change with no real training camp of significance thanks to the labour situation. Casey will likely face a similar situation.
The Raptors draft pick this season will not have the impact of Vince Carter. In fact he won't have the impact of Hoffa. No I am not saying that Jonas Valanciunas is going to be a bust. But he will not be here for whatever length season the Raptors will play next year. If they do. Also if people remember how that 1999 season worked it will allow for very little practice time for Dwane Casey to transform the team that ranked dead last in defence the last two seasons.
The Raptors do have some youthful pieces that should be able to endure what will be a crazy schedule in terms of the lack of days off it would have. But that alone would probably not be enough to turn this team into a playoff team. This Raptor team also with a new coaching staff and likely some new players to come will not exactly have much in terms of chemistry. So it all points to a team that would get off to a slow start. After a win over Boston to start that shorten season the Raptors went on to lose their next 6 games. A slow start is death in a short season.
A Short season may in fact but the Raptors in a worse situation than they would be under normal circumstances. But the good news is if the Raptors were to fail in a short season the rewards in this potential draft class are far greater for the Raptors to come back and be competitive in the next full season of the NBA. This all assuming we have a season at all. That in no guarantee at this point. It would also draw the question of how the NBA would dictate the draft order in a year that many say could be the best since 2003. The NHL in that circumstance literally had a lottery for all the teams and the Pittsburgh Penguins were the bigger winners getting to draft Crosby. The NBA and a lottery? Oh wait that doesn't sound good does it. Not in a league where the lottery results many are convinced are a shame.
So shorter is not likely better for the Raptors. But long or short, basketball and Raptors fans want to be able to say what NFL Fans got to say yesterday. That our sport is back. But the time to say those words is a long long way from happening.