I have been racking my brain trying to figure out why I am not excited about this Raptors run to returning to the post season. I do admit I enjoy the way the Raptors play a lot this season. The mix of defensive intensity and offensive firepower has been significant and enjoyable. Still I find myself being somewhat disinterested by it all.
I am sure the uncertain future of Kyle Lowry is a big part of this but I don’t think it is all of it. I guess I look at this and feel that we have seen this story before for the Raptors. Toronto has been having an unexpected and great season that happened in the midst of a down point for the Eastern Conference. I also am pretty confident in saying at best the Raptors get to a second round. There is no chance the Raptors beat Miami or Indiana in a 7 game series.
In fact when you look at the potential first round opponents it does not inspire a ton of confidence about the Raptors being successful. Match-ups with Chicago, Brooklyn and even Charlotte would concern me. The only match-up that gives me some confidence in the one with the Wizards. Even in that one I could see the Wizards winning.
I recall the last time the Raptors made the post season where Raptors fans drooled for a match-up with Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic. That didn’t work out so well for the Raptors as it turned out. The same could happen with Wizards just as easily in my view.
The game on Monday was very entertaining against Brooklyn but in the end the Raptors fell short in a game where they could have made a major statement and secured their playoff position somewhat. As good as the Raptors have been they have had a lot of games where they have played well and fought hard but come up short. The Nets have beat Miami 3 times in 3 tries this season. The Raptors have had some competitive games against Miami but in the end fell short.
At the end of the day I have seen the Raptors in the playoffs, I have seen them win a round once as well. What I haven’t seen is them enter a post-season as even a dark horse candidate to make the NBA Finals. The Raptors if they keep all of this together and continue to improve might have a chance to be that. History of the Raptors suggests it likely won’t last. Maybe this time is different and maybe I have just been beaten down to having little faith.
The one thing that does bring a smile to my face is having DeMar DeRozan develop into a legit All-Star Talent and heading to his first post-season. He has worked so hard for his own individual success as well as it being part of some team success.
I am also thrilled for Amir Johnson who has given back to Raptors fans perhaps more than any other Raptor in this team’s history. There is only one guy that I would even consider in comparison is Jerome Williams who reminds you a lot of Amir. I had said to Amir after one of the many times he has talked with me for the DNB that I believed he would be remembered in that same light as the JYD for years after his days playing were behind him. He seemed genuinely touched by the suggestion of that.
Perhaps the greatest example of his giving nature is his Roll with Amir Event that is entering its fourth year. This year going all medieval as the event will be taking place at Medieval Times in Toronto. It is without a doubt the most unique and from the heart gesture I have seen by an athlete in any sport. This is a guy that legitimately loves his fans and takes the time to plan out cool events and contests to show them that he does. Often times by taking money from his back pocket to put these events on.
So for those guys I am extremely happy. As a Raptor fan of 19 years and someone that has covered this team for 6 of those years I am far less excited. I just feel like I have seen this all before and have a hard time seeing a different outcome for this group as compared to ones in the past. Some of the same issues still remain to be proven if things can really change.
Can The Raptors keep a guy like Lowry? More importantly can they actually build on the existing talent they already have. You have heard for many years a lot of people say that winning will cure all the issues the Raptors have had with attracting free agents and keeping their own talent. That theory is going to be put to the test once again. Which in the past the Raptors have won and still had these issues. If Vince Carter as one of the top 3 players in the NBA can’t attract people to come here honestly can anyone on this group stand a better chance? Chris Bosh certainly failed at it so much so that he decided to leave.
The Raptors while no one will debate have had a miraculous turnaround still have not taken those big steps to make it to the next level. Those should naturally come in the future after all this is just a season of success. The question is can they honestly maintain this level of success and that leaves me with a lot of doubt.
Masai Ujiri and Tim Leiweke are both very talented and intelligent people at what they do. I just believe the Raptors have had a lot of talented people prior that couldn’t find the answer to basically the same puzzle that lies ahead for them. I hope for Raptors fans they have the answers but I am not as blindly faithful in it happening just based on the history of what we have seen.
If all you require is the Raptors to be competitive and fun to watch they have already achieved that goal. If you desire something more than that, I am not sure anything is different from past versions of success we have seen in Raptors history. Time will tell but for whatever reason my passion or more to the point my belief is not very strong that anything will change.