Wednesday, 7 September 2011
TURNING OVER A NEW LEAF
A cold wind blows.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Just over a year ago it was a done deal. Chris Bosh signed a contract in Miami with two new, 'super' friends that ensure he'd only look like a Raptor from then on. As CB4 took his underrated game to a bigger market Miami went to the finals, while Toronto hit the lottery looking for their next big ticket. It got an awful lot hotter down in South Beach and a hell of a lot colder up in Canada.
Bosh may have been where the franchise started but he’s not the be all and end all. Toronto has some other issues that they need to take care of before this franchise becomes a dinosaur team in this league. Before they become more worthy of the new CBL, then the NBA. This lone Canadian franchise needs to show it's not another Memphis Grizzlies, they can't end up like Vancouver.
At the peak of this team’s power over the last decade they were almost unstoppable. They actually had a solid, decent squad of players running from 1-15 and had a legitimate shot at being a contender for the first time since 'Air Canada', Carter made his departure. They need to get back to this level of play.
This was back in 2006 where the Raps came out of nowhere to be the Phoenix Suns of the East. A lot had changed about the franchise, ownership, money, court design, color schemes, etc. The franchise was refreshed and invigorated. Gone where the previous childish logos, the team wasn’t playing kids games any more. Colangelo’s input had given this team the push they needed. Even the red and white uniforms spoke volumes for their patriotic stance towards their country. The Raptors weren’t about to take the Memphis Grizzlies route, they where here to stay in Canada. Hip-hop music was being played between timeouts; an attractive presenter was keeping fans interested. The whole setup in the Air Canada Centre breathed new life into this team. The fans came out in capacities and gave the team those all important energy boosts.
As for the players, Bosh was becoming more and more comfortable with himself, resulting in him becoming more and more of a force and one of the premier players in this league. He let his hair grow out and he let his game spill over on to the court. He even came back from injury to clinch a game winning three from the then Iverson and C-Webb strong-led 76ers. Basketball was getting more entertaining and exciting up north back then. It was time for the network anchors to grab their warm clothes and take a trip across the border to see real ball. Basketball without borders, yeah the Raps showed that, from TSN to ESPN.
The rest of the team stood out as well. T.J. Ford made sure that fans soon forgot about favourite Charlie V and Fred Jones was throwing mid- second quarter dunks down hard, making it almost impossible for fans to go get some snacks. If concession profits fell then Freddy would have to be fingered for that one. As fans got up and stayed in their seats more than those waiting for free taco's. The team had a real international flavor as well. This brought extra options to the team and extra dimensions to the game. Anthony Parker shot the lights out most nights, he was one of the most slept on role players in the league as he was capable of lighting up to 20 quicker than most bench players in the league, he was pure and more than Candace Parker's brother.
A player who was dirty on the other hand was Jorge Garbajosa. Garbo however was dirty in a good way, take Chris Oakley, Rick Fox and ‘The Junkyard Dog’ and mix them all together then you’ve got ‘The Garbage Man’. A loyal worker who handled all the rough plays, hustled hard and had a pretty stroke to counter his gruff look. It’s amazing Garbo is no longer in the NBA as he’s the type of role player that champions are made of, but then again this is the league where amazing happens after all. Even if the 'amazing' is truly mind-blogging.
All though he showed some Rookie teething problems, Andrea Bargnani was showing real promise especially in certain runs in the game. Jose Calderon was drawing most of the non-Bosh attention however (and thankfully for the T-Dot he still is). He was so quick, talented and prolific that he was taking Ford’s drive for the starting position of point guard away and he's still running with T.J. out of town. He showed a rare mix of speed and scoring prowess for a small guy that Tony Parker had shown before him and that Rajon Rondo is showing since. When Jose was taking off court on a stretcher during a home game against Golden State fans looked like the Raptors season was in jeopardy. That game was only in earl December, that’s how little time it took for Jose to make a certain impact. That's what's lead to all these plus years.
So this T-Dot team where putting their exclamation point on a league that had disregarded them as the ‘last remaining Canadian franchise’ or ‘that team Vince Carter’ used to play for (you can still hear the boo’s and hisses right?). The Raptors where playoff bound and the future looked bright but since then over the last half decade they have looked less and less like this team. This franchise is far from becoming extinct but their glory years are looking more and more like memories for youtube then current highlight reels. The time for buffering is over, this team needs to be seen clearly for what they can be.
Toronto is one of those underrated cities and their basketball team was looking like that too. With that being said however Toronto is still one of those big market, tourist cities. All the foreigners coming for a visit back in ’06 (whether holiday or visa related) would have been pleasantly surprised to see a Raptors game. Nowadays they’ll just stick to Leaf games because Ice Hockey is Canada’s bread and butter. That doesn't mean the Raptors are playing with knives made for the margarine however. Slasher DeMar DeRozan makes this point cut, while Andrea Bargnani has sharpened his basketball tools and skill set. These two leading men also have great support from juggernaut Jarrett Jack, the brilliant Barbosa, the tough Reggie Evans, the tween of Sonny Weems and the dunking dynamo Amir Johnson. This type of support won't leave the future weather of this Ontario side overcast.
Fans and viewers alike however must tune back in. There can be a reception again however. Some of the Raptors core may have rotted but this basketball team can still eat if they just show their still hungry for success and so long as they don’t make a meal out of the good things they have. This type of fire and determination which was displayed in 2006 is still here even if Bosh is gone like Vince. Not to get Carter or hate Chris, but this team has moved on before and can move on again. Bryan Colangelo is a business man, and a smart one too, now its time for the general manager to show that he’s all about rebuilding the foundations that he laid with this team back in what was arguably the franchises best all-round year. Then other big players like Bosh may want to play and it may just feel like 2006 again.