Thursday, July 16, 2009

And We're Back!


Let me start by saying, 'Thank You'.

Thanks for reassembling what was a shallow and one-dimensional roster and thanks for being unafraid to make a big splash.

But mostly thanks for making the 2009-10 Toronto Raptors interesting and possibly even relevant. When you joined the Raptors in February 2006 you instantly gave the organization credibility and many of us sensed the opportunity to move from a middle-of-the-pack franchise to one in the upper echelon. No, it wasn't going to be easy building a contender up here in the Great White North, with our so-called tax issues and cold weather, but with your body of work as GM of the Phoenix Suns there was reason to believe things were looking up for the Raptors for the first time since Vince-sanity reigned supreme in the early 2000's.

That first offseason you brought in nine new players to transform a team that was coming off a 27-win season into the Atlantic division champions. Sure, the division was about as tough as a Jonas brothers concert, but still, we were the third seed in the playoffs and our stock was definitely on the rise.

However, the two years that followed the somewhat shocking 47-win campaign put the franchise right back to square one. A first-round beatdown courtesy of Orlando in 2008 took just about all the steam out of our engine, and a 13th place Eastern conference finish in 2009 threatened to put us in Clipper-ville.

And that's where we were at the beginning of free agency this summer, when the Hedo Turkoglu signing looked like it was going to be a straight-forward unrestricted free-agent deal that pretty much hand-cuffed you from altering the rest of the roster. The starting five (Jose, DeRozan, Turk, Bosh, Bargnani) was decent but the bench was horrible--like worst in the NBA horrible.

Then somehow you convinced Orlando and Memphis to join a complicated trade already involving Dallas that allowed you to not only add Turkoglu, but completely revamp the bench and turn a one-string team into a nine or ten deep roster. Bravo!

Now, with the (rumoured) return of Rasho and Delfino, the addition of bruising forward Reggie Evans, and the insurance provided by Devean George and Antoine Wright, the Raptors have depth. And size. And options. We can throw different looks at opponents. We can withstand potential injuries.

We can once again contemplate not only making the playoffs, but even winning a round!

Turk takes all of the late fourth quarter pressure off Bosh and becomes the guy who can create his own shot in tight situations. If Bosh is hitting his jumper and getting to the line Toronto can continue feeding him, but on the nights he isn't and the Raps need a bucket, Turkoglu will be the guy to take it. And history tells us he can make it.

And now to top it all off, you've gone out and added Jarret Jack ('from' the Indiana Pacers but more importantly 'of' Georgia Tech University, where he was a former teammate and good friend of Bosh) as a legitimate back-up point guard and (another) reason for Bosh to consider signing an extension that would keep him in a Raptors uniform beyond next season.

**Sidenote** This is a whole different story, but quickly the two other reasons for Bosh to stay are: 1) The Money. In case you haven't heard, the economy isn't all that strong these days and the NBA salary cap just went down for the first time ever this offseason. Next season revenue is expected to be worse, perhaps significantly. This could benefit the Raptors because instead of turning down say $10-15 million over the life of his new contract, Bosh might be turning down as much as $20-30 million (including the extra year only Toronto can offer). 2) The Money. That's a lot of money to turn down.

In three short weeks you've totally changed the feeling surrounding the franchise and again given the fanbase reason to believe.

For that, we thank you.

Much Love,

The Canadian Sports Junkie

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