Everything was looking up. Even though the Raptors we’re bounced out of the playoffs by The New Jersey Nets, they had finished on top of their division for the first time, and coming into the 2007 season the ship was truly pointed in the right direction.
Lead by their spark plug point guard TJ Ford, and his Spanish backup Jose Calderon, the Raptors had a formidable duo. Quick, balanced by steady. Risk taking, counterbalanced by a calculated approach. Indeed, the Raptor’s two-prong attack was seen as one of the better backcourts in the Association.
What happened after that was well documented. A frightening TJ Ford injury was followed by impressive play by the Raptors third year Spaniard. A cardinal rule was broken and TJ ‘s starting role was lost. And so too was the team’s chemistry.
Not since 2006 have the Raptors had a consistent, well-defined point guard duo. And the importance of which should not be underestimated. Having a quality backup guard, who on any given team could start, proves dividends. For one, it gives the starting guard a chance to rest – preventing injury and giving the team more energy for a push down the stretch.
And two, a solid backup plays against the Will Soloman’s of the league. Behind Derrick Rose is a 38 year old Lindsey Hunter. Behind Rajon Rondo is — I have absolutely no idea.
So after a crafty trade by team Colangelo, one that freed up significant room under the cap, the team’s first calculated move seems obvious in hindsight. Within three days, Colangelo and Co signed Jarrett Jack to an offer sheet, giving Chris Bosh a smile and marking the beginning of the Jarrett Jack – Jose Calderon era.
How that era will pan out is too early to tell, but from the outside looking in it’s easy to get excited. Jack brings a balance that the team hasn’t had since 2006. He’s fast, he drives, he’s past first, but most importantly he knows how to win.
When Chris Bosh left Georgia Tech after his freshman season, Jack came back the next year to lead his Yellow Jackets to a Cinderella story NCAA finals run. Eventually losing to a talented UConn Husky team. A team stacked with Ben Gordon, Emeka Okafor, and a sharp shooting big man Charlie Villanueva.
The Raptor connection doesn’t end there, even before college. While it’s true Jack went to high school with Amare Stoudemire, he also broke the single game scoring mark at Mount Zion Academy with 56 points. A record held by Tracy McGrady.
And while he never turned into a high scoring point guard he displayed in his early career, he certainly turned into an effective one. Playing every game last year and eventually beating out TJ Ford for the starting spot in Indiana — a team with 7 new players coming into training camp in 2008.
And let’s hope that the only comparison between the two teams. Because with the added moves the Raptors made this off season, and a secure backcourt being one of the most important, the ship is once again pointed in the right direction. This time however, it looks as though they have the right crew onboard and the forecast appears promising.