As the off-season winds to a close, and players and coaches begin to think of the upcoming year, this Raptor fan is in the final stages of his withdrawal. The off-season is far too long for basketball fanatics, especially for Raptor fans — who eagerly await the incarnation of our team.
The Raptors have completely overhauled their roster to the point where they are unrecognizable from last season. Gone are players like Anthony Parker, Jason Kapono, Kris Humphries and Jamario Moon. All regulars over the last few years. Also gone are the newcomers Pops Mensah Bonsu and Shawn Marion.
Incoming are a list of exciting players starting with, most obviously, Hedo Turkoglu. He is joined by Marco Bellinelli, Jarrett Jack, Reggie Evans, rookie Demar Derozan and a returning Rasho Nesterovic.
Brian Colangelo has remade this team and essentially erased the bad taste in the mouths of Raptor fans from a season ago. Colangelo promised big things last year after the acquisition of Jermaine O’Neal. We all know how that situation played out; the Raptors were marred in what became one of the most disappointing seasons in the team’s history. O’Neal was then jettisoned out of town for Marion, and his huge salary paid for the rebuilding of the team. Sam Mitchell was fired and Jay Triano took over. Calderon was injured for large stretches of the season and Bosh and Bargnani showed only flashes of brilliance until the end of the season.
This year, things are looking bright once again. A light has been cast on the dark shadow of last year. Somehow Colangelo was able to answer his critics and bring enthusiasm back to the club during the off-season. The offense looks ready to pour in points under a full season with Jay Triano at the helm. Bosh and Bargnani seem primed for bust out years. There is a great deal of buzz surrounding the hot new rookie Demar Derozan. The coaching staff has been bolstered by the acquisition of Marc Iavaroni and the acquisition of Hedo Turkoglu brings a leadership and clutch shooting ability the team has not seen since the days of Vince Carter and Charles Oakley.
Whether this will amount to more wins and a playoff berth is the question that is on the minds of all Raptor fans. Off-season articles surrounding the team’s chances has seen them listed as anything from “don’t have a chance” to “possible sleeper picks”. Some have hyphothesized the team will have three all-stars; others argue only one. No matter what people are saying there has been a lot to say about the Raptors this off-season. They have been one of the biggest players on the free agent market and now look to translate that energy into wins on the court.
Still, entering a very positive season, there are still lots of question marks. Who will be the starting two guard? Who will be the backup wing? How will Triano manage his very deep bench? Who gets minutes? Who loses them? Can Jay Triano lead an NBA team for an entire season and into the playoffs? Will Demar Derozan start in his rookie year? And of course there will be endless questions over whether or not Chirs Bosh will stay in the only NBA town he has ever known.
No matter what happens this season, and I am predicting big things, the prospect of seeing these questions answered has me most excited.
I cannot wait for Oct. 28th. I cannot wait till the lights in the ACC turn off, the fireworks on the court blaze, and the team takes to the court. Because then, it will finally be time to get this show on the road. It will finally be time to see what this Toronto Raptors team, circa 2009, can do.