(by Paul Jones) – OK so there were no style points, heck there weren’t even many of the usual “B” list stars that attend LA Clipper games in attendance, but all that matters if you’re a Raptor fan is that the team started its 7 game road trip with a win in Los Angeles. To be truthful, Eric Smith, my astute broadcast partner did spot some guys that I knew by character but not by name. Hey, if they can’t dunk or knock down jump shots their names aren’t always on the tip of my tongue.
It was probably an omen for the Clippers, who have been struggling mightily with injuries, that it was raining in Southern California yesterday (It never rains in California does it?) that things were not headed in the right direction.
Great defense by the Raptors in the second half helped them come away with a valuable 80-77 win. I would say ugly but every win, especially on the road, is a thing of beauty. It will be much tougher tonight in Portland against the Trailblazers.
Portland has won 8 straight and expect to have LaMarcus Aldridge back in the line-up tonight. As the 2 time player of the week, Brandon Roy is playing well and the young Blazers have recaptured the imagination of their city. If you doubt this just look at the recent attention they have received in the media.
We’ll have to see what happens when we actually get to the arena as it has been reported that Brandon Roy is suffering from a bout with the flu and Aldridge is jokingly hesitant about coming back into the line up and destroying the chemistry. Head coach Nate McMillan isn’t buying Aldridge’s reluctance stating the L.A. as he is called by his mates is part of the future and needs to get back into it. After all, he is their second leading scorer and leading rebounder.
The play of Aldridge and Roy will rekindle chatter about the Raptors selecting Bargnani first overall. You can read about that in the next submission to the Sportsnet.ca website. Now I know people will think I’m drinking Colangelo’s red kool-aid but I still think it will take some time for all of it to shake down and evaluations and grades should be doled out at a later date. Bargnani has played well in the past and is still coming back from an injury. Roy and Aldridge are being thrown into the fire on a team and being counted on to produce.
One would argue that it is tougher on Bargnani because he is on a better team and may feel more pressure to produce once he gets in the game or else he will be banished back to the bench while Roy and Aldridge will play regardless of what happens. Another thing is….. ahhh, just read the column when it gets put up on the website.
Back to the game tonight. If there is any night that I expect a slow start from the Raptors, its tonight. Back to backs are difficult, trust me, traveling with the team I know this first hand. I’m tired and I don’t have to get out on the court and play. Here’s what I mean. Following last night’s game and a slight delay on the runway, the team arrived in Portland at about 2:05 Pacific, 5:05 Eastern Time (I had no idea the flight was that long). Following the luggage being loaded and a ride to the hotel, it was 2:45 am Pacific when the bus pulled up in front of the hotel. Personally by the time I got my bags upstairs, hung up some clothes so I don’t look like an unmade bed when I get dressed it was 3:30 Pacific. I took the liberty of staying up an extra 15 minutes so I could call home and tell my wife and kids to have good day as it was 6:45 back east. I finally hit the pillow about 4:03 Pacific time. Just a sample that it’s not all glitz and glamour. There are times when you long to sleep in your own bed and not wake in a stupor and wonder “Where the blazes am I?” for a few seconds.
In spite of it all, if Toronto can win tonight, it guarantees at least a .500 record when they turn the calendar for 2008.
For more info, check this out as well: http://www.oregonlive.com/blazers/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/sports/119804012550320.xml&coll=7