Thursday December 18 2008 – 9:15am Eastern 

Right here.  Right now.  The next two weeks. 

Two weeks from today, the Raptors will be in 2009; their 6-game west coast trip and their New Years Eve home game against the Denver Nuggets will be in the rearview mirror.  At that point, we should know how the season is going to unfold.

To be fair, it’s not looking good right now.  There have been a few positive signs, however, the negatives (blowing big leads, rebounding, consistency on the wings, and so on) have festered and persisted all season.  To try and paint a different picture would not be honest.

But as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, if Toronto can be within 2-3 games of .500 by the new year, I think they’ll be alright.

They’ve got a ton of work to do to reach that goal though – and that wasn’t exactly a lofty goal to begin with!

Currently sitting 5 games below .500, the Raps have 7 games remaining until the calendar flips to ’09 …
@ Oklahoma City
@ San Antonio
@ LA Clippers
@ Sacramento
@ Portland
@ Goldent State
vs Denver

Going 4-3 over that stretch would put Toronto at 14-18 when January rolls around.  They’d have to go 5-2 (or better) to reach my water-mark of “2 or 3 games” above or below .500.  That is going to be TOUGH to say the least!

The way the Raptors are playing, you can’t say there are any “gimmies” on the sked.  If this team were playing at its top level right now you might be able to make a case for at least 4 if not 5 of these upcoming tilts.  But the way they’ve been sputtering, the outcome of any of the next 7 – including @ Oklahoma City – is anybody’s guess.

The Thunder may be the worst team in the league, but they’ve played better than their record indicates and they have a few solid, young pieces.  Remember, this same team – in Seattle last year – beat Toronto.  This is a game T.O. has to have but it’s certainly not written in stone yet.

At San Antonio will be a challenge – despite the miracle to the Raps pulled off against the Spurs last year.

With rebounding being a major issue for Toronto, you’ve got to figure dealing with Camby and Randolph (and Kaman?) will be a BIG test for the Raps.  On paper, it’s a tilt that Toronto could get but, again, their inconsistency haunts them right now.  Oh, and there’s that guy Baron Davis too – who will certainly attack Jose Calderon off the bounce.

Following the Xmas break, the Raps have to deal with the Kings.  Again, on paper, you could make a case for Toronto having a solid chance in this game but their fate in Sacramento could be determined by how they’ve played in the previous 3 games and what kind of momentum they have (or don’t have) going.  Plus, no matter how good or bad the Kings may be, Arco Arena is still one of hardest places in the NBA to go into and win.  The fans are nuts.

Playing on a back-to-back in Portland looks pretty daunting. 

The long journey on the road ends in Golden State … against a Warriors team that is in a world of hurt as well.  But they can FILL IT UP on the offensive end and if you don’t match their tempo (or miraculously slow them down) they can run you out of the gym.

And 2008 closes with Billups and Anthony at the ACC.  And you remember what happened to Toronto the last time they played the Nuggets (Sam Mitchell on Line 1).

Entering ’09 eight or nine games below .500 could be too deep to overcome.   

Oh, and the new year starts with Houston and Orlando.  Ugh.

That’s why THIS is season; these next two weeks.

E. Smith

27 Responses to “This Is The Season”
  1. 1.

    With all due respect, Eric, the season has already been defined.

    The first six weeks of 08/09 was the Raptors’ opportunity to make a statement as to how successful the season would be. The first 25 games are now complete, and it is clear this is a time that will struggle to (a) reach .500 and (b) make the playoffs.

    Moreover, let’s not overlook the fact that achieving both of these “goals”, and losing in the first round of the playoffs would be far off from anyone’s preseason expectations.

    As I’ve mentioned before, if a team is not reasonably capable of reaching the conference finals, and they aren’t on the verge of a considerable spike (ie. Portland, barring injury and the addition of a veteran roleplayer), a team should be in a rebuilding mode.

    While that may mean there are 15 to 20 teams in the NBA that should be thinking “rebuilding”, that probably isn’t so unreasonable. With free agency and good scouting, it’s not impossible to rebuild a team within 2-4 years (ie. Boston, Atlanta, Portland, etc).

    Any thoughts?

    - brento
  2. 2.

    We can’t afford Bargnani to have game after game of mystifying sleepwalking and Bosh another “off-game”

    I think we have to stop using that term for him when it’s this many in a row – we need 25 from him gme in and game out.

    The Raps need to somehow string a few together. Bosh and JO have to smile again at the end of a few games; they need to grind out a few close one and feel like a team again or talk of throwing in the season and Bosh wanting to go to a winner will surface all over the place.

    - Gary
  3. 3.

    HAS COLANGELO FINALLY WOKE UP !!! NO REBOUNDING (SAME AS LAST YEAR) WEAK WING PLAYERS (SAME AS LAST YEAR) AND ANDREA’S UPS AND DOWNS (SAME AS LAST YEAR)…….WAKE UP BRYAN!!!! THE TEAM YOU THINK IS THE BEST EVER …REALLY ISNT THAT GOOD. I THOUGHT THEY WERE A .500 TEAM BUT I WAS WRONG THEY ARE A BELOW .500 TEAM WITH THIS ROSTER. GIVING KAPONO THAT HUGE CONTRACT HASNT PAID OFF…NO WONDER PAT RILEY AND THE HEAT LET HIM GO AND COLANGELO EMPTIED HIS POCKETS FOR HIM …. GREAT JOB BC! COLANGELO HAS MADE THIS TEAM INTO A SOFT EURO LEAGUE LOOK A LIKE …. WHAT A JOKE!

    - Neil
  4. 4.

    I’m surprised Bosh has the nerves to criticize the fans for booing them on their homecourt. This is coming from a supposed franchise player who has the skills to drive to the net every time down the floor but only settles for jump shot after jump shot. How many times have you seen him do a fade away jumper with someone smaller guarding him? Too many times. Call me crazy but I would defnitely consider trading him to change the culture of this jump-shooting team. Calderon and Bosh for Nash and Stoudemire, plus spare parts in between?

    - Joe N.
  5. 5.

    A realistic goal for Raps is .500 season and a playoff spot .. That certainly is achievable .
    The key imo is maintaining team morale and team play Jay needs a few wins to build up confidence .
    Jermaine O’Neal needs to become a bit more of a difference maker , don’t you think?.. I noticed in Alipour column online last season he wanted to be traded to the Lakers .Hopefully he has good attitude and is a Jay supporter .

    - Chas Calz
  6. 6.

    @ Oklahoma City – W
    @ San Antonio – L
    @ LA Clippers – W
    @ Sacramento – W
    @ Portland – L
    @ San Francisco – L
    vs Denver – L

    3-4
    This is what I can see happening, although with the inconsistency they showed it might be 0-7; 1-6. And what scares me even more is that players tend not to focus as hard on games around Christmas.

    Let the drama begin.

    - D12
  7. 7.

    This season is a wash, lets call it what it is. The talent is tehre the heart is not. I say dump Bosh for a package of Butler and Stevenson since its pretty obvious from his play Bosh doesn’t want to be here. Not to mention I have a nugget of info that indicates he is gone come 2010. Let’s not let him try and increase his value here, ship him off and bring in a guy with some heart….Butler.

    - Alessio
  8. 8.

    Eric, the media is always trying to blame the Raptors poor team performance on something physcological ie, mindset, confidence or will. The media can dance around the fact that this team was horribly constructed all they want, the fact is, this group of players is not talented enough to go the distance. Last year you had a team, that completely had no chemistry, everyone wanted to shoot three’s, this year noone wants to grab rebounds.

    I have heard you guys use the word mistake regarding moves that Sam made after games, I have never heard any media person in Toronto that covers basketball challenge some o the moves made by Colangelo, Here in Toronto, the medai and much of the fanbase lives off of Brian Colangelo’s Phoenix day’s. Wasn’t it in Phoenix he worked under his Father and Fired six coaches in ten year and was eliminated from the first round of the playoffs eigt year straight. Relax people if where going to Deem any GM as great I believe that label would have to go to Glen Grunwald the man who knew how to build a chemistry and a team.

    identity at all,
    in the end it falls on the man that put this team together.

    - Neil
  9. 9.

    ahh … yesss … “the media” …

    - E. Smith
  10. 10.

    My mistake disregard the the bottom line in the prvious post.

    - Neil
  11. 11.

    Ok fine, let’s can the term media for the guys sho work in the media covering the raptors.
    The guys in the media seem to be letting Brian off the hook.
    Babcock and is looking like a genius right now for Calderone and Joey G. What does BC have to show for his three years here.

    - Neil
  12. 12.

    Trade Bargani get us some defensive players. The GM should admit that picking Bargani was a mistake. This Bargani experiment is going nowhere, the Raps have to stop experimenting and start trading.

    Bottom line to Colangelo “Make a trade or lose Bosh in 2010″ Bosh & Bargani dont have the mentality to work together I see tension between them.

    Last year’s team Chemistry was at about 70%, and this year the Team Chemistry is about 5%

    Adam L

    - Adam L
  13. 13.

    Seasons finished, blow this up. These stiffs are hopeless. Only player that cares out there is J.O.

    - Happy Raptor Fan
  14. 14.

    Last time I checked the media did not play a game or coach a game or make a trade. That being said to I personally feel responsible for thinking this team was better and expressing that to others. Yeah I do. But hey I think I have a lot of folks that thought the same thing.

    When the media is starting to take heat you know things are going bad. But win lose or draw (At this point I’d take a draw ) I respect and value the views of folks that I do when times are good and bad. On that list is always my guys on the hoops crew. Eric, Jack and Paul.

    So keep doing what you do in these tough times for the Raptors. Know that lots of folks are grateful for it. Save travels and please give us some well need humour and fun in the Vlogs on the road. OKC Vlog I can not wait for. I here it is the Vegas of Oklahoma.

    - James Borbath
  15. 15.

    Colangelo has all his nice suits and his nice italian shirts and really thats all he should be known for, his track record has been horrible ….. I think all those italian shirts are getting to his head. He brought in Mauricio Geradini to be his assistant and ever since then we have become the NBA’s euro league team. Good Job Bryan!

    - Neil
  16. 16.

    Forget blaming the media, coaches and GM, the players are to blame plain and simple. Mentally they are fragile, they get rattled too easy and are unable to put in a full 48 minute effort nightly. Time to make some wholesale changes.

    - Alessio
  17. 17.

    ahh … yesss … “the media” !!! THATS WHAT I SAID!

    - Neil
  18. 18.

    How About this trade:

    Toronto Raptors could trade Andrea Bargnani, Jason Kapono, Jamario Moon for Corey Maggette, Brandan Wright and Marco Belinelli.

    - Adam L
  19. 19.

    I like what Neil said above, can we please take Colangelo to task for the Bargnani pick. It’s a bust, he has no heart,he just throws up brick after brick, maybe blocks a shot ne in a while but he is NOT what the Raps need and cannot help this team. He must be moved while some organizations believe he can be a contributor, to stick with him is to destroy the Raptors franchise and any hope of acquiring quality talent other than through the lottery, a long stretch of which we are facing.

    Because BC won’t make this move I believe you have to fire him, immediately. You certainly don’t want BC in charge of any future quality draft choices as Gherardini’s influence would likely lead to another hidden euro big man without the mental toughness (what happened to all those tests Bargnani passed again? clearly not relevant to NBA ability) to contribute in the Association.

    Even non-basketball fans understand the difference between LaMarcus and Andrea. Drafting Aldridge still allows you to trade CV for TJ, then you have a front line of CB4, Rasho and LaMarcus…oh my god btw…then if you still have to trade Ford you send him and AP with his expiring contract + Joey (expiring) if needed for JRich/GWallace or similar…keep the draft pick keep Rasho…that is your playoff Raptor squad with additional young talent

    Simple stuff, easy to predict, Colangelo screwed it all up by allowing gherardini to convince to draft his “project” Bargnani, they need to be running a Eurleague team, give us a real NBA GM

    - Big Mac
  20. 20.

    1st: We arent trading Bosh. He is a franchise player going thru a down streak. How people forget that Bosh has basically carried this team for the last 3 yrs.

    2nd:
    Fans have the right to boo (we pay big money for tickets and changing cable companies to get the games) just passion.

    3rd: Please no more European players it’s not working. Fire Gherandini who I’m sure was the reason Rap’s picked Baragini. Rudy Gay ia what they needed. If raptors didnt need to trade I would say bench him.

    4th: Eric your doing a excellent job, must be hard to watch the damage night after night.

    - Kelsey aka Mos High
  21. 21.

    Reality check people…Rob Babcock set this franchise back 10 years before he was let go. In my opinion, if it wasn’t for BC and the quick changes he made bringing in Garbo, AP, Rasho, etc. Chris Bosh would be playing for ____________(insert team name that he probably would have bolted for/traded to). IMO, if it wasn’t for BC this franchise would have been screwed!!! And if Bosh leaves in 2010(I don’t want him to go, but), so what, we have almost 40 million to spend as well that summer…

    - Mr. T
  22. 22.

    PS hindsight is GOLDEN!!!

    - Mr. T
  23. 23.

    Hey Mr T What has Bryan done for Toronto regarding our defense? What has he done in any of the drafts to adress the two spot. You say that Rob babcock set this franchise back, I don’t call the drafting of Joey g, Jose Calderone and Charlie V setting us back, On the other hand I would call Drafting Andrea Bargnani first overall a huge setback I would also say that a committment to a contract and player like Jermaine O Neal is a very irresponsible way of spending given the fact that there is a cap. If Colangelo were to be fired this season what can we honestly say he has done for the franchis. Grunwald gave us CArter and Bosh Babcock Gave us Calderone What part of the future has Brian given us through the draft , trade or free agent aquisition. Whoever continues to praise Brian must remember that this is not pheonix.

    - Neil D.
  24. 24.

    Hey Mr. T, the problem is that if Bosh leaves who will come here?

    Maybe Colangelo brought a little rep that helped make sure Bosh signed for 3 years, but BC couldn’t get Bosh to sign for 5 or 6 years which were also available

    As well please do not blame Babcock for either Arujo (the pick had been decided upon before Babcock was hired) or the VC trade as VC’s antics forced Babcock to do anything just to get that cancer out of town. It wouldn’t have mattered who was the GM in that situation. Babcock also selected Calderone and Ukic in the 2nd round showing us that BC is not the only one who can dig in Europe and he didn’t need even a first rounder to do it.

    BC has blown it with Bargnani, questionable move with Kapono and questionable trade (in that it should not have been necessary) for JO (even though I like him and has been playing well), get rid of him and Gherardini before they trade Bosh for Darko

    - Big Mac
  25. 25.

    Eric, it took you till December 18 2008 @ 9:15am to figure out that things aren’t looking good?

    Joking aside, Neil does have a point. You guys are way too easy on this team and have helped breed the culture of mediocrity that’s surrounding this franchise. Even Jack Armstrong who I’ve always thought to be a great analyst is sucking it in now, he even proclaimed to be the “eternal optimist” in the last broadcast. I understand why you don’t want to criticize the players, coaches or GM, after all you do want them to give you interviews but if that’s keeping you from speaking your mind, then its got to suck coming to work.

    - Arsenalist
  26. 26.

    Other than change the atmosphere of this team; creating stability for the franchise; making moves in order for the team to win a division championship; keeping Bosh in Toronto (there is no chance in hell he would have stayed if Babcock remained GM); winning executive of the year; trading a power forward for a point guard who if he wasn’t injury prone or one big fall away from ending his career has the potential to be top 5, trading that PG for JO, whose contract allows us a lot of flexibility for 2010 (40 million to spend on players not player) while having a nice presence inside for the next two years… Maybe I was too harsh on Babcock, he did sign Calderon as a free agent (giving him credit for Ukic who hasn’t really proven anything yet and Joey G who has been very inconsistent doesn’t cut it) but drafting Hoffa over Iggy and Joey over Granger, not being able to handle the Rafer/smitch situation; getting shafted in the Carter deal (which I do blame him for the crappy return of players); etc. etc. etc. But, like I said before, Hindsight is Golden…no one on this site can state that before the season started they thought Smitch would be fired before Christmas and the team would be struggling this badly…truth is, if we go on some kind of a winning streak here everyone will be back on the bandwagon…I forgot to give Babcock credit for bringing in Wayne Embry who was a big factor in bringing Colangelo to the Raps! THANKS ROB!!

    - Mr. T
  27. 27.

    First of all, CB4 stays. Bargnani is not a 1st overall pick but an overall waste!! The main person I’ve said before is Richard Peddie!! Julius Earving I see would have made a wicked GM for the Raptors. Then we still would have Carter, Bosh, Andre Igudala as well as either Brandon Roy or Aldrige. How good would the Raptors would have been right now!!!

    - Steven
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