All summer long, Bryan Colangelo, Raptors President and General Manager, worked hard to improve the once Atlantic Champions turned “Anti-Playoff” team, into a strong contender for the 2009-2010 Basketball season. Eyes were opened when the Raptors acquired playoff hero Hedo Turkoglu, as well as solid bench players Jarrett Jack, Antoine Wright, Marco Belinelli, Reggie Evans, Sonny Weems and Amir Johnson. By the end of the long and busy offseason only 5 2008-2009 roster members returned and only 3 of which had played at least one full season with the team. We also were lucky enough to have veteran centre Rasho Nestrovic return for a second stint with the city that he calls “home”.
With every single Torontonian Basketball Fan sitting at the edge of their couch before the season started, prepared for an expected playoff run, the Toronto Raptors began their 15th season with an enormous win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. But the fans slowly began to crawl back into their seats when the Raptors picked up two quick losses coming from the likes of the always-struggling Memphis Grizzlies and last years Eastern Conference Champions Orlando Magic. By the end of the first full month of basketball, the Raptors record was 7 wins and 10 losses, and already making the whole city nervous. Bryan Colangelo felt that changes had to be made.
Reggie Evans had been injured for longer than a month now, forcing the young veteran Amir Johnson to take over his role. The Raptors needed someone to help Amir out so they signed Ex-Raptor Fan Favorite Pops Mensah-Bonsu to a 10-Day Contract, right after releasing Guard Quincy Douby. Mensah-Bonsu had not played well in his month spent with the Houston Rockets who found the light with young gun Carl Landry. Raptors felt they were finally ready to take on the month of December.
December was a great month for the Raptors, “Young Guns” Sonny Weems, DeMar DeRozan, and Amir Johnson stepped up and made life for the Raptors very easy. Jarrett Jack was able to take over Jose Calderon’s starting role as he went down with a Hip Flexor injury, along with great back-up support from Marcus Banks. Raptors “Killer Bee’s” Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh showed that they can really carry a team while Antoine Wright and Marco Belinelli provided great help off the bench. They finished the month winning 9 out of 15 games, and ended the month with a 5 game win streak, beating the former elite teams like Detroit, New Orleans, and Chicago.
Three games into January the Raptors hold the prominent sixth spot in the Eastern Conference only half of a game behind the Miami Heat and the fifth spot. We have already beaten two top teams in the San Antonio Spurs and the Orlando Magic, only suffering a loss to the beaten up Boston Celtics. Raptors are in a good spot and ready to move forward for the rest of the season.
Throughout all the problems and losing streak, Toronto has managed to keep their heads high thanks to Head Coach Jay Triano along with assistants Marc Iavaroni and Alex English. They have also had a lot of help from head Medical Trainer Scott MaCaullagh, who without him, we would not have a healthy team what so ever. It is the people in the suits who truly help the teams win games, and they deserve all the credit they can get.
By: Aaron Rabinovits