Toronto Raptors

Not In-Vince-able

VinceI'm bracing myself for the worst. Vince Carter strained his right quadriceps in the first quarter of Thursday's 78-74 overtime win in New Orleans and is out of action listed as day-to-day. Carter is far and away our best player and having a pretty darn good season thus far for the Raptors. We've seen what happens when he's out of the line up for an extended period of time.

Vince Carter is starting to remind me a lot of Wendel Clark. Clark was the best player on the Maple Leafs but would miss large chunks of seasons with various ailments. He'd be missing for months at a time and then he'd return and score a hat trick. You always wondered what might have been had he remained healthy.

Last season, Carter was on the injured list three times and missed 39 games because of injuries to his left ankle, right knee and left quad. Two seasons ago, Carter missed 22 games because of injuries to his left knee, which required arthroscopic surgery, and to his left quad. I hope Carter only misses a few games with this latest strain and returns to lead us to the playoffs, but as I said, I'm bracing myself for the worst.

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Lenny Wilkens

LennyIsiah Thomas has fired New York Knicks head coach Don Chaney and hired former Raptors coach Lenny Wilkens. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

I can't believe Lenny Wilkens has managed to find himself another head coaching job this quickly. Not only did he land a head coaching position, but one in the largest NBA market to boot. Is Isiah Thomas an idiot? Do Knicks fans realize what's in store for them? I can't help but laugh out loud at this ridiculous turn of events.

It's possible Lenny Wilkens was an effective head coach at one point in his career. The man does hold the record for most NBA victories by a head coach. Of course, he also holds the record for most NBA losses by a head coach. I watched him lead my Raptors for three seasons during which time he was 113-133. There was no leadership, no system and no coaching to speak of. Lenny's only play was to get the ball to Vince Carter. During his third season at the helm, not a day went by that I didn't pray for his firing. I hated his style and knew the Raptors would never be successful under his indifferent watch. This man is a dinosaur who has failed to change with the times. His only title came in 1979 and he's been milking it ever since.

I can't wait for this hiring to blow up in Isiah Thomas' face so I can laugh some more.

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The Fab Five

The Fab FiveThe Raptors have won two in a row since the big trade. The Raptors showed an exciting offensively flare in both victories, something that's been sorely missing in these parts the past couple of seasons. From what I've read this is due in no small part to the presence of Jalen Rose who attracts attention freeing up others to put up the big numbers.

Jalen Rose was a member of the Fab Five. The Fab Five were a group of freshmen who all started for the Michigan Wolverines NCAA basketball team back in the '91-'92 season. They were Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwon Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson. They would play together for one more year during the '92-'93 season before Webber turned pro.

This collection of freshmen started played above the rim and played an exhilarating brand of ball. My brothers and I would watch them every Saturday and adopted them as our team. Prior to the '91-'92 season, I wouldn't have considered myself a particularly huge NCAA basketball fan. That all changed when I happened to catch a Wolverines game on the tube early in the season. Selling my brothers on these five was easy once they saw their up tempo run and gun style of play. C-Webb was our favourite, but Rose and Howard weren't far behind.

The Fab Five never won an NCAA Championship, but both years they played together they reached the finals. With Rose's arrival in Toronto, he joins King as one of two members to have suited up for the Raptors. Webber has experienced the most success in the NBA, but both Howard and Rose are substantial contributors for their respective teams.

I've never been able to recapture that feeling watching NCAA basketball that I felt watching the Michigan Wolverines in the early '90s. Come March Madness I try to conjure up similar feelings for certain teams, but nothing comes close. The irony is that Michigan has forfeited all victories during this era after a federal investigation revealed that former booster Ed Martin had given a total of $616,000 to Chris Webber and three other ex-Michigan players. Michigan programs and media guides won't even mention the Fab Five by name. The banners celebrating the Final Fours have been taken down at Crisler Arena as if this never happened. It's as if a part of my history has been erased.

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Farewell to the Junk Yard Dog

JYDBack on February 22, 2001, in a far more innocent world than the one we live in today, the Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons completed a trade. Leaving Toronto for the motor city were Corliss Williamson, Tyrone Corbin, Kornel David and a draft pick in exchange for Eric Montross and Jerome Williams. Jerome Williams, better known to fans as the Junk Yard Dog, was so excited at this news he drove all night during a snowstorm to Toronto. His enthusiasm was everpresent from this moment on. JYD clearly loved playing for this city and he never gave less than 100% as a result.

The rumours that have been circulating for days about a blockbuster deal between the Raptors and Chicago Bulls came to fruition yesterday as JYD accompanied unhappy Antonio Davis and Chris Jeffries to the windy city in exchange for Jalen Rose, Donyell Marshall and Lonny Baxter. When JYD heard the news, he wept.

I happen to like this deal as one that will help my team, but I'm sorry to see Jerome Willims go. I'll never forget that goofy grin and constant interaction with the ACC faithful, not to mention a ton of rebounds. They don't grow NBA players like that anymore and that's a shame.

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Vintage Vincent

Air CanadaWhen Vince Carter is on, there is no better basketball player on the planet. Thankfully for us Raptor fans, he has clearly returned to form after a couple of inconsistent injury plagued campaigns. I was glued to my television last night as Carter threw the entire squad on his back and dragged them kicking and screaming towards a fourth quarter comeback and overtime victory. His unbelievable reverse-360 layup led to a three point play that tied the game and to ensure Atlanta didn't steal it back he made a game saving block at the end of regulation. In overtime, it was clutch shot after clutch shot and a final bucket with 1.2 seconds remaining to clinch the 99-97 victory over the Hawks. "Air Canada" finished with 43 and showed the basketball world one more time what Michael Jordan may have looked like in a Raptors uniform.

On a side note, Vince Carter holds the Raptors record for points in a game with 51 and he did this back on February 27, 2000. I remember this game against the Suns vividly because I was there with my friend Mark. A part of me still hopes Vince stalls at 50 when he's having one of those nights, unless I happen to be at the ACC that night, in which case he can go for 60.

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Mike's Mailbag

EmailAn email to Mike: Will you be posting Toronto Raptor Recaps following every game like you do for the Leafs and Bills?

Mike says: Good question. As a die hard Leaf fan, I don't mind posting a brief recap with some of my observations following their 82 regular season games and many (cross your fingers) playoff games. It's a labour of love. I post Bills recaps because in a sixteen game season, every game is that much more important. Will I be posting recaps following every Raptor game? No, but I will write an entry if anything particularly interesting occurs and following each Raptor playoff game.

The Toronto Raptors are tipping off their season tonight at home against New Jersey. I anticipate a dramatic turn around following a horrific injury riddled season last year. If Vince Carter can stay relatively healthy, a playoff position is a virtual certainty. With Lenny Wilkens out of the picture, we actually have a coach who will coach. There will be game plans and strategies implemented. I predict a sixth place finish in the Eastern Conference and an upset victory in the first round of the playoffs. Look for Chris Bosh to contend for Rookie of the Year honours. Go Raptors Go!

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New Raptor Logo

New Raptor LogoThe Toronto Raptors have just unvieled their new alternate road uniform and logo. The Raptors will wear uniforms with this new logo during a minimum 10 road games and 4 home games, including opening night on October 29th when the Raptors take on the New Jersey Nets.

When the Blue Jays unveiled their new logo last month (see September 2, 2003 / 18:42 EST), the one thing that initially struck me was the absence of the maple leaf. The maple leaf was a fixture of the Blue Jays logo since their inception. The biggest addition to this new Raptors logo is the maple leaf. The Raptors are clearly making an effort to market the team as Canada's team whereas the Blue Jays are trying to minimize this perception.

The paranoid android in me fears the Blue Jays are being rebranded as the Jays without a maple leaf in sight because the intent is to move the franchise out of Toronto one day down the road. The Albuquerque Jays? I'd sooner choose death.

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The EA Sports Jinx

EA Sports JinxThe sports section of The Toronto Star has a very interesting article today from Garth Woolsey on the EA curse. EA makes sports video games. In fact, the only video games I play come from EA with my favourite being their NHL hockey series. A big honour in the world of video gaming is appearing on the cover of one of these games from EA.

Woolsey was commenting on the curse that has befallen those athletes appearing on the covers of EA Sports games recently. Dany Heatley is featured on the cover of EA's NHL 2004. We all know of his tragic car crash earlier this week. Michael Vick appears on the cover of EA's John Madden Football. Vick subsequently broke his fibula. Randy Johnson appears on the cover of EA's Triple Play Baseball game. Johnson had to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery and only won six games last year following a 24 win campaign in 2002.

The reason we in Toronto should be particularly concerned about this curse is because of who is appearing on the cover of EA's NBA Live 2004. Air Canada himself, Vince Carter. Just what we needed...

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Carl English

Go Raptors Go!The Raptors blew it.

There they were in the 2nd round of the 2003 NBA Draft with the 52nd pick overall. Still available, surprisingly, was Carl English, the kid from Patrick's Cove, Newfoundland. This is a no brainer, right? Draft the Canadian kid from the rock and give the fans something to get excited about with an otherwise underwhelming 2nd round selection in a shallow draft. And the Raptors choose with the 52nd pick of the 2003 NBA Draft...Remon Van de Hare. Who?

The basketball gods shone down upon our Raptors and kept Carl English available just so Grunwald could select some Dutchman playing in Spain. They sure blew it.

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