50 games in the books. Crazy.
The Toronto Raptors held fan appreciation night this past Wednesday, though logistically, it would make more sense to do this at the end of the season. I am pretty sure they planned this after the Vince Carter trade but the game they chose was v/s the New Jersey Nets. Yes, the 4-43 Nets. Rather than the game being the story, it became all about the halftime show — featuring none other than Vanilla Ice.
There really isn’t much to say about the game itself (see: opponent). The Raptors came out with a win even though they were shorthanded and the halftime show surpassed my expectations (Video 1, Video 2). After all was said and done, the Raptors sat with a 27-23 record, coincidentally the same record they had at this mark in both their 47 win seasons.
Now that the team has shown its appreciation (albeit in a strange way), I figured why not return the favor and show my appreciation for each player…
Chris Bosh: Give him Max money now! Ok, that may be a little bold, but his level of professionalism and commitment is something I really appreciate. He is having a career year statistically and has left it on the floor each night. He is never going to be a lock down defender– I can live with that. He is not flashy player and never will be, but the proof is in the results. The positives in his game and what he brings to a team far outweigh the negatives.
Jose Calderon: I may get some hate for this but I do not want to see him leave. When Jose is in the game, I have a sense of calm that he will make the right play and it will end in something positive. On the defensive end, not so much… but the team can live with some of his shortcomings knowing they can make up for them with Jarrett Jack. Having moved to a bench role, Jose has become a scoring threat while making life easy for the 2nd unit. He may be the most valuable trade chip this team holds but I believe it would be a mistake to move him before the season is up.
Jarrett Jack: It was meant to be. See, when Rob Babcock draft Joey Graham, I wanted him to draft Jack. 5 years later, all is right in the world. Jack has lived up to the billing. He plays tough, is a great complement to Jose and has slowly become the leader this team was sorely lacking. Early in the season I noticed he was the most talkative guy on the floor and that has rubbed off on his teammates. Like he did in Indiana, Jack has taken over as the starter (not by choice) and has played his way into keeping that spot.
Hedo Turkoglu: It never felt like the right fit. While there have been glimpses of a borderline secondary star, the thought that he was signed for 5 years makes me ill. The idea of a point forward is great but hardly made sense on a team financially committed to two solid point guards. The Raptors needed a pure shooter/scorer and right now he is neither. He probably will never be, but having him in the game forces opponents to game plan for him which in turn takes some pressure off Bosh. $53 million sure is a lot money for a diversion though.
Andrea Bargnani: It took long enough. Andrea Bargnani carried the weight of being a #1 pick and only this season are we seeing validation for the draft spot. The biggest change I noticed is his confidence level. It felt like he was never comfortable with Sam Mitchell and we saw glimpses of what could be towards the end of last season under Jay Triano. He came in ready this year. He has developed his game to a point where he is mixing things up on offense while keeping his head in the game on defense. He has become a legitimate secondary scoring threat on this team and looks like he is enjoying every minute of it. That makes me happy.
Antoine Wright: Finally backing up his talk, Antoine has quietly become a solid rotation player. He was injured to start the season and soon after was buried deep in coach’s doghouse. Not playing didn’t stop him from trying to be heard and he was talking to anyone who would listen. I guess someone had to say it and while it seemed out of place then its obvious he has the ears of his peers. Bosh has a good relationship with him and that always helps. Now that he is making shots it would be a shame if the team traded him away come mid Feb.
DeMar DeRozan: Similar to how Bosh was thrown into the fire just one year removed from high school, DeMar has stepped into an NBA starting lineup and held his own. He has had to guard some of the best players in the league and he has accepted the challenge. He is usually the 5th option on offense which is why he doesn’t boast flashy numbers, but his work ethic and demeanor have shown me enough to know he will be just fine. I would like to see more plays run for him but maybe that will come in time. For now, I can just see he is loving every minute of his new job.
Sonny Weems: Talk about coming out of nowhere! A spare part in the Amir Johnson trade, Sonny has been the most pleasant surprise for me this season. He brings a little of everything onto the floor each night. A decent mid-range game, he can rebound well at his position and has dished out some memorable assists already this season. All this for a guy who probably spent the early part of the season planning his dance moves (video)
Amir Johnson: Energy – Hustle – Athleticism. Amir Johnson possesses all these qualities in abundance. He has been in the league long enough to know what works for him and the Raptors got him here at the perfect time. He is not as raw as I had expected and I love what he brings to this floor each night. You can see it in his eyes, he is loving it. He had a rough start to his career but is blossoming here in Toronto. This city embraces guys like him and its no surprise he has become a fan favorite. #freeamir
Marco Belinelli: I present you Mo Pete version 2.0 and this one makes no excuses. You give him the ball and he shoots. There is no such thing as bad shots in his mind. I think the team knew what they were getting when they traded for him and he has done nothing more, nothing less. He has been a big part of the winning and for that I am thankful, because I sure as hell know Devean George could not help this team.
Marcus Banks: For a guy who doesn’t do much he sure gets a fair share of hate from the fans. That is until he stepped in when Jose was out and showed us a little somethin’ something. Marcus Clanks may be what I call him but he has been a pro when it comes to his role on this team. He has kept himself game ready and has carried himself like a vet. Can’t ask for more from a 3rd stringer.
Rasho Nesterovic: He has spent more time laughing at the in-game entertainment than actually playing basketball, but that is fine by me. He is a winner. Now “Let’s NBA”
Patrick O’Bryant: While he hasn’t done anything but keep the bench warm during games, off the court is a different story. Twitter was made for guys like him. He has embraced the social media site and created a fan base solely off that. I never gave him a second thought until he opened up to the fans and with that he bought himself a ton of leeway in my books when it comes to actually, you know… contributing to the team.
Reggie Evans: He currently holds the role of cheerleader and I for one can’t wait for him to get back on the floor. Not so much to see how he can help but rather so I no longer have to see him wear crystallized jeans. Gotta give it to him though, being sidelined for so long he is always into the game. The first guy up to cheer his teammates and has a word or two for each of them. You can feel his energy and love for the game, someone with that much passion can only make this team better.