Are we actually lucky to be Raptor fans?
Remember how awful and unfortunate it was to get the number one pick a year before the number one pick was going to be Greg Oden? I mean people were happy enough, but hoping Colangelo could trade down all the same, while ultimately envying the number one pick that was still a year away from eligibility. Maybe we all should have just been very happy and left it at that, because as things turn out, our guy has turned out pretty good, while the other guy that was supposed to set the world on fire has turned fewer heads then that crazy old man singing Pants on the Ground on American Idol. Oh - and there he is missing another season with his own pants on the ground, and surely happy now that Apple has come out with a tablet, because the Oden Penis app just wasn’t going to be properly handled by your regular iPhone.
And not only is our pick turning into a unique, consistent performer on both ends of the court, but he’s doing it with a pretty good team around him. Some young players make a name for themselves with a bunch of chuckers and fillers around them, and they often look out for themselves to the point where any promising talent that emerges on their team withers away. Bargnani gets better as the team around him gets better. We all wanted him to give the team that boost that would make the difference in the win column. But he simply needs to find his way through games as the talent around him allows.
So, I’m starting to understand what he means by just needing his minutes. It’s not the usual demand for more me time. It’s just what he needs to patiently pick and choose his spots and take advantage of different aspects that he brings to the game. He’s riding the waves, and he needs to be able to catch the right swells during high tides to make the most impact.
And the team is providing some pretty good waves right now. Andrea’s arrival as the number one pick did not bring the kind of immediate dividends as a Duncan provided to the Spurs, but he’s got his own twin tower that is quite a lot younger than the Admiral, and hopefully around for some time yet. And Bosh is sacrificing his own minutes and numbers in respect for Bargnani, as the two of them now basically share the role of being the primary option on offense. They are more and more in sync, and getting results that promise to someday get near what the Spurs’ big men could do together. And the sacrifices continue on down the roster, with Jack and Calderon splitting minutes, bench players accepting their roles, and with Hedo maybe even getting over not being in Orlando. The whole culture of the team is starting to head in a very good, Spurs-like direction, wherin a guy like Duncan could thrive. Hell we might even be taking that next step in the process, with the other guy from Italy bringing some of the promise of a young Ginobili.
Maybe they don’t win that trophy right now. Maybe they don’t ever. But if they can keep improving internally, and building, and then competing for the same length of time as the team of the decade, I have to consider myself lucky as a fan. No more waiting for that one magical player picked in the lottery that is going to turn garbage into gold. No more lottery. Just a serious team in every sense of the word, able to play as a team year after year, and give themselves a chance to taste greatness together. That’s a fun thing to see. I really hope I’m seeing some of that now.