The Toronto Raptors
are going to have a lot of questions from last season answered in the 2008-2009 campaign. Will Jermaine OíNeal bring the added toughness, defense and rebounding help they need? Will Andrea Bargnani
rebound from a less than stellar sophomore season? Who wants the starting SG position?
Well, one thing that many Raptor fans are happy to have resolved is the Jose/TJ situation. By completing the blockbuster trade that brough OíNeal to Toronto, the Raptors
were able to move what had become more than a headache out of town, allowing Jose Calderon
to run the offence. While Calderon
showed last season that he is more than capable of running the show, the question this year isnít if he can run the show, but who the hell is going to give him some minutes off the bench? Roko Ukic? Essentially what the Raptors
are going to have to do is give Jose some spells throughout the game, not allowing him to go into extended runs. While he may be in good enough shape to play a ton of minutes every night, those kind of minutes finally catch up to you when the playoffs roll around.
This year, I think we will see the return of Andrea Bargnani. Apparently, he has spent a lot of time working on everything that doesnít involve shooting a 3, including his defence. What you will probably see quite often this season is Bargs
working against the opposing teamís centre for a good chunk of the night, which could bring some frustration as he is sure to get pushed around. The good thing for him is that with Bosh
and OíNeal working as a tandem, there could be a little more room for him to operate, which should help with those confidence issues we saw last year.
Is this the year we finally see the Raptors
pull down some rebounds? Iím a little hesitant to put all of that on one guy, but OíNeal should help in this area. He isnít a lights out rebounder since his injury problems, but he does play solid D and uses his body to its max, boxing out and pushing opposing players away from the basket, creating easier rebounding opportunities for his teammates. Letís also hope that his knee will allow him to get up to grab a few extra rebounds, because this is a guy who has averaged a double-double three times in his career. The ability is there, but it all depends on that knee.
Supposedly Chris Bosh
is a new man after his summer session with Team USA at the Olympics. Heís training harder and is a leader at practice. Nice of him to decide now that he actually has to show up in practice. Practice? PRACTICE? Yes, Chris, we talkiní íbout PRACTICE. Hopefully he will be putting as much effort in on the floor as he has been with his YouTube videos. This town has always been a little tough on Chris regarding his physical strength, but we did see him with a little more aggression last season. It was good to see him throwing down some dunks on people instead of taking jump shots and his defence improved from the start of the season. It will be interesting to see if his D continues to progress now that he has Jermaine working with him.
Although the Raptors
are going to be working inside with Chris and Jermaine for most of their possessions, they canít forget that they have some lethal outside threats, which may be the factor that makes or breaks it for them. Interesting how by creating more of an inside threat, their outside threat may end up being what wins them games, but when you have Chris and Jermaine inside, there is going to be more room for AP and Kapono to get their feet set and fire away (although does Kapono ever really set his feet? The ball is in and out of his hands in a millisecond). We have all seen how easy it is for either one of those guys to get hot, so the Raptors
have to make sure that they donít forget the guys on the perimeter. That being said, the Raptors
have lived and died a lot of nights by the 3 (with more dying than living), so we can only hope that they are serious about working down low this season.