Thursday, February 5, 2009

Raps Lose Four, Maybe More

It seemed, for at least the first three quarters anyway, that the Raptors may have stumbled unto my last blog entry. They had heart, they had determination and they had an intense defensive moxie. For lack of a better word, they essentially dominated the Los Angeles Lakers last night at Air Canada Centre throughout the game's first three quarters. Unfortunately for them, they also had to play the fourth, and there was a Mamba waiting in the weeds.

The NBA's reigning MVP, Kobe Bryant, once again feasted on the Raptors, scoring a game-high 36 points with 10 coming in the game's final quarter, including a clutch jump shot with 23.6 seconds to play to ice the victory for L.A. It was Toronto's fourth defeat in a row, but it may have come with an even bigger lose.

Teammates and fans alike held their collective breaths when Raptors forward Chris Bosh came done awkwardly on a play early in the fourth quarter, and was then taken directly to the locker room by team doctors. The initial synopsis was a strained right knee, and he was immediately subjected to a barrage of tests and did not return to action. As of this morning, MRI's revealed no structural damage, but Bosh's status is listed as doubtful heading into Friday night's game in New Orleans. Also on the injury front, starting PG Jose Calderon was held out of the match up with the Lakers with a re aggravation of a previous hamstring injury, the same thing that has caused him to miss a total of 12 games already this year. Both Calderon and Bosh will accompany the team to New Orleans, with Jose being listed as probable for action.

Lost amidst this whole medical fiasco was the emergence of Toronto guard Joey Graham, who led the team in scoring last night with 24 points. That's right, I said Joey Graham led the team in scoring. Now that's not a knock on the injury-depleted Raptors, but consistency is something Graham has been struggling with since the team made him a second round draft pick three years ago. In a way he is almost like the personification of the entire Toronto team, blessed with talent but not the ability to recognize it and use it to their respective advantage. Graham's defense on Kobe Bryant last night was a prime example of this. He has the brawn and strength to be a ferocious, top-notch defender in this league, that much is undeniable. Its trying to figure out how to get to that point that has been elusive thus far.

The other thing exposed by the Lakers and others during Calderon's absence this season, has been the lack of significant depth at the point guard position. Sure Anthony Parker has filled in admirably when given the minutes, but you have to wonder how much additional playing time he can handle should Calderon be forced to miss a large chunk of time at some point this season. Will Solomon thus far has been a big disappointment, and while Roko Ukic has shown some brilliant flashes, he remains a project player who will need time and patience to develop. If the Raptors are planning on rebuilding the team for long term success, that's fine. If however they are in interested in winning now, say before 2010 to try and persuade a certain All-Star player to stick around, then it might be a problem. I understand the notion of bringing in a slashing wing player, and that Toronto is focusing on doing something along those lines before the February 19th trading deadline. But one move will not a team make. A backup point guard to Calderon should be just as high, if not higher, on GM Brian Colangelo's priority checklist. After all, name any team worth a damn in the weak Eastern Conference, and I guarantee you, you can name their starting PG. Now try taking the same team, and tell me who their athletic, penetrating small forward is, and more importantly, if the their team would miss them or their floor general the most? Your Honor, I rest my case.

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