Why We Fan

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It’s a feeling unlike any other.

As a diehard sports fan who hasn’t had much to cheer about throughout my life, I have had a lot of fun teams to root for. My childhood sports experience was dominated by the Vancouver Canucks, Pavel Bure, the “West Coast Express” line and the never ever to be duplicated Sedin twins. I’ll go to my grave with the belief that there has never been and there will never be a happier first baseman in the world than Carlos Delgado. The Blue Jays have fluked their way into year after year of home run mashing teams ever since Jose Bautista arrived on the scene. Chris Bosh was one of the best almost-superstars.

The point is, in spite of my lack of major professional sports championships experience (it’s zero, by the way), there has been a lot of joy along the way. I’m not jaded. At least, not yet.

The Toronto Raptors are doing their best to keep it that way for me. After a stunning victory in game 4 over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Raptors are legitimately still in the thick of what was supposed to be a 3 team playoff race.

While I’ve watched more than my fair share of sports over the years, it’s hard for me to explain why this Raptors run is nothing like anything I have ever experienced as a Canadian sports fan.

The Toronto Blue Jays went on an incredible, magical run last year. It was amazing. However, it never felt this way.

The Vancouver Canucks went to game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011. It was also amazing. However, outside of Alex Burrows’ game winning goal in round 1 against the Chicago Blackhawks, it never felt this good.

The only explanation I can come up with for why the past few days have been so different is the nature of the victories. The season was almost over. Twice. This series was definitely supposed to be over by now. That was a foregone conclusion. After game 2, I had an intense text discussion with a friend about whether the Raptors should let Demar DeRozan walk this offseason.

Here we are though, 2-2. This is why you play the games.

Since Saturday’s unexpected victory over Cleveland, I have been downright giddy. Consuming every bit of Raptors news and analysis that I possibly can. I thought the season would be over by now. We all did. I wonder how many people feel the way I do.

This is the reason that I don’t care about bandwagon jumpers. Come on aboard. The bandwagon fans don’t bother me because I know they can never feel this good. At the risk of sounding cliché, it is only the ones of who have been through the lows who get to experience the highs.  The diehards.

The ones who watched far too many Andrea Bargnani and Rudy Gay clanked jumpers, Rafael Arajuo attempt to play NBA basketball, Hedo Turkoglu believe he needed more “ball” and Jay Triano try to coach a team to play league average defence.

I’m still young. A part of me believes that the chase is more fun than actually winning. This, of course, coming from a fan who has never experienced actual winning. It may be a defence mechanism or I simply might not be jaded enough yet.

Nevertheless, it’s the past few days that instill in me this possibly ridiculous belief that I would rather cheer for my hapless group of teams than be, say, a San Francisco Giants fan. If I had grown up a Boston sports fan, what would I have to cheer for? I have no idea if I am in the minority on this but I wouldn’t trade what I have for anything…I think.

Yes, as Herm Edwards so famously said, you play to win the game. At the same time, the journey matters just as much, if not more for sports fans. Winning is not the be all and end all. It can still be a heck of a lot of fun even when your chances of winning a championship are slim to none.

And isn’t that the point of all this?

Sports have been around for centuries for our entertainment. We watch because it is fun.

We have fun watching Bismack Biyombo wag his finger like he’s the second coming of Dikembe Mutombo. We enjoy, or at least some of us enjoy, witnessing the national media skewer LeBron for flopping around like he isn’t 6”8, 260 pounds.  Most of all, we love the fact that we were all wrong about the Toronto Raptors’ chances in this series. Regular season Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan are alive.

I recognize that it’s absurd to be this excited about a series that will probably end in 6 games. This isn’t even the NBA Finals. But I had to document this moment. I want to remember what it felt like when the Raptors pushed the Cavaliers and King James to their limits. . I want to remember why I do this to myself. Why all of us sports fans do this to ourselves.

It’s this weird, lasting feeling of mild euphoria that is impossible to explain and even harder for most people to understand. You have to be one of us to truly get it. It’s a small club. I’m just happy I get to be a part of it.

Take a Chance on Me

Don’t back down now. It’s time to go all-in.

Bryan Colangelo has to push his chips in the middle and hope for the best.

In a draft class where sifting through the talent is about as difficult as getting the Raptors to play good defence, there is no better opportunity for the Toronto GM to make a bold move.

The Raptors should take Kemba Walker.

With each mock draft miles apart from the next, there’s no telling what player each team is going to draft. Even though the Cleveland Cavaliers, who hold the 1st overall pick, are reported to have decided on Kyrie Irving, sources are also saying that is far from a guarantee. The talent level for this draft class was already sparse before 3 of the top 5 prospects decided to delay their trip to the NBA. All that’s left in the lottery is supposed to be the scraps.

Okay, maybe not quite the scraps, but this draft is not the 2003 class by any means. That’s why the Raptors need to make a big splash. With each player even farther from a sure thing than usual, the best bet for Bryan Colangelo would be to put his money on a guy who has the ultimate boom or bust potential.

A college superstar who theoretically doesn’t have the attributes to translate those skills to the NBA. You hear the story every year. That’s Kemba Walker in a nutshell. Walker has the intangibles that others don’t have though. His great character and leadership are unquestionable while his upside is sky-high.

Colangelo has failed as a GM. He must carry a pretty big rabbits foot around because he is awful lucky to have received a multi-year extension. His bold moves have fizzled. The European movement, Jermaine O’Neal, Hedo Turkoglu. Nothing has worked for Bryan Colangelo.

The Raptors essentially fired their defensively inept coach Jay Triano and have hired Dallas Mavericks assistant Dwane Casey thus ushering in another new era under Colangelo.

The era needs to be started off with a bang. Kemba Walker might not possess all the qualities of the Raptors’ change towards a more grinding defensive philosophy but he does have exactly what the Raptors are missing. Star potential.

On a team lacking any direction, Kemba Walker could be the player to guide them to where they want to go.

Andrea Bargnani is a faux star. He wants to be considered the best but doesn’t want to put in the effort. The Raptors are getting away from that, the horrible pasta commercial and all.

Related: Andrea Bargnani Needs To Go

Kemba Walker should love the letter ‘e.’ He’s explosive, exciting, exhilarating and electrifying. Jaw dropping handles, cheeky floaters and freakish quickness. Kemba and his 6″1 frame aren’t close to being considered a true NBA ready point guard but he is an unselfish player, which is always a good place to begin.

Small forward may be the Raptors most glaring need but drafting another slasher with limited shooting range would be redundant and uncalled for. The Raptors don’t want another Demar Derozan. They shouldn’t shove just anybody into that small forward spot. They can wait another year to find a guy that fits the mould.

Drafting another big man would be wrist cuttingly painful for a front court that is already over capacity. Ed Davis and Amir Johnson will require more playing time in order to develop properly and Andrea Bargnani is still under contract for 3 more years. Stretching to find a legitimate big man in this year’s draft would be silly.

A team in the modern NBA must have a floor general. Jose Calderon cannot be a starting point guard on a contending team and Jerryd Bayless has proved that he can’t make the transition. Kemba Walker has the ability to be the Raptors very own General MacArthur.

Kemba Walker is not the safest choice. However, assuming Brandon Knight is unavailable at the 5 spot, Kemba is the right choice. Taking the safe route up to a certain point will only get you so far. The draft is where franchises can make-up for previous wrong doings. It can heal the wounds that have been left by the ghosts of seasons past.

The Raptors were unlucky not to be rewarded for their terrible season. The 5th pick in a weak draft doesn’t seem fair for a team that lost its franchise player. Maybe in the end it will all be for the best.

If they draft Kemba Walker.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Andrea Bargnani Needs To Go

Former first overall pick Andrea Bargnani has not lived up to expectations

When Chris Bosh decided to leave for Miami, the Toronto Raptors gave their key to the franchise to Andrea Bargnani. They should have shown him the door.

I wouldn’t have said that at the start of the season but as the year has gone on it apparent the Raptors need to go in a different direction. Bryan Colangelo needs to be a man, swallow his pride and cut his losses now.

As the go to guy in the Raptors offence, Andrea Bargnani has established himself as one of the premier scoring big men in the NBA. This past season he averaged 21.4 points a game. A fairly respectable figure.

Too bad that’s all he does. Sadly, referring to his offensive numbers as respectable discounts his decline in field goal percentage and increased turnover rate from the 2009-10 season.

What is worse is Andrea Bargnani’s insistence on slacking at the defensive end, which is simply inexcusable. It isn’t a coincidence that in the two years that Bargnani has been given a more prominent role in the organization, the Raptors have sported the league’s worst defensive efficiency.

I would say that Bargnani’s defence mirrors that of a stereotypically soft European but to say that would be an insult to soft Europeans.

Andrea Bargnani doesn’t possess the drive that the Kobe Bryant’s and Kevin Garnett’s of the NBA have. He doesn’t care that he provides no inside presence for his team. He doesn’t care that it is his job to carry a mostly hapless roster. He doesn’t care about his reputation as a marshmallow. He doesn’t even care about his statistics.

Surprisingly, Bargnani’s rebounding and block totals are down from 2009-10. He averaged a pathetic 5.4 rebounds a game for a 7 foot center playing over 35 minutes a game, which is down from his 2009-10 average of 6.2 rebounds a game. Could it be more alarming that his block average has been cut in half this year? Last season he averaged 1.4 blocks a game and hopefully you can do the math, but if you can’t, he averaged 0.7 a game this year.

As the supposed franchise player, his attitude shows no signs of the responsibility he should feel for his lack of hustle and dismal statistics. When asked about his poor defence he said that, in reference to his offence “I do things that are much more complicated than getting rebounds and playing defence. That should be the easy part.”

In an attempt to be hard himself either he’s incredibly naive, doesn’t understand what it takes or flat out isn’t concerned and doesn’t want to be bothered to correct his obvious laziness and ineptitude.

I’m thinking it’s the latter.

Bargnani also said that the team needs to get more guys that can help play defence.

Wow.

It may be true that management has done an inadequate job of surrounding the team with quality two-way players, but Bargnani’s outlook cannot be tolerated.

The way he plays speaks volumes about his attitude. Well, if his play speaks volumes then I must be deaf because his comments just hit 200 decibels.

The problem is that Bargnani still has 4 years averaged out at $10 million a year left on his contract. Is the possibility of unloading his contract about as small as the impact Bargnani has made on the franchise or is someone willing to take a chance?

Does any team want to take on a player with not only Bargnani’s defensive deficiencies but also his mental deficiencies? Obviously, playing on a losing team has dampened the big Italian’s spirit more than the thought of being the face of the franchise has motivated him.

I’ll slip a little bit of my distaste in for Jay Triano here because I am amazed that he has let Bargnani get away with this for so long. Granted, Triano was the one who saved Bargnani’s career after Sam Mitchell sucked almost every ounce of confidence from Bargnani. Nevertheless, not once this year has Triano sat or even threatened to sit Bargnani for his consistent laziness.

What I’m trying to get at here is that there might be a possibility that a better coach and/or team could inspire Bargnani to put some real effort into his game, which could be a selling point in trade talks with other teams. But that’s a big if.

It is wrong to solely blame Bargnani for the Raptor’s woes considering their line-up features some equally incompetent defensive players, namely Jose Calderon. However, a new wave of talent has come to Toronto with Demar Derozan and Ed Davis proving that they have some serious game. They may not be franchise players but they are good pieces to build around.

Like the other overrated Toronto GM, Bryan Colangelo insists on trying to build a winning team without truly rebuilding. He already traded the Raptors late first round pick that was acquired from the Miami Heat in exchange for another slashing wing player in James Johnson.

If Colangelo did in fact have an offer on the table for Bargnani, would he take it? Bargnani is the first guy that Colangelo drafted as Raptors GM.

Is his ego too big for him to admit he has made a mistake? He was able to get rid of Hedo Turkoglu who he personally signed to a brutal 5 year $53 million contract.

The Raptors will most likely have a very high draft pick as they finished with the 3rd worst record in the NBA. A change in direction to a grittier, defensive oriented team may be exactly the thing this franchise needs as it is evident that Colangelo’s European invasion has not flourished.

The departure of Chris Bosh has once again left the Toronto Raptors searching for an identity. Giving this Italian the boot would be a good place to start.


Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I am now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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