Sunday, April 11, 2010

Reality Check

The Chicago Bulls will travel to Toronto tonight in what is a must win for both teams. The Raptors, 38-41, currently hold the 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls are also 38-41, but hold the 9 seed because the Raptors clinched the regular season series between the respective clubs. Needless to say, this is a very important game for both teams. If the Raptors win, they basically clinch the 8 seed (because there's only 3 games left in the regular season), and if the Bulls win, the Raptors will have to dig deep to come back from a 1 game deficit.

While this a crucial game, it's also a pathetic game. Considering both teams are 38-41, the fact that one of these teams will make the playoffs just shows how terrible the Eastern Conference is. Hell, the 8 seed in the Western Conference is 48-31. Tonight's game is almost like a "battle of the bad's"--the winner has nothing to be proud of, nothing to brag about, and should feel a sense of disappointment. The fact of the matter is, both the Raptors and Bulls failed to live up to expectations.

As a die hard Raptors fan, I'm just sick of this. I'm 16 years old and can't vividly remember a successful season since 2006-2007, and I only have flashes of the 2001 season when Vince Carter missed the game winning shot that would have...well, you know the rest. The truth is, I'm sick of mediocrity. Going into the season, I had really high hopes for the Toronto Raptors. When they were a season best 31-24 in February, it seemed my predictions were right, and that finally...FINALLY the Raptors would be relevant once again. But then it all fell apart--the Raptors were playing back to their old ways of terrible defense, less-then-stellar coaching, and decisions that made you get off your couch and yell at your TV "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" I was the happiest man in the world on the night of October 28 after the Raptors beat the Cavs in the season opener. And now, just 6 months later, I'm embarrassed and ashamed to be a fan. Nothing positive has happened this year. Hedo Turkoglu has been a huge disappointment, Jay Triano has been questionable as a coach, Andrea Bargnani still needs a lot of work, and the team defense is an absolute joke. I knew the Raptors defense would be bad, but I didn't think it'd be 27th worst in the league and give up nearly 106 points per contest.

I'm just too bummed to be motivated for the game tonight. Because the fact of the matter is, weather it's the Bulls or Raptors who get the 8 seed, neither team will beat #1 seed Cleveland. Cleveland is just too good, and could sweep either team in a 7 game series. I understand why Raptor fans are excited for the game tonight, but if you actually look back and reflect, you'll realize how disappointing the Raptors have been--they shouldn't even be in this position.

Because of the trade that sent Jermaine O'Neal to Miami (another one of Bryan Colangelo's genius moves), the Heat will take the Raptors first round draft pick the first time they MAKE the playoffs. This essentially means the first year the Raptors make the playoffs, they won't have a first round pick. Because of this, part of me thinks: why bother making the playoffs if you're going to get a 4 game sweep AND miss out on a first round draft pick? At least Chicago will have a first round pick regardless if they make the playoffs or not. Now, I know the goal every year is to make the playoffs and win a championship, but I think it's better to think long term in a situation like this. This year's draft class is so deep, the Raptors could land a very solid rookie with the 12th or 13th pick. So in a sense, I want the Raptors to MISS the playoffs, in an effort to make a big splash on draft night. I've been criticized for this belief by fellow fans, but trust me: when Toronto sacrifices drafting rookies like Kansas' Xavier Henry or Kentucky's Eric Bledsoe (just to name a few), to get swept in the playoffs, you'll understand my train of thought. When June 25 rolls around, and the Raptors don't have a first round pick, you'll wish we didn't make the playoffs. Trust me, you will.

Don't look at this and think I'm not a fan. I'm a HUGE fan. I'm just giving all the fans, including myself, a reality check, which may be difficult to absorb. And the reality is, the Toronto Raptors aren't a very good team.

But needless to say, it'll be an exciting game tonight between the Bulls and Raptors. Be sure to check out the game tonight at 6:00 on TSN. Even I'll be watching.

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