We told you they’d go 3-1.
It’s been a good, but not great, start for the Raptors – if only because expectations are high (and rightfully so).
They’ve beat three teams they should have beat (yes, that’s what the Thunder are reduced to without Durant and Westbrook in the lineup) and could have stolen a win in Miami too had it not been for an abysmal showing at the free throw line and on the boards. But we still haven’t seen them shift past second gear, which, for the part-time fan, means that every game has at least remained close throughout.
And that counts for something, right?
The Dinos have a chance to keep adding to the win column over the next few games in what is the second week of a comically easy schedule to start the season. They’ll need to rack up as many Ws during this stretch as possible before their schedule takes a scary turn to end the season and injuries inevitably deplete the roster for stretches here and there.
The Raptors tip off against the not-bad-but-not-good Celtics tonight in Beantown before returning home to face a strong Washington squad, the laughable* Sixers, and a Magic team they just beat a few nights ago as part of an eight-game homestand.
We’d be delighted – and not over-reaching – to see an 6-2 record by the time we check back here with you next Wednesday.
*We’ll just leave this right here again.
WHO TO WATCH THIS WEEK: TERRENCE ROSS
Terrence Ross has been mostly chillin’ to kick off the season, which is not exactly what you want to see from the third-year swingman. He’s shown flashes of star potential but needs to develop a strong mentality to match, along with the ability to string together a few consistent performances in a row. He’s shown that he can drop 51 points on a whim – and then follow that up by averaging less than 10 points per game the week after.
If he can do this, we expect to see him attack the rim and land on the free throw line more than just twice in four games. At just 23 years of age, though, we can afford to remain patient for now.
X-FACTOR: JAMES JOHNSON
James Johnson was a quiet but important addition in the off-season, a bargain at just $5 million over two years. He adds much-needed size on the wings and has delivered exactly what GM Masai Ujiri hoped for when he brought him back to Toronto: A bit of everything.
You won’t see Johnson’s value show up on the box score, but he brings all the intangibles every great team needs from their roles players. Add in a few of these, and it’s hard to argue against his nearly 20 minutes of court time per game.
OFF THE COURT
Masai Ujiri’s built a team of stand-up, law-abiding players, so this section might be a little short on groundbreaking gossip every now and then. This is one of those now and thens.
That said, watching Raptors Global Brand Ambassador and Kevin Durant Recruiter Drake toss up an airball hasn’t got old yet…
Quote of the Week:
Last week we left you with a quote by outgoing MLSE CEO Tim Leiweke that the Raptors will be more popular than the Leafs within 10 years. He also promised Toronto FC fans their team would make the playoffs after splashing the cash on Jermain Defoe – and look how that ended up.
So this week we leave you with this, courtesy or Raptors beat writer Cathal Kelly of the Toronto Star:
“The idea that the Raptors might one day overtake the Maple Leafs as Toronto’s team is an appealing canard.”
At least we only have to wait a decade to find out who’s right on this one…