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Previewing the Atlantic Division: Toronto Raptors Edition

I started this series last week with the 76ers and Knicks. The Nets are on deck. And my Celtics preview will run October 1st as part of a comprehensive blogger preview initiative. Things are starting to get interesting again...

2008 Record:

Playoffs?: Eliminated in 5 games by Orlando Detroit in the First Round.

2008 Record Vs. the Celtics: 1-3 - Two of those games stand out:

1. After the C's rolled out to a 3-0 lead in the season series the Raptors got white hot in the final match up of the season. They shot 58% (40-69) from the field, 71.4% (15-21) from beyond the arc, and 100% (19-19) from the line. Keep in mind the Celtics played phenomenal defense. And the game was in Boston no less.

2. On the flip side their initial match up went Boston's way. It was not a particularly well played game and Comcast's coverage cut out during overtime. Still Ray Allen's game winning shot (see below - "KNOCKS IT DOWN!) was one of those early moments that made me think, "Maybe this year will be different."

Ray Allen hits the game winner! (via NBA)

Departures: Maceo Baston, Primoz Brezec, Carlos Delfino, Juan Dixon, T.J. Ford, Jorge Garbajosa, Kris Humphries [Green Bandwagon Note - Humphries is still with the Raptors. My mistake. Thanks for the e-mail.], Linton Johnson, Darrick Martin, Rasho Nesterovic

Additions: Hassan Adams, Nathan Jawai, Willie Solomon, Roko Ukic

Key Story Heading into Camp: The collective health of the Toronto Raptors. Though not exactly the Washington Wizards when it comes to health, or lack thereof, the Raptors missed their fair share of games last season. Jorge Garbajosa only managed to play in 7, Chris Bosh sat out 15, and T.J. Ford missed 31. Of course the fact that Jose Calderon took his rightful place atop the point guard depth chart and Ford departed, along with the injury cloud that hung over him, has to help Toronto. Finally, much like the Celtics in 2008, the Raptors could have some roster flexibility during the season. As far as I can tell they've only inked 13 players to contracts.

X-Factor: 44, 51, 69, 42. Those numbers represent how many games Jermaine O'Neal played in during his last 4 seasons in Indiana. I wouldn't expect him to play 82 games, mainly because in 12 seasons he never has. And maybe that's the key. The Raptors organization and its fan base should go into the 2009 season with realistic expectations. At the same time popular opinion seems to have written him off so much that he's probably capable of more than a lot of people realize. And it was not that long ago (2007) that O'Neal was a candidate for the Defensive Player of the Year Award.

View From the The Other Side: I caught up with Scott from Raptor Blog and asked what fans around the NBA had to know about Toronto. His response:

"When it comes to the Raptors, most NBA fans are focusing on whether or not Jermaine O'Neal can stay healthy and give Chris Bosh some help on post defense. But don't sleep on Jose Calderon's new, well-earned, full-time starting PG role. He's developed into one of the most dangerous point guards in the East." - Scott from Raptor Blog

Random Points of Information: Regular readers of Green Bandwagon know that I'm a Jorge Garbajosa fan. Unfortunately Garbajosa has not looked right since breaking his leg against the Celtics back in the spring of '07. He was a shadow of his former self during the recent Olympics. Of course in order to play in said Olympics Garbajosa had to end his Raptors career. At this point (he turns 31 in December) you have to wonder if he'll ever be full strength again.

In other news, my old nemesis (long story), Chuck Swirsky, is no longer with Toronto. In hindsight the story really isn't that long. But I don't feel like linking to an old post where I praise Gerald Green's future. I've been open about how wrong I was about Green. We don't need to keep reliving it.