3 In the Key – Toronto Raptors Game-Day Preview vs. Cavs

Can the Cavs move back from

Can the Cavs move back from "Pretenders" to contenders this season?

Let’s start things off with a word of thanks to our readers.

Even with the Olympic basketball in August, this off-season seemed to drag on and on.

However it was the emails, comments and suggestions from you folks that kept things lively and now at last, we’re back to real business.

Well…

…sort of.

Ok so it’s preseason and you know what that means.

It means the Toronto Raptors opponent tonight, the Cleveland Cavaliers, trotting out a roster that features the likes of Lance Allred, Ronald Dupree, Jawad Williams, and father time himself, Michael Dickerson!

When I saw Dickerson’s name on the roster, I had to google it just to make sure it was the same guy.

I mean, we’re talking about the Michael Dickerson who was an absolute stud at Arizona, an NCAA title winner with the team and the fifth leading scorer in school history! More importantly, this was the guy who was drafted by the Rockets, and then reluctantly dealt to the Vancouver Grizzlies in the Stevie Francis fiasco!

The last I had heard, Dickerson had been forced to retire back in 2003 due to injuries. But apparently he’s making a comeback attempt ala Allan Houston and the Cavs are giving him a shot.

And really that’s what the preseason is all about for many players. It’s a shot, maybe their best, at making the league, or at least catching the eye of an opposing coach or scout.

The preseason of course is also about figuring things out. Coaches try new rotations and plays, players try to acclimatized to a new team or new teammates, and everything resembles a bit of a murky mess.

So instead of making a feeble attempt at breaking this and the other preseason games down, Howland and I have decided to focus on three questions for each…

1) Are you happy if you’re a Cavs fan?

I’m not sure. The US economy looks like Anderson Varejao’s hair, and the job situation in Akron and other areas is not so great to say the least. But hey, the Cavs could top the 50 win mark again this year and the Browns do have one win…ok, never mind.

I think though ovearall, you are happy as a Cavs fan. Look, you’ve got Lebron James, the closest thing to the most dominant player in the league this side of Kobe Bryant. Add in the always steady Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and off-season acquisition Mo Williams, and you have a nice three-some with which to build your season around.

The Williams acquisition in particular should make Cavs’ fans happy as he’s the closest thing this team has had to a real point guard since Andre Miller roamed Ohio. This should mean less ball-handling and "doing everything" for Lebron James, making him even more deadly on offense.

It might also help him save some energy for the defensive side of things, one area in which he’s got room to make big improvements. Lebron himself gets you 40 wins and if the other pieces around him fit well, this could be one of the top three teams in the East.

2) Is this season going to be more Traci Chapman or Chrissie Hynde?

Like both of these talented Cleveland singers’ styles, the Cavs’ season could take on one or more tones.

If Lebron gets hurt, the team could be headed on a "Fast Car" to the lottery, and a somber Chapman-esque season. I mean, look at some of the other pieces around the aforementioned key three; Daniel Gibson, Delonte West, Eric Snow, Tarence Kinsey, Darnell Jackson…yikes. JJ Hickson looks to be a promising young player, and of course Sideshow Varejao is a rebounding monster, but really, this team rises and falls with King James.

However on the flip side, it’s quite possible that if two particular players step up from last season, the Cavs’ season could take on more of an upbeat Hynde and the Pretenders-ish tune. We’re talking of course about Ben Wallace and Wally Szczerbiak. Both acquired via trade last year were huge disappointments and both were beginning to look like they were indeed past their primes. If either can regain at least some of their swagger from earlier in their careers, this really would change the complexion of the team. Wally would give the Cavs a deadly outside scoring threat, while Big Ben would add another dominant rebounding and defensive presence. Indeed, these two could be the Cavs’ "Brass in Pocket."

3) As Raptors fans, what can we hope to see tonight?

Well, considering the game is neither being televised or played on the radio, not much.

With such a small roster (the Cavs have 18 players compared to the Raptors’ 12 healthy bodies), Sam Mitchell has already stated that he won’t be playing his guys for more than five or six minute spurts, so expect lots of line-up combinations and rest for the Raptors’ big three.

"We're not going to alter practice for a pre-season game," Mitchell said yesterday. "(The goal is to) keep everybody healthy but continue to get your work in on things you've got better at. We're not going take shortcuts for a pre-season game.

"Obviously we want to win every game but ... we're not going to overlook things because we have a pre-season game. If it don't count on your regular-season record, then it don't count."

True enough.

Wins don’t matter at this stage of the game but hopefully the Raptors will be able to work on acclimatizing O’Neal to his new teammates, getting Andrea Bargnani involved early and often, and working on an offence that now features two post options.

Other than that we’ll take things a game at a time and tomorrow night fans will get their first look at the 2008-09 edition of the Toronto Raptors.

Oh right…for those with RaptorsTV.

FRANCHISE

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