With Raptors' fans still basking in the glow of the win over the Lakers, and a day off before their next game, the HQ takes a moment to bring you an exclusive interview they had a chance to do late last week with the Bucks' newest acquisition, North Carolina Tar Heel legend, Jerry Stackhouse.
These are the Toronto Raptors next 10 opponents.
It's pretty hard not to look at this next slate going into February and not be optimistic if you're a fan of the Toronto Raptors. With the exception of the Heat and Grizzlies, none of these teams has seemed anything but lottery-bound this year and on paper, it really represents a chance for the Dinos to put some distance between themselves and their playoff competitors.
In fact, with another loss by the Magic last night, at the hands of said Grizzlies, it's not impossible that the Raptors can jump into as high a spot as fourth when all is said and done. Toronto is six games back of the Orlando right now, but an 8 and 2 run coming up should the Magic continue to falter, and things could be very interesting by March.
Of course, there's a lot of work to do still and frankly, this team needs to show a lot more consistency before we start throwing around the first-round, home-court advantage talk. But starting tomorrow night against the Miami Heat, a team the Raptors are currently jockeying for playoff positioning with, there's no question the Dinos are looking at a great opportunity here.
And the news keeps getting better as Reggie Evans returned to practice at last, something that could be another big boost for this club. The team has rebounded better of late but there's no question Toronto could still use the rugged services of Evans once he gets back in game shape.
With a day off in Raptors' action, I thought I'd change things up a bit from the steady dose of previews and recaps that we've been on, and bring you the interview I had a chance to do with Jerry Stackhouse before last Friday's game against the Bucks.
It's not often that you get a chance to go one-on-one with a player of Stackhouse's resume and I found it very interesting to hear from someone who was once a star in this league, and who now, is having to prove he can still get the job done. Stack looks great physically, a testament to his off-season work and recent training regiment, (note to Hedo) , and he'll likely play a large role in the Bucks' season from here on out. Most people know about the recent John Wall incident, something I didn't bring up, but most people probably forget that he was one of the league's most electrifying players not so long ago.
If you forget, this clip should be a good reminder of what he could do on a nightly basis:
RaptorsHQ: How are things going? You're back in the league, can you give us a little insight on what the last few months have been like for you?
Jerry Stackhouse: Just working out really, probably for the last three or four months actually. In my mind, I kinda had a feeling an opportunity was going to come around this time, probably after Christmas, or by the break, and it did so, I just tried to keep my body ready; nothing like getting back into the real thing of course, but as much as I could, I tried to work out, get into the gym, make sure I was shooting the ball...get my feel back for the ball etc.
RHQ: Where were you working out specifically?
JS: In Atlanta, I was living in Atlanta...so after I left Dallas I moved to Atlanta. I had a 12-year old that was there starting junior high school so, I moved back to be close to him. I got to work out with him and practice, and you know, there were some things that I was never able to do that I finally had a chance to do so that was nice. But I missed it. I missed being back with the guys and being around the game, it's all I've ever known so, it's definitely going to be transition when the ball finally stops bouncing. But right now, I'm glad I'm still able to do it.
RHQ: How tough was it for you sitting on the outside of the game after such a great career through college and into the NBA?
JS: Yeah, it was tough, but I had a feeling my time would come and I'd get another shot. But like you said, GM's don't always remember just what you can do and what you've, you know, done...they've got short memories so no matter what the past has been, you've gotta show them that you can still perform.
RHQ: And just based on your return, do you think you'd play for a few more years? How do you feel out there?
JS: Yeah, I think, I mean, I'm not putting any kind of limitations on myself, or...the other way either - if this is it, this is it! But I feel great, I feel like I could do this, I don't know if this is going to be the formula, coming in mid-season for the rest of, however long I'm playing (laughs), but after missing so much of last year, I didn't want to go out playing on that type of note. I think I've done a lot for the game and the game's been really good to me. So to just leave like that, especially after having the time off and being able to get my body back right a little bit, I was looking forward to an opportunity. Obviously my agent was working the phones a little bit, trying to figure out situations but it was tough. With the economy being as it is, everybody's...
RHQ: ...clammed up a bit...
JS: ...yeah, clammed up. I think something probably would have happened a lot sooner, in an ordinary year, especially some teams that are right there on the cusp, feeling like they've really got a chance, but the luxury tax is something that everybody's thinking about right now. It is what it is and I'm just happy to be here, happy to be able to walk in here with this group and try to provide some leadership, some toughness...and obviously still the ability to go out there and play a little bit too.
RHQ: John Hammond you've obviously had a relationship with going back to the Pistons, I was reading somewhere that that was one of the primary reasons came onboard. Was there anything else; you saw yourself fitting a niche here or something like that?
JS: Naah, it's just basketball really. I just wanted to play. I don't think there's a bad situation in the league really. Obviously there's some struggling situations, you look at New Jersey and maybe Minnesota and some of the teams like that that are really struggling, but I don't necessarily think of those as bad situations. I think they've got some pieces and just need to develop and what not. Those opportunities though, those might have been a little tough, just to go to one of those places, but at the same time, I would have had to look at it because like I said, I just wanted to get back out there and compete.
RHQ: And what about when you came to this team, do you think this is a playoff club, a couple pieces away? Obviously the loss of Redd is big but, sort of a nice collective group here, especially defensively?
JS: I wasn't aware how much firepower this team had! I think Andrew (Bogut), he's a guy that teams really need to focus in on...
RHQ: ...we saw that against Toronto earlier this week...
JS: (laughs)...yeah, you know Carlos, how he's been playing, and obviously Brandon, our rookie, who's been electrifying at times this year, still learning, and some real consumate pros; Charlie Bell, and lots of other guys on this team so yeah, it was really intriguing. Sometimes young teams get to the point where they're looking around so to speak, and I think with what I've been able to accomplish with my resume, I think I can offer them somebody to look around to for advice, especially in key moments during games, and that's what I'm here to do. I'm not saying I'm going to be the saviour as far as carrying the load from an offensive standpoint or anything like that, but it's the know-how, sometimes that means more than anything else.
RHQ: Cool man, thanks for taking the time to chat and glad you're back in the league. Good luck this season!