Relieved the season is coming to an end? The HQ is to some extent, but also bemoans another wasted
I'm not happy about writing this morning.
It seems that about this time every year, I'm stuck writing about the same topic; the NBA season is winding down, and the Toronto Raptors won't be participating in the post-season.
In fact for the fourth straight season, the Toronto Raptors won't be participating in the post-season.
I guess that's not that long (considering teams like the Wolves and Warriors have been playoff-less for even longer), but that's long enough for me. Way long enough, especially when you consider that this four-year drought is hardly an aberration. No, Toronto has sung this same song in 12 of its 17 seasons of existence, and in just the seven years that we've been running the site, we've heard the tune five times.
Yes, lost amongst all the noise of tanking and the NBA draft lottery is that being a fan of a perennial losing team sucks. The Toronto Raptors, win or lose on Thursday night, will again turn in a losing season, one that over the following days and weeks we'll then pour over in hopes of finding a reason for hope and optimism for the future.
Call it "April for Raptors' fans."
Suddenly the draft becomes bigger than the NBA playoffs, names like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Harrison Barnes mean more than LeBron James and Kevin Durant, and instead of counting series leads, we fans are left to count ping pong balls.
The reality of course is that this had to happen and as much as it sucks, it's preferable to being stuck in neutral like last night's opponent, the Milwaukee Bucks, just missing the playoffs, but likely not with much to show for their efforts NBA draft-wise.
From Brewhoop.com, SB Nation's Bucks site, this AM:
Reality bites. The Bucks will finish 9th in the East for a second straight season; good luck finding anyone who sees that as a desirable result.
Anyone want to trade places with them this morning?
Or how about fans of the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Orlando Magic or Houston Rockets; a mixture of play-off and non-playoff teams that are hanging around the final spots in their conference, waiting to be eliminated in the first round.
No, Raptors fans can at least take some solace from upcoming cap space and lottery prospects, but you'll forgive me for being overly optimistic about the results of said "benefits." Toronto has been down this road before, numerous times, and has failed to do much more than return to the playoffs in a weak conference, only to be quickly shown the door.
This summer has to be different.
The Raptors are averaging under 17,000 per game going into the season finale Thursday night, and percentage-wise they've only been able to keep about 85 per cent of their arena full on a regular basis, the tenth-worst mark in the league. MLSE may not be feeling the pinch yet but the signs are there - the interest in this club has likely sunk close to an all-time low.
Raptorblogger Scott Carefoot recently said this was his least favourite season in Raptors' history, and while I won't go that far, there's no doubt that our site has seen its numbers drop, particularly in terms of the many "casual" fans that dropped in when the season began, and around draft time last year.
Even the Raptors radio and television broadcast crews seemed relieved that this one was finally coming to an end.
And how could you not be?
The franchise's seventh sub 31 win season is nearly in the books, one whose highlights were few and far between.
As I watched Brandon Jennings and Ersan Illyasova take apart the Dinos in the fourth quarter last night, I began to wonder what the point of even playing these seasons was. Not to be completely despondent, but let's talk big, big picture here, beyond "we need to play to lose lots of games, to get a better draft pick, to" etc, etc. The main goal of a professional sports franchise is to make money and the majority of the time, yes, the Leafs are the exception, you do that by putting a quality product on the court/ice/pitch, one that engages and excites fans and that's for the most part done through winning.
Really, if you're not doing that, what's the point?
You might as well be the Milwaukee Bucks, hovering around that last playoff spot, coming oh so close but falling short.
Right now though, all we as fans can do is hope.
Hope the club isn't headed down the same path, hope that Raptors' management makes the necessary moves this off-season to get the team back on track, hope that the team's lottery fortunes come up aces.
And hope I'm not writing the same post this time next season.