ARE YOU PUMPED OR WHAT?
Actually, I am excited. Not only is it the second game of the Toronto Raptors' season, but their opponent tonight is a Wolves team that if healthy, could compete for a playoff spot in the Wild, Wild, Western Conference.
Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin, Chase Budinger. That's not a bad core. Add in some interesting other pieces from Shabazz Muhammad to Derrick Williams, and who knows how this group fares.
If they're healthy.
After last season's debacle, where everyone wondered what the team had done to anger the Basketball Gods, (ok, maybe Kaaaaaaaaaaaahn), that's the big question.
Especially since this season didn't exactly get off to a hot start.
Chase Budinger, who played only 59 games last season due to a lateral tear in his meniscus, had to undergo another round of surgery thanks to significant cartilage damage in his surgically repaired knee.
So yeah, not so good.
That's why preseason is important for a club like the Raptors, adjusting to their new bench pieces, one could argue that it's doubly important for a team like the Wolves, who now must figure out a Plan B that they may need to use for the bulk of the season.
However its the Dinos I want to focus on going into tonight's game and three things I'll be looking to keep an eye on.
1) Team Defence: The Raptors held the Celtics to under 40 per cent shooting from the field on Monday night, and under 30 per cent from three-point range. Obviously, this was a preseason match versus a team that's got a ways to go in terms of talent and identity, but it was a promising display nonetheless. Consistency is something I'm hoping to see from this club in preseason, be it individual, or team, and therefore I'm hoping to see another solid defensive display tonight.
2) Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas: A big key for this season, on a variety of levels, will be the play of Toronto's super sophs, Ross and Valanciunas. On Monday night both played big roles in Toronto's win, Jonas notching a double-double, and Ross dropping in 12 points on an efficient 6 of 10 shooting night. Ross also had four steals and both he and Big Val were aggressive every time they stepped on the court. I'm hoping to see a lot more of that tonight.
3) Turnovers: One of the big negatives from Monday night's win was the number of turnovers the Raptors notched, specifically during a second quarter stretch. The final tally was 25 and obviously come regular season, it'll be hard to win many games with a number like that. Some of these turnovers undoubtedly will dissipate as the newer team members get accustomed to playing together, but many of Monday night's TO's were of the unforced variety, and those will need to be corrected. Let's see tonight if that correction begins.