Tonight's game vs. the Memphis Grizzlies is quite significant not only as the Raptors attempt to break a 5 game losing streak but also because it will feature for the first time in NBA history, two Spaniards starting against each other. Pau Gasol of the Grizzlies and Jose Calderon of the Raptors will both be on the court to start the game tonight and both have been keys to their respective clubs this season. Gasol has taken his game to another level and is starting to look like the star he was projected to be on both ends of the court when he was drafted with the 3rd pick overall in the 2001 NBA Draft. Calderon has been one of Toronto's lone bright spots so far this season.
Another bright spot this season for Toronto has been the continued improvement of forward Chris Bosh. Bosh was asked about his contract status by reporters yesterday considering the Raptors' dismal record so far this season. Bosh however was determined to discuss an end to recent losing streak and therefore his contract situation was not one up for discussion at present.
Another topic not up for discussion was the status of head coach Sam Mitchell. Many have felt that Mitchell is simply not getting the best of this young squad whether it be due to lack of experience or simply bad decisions (substitution patterns for example) on his part. H0wever upon being interviewed yesterday concerning this, Mitchell stated that he was "not concerned" about his own job security. Mitchell elaborated, explaining that his concern IS for his young players and them learning the NBA game. As Mitchell put it, "it's one thing to tell Jose Calderon how to guard a player like Damon Stoudamire...but until he actually gets out there to do it..."
Raptors' GM Rob Babcock was also asked about Mitchell's Job Security. Babcock simply stated that this was not an issue and is reportedly pleased with the team's progress, especially over the past few games. He is especially pleased with the team's effort considering their recent competition. Babcock's statements however won't change the fact that if the losses continue, both he and Mitchell will be increasingly under the microscope.
From being under the microscope to "being scoped" we bring you an Eric Williams update. According to Eric, he's ready to play, however whether he will, remains to be seen. With the youth movement in full swing and Mo Peterson and Joey Graham already at the 3 spot, Williams may not find much in terms of playing time if and when he is activated.
Finally, regardless of the effort the Raptors have put out lately and the close losses to playoff quality teams, the team still finds itself last in ESPN.com's "power rankings." It appears that even Marc Stein's favourite Raptor, Pape Sow's, D-League performances as of late have been able to sway his judgement of our last place worthiness.
The Raptors face a surprising Memphis Grizzlies squad tonight at the Air Canada Center. The Grizzlies were picked prior to the start of the season by many experts to finish slightly out of the Western Conference playoff race. However off season changes which on paper seemed to downgrade their talent (losing James Posey, Jason Williams, Earl Watson) have in fact helped team chemistry and Memphis has raced to a 9 and5 start. The team's star pivot Pau Gasol has been dominant this season and will be a handful for the Raptors in the paint. Memphis is also one of the best defensive teams in the league behind coach Mike "the Czar of the Telestrator" Fratello and Toronto will have to shoot a better percentage then they have of late to hope to compete. Perhaps the key to tonight's victory however will indeed be the Raptors' inside play. If the Raptors can put together a defensive performance and rebound the ball the way they did against Dallas, they definitely have a shot at winning this game.