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The Week Ahead: December 12 -18

It's all about home cooking in this weeks edition of the Week Ahead with all three match-ups in the confines of the ACC. Can the Raps avoid the boos? Can we match our road win total? Will the fans finally see a complete performance? Here's some early thoughts on the upcoming games.

Wednesday December 14 vs. Chicago on SPORTSNET

Here comes those Bulls, and these are not the Baby Bulls of years past, but it is not the stable franchise that everyone expected this year. Tim Thomas sent home? What are you Terrell Owens? Tyson Chandler looks like he is worth about 20 cents on the dollar for the huge contract he was given in the off-season and Ben Gordon is dying to start. All is not calm in the Windy City.

That being said in many ways Chicago is the blue-print for the Raps....tough it out for a few years, let the young talent develop and grow and see what you get. The Bulls have one rookie Eddie Basden, four sophmores (Deng, Duhon, Gordon and Nocioni), and three juniors (Hinrich, Sweetney and Songaila), most of whom are key contributors to a solid team. For the Raps the key may be keeping Mr. Sweetney and Chandler off the glass. Easier said than done in the case of Sweetney who in order to box out you need a forklift, eight 2x4's and some heavy artillery. This team has a guy for every situation, clutch shooting in Gordon, run-and-gun in Hinrich, tough D in Nocioni, pure athlete in Deng and pure general in Duhon.

This team truly is 2-3 years ahead of the Raps but I still build a franchise around Bosh before any of these guys.

Am I the only one who wonders whether Vince and Tim Thomas were twins attached at birth who when separated split a heart between them?

Friday December 16 vs. Golden State on SPORTSNET

There is no team more fun to watch then the Warriors. Point blank. Problem is they were hard to enjoy when they were demolishing the Raps in the last game of the most recent West Coast swing. An argument can be made that both Davis and J-Rich should be in the All-Star game this year. They also have their own version of former Rap Donyell Marshall in Troy Murphy.

Troy Murphy however, cannot guard CB4 and neither can any other big man on the Warriors. There could be a ton of air miles to collect after the number of trips Bosh takes to the free throw line. That being said it is another case of the opposing team just being more talented....huh? Warriors and talent in the same sentence. How can you not love what Mullin has done to this franchise.

I've got fourth row seats to this one. Here's to seeing a J-Rich windmill up close and personal.

Sunday December 18 vs. Philadelphia on SPORTSNET

Just another return for AI....Iguodala that is, who destroyed the Raps last time the teams met with some insane outside shooting. This is a great opportunity however to show the league that the Raps have continued to improve since the last time these two teams met. I will take the James/Iverson match-up on the defensive end. James will make it difficult for Iverson to get his and that is all you can ask for....the hand in the face technique.

One memory stands out from the last time these guys played....the Raps left their feet way too many times on D, in particular when the ball was in the hands of C-Webb. Although Webber is not the player he once was he has not dropped off like his former Fab Five teammate Jalen Rose. Webber can still get by the defender so he is a tough match-up, but the Raps bigs have to stay grounded.

The center match-up is someone interesting as it features two players with two completely different styles in Dalembert and Hoffa. Dalembert is a shot blocker and Hoffa is simply a banger. Hopefully he will be able to get some good positioning and get on the glass....I don't expect anything offensively from Hoffa.

Prediction: The Raps have sucked at home, and as a result I don't think they can totally turn it around yet, so let's say 1-2, just like last week. It will also be interesting to see if there are any small changes in what the Raps do on the floor as Keady's influence will slowly permeate through the team's philosophies.