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The Week Ahead: January 1 - 8

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Well all in all it was a fairly productive December. For those who call themselves "fans" and suddenly find themselves in some "stage" of agony, or despair, lose the shortsightedness and understand that this team is going to be good. It's a new year, the Raps are coming off back to back wins and the long term health of this franchise is better and brighter compared to some of the mediocre teams of the past. Now that I have the first rant of 2006 off my chest, here's a look at the week ahead. With three of four at home and a road game in Atlanta it could be a good week.

Tuesday January 3 at Altanta on SPORTSNET ONTARIO

Gotta love the Hawks. 25% of the Raps wins have come at their expense, and here's hoping the Raps can make it three wins in a row and also three straight wins against the lowly Mylanta Hawks. The secret to success here really is no secret, do what they have done in the first two games....just do it better. The Hawks essentially pay people to go to the games and there will undoubtably be a shot or two taken by Chuck when it comes to their lack of attendance.

The Hawks are always at the center of trade rumous, now people are discussing them dealing Al Harrington. I am so baffled by this franchise. Following this team, even marginally, leaves you asking "Why?" on a repeated basis. Anyone who says the Raps franchise is in trouble clearly has not paid attention to this weak franchise. Al Harrington is arguably their best player, why deal him? Are they building something or has this once proud franchise simply becoming a stopping place. Look at the deals they have made lately and the players involved....Rasheed, Payton, Walker...and what do they have to show for it? The only thing that bothers me more about this team is that Jay Bilas may have been right when he said Josh Smith could be a flop because he can't shoot. Yeah the guy can dunk, but he has been a complete non-factor on this squad. There is no other team that has drafted so poorly in the past little while. These guys should all just wear coloured wigs, paint their faces and simply look the part..... this franchise is led by a bunch of clowns.

First game of the new year. Let's start with a Raps W.

Wednesday January 4 vs. Orlando on SPORTSNET ONTARIO

No doubt one of MoP's best shots of the year happened the last time these teams hooked up when the Raps stole another W on the road. That shot aside however the key to the victory was the teams ability to keep Dwight Howard off the glass. You have to believe Dwight is going to want to make up for that lackluster performance. Howard is just one of those high-schoolers that at such a young age you just wonder what he was fed growing up. Is it just me or do some of these guys coming out of high-school look 27? There is no way eating Wheaties is the reason.

If you remember Grant Hill played well against the Raps because he was able to drive to the hoop at will. His shot is still not falling so keeping his dribbles to a minimum will also be a key factor. All in all however they may not be a harder team to read than this Orlando squad. They have talent, but they just can't seem to put it together. Shouldn't they just be better? We've mentioned this before but clearly Brian Hill should no longer be coaching in the NBA. That being said, their big free-agent signing, Dooling has been hurt all year, but really his injury can't explain why this team can't get it together. They lack an identity.

Friday January 6 vs. Houston on SPORTSNET ONTARIO

If you read the Week Ahead when the Raps were in Houston you know how I feel about Rafer Alston. Well this time Rafer will be in the game and will be making his return to the ACC. I will be courtside....good thing it's a work event or else he would be bombarded with criticism and heckling....just to be safe I must stay away from the brews!

Outside of Yao and TMac this team is short on talent. Stromile Swift obviously still has the same mentality he did when he came into the league and simply just wants to "have fun"....although I am sure Van Gundy doesn't find anything fun in his game as of late. It's not like Stro has not had an opportunity...this team makes St. Mike's ICU look healthy and there is loads of PT to go around. He just has not developed. Speaking of St.Mike's the ACC paramedics better be around because it is amazing that Mutombo is still playing ball....he may drop dead any minute.

This is one of those games that the Raps should win. It's a character game. It's a pride thing. It's for sure a game where Mike "Space Mountain" James plays his guts out and takes Raps fans on a ride. Put your ears close to the speakers on your TV because you know he is going to be in Rafer's ear all night.

Sunday January 8 vs. New Jersey on TSN

VC gets slammed in the press and by teammates.....and suddenly VC is lighting it up like he did last year and the Nets are playing their best ball of the season. Regardless, this team is not built for the playoffs. The complete lack of big man will hurt them when the post-season comes around. I always wondered why they drafted Antoine Wright....they should deal him and other's to secure a useful frontcourt presence. This team does have mad fire power though and the perimeter D is the key to victory. If you can shut down 2 of their 3 stars you have a chance....if not this could be a long night.

In case you have not been scouring the NBA box scores of late you may be interested to know that Lamond Murray is getting very little burn. He is going to be one of those players that when it is all said and done will look back on his career and wonder what if...what if I had played within the system.....what if I didn't eat chicken fingers during halftime.....what if I had not been such a whiner.....what if I hadn't been such a blackhole on the court.....this guy sucks.

Prediction: I'll go out on a limb....3-1. I also predict a ton of booing at the ACC, and not all directed at Hoffa.....a lot of former Raps in town this week.