The 2006-2007 Toronto Raptors are now playoff bound. Break out the champagne because the hard and true Raptors fans have been waiting for this for quite some time. With the Raps taking care of business against the Charlotte Bobcats the Raptors secured win 41, and a date with the post-season.
Even typing this makes me giddy. It feels like an eon ago that the ACC hosted an NBA playoff game. Five years ago I remember sitting in the upper deck and never wanting to sit down. I remember the epic battles between the Raps and Knicks and then the one-on-one battles as between Carter and Iverson. I remember 2 hours of adrenaline coursing through mine and 20,000 other people’s veins. I remember thinking to myself, "This is why I moved here...to experience this." Finally, that feeling will come back.
Perhaps it was fitting that the Raps secured their berth in the playoffs after such a complete and workman like game. We have seen this team take huge strides that the Friendly Giant would be proud of. This team has demonstrated that they know how to win and do so in a professional fashion. It is practically impossible to compare the feelings you have as a fan now compared to 365 days ago. Over the past few years when the team won it was almost surprising, now the Raps are a team that step up to challenges, understand what is at stake and when giving 100% more likely than not will win, or at least give themselves a chance.
In bringing in all the new faces BC changed this team. He changed the attitude, he changed the atmosphere, and he changed the direction. The new players have to love the situation that they now find themselves in. Think about guys like Kris Humphries who was called a bust in Utah and is now showing solid hustle and that he can contribute in a number of ways. Or Juan Dixon, stuck behind a number of guys in Portland he’s come in and become a great spark off the bench or when called upon a solid starter. It has to be even sweeter for two players in particular, Chris Bosh and Mo Pete. Mo and Chris have seen the lows of the lows and now the highs of the highs. As the Swirsk mentioned, it was not that long ago that CB4 sat on the bench in Chicago almost in tears. Things have changed almost overnight. (Perhaps Jermaine O’Neal should take notes).
There has been a lot of debate in the comments lately about Sam Mitchell and the Coach of the Year issue. Sure you can fault his plays of out time-outs (or should I say "play" as there appears to only be one) and you can sometimes fault his sub patterns. What you cannot criticize though is the role he has played in Chris Bosh’s development. The tough times he made Chris endure and the lesson taught are now starting to pay serious dividends. Chris is really the leader of this team, he has earned that role and embraced it and Sam Mitchell has to be given some of that credit. For all the talent Chris Bosh has he also demonstrated many of the characteristics that Sam demonstrated when he was a player. Chris brings the lunch-box to work everyday, never takes a night off and consistently works hard. Sam has helped him become a Grade A Franchise Player.
So the Raps will battle for home-court the rest of the way and with 9 games left and with the great team ball being played setting the franchise mark for wins is a possibility. Should they reach that mark it would almost ensure home court and that would be gravy. Even if they don’t this win is one to be relished by MLSE, the Raptors players, and yes even the fans.
After the game Chris Bosh was quotes as saying "We’ve come a long way." Truer words have not been spoken.