For the last few years, ESPN's John Hollinger has been one of the better NBA prognosticators, providing fairly accurate predictions of how each NBA team will finish the season in the standings.
In his most recent season preview, Hollinger predicted a 33-win campaign for the Toronto Raptors and a 12th place finish in the Eastern Conference.
Based on last season's win total as well as the question marks that still surround the team, a prediction of 33 wins is to be expected.
The fine people over at Raptors Republic compiled a list of projections from pundits around the web, and the majority of them were in that 33-40 range.
In the piece he wrote for ESPN.com, Hollinger brings up a number of fair points about the team and it's questionable future. He also mentions flat out that the team has potential, and if things go perfectly for the Dinos, they could very well be a playoff team.
From the piece:
"If everything goes perfectly fine, maybe Toronto will sneak into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed. But things rarely go perfectly fine."
A fair statement to say the least. However, when this subject was broached with Raptors head coach Dwane Casey at practice yesterday, things got a little interesting.
"I think I saw someone today predict we're going to win 33 games. So, With that lack of respect, that should get us motivated to come into this gym each and every day to bust our tails." Casey said about the report
"That right there tells us how much lack of respect the league has for us, and how much we have to continue to work to perform every day we walk on the court."
Casey's response is about what you would expect from a head coach attempting to motivate his team for the upcoming season, but it became a talking point for beat writers and bloggers because, well, it's still the preseason and there really isn't all that much to write about.
DeMar DeRozan, on the other hand, took things a step further yesterday when he tweeted the following:
"Who the hell is John Hollinger!? #Clown"
That was clearly an overreaction on his part--John Hollinger is anything but a clown. He is actually one of the best writers staffed at ESPN and is one of the best at using statistical analysis to properly back up his arguments--but, ultimately, DeRozan is going to need to have that type of attitude when it comes time to play the real games out on the court.
Fair or not, you want your players and coaches to be unhappy with low expectations. And, as a result, play--and coach--with a chip on their shoulders.
That chip is what is going to help the Raptors compete with more talented squads, just as they did last season.
At the end of the day, this doesn't amount to any sort of hard hitting news. But, it does show that some confidence is beginning to build, and exude from the types of people that need to be exuding confidence.
And that, at least as far as the Raptors are concerned, is rarely a bad thing.