Even the most fantasy-minded of sports fans wouldn't have dreamed this one up nine months ago.
In the time it takes for a sperm and egg to create a baby human, the Toronto Raptors have undergone their own gestation, evolving from hapless, little purple Dinos to the "terrible lizards" of their namesake.
And now they'll face their biggest nemesis in a best-of-seven, winner-take-all series -- and "Jurassic Park" author Michael Crichton could not have written a better script.
When despised ex-dino Vince Carter and the rest of the New Jersey Nets trot out onto the Air Canada Centre hardwood for Game 1 of the Eastern conference quarterfinals Saturday, the capcaphony of boos should top even the ugliest reception Carter has heard from these fans since he sulked his way out of town in December of 2004.
This series has the potential to be the most memorable postseason matchup Toronto has seen since Doug Gilmour caught an errant Gretzky stick to the chops and gave Maple Leaf fans a decade of "what ifs."
Hell hath no fury like a fanbase scorned, and more than two years since he was traded away, Carter is still serenaded with disdain whenever he touches the ball in the city where he once ruled.
But while Carter has had some great games -- as well as some forgettable ones -- against the Raptors since his departure, turning this series into "Raps vs.Vince" is unfair, both to the Nets Hall-of-Fame point guard Jason Kidd and to everything the Raptors have acccomplished this season with a true team concept.
In fact, there will be the at least three fierce battles:
- Vince vs. A Committee. Carter will have to deal with Anthony Parker (the Raptors' best positional defender, who will use his feet to keep his man in front of him and contest every shot), Joey Graham (who makes up for his lacking basketball IQ with a chiseled physique and a willingness to initiate the contact that Carter loves to avoid) and Morris Peterson (who played with Carter long enough in Toronto to learn his tendencies).
- Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani vs. A Depleted Nets Frontcourt. Without top forward Nenad Krstic, the Nets have turned to a series of big men to try and contain opposing forwards and Mikki Moore, Clifford Robinson, Jason Collins and rookie Josh Boone have done a servicable job. But can they contain the inside force of Chris Bosh over seven games, while still managing to stay close enough to the perimeter to avoid a hailstorm of Bargnani three-balls?
- Jason Kidd vs. T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon. This one is simple: Kidd is the best in the business as an all-around point guard. He has skills, smarts and guile. But he also has creaky knees, and both Ford and Calderon are quick enough to turn the corner on him at will. Kidd is crafty, however, and the Raptors duo are young.
But you can bet the fans won't look at it that way. And considering what they've been through for the last three years, can you blame them?