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  Mon, January 26, 2004


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Gutless!

By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

CHICAGO -- About an hour before tipoff, Jerome (Junk Yard Dog) Williams rose from his chair in the Chicago Bulls' locker room and wrote this on the message board:

"Jalen Rose quote: 'The Chicago Bulls are the worst team in the league.' Translation: 'With the worst players.' "

Rose later angrily claimed those weren't his exact words, or they were taken out of context, or whatever. But in Williams' mind, at least, it was a grudge match yesterday as the Bulls knifed the gutless Raptors 96-89 at the United Center.

Why do the Raptors always let their fans down by sucking in showdown games? Why is it the Raptors who surrender? Why can't the Raptors meet the emotional challenge?

When Williams was asked afterward if the game yesterday was one in which a player should draw upon emotion, he replied, "If you have any, you have to draw upon it."

This was the first game between the two teams since a huge trade that sent Williams, Antonio Davis and Chris Jefferies from the Raptors to the Bulls for Rose, Donyell Marshall and Lonny Baxter. The Bulls had lost six games in a row prior to yesterday, the Raptors four. So both teams should have come out like wild dogs, chomping and snarling, right?

Instead, it was like breakfast at Wimbledon. But in the end, the Raptors couldn't return the Bulls' serve.

"You don't want to lose to your friends," said Davis, who had 14 points and 14 rebounds. He seemed to get more energized as the game wore on and it dawned on him that the Bulls might actually win.

"(Playing your former team) always presents something a little extra," Davis added. "But we handled it well."

So why was it so painfully predictable that the Raptors would not handle it well?

The Raptors have a horrible record in showdown games, the ones in which fans have an emotional attachment and they hope -- often naively -- that the players do, too.

* Feb. 16, 1999. The Raptors lose 95-85 to the Knicks in the first game between the two clubs since Marcus Camby was traded from Toronto to New York for Charles Oakley. Camby has 11 points and 12 rebounds, while Oakley has 11 points and seven boards.

* Jan. 4, 2000. The Raptors lose 114-90 to the Trail Blazers in the first game between the two clubs since Damon Stoudamire was traded from Toronto to Portland. Stoudamire, the Raptors' first marquee player, scores 22 points for the Blazers while the Raptors' second marquee player, Vince Carter, scores only 13 points.

* Jan. 23, 2001. The Raptors lose 116-111 in overtime to the Magic in the first game between the two clubs since Tracy McGrady left Toronto for Orlando. Both Carter (33 points, six rebounds, seven assists) and McGrady (22 points, seven rebounds, seven assists) flirt with triple-doubles.

* Jan. 19, 2004. The Raptors lose 90-79 to New York in the first game since ex-Raptors coach Lenny Wilkens was hired by the Knicks. Carter does not play because of injury.

And then there was yesterday. Carter shot an horrific 6-for-23 from the field. Rose scored 22 points, but he was too pumped up early and got off to an awful start. Marshall was invisible. Baxter hardly played.

The only Toronto player who really showed up was Chris Bosh.

The Raptors set a franchise record with only two points from their bench. And they allowed the cross-eyed Bulls to shoot an alarming 52.2% from the field.

No one is saying the Raptors didn't want to win. But if you want to win, you have to be pro-active, aggressive.

Take charge.

Get mad.

Do something. Lord, do anything.

In the dying seconds, a courtside fan yelled to Rose, "Hey Jalen, does this mean you're worse than the Bulls now?"

Rose smiled gracefully and replied, "It's just one game."

Yes, it was just one game. But damn, it was important.

The Raptors were humilated yesterday.

Do they even recognize that? Do they even care?









Do you like the new-look Raptors heading into the 2013-14 NBA season?
  Yes, new GM made great moves
  No, they will still be a terrible team
  Unsure what to make of it


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