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  Sun, October 3, 2004


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Is Canada ready for the Raptors?
By MIKE ULMER, TORONTO SUN

Dear Canada:

Just when you figured things couldn't get much worse, along come the Toronto Raptors to announce they are ready to become Canada's Team.

Now, I can see how this could rankle those myopic few outside the GTA who will insist on missing their Oilers, Jets or whatever it is they're called out there.

The Raptors, owned by the very same people who helped create hockey's salary spiral, can offer both the cause and the cure for your major-league sports cravings. It says so right under the Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment Ltd. letterhead.

"Our broadcast schedule for the upcoming season reflects our commitment to making the Raptors Canada's Team," said Raptors COO Tom Anselmi.

A note on logistics. By way of specialty channels TSN, Rogers Sportsnet and The Score, you can watch all 82 Raptors games without leaving the Kevorkian special seat you rigged up in your living room for just this kind of news.

It might strike you as odd that the Raptors would package themselves as Canada's team without asking Canada but believe me, this is just the beginning.

There is much to learn about your new favourite team. In the spirit of generosity, let me offer this primer.

The Raptors have won one playoff round in nine years. They lost their last post-season game when veteran point guard Chris Childs forgot the score.

Some of the best players in the NBA have worn Raptors purple, just not for long. The franchise's first star, Damon Stoudamire, spent two fulls seasons here before getting himself traded to Portland in a cloud of marijuana smoke.

Tracy McGrady spent three seasons and then bolted to Orlando where he predicted he would harvest bounteous championships. He's now saying the same thing in Houston.

After signing a $64-million US contract, Antonio Davis, the team's best big man, orchestrated his own trade to the Chicago Bulls, in part because he didn't think his kid could handle the metric system.

Now, in keeping with tradition, Vince Carter, the franchise's best ever player, also wants to be traded.

It's not true that the Raptors always trade their best players. Some, like Rafer Alston, brought back this year to great fanfare, and Carlos Arroyo, a standout in Utah, they just went ahead and cut.

The franchise's first coach, Brendan Malone, left after one season citing "philosophical differences'' with team president Isiah Thomas. Both men were about to break with their philosophical opposition to murder.

Malone's successor, Darrell Walker, lasted just under two years. Assistant Butch Carter was promoted to give the team some, hee-hee, stability. Carter was fired a while later when he campaigned for the job held by the man who had just extended his contract, Glen Grunwald.

NOT MAKING THIS UP

Really, I'm not making any of this stuff up.

Lenny Wilkens, the winningest and soon to be losingest coach in NBA history, was next. He had some success but after a time in which the big question in the executive suite was "where in hell is that formaldehyde smell coming from?" Wilkens was judged a little past it.

He was replaced by former Detroit assistant Kevin O'Neill, who smashed a lamp in a hotel room and was thus considered too fiery and let go.

I won't even go into "pimping ain't easy, pimping ain't dead, the 'hos are just scared" mystery that was the Charles Oakley era, the Oliver Miller triple double (three Big Macs, two large fries) and the travails of Marcus Camby who was so fragile he was sometimes injured by wind.

Let me just say welcome Canada, to your team. This winter the Toronto Raptors are all you've got.

They're not much to watch but they'll always give you something to talk about.







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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