TORONTO - The long season of Raptors basketball began with this post-game proclamation: It is going to be a long season.
There will be too many nights like this one.
Too many nights of expecting more and receiving less.
When you think you have a chance. When you hope you have a chance. When you figure, if you make a free throw here, a jump shot there, the loss would end up as a win.
The over-under mark of 27.5 wins seems just about right after an Opening Night of Raptors basketball. While under seems more prudent the investment than over, the Raptors lost Wednesday night to the kind of team they are supposed to beat at home.
That wasnít the Miami Heat here all dressed up in blue. That wasnít LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the court for the New York Knicks. That was the kind of game we have get used to: A few minutes good; a few minutes bad, a whole of little in between, and just not enough left at the end to make it work.
These are your Toronto Raptors.
As great starts go, this 98-93 loss to the New York Knicks wasnít one of them.
For the first time in a long time, with no one to call a star, these are your Toronto Raptors. They announced a crowd of 18,722 but a whole lot of seats looked like they were occupied by the giveway T-shirts that adorned them. An entire section up top at the Air Canada Centre appeared, like too many of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment Ltdís promises ó just a little empty.
Andrea Bargnani, the new and growing face of the franchise, looked the part in the first half and looked out of gas in the second half. Leandro Barbosa, an upgrade over Hedo Turkoglu, looked like the energy needed in the second half; was hardly a factor in the first half. Reggie Evans will rebound like heck and grow into a Toronto favourite, but he will not and can not score. This is a lineup with a little bit of this and a little bit of that and nothing thatís going to keep any strategists up at night.
It is what it is.
Coach Jay Triano walked into the post-game news conference looking a bit like the game itself. His tie was crooked and unkempt. His top button on his dress shirt was undone. His expression said more than any of his words. This was loss one for Triano and the Raptors: He expected more from his team. He had reason to expect a little more on what is traditionally a great night for the home team in the NBA.
They shot just 38.3% from the field, were outscored 21-9 from three-point line, and still were outrebounded by the Knicks in spite of Evansí game-high 16 boards. The Raptors canít possibly replace the 24 points Chris Bosh scored per night, but Evans will replace his 10 rebounds and maybe play a little tougher around the basket. But what Evans gives, he takes away by scoring no points. It means the 20 or so points, if they are to be found somewhere have to well distributed through the lineup.
Jarrett Jack did his job at point guard Wednesday: His backup Jose Calderon was ineffective and vulnerable.
Forward Linas Kleiza, the great discovery of the off-season, didnít look like any great discovery. He missed open shots, travelled too often, had some moments, but not enough of them.
At times, the Raptors seemed bullied by Ronny Turiaf, of all people, which is hardly encouraging as this season begins.
What should concern the Raptorrs is that the Three Amigos, DeMar DeRozan, Sonny Weems and Amir Johnson, did not look like ready to be prime time players. Many the opening night jitters got to them. Maybe they will be better Friday. Maybe.
But this was a discouraging night for the Raptors overall. They scrambled and they scrapped but in the end they didnít have enough. Too often that may be the case in what is certain to be a very long season.