The Raptors are Playing with House Money

AP Photo

AP Photo

The Toronto Raptors are four wins away from reaching the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. But many don’t see them getting that far or, perhaps more accurately, don’t want to see them get that far.

Despite beating two pretty strong teams, including the Dwayne Wade led Miami Heat, not a lot of people are giving the Raptors a shot in hell of winning the NBA Eastern Conference Final over the Cleveland Cavaliers. In fact, some believe anything less than a Cavs sweep would be disappointing for basketball fans not just in Cleveland but around the world. Everywhere except Toronto and perhaps Canada.

But I think for them to think that way is OK. Since no one even expected the Raptors to advance past the Heat to get to the conference final, expectations of this team should be lower than the Canadian dollar. There should be no pressure what so ever on the part of the Raptors to do well from here on out. Simply put, the Raptors are now playing with house money.

The play of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan in the playoffs has been spectacular. They have shown they can come back from adversity and lead the team to victory. The contribution of the supporting cast has also been outstanding with DeMarre Carroll, Cory Joseph, and Bismack Biyombo putting up points and eating up minutes on the floor. This is a team supposedly everyone who likes an underdog can get behind. But we’ve seen in the past those allegiances get kicked aside because these same people like to be associated with a winner. No respect but again that’s cool because it’s not our money that is on the line.

To borrow a theory from Leafs Hate-ion, Cleveland is a town known for teams who choke like dogs. Despite having an abundant of talent, and managers and coaches who are well-respected in the league, Cleveland teams come up short each and every time. Browns, Indians, and now Cavaliers can’t get it done when it matters. So if you look at it that way, all the pressure is on LeBron James and company to win it all. They have a lot to lose, the Raptors don’t.

So Raptors fans, if the team does not beat the Cavs in the series it is not the end of the world. Like anything in life we chalk this up to a learning experience and move on. The Raptors have shown the world what a great basketball team they are and the publicity, no matter how negative or disrespectful it may seem, has hardly cost them a cent. They will walk away from the table with their heads up high.

Also see:

Life Lessons You Can Learn From Playing Poker
Everyone Loves an Outcast
Is This the Year for the Blue Jays?



Toronto Against the World


The Us Against the World Mentality

The experience of the Blue Jays, Raptors, and Toronto FC in the playoffs has lifted the citizens of Toronto to their feet. One only hopes the Maple Leafs will be able to do the same.

There seems to be an us against the world kind of mentality. The thinking being no one wants to see us (us being Toronto) win, we’re the underdogs, it will be an easy series for the team that faces any team from Toronto. The Blue Jays and Raptors have used that as motivation in their playoff run.

To use the us against the world theory, it takes more than being hated. You have to be disrespected, have no fans outside your circle, and have every excuse as to why you are not good enough hurled at you. In short, you are an outlier. Welcome to Toronto.

For a team that has to deal with adversity the way the Blue Jays and Raptors have makes them true underdogs. Especially for the Raptors where despite being having no “star” players have made it past the halfway point of the NBA post-season. There was no talk about Kyle Lowry or Demar DeRosan, it was about how Paul George or Dwayne Wade were going to carry their respective teams into the next round. No one gave the Raptors a shot at winning it all. Yet, they are still in it. Hopes of a Toronto team’s demise will have to wait at least another 4 games and it could take longer than that.

The Blue Jays playoff run was even more incredible. The Texas Rangers had a 2-0 lead in the ALDS and had everything going their way yet the Blue Jays battled back to win the series and move on to the ALCS. No one gave them a hope of going as far as they did. Only Jose Bautista and company did.

To say the entire world is against us is an understatement. Not even Canadians like Toronto. They have shown they will cheer for the opponent (American, Russian, et al) and do it without hesitation. I know of a Habs fan that hates Toronto so much that he rooted for the Rangers in the ALDS. He also claims to be in the anti-Trump camp so take it for what it is. There is also a hit piece in the Montreal Gazette that says Bautista instigated the fight with Rougned Odor in Arlington. He believes Bautista got what he deserved because of the bat flip. But what the author ignored was the fact that the Rangers decided to plunk Bautista in his last at-bat in the final head-to-head game between the Blue Jays and Rangers. I suppose being gutless in this case is OK.

I, for one, have been alive long enough to experience this for over 3 decades. It is getting tiring to continue to hear all this nonsense but it goes with the territory. I have stated a number of times that hockey fans hate the Toronto Maple Leafs more than they do their own team. You can now extend that to the Blue Jays and Raptors. They are going to hate us no matter what. So let’s give them a reason.

Also see:

Bad Blood is Good for Sports
Rooting Against Someone is Gutless… and the Bat Flip Heard Around the World
Only Losers Look for Someone to Blame


Draft, Schmaft


Draft Schmaft

Editor’s Note: I started writing this piece last June around the time of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. That was the one where Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel were selected first and second overall respectively. For some reason I was halfway through it and decided to put it on the shelf. But with the recent NFL Draft and the NHL Draft Lottery, I have decided to dust this off and finish it up.

The NHL draft sees some of the top junior players around the world get the opportunity to play in the NHL. But outside the 211 taken in the draft, there are dozens more who have not been draft for whatever reason. Some of them have made it to the NHL despite not being a first-round pick, or getting drafted period.

Martin St. Louis of the New York Rangers is the best example. Another is Rangers’ defenseman Dan Boyle. Both those guys went through the draft without having their name announced. But instead of sulking because they were not picked by a team, they used that as motivation to work hard and eventually become a reliable player for their clubs. Another example is Tom Brady. He is arguably the best quarterback in the NFL today. Brady was taken in the 2000 NFL draft but was a 6th round pick by the New England Patriots, a team that selected Drew Bledsoe 1st overall seven years earlier.

The success of late round or undrafted players happens even in junior hockey. Barrie Colts forward Andrew Mangiapane twice had 100-point seasons and more recently put up 51 goals. Did I mention he was not drafted by an OHL club? Mangiapane’s teammate Justin Scott was not drafted by an NHL club. But his performance in the OHL playoffs have caught the eye of several NHL teams and was eventually signed by Columbus.

The draft is kind of like a school yard pick ’em. Everybody gathers around in a room and the two sides pick players to form a team. Their decisions are based on the physical attributes of the individual player. The thinking is anyone who is 6-foot-2, 200 pounds can throw a pass or knock one out of the park. But part of the decision also involves how well these players perform in game situations. Hitting home runs in batting practice is different than in an actual game.

Yes, getting the best player through the draft can no doubt help your team in the long run. But not getting the first overall pick (or a Top-5 pick for that matter) is not the end of the world. Finding great players that were initially passed over is where general managers and scouts make their money. As St. Louis and Boyle will tell you, the draft is not the be all to end all as a lot of people may think.

Also see:

Getting the First Overall Pick: Big Deal? Or Big Deal?
The Maple Leafs Need Their Own Bringer of Rain
Get the Right Player First, then Spend the Money