…it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that! [The Red Queen to Alice], Through the Looking-Glass, Lewis Carroll
The Raptors are improved, most pundits agree, but so is everyone else in the Atlantic Division. And rather that having a chance to tiptoe into the new season with a easy game or two, the Raps’ early schedule was apparently devised by the Marquis De Sade. The worst is a stretch beginning Nov. 20 in Philly & ending Dec. 10 in Portland, in which the Raps have 2 homers & 10 visits. Adding insult to injury, the Portland game is the final one of the western swing from Hell, with games in Denver, glamorous Sacramento [20-second time out: One has to wonder how many more NBA seasons are likely in Sac-to, now that Seattle is emerging as a prime move-the-franchise city. Microsoft's home town has a deep hunger & history for hoops & (finally!) is on the verge of building a proper facility], Utah, & the formidable other LA team, before touching down in the Rose City. The only gimme putts in this wasteland are visits to Charlotte and Houston.
Given that we aren’t changing the schedule, our team will have to deal with the situation. What’s the worst that can happen? Well, lots actually, like a long losing streak leading to panicky moves by the embattled GM. (I’ve seen posts elsewhere advocating the trading of Terrence Ross – check your prescriptions, fellas, your synapses aren’t firing right) What if Dwane Casey feels a sensation of flop sweat, decides to play Bargnani 40 minutes to ensure a victory, then watches AB collapse in agony as his calf injury reoccurs? Or how about getting but 1 win on the western swing? That would certainly do serious damage to whatever buzz is building around our guys and their playoff chances, and harm the confidence of our young players.
It’s situations like this where the human element comes to the fore, & why statistics are never enough when trying to understand a team’s success or failure. The Raps need a Leader (Kyle Lowry, are you listening?), a player who can command the respect of his colleagues & make them believe a hoary cliche like “The darkest hour is just before dawn”. Sometimes going on the road is actually positive for a team, if they can bond quickly and create a Nobody Believes In Us But Us mindset.
The Raps need to endure this scheduling Long March without losing sight of their Eastern Conference competitors. If they can somehow scramble a 10-12 mark, that would be cause for celebration. The rest of the season becomes 34 at-homes, 26 away. Now you’re talking.
Brian Boake is a staff writer for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.