Preseason is just preseason. It’s not real play.
But yesterday, with only one more game to go, we caught a glimpse of a Raptors team that we expect to see when they’re firing on all cylinders. Ford was making great passes, Calderon was his usual self as an anchor, Delfino emerged as the “option of the night”, and we saw the beautiful passing that had been missing since March of last year. In fact, without Garbo, Bargnani, and then the stifling playoffs, I’d say it’s been the first time in a while that we’ve seen what “Raptors Ball” really is about.
I’ve been saying it for the past few games, but having Chris Bosh go down with the knee injury might have been the best thing for this club. It was during that incident last year that cause the Raptors team to go through a kind of reconfiguration and reformation. It was during this time that Rasho and Bargs both emerged from their niches to become a little something more than expected. With Bosh now inserted back, we’re seeing the same kind of productivity we saw last year when Bosh was reinserted. Coincidence?
However, the night belonged to Delfino. Between guarding LeBron, taking on Larry Hughes and just being productive on the glass, the Argentinian finally showed a spurt of what he could provide to this team, if given the opportunities. Granted, there will be nights when he struggles, but if he plays hard defensively, we will be seeing a whole lot less Joey this year. Throughout the night, we saw an aggressive Delfino position himself for rebounds, and if he keeps his play consistent, I think we could see a real battle for minutes between Delfino and Kapono. Interestingly enough, Joey only saw about 5 minutes of play last night, despite being a better physical match with LeBron.
On the flip side, I’ve got great concerns about this Cavs team, especially if they don’t have a guy like Varajao rebounding for them. Even with injuries to Snow and Gibson, I seriously doubt it would have mattered much to the Raptors, who have far superior play at the point position. The real question is how the Cavs will make up for that missing rebounding and energetic presence from “Sideshow Bob”. Sure, turnovers killed the Cavs for a lot of the night, but if they can’t score more than 78 points with James playing over 30 minutes, then there are real concerns. It’s understandable that this team would be jet lagged from their recent China trip, but there’s just not that inside presence on this team. As much as Raptors fans like to make a whole lot about our rebounding situation, the Cavs have even fewer options, with Ilgauskas being their only inside threat, and the Cavs shooting around 41%, I wouldn’t blame the Cavs for feeling just a little worried.
Finally, there’s been a question floating around the Raptors as to who’s going to be let go: Dixon, Moon, or Jackson. If Colangelo can’t find a suitable package, the bet is that Jackson gets ousted as Moon has shown a far more adept touch on the floor, and gives the dimensions of athleticism and rebounding that the Raptors are at times lacking. Jackson has done little to raise his own profile, though it could be said that he’s played much more “in the team” flow, rather than look to make a name for himself (unlike Dixon, Moon, or Graham). Dixon is just too expensive of a contract to swallow, and I still believe that at least offensively, he’s a great addition to this team. So Jackson it is.
Next up: Wizards @ the ACC.