At the midway point of the season, the 15-26 Toronto Raptors have only had three players suit up in every game. The team’s first half can be describe in one word: unlucky.
DeMar DeRozan, Jose Calderon and Ed Davis are the only Raptors to suit up in every contest after the injury bug left the team without several key players.
The majority of the opening night starting line-up has seen more time on the bench than together at the start of a game. Andrea Bargnani has been out for 20 games, rookie Jonas Valanciunas has missed the past 13 games, and both players aren’t likely to return any time soon.
Kyle Lowry has also missed 13 games, first with an ankle injury, then a triceps injury upon his return. Meanwhile, Landry Fields needed 24 games after repairing nerve damage in his arm before he returned to game action.
Four of the team’s five starters on opening night combined to miss 70 games throughout the first half of the season. Unfortunately, the bench hasn’t seen much luck either as Linas Kleiza has only played 20 games while Alan Anderson has missed 17 games and rookie Terrence Ross had an ankle injury that forced him out one game.
Amir Johnson also leaves most games with a bad ankle however shows his heart by refusing to stay out. Johnson simply tapes up the ankle and jumps back onto the court even when you think he could be lost for weeks. Regardless, even he was forced to miss a game after being suspended for an incident with an official.
Considering everything the Raptors have endured, it’s incredible they’ve managed to win 15 games and sit only five and a half games back of a playoff spot.
Not to mention the brutal officiating against Toronto has seen the league office apologize twice for poor calls against the Raptors late in games. Rarely does the NBA ever admit mistakes, however both occasions were pathetic performances from employees of an association who’s integrity doesn’t need any more questioning.
The first apology came after a one-point loss to the Charlotte Bobcats when Bargnani was clearly fouled during a last second shot attempt. No call was made because apparently in Charlotte punching a player in the hands while he shoots is a legitimate play. The second apology came in an overtime loss to the Chicago Bulls when Johnson was fouled during a shot attempt in the final seconds for an opportunity to go to the line and tie the two-point game. The officials said when Johnson threw the ball at the basket he was trying to pass it and therefore the foul was on the foul and wasn’t a shooting foul. Somewhat of a puzzling decision by the official considering the rim is orange and the Raptors jerseys are red, so it remains unclear how the official thought they were on the same team.
All in all, the Raptors have lost nine games in overtime or by five points or less. A staggering number considering if the team wins just half of those games they are sitting in a playoff spot. That number becomes even more surprising when you combine it with all the injuries the team has endured.
Considering all the factors working against Toronto this season, the team has clearly shown their never quit attitude. The Raptors have been unlucky with injuries, officiating, and closing out games. However, night after night the team sees a new player step up.
DeRozan is the most consistent he’s ever been in his career. Davis and Johnson are having breakout years. Both rookies, Valanciunas and Ross, have the fan base excited about their future. Calderon is becoming one of the most beloved Raptors of all time. Anderson has turned into one of the team’s most intriguing players after a tour of the world. Fields and Lowry, the team’s biggest off-season additions, have shown their worth when healthy. Even fans who dislike Bargnani can’t deny what he could have added if in the line-up.
One has to wonder what a healthy Toronto squad could have accomplished by this point had they had the time to grow as a unit. One thing is for sure, if the team shows growth in the next 41 games like they have in the first 41, then the young Raptors are on their way back from extinction.