The Notebook: Raptors Opening Night

Our man in Toronto, Clement Chu, reports from Raptors opening night in the T-Dot…

It’s Friday night, and I feel alright…the party’s here on the west side (of Bay St.) So this is how we do it opening night at the A.C.C.; sold out to the tune of 19,800 plus.

And who was VIP up in this? Samuel L. Jackson of course…but the surprise visit by the player president himself, the Sternbot, trumps Shaft 2000 any day.

I crept into ‘Multipurpose Room B’ where the conference was already underway. I sat in the back and just sort of soaked the whole thing in. It was crazy the way the Sternbot was deflecting all sorts of controversial questions with politically correct answers or sarcastic comments. Of course the hot topics were about Mark Cuban and the zero tolerance policy. Here are some of the things I picked up from the conference:

• There were probably 30 [tech] calls that weren’t called last year, and there is only one that Stern would reverse thus far.

• The new rule is aimed predominantly [at players] with outbursts for dramatic effect; Stern said there are some players who complain constantly.

• “If [Cuban] wants to listen in on the huddle, [he] can use a mic.”

• “If I were a betting man, I wouldn’t bet against the Americans [in the Olympics in 2008].”

• “We tried to work with WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency), but we just want them to follow their own rules.”

One funny part was when the Sternbot was going on about how important the D-League was to the NBA and then he got stumped as to who last year’s champion was. He hesitated for a few seconds, then all of a sudden a PR guy from the NBA shouted “Albuquerque!” from across the room. How gangsta is that? Every time you get stumped on a fact, there’s some dude who will tell you the answer.

Once that was over, Linkstigator and Cincinnati Enquirer contributor David Goldstein marveled at what it must be like to be the Sternbot; to go from city to city all over the world and basically get grilled by professionally trained questioners.

I took a peek into the locker room and noticed that there had been a lot of progress in the renovation compared to a few weeks ago. In the front of the room there are now dual flat-screens which played scouting report notes like: “Ruben…Not a strong ball handler” and then provided a set of highlights to emphasize the point. Permanent name plates are now in place and dark black wood paneling has been installed.

I then hopped over to the Bucks locker room and discovered to my dismay that Ha Seung Jin had been cut (which basically means, no more Korean theme nights for me to organize).

The game? Well, most of you know by now that the Raps handled the Bucks, 102-92. Here’s how it went down:

• Bosh is playing like a man possessed; checking out with 3:14 left in the first, he was 5/5 from the field with 3 boards

• 2:35 left in the 1st, TJ breaks Mo Williams off at the top of the key with a hesitation move and then fires a pass off Andrea’s dome

• 11:32 remaining in the 2nd, Fred Jones gets the ball at the top of the key and attacks off the dribble from the right side, cranking a right handed hammer on Brian Skinner

• With 9:17 left in the 2nd, Jose Calderon slipped in transition at about halfcourt, got up and ran back to swat an Ilyasova lay-up attempt

• 7:30 left in the 3rd and TJ goes Curley Neal; falling and keeping the dribble alive eventually spinning in mid-air to find Mo Pete in the corner for a 3 ball

• Repeatedly, Bosh is getting offensive rebounds in close and throwing it down with two hands in traffic; really showing off his improved strength to be able to shrug people off like that…

• I’ve said it once, and I’m going to say it again: You CANNOT have live drumming going simultaneously with music over the public address…the delay from the acoustics just makes it sound like excessive noise

• During the Raptors’ “60 Seconds of Madness” which involves them playing the intro song from the ‘Blues Brothers’ on a loop while various game ops people throw T-shirts into the crowd, I noticed the Raptors break-dancers doing their popping and locking in the middle of the court. I was just thinking to myself: Do these guys feel like the biggest sellouts of all time? I dunno, just wondering…

• I think the best part of my evening was when my friend Mike was laughing at one of the Junior Dance Pack girls not being able to keep up with the choreography. Then of course, as fate would have it, the same little girl ends up occupying the empty seat next to him with her parents glaring. Classic…

So yeah like I said, the Raps won 109-92 with a 26, 15 and 2 effort from CB4. Charlie V put in 17 and 11 but had his homecoming cut short due to a hamstring pull (nothing serious). On Sunday, the Tim Duncan Robot laid the smack down on the Raps 103-94. So up next for the Raps: A.I. on Wednesday and Joe Johnson on Friday to round out the home stand.