1000 games for the Raptors !
We just passed on important mark in Toronto s Raptors history : 1000 games in the NBA !
As one, 33,306 people rose from their SkyDome seats with a thunderous roar. On the evening of Nov. 3, 1995, the NBA was back in Toronto after an absence of nearly half a century. Raptors won 94-79 against New Jersey Nets .
That was Game 1. Last night against the Los Angeles Clippers, 12 years, three months, hundreds of players, six coaches, six general managers, one arena and two ownership groups later, the Raptors played No. 1,000.
Along the pothole-filled road they’ve travelled, the Raptors have plumbed the depths of despair as a franchise, occasionally teasing their loyal fans with a handful of brilliant moments. Theirs is a relatively short history but one that is full of treachery, subterfuge, deception and gamesmanship. But enough about Isiah Thomas.
The intrigue actually began long before that, back in late 1992 and early ’93 when both Larry Tanenbaum and John Bitove, Jr., were trying to fulfil lifelong dreams to bring the NBA to Toronto.
Tanenbaum, through his Palestra Group, that included CIBC and the beer boys from Labatt, had dropped a bid for an NBA expansion franchise the day the Blue Jays won their first World Series, in 1992.
While Palestra appeared to have more substance, the Bitove Group promised the NBA a new arena and that tipped the scales in its direction. Bitove was awarded the franchise but the arena ultimately would be the issue that forced him to give it up. In the interim, the team started its existence in the cavernous SkyDome.
– Ground Zero — In his heyday, Robertson was a multi-dimensional player who once had a quadruple-double (only four have been recorded in NBA history) while playing for San Antonio. On that milestone opening night for the Raptors, at 33, he was near the end of his career but still poured in 30 to lead Toronto to a 14-point win over New Jersey.
Brendan Malone was handpicked by Thomas to coach a fledgling roster that included gigantic centre Oliver Miller, who ate himself out of the league, Acie Earl, John Salley and the young dynamo who turned the draft-day boos into his own personal love-in. That would be guard Damon Stoudamire, who would go on to win the NBA’s rookie-of-the-year award.
– GAME 100: DEC. 7, 1996
HAWKS 101, RAPTORS 75
OVERALL RECORD: 27-73
All of the players in this intrigue knew one thing: To be viable, the Air Canada Centre had to house both the Raptors and the Maple Leafs.
Eventually, Bitove gave up and sold his share to partner Allan Slaight, who in turn passed control to Steve Stavro, the owner of the Maple Leafs and thus the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., monolith was born.
In the midst of that drama, Thomas, who had designs on scooping up the basketball team himself, recognized he couldn’t tie the hockey and basketball teams together and decided to resign.
Meanwhile Stoudamire, upset at Thomas’ departure, wanted out and Glen Grunwald, now the GM, eventually traded the player who had been, to that point, the team’s foundation. A few months later, he would find a new cornerstone, Vince Carter.
– GAME 200: JAN. 12, 1998
NETS 108, RAPTORS 100
OVERALL RECORD: 56-144
On the court, the 1997-98 season was an unmitigated disaster. The Raptors won only 16 games, but Tracy McGrady, the team’s top pick the year previous, was turning heads. But when Carter came on board to start the strike-shortened 1998-99 season, the team moved to a new level. They flirted with .500 in that 50-game schedule but blossomed in 1998-99, winning 45 games and making the playoffs for the first time.
– GAME 300: NOV. 7, 1999
RAPTORS 109, HORNETS 99
OVERALL RECORD: 93-207
Coach Butch Carter was able to get the most out of his young talent during the regular season in 1999-2000. But he tried to make a power play for Grunwald’s job. Even though he was probably the best coach the team had had, he essentially fired himself by his backdoor politicking.
Meanwhile, Vince had blossomed into one of the game’s biggest stars, earning his nickname, Air Canada. Watch highlights of the SLAM DUNK contest from the All Star Game with V Carter – Mr Air Canada .
– GAME 400: DEC. 14, 2000
RAPTORS 70, KNICKS 68
OVERALL RECORD: 147-253
The 2000-01 season still stands as the Raptors’ most successful. They hired classy Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens who fashioned a 47-win season unmatched until 2006-07.
In the first round of the playoffs, the Raptors took out the Knicks in five games, then sent the conference semi-final against Philadelphia to a seventh game. Vince Carter had the series in his hands in the dying seconds but missed the jump shot.
– GAME 500: JAN. 18, 2002
RAPTORS 89, NETS 77
OVERALL RECORD: 205-295
The Raptors went on a long, steady decline that coincided with Vince’s health problems. And as the team’s decline accelerated, so did its star’s desire to be elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Grunwald, who had made so many good moves, stumbled. To convince Carter to stay, he had to re-sign most of the team’s core players to long-term deals but they never performed again to earlier levels. The team won 42 games in ’01-02 and lost in the first round of the playoffs.
– GAME 600: MARCH 5, 2003
ROCKETS 97, RAPTORS 95
OVERALL RECORD: 243-357
The decline accelerated at an alarming rate. A team that had looked so good just two years previously, was now a mess, winning only 24 games in ’02-03 and 33 a year later.
– GAME 700: APRIL 4, 2004
BUCKS 90, RAPTORS 83
OVERALL RECORD: 278-422
Grunwald was replaced by Rob Babcock, who inherited an unhappy Vince Carter, made a horrible trade with New Jersey — getting little in return for a superstar — and wasted a first-round pick on the alarmingly unathletic Rafael Araujo.
– GAME 800: NOV. 23, 2005
CLIPPERS 103, RAPTORS 100
OVERALL RECORD: 315-485
On its way to a 27-55 record in 2005-06, Babcock was jettisoned in late January and, a month later, a new era began when Bryan Colangelo came on board and made a swift series of moves to set the stage for a rapid turnaround.
With Chris Bosh coming into his own as a star, the rebuilt Raptors went from 27 wins to 47 in one off-season.
– GAME 900: DEC. 29, 2006
BULLS 107, RAPTORS 97
OVERALL RECORD: 354-546
With stable management and a young, improving team on the court, it can be said that the future of the Raptors never looked any brighter.
That said, we remember saying something similar when Carter and McGrady were leaping tall buildings, oh, about 500 games ago.
– GAME 1,000: FEB. 8, 2008
CLIPPERS AT RAPTORS
OVERALL RECORD: 414-585
Last night the Clippers beat the Raptors 102-98.
Toronto guard T.J. Ford got a loud ovation when he entered the game at the start of the second quarter, his first home appearance since a Dec. 11 injury at Atlanta. Ford returned to the lineup Feb. 4 at Miami following a 24-game absence.
Toronto coach Sam Mitchell said his team may have underestimated the Clippers, who are last in the Pacific at 16-31.
“They deserved to win and we didn’t deserve to win,” Mitchell said. “We’re not good enough to just look at a team’s record and show up and play.”
For reasons that aren’t easily explainable, Andrea Bargnani wasn’t consistently taking his man off the dribble, a dimension that has helped elevate his game recently. Rather than drive to the hole, Bargnani stood around the three-point arc.
Raptors coach Sam Mitchell had no choice but to replace Bargnani in the first quarter after Chris Kaman established a low-post presence. Mitchell turned to Rasho Nesterovic, who matched up better against the more physical Kaman.
Tim Thomas, who has been nursing lower back pains, started for the Clippers and played the entire opening quarter. His troublesome back woes then resurfaced, forcing Thomas to the sidelines for the balance of the evening.
Jamario Moon had 16 points, Andrea Bargnani had 14 and Jose Calderon had 11 points and 14 assists as Toronto came out the loser in the franchise’s 1,000th game.