Volume 93, Issue 55

Tuesday, December 7, 1999


Please sir, may we have more?

Western falls to Guelph in final meet of the year

Jurassic Spark's Toronto team

Weekend Roundup

Jurassic Spark's Toronto team

The sole occupant of first place in the Eastern conference Central division of the National Basketball Association are none other than the Toronto Raptors.

Not since James Naismith had the brainstorm to cut a hole in that inaugural peach basket to facilitate the first basketball game ever, has this country been so prominent in the roundball spotlight.

The Raptors' 10-6 record, is good enough for first in their division and more impressively, second in their conference. Teams such asthe Milwaukee Bucks, the Charlotte Hornets and even the New York Knicks have fallen behind an explosive Toronto start which has commanded the NBA's attention.

But things did not always look so prosperous.

There was a time when the Canadian franchise's life was in danger. Isiah Thomas, once General Manager and vice-president of the Raptors, opted for a broadcasting career after a failed attempt to purchase the team. Rookie of the year and all-star point guard Damon Stoudamire followed, fleeing the scene in search of cash and to be "closer to his home."

Since those seemingly dark days, the new GM, Glen Grunwald, has made incredible decisions to build the 1999 team and the entire city is reaping the benefits.

Rookie of the year shooting guard Vince Carter is currently 11th in the league in scoring, averaging 22 points a night prompting many to pick him as the Air to the Michael Jordan throne. After being drafted out of high school, forward Tracy McGrady has matured to fit the NBA style and complements his kin nicely on the court.

After these young stars, the Raptors round out their lineup with established veterans who bring some great experience and leadership to the team. Charles Oakley, Mugsy Bogues, Antonio Davis and Dell Curry are just a few of the keys to the Raptors' success this season.

If nothing else, a direct comparison of Toronto to their West Coast cousins, the Vancouver Grizzlies, illustrates the progression of the Raptors.

Both teams entered the league in the same year and each have been given similar opportunities in terms of lottery drafting and free agent access. Yet the Grizzlies seem more like a team of Teddy Bears – soft inside with a worn out exterior.

Despite the efforts of forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim, currently 18th in league scoring with 20.4 points and clearly the heart and soul of the dismal franchise, Vancouver still sits at the bottom of their division.

Along with the Golden State Warriors, the New Jersey Nets and the post-Jordan Chicago Bulls, Vancouver is sitting firmly in a basement they can't find the stairs to get out of.

But the fact they have fallen behind their Canadian counterparts is not as important as the fact that the Raptors are in first. When it comes down to it, that's all that counts in the end.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999