As he surveyed the court with a well-practised eye as the Toronto Raptors went through their pregame warm-up, Muggsy Bogues said things might not be as bad as they appear for his former team.
"I think they can make a push because they play in the East," Bogues said. "They still play in the East, right?"
Bogues was assured that, yes, his old team still resides in the Eastern Conference of the NBA, where a sub-par .500 record and a couple bucks might still land a loser in the promised land of the postseason.
All the Raptors needed was a patsy to beat up on, a team to help restore their shattered confidence and show them that things could be far worse. Enter the New Jersey Nets.
The Raptors (12-17) certainly got the lift they desperately needed, pounding the abysmal Nets (2-25) 118-95 to snap a two-game losing skid at the Air Canada Centre last night.
The slaughter was played out before Bogues, who was on hand as part of the Raptors' season-long 15th anniversary celebrations.
The 5-foot-3 dynamo, who holds the distinction of being the smallest player to have competed in the NBA, played the final two of his 14 seasons in Toronto (1999-2000 and 2000-01). That was when the Raptors were coached by the inscrutable Butch Carter and Toronto made the playoffs for the first time, meeting the New York Knicks in the first round.
Bogues still laughs at the memory of Carter launching a defamation of character lawsuit on the eve of the playoff against New York centre Marcus Camby, a former Raptor who had referred to Carter as a liar in a story published the previous week.
The series opened in New York and it all made for wonderful theatre on Broadway, but it didn't help the Raptors, who were swept in three games.
"I still don't understand what Butch's thinking was," Bogues said. "He probably didn't understand what his thinking was. It was all personal."
Simply put, the Raptors have been horrid of late, losing four of their previous five heading into last night's affair, their porous defence leaking an average of 115.3 points during that span.
No wonder the Raptors opted for a retro look last night, donning the predominantly white jerseys of the old Toronto Huskies - a change of uniform might result in a change of luck.
With Bogues sitting courtside, the Raptors started strong pulling out to a quick 15-6 lead, with Chris Bosh accounting for eight of the points.
Toronto power forward Hedo Turkoglu showed he was into the game early, scoring the game's first points on a nice drive and later feeding a smart pass to Bosh for a strong dunk.
Raptors point guard Jarrett Jack was out on the fast break when he fed a stylish behind-the-back pass to a trailing DeMar DeRozan, who concluded with another big slam that brought the crowd to its feet.
The score was 39-15 for the Raptors at the end of the first quarter, and the first question that popped to mind was - how has New Jersey managed to win two games?
The Nets started 2009-10 losing 18 in a row to establish an NBA record for futility at the beginning of the season, costing head coach Lawrence Frank his job in the process.
Bogues said the key to any Raptors turnaround the rest of the way rests with the likes of Turkoglu and Jose Calderon, the Raptors No. 1 point guard who sat out his fourth consecutive game with a sore hip.
"They've got to find a way to get Turkoglu going," Bogues said. "He's got to be more of a facilitator as well as a scorer.
"I'd like to see Calderon push it a little more to the basket instead settling for the three. I think he needs to get a little more aggressive. He's quick, he can get down the floor and he can force a lot of stuff."
The Raptors kept up the pressure in the second quarter, and left no doubt to the outcome holding a 70-33 lead by the half.
Amir Johnson came off the bench to lead Toronto with a season-high 18 points, one of seven Raptors to score in double figures.Report Typo/Error
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