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Are the Raptors any good? Add to ...

The season is six weeks old and no one really knows if the Raptors are any good or not. Nice bounce back against Houston after the Boston strangling, to be sure. I'd believe that something good was about to start happening if the Raptors could knock off a wheezing Dallas club on Wednesday. In the meantime, I got some stuff ...   Some Games, Some Things, v1.20 1. It only took 21 games, but the Raptors finally got a win against a quality opponent, that is, a team with a .500 record. And no, there was no coincidence that it came with Bosh back in the line-up. When I was in Boston Mitchell went on a fairly lengthy and Sam-esque rant about what Kevin Garnett means to the Boston Celtics, the gist of which was he makes his teammates better. Much better. It's a big stretch to say that Bosh has a similar impact on a team or a game as Garnett. The Big Ticket has one attribute that Bosh never will have: At 7-1 and 260ish, Garnett has a pure physical advantage over every single power-forward in the league and every centre except maybe Yao. Bosh might even be a more diverse offensive player, but he'll never be able to command the lane and own the glass the way Garnett does every night, at least on the defensive end. No disrespect to Bosh, but Garnett is on the short list of all-time greats, in my opinion, for that reason.

2. Still, Bosh gives the Raptors a focus offensively that they just don't have without him. He gives them somewhere to start their offence. The fact that he generally requires a double-team makes the Raptors ball-movement and motion that much more effective. He gets to the line which keeps them scoring when the shots aren't falling and he takes responsibility in the fourth quarter. He did all of that yesterday and it picked up his whole team only a day after they were all embarrassed in Boston.

3. I was sitting beside one of the production assistants courtside yesterday (Ashley sp?) and she looked at Yao, turned to me and said, basically, "Wow." I spend so much time around NBA players that I kind of forget their sheer physical rareness. We think of Bosh as kind of skinny, yet he's got layers and layers of upper body muscle that would make him packed by any ordinary definition. Yet in the NBA, he's skinny. Kris Humphries is 6-9, 260 and runs like a wide receiver. In the NBA, he's undersized. Jose Calderon is almost 6-foot-4. He'd be the tallest guy on almost any subway car during rush hour. We think of Carlos Delfino's head as just big, yet if it were on the body of someone seven inches and 60 pounds smaller - an average guy, in other words - he'd simply fall over, end of story.

It's all relative, obviously. Yao and Shaq are the two guys who are just plain, old rare. They look giant compared to everyone on the planet, including NBA players. The best part about Yao is how he makes huge guys look ordinary. Humphries looked like a kid against him. Nesterovic? Yao made a seven-foot man disappear. You can see him play everyday and never get used to it. "Wow" is right.

3. Yao's presence brings out a large contingent of Toronto's Chinese community, which is no surprise. Among them were two middle-aged - and I'm assuming here - Chinese guys in those crazy expensive seats right beside the Raptors bench. You would make the assumption that these guys were probably Raptors fans but definitely Yao fans, right? I mean, if you're from mainland China, he's your boy, right? So what do these guys do when Yao swats Rasho's jump hook early in the first quarter? Get up and cheer right? Give some love to their main man from Shanghai, right?

No way. They were up signalling goal-tending like the entire Raptors bench. This just struck me as kind of hilarious. Almost as funny as when Delfino stopped beside them and they offered him a beer, to which Carlos whispered "No thanks". But not nearly as funny as when they did the t-shirt give away during a timeout a few minutes later. Given that their seat cost upwards of a G-note, I'm thinking they could have bought themselves a t-shirt. But there they were jumping and waving for one like some kids in the upper deck. And then one of the Dance Pak lobbed one to them and there beside themselves they were so happy. Definitely a dance like no one is watching moment, I must say.

4. Not a big tattoo guy. Not opposed to them, but I could never figure out what to get that I wouldn't want to change a week later, so I am going through life sans ink. I will let you know if that changes any time soon.

I will say this: If I was from the rough side of Amityville, N.Y., like Mike James, and I had overcome considerable odds to make the NBA, like Mike James, and I had arms like Mike James, damn straight I'd have a tattoo on my right should that read: The Amityville Horror. I just would. Say what you want about Mike James, but that is one cool tattoo. I mean, can't you see him going home in the summer and tearing up some pick-up game and some guy on the sidelines saying, "That's why they call him the Amityville Horror - he's your worst nightmare!"

That just wouldn't happen to me. My best case?

I slip into an open spot and drain an uncontested 15-footer and someone says: "If you make that guy dribble, he cannot score!" (Which is what one opposing coach yelled in my ear during my university days. He was right.)

And there's no way I'm going to tattoo that on my skinny shoulder. It's embarrassing, even if true, and it wouldn't fit; I'd need to spread it across my back or something.

5. One left-over note from Boston on Friday after what was an otherwise forgettable night was Juan Dixon's performance during garbage time. In his own way Dix has had a pretty good season. When he has got playing time he's produced as often as not, which is all  you can ask from a guy who's job description is to get really hot really fast in games when the Raptors can't score with their second unit. A lot of vets might kind of coast through a fourth quarter when the game is so far out of reach. But Juan played every possession like it was his last. And yeah, you could make the case that he was looking for his numbers, but so what? The point is he got on the floor and played his butt off. I asked him about it and he gave the most basic answer: "Hey man, it's just fun to play." You have to respect that.

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