A Night With the Raptors

I’ve made the big trip to The Big Smoke, seen lots of fine things and met some great and interesting people. The Raptors game was a mistake, though. Watching the Raps/Bulls from the upper deck of the ACC (Air Canada Centre, not the Atlantic Coast Conference, for anyone out there in the Bozone who might care about the difference) was an isolating and disappointing experience. Don was (W)right: it is better to watch it on TV.

It’s been years and years since I’ve seen a game live. The sideshows at an NBA game, even one as undistinguished as this one, are sociologically interesting; annoying to an Actual Hoops Guy like me, but still fascinating in an I’m-only-here-for-tonight way. The Dance Pak tries so hard, and I wonder where they think they’re headed, what they think they’re auditioning for: musical theatre? the arm of a well-paid athlete? Or are they just keeping fit and funding their medical education? All that hair-flinging must be a chiropractor’s nightmare. (Hey, look, what else was I going to look at during timeouts?) The music pounds, would-be VJs ask inane questions, scoreboards give me noise-making advice (with helpful video handclapping graphics), and at regular intervals a ballgame breaks out.

It’s been so long since I’ve been at a game that I thought I might be able to get down close to the floor during warm-ups, maybe even get in a quick word with Jay Triano, the only Canadian coach in the NBA. I’ve followed his career since he was The Big Stuff of a high school tryout camp where I was the short plucky unknown. There’s this idea I have, but I’ll have to find another way to pitch it. The security is pretty tight, Artest knows why …

The MapleRaps lost, by the way. Their unfortunate draft pick, Senor Araujo, still starts but is utterly free of confidence when the ball is in his hands. (I was in the upper deck, but the fear was obvious.) They don’t defend very convincingly, even the fine young star, Chris Bosh. And here’s a thing: I watched for Mr. Triano to speak with players, during timeouts or while on the bench. Didn’t see it. Don’t quite get it. What do assistants do during games, other than charting? I sure hope he’s not a lameduck Canuck, the token local who wouldn’t have an NBA job in any other city. I think he was stiffed from the National Team headship, and the jury is going to be out for a long time on Leo Rautins in his, apparently, first coaching job at any level. It’s amazing to watch the ins and outs of elite basketball in a hockey-mad country, even when not many of us do.

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