Raptors Enforcer Makes Season Debut Against Philadelphia
by: James Di Fiore
Every good story has a main character that anchors the theme of the overall tale. Most of the time it’s a centerpiece – the powerful, daunting, even tragic protagonist that sweeps audiences away from the start. And sometimes, although not often, he is unseen until the Final Act. Welcome to the Raptors 2009-2010 NBA season.
Just as the Raps have started to show fans the kind of consistency they had been lacking for much of the year, our own main character, both obvious and surprising, is making his return against the Philadelphia 76ers. Reggie Evans, the off season pickup with a menacing frame and a penchant for rebounds is finally back, and the timing has given the Raps their watershed moment.
Evans is a throwback to the days when players like Charles Oakley provided toughness, perseverance and defense – intimidating opposing teams with presence rather than skill. His career numbers are not in the same class as the game’s elite defensive players, but there are no stats to measure hustle, grit and positioning. Alas, the last time the Raps had a player like Oakley was when Charles himself called Toronto his home. Fans are hoping Evans is exactly what Oakley once was – that player providing the game’s intangibles while relegating opposing players to limited offensive roles.
It all sounds more than ideal for a club that still gives up 30+ point quarters nearly every game. The city has been talking about Evans all year in a manner that has gone from frustrated to hopeful, optimistic to indifferent. Now that he is slated to step onto the court on Wednesday night, the expectations are completely up in the air.
Jay Triano, who was criticized for questionable substitutions early in the year, will now try to place Evans within a roster that is firing on all cylinders. Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani are averaging 36 and 34 minutes respectively, and moving Jarrett Jack into the starting lineup is the defensive edge they were seeking, forcing Jose Calderon to come off the bench and contribute in a more limited role. The move has worked as the team has posted a 14-6 record over the last 20 games, much to the credit of some clutch shooting from Marco Belinelli and defensive help from both Antoine Wright and Amir Johnson. With their core group playing cohesive basketball, Evans’ return will have to exceed expectations, taking away minutes from both Wright and Johnson while giving Bosh and Bargnani some much-needed rest down the stretch. Of course, this is all a utopian idea at the moment, born out of ideal scenario and anchored by an unknown outcome.
What’s interesting is the hardcore fans and the hopes they have rested on a player who hasn’t played one regular season game. Even more intriguing is the level of confidence Evans’ teammates appear to have in the 8 year veteran. The Raptors could end up a possible second round playoff team, or they could find themselves in the same situation if Evans re-injured his foot. Or, and this might be the most likely scenario; they find out that it is too late for Evans to come in and provide a lift for a team that is playing just fine without him.
In any event, the team will begin this last chapter against the 76ers who are without their own main character of the season, Allen Iverson. While Iverson’s drama deserves a full page on its own, Evans’ story has yet to be written.
Philadelphia VS Toronto – 7:00pm @ the ACC.