I miss the Toronto Raptors playing in the city this season. I miss the atmosphere of home games, the boisterous energy in bars during big games, the way the city buzzes when the team is winning. I still enjoy watching games and betting on the Raptors. But I miss the whole experience (and with the recent announcement that the Raps will play their entire season in Tampa Bay, it looks like we will have to wait until next Fall for the team’s return).
So lately, I have been reminiscing a bit about past Raptors teams. Not the teams of the Golden Era in Raptors history – the teams of the last seven seasons (which holds the longest active playoff streak of any team in the Eastern Conference) – but of one that was not good, but for me memorable. The 2005-06 Raptors.
I know they are memorable for some of the wrong reasons – a 1-15 start to season remains the club’s worst – but they were a fun team in a time of bad sports in the city.
If You Are Going to Be Bad at Least Score
While the Raptors were not the worst team in the Atlantic Division – thank you, New York Knicks, for somehow finishing behind a team that lost 20 of their first 24 games – they were bad. But unlike the Knicks – who finished in the bottom third in offence – the Toronto Raptors could score.
The Raptors finished fourth in the NBA in 2005-06 in scoring – averaging 101.1 points per game and a franchise-best offensive rating of 109.5 (since topped nine teams including this season).
Five Raptors that season averaged more than 12.0 points that season – with Chris Bosh leading the team with 22.5 (a career-high for him at the time). Mike James added 20.3 points per game – in his only season with the Raptors (and the only season he only averaged more than 12.5 points in a season).
The Charlie V Game
When you are a lousy team, you do not have many memories from the season – and sometimes those memories do not come in victories: case and point – the Charlie Villanueva game. Charlie V was a rookie in 2005-06, having an average rookie season – that would have faded into obscurity if not for one fateful night in Milwaukee.
Charlie V exploded in a loss against the Bucks – dropping 48 points (still a Raptors rookie record) on 20 field goals (tied for the team record). It remains one of the highest-scoring games by a rookie in any era. As amazing as that game was – and the fact Charlie finished second in Rookie of the Year voting behind Chris Paul – the team traded Charlie V to the Bucks in the offseason.
A Team Full of Characters We Still See Today
Sam Mitchell. Chris Bosh. Jalen Rose. Mo Pete (for a few years). Guys from this team still have a footprint in the NBA and entertainment world. Maybe because I see them on NBA programming (or in Chris Bosh’s case on random cooking shows), I still think of this team.
The First Full Year Without Vince Carter
Although fans (not all but many), the team, and Vince Carter have mended ties – in 2004-05, no athlete was more disdained in Toronto than Vince Carter. The relationship between Carter and the team lingered over the entire 2004-05 season – and made the year terrible. Even after the team traded him to the Nets – the fans focused on the appalling trade Carter forced.
Once the year ended, fans changed their focus to Chris Bosh and the Raptors’ potential in the post-Carter era (even if the hatred for Carter remained for another decade). And while the team did worse in 2005-06, it was a much more fun season for everyone.
A Precursor of Things to Come
Even though the Raptors’ season ended as it started – with a terrible stretch of losing – the players and coaching showed some promise, and hopes were higher going into 2006-07. Bosh turned into an NBA All-Star in his third season, rookie point guard Jose Calderon looked like he could one day start, and the players liked Sam Mitchell. The following season was much better for the Raptors – improving by 20 wins to tie the franchise record and winning the franchise’s first Atlantic Division title.