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2003-04: Bosh Shines in Dark Season

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2003-04: Bosh Shines In Dark Season
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Despite what looked like some positive improvements, last season was another step back for Toronto Raptors. Clearly management felt a change in direction was necessary to get the club back on the right path to success.

The 2003-04 season started off with the hiring former Pistons’ assistant coach Kevin O’Neill as head coach replacing Lenny Wilkens. The ping-pong balls at the Draft Lottery didn’t appear to help the Raptors at the outset but getting Georgia Tech centre Chris Bosh with the 4th pick proved to be the most positive move the team was able to make.

The changes continued, but this time it was the look that changed, as Canadian country singer Shania Twain helped launch the new red Raptors alternate road uniform, the first in team history. The jerseys made their debut in a 90-87 season-opening victory on October 29th against the defending Conference Champion New Jersey Nets. At the time many thought the new look was set to be a good luck charm for the team.

The high wouldn’t last long though, as the team tied a NBA record for fewest points scored in a game by dropping a 73-56 contest in Minnesota against the Timberwolves on November 1st. This offensive drought continued throughout the season. The Raptors finished last in the league in points scored.

Vince Carter was still half-man, half-amazing, as was demonstrated once again when he scored 33 points in the second half of a 99-97 victory in Atlanta in November. The 33 points in a half set a new Raptors’ franchise record.

With the team 8-8 on December 1st, general manager Glen Grunwald swung a blockbuster trade with the Chicago Bulls acquiring Jalen Rose, Donyell Marshall, and Lonny Baxter in exchange for Antonio Davis, Jerome Williams, and Chris Jefferies.

This new move made an impact quickly as the team reeled off a five-game winning streak after the trade, including a team single-game record 17 three-pointers made on December 3rd. But, as if someone turned off a switch, the Raptors lost momentum right away, following the winning streak by going 1-6 in their next seven games.

Although the offence struggled, the defence was thriving. On February 8th, the Raptors held the Golden State Warriors to only two points in the fourth quarter of an 84-81 road victory, tying an NBA record. After winning their next game on February 10th, the Raptors sat at 25-25, with just one game before the All-Star Break, when that old injury bug came back to, once again, plague the team.

Jalen Rose (fracture in left hand, missed 16 games), Vince Carter (sprain in left ankle, missed 6 games), and Alvin Williams (knee surgery, 25 games) all fell victim as the club limped to a record of 8-24 the rest of the way. Oh, and those good luck jerseys? The team went 2-11 wearing them, losing their final nine. The Raptors ended up missing the post-season for the second straight season with a final record of 33-49.

On April 1st, the team relieved general manager Glen Grunwald of his duties, two weeks later head coach Kevin O’Neill was dismissed on April 16th.

The one shining spot on the season was rookie Chris Bosh, who finished the season first among league rookies in blocks and rebounds, earning himself a spot on the got milk? NBA All-Rookie First Team.


Rookie Chris Bosh looked dazzling in an otherwise disappointing season