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Raptors Still Striving To Find Identity

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Video: Game Highlights | Triano | Kleiza | Calderon | Evans
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Mike Ulmer - raptors.com
October 27, 2010

TORONTO -- The theme of the Raptors opening night loss to the New York Knicks was identity.

Someone asked Jose Calderon in the post-game if they would have won this game with Chris Bosh in tow.

“Who?” Calderon said.

Later on, someone else asked Reggie Evans, the owner of 16 rebounds on the night, how he liked Linas Kleiza’s observation that Evans was the club’s version of Dennis Rodman.

“We lost the game,” Evans said. “Being D-Rod isn’t something that I have to have. I’m Reggie Evans.”

The score was 98-93 and the storyline of identity permeated every corner of the game.

Start with the beginning. It falls to the team’s best player to welcome fans back to the Air Canada Centre on behalf of the team. Don’t worry, he uses a microphone.

Andrea Bargnani stepped forward. “It’s great,” he said after the game. “I can show everybody how my English got better.”

Fighting through double and triple teams all night, Bargnani scored 18 first half points but only four in the second. Still, if there was any doubt, the opponents’ view that he is the most dangerous Raptor held up.

“I started well,” Bargnani said. “In the second half, I forced a couple of shots in the beginning. “ Bargnani admitted the non-stop attention wearied him.

“A little bit,” he said of the fatigue factor. “It’s still early in the season but that (conditioning) will come with games.”

The question of whether Bargnani wants to be team’s central prong was answered nicely, if only for one night. The second half swoon leaves open the question of whether he can do it. It’s early.

Now move to the discrepancy between the Raptors point guards. Jarrett Jack finished the night with seven points and five assists and if those are modest enough numbers they don’t speak to his fearless play and his four steals. Jose Calderon finished with 11 points but it was Jack’s commanding presence that produced the Raptors best moments. There was nothing in the game that suggested coach Jay Triano had anointed the wrong player as a starter.

Likewise Linas Kleiza. Kleiza turned in 13 points and five rebounds in his first game in the NBA after a one-year hiatus. Kleiza was as advertised, a smart player who can shoot from most everywhere from the floor but there is a toughness and competitiveness about his game.

Next to Evans, who in addition to the 16 boards blocked a shot and managed two steals. He attempted two whole shots and Evans fought the Knicks Amar’e Stoudemire like a man wrestling a bear in a phone booth. Stoudemire, playing his first game with the Knicks scored 19 points, none easy and committed nine turnovers. “I thought Reggie did a nice job,” said Raptors coach Triano. “He fought him, he made him turn it over and made him shoot less than 50 per cent from the field."

“Reggie is not ashamed of his role,” said guard Jarrett Jack. “Most guys would say I got 16 rebounds why are you not calling a play for me. Reggie is very comfortable in his own skin, a very selfless player. You can’t ask for anything more from a veteran leader.”

The Raptors inaugural performance carried enough promise to both excite and torture. The Raptors fell behind 16 but pulled to within a point in the third quarter. They just couldn’t regain the lead.

“We always had the opportunity to make a run but we never did,” Bargnani said.

Still…

“I think you saw first game jitters, guys rushing shots,” Jack said. “I am never satisfied with a loss but I like the effort we played with for the entire 48 minutes.”

Still…

The Raptors were beat by the Knicks depth. The Knicks’ bench outscored the Raps subs 41-33. The Raps had no answer for swingman Wilson Chandler who went off for 22 points and guard Raymond Felton ripped through the Raps for 15 points and six assists.

Still…

The first brushstrokes of the season have been drawn. There are only 81 more chances to get a perfect picture. Snapshots are dated the moment after you take them. Identity is forged over the long term.