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  Up Close And Personal With Raider Nation...

Nov. 1, 2010, 5:11 PM



By being on the road ... I missed my first Halloween with my son. But I'm sure he won't remember being a 'shark' when he was 16 months old! Hopefully I'm around for the Trick or Treat festivities when he's four, five and beyond ...

But being on the road -- in Sacramento -- allowed me the opportunity to check out the Oakland Raiders and the Seattle Seahawks.

Oakland is about a 90-minute drive from Sactown ... so I got in a rental car with Paul Jones and Jim LaBumbard and we headed down to the Bay Area.

We were lucky enough to get a couple of tickets in Michael Bush's (Raiders RB) player's box and the Raiders PR staff was happy to have us as guests as well ... so they hooked us up with a couple of press passes and invited us down to the field before kick-off.

These are some of the 'fringe benefits' of life on the road I guess. Time away from family and friends back home can be a grind but experiences like this are nothing to sneeze at!

Check out some of the pics from yesterday's game in this special Raiders Photo Blog!

Oh, and in case you missed it, Oakland WHOOPED Seattle ... 30-3.

As for the Raptors ... they were back on the floor for their game day shoot-around this morning. Jay Triano stressed the importance of transition 'D' against a Kings team that like to get out and run (especially Tyreke Evans) and the coach knows the Raps will have their hands full with a big front line in Sacramento -- led by rookie DeMarcus Cousins.

Jonesy and I will be on the FAN 590 at 9:30pm Eastern with the pre-game show and we'll have the tip off just after 10 p.m.

Have a good one folks,

E. Smith
Raptors Radio Analyst
twitter.com/Eric__Smith



  Familiar Faces Return To ACC...

Oct. 29, 2010, 3:11 PM



A few old friends return to the ACC tonight when Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon and Joey Graham come back in Cavs' uniforms.

I thought I'd take you (and me) down memory lane in today's blog ... and pass along the #1 thought that comes to mind with all three players from their time in Toronto. But instead of talking about on-the-floor memories, I figured I'd reminisce about the off-the-floor stuff that I'm lucky enough to experience via my travels with the team.

Let's start with AP ...

Aside from being one of the nicest players I've come across in my 13 years covering the NBA, what I respected and appreciated most about Parker was his respect and appreciation for the job the media had to do as well. He realized it was a two-way street and he never seemed to resent talking to reporters -- in good times or bad. Plus, early on, AP had actually expressed to me that he had a desire to one day get into broadcasting (when his playing days were over) so you could tell that he had a personal interest in the radio and TV side of things as well.

In fact, two summers ago, Parker took part in a 'camp' or course during the off-season that trains and schools current athletes for a potential career in broadcasting upon retirement. Perhaps that's why Parker became a bit of a regular on the FAN 590's "Hoops" show over the years -- even joining us in-studio a couple of times -- and within our pre-game shows as well.

It wasn't uncommon to just simply sit and chat with Anthony about his family as well and he always seemed to have a genuine interest in how 'you' were doing as well. You could talk to Parker like a 'normal' man ... not a jaded multi-million-dollar athlete.

The same can be said for Joey Graham ...

Joey had plenty of chances to shine here in Toronto, but the great success never came to fruition for him. However, it was not without effort and hustle. On the floor, in practice and even off the floor/in the community, few worked harder than Joey Graham. He adopted Toronto and the fans of the Raptors (most of them) seemed to adopt Joey as well and genuinely pulled for him as he continued to try to live up to the expectations the organization (and many of us) had for him.

The thing that stands out most in my mind though -- aside from his special Joey G nachos (traditional nachos with cheese, ground beef, tomato, etc., made on DORITOS instead of regular corn chips) -- was the way that he became 'Canadian' over the years.

No, he didn't get his Canadian citizenship or anything like that ... but he was a guy that went from a parka in his rookie year to a blazer in his final season in Toronto. From a youngster from the south who felt every chill in his bones in his rookie season in T.O., Graham quickly learned to love (or at least, 'embrace') the climate in Southern Ontario and the bundled-up parka, toque, and gloves were a thing of the past after just a few short seasons.

It wasn't uncommon to see Graham stepping off the plane at 2 a.m., in -20 Celsius temperatures in nothing more than his suit; no jacket, not hat, no nothing. We told Graham that he earned his citizenship in our eyes for that very fact. Cold? What cold?!

As for Mr. Moon ... let's just say I will leave the Madden battle in the Air Canada Club lounge at Pearson International for another day. He whooped me too badly for me to want to re-tell the story anyway (though many business travelers in the Club will remember Jamario for his music more than Madden -- he was thumpin' rap and hip-hop over his iPod and portable speakers the entire time).

When Moon first came to training camp with the Raptors -- looking to make the leap from the Globetrotters (and the D-League, of course) to Toronto, he was wide-eyed, excited, and full of youthful exuberance. He's still very-much like that to this day, but back then... he had no idea if he was going to actually crack the roster and fulfill his dream of making it to the NBA.

Yet as each practice and game went by in preseason, it became more and more evident that Moon had a shot at cracking the club.

During one of the final days of camp -- maybe two or three days before the rosters had to be set and final cuts had to be made -- I was heading home from the ACC and I bumped into Moon. We were heading the same way so we walked together for about 15-20 minutes and while we were wandering the streets of Toronto, I told him that I had heard -- from a couple of 'sources' within the organization -- that he WAS going to make the team. He looked at me, bewildered, and was speechless. He didn't know if he could totally trust what I was saying ... If I was feeding him some garbage or if I was legit; the real deal.

But I assured him that I was telling the truth and a few days later, when it was officially official, Moon took me aside with a big smile, saying "You told me so."

It'll be good to see all three at the ACC tonight ... but a win is important for Toronto as the Raps hope to avoid an 0-2 start with a four-game road trip coming up next.

Paul Jones and I will be on the FAN 590 tonight at 7pm ... bringing you all of the action between the Cavaliers and Raptors.

Have a good one folks

E. Smith
Raptors Radio Analyst
twitter.com/Eric__Smith



  We're Back On The Air Tonight...

Oct. 27, 2010, 2:30 PM

The FAN 590 is proud to be back as the voice of the Raptors.

Paul Jones and I return for our 6th season together and we're looking forward to calling the 82 ahead ... and hopefully more beyond that!

Tonight, we'll be on the FAN 590 at 6pm with a special 1-hour pre-game show before calling all of the action just after 7pm.

Then, after the broadcast of the Knicks and Raptors, Jonesy and I will host "The Rap" - our post-game show - until 10:30pm. This year we'll be doing our show from a new location ... inside Real Sports Apparel store at Maple Leaf Square. Be sure to stop by and say hello if you're at the game / in the area.

Enjoy the game tonight folks!

E. Smith
Raptors Radio Analyst
twitter.com/Eric__Smith



  Fact Checking...


Oct. 25, 2010, 11:30 AM

I'm not a big fan of blanket statements. They're bogus. You can't paint everyone with the same brush.

So let me just say that I'm getting a bit tired of -- and frustrated by -- MANY (not ALL) of the writers and broadcasters in the U.S. that continue to slag the Raptors and the city of Toronto. Many will throw out half truths -- or complete lies altogether -- and do very little research into this market and its place in the NBA.

If you don't believe that the Raps will make the playoffs this year -- and may finish dead last in the East -- that's your prerogative. I don't agree with you, but that's your right to say/think/write that. I believe Jay Triano's team is being underestimated. I can't guarantee a post-season berth but I'd be willing to bet they're not at the bottom of their conference come April.

If you don't believe that Toronto can attract top tier free agents because they're in a foreign country -- and Americans, especially, don't want to come here -- that's your prerogative. I don't agree with you, but that's your right to say/think/write that. I've said millions of times that WINNING cures all and players will come if you establish a consistent, winning culture. Five playoff appearances in 15 years is what hurts Toronto more than anything else -- not being north of the 49th parallel.

But the ridiculousness from SOME of our friends in the U.S. continued over the past seven days ... the latest being a cartoon spread from ESPN/Marvel.

ESPN's parent company is Walt Disney. Walt Disney has recently joined forces with Marvel Entertainment as well. So when the folks at ESPN The Magazine drummed up an idea to feature a comic book-style cover for their NBA Preview edition, the artists at Marvel got to work and eventually created this:



But the Marvel folks also did up team-specific editions as well and this is what they created for the Toronto Raptors:



Although the picture looks pretty cheesy in my opinion, I don't have a problem with the art as much as I do with the text. When referring to guard DeMar DeRozan, ESPN The Magazine says he "might be the team's next star -- which means he'll fly the coop as soon as he can."

With all of the resources available to ESPN, you'd think they could do a better job of researching the facts and the history and uncover the fact that Vince Carter didn't leave town because he was tired of being in Canada. He left because he wanted a chance to win; something that failed to materialize for VC in his SIX+ seasons in Toronto. He signed a long-term extension here as well ... opting NOT to bolt to the U.S. when he had the chance to do so because, at that time, he thought the team was headed in the right direction. When that success didn't come (which he wears a big part of), then he orchestrated his exit.

Perhaps ESPN forgot about the facts surrounding Chris Bosh as well. Bosh didn't eave town because he was tired of being in Canada. He left because he wanted a chance to win; something that failed to materialize for CB4 in his SEVEN seasons in Toronto. He signed a long-term extension here as well ... opting NOT to bolt to the U.S. when he had the chance to do so because, at that time, he thought the team was headed in the right direction. When that success didn't come (which he wears a big part of), then he orchestrated his exit via free agency ... something many people now believe was in the works since the day he, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade came into the league together. So was it "Canada" that drove Bosh away, or the lack of winning in Toronto and the grand plan he and his buddies had to play together one day?

The situations involving Damon Stoudamire and Tracy McGrady shouldn't even apply. Not only has Stoudamire said in recent years that his decision to ask out of T.O. was one of his biggest mistakes and regrets, but he was also the first star on an EXPANSION team in a foreign country. At that time Canada WAS an unknown to most of the American and European players and the league did this team (and the Vancouver Grizzlies) no favours by preventing expansion clubs from being able to have the #1 pick in the NBA Draft. Heck, Allen Iverson may have been a Raptor if not for the league's rules -- which, by the way, have been changed since. McGrady simply made a foolish decision. But he was young and immature. While he may not have liked seeing curling highlights on his evening sports shows, he didn't leave Toronto because of that. He wanted to be a star. However, even Kobe Bryant has pointed out in years gone by that if TMAC had stayed in Toronto -- with the Raps having two young stars (VC and McGrady) surrounded by smart, experienced veterans like Antonio Davis, Charles Oakley, Muggsy Bogues, Dell Curry, and more -- it would have been the RAPTORS that the Lakers would have been battling for the NBA Championship year after year.

DeRozan may leave one day, but I'd be willing to bet -- RIGHT NOW -- that if he walks it won't be out of haste and it won't be due to some disdain for Toronto or Canada overall. It will come (IF it comes) because the Raptors didn't succeed on the floor and achieve post-season glory. That's it.

Need I remind ESPN or anyone else that it was just a few short years ago that Kobe Bryant was doing his damnedest to get out of LA ('cause the Lakers weren't winning and he didn't see a future there) and not long ago Paul Pierce was part of a 24-win team in Boston and was hoping like hell to get out of Beantown and get a fresh start somewhere else?

So let's quit with the Canada-bashing -- veiled or direct -- and get the facts straight, okay?

E. Smith
Raptors Radio Analyst
twitter.com/Eric__Smith
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  Visiting The Bell Centre On Game Day...


Oct. 22, 2010, 1:30 PM

As a guy that grew up in Burlington, Ontario ... sandwiched between Toronto and Buffalo, NY ... I became a Sabres fan as a kid. I'm not anti-Leafs by any means, but due to availability of tickets (or lack thereof) at Maple Leaf Gardens, I would head over the border with my family to the old Buffalo Auditorium more often than not.

Anyway, whether I'm a Sabres guy or a Leafs guy ... I'm NOT a Habs guy. The fan inside me 'hated' the Canadiens. That disdain probably had more to do with my brother liking Guy LaFleur more than anything else ... but I digress.

However, whether I like(d) the Habs or not, I was truly looking forward to getting a glimpse of history today when I had a chance to go inside the Canadiens locker room to talk to the Raptors. The Raps have set up shop for the evening in Montreal's dressing room while the New York Knicks are in the visitors spot.

It was neat to see and feel the history though (even though seeing the original -- at the Forum, not the Bell Centre -- would have been better) and I'm looking forward to heading back in before the game tonight. And I've got to say this as well: KUDOS to the fans in Montreal who have gobbled up ALL of the seats for tonight's tip-off between the Raps and Knicks. A SELLOUT for a preseason game? Outstanding job, Montreal!

Have a good one folks ... and enjoy this quick 'photo blog'

E. Smith
Raptors Radio Analyst
twitter.com/Eric__Smith




  Preseason Number Crunching Around The NBA

Oct. 19, 2010, 11:36 AM

GO WITH THE FLOW

Alright, I know that preseason statistics mean very little in the grand scheme of things, but take a guess at who is #3 in scoring during the exhibition season?

He's a 'Lo from Denver ... but it's not CARMELO. It's Aaron Afflalo.

AA scored 18 points against the L.A. Clippers on Sunday and has now scored at least 18 points in all five of the Nuggets pre-season games thus far. this preseason. He is averaging 20.6 PPG.

Amare Stoudemire (NYK) - 22.8 PPG
LeBron James (MIA) - 21.4 PPG
Afflalo (DEN) - 20.6 PPG

Last year, Denver was 24-9 in the regular season and 2-0 in the playoffs when Afflalo scored at least 10 points ... so this could be a good, early sign for the folks in Colorado.

ROOKIE LOVE

Numbers for rookies can be skewed at times given the fact that youngsters are often the ones to play the bulks of minutes in the pre-season; trying to get them acclimated to the pro game. But when it's two TOP draft picks like John Wall and Blake Griffin ... who you KNOW will be getting heavy minutes even during the regular season, you have to wonder if their lofty numbers in exhibition play are a true sign of things to come.

Griffin is leading the NBA in rebounding at 12.3 boards per game (six games) while Wall, in six games as well, is #1 in assists per game at eight.

WHAT ABOUT THE RAPTORS?

Well, remember when some felt that 3-point shooting was going to be an issue for Toronto this season? The early returns from the preseason indicate that that may not be the case.

If you go by a minimum of six attempts, Toronto's Jarrett Jack is leading the league in 3-point shooting at 83.3% (5/6) but if you're looking for players with at least double-figure attempts, Raptors forward Linas Kleiza would be leading the way at 69.2% (9/13) in only 5 games.

Of note, LA Clippers guard Eric Gordon has already squeezed off 40 3-point attempts in only six games.

DON'T FORGET ABOUT AMIR3000

Amir Johnson is leading the league in FG% during the preseason. His 8/9 performance against the Suns was surely a big boost!

Johnson sits atop the NBA at 65% (26/40 FG) through six games. Teammate Linas Kleiza is fourth in the league at 60.0% (27/45) in five games.

That's a number that should stay high throughout the season for Johnson as he'll likely get a lot of his touches -- and buckets -- off of offensive rebounds, put-backs, and lobs under or around the hoop.

STICKY FINGERS IN T.O.

The Raptors are averaging 11.3 steals -- as a team -- during the preseason. They have a streak of six consecutive games with nine or more steals.

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Have a good one folks. Enjoy the game tomorrow as well!

E. Smith
Raptors Radio Analyst
twitter.com/Eric__Smith




  Game Day Tweet Spot...

Oct. 13, 2010, 2:12 PM

A blowout win over the Suns.

A tight battle, but a loss, against the Celtics.

A blowout loss to the Bulls.

Your guess is as good as mine RE: which Raptors team will show up against the Sixers tonight. However, after the lackluster effort in Chicago last night, I can't imagine Toronto not playing harder for Jay Triano tonight -- especially given the fact that this is the FIRST home game at ACC as well.

The Raptors did not shoot around this morning -- which is normally the case when playing the second game of a back-to-back -- so we don't know who will get the start tonight but I'm going to guess that Triano will go with an athletic line-up against the run-and-gun Sixers ... so I'll speculate that we may see Jarrett Jack, DeMar DeRozan, Sonny Weems, Andrea Bargnani, and Amir Johnson. We'll have to keep an eye on Linas Kleiza and his sore achilles as well.

But to get things fired-up on a game day ... let's dive in to another edition of THE TWEET SPOT:

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@MMTheRook - One Q Eric: Will the Raptors need to look in the trade market for a scorer at some point this season or are they good now?

@Eric__Smith - I'd say it's incomplete or "unknown" right now - only 3 games in. Scoring hasn't been an issue though - defence/rebounding has

@jpriemski - Do you think the new plays that Triano is running are ineffective in the NBA? And why aren't the players committing on D?

@Eric__Smith - Were you saying the same thing after the win over the Suns and the tight battle (loss) against Boston? Is the sky falling?

@Lewickipedia - Jordan said he could average 40/game if he played now. I agree. Do you?

@Eric__Smith - I'd never bet against MJ but I find that hard to believe. Ask Kobe or LeBron how tough it can be do get even 30 EVERY night

@marc_a_beaudoin - Are the raps still doing full practices on game days or have they returned to the normal shootaround routine?

@Eric__Smith - Game days ... shoot arounds. Off-days ... full practices.

@markhoffberg - You've had a couple games to see them now. Where do the Raps finish? ESPN has them 15th in the east...

@Eric__Smith - I still believe the East from 7 to 12 or 13 is a complete crapshoot. And I put Toronto in that mix -- NOT 15th (dead last - no way).

@Steeebo - Eric do you think Chris bosh represents +15 wins for the raptors given they won 40 last yr and are projected to win 25 this yr?

@Eric__Smith- I've said it before, and it's not a knock on Chris, but no ... I don't believe so.

@_Lenito - Picture it Raps in a pitiful Slump, losing badly, who on team/org starts feeling the heat BIG TIME?

@Eric__Smith - No question about 'picture the positive'? If it goes bad, like any sport or team, the coach gets looked at first; fair or unfair.

@kiko_baller - Hey E are the Raps televised today?

@Eric__Smith - Yes ... it's on Raptors TV. In fact, every game the rest of the way will be on Raptors TV. Sunday's game is on the FAN 590.

@FanSinceDayOne - Whats the latest on Klezia?

@Eric__Smith - We won't know more 'til later today given that the Raps didn't practice today. My understanding is it's not serious.

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Thanks for the questions folks.

Enjoy the game tonight and I'll be back again in this space before the end of the week.

Have a good one

E. Smith
Raptors Radio Analyst
twitter.com/Eric__Smith




  Happy Thanksgiving

Oct. 11, 2010, 11:46 AM


I have the honour - and luxury - of being able to cover a professional sports team in a major market in North America.

I'm lucky enough to hold one of only 5 jobs in the entire country (as a 'team broadcaster'); one of only about 120 in the entire world.

While others are performing surgeries, building our cities, or protecting the environment ... I'm being paid to watch and talk about sports.

I'm living a dream.

I'm sure Paul Jones, Jack Armstrong, Matt Devlin, Leo Rautins, et al would say the same.

Life is good.

But professional happiness can sometimes come at the expense of personal pain or struggles. That's why I know that today - and every day - I'm thankful for a wife that supports my career and my choices, 100 per cent.

It's not easy being married to me. My job takes me away from my wife A LOT. I'm on the road 7-8 months of the year; sometimes coming home for only a day or two before I'm back out on the road again. And even when I'm HOME, many days and most nights are spent at the Air Canada Centre ... covering the Raptors and following my dream.

I've worked on Christmas Day, hopped on an plane on Xmas Day, missed New Year's Eve parties, Easter dinner, and countless birthdays.

But my wife never complains. Though she has more dinners WITHOUT me than with me ... though she goes to bed most nights without me as well ... she backs me every step of the way and stands by my quest to be a better broadcaster.

Her job is not easy. I'm sure it gets lonely - and stressful - but she knows that I love her and while I'm striving to be a better broadcaster, I'm always working at becoming a better husband and man as well.

Even since welcoming our first child into the world 15 months ago, life has barely skipped a beat. While we both love our son to death, it's my wife that deserves the most credit for making the transition from 'husband and wife' to 'Mom and Dad' so smoothly for us while I was still travelling with the Raptors and reaching for the stars.

I miss her when I'm away. Many times I feel that I'm letting her down or that I'm simply not 'there' enough for her. And those feelings, I'm sure, will only intensify this year when the season begins and I'm leaving her AND my son behind. He was too young to know that Daddy was 'gone' last year ... but now he'll know. He waves when I walk out the door - which is both heart-warming and gut-wrenching at the same time - but he doesn't know that sometimes I won't be walking back through that door for a week or more. I can only hope that he'll understand one day why I do what I do and pray that the time that I do spend with him is enough. I love him more than life.

Family life - and seeing other family members and friends - is one of the FEW negatives that come with this job. But if you're blessed enough to have a wife and a son that love you and carry you as much as mine do ... then you can do and achieve anything!

Happy Thanksgiving babe ... and Happy Turkey Day little man. I love you both.

All the best everyone.

E. Smith
Raptors Radio Analyst
twitter.com/Eric__Smith



  One Fully-Loaded Tweet Spot

Oct. 5, 2010, 1:02 PM


The Raptors are well into Training Camp and folks like Matt Devlin and Jay Satur have you covered here at Raptors.com.

Unfortunately, due to hosting commitments and other duties at the FAN 590, I was unable to fly to Vancouver to enjoy (and 'cover') the festivities.

But I'm staying on top of all of the action from afar -- I have well-placed spies!

With Toronto getting set to tip off its first preseason game tomorrow -- against the Suns -- I figured we could get primed and ready with another edition of The Tweet Spot. And trust me folks ... this is a MONSTER Tweet Spot; the largest response I've ever had. I can tell that Raptors fans are hungry for the season to start!

Here we go ...

@TorontoJays90 - From what you seen so far who is your starting five?

@ Eric__Smith - It's still too early; haven't played a game yet. But to play along: Jack-Barbosa-DD-Bargs-Kleiza

@kisklutch - Bosh not bulking up as much this year. Good for him or bad?

@Eric__Smith - I think it's fine. He added good weight last year and played well with it. He'll never be a 'bruiser' - nor should he be

@robsarj - What are you most looking forward to with this Raptors team this year?

@Eric__Smith - Seeing how quickly the new faces (and Young Gunz) can gel and IF the overall unit can prove the critics wrong

@DS_I_AM - What's going on with Dampier?

@Eric__Smith - He's still making up his mind and trying to decide where he'll land next. I'm sure he's stalling on camp too :)

@Justin_Letto - Does this team appear to be more/less cohesive & if they do will it make a difference in win/loss record this season?

@Eric__Smith - It's still VERY early but I'll say more cohesive right now. Chemistry - at times, with some (not all) - was an issue last year

@JonathanJoubran - What's the latest on Dampier? Do you really think he'd sign? Honest opinion!

@Eric__Smith - See above. But, yes, I think there's a legit shot at him coming to Toronto. He'd get more PT here too

@JayDrysdale - Will Ed Davis start this year at any point?

@Eric__Smith - Honestly, that's impossible to know; too many factors (Playing well? Team struggling? And so on)

@Daoud_S - Will Weems get any consideration for starting at SF or is that Kleiza's to lose?

@Eric__Smith - Absolutely. In fact, Kleiza could be your PF. Further to that, watch out for Reggie Evans at PF too.

@MistaBiLL - How many points do you thinks this squad will give up per game. Biggest improvement? Biggest Regression? NBA in Vancity?

@Eric__Smith - 3 in 1 should be illegal! Alright: (1) Won't say 'til I at least see ONE game. (2) Energy/tempo. (3) Go-to scorer. (4) YES!

@mr_edward_nigma - Who do u think will be our most important bench player? Barbosa? Weems? AJ if he doesn't start? Jack/Calderon?

@Eric__Smith - Can we just go with ALL OF THE ABOVE? You hit 'em all, lol. I'll say Weems or Johnson if they're not starting.

@DJ_IvanaKent - Do you think the roster is set for now? If not, will a new player (i.e., Dampier) hurt the chemistry built in training camp?

@Eric__Smith - My gut says it's done - other than, MAYBE, Dampier. But I think he could be added in without upsetting the apple cart

@MrCaz78 - What's up Eric. Is Turk coming back to the ACC with the suns? For booing purposes ya know :)

@Eric__Smith - Yes. Twice. Once in the pre-season and once during the regular season (3 times if you count Vancouver's game too)

@dmasterdunk - Most surprising Raptor player this year will be ...?

@Eric__Smith - I think there are a lot of candidates given the roster overhaul and/or new roles for many. But I'll go with DeRozan ... taking a big leap in year #2
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Have a good one folks. I'll be back again before the end of the week.

Somebody in Van-City get Devlin a double-double (not on the court -- at Timmy's).

E. Smith
Raptors Radio Analyst
twitter.com/Eric__Smith

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