1996-97: Giant Killers on the Rise
|Success is relative, and so a 30-52 record in only their second season in the league was cause for celebration in Toronto, where the Raptors improved by nine games from their inaugural season.
At times, the Raptors were a team that belied their inexperience. Toronto was one of only 11 teams to topple the Chicago Bulls. The Raptors also defeated each of the three other eventual conference finalists - Houston, Utah and Miami. Mysteriously, the Raptors had more problems with teams that were not of championship caliber, including three losses to the 15-67 Boston Celtics.
Like his team, prize rookie Marcus Camby showed flashes of brilliance. Camby shook off early season injuries and flourished down the stretch, including games of 36 and 37 points, en route to a berth on the NBA's All-Rookie Team. Toronto's other young star, the speedy Damon Stoudamire, ran the Raptors' offense with the precision of a crafty veteran, finishing sixth in the league in assists (8.8 apg) and 19th in scoring (20.2 ppg).
Journeymen Doug Christie and Walt Williams found a home in Toronto. Williams tied a team record by nailing six three-pointers during a win over Minnesota, and finished among the league leaders in three-point percentage (.400). Christie finished second in the league in steals (2.48 spg) and was the runnerup for the league's Most Improved Player Award.
Forward Carlos Rogers made international headlines after offering to donate a kidney to his ailing sister, a move that would have ended his career. But a virus weakened Rene Rogers, and she died before the transplant could be performed. Rogers dedicated his season, and his career, to his sister. "Everything I do now is for Rene. My sister fought a long and hard battle. I'm not going to let what my sister went through be in vain."
Marcus Camby was named to the All-Rookie First Team as a member of the Raptors.