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The Raptors are one of the great stories of this NBA season.
For one thing, they are fun to watch. For another, they were put together in unconventional fashion by new GM Bryan Colangelo. Critics booed his acquisition of T.J. Ford, and scratched their heads at his commitments to players better known in Europe like Anthony Parker, Andrea Bargnani, and Jorge Garbajosa.
But they're good! Way better than most people expected. When the Raptors clinched a playoff spot ten days ago, I'd argue a couple of things changed permanently.
Here's what I wrote at the beginning of the season:
The Raptors, under Bryan Colangelo, made several bold international moves, bringing in a top Italian executive and several players from the Euroleague. If the Raptors are a force--and they showed some very promising signs in the preseason--brace yourself. Everything you thought you knew about the NBA is about to change, and the floodgates will be opening for European players, European coaches, European front office executives, European training techniques, European development systems, and European trash talk.
Stay tuned. It'll take a while. But I stand by that.
Another permanent change is coming to, on the chest of a blogger? Way back when TrueHoop was independent, we helped ESPN involve some bloggers in ESPN.com's team previews. The Toronto preview included this from Ryan at HoopsAddict:
What would it take for you to get a tattoo of the Raptors' logo on your chest?
Bryan Colangelo left his mark on the franchise when he gutted the roster and restocked the team with a former slam dunk champ, a player who won a title with the Spurs, the top pick in the draft, a former lottery pick and a handful of European stars.
The Raptors' roster now reflects the cultural mosaic of Toronto, and brighter days ahead. It's up to the players to leave their mark on the NBA, especially in the postseason.
If they do that this year, I'll leave a permanent mark on my body, in the shape of a Raptors logo.
Ryan, we want photos.
UPDATE: Raptors Assistant GM Maurizio Gherardini is on Chad Ford's Daily Dish Podcast. Very interesting. He's impressed by the grueling nature of the NBA schedule.