A play that illustrates the evolving state of the Raptors came
in their first preseason game last week. Second-year forward
Tracy McGrady had played a first half even he later described as
lackadaisical. But just seconds into the third quarter, he
exploded along the baseline and tried to jam over Celtics center
Tony Battie, who fouled him. Rookie swingman Vince Carter leaped
off Toronto's bench and yelled at McGrady, "That's what I'm
talking about!" Which is what, exactly? "It's time for him to
start acting [aggressively] like he ought to," Carter explained
Did his words take?
"They'd better," Carter said.
Carter, 22, and McGrady, 19, met while playing AAU ball in
Florida, and they became friends while Carter was at North
Carolina and McGrady at Mount Zion Christian Academy in Durham,
N.C. At a McGrady family reunion two years ago, a woman came up
to Tracy and asked, "Do you know Vince Carter? He's my grandson."
Says McGrady, "I thought, If she's at my family reunion.... I
told Vince we were cousins. He freaked out."
Not only are they family, but they're also the linchpins for the
fourth-year Raptors, who would like to scrape off the expansion
label glued to them like an expired vehicle-inspection sticker.
After a disastrous 1997-98 season that included changes in
ownership, management, coaching and damn near the whole roster,
the team starts over looking like McGrady's upper body: It has a
hint of definition. The 6'8", 210-pound McGrady added 15 pounds
of muscle in the off-season. At the outset of camp, he
bench-pressed 185 pounds 10 times. Before last season he could
do it only three times.
As a rookie McGrady floundered until the no-nonsense coach Butch
Carter took over for the fired Darrell Walker halfway through
the season. "Butch understands my talent," McGrady says. "He is
more like a father figure to me. If he said, 'T-Mac, take out
the trash,' T-Mac did it."
Wow! A Raptor talking trash. Will others follow suit? Vince
Carter is immensely gifted, but he's raw. Butch Carter must walk
a fine line between nurturing the young cousins, along with
second-year point guard Alvin Williams, and maintaining the
interest of aging frontcourtmen Kevin Willis, 36, and Charles
Oakley, 35. They're expected to make the paint less
inviting--the Raptors gave up more points, more offensive boards
and a higher field goal percentage than any other team in the
league last year--and to guide their inexperienced teammates.
Searching for a way to describe the cousins, Butch Carter says,
"They will make two out of five plays. We need them to make four
out of five." If the Raptors can win two out of every five
games, they can talk all the trash they want.
Starters PVR* 1997-98 Key Stats
SF Tracy McGrady 29 7.0 ppg 4.2 rpg 0.95 bpg 45.0 FG%
PF Charles Oakley[+] 121 9.0 ppg 9.2 rpg 1.56 spg 44.0 FG%
C Kevin Willis[+] 59 16.1 ppg 8.4 rpg 1.0 apg 51.0 FG%
SG Doug Christie 49 16.5 ppg 5.2 rpg 3.6 apg 2.44 spg
PG Alvin Williams 105 6.0 ppg 1.9 apg 44.3 FG% 32.1 3FG%
Top Reserves Bench Ranking (out of 29 teams): 13
G-F Vince Carter (R)[+] 101 15.6 ppg 5.1 rpg 59.1 FG% 41.1 3FG%
F John Wallace 159 14.0 ppg 4.5 rpg 1.23 bpg 47.8 FG%
C-F Michael Stewart[+] 186 4.6 ppg 6.6 rpg 2.41 bpg 48.0 FG%
1997-98 Record: 16-66 (eighth in Central)
Coach: Butch Carter (second season with Raptors)
[+]New acquisition (R) Rookie (1997-98 statistics at North Carolina)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 68)