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11 Toronto Raptors When Vince Carter went down last season, Toronto's fortunes went up. Now he's healthy--and he'll take the fall if this team fails

Oct. 28, 2002
Oct. 28, 2002

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Oct. 28, 2002

NBA Preview 2002-03

11 Toronto Raptors When Vince Carter went down last season, Toronto's fortunes went up. Now he's healthy--and he'll take the fall if this team fails

The Raptors opened their training camp in Waterloo, Ont., but it
may as well have been Elba. A somnolent town halfway between
Toronto and Buffalo, Waterloo offers little in the way of
diversions like nightlife. Following two-a-day practices at the
municipal gym, the players retreated to their austere quarters at
the Waterloo Inn and.... "Uh, there's gonna be a lot of roaming
charges on the cell bill," predicted swingman Morris (Mo Pete)
Peterson. "Coach decided to get all boot camp on us this year."

This is an article from the Oct. 28, 2002 issue

Lenny Wilkens has never stood accused of being an intense
taskmaster, but tough love may be precisely what his enigmatic,
phlegmatic team needs. Picked by many to reach the Finals last
season, Vince Carter hobbled through many games, and on March 22,
with the team seven games under .500, he shut it down for the
season, then underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. The
Raptors regrouped, winning 12 of their final 14 games to make the
playoffs before falling to the Pistons. "It showed that
basketball is still a team sport," says general manager Glen
Grunwald. "Plus it showed that we have some good players besides
Vince."

A cynic might say that Carter's value to the team is
questionable, but, to a man, the players have a more charitable
spin. "We took away a lot of confidence from the end of last
season," says center Antonio Davis. "Now we're thinking, If we
continue to play hard, imagine how good we can be with Vince. The
sky's the limit, man."

One player crucial to these great expectations is the 25-year-old
Peterson, who flourished in Carter's absence. Over the summer
Wilkens informed Peterson that he would be spending most of his
time on the blocks at small forward. Forewarned, Peterson
forearmed himself, adding seven pounds of muscle to his 6'7"
frame as well as some low-post moves. "I don't want to give away
too much," he says, "but think spin move."

His 42-inch vertical leap notwithstanding, the other Raptor being
asked to elevate his game is Carter. Notoriously sensitive to
criticism, he is well aware that he has slipped a few notches on
the Next-Jordan-o-Meter and that a growing legion of fans and
peers questions his desire. He came to camp talking tough,
promising to exact revenge on opposing players who took advantage
of his gimpy knee and vowing that the nights "when I don't come
to play" are over. "Now," he says, "I'm turning it up from the
jump ball and turning it off when I'm in the ice bath." --L.J.W.

COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES A DIFFERENT SLANT Despite his star status, Carter enters the season eager to reestablish his value to the team.COLOR PHOTO: GARRETT W. ELLWOOD MO' BETTER After soaring in Carter's absence, third-year man Peterson has earned a starting spot at small forward.

FAST FACT
Before the '01-02 Raptors, only the 1976-77 Bulls and the '96-97
Suns had made the playoffs after losing 12 or more games in a
row.

ENEMY LINES
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Raptors

"Vince Carter doesn't have to score 30 to prove that he's back,
because everyone knows he can do that. What's going to define
Carter in a positive way is if he works to play defense and deny
every pass, improve his shot selection, dive for the loose ball,
fight for the offensive rebound--and do all the things that will
lead his team to win games. Your best player has to be your
leader, but I don't think Carter has it in him to do those
things.... We try to play Carter physically, give him a little
pop every time we can, and he shies away from it. That's why you
see him taking a turnaround, fallaway 20-footer when he could
pump fake and drive into the lane.... Carter is their only guy
who causes matchup problems. Their bench is weaker than last
year, and it's thinnest at his position.... To win, they're going
to have to run for easy transition baskets, and that's Mo
Peterson's strength: He'll get three or four layups a game by
outhustling you downcourt. Peterson has range out to 22 feet, but
he likes to set his feet and measure the shot, so you make him
put the ball on the floor and shoot off the dribble.... If Hakeem
Olajuwon retires as expected, Antonio Davis is the best at
creating his own shot among their big men, and that's a problem.
He doesn't have the greatest hands. If you can get on Davis
early, he will lose confidence in his shot, and it can affect him
for the rest of the game.... Lamond Murray has a reputation for
being a cancer, but they need his scoring. Until they traded for
him in September they had only 75 points per game based on last
year's production.... Alvin Williams looks healthier and stronger
after being bothered by a leg injury during the final quarter of
last season. He isn't the prototypical point guard, but he has a
lot of confidence. He's the type who will miss five in a row then
make the shot to win the game."

DEFENSIVE RATINGS

Tough D
WILLIAMS

Fair D
DAVIS
PETERSON
MONTROSS

No D
CARTER

PROJECTED LINEUP
2001-02 record: 42-40 (tied for third in Central)
Points scored: 91.4 (25th) Points allowed: 91.8 (4th)
Coach: Lenny Wilkens (third season with Raptors)

STARTERS PVR* 2001-02 KEY STATS

SF Morris Peterson 83 14.0 ppg 3.5 rpg 2.4 apg 1.16 spg 43.8 FG%
PF Antonio Davis 40 14.5 ppg 9.6 rpg 2.0 apg 1.08 bpg 42.6 FG%
C Eric Montross 244 2.4 ppg 2.9 rpg 0.3 apg 0.47 bpg 40.2 FG%
SG Vince Carter 9 24.7 ppg 5.2 rpg 4.0 apg 1.57 spg 42.8 FG%
PG Alvin Williams 92 11.8 ppg 3.4 rpg 5.7 apg 1.65 spg 41.5 FG%

BENCH PVR* 2001-02 KEY STATS

F Lamond
Murray[1] 117 16.6 ppg 5.2 rpg 0.99 spg 43.6 FG% 42.4 3FG%
F Jerome
Williams 198 7.6 ppg 5.7 rpg 1.1 apg 1.15 spg 49.0 FG%
G Lindsey
Hunter[1] 217 5.8 ppg 1.6 apg .80 spg 38.2 FG% 38.0 3FG%
C Nate
Huffman(R)[1] 316 18.8 ppg 7.5 rpg 1.6 apg 61.2 FG% 39.1 3FG%
F Michael
Bradley 327 1.2 ppg 0.9 rpg 0.1 apg 52.0 FG% 50.0 FT%

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for Israeli League)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 92)

WE PLAY CARTER PHYSICALLY, GIVE HIM A POP EVERY TIME WE CAN; HE
SHIES AWAY FROM IT.