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Toronto Raptors Will Surprise the Doubters in 2010

By Ryan McNeill

Last week ESPN released their first power rankings of the season and the fact they had the Raptors at the bottom of their standings didn’t sit well with some of the players on the team.

Sonny Weems briefly glared at a reporter when told about this.

Linas Kleiza shook his head and then grinned at what he perceived to be a foolish report.

Others, like Jose Calderon, tried to chalk ESPN’s initial rankings up to a writer making an innocent mistake.

“I think they always make some mistakes,” Jose Calderon told me while smirking. “Hopefully we can change those expectations. I think we can surprise a lot of people because we’ve got a lot of young people but we also have a lot of talent.”

Meanwhile, the other point guard on the team, Jarrett Jack, feels that rankings so early in the season aren’t worth the paper they are printed on.

Or, in this case, they aren’t worth the time it takes to read them online.

“I don’t really pay attention to them,” Jarrett Jack tried to convince me. “I think if you dig up the rankings from last year then you’ll find nobody knew much. Rankings don’t bother me because at the end of the day you still have to go out and play.”

Once you dig through the normal sports cliches that will spill out of media day this afternoon, you will find a group of players that don’t want to show up for games just collect a pay cheque. Instead, fans will be impressed to find a group of players that want to rise above expectations and make a little bit of noise this season.

As a collective they realize this is a great chance to improve their reputations around the league if they are able to gel and rise above what many expect them to be capable of as a team.

And, if some silly rankings from ESPN at the start of training camp serves to fire the team up, so be it.

“It should,” new addition Linas Kleiza told the media when he was asked of the rankings will help motivate the team. “All of us are here in Toronto because we compete on a night-to-night basis. If people think that then we are definitely going to try to go out there and prove them wrong.”

This sentiment was echoed by Weems but mixed in with his own unique sense of bravado.

“It’s just a bunch of guys who sit behind a desk and all they do is talk,” Weems vented to the media. “So no, it doesn’t bother me. Whatever they write and feel is just their opinion. I really don’t care what they think.”

However, just because he doesn’t value that opinion, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t care or notice.

In fact, it appears these power rankings will give Weems something he will use to fuel himself this season.

“It definitely gives you motivation because you always want to prove people wrong,” Weems later admitted to the media.

Hopefully the team is able to use this slight to help fuel them on their way to proving their many detractors wrong this season.

If not, these early season rankings may prove to be right on the mark.


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