With Jose Calderon questionable for Sunday’s game against the Heat, Will Solomon and Roko Ukic will have to step up big time and play like they belong in the NBA. I think the fact that the Heat offer a back court of Mario Chalmers and Dwyane Wade. Chalmers is averaging 6.5 points per game and handing out 4.6 assists per game. Mario had 9 steals against the 76ers. Wade on the other hand is one of the premier off-guards in the league and has had 30+ points in his last 4 games and is averaging 28 points per game and 6 rebounds and nearly 8 assists. The pre-season line on this team was that it was ready to again move up the Eastern Conference with Shawn Marion up front along side the rookie Michael Beasley who brings his 16.4 points and 6 rebounds to the floor. With Marion nursing an injured groin and questionable for tonight’s game against the Wizards, I am not sure if he will be available to play Sunday. Tonight will be the third game he has missed. He has not played as well as we are used to with only 10 points per game this season but is always a force defensively that I am sure the Heat are missing right now. With Marion out, the Heat have started Yakhouba Diawara who has scored only 8 points in the 2 games. The front court is rounded out by Udonis Haslem and his 14 points 8 rebounds a game.
The Raptors will need to find a way to stop Dwyane Wade! I know that is no great revelation, but it is the truth. Without Jose bringing pressure from the back-court, this team will struggle to keep Wade on his heels. Our front court of Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Bosh with Andrea Bargnani off the bench should handle anything the Heat offer up front. I am worried about Beasley and his effectiveness off the dribble from any where in the front. This game will be won by solid team defense. Weak side awareness will be critical to keep Wade and Beasley from slashing us all day long. I look for our front court to have good games and need a complete game from guys like Jamario Moon and Jason Kapono who MUST play defensive ball. Pylon defense or relying on shot blocking will not contain these two very good ball players and with no Jose to bail them out from the outside, WHO will step up and lead this team? I wonder if Sam has considered starting Andrea at the 1 spot? Just kidding, but that would be interesting and we need a shake up at this point don’t we?
The fact is, this Raptors team has dreaded this idea all season and now is forced to play the hand they are dealt with no Jose Calderon in the lineup. This team is weak on the bench, weak on the outside both offensively and defensively and very thin at the guard position with Anthony Parker needing to step up Sunday and bring some scoring to the mix while trying to contain Dwyane Wade. That will be no easy task. Is this team up for the challenge? We shall see very quickly when the Heat come to town. Next week brings us the Magic and the blocking machine and probably the best Center in the league Dwight Howard, then we go to Miami to play the Heat again, then host Vince Carter and the Nets. With 4 games this week, our back court had better find a way to get the ball where it needs to go, the front court and play some defense. We need to get a handle on our offense and keep this season together while we adjust to the challenges shown so far this season.