Back before the Christmas Day start of this pell-mell, lockout-shortened season, Kelly Dwyer shared the news that the Toronto Raptors planned to salute Canada's armed forces by becoming the first NBA team to wear camouflage jerseys during their March 21, 2012, matchup with the Chicago Bulls. Wednesday was March 21, and sure enough, it happened. Let it never be said that the Toronto Raptors are not men of their word.
They are not, however, men of exceptional basketball-game-winning talent, as evidenced by the 15-32 mark they brought with them into their tilt with the Eastern Conference-leading Bulls. They are now 15-33.
When you start 1-of-11 from the field in the fourth quarter of a shockingly winnable game against a Bulls squad without reigning league MVP Derrick Rose, get outscored by 19 points in the final frame and lose by 12, people are going to notice. Even when you do it while wearing uniforms evoking a method of concealment allowing otherwise visible things to remain unnoticed. Actually, judging by this morning's post-mortems, especially when you do it while wearing those uniforms.
The mainstream media went pretty straightforward with their Raps goofs. Doug Smith's column in the Toronto Star ran under the headline, "Toronto Raptors disappear for fourth quarter in 94-82 loss to Chicago Bulls." Similarly, Robert MacLeod's gamer for The Globe and Mail followed the heading, "Camouflage-clad Raptors disappear in fourth quarter." Dwane Casey's team "completely disappeared during a 4:11 span of the fourth quarter that will go down as their worst stretch of the season," according to James Bisson of the Canadian Press.
We got a little bit of variation in the blogosphere because, y'know, Web 2.0. Matt McHale of Bulls blog By The Horns put the disappearance theme down, flipped it and reversed it: "The Raptors were wearing camouflage uniforms in honor of Canadian Armed Forces Night, but they couldn't hide during that final period."
Sharply monikored blog Holy Craptors offered a two-fer, hitting the "disappear" theme in its post's headline before following up with a lede that called the Raptors' fatigues-inspired kit "appropriate, because I'm sure that by the end of this one, all those poor members of the army were pretty fatigued by the home team's performance." Over at HoopsAddict, Ryan McNeill went in a different direction, congratulating the Raps for "tanking" on Canadian Forces Night.
It's plain to see (visibility joke) that getting punked while wearing leafy alternates opens the door to getting made fun of more than usual, so maybe the Raps should pump the brakes on this particular method of supporting the troops next year. (Unless, of course, sales of the camo gear are brisk — as Joseph Casciaro writes at RaptorBlog, 20 percent of all proceeds "will go toward the Canadian Military Families Fund." If people are buying 'em, wear 'em all the time.)
Then again, Toronto could be better next year — with Lithuanian center/possible wizard Jonas Valanciunas set to mount up next season, another (likely high) lottery pick coming in the 2012 draft, about $17 million in cap space available and a full year of Casey's coaching possibly nudging the young Raps toward the top of the league in defensive efficiency after moving from league-worst to middle-of-the-pack in Year 1, the squad could be much more competitive in 2012-13.
Still, just in case, a brand of camo that better blends in with the surrounding environment could help. A "more hardwood-y" hue, perhaps, or one that you need special glasses to see without getting a headache. Just spitballing.
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