The Toronto Raptors are in Dallas as they get ready to take on the Mavericks tonight. With a 9-14 record, the Raptors currently hold the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and are a game back of first in the Atlantic Division. The Mavericks sit at 15-10, which is good enough for sixth in the Western Conference. Though both teams are battling for playoff spots, tonight's game may not seem all that entertaining or important, but in fact it's exactly the opposite. In the midst of there being a game tonight, the Raptors will be squaring off against three former friends. Three players who used to play for the Raptors at one point or another, each leaving their own unique mark on the team and in the city. Let's take a look at these players.
Calderon started his NBA career in 2005 with the Toronto Raptors. He was signed out of Spain and was known more for his play making ability than his shooting. He struggled in his rookie season, averaging 5.5 points per game and 4.5 assists per game on 42.3% shooting. He also shot 16.3% from three point land. Calderon, who was 24 at the time, was not a good shooter but had a strong work ethic and wanted to improve.
Many point guards who can't shoot don't last in the NBA and only play a few seasons. Calderon didn't want that to happen to him so he worked on his shooting. A lot. And he got better. A lot better. After a rough rookie season shooting the ball, Calderon would go on to be one of the best shooters in Raptors history and set a NBA record in the process.
Calderon played eight seasons with the Raptors and a total of 525 games which ranks second only behind Morris Peterson for most in team history. He has the team record for most assists with 3770 and has recorded 19 assists in a game (twice), tying the most assists in game by a Raptor (Damon Stoudamire). Calderon made 456 three pointers with the Raptors, which is the fourth most in team history. He also led the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio three different seasons and finished top five a total of six times as a member of the Raptors. All of these are impressive stats, but not the one that put Jose Calderon in the record books. In 2008-2009, Calderon was lights out from the free throw line as he shot an astonishing 98.1%, good enough for the highest percentage in NBA history. He also made 87 consecutive free throws that year, the second most consecutive free throws made in NBA history.
Calderon was a true example of perseverance. He went from being a poor shooter to one of the best in team history, breaking records along the way. He was a class act while in Toronto and did a lot to help the community. He was a fan favourite and always gave his best when he was on the court. He was involved in point guard controversies almost each season, but kept a positive attitude and accepted whatever role he was given on the team.
On January 30, 2013, Calderon was traded to the Detroit Pistons in a three-team deal involving the Raptors and Grizzlies. In the trade the Raptors also gave up forward Ed Davis and acquired Rudy Gay and Hamed Haddadi from the Grizzlies. Calderon's time in Detroit was short as he finished the 2012-2013 with them, but then signed with the Dallas Mavericks in the offseason.
Some of you may be confused. Shawn Marion was a Raptor? Yes, but only for a short period of time. On February 13, 2009, Marion was traded with Marcus Banks to the Raptors for Jermaine O'Neal, Jamario Moon and a future draft pick. His arrival was much anticipated as "The Matrix" was one of the more athletic and entertaining players in the league. Unfortunately for the Raptors, he only finished that season with the team, playing in a total of 27 games.
He averaged 14.3 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game for the Raptors and temporarily provided them with an answer at the small forward position. Marion was a free agent after the year and was signed and traded by the Raptors to the Mavericks in a four-team deal that also involved the Raptors landing Hedo Turkoglu. Marion has been with the Mavericks ever since the trade.
Last, but not least (or maybe least depending on who you ask), is Vince Carter. Whether you hate him or love him, there is no denying that Vince Carter was the most impactful Raptor of all-time. Originally drafted by the Golden State Warriors, Carter was traded for Antawn Jamison on draft night as the two teams swapped selections. Carter burst on to the scene in 1998, averaging 18.3 points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game in his rookie season. He would go on to win the Rookie Of The Year that season.
Carter would go on to play six and a half seasons for the Raptors, appearing in a total of 403 games. He averaged over 20 points per game in five of his seven seasons and was regarded as one of the league's top players. He set team records, became a fan favourite and provided exposure to an up-and-coming team.
Let's take a look at Vince Carter's accomplishments in his time with the Raptors:
- Slam Dunk Champion in 2000 (arguably the greatest Slam Dunk Contest of all-time)
- Five-time NBA All-Star often leading fan voting each year
- All-NBA second team in 2001, All-NBA third team in 2000
- Eastern Conference Player Of The Week 15 different times
- 9, 420 points (second behind Bosh)
- 23.4 points per game career average with the team (highest in team history)
- Fourth in assists (1553) and rebounds (2091)
- Second in blocks (415) and third in steals (534)
- Most field goals made (3541) and third most three pointers made (554)
- 385 points in the playoffs (most in team history)
- 27.6 points per game in 2000-2001 (highest in team history)
- 51 points in a game (most in team history – vs. Phoenix in 2000)
Here is a video of one of Vince's best performances and one of the best performances in NBA history. It is Game Three of the 2001 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals where he scored 50 points in a Raptors 102-78 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Vince was unbelievable that series as he battled with Sixers star Allen Iverson. The two of them had a duel for the ages as they continually went back-and-forth in efforts of winning the series. Iverson averaged 33.7 points per game in the series, scoring 50 or more points two separate times. Vince also had a great series averaging 30.4 points per game. Of course most of us remember how the series ended on the final shot in game-seven, but what gets lost in all of it is how it started and how the team got there. It was because of Vince that the Raptors even had the opportunity to go that far. Without him who knows if they would have even made the playoffs.
Vince Carter is remembered most for quitting on the Raptors and admitting that he didn't try during the later stages of his time with the team. He left on bad terms and the Raptors didn't really get anything for him when they traded him. Many fans are still bitter and angry at the way he left the team. Could he have handled himself better? Yes. Could the Raptors have handled themselves better? Yes. We are all upset that the Vince Carter days had to come to an end, especially the way it did, but instead of remembering Vince as a quitter or remembering him being an "injured cry-baby", we should remember Vince for what he deserves to be remembered for – a player that put this team on the map. He gave them National attention in the United States, he sold out arenas, and he brought entertainment to the city of Toronto. There hasn't been and will very likely never be a player who will have the same impact that Vince did with the Raptors. He did so much for the city and the team early on in his career, and for that we should thank him.
So as the Raptors get ready to take on the Mavericks tonight, be sure to keep a close eye on the former-Raptors and see how they do.
The game tonight starts at 8:30 pm. ET.
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