Wednesday, November 10, 2004

SPORTS: Raptors titilate

For the first time this year, the fourth quarter of a Raptor game has provided me with enough dead air to do other things. Tonight, the Toronto Raptors got rolled by the Sacramento Kings, a winless congregation with twice the talent. And the result was a perfectly predictable result. The last two years, Toronto couldn't keep within 30 of the Kings on their court.

Still, the Raptors have turned in three entertaining, full game efforts at the House Vince Carter Constructed. Each game has featured an energetic second unit that has made the 40-minute starter game a distant thought. The backup quintet for the Raptors of Donyell Marshall, Morris Peterson, Milt Palacio, Lamond Murray and usually Matt Bonner has been a revelation. There's scoring from all five spots, continued Point Guard energy from Palacio and a surprisingly effective rebounding duo in Marshall and Bonner. Until the Kings' beheading, the second team had been the difference in each game. Even in a night Sacramento dominated the second quarter was a saw-off, largely due to the efforts of the non-starters.

The difference, as was almost true Sunday against Portland, was the lack of game from Chris Bosh and Loren Woods. The Raptor front-court had been the difference-maker in season-starting wins over Houston and Detroit. Bosh will return to form soon. He's got too good of a game. But Woods is a hit or miss player with few hits on his resume. Still, if he can keep Marshall in a backup role and Bosh out of the middle, even a pointless, 10 board performance makes him a worthwhile starter. Still, a few games closer to the double-double he turned in against the Pistons would go a LOOOOONG way towards making the Raptors a competitive team.

Toronto is just starting a six-game, nine day trip through the wild, wild west. A couple of wins would give the Raptors a winning record upon the return to the now freezing Great White North and would be a shock to most pundits. The same pundits who had trouble deciding between predicting a 1-8 or 2-7 start to the season. This team can be a decent squad. It will take a 10-man effort most nights, but coach Sam Mitchell has shown early that he's got just that plan in mind. The Woods situation is the key. If he, or Jerome Moiso (or some combination of both) could be an 8 and 10 player, the Raptors might just have the material to surprise folks.

On the other hand, one Carter injury and the delicate balance built up early will crumble. Should be entertaining watching regardless.

TV: Premiere WindUp

While work commitments have intruded, I have had a chance to catch more of the debut shows for new shows this fall. And hallelujah, there is some good stuff worth watching.

Best of the shows I've seen thus far has been Lost. But a close second is UPN's Veronica Mars, starring Kristen Bell as the cute and sassy social outcast daughter of sheriff-turned-PI Enrico Colantoni. Veronica was formerly belle of the ball before her father tried to down the town's leading light for murdering his daughter, Veronica's best friend, Lilly. Money won out and Veronica was soon on the outs with the elite set. That gave her time to become a present-day Nancy Drew. The stories are entertaining and Bell, who reminds me of a spunky geologist I know, is a break-out star.

I wish I was about a generation younger. I'd lust after Veronica Mars but understand life as we know it's cast of characters more. It's all youthful hormones, including the hoary "student's hot for teacher" cliche. And, like Dawson's Creek, said student gets his heart desire. Enough already. But this show is worth watching for one thing, Kelly Osbourne. She's comfortable in her skin and sassy (there's that word again) and a revelation. e.e. cummings' affectations aside, I do think you have to be a certain age for this show not to come off as a waste of time.

The series you HAVE heard about, Desperate Housewives, has a through-line that reminds me of Veronica's "Who Killed Lilly" thread, while populating a street right out of Knots Landing with Twin Peaks wannabes. I can watch Terri Hatcher and Eva Langoria for a long time, but I'm put out with many of the other characters, including Nicolette Sheridan. Say, wasn't she in Knots Landing? Yep, still the man-killer. I know folks have jumped on this show as an ode to the better half, but I have to think this show only goes so far. Flavour of the month feeling. It will fade as soon as Hatcher has her Sam And Diane moment with affable Mike, played by Jamie Denton ... who might not be as friendly as he appears.

Flip the channel. Do it again. Surely, by this time, you've passed some channel showing a poker tournament. Celebrity Poker takes all the game out of Poker and injects it with some truly inane conversation between Hollywood's C List of actors. Fold.

The names and the talent that populate The Centre of the Universe should make for a good show. But when you spend the big bucks for the likes of John Goodman, Jean Smart and Ed Asner, you might be a little tight in the writing budget. Sure shows. Yet another Goodman show that shows he can't front a sitcom. A great character actor, but he needs a bigger light to take the spotlight away.

Well, that's the end of debut season. Time to take a second look at second episodes since I last wrote about the shows. Next entry, promise. And it won't be a month from now, promise.