Notes from the North
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Under the right circumstances, I'm capable of becoming a huge basketball fan.

I've covered university basketball (both men's and women's) for student media up here in Canada  and I've followed NCAA and NBA ball as well.

So I was pretty pleased to find myself sitting in front of my television last night, my golden doodle curled up at my side, the trick-or-treaters gone home to bed, watching the Toronto Raptors opener against the Pacers.

And I liked what I saw. That Jonas Valanciunas looks like a heck of an addition. He's a 6-11 forward from Lithuania and showed a nice combination of skills, commitment and energy in the minutes he played last night.

Valanciunas appears to have the ability to play tough inside while still hitting the outside shot, complementing current Toronto star Andrea Bargnani perfectly.

The Lithuanian also plays with a great deal of passion and energy, working as hard as any other player on the floor.

He played only 23 minutes in the game against Indy but managed to post a double-double (12 points, 10 boards), not a bad debut. If he's got a weakness, it seems to be in the area of getting himself into foul trouble early. Of course, it's a little early in his NBA career to put that label on him...

I was impressed with what I saw in the early going from this exciting, energetic, international Raptors team. It's no surprise, then, that I woke up this morning and responded with disappointment to find out that they let the game slip away in the fourth, long after I had gone to bed.

The Raps have been improving under head coach Dwayne Casey and, from this first game at least, it looks like it is going to be another exciting year in Toronto.

Can the Raptors make the playoffs? I'm not sure but, from what I saw from Valanciunas and his new teammates in game number one, they're going to be in every game they play.

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