TORONTO - At the ripe old age of 26, Amir Johnson - the teams second-most experienced player - is one of only two Raptors starters that can give a firsthand account of what it will be like to compete in the postseason. "All he says is, its crazy," DeMar DeRozan told reporters following Torontos win over the Pistons Wednesday. The Raptors longest-serving members, Johnson and DeRozan have had two coaches and 56 different teammates in five seasons with the club, all without appearing in a single playoff game. Before becoming a fixture in Toronto, Johnson logged 56 minutes in 11 postseason contests spanning over two seasons with the Pistons. At the time, the forward was primarily a spectator, mentored by the likes of Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton and Antonio McDyess. Johnson is a man of few words but hes shared a couple with DeRozan, who is poised to make his playoff debut next month. "Amir says one word and you really just have to go off that one word, how he explains something," said the Raptors all-star guard. "Everything is crazy to him. So, he always says its crazy." "Its crazy, D," Johnson interjected from his locker on the far side of the room. "See, so its crazy," DeRozan continued. "Playoffs are going to be crazy." Up until this season, DeRozan and Johnson had endured 190 losses to just 119 wins in Raptors red. They havent played in a meaningful late-season game since their first year with the team, Chris Boshs last. Their bond is a unique one, as you might expect, having experienced the trials and tribulations of the Raptors four-year playoff drought together. "Thats my dog, man," DeRozan said of Johnson, both hail from the state of California. "Amirs known me [since] I was running around with the same pair of dirty shoes on playing basketball. We always used to look up to Amir, especially in LA. He was a big star and everything. Its definitely cool just to be here with him." "People dont know, Amirs my cousin," he said with a smirk, jokingly, we think. "You can ask Amir." So we did. "Oh man, I dont know," he responded, this was news to him. "I have no idea. Somewhere down the line, I guess. I guess were cousins, I dont know. Ive got to talk to his mom, talk to my mom and see." DeRozan, the Raptors leading scorer, is enjoying a career year but the playoffs - as coach Dwane Casey has cautioned - are a different animal. The atmosphere is intensified, the competition more fierce, scoring opportunities are harder to come by, weaknesses are magnified and in a seven-game series the oppositions scouting report will undoubtedly feature DeRozan. Theres been a steep playoff learning curve for Raptors stars of the past. Bosh, Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady each shot under 40 per cent from the field in their first postseason series. Making his playoff debut as a 23-year-old in 2000, Carter shot just 30 per cent, turning the ball over nearly three times per contest in a three-game sweep to the Knicks. Even with that in mind, DeRozan believes hes more prepared than most. While many players on losing teams find it far too maddening to watch their peers compete for a title in April and May, the Raptors guard has done just that each year hes missed out, making notes and using them for motivation. "I had to [watch]," he admitted, "just to understand, to see how it was. Youre playing the same team, possibly seven times. Just to understand that and see the different schemes out there and try to really get a knowledge of how its played." "Thats why I work so hard. It always bugged me going home early, just sitting there, doing nothing. It used to make me so hungry. Ive got a lot of friends that play in the playoffs and Ive always got to hear them all summer talk about their experience in the playoffs. Its always pushing me even further. I just want to get there, not even for myself, just for this organization as well. It definitely feels good that were moving in the right direction now." Zinedine Zidane France Jersey
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. Messis 75th-minute goal answered some of the criticism the clubs all-time leading scorer had received for his lacklustre performances in the teams recent losses in the league, Champions League and Copa del Rey final. NEW YORK -- On a day when dozens of Yankees greats were back on the field in pinstripes, Goose Gossage was overwhelmed to be the centre of attention. The Hall of Fame reliever with the blazing fastball and bushy moustache was honoured by the team on Old-Timers Day with a plaque to be put in Monument Park. "This is the greatest day Ive ever had," he told the sellout crowd of 47,493 at Yankee Stadium. Joined on the field by his family and old-timers from Yogi Berra to Bucky Dent, Gossage unveiled his plaque at home plate and grabbed the microphone Sunday to chants of "Goooose" before New York hosted the Baltimore Orioles. "I played for nine different teams, and putting on the pinstripes was like the closest thing to an out-of-body experience Ive ever had," Gossage said. "Outside of the day my kids were born and going into Cooperstown, it doesnt get any better than this. Its awesome," he added later. "Just an amazing day. I cant even put into words what it means." Gossage pitched for the Yankees from 1978-83, helping them to a World Series title during his first season in pinstripes. He returned for 11 games in 1989. Back in his day, closers routinely pitched multiple innings -- and Gossage was no different. He went 42-28 with a 2.14 ERA and 151 saves for the Yankees, leaving him third on the clubs career list behind Mariano Rivera (652) and Dave Righetti (224). "What he did in his era was just incredible," former New York pitcher David Wells said. After spending so much time in the bullpen at the previous Yankee Stadium, just a few steps from Monument Park, Gossage said he never could have imagined having his own plaque out there with all the others. The inscription on his marker begins by calling Gossage "one of the most intimidating pitchers ever to don pinstripes." It becomes thhe 28th plaque grouped behind the centre-field fence, where seven monuments commemorate such all-time greats as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, along with late owner George Steinbrenner.dddddddddddd The tribute came one day after the Yankees presented Tino Martinez with a Monument Park plaque in a similar celebration. Gossage tipped his cap to the crowd, and a video montage of his Yankees highlights preceded his speech. Diana Munson, the widow of former batterymate Thurman Munson, gave the pitcher a framed replica of his plaque, and the team presented him with a flashy No. 54 ring outlined in diamonds. "I cant tell you what it means to me and my family," said Gossage, recalling that Old-Timers Day was always his favourite day of the year during his Yankees tenure. "I dont even really know what to say. Its totally overwhelming to me." When the ceremony was over, the old-timers took the field for a four-inning game. Ron Guidry was on the mound, Rickey Henderson led off with a double and Mickey Rivers made a smooth catch in right-centre to rob Martinez of extra bases. Jesse Barfield homered into the left-field corner off David Cone, who trotted from first to third right alongside the ex-slugger. "I always wanted to run the bases," Cone said. "The only way I could do it was to piggyback off Jesse." Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui each made their first appearance at Old-Timers Day, both drawing a big hand. Matsui came in from left field to pitch to Reggie Jackson in a made-for-Hollywood matchup of Godzilla vs. Mr. October. Berra and fellow Hall of Famer Whitey Ford, both in their 80s, waved from a golf cart and received standing ovations. Later on, still wearing his full uniform, Gossage threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Yankees played the Orioles. ' ' '