Why I Can’t Love These Raptors

By: Nikolas Theodorakidis | @nikolastheo

It’s not a secret that I love Toronto sports. In fact, talking about them is one of the only ways my family connects with me. I have an opinion on every team–except the freakin’ Argos–and I’m usually willing to share them with you.

But I do have a secret. One that I don’t like to talk about. That secret being that I don’t really like the Raptors in their current form.

I know, I know, blasphemy. Believe me, it hurts me to say it. Some of my earliest sporting memories include the 2000-01 Raptors run and my first taste of Toronto heartbreak was Vince Carter’s missed shot in Game Seven against the Sixers. The team holds a special place in my heart, so when last year’s squad set a franchise record for wins in a season and I could only think of their flaws, it was disheartening.

My biggest complaint is that as the play of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry goes, as does the team. They have the ball in their hands on almost every possession, and often the possessions end late in the shot clock with a contested mid-range jumper. If you look around the NBA, this isn’t a style that the most successful teams use.

To see how this style of play might not work, you have to look at last year’s playoffs. Yes, I know, they made the Eastern Conference Finals, but in how many of their games were the Raptors actually enjoyable to watch? I remember pulling my hair out watching the playoffs and seeing possession after possession of missed shots and broken down plays. Yes, they made the Eastern Conference Finals, but it all could’ve gone much worse. The Raptors struggled to put away the Pacers in the first round, and got through the Heat after they had lost their two top big men.

The team was very close to another playoff disaster and could’ve been a very different looking team this year. We know that head coach Dwane Casey would’ve been fired if the team had lost to the Pacers, and who knows if DeMar DeRozan would’ve left in free agency or if the Raptors would have let him. And this year has come, and the Raptors are playing the same way.

However, there is a possibility that I’m wrong and that’s mostly due to the play of DeRozan. Through seven games of the regular season, DeRozan is scoring 34.1 points per game, enough to lead the league in scoring. Inspired by a less than flattering ranking from Sports Illustrated that saw him listed as the 46th best player in the NBA, DeRozan has put up 30 or more points in six of the first seven games, something that only Michael Jordan and Bernard King have done before.

But I have to wonder if DeRozan playing this well can last forever. There are still so many shots that he takes where I find myself grimacing, only to relax when he makes them. If he slows down, the Raptors could be in trouble. That happened in the Raptors’ game against Sacramento this past Sunday, where DeRozan went 7-for-20 from the field and resulted in a five-point home loss to a team that is not expected to do much this season.

I won’t go as far as to say the Raptors are a bad team. That’s simply not true. They have the seventh best Net Rating in the NBA this season and look poised to fight for the division title again this year. But my point is that they might not be good enough and don’t show enough growth in their playing style to warrant belief that they will be able to make it to the Finals or even a repeat appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals.

So while the season is off to a great start, I can’t shake the feeling that it will have a disappointing ending like it has the past three years. I can’t shake the feeling that when it comes down to it, my head will be in my hands lamenting bad possession after bad possession.

For my sanity and the sanity of Raptors’ fans everywhere, I hope I’m wrong about these Raptors.

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Featured image via Sportsnet

“We Want Kobe”: City bids farewell to Bryant during his final game against the Raptors

The Raptors managed to secure a win from the Lakers at the ACC Monday night. Yesterday evening’s game was especially eventful not only for the team’s victory but also because it would be Kobe Bryant’s last time playing against the Raptors.

Last night’s game was an opportunity to watch Bryant play his final game in the city, and Torontonians were definitely feeling the love. The crowd gave him a standing ovation and chanted “We Want Kobe” during last night’s game. Fans also took to Twitter to express their disappointment about missing the game, and to bid farewell to Kobe Bryant.

Bryant announced that he will be retiring from professional basketball after the end of this season. This year will mark his 20th season with the NBA and the Los Angeles Lakers, the only team in the NBA for which he has played. He was initially drafted by the Charlotte Hornets but was quickly traded to the Lakers.

The 37 year old shooting guard, who holds five NBA championship titles, announced his imminent departure with a poem on The Players’ Tribune. In the poem he explains that while his heart and mind remain committed to basketball, his body cannot stay in the game forever. His tweet to the piece, titled “Dear Basketball”, was shared over 100,000 times.

The Raptors won 102-93 against the Lakers.

Featured Image from NBA.com via YouTube

Tomorrow’s Drake Night at Raptors game expression of rapper’s Torontoᵀᴹ

One thing’s for sure: Drake either has a wicked understanding of marketing, or he’s hired one stellar team. Love him or hate him, he has effectively moulded the city in his image. Branding is about crafting associations, and there is no mistaking his fingerprints are all over what it means to be from Toronto.

Tomorrow’s Raptors game against the Cleveland Cavaliers will be another expression of Drake’s TorontoTM. It will be the Raptors’ third annual Drake Night, established after the rapper and singer-songwriter was named the team’s global ambassador in 2013. Initially intended as a way to entice a larger crowd with the promise of free merchandise and the city’s star in the stands, this year’s Drake Night is taking place during a game already expected to draw a huge turnout. Fans at tomorrow night’s game can most likely expect to receive free OVO merchandise following the recent release of the joint Toronto Raptors Mitchell & Ness OVO clothing line.

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Toronto Raptors Mitchell & Ness OVO attire now on sale at Real Sports

At least the release of this line has run considerably smoother than the premiere of the Raptors’ new logo last December. A version of the new logo was put up then taken down, and observers criticized it as being a tad unoriginal due to its similarity to the Brooklyn Nets logo. Drake was noticeably unhappy with the choice. He distanced himself by responding to criticism from social media users, tweeting that he had nothing to do with the redesign.

The Raptors managed to win their games during the last two Drake Nights. Here’s hoping that pattern continues tomorrow evening.