We've hit the All-Star break, and I really just wanted to take the time to say a few thank-you's to the 2013-14 Toronto Raptors and the season they have put forward so far.
Thank you for laughing in the face of all those people who wanted this team to lose games, and instead becoming the Atlantic Division's standout. Don't give me "oh, the Eastern Conference is a joke", the Raptors are playing high-quality ball, and, as evidenced particularly by games against the Pacers and the Heat, are not afraid to trade punches with the competition's heavyweights.
Thank you for always fighting, and not throwing the towel in when tough situations arise. Think Dallas, OKC and Brooklyn; games practically out of reach where the team's spirit has saved them, and brought them back to signature wins. In the eyes of a fan, there is no greater intangible characteristic for a team to have than that cliche "never say die" attitude.
Thank you for listening to, and respecting, the wishes of the fans. While I know Masai Ujiri probably wasn't monitoring Twitter and thinking, "the fans don't want Rudy anymore, get him out of here now!", the overwhelming consensus was that his play was dragging the team down. Ujiri acted on this, and has transformed the team, clearly for the better. The same goes with the Lowry situation- I feel that the fans want Lowry to stay and (with Demar) lead the Playoff push. The trade deadline hasn't passed, but good on Ujiri for seemingly showing reluctance to trade such a key piece to the team's success.
While I love and respect all our players, thank you to our young stars, Valanciunas and Ross, who continue to tease and show what the future of this franchise holds. And thank you to DeRozan and Lowry for playing All-Star calibre basketball, carrying the team on a nightly basis.
Thank you for giving the fans of this team a reason to love basketball again, and to be proud of our team. Call me overly positive if you like, I know I'm getting a little bit carried away. But this team has turned a serious corner this season; we're not that joke, easy-beat team that loses in hilarious circumstances, regularly. We take care of easy business, steal games we have no right to win, and look set to have a real crack at the playoffs.