It’s not often the Raptors are the talk of the NBA world. The team’s been on a slow upswing for a few years now, first as an upstart, then a hopeful striver, and now a legitimate powerhouse, but we’ve often been waiting for the narrative to catch up. As a Raptors fan, you know the story.
Today, things are a bit different. Owing to a six-game win streak and a matchup tonight with the Cavaliers for first place in the conference, Toronto is suddenly everywhere. Even the King, LeBron James, has taken notice.
LeBron on Raptors: "They've had our attention for the last couple years. I think they've had the NBA's attention"— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) December 5, 2016
While we here at HQ have done what we can to highlight how awesome the Raptors have been as of late, it’s decidedly satisfying to see them acknowledged by other NBA media bigwigs (as it were). So with that, check out not one, not two, but three nifty Raptors stories that all came out today. Hit the music and let’s go.
First up, we have Brian Windhorst of ESPN and an in-depth piece on DeMar DeRozan, who is building his legacy in Toronto in the fashion of his hero, Kobe.
"Kobe had an aura around him when he was on the court; he intimidated all of us. I was inside a video game," DeRozan said. "I'd watched him growing up. I watched Kobe do everything. His shot. His footwork. How he works in the post. Everything growing up was Kobe. I tried to emulate the tough shots he took, his pump fake. There's nothing you can show me that Kobe has done on a court that I don't know about or have tried. I practice almost all of them."
Next up, for those of you with ESPN Insider accounts, we’ve got Kevin Pelton digging through the Raptors’ offensive numbers, which, as we’ve already noted, are historically significant.
The Golden State Warriors might have the best offense in NBA history, as I wrote last week. Over the last 10 games, however, the Warriors haven't even been the best offense in the NBA this season. That honor belongs to the Toronto Raptors, who have put together an elite offense without the kind of MVP-caliber talent Golden State possesses.
Pelton compliments the Raptors’ offensive balance and their efficiency — with a special note regarding their ability to get to the free throw line. And then, as we’ve seen lately, KP highlights something we know: when the Raptors are shooting well, look the hell out.
Finally, over at SI’s The Crossover, Ben Golliver has an interview with head coach Dwane Casey. I’ll give him the last word here, as the team prepares for their showdown with the Cavaliers.
Ben Golliver: You went to the conference finals last year and you brought back the same core. Do you think teams like the Cavaliers and Warriors look at you differently now? The Warriors seemed to come in with a different edge on Drake Night, like they wanted to make a statement.
Casey: “I don’t know. I don’t know if we’re a ‘statement game.’ We stick to our business. We’re trying to catch Cleveland. We’re trying to get where they are. You’d have to ask them that. We should be mentally ready and prepared to play everybody. Whether they circle us on our calendar or not, I don’t know. We’re trying to catch them. We’re trying to get where Golden State is. Until we do that, the onus is on us to get the job done.”
LATE BREAKING UPDATE:
Can also now include this story from the Undefeated on Masai Ujiri and tonight’s Giants of Africa event. If you were wondering how Masai got into basketball:
What was your introduction to basketball in Nigeria?
I was walking to the football field, going to play soccer. In the town I grew up in, you had to pass the basketball court. [My friends and I] were walking through the basketball court with a soccer ball, and we stopped sometimes to shoot it before going on to play soccer. And, as we continued to stop on that basketball court before we got on to the soccer field, the stops kept getting longer and longer.
Seriously, the Raptors are the best.