It’s not quite the official start of the 2017-18 NBA season for the Raptors until media day. Yes, the day named for the journalists and reporters who cover the team (including me!) have decided this is the day it all begins — our day. And so, with that, we welcome all of you to a new season of Raptors basketball, the 23rd in franchise history.
This year, president Masai Ujiri will kick us off with a look ahead to the season, followed by coach Dwane Casey. After that, in ones and twos, the rest of the team will make appearances, with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan leading us off on the podium, followed by some of their, let’s say, higher profile teammates. Out on the practice court we’ll see the back half of the roster, and the six training camp invitees will be around — this includes names like Kennedy Meeks and the recently signed Andy Rautins. There will also be various scrums going on with the Raptors here and there. It’s a lot to take in at once.
In any case, to get you in the mood for the whole thing, there’s a great piece here from the Toronto Star’s Bruce Arthur on Masai and the youth movement happening right now with the Raptors.
This thread will be the morning’s home base. I’ll try to update it with tweets/photos as the minutes and hours tick by. Look for more coverage afterwards on this here site.
And naturally, feel free to let loose with your comments below.
Here’s how things will go on the practice court, with podium appearances happening at the same time.
Updates for Raps Media Day coming in approximately this order. pic.twitter.com/D6S6Pwg7xK— Daniel Reynolds (@aka_Reynolds) September 25, 2017
First up: Delon Wright. How’d he spend his summer?
Delon says he spent some time working with Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook, and DeMar DeRozan this summer. Not bad.— Daniel Reynolds (@aka_Reynolds) September 25, 2017
It’s also picture day. Here’s Jakob Poeltl, mid-pose.
Now we wait for Masai Ujiri.
Update: Masai Ujiri, gets this, expects to win. He was also asked about the recent political brouhaha in the States, with multiple NBA (and NFL) players protesting the anthem and taking well-deserved shots at the gorgon in the White House.
Ujiri was quick to say he supports his players “110 percent” and was heartened by the response from the likes of LeBron James, Steph Curry, Kobe Bryant, and others. As he said, when asked what he’d do if his players decided to speak out:
"I'll tell you one thing: no one is getting fired here." - Masai Ujiri (President).— Daniel Reynolds (@aka_Reynolds) September 25, 2017
And just to cover all his bases:
"If we win a championship one day...I think we'll be fine with Trudeau." - Masai joking that if Raps win, they get to go to "2 White Houses"— Joseph Casciaro (@JosephCasciaro) September 25, 2017
Now we head back to the scrums, and wait for Dwane Casey.
Casey got two (two!) folksy adages into his scrum — mentioning babies and bath water and his grandmother’s kitchen — while discussing the Raptors’ fortunes, the work to be done in training camp, and naturally, the protests happening right now in the US.
On that last point, Casey mentioned he didn’t like disrespecting the flag but also said that his players — and any athletes — should be able to exercise their first amendment rights and speak their mind. There’s added weight to any words Casey has on this subject as he’s the one guy on the Raptors who’s been through some of the worst the US has to offer on race relations and injustice. As he said:
“I came through the 60s and 70s. It’s eerily getting back to that if we’re not careful.” - Casey— (((Eric Koreen))) (@ekoreen) September 25, 2017
On the play front, Casey mentioned working to be the best version of the Raptors they can be, saying “there’s only one Golden State, only one Houston,” but confirming he believed in his guys and the team’s direction. There was a bit in there about adapting or dying, which fits given the team’s need to upgrade/modify the offense and try to match the insane pace of the modern NBA.
A line like this, speaks to the idea I’m talking about:
Dwane Casey says team has to use strengths of its players. "DeMar DeRozan isn't going to become Klay Thompson over night."— Daniel Reynolds (@aka_Reynolds) September 25, 2017
There’s no doubt Thompson is a better shooter and defender, but DeRozan’s skills have tremendous value too. The Raptors obviously need DeRozan to be as good as a defender as he can be, and if he manages to extend his range, all the better. But there’s still something to be said for leveraging the skills DeMar does have for the betterment of the team. We saw it last year, and there’s still a ways to go.
The updates are coming fast and furious now. We’ve had DeRozan and Lowry talk. (I unfortunately missed Norman Powell and Jonas Valanciunas on the podium.) Also talked a bit to Lucas Nogueira and OG Anunoby.
DeRozan sums up the new look Raptors:
DeRozan: "You get a different haircut, and you may look a little different, but you're still the same you." Think about it.— Daniel Reynolds (@aka_Reynolds) September 25, 2017
The bromance resumes!
Here's Lowry as DeRozan barges in and says "please ask him all the questions." pic.twitter.com/hEoXUgYVDA— Daniel Reynolds (@aka_Reynolds) September 25, 2017
Lowry then had some great responses to the questions regarding the political situation in the States. Back to basketball however, Lowry said he wanted to work on his leadership this year, and really bring the rest of the team along with him. He’s high on the roster, and had some very nice things to say about Fred VanVleet.
Lowry says he thinks Fred VanVleet is better than he was at that age/stage of career. Big words.— Daniel Reynolds (@aka_Reynolds) September 25, 2017
Meanwhile, Bebe has gone through some things this summer.
Update: Bebe has not one, not two, but six new individual tattoos on his face -- including a treble clef, a diamond and "self made".— Daniel Reynolds (@aka_Reynolds) September 25, 2017
Nogueira spoke again about proving himself, working in his game, and continuing to try to bring value to the team. Not sure he’ll get as much of a chance this year, but he wants it. He also said he didn’t say too much to his pal Bruno Caboclo, but did imply that it’s up to his “little brother” to make the decision what kind of player he wants to be.
On the flip side, OG Anunoby is extremely confident, answering questions through a stolid demeanour, but you can tell there’s a very wry sensibility flying past behind his eyes. At the very least, his interview game is at an elite level. Also: he’s already back to full contact, 5-on-5 basketball. So maybe he’ll be on the court sooner than we think.
And finally, Serge Ibaka took to the podium, spoke for about one minute (and mentioned he dropped 10 points!), and left. That’s the extent of it. Afterwards, the training camp signees came through including [squints] Andy Rautins?
Vince. Garbo. Amir. .......Andy. pic.twitter.com/BhzSeHiqp5— Daniel Reynolds (@aka_Reynolds) September 25, 2017
That’s it! That’s the end of media day. We’ll have some longer season preview posts up soon so keep your eyes open.
Onwards to the regular season!