Real basketball games with real stakes are less than two weeks away! With the beginning of the regular season upon us, you’re about to be bombarded with player previews, team previews, player rankings, and fantasy basketball news (shoutout to the other 11 losers in the Raptors HQ fantasy league).
Before the most anticipated season in franchise history kicks off, let’s take a moment to give thanks for all the people (and body parts) that have brought us here. Happy Thanksgiving!
Kawhi Leonard’s Smile
You thought I would’ve gone with his hands, huh — but look at this smile. This is the smile of someone who is excited to start anew. The smile of liberation. The smile of someone putting the past behind them and enjoying the present (because you wouldn’t want to trip over the present by looking into the future).
Is it just me or has Kawhi already smiled and laughed more as a Raptor than he did as a Spur? pic.twitter.com/VsanNXeRB7— Dayton (@306Raptors) September 28, 2018
Kyle Lowry’s Butt
In 1993, when Salt-N-Pepa released ‘Shoop’ and Salt rapped, “You’re packed and you’re stacked, ‘specially in the back. Brother, wanna thank your mother for a butt like that,” is it possible she was peering into the future and reading the minds of all Raptor fans? We all know Lowry’s got a booty. Salt-N-Pepa know he’s got a booty (either as psychics or as present-day basketball fans). Kyle definitely knows he’s got a booty. That extra cushion has served him well as he led the league in charges drawn last season.
Nick Nurse’s Mind
Look at this shot chart from the Raptors’ first preseason game vs. Portland. It’s the type of shot chart that would make Daryl Morey and Mike D’Antoni wet their collective pants.
I count 6 non-paint twos out of 69 shots so far for Toronto. pic.twitter.com/6QIV2Ln3C6— Ben Falk (@bencfalk) September 30, 2018
C.J. Miles’ Sociability
C.J. can miss his next 30 three-point attempts and I wouldn’t bat an eye — just keep making Kawhi smile!
CJ is officially untouchable pic.twitter.com/5944Tmy11b— Kawhi szn(IFB) (@kawhi__szn) October 1, 2018
Danny Green’s Voice
If you haven’t listened to Inside the Green Room, you’re missing out. Green’s podcast has been a refreshing look into the daily lives of NBA players. While all of Raptor fandom anxiously waited for Kawhi’s thoughts/words after the trade, Danny’s inaugural episode acted as the voice of reason and opened our collective eyes into what to expect. He expressed his excitement in joining the squad (something we were all hoping to hear from Kawhi, but still, it was reassuring to hear from Danny) and even hosted a subsequent episode live in Halifax. Danny also said he was confident Kawhi would love Toronto. As the Raptor with the most experience dealing with Kawhi, Danny’s words are music to the ears of a nation.
Fred VanVleet’s Resilience
Imagine for a second that you’re Steady Freddie. You’ve been a winner all your life (All-State first team selection in high school; 2-time Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year; led Wichita State to the first 31-0 regular season in NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball history). You throw yourself a party on Draft Night, despite receiving a surprisingly low amount of interest. The phone never rings. You’ve graduated from Wichita State as arguably the best basketball player in school history, but no employment awaits you at the next level.
Fast forward to present day. After leading the best bench in the league to the highest net rating and being named a finalist for the Sixth Man of the Year award, you’re now winning training camp competitions for an Eastern Conference juggernaut and aptly sporting a championship belt!
Norman Powell’s UCLA Scrimmage
Do you remember Playoff Norm? The Norm that saved the Raptors’ 2016 season (13 huge points off the bench in Game 7 win over Indiana) and 2017 playoffs (25 points in crucial Game 5 win over Milwaukee)? That same Norm was non-existent last season. He was injured to start, lost his starting role to rookie OG Anunoby, then couldn’t play his way back into the rotation as the Bench Mob’s chemistry created havoc every game. After an off-season of self-reflection and hard work, Powell appears to be back! Here is Norm relieving Paul George of his ankles:
This time Norm uses his Jack Armstrong voice — Get that gah-bage outta here — on former MVP, Russell Westbrook.
OG Anunoby’s Name
I previewed OG’s season here, so there are lots of things to be thankful with “Kawhi Lite.” What I failed to mention is how amazing his name is. When you hear ‘OG’, what immediately enters your mind? Original Gangsta? Oguagua (which is his full first name)? OG Wan Kenobi? You cannot go wrong with any of these. Similar to OG’s usage for the Raptors — guarding all five positions, playing an ancillary role on offense while the stars eat — Nurse can do no wrong with him.
Serge Ibaka’s Cooking
Do we know if Ibaka is a good cook? Or is this like one of those Food Network shows where the food looks good, but doesn’t actually, oh wait, it’s lamb’s brains. Definitely not good.
If you ignore the medulla oblongata of Little Bo Peep’s lost animal, you’ll see what Serge is really cooking: team chemistry. (If you rolled your eyes, imagine what my wife and daughters have to endure on a daily basis.) It’s inspiring to see Ibaka playing the role of glue guy, especially after an off-season like the Raptors just went through. Keep cookin’, Mafuzzy Chef!
Pascal Siakam’s Motor
Pascal was one of the league leaders in loose balls recovered last season. On any given Raptors game day, Siakam guarantees you at least two transition buckets, simply because of his speed and anticipation. According to BBall Index, he’s a solid player, offensively and defensively, in all areas except perimeter shooting. With his size, court vision, and length, Siakam will be a force for years to come.
Andy Reid’s Play-Calling
Has anyone ever seen Jonas Valanciunas and Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce in the same room together? Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has done a masterful job ensuring “Kelce” is highly involved in the offense and happy with his role — while keeping him healthy for Raptor game days!
Delon Wright’s Euro-Step
Although Manu Ginobili has retired, the legacy of his Euro-Step lives on. Like Tim Hardaway’s crossover dribble before him, Ginobili’s patented move has become a nightly sight throughout the NBA. Many have duplicated, but none have looked better than Delon’s. Check the one below, on Manu no less!
Masai Ujiri’s Mouth
Memo to all NBA GMs: DON’T. PICK. UP. THE. PHONE. WHEN. MASAI. CALLS.
(But, actually, please do.)
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!