Good morning! It’s Monday, we’re at the ACC, er, Scotiabank Arena, and the Raptors are ready to introduce themselves in advance of the 2018-19 NBA season.
Now, of course, we’re familiar with most of the players appearing in a Raptor jersey today. Our old favourites, such as Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas will be around — but there’s also time for Greg Monroe, Danny Green, and yes, Kawhi Leonard. (And this is to say nothing of new head coach Nick Nurse.)
There’s not much to report yet, but this is where Sean Woodley and I will be putting as many updates as we can throughout the day.
First up, the tentative schedule:
Here's the Raptors Media Day schedule, featuring.... Kawhi.— Raptors HQ (@RaptorsHQ) September 23, 2018
10 a.m. – Nick Nurse
10:30 a.m. – Masai Ujiri, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green
11:20 a.m. – Kyle Lowry
11:30 a.m. – Jonas Valanciunas
11:40 a.m. – C.J. Miles
11:50 a.m. – Fred VanVleet
Nick Nurse just finished talking. He said he’s loving what he’s seeing so far from Kawhi. Didn’t have much to say about any other players specifically. And, in an interesting turn, confirmed that there has been some communication between Leonard and Kyle Lowry — though he also said, jokingly, that he doesn’t monitor off-court communication between players.
Now, in advance of Leonard, Danny Green and Masai hitting the stage, here’s the link to the live stream of the Raptors Media Day presser:
We can confirm that it’s all real. Kawhi Leonard is on the Raptors. So it Danny Green. And the marriage between franchise and superstar looks on the surface to be off to a totally fine start.
Kawhi smiling in a Raptors jersey RT for good luck pic.twitter.com/YsBjZnxh14— SB Nation (@SBNation) September 24, 2018
Kawhi’s responses were brief, as you might expect. He touched on the type of person he is (“I’m a fun guy”) while remaining guarded about what happened in San Antonio and what the future might hold for him. The presser was heavy “one day at a time” talk you tend hear from pending free agents.
Asked about his relationship with Kyle Lowry, Leonard said they’d talked back and forth mostly about on-court, basketball-related things. “Once we get to play together, that’s where we’ll really get to know each other,” he offered.
What could have been a tense and awkward experience for all was peppered with comic relief, mostly from the mouth of Danny Green, who joked about Kawhi receiving all the question, and who seems like the very best dude in the world. There was also the poor San Antonio Express News reporter who got sent all the way to Canada to get his question about Leonard’s fallout with the Spurs shut the hell down.
As he is wont to do, Masai Ujiri was the talk of the presser by the time it wrapped. After a series of questions on Toronto’s inability to hold on to players over the years, and the sell job the Raptors have undertaken with regards to Kawhi’s future, Ujiri pretty clearly got fed up and decided it was high time to cut a promo for the city of Toronto.
“Guys, the narrative of not wanting to come to Toronto is over, that’s old. Believe in your city, believe in yourselves,” he said to a flourish of applause by the collection of fans in attendance.
Masai forever, dude.
Oh, and it looks like the Raptors have a new OVO jersey.
“The OVO jerseys, that’s what sold me (on playing in Toronto),” said Green.
Kyle Lowry just finished talking, and he addressed a few things with his typical style. First thing to note: Lowry reminded us all that he usually does not talk at all during the summers — so his somewhat churlish attitude at the USA Basketball practice should not surprise.
On the trade of DeMar DeRozan, Lowry was quick to say that Masai “made a decision” and that his job is to show up and go to work. Obviously, as Lowry also confirmed, his relationship with DeMar goes beyond basketball; he said they spoke as recently as yesterday, and it’s clear that while DeRozan is no longer in Toronto, they’re still good pals.
Lowry didn’t have much to say specifically about the team, what it’ll be like playing with Kawhi, etc. etc. My (Daniel here) personal highlight was near the end of his presser, when Lowry said every team he’s been on has had a chance to win, further clarifying it to say they always had a 50-50 shot at the title. The math in no way works out, but you’ve got to love the confidence.
Now we wait for JV, C.J., and FVV.
Sadly couldn’t get close enough to the Valanciunas scrum to get much of a read on his mood. That said, after the crowd dispersed, there was a brief debate: is Jonas now the longest tenured Raptor, owing to the fact that he was drafted the year before Lowry joined the team, or does he share the title with Kyle because that’s when he officially hit the court? A debate for the ages.
C.J. Miles was up next. He spoke about working out with Danny Green (Miles lives in San Antonio in the off-season), and reflected on the options the Raptors have now, given how many shooters they have on the roster. Not surprisingly, Miles confirmed that not much else changed with his off-season preparation; whichever players the Raptors have on the roster, Miles is putting in the same amount of work.
He also got in a great zinger as VanVleet started chirping from outside the scrum. FVV was extolling Miles to shorten his answers, so he too could have his moment under the camera lights and be done for the day.
Miles’ response, with a grin: “Short? Like you?”
Fortunately, FVV is tougher than that, and no zingers could keep him away from his duties. VanVleet continued with the Raptors company line, speaking of the team’s commitment to each other, and taking care of business. Someone finally asked him about the other Raptors acquisition, Greg Monroe, to which FVV said they’ve already been working with him, integrating Moose into what the Bench Broskis want to do, and getting him up to speed on the tempo they want to play. FVV also mentioned that Monroe will probably get his chance to play in the post, and also acknowledged him as a “great passer.”
OG Anunoby made his first appearance of the new season — and lucky us, he’s largely maintained his deadpan demeanour. Case in point: when asked about the DeRozan trade he said he (and the other guys) were surprised, shocked even, but he relayed this information with no change in inflection.
OG also confirmed he’s at 100 perfect finally, health-wise, having had a full summer to work on his game. Look out NBA.
For now, we’ll end there on the thread. Let loose with the comments, and check back from continued updates from Joel Stephens as the presser videos come available. We’ll also have a podcast coming shortly.