The defending champion Toronto Raptors open their 2019-20 season, the one in which, again, they are going to defend the championship, tomorrow on Tuesday night against the New Orleans Pelicans. As has become something of tradition, the area outside Scotiabank Arena will play host to a tailgate party to celebrate not only the start of the season, but also the raising of the championship banner and the distribution of championship rings to Raptors players, coaches, and management. Have I said the word championship enough yet?
Everything will be going down in Maple Leaf Square — or as we like to call it for Raptors games “Jurassic Park” — starting with the unveiling of the Raptors Way signs that will mark the stretch of Bremner Boulevard between York Street and Lakeshore Boulevard West. (The press release says “ceremonially” so this unfortunately won’t last forever.) Mayor John Tory will also be on hand, but let’s try not to let that ruin the experience. On the positive side, the party will have art, giveaways, a live DJ, special guests, and a new even bigger screen from which to watch the game.
It’s in that taking the bad with the good that I come to you know with a list of Dos and Don’ts for the Raptors season ahead. Whether you’ve been a long term fan or are just joining the club after the gold rush, here are some things to keep in mind.
Do cheer like crazy for the defending champion Toronto Raptors
I feel like this perhaps doesn’t need to be said, but I’ll say it anyway: cheer for the Raptors. Cheer when they’re winning, cheer when they’re losing, cheer before the game, cheer during, cheer afterwards. There are many reasons to attend a professional basketball game, but one of the best ones is to get swept away by the pure emotion of the event. And watching a team that has just won a title grants everything that comes afterwards a special feeling. Don’t waste it.
Don’t boo Kawhi Leonard (and especially not Danny Green)
Small caveat here: there will be times where boo-ing is appropriate. I actually quite enjoy it when the crowd gets hostile regarding some particularly egregious call — I even enjoy a good “refs you suck” chant, if we’re being honest. There will be a time to boo certain players too (I found myself ready to boo the Nets’ Joe Harris last Friday and the season hadn’t even started yet). I get all that.
But upon their return, do not boo Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. The former was the main reason Toronto now has an NBA championship, and the latter clearly loves the city and basically left only because he wanted to secure the most lucrative situation for himself (which is something most of us would do if given the choice). Again, do not boo these legends in Toronto.
Do act like you’ve been there before
There is no longer any situation in which the Raptors and the fanbase have not yet appeared. Preseason games have been played here (and all over the globe), every type of regular season and playoff game has too, right on into the Finals — even the All-Star game has come through Toronto.
I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t get emotional about what has or will happen with the team, I’m just saying, hey, we know what this is all like now. We no longer have to act as if we’re getting screwed by some cosmic (or league) forces beyond our control. The Raptors have done it all now, we’re on top. We made it. No matter what happens from this day forward, we can say we’ve seen it all. (We’re even getting that Christmas Day home game we’ve always wanted.)
Don’t get too mad at every loss
The Raptors are going to lose some games this year. Better to just mentally prepare yourself for this outcome now. In fact, they will likely lose more games this year than they did last year — but keep some perspective: it can (and definitely has been) worse here in Toronto.
Do welcome every fan, even if they just joined up last season
Some people may not be ready for that aforementioned reality, the one in which the Raptors are not always atop the NBA world. As long time fans of the team, some of us are already aware of this. We watched this team in, say, 2005 when it seemed as hopeless as all get out. Not everyone knows all of the history, but that’s no reason to not welcome them with open arms anyway. We’re all in this together now.
Corollary here: Don’t feel the need to always explain that history to someone who doesn’t know it. If they ask, sure, go for it, but if they just want to watch Terence Davis get into on the court, there’s no need to bring up Terrence Ross or some such thing. Fellas, I’m talking to you in particular.
Don’t act like a gatekeeper
Just don’t do it. For some senior Raptors fans this may be a tough one, and I understand the impulse. For many years Raptors fans got a raw deal not only from the broader media apparatus, but from our own city. Toronto was known as a hockey town only, and the desire to even watch a Raptors game was met with extreme skepticism. “You want to watch that? But why?” It was a common enough refrain, and it has curdled some of our minds into a certain protectiveness that is ugly and unproductive.
If you’ve been with the team since the beginning, great — but even you must know that everyone has to start somewhere. Just let the people in to enjoy Raptors basketball. We all win in the end.
Do celebrate the veterans
There is a future scenario here where perhaps some of the Raptors’ veterans (namely Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and Marc Gasol) fall off or are traded away. There remains a strong likelihood that one or more will not end their careers in Toronto. Who knows what the future holds for them (or for anyone else, really).
In that spirit, let’s try to enjoy these guys while we can. There may be moments when they look mortal (as a 35-year-old baller myself who gets routinely dusted by younger players, I can relate), but let’s not hold it against them.
(Bonus Do: this can be extended to former Raptors who are no longer with the team but helped get them to where they are today. Of course, I don’t need to tell you to root for DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, and the rest but it doesn’t hurt to spread the good cheer around anyway.)
Don’t be too hard on the newcomers
Coach Nick Nurse can let loose on Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Matt Thomas, or whoever else he likes, he’s the head coach of the team and that’s kind of his whole job; he’s got to hold the squad accountable and decide who has earned the chance to play. As for us, while we can maybe be disappointed in how things go for some of these players at times, let’s try not to get too carried away here — they are still human beings trying their best.
And from another vantage point it’s worth noting that the Raptors as an organization are not bringing in guys who want to dog it, they are just not that kind of franchise anymore. Each and every member of the roster right now is ready to work, they’ve shown as much in word and deed. While it may not always amount to much, we should remember that.
Do complain about Game Ops if the occasion calls for it
Look, sometimes it gets really artificially loud in the arenafor no reason. Sometimes the video clips are chosen that are extremely ill-timed, hokey as all get out, or even vaguely offensive. Sometimes there’s just too much music during actual possessions, a thing I think the league should outlaw. We should be able to say something about it! Maybe file a grievance somewhere! Who’s with me!?!?
Don’t let it become your whole thing
[deep breath] Fiiiiiiiiiiiiine.
Do enjoy reminding everyone once again that the Raptors are the defending champs
I must say that most of what I’ve been seeing on social media from the Raptors faithful has been very encouraging. This season feels strange for a few reasons — the absence of Kawhi in Toronto, the Raptors actually being on top, the league feeling as wide open as it has in years, etc. — but it remains deliciously satisfying to return to that one immutable fact: the Raptors are the 2019 NBA Champions.
Say it loud, say it proud... and say it again and again.
Don’t not do it