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Raptors host Pelicans in banner-raising opening night: Preview, start time, and more

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The Toronto Raptors will kick off their championship season with a home game against the New Orleans Pelicans. Unfortunately for fans, number one overall pick Zion Williamson won’t be on display.

Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

The Raptors’ 25th anniversary, a championship ring ceremony — what else could we ask for? How about a win!

For the first time in franchise history, the Toronto Raptors will raise the banner-of-all-banners — a freshly woven, straight off the presses “2018-19 NBA Champions” tapestry to hang from the Scotiabank Arena rafters. Not only is it a momentous occasion for the team, but for all of Toronto — a city that can claim just four titles across four major sports leagues (the Blue Jays in 1992 and ‘93, Toronto FC’s win in 2017, and last year’s Raptors) in the fifty-plus years since the Maple Leafs last won the Stanley Cup.

As we shared earlier, the banner will be hung at the arena — with the players and coaching staff receiving their newly minted rings (a design which has yet to be seen) — in a ceremony set to begin around 7:15 p.m. EST.

To be honest, the ring ceremony would be worth watching in its own right, but we have a game afterwards! Consider it the icing on the cake. There are a couple late scratches for the Raptors — Patrick McCaw and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will both be sitting out the season opener. Meanwhile Kyle Lowry looks ready to go after his offseason thumb surgery caused him to miss a majority of training camp.

As of Monday night, there’s been no decision on who will start next to Lowry — whether it be Fred VanVleet or Norman Powell, it appears Nurse is up to his usual hijinks keeping us in the dark until tip-off. Whomever it is, expect a big scoring punch from the position as the Raptors try their new-look offense.

Where to Watch:

Sportsnet One, 8 p.m. EST (Banner ceremony begins at 7:15 p.m.)

Lineups:

Toronto — Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol

New Orleans — Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday, JJ Redick, Brandon Ingram, Derrick Favors

Injuries:

Toronto — Patrick McCaw (out), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (out)

New Orleans — Zion Williamson (out), Darius Miller (out)

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A Zion-Sized Hole

News broke Monday afternoon that Zion Williamson underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee — no small procedure. For Pelicans fans, it’s deja-vu. Anthony Davis missed over 100 games in seven seasons playing for New Orleans, and now, with another sensational power forward in the locker room, the city was hoping for that which Davis could never do — lead the team to success.

Those dreams are deflated now, and panic seems to be setting in about Zion’s status. As you’ll recall, he was shut down during this past Summer League, and even his college coach Mike Krzyzewski was quoted saying he shouldn’t have played then at all.

Meanwhile over on Twitter, one doctor believes Zion could miss way more than the six to eight week timeline the Pelicans originally gave:

It’s not a stretch to think that along with witnessing the ring ceremony, many fans bought tickets to see Williamson’s first NBA game. Sadly, they’ll have to wait another season for the pleasure.

The Shooting Guard Battle

Fred VanVleet or Norman Powell? That’s the big debate right now. Both had excellent training camps and played incredibly efficient basketball in the team’s four preseason games. Powell showcased an improved 3-point shot, averaging nearly 16 points and 3.0 3PM in just under 21 minutes per game, while VanVleet captained the starters, averaging 14 points and 7.7 assists in 26 minutes per game. Both guards were blistering from the field, with Powell hitting 69 percent of his threes, and VanVleet knocking in 43.8 percent from deep.

Whomever gets the nod at tip-off, both guards figure to play significant minutes as a three-man rotation with Kyle Lowry. As long as Powell plays within the offense and avoids the iso-ball he resorted to early on in his career, the Raptors guard rotation should be rock solid to begin the season. That said, our money right now is on FVV getting the nod.

We the Champs

For years, we fans have yearned for the experience of winning it all, even though we had no idea what it was like. When last season began, we dreamed of the Finals, sure, but our number one priority was putting on a good show for Kawhi in the hopes the Raptors would re-sign him, and not have sacrificed our beloved DeMar DeRozan for nothing.

Looking back, it all happened so fast. As November rolled around, all we wanted was to be competitive with the oft-discussed powerhouse 76ers or the sneaky Celtics. But in a lot of ways, the team we bested to get to the Finals — the Milwaukee Bucks — were our contemporaries. They too had no idea what to expect entering last season — with one superstar and a new head coach — and when the two teams kept winning games, it was only then that our hopes began to firmly materialize.

From the Game 1 loss to D.J. Augustin, to Kawhi’s final free throw, the emotional path we took is what we’ll remember. I say it to this day — I have no recollection of the final two minutes of Game 6 in Oakland. But I’ll never forget the ride.

This season’s on the house — so have fun.