When asked about it, Raptors coach Nick Nurse was definite: no, he wishes this game versus the San Antonio Spurs wasn’t the first one for Toronto after the All-Star break. He acknowledged, of course, that the schedule is not his decision and the Raptors have to play the games as they come. But still, this is a bit of a heavy one and it can be challenging for a team to dive right into the deep end of basketball competition — emotional as it is in this case — and play up to its potential.
The emotion behind this regular season game between two teams with no previous connection whatsoever is easy to explain: Toronto traded for the Spurs’ disgruntled former superstar Kawhi Leonard and San Antonio got the Raptors’ favoured son DeMar DeRozan, the player who never wanted to leave, in return. It’s a game that has gotten big enough for both teams to work out a collective media strategy, which is how we ended up with DeRozan addressing the assembled media in a Yorkville hotel. You better believe everyone had a question.
Remember folks — It’s a 7pm start tonight: pic.twitter.com/1nOLFoVEWX— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) February 22, 2019
The reception tonight for DeRozan, unlike that for Kawhi in Texas, will be overwhelmingly positive. For all his shortcomings as a player — shortcomings, it should be mentioned, he laboured to eliminate — DeRozan gave everything he had to Toronto for nine years. That the Raps had to go in a different direction is not up for debate, but neither is DeRozan’s heart. The cheers and tears should be powerful.
And while the Raptors are riding a six-game win streak, and looking to continue their momentum for the playoffs with their new players Marc Gasol and Jeremy Lin, it will be nice to give DeMar one last stirring ovation. I hope the Raptors win tonight (if only to make up for last month’s disastrous showing in San Antonio), but the heart also wants what it wants. Go Raptors — and also go DeRozan.
Here’s Sully Akbari with the full preview on Raps-Spurs from this morning. Below are the updated game details.
Now, hoo boy, let’s watch.
Where to Watch
TSN at 7 pm EST
Toronto — Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka
San Antonio — Bryn Forbes, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Davis Bertans, LaMarcus Aldridge
Toronto — Fred VanVleet (Thumb — out)
San Antonio — Dejounte Murray (Knee — out)