It’s here — finally! The Toronto Raptors 2019-20 NBA season officially kicks off today, with the grandest of old traditions: Media Day!
We’ll be posting all the videos and interviews and sound bites we can find throughout the day, so keep it tuned right here for the latest.
The festivities kick off around 10:00am, when president Masai Ujiri is scheduled to speak.
In the meantime, why not catch up on some pre-preseason reading?
- A reality check on the Raptors’ title chances: They’re not contenders this year. Daniel Reynolds tells you why that’s OK!
- How tough is the Atlantic Division this year? A preview from Conor McCreery.
- Are your favourite Raptors really as tall as the official records state? Reynolds investigates.
- Josh Kern has thoughts on what to watch for during training camp.
- Reynolds (busy man!) ranks just how excited we should be for every Raptor on the roster.
- And last but certainly not least, Sean Woodley has undertaken the gargantuan task of updating his ranking of every Raptor ever, this time with a post-championship afterglow.
Stay tuned for updates throughout Media Day 2019.
Good morning! Reynolds here. The Scotiabank Arena is cold thanks to the Leafs’ ice rink, the wifi is spotting thanks to some curse of the tech gods, and the coffee doesn’t taste so great — but it’s Media Day and the defending champion Raptors are here.
So I feel fine. Now, let’s watch!
ICYMI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/RaPWjaEvxB— Daniel Reynolds (@aka_Reynolds) September 28, 2019
Masai Ujiri’s media availability is done. He sounded a bit under the weather, but said a few things of note:
- Named specifically Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Chris Boucher, and Patrick McCaw as players the franchise is looking at to make some sort of leap this year;
- On Siakam, Masai confirmed that they’ve spoken to his representation and are obviously trying to work towards a contract extension. As you would expect: Ujiri is effusive as to Siakam’s potential to be “one of the best players in the league.”
- Regarding Kyle Lowry, a free agent next season, Ujiri said his status with the team is different because of his legacy in Toronto. Which I’ll choose to interpret this way: the Raptors likely won’t just dump Lowry for a draft pick. As Masai said, he’s got a serious legacy in Toronto, one that carries a lot of weight — and is still “underrated.”
- On the emotional side, two things to note. First, Ujiri couldn’t help but joke when he got up to the podium that he was “all alone” up there. Last season, he took to the stage with Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green — quite a different set of circumstances. But then, for the second emotional beat: Ujiri mentioned seeing some sort of highlight package of Toronto’s run to the title, and even after just watching a few minutes, the emotions run fast. He was into it!
The Raptor also appeared — and big-timed us!
The Raptor refused to answer any questions. pic.twitter.com/XX9ZMlvt8q— Daniel Reynolds (@aka_Reynolds) September 28, 2019
Up next, coach Nick Nurse. (And Patrick McCaw is out and about.)
Serge Ibaka is showing off a fresh new (old) look:
Reynolds here again. Both McCaw and Malcolm Miller have come through. Unfortunately, I missed a chunk of McCaw’s answers, but he sounds ready to go.
Miller meanwhile mentioned that the competition, as it were, has already begun amongst the Raptors to fill the shoes of Kawhi. He mentioned that “dudes are thirsty” to prove themselves and show they could help the team win. Miller knows his job is to be a 3-and-D guy for Toronto, but also mentioned he’d been working more on shooting on the move.
Now we wait for Nick Nurse to take the podium just after 11.
Nurse said a few things of note, though the best three bits were:
- Nurse mentioned that when you think of September pick-up basketball you think “pretty bad.” Which, speaking from experience, I can confirm. That said, Nurse went on to say that the Raptors pick-up ball has been good — then again, of course Nurse would say that.
- Nurse spoke about bringing in Fabulous “Fab” Flournoy (and Mark Tyndale) to his Raptors coaching staff, essentially replacing Phil Handy and Jeremy Castleberry. He spoke a bit about his history with Fab, calling him one of the three guys who have played the hardest for him in his coaching career. “Remind me to tell you about the other two some time,” Nurse chided.
- About the team itself, Nurse confirmed he will be tinkering with things again, trying different ideas, and seeing how things play out (much like last season). He specfically mentioned that the Serge Ibaka-Marc Gasol frontcourt pairing will likely be back in against certain matchups (cut to the Sixers shivering). He also said that Siakam could see some time at small forward.
Speaking of which, now we wait for Siakam.
While we wait, why not check out the full video of Masai Ujiri’s remarks:
All you need to know about Pascal Siakam’s Media Day is right here:
On his ESPN rank, Pascal says: "I don't look at rankings." pic.twitter.com/sG4LzqEvy8— Raptors HQ (@RaptorsHQ) September 28, 2019
To expand on this, Siakam did address some questions about what he needs to do to be the Raptors’ number one option. He cited working on his mid-range game (of course), his shooting (naturally), and being able to take what the defense gives him regardless of who is guarding him (ditto). It’s worth noting that Siakam mentioned the trouble he had when bigger guys guarded him, which speaks oh so specifically to the middle two rounds of the playoffs when Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo gave him trouble.
Siakam was asked about OG Anunoby, and was quick to say it was unfair to compare the two of them. He added that Anunoby has been working hard, which has been a consistent message we’ve been getting any time OG is mentioned.
Marc Gasol has also taken the podium. There’s a lot going on!
Unfortunately, we missed most of Gasol’s good guy appearance — will look to remedy that shortly. But you can catch up with Nick Nurse’s remarks here:
Kyle Lowry just came through and to say he’s grown comfortable as both the elderstatesman of the Raptors and the sports king of Toronto is an understatement. True to form, Lowry didn’t have much to offer with regards to the new-look team — he hasn’t spent much (any?) time with the Raptors’ newest guys — but he does have aspirations for himself and the squad:
After a championship, what are you looking to get out of this season?— Daniel Reynolds (@aka_Reynolds) September 28, 2019
Lowry: "Another championship." pic.twitter.com/GIU5bPJR8d
When asked about the 2019 title, Lowry revealed that when the banner goes up and the rings go on, that’s when it will really, really hit him that the Raptors won the championship. We’re all now officially looking forward to October 22nd.
Up next on the podium is Ibaka, Fred VanVleet, and Norman Powell in some order.
Serge Ibaka is here — and he confirms that he is still hungry (and cold). Consider me absolutely shocked that no one specifically asked how hungry he currently is.
Serge is here... and he has already mentioned he is cold. pic.twitter.com/a3cMt5vSuO— Daniel Reynolds (@aka_Reynolds) September 28, 2019
As with the rest of the Raptors, Ibaka is not ready to just toss in the towel on defending the title. He mentioned that while Kawhi and Green are gone, they still have guys with the championship mindset and talent. Ibaka did not sound impressed that some have said the Raptors won’t even make the playoffs — to which I’ll add: same.
Our friends at Sportsnet are coming through with video action!
Here’s a chilly Pascal Siakam, in his own words:
Marc Gasol does not have a drink in his hand, which at this point is unusual to see:
NBA Champion Kyle Lowry wants more NBA Championships:
Raptors newcomer Rondae Hollis-Jefferson already seems to be enjoying himself here in Toronto. His first scrum with the media was a fun and light affair. He spoke about the work he’s put in with some of the guys already and his existing relationship with some of the other players on the team.
As if to prove Rondae’s point, Norman Powell walked by and the two greeted each other. And moments after that, Rondae made sure to mention he’s known Norm from his college days when his Arizona squad used to beat Powell’s UCLA. I’ll call this now: Hollis-Jefferson may turn out to be the best quote on the Raptors as we head into the season. (Maybe I need to update my Excitement Rankings?)
In any case, Powell took to the podium not long after Hollis-Jefferson finished his scrum. It was heartening to see Norm talk about his role now in Toronto as what he called a “young veteran.” It’s true Powell is now, after Lowry, the longest tenured Raptor. While he doesn’t have the stature of the team’s true vets (Lowry, along with Ibaka and Gasol), Norm’s definitely been doing the work in Toronto.
On that note, Powell added some fuel to the fire regarding the Raptors’ energy this season. He knows they haven’t been given much of a chance to repeat as champions — despite noting he and the squad don’t pay attention to any odds — but he also knows that doesn’t mean the Raps won’t try their damnedest to make another run. In that same spirit, I also love that Norm acknowledged that fans have constantly been upset about the lack of Christmas Day game in Toronto, which has now been rectified this year.
To round out the day, we had Fred VanVleet take to the hammer position at the podium, followed by Stanley Johnson, and finally, the man of few words, OG Anunoby.
For VanVleet’s part, he really has ascended into the role as the team’s bench leader. What I mean by that is, well, while Lowry is for sure the team’s alpha dog, it’s not hard to see how much respect FVV commands with the rest of this Raptors squad. Just as an example, he was asked about Terence Davis, the new Raptor who joined the team (and the league) in much the same way as Fred did — an undrafted player picking his spot. FVV confirmed the two have texted, met up, and talked about the coming season. It’s the kind of thing a veteran would do for an incoming player, yet FVV is heading into just his fourth season. It’s impressive stuff like that that makes VanVleet an invaluable part of the Raptors.
Meanwhile, I missed most of Johnson’s scrum, but the highlight was definitely how excited he was to be heading into training camp. Johnson called it the “dopest thing,” going into it with the expectation of playing against his new teammates, everyone trying out new things and working on their game together. The vibe was positive.
As for OG, not one to buck any trend, he said very little. Let’s hope his game is ready to say a lot more — and loudly.
Now, onto Quebec for training camp, then the preseason... and more.
One last round of video updates! First, Serge Ibaka:
And finally our guy Fred VanVleet Sr.: