Whether or not you’ve heard this lately, it feels fair to repeat: the Raptors will enter the 2019-20 season as the defending NBA champions. That means, again, that they won the 2019 championship — complete with trophy, champagne, and a summer spent luxuriating in the glory of being the best.
But now it’s September and while that victorious mood has not (and will never!) disappate, the Raptors will have to prepare for the coming season. That’s just how these things go.
Before we get into that though — and believe me, we will get into all of it eventually — let’s recap some of the news and happenings that have been going on involving the Raptors as of late. It’s been a relatively quiet month for Toronto’s favourite team, and as such it’s been quiet on HQ too. (The players aren’t the only ones who needed a vacation, you feel me?)
In advance of training camp, which starts on September 28th, let’s begin our review.
25th Anniversary Party
Much as they did with their purple attire for the team’s 20th anniversary, the Raptors plan on bringing back another old favourite from the apparel department. This time, it’s the classic white jersey from year one — a look made popular recently by Kyle Lowry as he took to the Raptors’ championship parade (you remember, right?).
Here’s the official teaser from the team:
In that video clip we see a cannily edited montage of Lowry in the celebratory parade, some recent game footage from the playoffs, and — the best part — old clips of some vintage Raptors who wore that jersey back in the early days of the franchise. (For those who don’t want to watch the clip, they include: Damon Stoudamire, Tracy McGrady, Kevin Willis, and my personal favourite, Charles Oakley.)
As always, a disclaimer: In one sense, these new (old) jerseys are just a way for MLSE to make more money selling even more apparel. The franchise introduces some new stuff, markets the hell out of it, fans snap it all up, and so on. Really, it’s this cycle that makes the whole world go-round, unfortunately. On a different sense though, it is cool to see these dumbass 1995 looks suddenly come back into fashion. I wish I still had my old hat.
Oh yeah, and it is also impossible to ignore that next year’s Raptors jerseys will all have a gold championship patch on them. That part will never go out of style.
This falls somewhat under the previous category but I wanted to give it its own space because its still unofficial. Thanks to the warrens of NBA Reddit, and the aggregation of Yahoo Sports Canada, we have an image of what might be the Raptors’ court look (at least for some of the season).
Take a look (y’all):
This would not be the first time the Raptors have had an alternate floor during a season. As you’ll recall from last season, the team rolled out a Welcome Toronto version that began half as Drake promotion and half as a community venture. (It was also used to promote the Raps’ City Edition jerseys.)
On the floor I’ll say this: I think the solid purple looks really cool, I like that they’re not doing something ridiculous like putting angled letters along the baseline (remember those days?), and I appreciate the old-school logos. That said, there are three different logos on this thing and, well, that’s just way too many logos, sorry. Also, the dino tracks make the floor far too busy — and that’s to say nothing of the incredibly prominient (and boring) Scotiabank Arena text. It’s a lot, is my point. We’ll see what the Raps actually have in store.
We wrote on Jordan Loyd’s departure (because it was something of a shock), but there were some other moves in Toronto recently that included players from their championship roster. (No, we will not go into Kawhi here; we’ve done that already.)
First up, Eric Moreland has decided to head for Oklahoma City on a training camp deal. All told, this is not a bad decision given the need for live bodies on that roster (a team can’t trot out of a lineup of “future first round picks”). Also, in looking at where Toronto is headed at the power forward position — with undersized options favouring speed and versatility — no path to playing time seemed available for Moreland. All the best big guy!
Second, on a sadder note, Jeremy Lin has decided to head all the way to China to continue his professional playing career. While this kind of feels like the logical endpoint for Lin — balling out for the Beijing Shougang Ducks, or some other CBA team, in arenas full of adoring fans — it is something of a shame to see him leave the NBA. (It’s also worth noting that Lin is American-born so a return to China was not necessarily some preordained birthright.)
In any case, if not for a run of injuries that robbed Lin of his league-ready abilities, things may not have gone this way. He was not really able to help Toronto much on the court, but he was a solid presence to have around the team, and it was cool he got to be a part of the Raptors’ championship run. Good luck overseas, Jeremy.
Norm Getting Ready
I’ll just leave this here because I love how serious it is.
Is Norman Powell ready to be the Raptors’ starting two-guard? It’s possible!
Team Canada Update
With drop-outs and injuries coming hard and fast to its Nick Nurse-coached squad, the 2019 FIBA World Cup tournament has not gone according to plan for Team Canada. After two games of the opening round-robin, Canada is 0-2, dropping contests to Australia (thanks to 25 points from Matthew Dellavedova) and Lithuania (thanks to, oh my, a 21-and-8 from Jonas Valanciunas).
Canada still has a game against Senegal to play on September 5th, but their fate in the World Cup is sealed. Despite what Nurse has been able to do as the team’s coach, the squad just hasn’t had the talent to compete and will not advance out of the initial group stage. This is a particular bummer because Canada is the country with the most current NBA players (17) outside of America, which would make for a decent mix of young and experienced talent. They just haven’t all been able to commit to the national team for whatever reason. (Even Chris Boucher, a Raptor, walked away from the squad for “personal reasons.”)
Here’s Glen Grunwald (speaking of vintage members of the Raptors) getting at what I mean:
Glen Grunwald Canada Basketball pres on getting our NBA talent to play nationally: “We’ve got to respect each person in terms of what’s going on in their career or their life, but at the same time we’ve got to figure out how we can fit in better with their life and their career.”— Mike Ganter (@Mike_Ganter) September 4, 2019
I don’t know what the solution is here, or if there even is a solution. For now, all we can say for certain is that Canada is in tough to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. There’s still a chance they could make it though, per Michael Grange’s writing here:
After Canada’s game against Senegal, the team heads to Shanghai for two important classification games. Canada needs a strong finish to earn a spot in one of four second-chance Olympic qualifying tournaments next June.
We’ll just have to wait and see what happens — and who shows up to play.
Yes, I’m sure there are more Raptors updates to provide here — players doing things on vacation or putting forth other nice charitable efforts (I didn’t even mention that my sister-in-law got her picture taken with Lowry after running into him in Mallorca in late June — but that’s all for now.