We are back. Just 92 days after bowing out in the Eastern Conference Semi-finals, Toronto will start their new campaign. To put into perspective how short this offseason was for the team, consider this: Toronto had 117 days between when they clinched the title and their first preseason game in Tokyo in 2019. And that’s including two extra playoff rounds that both went six games.
However, things change quickly in the NBA. In those 92 days, Toronto drafted Malachi Flynn and Jalen Harris, re-signed Fred VanVleet and Chris Boucher, lost Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol to the two franchises out in Los Angeles, and signed a myriad of other free agents to short term deals. All while packing their bags and deciding to play in Tampa for the season. There is still a lot to do and think about (contract situations of Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster, the possible extension of OG Anunoby) but considering how quick the turn around has been, its understandable things are not completed.
But tonight, pre-season basketball starts. LaMelo Ball, the third overall draft pick this past November, will see his first NBA action. The 2020 draft class hasn’t had the summer league to ease into their careers like rookies of the past, but they must make it work. Unfortunately for Ball, his first action comes against one of the best defensive backcourts in the NBA.
Here are the details for tonight’s contest.
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet, 7:00 PM EST
Toronto – Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Aron Baynes
Charlotte – LaMelo Ball, Devonte’ Graham, Gordon Hayward, PJ Washington, Cody Zeller
Toronto – N/A at this time
Charlotte – N/A at this time
A Long Way From Home
It’s not often a team has to play their home games away from home. In the 2005-06 season, the New Orleans Hornets had to play a majority of their home games for the next two seasons in Oklahoma City due to the devasting damage done by Hurricane Katrina. Oklahoma City’s support for the team helped spur the NBA to bring a franchise over full-time, and eventually they did with the Thunder. However, it’s a different situation this time.
The Toronto/Tampa Raptors doesn’t roll off the tongue, but Raptor fans should get used to it. With the promising news of a COVID-19 vaccine being available soon, there’s slight chance that we could see the Raptors back in Toronto for the second half of the season. Even if the vaccine is readily available, it could take a while before the Canadian Government, the NBA, and the Raptors come to an agreement to bring things back to normal. For the foreseeable future, we will see the Raptors in Tampa.
Hope for Hayward
While it’s common knowledge among NBA Fans that Toronto is in the 2021 Giannis Sweepstakes, Charlotte didn’t wait to grab their All-Star. Gordon Hayward signed a 4-year, $120 million this offseason with the Hornets after declining his player option with the Celtics. He joins LeBron James and Kevin Durant as the only players in NBA history to sign multiple contracts worth 30+ million a season.
Hayward was never able to get going in his stint with the Celtics. A gruesome injury in his first game knocked him out for his entire first year. The development of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and the departure of Kyrie Irving and Al Horford had left Hayward in the middle of what was a franchise shift to the youth. Over his three years in Boston, Hayward missed 111 regular season games and 31 playoff games. Charlotte and Hayward hope he can stay on the floor and lead the franchise to their first playoff berth since 2016. Let’s see what he can do tonight.
Toronto has signed Yuta Watanabe, Alize Johnson, and Henry Ellenson to training camp deals, but the fifteenth and final roster spot is Canadian Oshae Brissett’s to lose. Brissett appeared in 19 games last season, mostly playing garbage time minutes, but carved out a spot due to his high effort defensively and on the boards. He spent some time in the G League, in which he played 30 games for the Raptors 905.
Despite not featuring in the Bubble, Brissett signed a multi-year contract with Toronto. In what looks like a year of transition, Brissett, as well as Chris Boucher and Stanley Johnson, can earn more minutes on this iteration of the team. Alex Len, Aron Baynes, and DeAndre’ Bembry are not acclimated to the system as those three and with such a quick turnaround to this season, everyone should get their opportunity. It’s up to them to make the most of it.