Ready or not, the 2020-21 NBA Season is here!
Well, the preseason is, anyway. It feels like just yesterday we were bidding the 2019-20 season farewell. Still, in what has been a pretty dang miserable year, it is nice to have the Raptors back in our lives, isn’t it?
And lucky for us, our first preseason action showed us that this year’s Toronto Raptors team, despite the new faces, might be just as fun as last year’s, as they spent the middle two quarters of last night’s game just steamrolling the Charlotte Hornets on their way to an easy 111-100 win.
Let’s quickly run down a few thoughts:
Let the Malachi Flynn Hype Begin
Last night saw the debut of a much-herlanded rookie point guard who ran the show and played both ends like a seasoned vet.
It also saw LaMelo Ball play his first NBA minutes.
I kid! LaMelo throw some highlight-worthy passes in his debut, and hauled in 10 boards (though he was shut out of the scoring column).
But how about Malachi Flynn!?
I’ll be honest, I had no expectations for Flynn coming in. For all the draft reports that said he was a perfect fit in Toronto, he was still the second-last pick in the first round. Guys picked that low rarely find roles early on.
But if one preseason game is any indication (it’s probably not! but) I may have to readjust my thinking. Flynn looked great out there, playing in control, making smart decisions, shooting the ball well… and, perhaps most importantly, he looked like a great fit on the defensive end. He was in the right spots, kept himself wide, and didn’t reach or gamble.
Perhaps my favourite Flynn moment came early in the fourth quarter, when, after he missed a layup, Flynn immediately jumped back into the play and knocked the rebound away from Hornets centre Nick Richards as the teams went the other way. Flynn then gathered the ball and dished it to Deandre’ Bembry for a layup.
It was positively Lowry-esque! I’m still not sure Flynn will be a contributor this season, but he’s off to a great start.
More Matt Thomas
Speaking of great starts, how good did Matt Thomas look? He was featured in the offense much more last night than we’d seen in the past, coming off screens and curls and popping threes. He finished with 16 points on nine shots.
He also looked to be moving at a more natural pace; even though Thomas was an “old” rookie, players always say it takes some time in the NBA before things start to slow down for them.
If things are slowing down for Thomas, and he can play decent defies, he should get consistent minutes this year (and maybe challenge for the league lead in three-point percentage).
OG Anunoby had a solid game too, perhaps sending a message to Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster that wants that contract extension. I don’t think that’s in the cards just yet but regardless, it was great to see him playing inside-outside and flashing a little juice with the around-the-back dribble leading to the slam:
I have no idea if OG is ready to take that leap we’ve all been waiting for, but if he plays like that all season, that next contract — whether it comes now or later — will take care of itself.
Rust, Shake Thyself
It sure didn’t look pretty early, did it? I guess we all know what to expect in preseason games, but because it wasn’t so long ago that we last saw the Raptors, it didn’t quite have the same feel going in.
Didn’t take long to acquire that feel though, as the Raptors looked like they’d never seen each other before in the first six minutes, falling behind by as many as 19 points.
Fred VanVleet in particular looked a bit rusty, as he couldn’t break anyone down off the dribble (including Bismack Biyombo) and needed to bank in his only three pointer of the night. He also looked, maybe, kinda sort… a bit out of shape? Not that I would blame him — besides the short offseason, trying to manage two young kids in a pandemic makes maintaning healthy eating and exercise habits tough for anyone, even NBA players! Pascal Siakam’s jump shot looked nice and smooth, but he still seems a bit off around the rim. Chris Boucher looked exactly the same as the last time we saw him— flying all over the place and causing chaos, in both good and bad ways. Aron Baynes and Norman Powell both looked lost most of the night.
With a short preseason there’s not a lot of margin of error here, so let’s hope everyone gets on track soon.
Enough with the Fake Crowd Noise
The crowd noise from the Charlotte arena last night was horrendous. Way too loud, and not at all dynamic/reacting to the action — it was just a din. It sounded awful and made the broadcast noticeably worse.
I have to ask.. who is this for? Does anyone actually want fake crowd noise? It’s clearly not for the fans — I haven’t seen anyone say how good it sounds or how natural it is — everyone is complaining about how bad it is and how much they’d rather just have the actual sound. Is it for the broadcasters themselves? Do they feel more comfortable with the noise?
I really don’t get it.
So after that one… who’s excited for more Raps-Hornets!? Let’s do it all again on Monday.