There’s no doubt the NBA has been missed by many people across the world, specifically the fan base of the reigning champs, the Toronto Raptors. That has been apparent from even just the attention paid to Toronto’s three scrimmage games.
It also can’t be denied that starting the league backup, even in a Disney bubble, can be viewed as a poor decision. There’s the ongoing pandemic to contend with, and also powerful social justice protests and statements being made in the United States surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement. Despite what Draymond Green may say, this relates to here in Canada. In all, there are just more important things going on that overshadow basketball, and sports, entirely.
Still, we’re going to get basketball on our televisions and people are going to tweet about it. It’s going to garner a lot of attention as the Raptors tip-off for their first game on Saturday versus the Lakers.
While we tune in and watch the defending champion Raptors with everything going on in the world, here are four things we can at least try to appreciate during this shortened 2019-20 season and playoffs.
1. The Reigning Champs
There could be a new NBA champion crowned after the eight-game restart season and playoffs. There could also very well be a back-to-back champion crowned at the end of it all.
Whatever the case may be, Raptors fans will get to flaunt their title for a little bit longer — despite the postponed season adding additional time anyways. The 2019 title still belongs in Toronto and the Raptors have not yet been dethroned from the NBA or the Eastern Conference. That should be held over all the other 29 teams until — or if — anything does change.
The appreciation of being 2019 champs won’t ever be lost in Toronto, but we should appreciate being reigning champs as long as we can.
2. The Free Agents
Fred VanVleet. Serge Ibaka. Marc Gasol. Chris Boucher.
Those four are all heading to free agency after the eight-game season, plus the playoffs. It would be extremely difficult to bring all four back, and for that reason alone, we must appreciate the little time we do have left to watch this core play together.
Gasol could re-sign for a much smaller rate then his current $25.6 million salary, although some have suggested retirement could be on the horizon for the Spaniard. Nevertheless, Gasol has shown up to Disney in amazing shape, which suggests he might still have more left in the tank.
Ibaka has expressed his desire to re-sign in Toronto, but it’ll have to be for terms and money that both sides can agree to. Will Ibaka take a hometown discount to return? Can the Raptors fit him into their salary cap and future financial plans? Those are the big questions for Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster.
VanVleet would be the perfect future point guard for the team as Kyle Lowry will be 35 at the end of his contract in 2021. What VanVleet’s asking price will be and what his value will be on the market is also a big question mark, but he could ultimately be too pricey for the Raptors to re-sign.
Of course, re-signing those three would have an huge impact on any Raptor plans for the 2021 free agency.
Meanwhile, Boucher would theoretically be the easiest to sign as he still needs to find consistent minutes in an NBA rotation. But the extra efforts (and weight?) he’s added during quarantine makes his potential only that much sweeter for any team interested.
Let’s appreciate whatever we receive from these four during this restart, and overall, what we get from this Raptors core. We have no idea who will be back next season and it’ll be bittersweet to watch and appreciate this roster that has proven so many people wrong.
3. The Families
When the Raptors arrived at Disney every player, coach, and staffer walked into their room to find two photos of their family, be it wife/husband, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, whomever. It was a heartfelt touch given the physical distance measures they’ll be operating under for close to four months.
Credit to the Raptors for the gesture.
All appreciation though, goes to the families. As much as the players, coaches, and team personnel are away from their loved ones, the families deserve a ton of praise. There’s a chance the players and staff will be able to have some family join them inside the bubble, but at least for roughly more than two months the two sides will have to rely on technology to touch base. For the family members it’s a selfless act, especially during a pandemic.
No one wants to be away from their family for an extended period, even more so during such uncertain times, so credit and appreciation to the Raptors families who are holding strong through all this.
4. The Message
Time and time again during these last few weeks the Raptors have said they don’t want the message to get lost with the NBA being back. The message is simple: Black Lives Matter. Change is needed in this world and, as just one example, Breonna Taylor’s murderers are still out there.
The players, along with Masai Ujiri and his staff, have not moved away from that message. Be it their words, rolling up to Disney with a team bus that has ‘Black Lives Matter’ written on it, a t-shirt that has those exact words or wearing a mask with powerful imagery.
This is a franchise that stands united on the court, and they’ve used that unity to spread a message that must be heard. In short, the Raptors are demanding action.
On that note, I’ll leave you with this piece written by Josh Kern on how you can get involved too in supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and keeping the message for social change going.