After the longest recorded year in human history, the Toronto Raptors have finally arrived at a pivotal point in their journey — their return to the Big Bank Arena and more importantly, their return home. A home that is going to welcome them with the most open of arms. A home that is starved for basketball and the personalities that this team brings to the court night in and night out. A home that positively cannot wait to cheer for Scottie Barnes, and most importantly a home that isn’t Tampa! Say it with me: NO MORE TAMPA!
A grueling, COVID-19 ravaged season that saw the Raptors miss the playoffs for the first time in the better part of a decade while playing 72 road games is now a distant memory. A footnote in the record books that will happily be forgotten by Raptors’ faithful just as soon Precious Achiuwa and Daniel Gafford jump ball at centre court. So let’s close the record books of yesterday and begin to write the stories of tomorrow, today. It’s almost time for Raptors basketball!
Where to Watch
TSN, 7:30 PM EDT
Toronto — Fred VanVleet, Goran Dragic, Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby, Precious Achiuwa
Washington — Spencer Dinwiddie, Bradley Beal, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Daniel Gafford
Toronto — Chris Boucher (dislocated finger — questionable); Pascal Siakam (shoulder surgery — out); Yuta Watanabe (calf strain — out)
Washington — Thomas Bryant (knee surgery — out); Rui Hachimura (not with team — out); Cassius Winston (hamstring strain — out)
All of the emotions
It’s going to be an emotional opening game for the Toronto Raptors, to say the absolute least. After playing Bubble basketball in Orlando, the Raptors followed up that stunted season with a full ride in the sewage soaked Tampa landscape where you would need both hands to count the amount of wild ups and downs — mostly downs — the team slogged through. On top of all of that is the emotional return home that will be absent the heartbeat of this Raptors team for the last nine seasons in Kyle Lowry. It’s a true shame in every sense of the word that Lowry was not afforded the opportunity for a proper goodbye, but at least Raptors’ faithful got to see him wallop the Lakers in his final game.
The Raptors will likely be revved up right out of the gate, but steady, veteran hands in Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and that former Miami player that I’m loathe to write about it should be able to reign in this young, giddy Raptors unit.
The OG Show
Speaking of steady, are Raptors fans ready for the next level in OG Anunoby’s game? It’s nice to see the national media drooling all over Toronto’s favourite quiet son — we’ll talk more about their favourite loud son shortly — with calls of Most Improved Player, an All-Star appearance and even a spot on an All-NBA Defense team. Raptors fans have long known that the sky’s the limit for OG, and opening night against a Wizards team that should finish with a worse record by season’s end than the Raptors could be the perfect coming out party for OG “Number One Option” Anunoby.
On top of the offensive burden that OG will have to bear atop his powerful shoulders, Anunoby will almost certainly draw the assignment of guarding Bradley Beal for the majority of the contest. Thankfully, the Raptors implored the insane roster building tactic — so insane it might just work — of stuffing the squad full with 6’8”/6’9”, uber-long athletes that can help to spell OG the long haul of having to perform that task alone. Is that Scottie Barnes music?!
Scottie 2 Hottie
The Raptors are on the rebound after trading Kyle Lowry to the Heat this offseason. While Raptors fans wept real tears for their departed leader, waiting in the wings to mend their aching heart is the mile-wide-smile and boisterous enthusiasm of Toronto’s favourite loud son, Scottie Barnes.
Masai and the front office reacting to Scottie Barnes getting drafted is hilarious pic.twitter.com/PiJuoorMbw— Libaan Osman (@libaanstar1) October 15, 2021
No one in Toronto Raptors history has shown that level of enthusiasm when learning that they were joining the squad. Then again, has anyone showed that level of continued enthusiasm at anything, ever? Hard to say and even harder to confirm, but that enthusiasm has endeared a great many Raptors fan. Going well beyond the emotional heartstrings that Barnes tugs on is the simple fact that the kid can outright ball!
Seemingly everywhere on defense — hey, where have we seen that before on this roster — Barnes posted impressive blocks and steals in the preseason, as many expected him to. What surprised most everybody, was that Barnes lead all rookies with 5.8 assists and a sterling 3:1 turnover ratio. Nick Nurse’s ingenuity to trust Barnes in every situation has given Raptors fans a tiny taste of what’s to come from the future cornerstone. It will be interesting to see how much of that preseason experimentation carries over to the real deal.