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That’s A Rap #131: Recapping the first half of the season

The Raptors crawl to the All-Star break wounded but not broken. How will the COVID-related issues affect the team? Why, again, is there an All-Star weekend?

Toronto Raptors v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

The Toronto Raptors have (barely) made it to the All-Star break!

Sure, every team had a condensed off-season as well, but was any other team required to pick up and move homes (and countries)? All of that change had a significant impact on the team, as they got off to a horrendous 2-8 start. In addition to clawing back to a playoff position, the team watched as teams left, right, and centre kept losing players and games due to COVID-related issues. They almost — almost — made it to the break unscathed.

Now they’re probably the hardest hit team in the league. We certainly hope and pray that Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Malachi Flynn, Patrick McCaw, Nick Nurse, and the rest of the coaching staff are all recovering and doing well.

As it stands, the team will use the break to establish cohesion with their new-but-hopefully-temporary normal. On this week’s episode, we break down the implications for the team moving forward, but not before looking back on an interesting first half of the season!

In This Episode:

5:50 — Shams calling out Toronto?

Before Sunday, 26 different teams had at least one game postponed due to COVID-related health and safety protocols. Yet, the 27th team — Toronto — was called out for inconsistent mask-wearing among the coaching staff. That’s odd! Why call out Toronto and none of the other teams?

10:42 — Moral victories

When you start the season losing eight of the first ten games, moral victories become beacons of hope for a brighter future. As the Raptors’ season has progressed, moral victories thankfully started changing into actual victories. With the team extremely short-handed, Toronto’s performance against the Celtics — the healthiest Boston has been in three games vs. the Raptors this season — was probably the largest moral victory of the season!

19:40 — That’s a w(rap) on the 1st half

The Raptors stumbled out of the gates, got nothing of value from their off-season acquisitions, and lost some nail-biter games in gut-punching fashion. But the squad showed their championship resolve and recovered. The offense (113.6 offensive rating) is approaching the franchise high mark (113.8 offensive rating in 2017-18). The defense sports four legitimate all-defense candidates. The team owns the best 4th quarter net rating (9.5) by a healthy margin (Indiana is 2nd with a 7.2 rating). What grade would you give the Raptors so far?

35:00 — At least Atlanta’s not in Texas

All-Star weekend, a.k.a. the Peachtree Dish, is going on as planned in Atlanta. Even before he (possibly) contracted COVID-19, VanVleet was not chosen for his first All-Star game. Considering we’re still in a pandemic with coronavirus variants popping up at alarming numbers, why oh why should any NBA player feel comfortable ADDING to their already-packed travel schedules and converging with multiple players from multiple cities/teams for a game that means nothing? Why couldn’t they do the same thing they’ve done with the Rising Stars game — announce the rosters but forego the actual game?

41:15 — It’s happening, so let’s make some picks

Alas, the weekend must go on — and the dollars surely made. We kept with our annual tradition and made predictions on all the events on Saturday. Will another big man take down the Skills Challenge? Will Steph Curry or Devin Booker add a second 3-point contest title to their respective resumes? Who are the slam dunk competitors? (Seriously, who are they??)