The date seems to have snuck up on us, but somehow, it’s here already: It’s Toronto Raptors Media Day!
Of course, things are a bit different today. On the good news side, Raptors Media Day is back in Toronto, after a bizarro year in Tampa. On the less good side, we’re still in a pandemic, and everyone in the league is surely going to be facing questions today about the Rolling Stone report about NBA players and vaccinations that dropped over the weekend.
Hopefully, though, there’ll also be a chance to talk about hoops! And with this year’s Raptors team in a state of semi-transition, with a few new faces (and some old faces missing), there are plenty of basketball-related questions to be asked.
Bobby Webster and Nick Nurse are scheduled to speak to the media today, as are a few players including Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet. We’ll follow along right here and post whatever videos and soundbites that the team makes available!
In the meantime though, be sure to check out our pre-preseason reading, including:
- Ranking Every Raptor 4.0, Part 1 and Part 2
- The latest camp invites, and a roster breakdown
- The always-necessary Raptors salary cap breakdown
- The preseason schedule and the full broadcast schedule
Check back for updates throughout the day!
10:30 a.m.: Bobby Webster speaks
Raptors GM Bobby Webster was the first member of the organization to speak on Media Day and he got the most important question of the day out of the way right off the bat: He said that the Raptors are one second dose away from being fully vaccinated. And they expect that final second dose to be administered before opening night.
I’m not gonna lie, I literally said “Oh, thank God” out loud here in my office.
A couple other tidbits from Webster:
- Unvaccinated players from other teams will be able to travel to Canada under the “national interest” exemption. They’ll have stricter guidelines than vaccinated players, though.
- Webster likes what he sees from Goran Dragic, in terms of being a mentor to the team’s younger players.
- Webster also thinks — no surprise here coming from the team’s GM! — that the Raptors will surprise a few people this year, and that if a couple players “pop,” they’ll be able to move up a spot in people’s minds.
- Finally, Webster says that OG Anunoby has a huge opportunity in front of him with Pascal Siakam out to start the year. Look for more thoughts on that from Sean Woodley later on!
One other key thing to come out just now: Jose Calderon is in the house!
11:00 a.m.: Nick Nurse at the podium
Raptors Head Coach Nick Nurse stepped up to the mic after Webster, and he started off by expressing his excitement about the team’s length and versatility. Indeed, with almost every player on the roster about 6’8” with a long wingspan, this team is very much built from Nick Nurse’s ideal mold.
More from Nurse:
- He says it’s “really good” to be back in Toronto. You love to see it!
- The coach mentioned scoring might be a challenge, which, if you’re paying attention at home, is kind of a “no duh” statement. But he says he believes in “scoring by the system,”meaning it’ll be a team effort, and that he hopes the transition game will fuel the office.
- Nurse thinks Scottie Barnes will have a huge role. Aaaaaand, I’m already concerned about the expectations we’re putting on a very raw rookie. (At least they’re working on his jumper, according to Nurse!)
- Will there be zone defense? There will be zone defense!
took 11 minutes for Nurse to mention playing a bunch of zone with all the long dudes. about 9 minutes more than the over/under I had in mind.— Sean Woodley (@woodleysean) September 27, 2021
12:00 p.m.: The players speak!
Following 30-minute sessions from Webster and Nurse, several Raptors players had about 20 minutes to take questions from the press, starting with Fred VanVleet.
VanVleet, as one might expect, says his expectations are to win a championship, every year.
He also says he’s ready for his expanded role, and that his voice on the team has been steadily growing since his first year — but that it will still be a challenge for him, on-court, going from the two-point-guard look to being the number one guy. Indeed, it might be the biggest challenge the entire team faces.
And hey, speaking of that former number one point guard...
Nope, I’m still not ready for that.
What I am ready for: Fred saying “I know I’m one of the best defenders in the league,” regardless of what All-Defense voters think.
If you have the chance, I definitely encourage you to track down video of VanVleet’s press conference. He’s very considerate and deliberate in the way he speaks and what he speaks about. He’s a joy to watch, on and off the court.
Pascal Siakam took the podium after VanVleet, and he started out talking about his shoulder surgery — his first ever surgery! Everything is “moving in the right direction,” and he’s feeling healthy, though he hasn’t been cleared for team workouts yet, just individual work.
the very good basketball player is here pic.twitter.com/f6HMKSQP0r— Sean Woodley (@woodleysean) September 27, 2021
Siakam also spoke about his role and being the number one guy. Even though he had the max contract and the team was fully invested in him, it was hard for him to feel like the guy with Kyle here — not as a knock against Kyle Lowry, but just because he came in as a young guy and it was Kyle and DeMar DeRozan’s team, and it was hard for him to see himself in that role. Which totally makes sense! He also spoke about what that leadership looks like, from being vocal on the court to simply checking in with his teammates via text.
Pascal also answered a question in French which even after all these years still brings a huge smile to my face. I have no idea why! Just something about the international flavour it brings to the team’s interaction with media brings me joy.
Next up we got Gary Trent Jr., on the mic, and he opened by saying he appreciated the trust the organization showed in him by offering him his new contract, and the comfort he felt getting the deal done early.
Overall Trent seemed a bit reticent to answer questions — or maybe I just felt that way after hearing Fred and Pascal speak so freely and openly. But he seemed excited about Toronto — until he started talking about real estate, and our completely messed up bidding system. As someone who just bought a house, probably the most stressful thing I’ve ever experienced, let me just say, I feel you Gary!
Trent says he’s working on every aspect of his game and just trying to get better, knowing that he’s not a finished product. What more can you really ask for?
Finally, we had Goran Dragic join us! Goran showed up looking pretty buff, which is cool, and he echoed Webster’s comments about leadership and mentorship. He recalled Steve Nash being his mentor back in their Phoenix days, and hopes he can bring the same to the young players on the Raptors.
And he had lots of good things to say about Precious Achiuwa, saying that he’s already seen a lot of growth and the Achiuwa will bring a ton of energy to the team — and said people might be surprised by Aciuwa’s jumper.
Dragic also said giving Kyle Lowry his Heat #7 was no issue, as they’re good friends, and recalled Lowry hitting the game-tying buzzer beater in game 1 of their playoff meeting back in 2016. He praised Toronto fans and the atmosphere in the building, saying every time you play here it’s a long, long night.
Dragic confirms there was not a blood feud between him and Kyle when Kyle asked to wear #7 in Miami. Dragic is wearing #1 now, btw.— Sean Woodley (@woodleysean) September 27, 2021
Finally, Dragic said it’s a young team who’s gonna play hard and he’s looking forward to being a part of that — and that Scottie Barnes is already standing out as a player who works hard and loves to have fun.
Hopefully we’ll get to hear from Scottie himself later this week!
For now, that’s about a wrap on Media Day. If we get any more news bits we’ll update as we go, and you can also look out for a wrap up from Sean Woodley later on today.