On Monday October 2, the Toronto Raptors held Media Day — a full day event where the players film content to be used throughout the season, and also speak to media. For a full play-by-play on the day’s events, check out out Media Day Thread.
Yesterday’s media question periods sparked a ton of online discussion, which is normal. Usually, these executives, coaches and players come into the season refreshed and full of optimism for the year ahead. Yesterday was... a little different — so let’s talk about why!
Here is what you missed on Glee — er, the Raptors offseason
In case you went off the grid this summer, here is a quick notes breakdown of everything that has happened since the Raptors lost in their play-in game to the Chicago Bulls.
-Prologue: The Toronto Raptors don’t do much at the 2023 trade deadline (except for the Poeltl trade). This leads to a ton of questions about the plan for the team heading into an important offseason. Fred VanVleet, Jakob Poeltl and Gary Trent Jr are expected to become free agents. O.G. Anunoby and Pascal Siakam have one year left on their contracts. At the time, Masai Ujiri says to the media that he prefers to get deals done in free agency and in the offseason.
-May 2023: The Raptors let go of Head Coach Nick Nurse after his five year stint leading the team.
-June 2023: After a long search, the Raptors hire rookie coach Darko Rajakovic as their next head coach.
-June 2023: The Raptors draft Gradey Dick 13th overall in the NBA Draft. This is exciting — a young guy who can shoot the basketball, we love to see it.
-June 2023: Gary Trent Jr. opts into his player option for the 2023-24 season. A little shocking but not bad news. We don’t have to pay him more, we retain a guy who has improved in his time with the team.
-July 2023: The Raptors lose the free agency bidding war for Fred VanVleet. He gets his COIN in Houston and signs with them, leaving the Raptors with absolutely nothing in return for one of their best players. They do re-sign Jakob Poeltl.
-August 2023: Pascal Siakam is the center of many trade talks around the NBA. A deal with Atlanta seems somewhat real, but it doesn’t go through — presumably due to the fact that it is leaked that Pascal Siakam would not want to re-sign with a team he is traded to when his contract is up on 2024. He stays a Raptor.
-Summer 2023: The Raptors are in trade talks regarding Damian Lillard all summer, but in early September they really pick up. Lots of trade machine scenarios float around, but ultimately Lillard is traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. The Raptors also don’t make a trade for Jrue Holiday when he becomes available, and he goes to Boston. The Raptors end the offseason without picking up any of the big names connected to them.
BONUS: The Knicks decide to sue the Raptors for a situation surrounding an employee allegedly stealing information to bring to his new position on the Raptors staff.
annnndddd that’s what you missed this summer!
Raptors Media Day... with a bonus drinking game!
If you’re looking for a fun night in, grab a drink, throw on the stream of the Raptors Media Day press conference, and take a sip every time the word “selfish” is said! It’s a lot!
The day started with Masai Ujiri coming in and talking a lot about how last year’s Raptors team “played selfish basketball” and how this will not be the case this year. This is where the internet kinda took one small comment and ran with it.
Many people said it sounded like Masai said this ABOUT Pascal Siakam. As someone who was there, it didn’t really sound like that at all. If anything, it was a comment on how the style of coaching from last season prioritized iso-ball on offence and how that didn’t really work — in part because of the shooting woes of the team last year. Rajakovic has also noted SEVERAL times that he prefers a more “classic” style of offence involving lots of ball movement and use of the pick and roll.
When Darko came for his presser after Masai, he stated just that. Sure, some of his other comments (and Masai’s) were extremely vague. EVERYTHING from yesterday was extremely vague, honestly. From the comments on this “selfish basketball” debate to the answers on the direction this franchise is going in, no one wanted to give a definitive answer on anything.
Yet, it also makes sense that Pascal Siakam would then come in and defend himself. It’s a big year for him regardless if he stays a Raptor or not, and he was completely right — he has always played the game the right way. Does him defending himself confirm Masai was talking about him? Not at all.
The Future of the Toronto Raptors
If you, a fan of the Raptors, is going to look at the comments made at media day yesterday and be concerned about ANYTHING it’s this: There are still just as many questions about the direction of this team NOW as there were at the 2023 NBA Trade Deadline.
There was no solid answer from ANYONE yesterday on how extension talks are going with Pascal Siakam, Gary Trent Jr or O.G. Anunoby. The only one who made any comment about it was Anonoby saying he loves Toronto and wants to stay here. Everything else was “I can only control what I can control” and “I let my reps deal with that.” Which is fair, from the players.
Sure, Masai had a pretty positive disposition yesterday, but was still extremely vague. When it came to reacting to the Raptors losing out on Dame, his stance was that when the deal is right, it’ll happen. There was no “we are trying to retain our best player” or “we are building around him.” He simply said the franchise is going to look at how the season goes and see who fits into the system.
In my opinion — Siakam would fit into any system... but what do I know I guess.
The reality is that your best players are on expiring contracts and SOMETHING needs to be done throughout the season. You can’t make zero moves and then expect everyone to sign back next season — that’s not even possible given the new CBA rules. You also cannot lose MORE great players in free agency and get nothing back for them — like Fred VanVleet. Masai’s “wait and see” stance definitely has a timer on it...
We are going into this season with a lot of questions, again.
Anyway, here are some fun moments from Media Day!
Gary Trent Jr. had some fly shoes:
O.G. Anunoby apparently had a highlight filled summer:
"Highlights: I don't know what the highlight was. There was no highlight. Everyday was a highlight."— Raptors HQ (@RaptorsHQ) October 2, 2023
OG Anunoby on his offseason highlights.
Chelsea asked Darko about hiring a former WNBA coach, not shocking:
I asked Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic about his decision to hire James Wade and how his experience in the WNBA will translate to the Raptors. He said he was impressed by Wade's experience both in the WNBA and internationally and is excited to have him on#WNBATwitter #WeTheNorth— chelsea leite (@chelsealeite) October 2, 2023