News Clip: I think this one is going to finally hit me. You know, I still haven’t kind of let it sink sink in as much but I think when the banner Rises and Rings, come on, I think that’s where you kind of really feel it.
Jordan: Summer Long parties like the one the Toronto Raptors just wrapped are as rare as hell in sports. So it is completely understandable that nobody wanted this one to end.
News Clip: We want to thank all you fans this great City of Toronto and a country Canada. We wouldn’t have been able to do this without you guys.
Jordan: But last night when the Rings were handed out and the whistle blew and the ball went. The Toronto Raptors were another NBA team again one of 30. Nothing special maybe a little special despite what you might have seen or more likely not seen in season previews around the league. The Raptors are actually still the NBA champions and they will hold that title until someone else lifts the trophy in June if you ask the experts. Someone else lifting that trophy is basically a guarantee if you ask the Raptors though. Yeah, they won the title their best player left town almost immediately. On paper, they are worse than last year. And if you think the Raptors, excuse me, if you think the NBA champion Toronto Raptors are going to let that dictate the way they play this season. You really haven’t seen much of this team. I’m Jordan Heath Rawlings. This is the big story. Donovan. Bennett is our basketball man from Sportsnet. He writes he podcasts he hosts a new show NBA chatroom Wednesday at 7 on Sports Nets YouTube channel. Hey Donovan.
Jordan: How unique is this Raptors NBA title defense that we’re about to see
Donnovan: So unique that. I can’t think of another time when a team won a championship and there was no debate on whether or not that team would defend like it was just understood that they probably aren’t going to defend and be able to win a championship right afterwards. So unique that. Kawhi Leonard the big reason why we’re not having conversation, but what are their chances to defend?
Yeah, because for the uninitiated there’s almost zero so much for the Kawhi Leonard is the only person to win finals MVP. And then the next year not be with that team. So in a weird way this season is not going to be about chasing another championship. It’s actually going to be I think reflective and celebrating how far the franchise has come.
Jordan: So this is just a bask in the glory kind of. Enjoy it.
Donnovan: I think so because it also just serendipitously happens to be the 25th anniversary of the franchise. Right something that they were going to celebrate anyways, and now they’re just throwing a bigger party to celebrate it all throughout the year because we have this this championship trophy in this new banner and these beautiful rings.
I think it’s more so going to be about. Look how far we’ve come. Let’s not get in. The Weeds on are we going to finished sixth in the East or fourth or second who cares? Ultimately we and and I say the collectively because it’s fan base really feels like they are part of the team. Hence the slogan we the north we have come from the place where all the American players couldn’t wait to leave come from the place where our. Uniforms are made fun of those Jagged Pinstripes that people thought were crazy.
Jordan: Those are like retro hip now.
Donnovan: Those are retro hip they have brought them back. The 1995 home. Whites are one of their for throwback uniforms this year. We’re not being made fun of in pop culture. The biggest pop star in the world loves to sit courtside at our games like that is the thing when the Raptors first came to town.
It was a big deal that Samuel Jackson would sit Courtside every once in a while when he was filming a movie in Toronto Drake. Is there 10 15 times a year. He has his own night. There is Drake night. So I think this is going to be a celebration of the fact that all of those conversations all of those ghosts pass.
We’re in the past and we can celebrate a championship and celebrate more importantly how far the sport has actually come in the country and a big part of that obviously is been the fact that the only team right now in the country is the Toronto Raptors.
Jordan: If I took everything that you just said about this upcoming season the 0% chance to repeat the fact that it’s going to be reflective and basking in the moment and not so much about where we finished and I told that to Kyle Lowry. What would
Donnovan: Happen he would be more upset at me and me as in media guy than he normally would like that’s that’s his normal state of operation is that there’s a massive chip on my shoulder. I’m just looking for a reason and a way to exercise it. And so there’s in terms of motivation. There’s two.
Philosophical ideas of how people are motivated right? There’s avoidance motivation and there’s approach motivation. So approach motivation would be I am thinking about the thing. I want to grasp. I want to be an NBA champion. I want to be a Hall of Famer and those are the things that drive you and then avoidance motivation is almost out of fear.
I’m thinking of all the things that I don’t want. Even with a championship the reason that Kyle Lowry is great because he falls in the category of avoidance motivation. I don’t want to be cut I don’t want to be disrespected. I don’t want to be told that my All-Star nomination is only because an entire country is voting for me and other point guards.
They don’t have cities voiding from there always has to be something that he is chasing a he wrote a beautiful essay for the players Tribune and most of those and you’ve seen them. Most of those are not written by The Players. Let’s be all right. I actually think his was because so much of it was his past where he’s been and how he doesn’t want to forget some of those hard lessons.
I think the reason that he’s great. The reason why he’s the leader in the been arguably the best player on the team. Is because he is looking for a reason to be upset because if it was just playing for joy and love the game, it’s because Kyle Lowry probably wouldn’t be in the NBA. He wasn’t blessed with them amount of athleticism or skill.
He’s blessed with smart basketball mind but more so a dogged determination and most human beings need to be fueled by the other to get that done and he’s a great example of it and in fact. I think the reason why he’s so beloved by his fan base is because that’s how many of them feel.
Jordan: It’s the hockey mentality, right?
Donnovan: Yes. Yeah and in a way again, I think that’s why he is so beloved. And if you look at the history of raptors players that have been beloved. I have a 25 year anniversary essay that came out on opening night and I say in it. It’s not the stars that we’ve had that we love. It’s the worker bees that we rate. Bismarck bombo Matt Bonner the Junkyard Dog Jerome Williams Kyle Lowry and in a sense. We have the hockey mentality of giving me a Wendel Clark a Darcy Tucker Tai Domi for Leeds fans that are listening. We want people who earn everything and one of the slogans is Raptors team has has. Is earned not given that certainly true with where they are in terms of the fan base and where they are in terms of having the Larry OB come to Canada for the first time
Jordan: What’s different about them? What if they replaced Kawhi with what will we see more of
Donnovan: In a word nothing like I almost. Mentality of like stay calm because we’re going to eventually carry on. So rather than just chasing, you know bad contractor for back on track just to fulfill the void. They said we’re going to take a step back sign a bunch of guys to one year deals Stanley Johnson rondae hollis-jefferson guys who maybe haven’t had the best situations previously and.
They’re betting on their institutional knowledge to be able to extract better play from the way they have from a Kyle Lowry who was once one of those guys, but for the most part we are going to reset we’re going to allow our young players to continue to grow and Pascoe siakam who is giving. Hundred thirty million dollars to continue to grow in this city. He signed a Max contract after making just over four million in his first three seasons. They’re going to see what they have internally allow that growth for the next couple years because the upcoming free agent class in 2020 isn’t great part of the reason why I call our is willing to take over 30 million dollars to stay is because he knew that there wasn’t a lot on the open market coming up.
But the year after that is when everyone is up interested LeBron James Kawhi Leonard Paul George. So I say all that to say the plan is in luring a great Kawhi like star in the future, but right now they’re really just working on. Improving internally, which for some is a pragmatic and and sad choice, but if we look at the landscape of the NBA right now, we no longer have these super teams of three four. Sometimes five all stars together. It’s like NBA Jam the video game. We played as kids. It’s like two by two by two like Noah’s Ark there are couplings of great players. So if you believe you have one in Pascal, you just need to get another and let’s look at if we dial down even further the big free agent decisions that were made this offseason. Kevin Durant went to and Kyrie Irving went to Brooklyn Kawhi Leonard and Paul George went to the Los Angeles Clippers not huge Brands like the Celtics or the Lakers. Decent sized markets, but more importantly they went there because those teams instead of tanking clearing space and trying to get picks.
They actually prove that no like with some above average players we could be respectable and make the playoffs. I think that is the exact template for the Raptors.
Jordan: Is it easier now for the Raptors? I mean, maybe this is an obvious question but talking about. I mean you throat LeBron James Kawaii Etc 5 years ago. There’s no way were even sitting here talking about those guys signing in Toronto. So that’s shifted.
Donnovan: I mean last year, we’re not talking about. Yeah those guys signing it so much. So that’s why massage jury had to trade for Kawhi Leonard. Because he knew it was going to be tough to get a star of that ilk and the only reason why qilin her was available is because he had his falling out with his previous franchise in San Antonio Spurs.
He didn’t trust them in terms of how they handled his his medical issues with with his thigh and his knee and so he was looking for a change. A trade in Seoul the Raptors traded their beloved player and DeMar DeRozan knowing that this star they were getting probably for ten cents on the on the dollar.
That’s how they got their first star. So definitely going big game hunting in terms of free agents is a precarious situation and not a safe bet. But again, I think now that they’ve done it. It’s one thing to say. This is what this Market could be. Like if we want this is what we could do for a great star.
They can say no low. You’ve seen it right have the blueprint. Look at this ring. Yes. Look at this ring. Look at this Banner look at the attention that we’re getting from the entire country and with all that. Kawhi Leonard didn’t have to give the Raptors a meeting. He didn’t have to have them in his top three.
He considered the Toronto Raptors the Los Angeles Lakers in the Clippers. So his home and his home for a short time and whether we think the Raptors finished third or second, it doesn’t matter they were in the race when all 30 teams wanted to be so I think that does say something and I do think actually.
Even though the honeymoon period of being able to celebrate playing at a high level might be short because they’re going to be a above average to average team this year. I do think what’s not going to happen in this market. Is that the bandwagon is just going to be abandoned and the TV numbers are going to go down in the the attention online is going to go down.
We’ve already seen some numbers that the uptick in detention for this team. Even with no Championship back aspirations is still going up.
Jordan: So they’re going to be good to above average roughly. How are they going to play if we’re sitting down to watch this team? What’s their identity? What are people who watch them through the playoffs last year going to look for?
Donnovan: I’m going to answer that question by not answering it. I think you could tune into Raptors game on sports net sports net one one of the eighty two nights are going to play this year and you can see them play vastly different vast with vastly different people depending on the opponent and although they don’t have the big star.
They don’t have to build an offense around. Kawhi Leonard the way they did and feature him. They don’t have to craft an offense to hide some of the deficiencies that DeMar DeRozan had before that but what they do have in there is a value in this they do have. A situation where they are never gonna have to place someone that sucks and there is a value in that there is a value in Nick nurse looking down his bench and from guy five in rotation to guy 12, 13.
They add something so I do think there are going to be games when some of their new faces play 30 minutes a night and there’s going to be some games when they are dnp CDs did not play coach’s decision. We saw with the ability to manage his roster with the health issues of Kawhi Leonard and an aging Kyle Lowry that Nick nurse is a bit of a mad scientist.
He had 20 different starting lineups last year by far the most in the league. I think that numbers going to go up really I do and I do think there are situations when he’s already talked about it playing super big with Gasol and Ibaka playing together with maybe siakam at 3:00. I do think there’s going to be situations where from the start they’re going to play very small with Fred Van Vleet and Kyle Lowry starting together in the back court again, I think.
Not just this year. I think the next year and a half before the trade deadline before the big free agent offseason is going to be a lot for Nick nurse for Bobby Webster. A lot of research and development. Let’s try things. Let’s try because one thing winning a championship affords you is some Goodwill and so if they do something super radical who’s gonna be calling for Nick nurses job, right?
Jordan: He’s got rope he does. So with that Player Development then who is someone we haven’t talked about yet. Obviously, not the obvious Stars the front of the rotation guys. That we should be watching throughout the year to see them grow. Who’s the next Fred Van Vleet? Right?
Donnovan: I’ll give you two names one is OG Anunoby he is if you talk to, you know basketball insiders last year at this time.
It was 50/50 on which Raptor was going to take a pascal siakam like step last year. OG Anunoby and it’ll be or Pascal siakam. It was Pascal and for a bunch of reasons. Health less opportunity than you thought because Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard came in and played basically the same position as OG the sudden loss of his father which which hurt him obviously and then in an emergency.
Appendix surgery that he needed on the eve of the first game of the playoffs for many reasons. He didn’t have that year last year and I expect with that with a new mindset and with added Health he could have that year this year. The other is actually a Canadian on the roster Chris Boucher from Montreal guy who much will not.
The same sort of hotbed of basketball that Toronto has been over the last couple of years, but he came out of the city got a scholarship and played at Oregon and was one of Oregon’s best players the years that they went to the final four couple years ago before he tore his ACL and because of it wasn’t really able to work out in the draft was was picked up by the Warriors stashed on their Gigli team got himself.
Some health was been in the Raptors. A program for year played well was the G League MVP? And has slowly kind of worked himself into the the trust of Nick nurse of just haven’t been minutes in terms of him having the opportunity. Well again this year they’re going to try some things those minutes could open up because it’s not certain that Marcus soul and or Serge, Ibaka.
End the season with this team the team struggles out of the gate those guys are both free agents so they could be moved at the deadline to help a contender solidify Championship. The way Gasol did with the Raptors last year. So his nickname is Slim duck. He’s a great follow on Instagram and Twitter because he’s very really good nickname.
It is he’s very slim. He’s skinnier than both of us and he’s in the NBA and he went to Oregon the Oregon Ducks. He has an infectious personality. He’s getting better all the time. There’s not many guys who were G league players who have the confidence to say. I want my own float for the parade.
Chris Boucher is one and he proudly had the Canadian flag and I think a lot of Canadians are going to be proud of both him and I’ll shape or said another Canadian who’s on a two-way contract who came out of Syracuse is. Spend some time with Raptors 905 there will be a Canadian influence to this team by the end of the year.
Jordan: So last question and there’s zero percent chance that they repeat. What’s what’s the best-case scenario for this season?
Donnovan: Well, I mean I shouldn’t say zero
Jordan: Too late you said it and I’m telling Kyle.
Donnovan: Listen. You won’t have to tell Kyle he will he will find out I shouldn’t say there’s zero percent chance because I do. I do believe in the religion of I believe in and he can figure it out. So some of the most lopsided trades in NBA history are ones with his names on it. So if this team is punching above their weight, could they make a trade at the deadline to bring someone in who was disgruntled in their situation certainly and one of the greatest skills that this franchise has had is been able to improve not by necessarily the draft or frequency. But improve based on something that everyone can do internally improve your players.
Jordan: Here come the Van Fleets
Donnovan: Yes all and the norm Powell’s are all guys who were not highly sought of after in the draft process. They all spent time with the g league team and Raptors 905 in Mississauga, and they were all big parts of winning a championship Pascal Siakam only started playing basketball. Eight years ago. He’s now a max player in the most improved in the league. So I won’t I won’t say 0% like 0.001% chance, but I do think that there is there going to be an exciting team. To watch they’re going to be team that with a lot of characters that you really want to root for and I think this franchise is really going to milk the fact that it’s the 25th anniversary and celebrate how far not just the team but the sport has come because I think that’s Canadians. We forget that like Canadian invented the sport and well before the Raptors and the Grizzlies were in the NBA there was a basketball culture in Canada. So that’s that’s something to represent and now we’re at a place and this is not just a Raptors conversation. Just a basketball Canada conversation with the place where 20 Canadians are going to be on NBA rosters this season and 16 of which were on the floor.
On opening night. What’s the most for any country in the world? Other than the united states. I think that’s a big big thing to celebrate in. The Raptors are a big part of. I just can’t wait for us to have this conversation in 15 or 20 years. Whatever podcasts are like then to see what the what the halo effect is of this championship and how it produces.
Let’s get crazy 200 Canadians playing professional basketball I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility.
Jordan: You love to see it
Donnovan: I do I really do
Jordan: Thanks Donovan
Jordan: Donnovan Bennett, on Sportsnet NBA chat room Wednesdays at 7:00 on Sports Nets YouTube. That was the Big Story for more from us head to thebigstorypodcastdot.ca can also find us on Twitter at @thebigstoryfpn and of course, everywhere you get podcasts, there we are. Five-star ratings please. Tell us what you think. We’d love to hear it. Thanks for listening. I’m Jordan Heath Rawlings. We’ll talk tomorrow.
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