Raptors & Pacers Round One Review

I’d like to preface everything by saying that this isn’t intended to be any sort of in-depth analysis of the first two games of the Raptors’ first round playoff matchup against the Indiana Pacers. This is more or less my meandering thoughts of what I’ve seen in the past two games, and what I would like to going into game 3.

In the below video I’ll touch on DeMar DeRozan’s struggles, Jonas Valančiūnas’ superb play, and what the Raptors can do to stop Paul George and the rest of the Pacers.

Drake, DeRozan and Durant: Three is the Magic Number

For two straight years Drake’s annual OVO Fest has garnered a lot of attention from basketball fans. Last year the Toronto Raptors official Global Ambassador was fined $25,000 by the NBA League Office for ‘tampering’ when he gave a shout out to NBA All-Star Kevin Durant in attendance. Durant will be an restricted free agent in the summer of 2016.

At first, this may seem like an innocent gesture by a performer acknowledging a celebrity at the show, but whether people like it or not, Drake as the Raps Global Ambassador is basically a card-carrying employee of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment (MLSE). He’s no longer just Drake the Rapper, he’s Drake the Raptor.

Demar DeRozan (L) and Kevin Durant look on during Drake's OVO Fest in Toronto
Demar DeRozan (L) and Kevin Durant look on during Drake’s OVO Fest in Toronto

Well, it looks like the usual suspects were seen together once again. Kevin Durant attended this year’s OVO Fest to watch Drake in concert. What makes Raptors fan salivate over this sighting is the fact that Durant was watching the show with none other than Raptors guard Demar DeRozan. And Durant was sporting a Toronto Blue Jays jersey.

The Raptors landing Durant in the 2016 is seemingly a long shot. The Raptors certainly don’t have a proven track record of attracting big time free agents, any All-Star the Raps have had on its roster was added to the team via the NBA Draft, with the exception of Kyle Lowry who re-signed as a free agent after being traded to Toronto.

With Toronto hosting the 2016 NBA All-Star Game, Drake with a Raps logo on his sleeve and hopefully a successful re-vamped Raptors team, Toronto may well be putting itself at least in the Durant conversation. Many believe he’ll return to his hometown of Washington, D.C. to play alongside John Wall and Bradley Beal. Wherever Durant ends up, I don’t see him re-signing with the Oklahoma Thunder.

But ever the optimist, I’ll gladly speculate over these sightings, and may the Basketball Gods look kindly on the Raptors in 2016.

Plus, Durant said himself he idealized Vince Carter and wanted to play for the Raptors as a kid.

Here’s what a $25,000 fine looks like:

 *All image credits can be found on the References & Resources page.

Raptors Unveil New Uniforms in Style

The Raptors have been re-branding for a while now. The #WeTheNorth campaign was launched ahead of schedule after a mid-season trade in the 2013-14 season propelled the Raptors into the post-season for the first time since the 2007-08 season.

The introduction of Toronto rapper Drake as the teams official Global Ambassador in 2013 helped the team’s image worldwide, because let’s be perfectly honest here, Drake’s doing a hell of lot more for the Raptors than the Raptors are doing for Drake. You’re welcome Toronto.

Last year was the Raptors 25th Anniversary and as such they had number of ‘throwback nights’ with the Raps playing in those infamous purple dinosaur uniforms.

Drake at the OVO Fest wearing new Raptors uniform
Drake at the OVO Fest wearing new Raptors uniform

Well, the re-branding continues and the Raptors had the most unique uniform unveiling of any NBA team this summer. Drake came out on stage at his annual OVO Fest in Toronto sporting the new alternate black Raptors jersey. He was wearing a Cory Joseph jersey. As all Toronto fans are aware, Joseph is a native of the area and signed as a free agent with this hometown team this summer. Joseph will wear number 6 next season as Drake is known to refer to Toronto as ‘The 6’ in reference to the local area code.

The Raptors new uniforms themselves seem fine to me. They have a simple, clean look to them, unlike the new Atlanta Hawks uniforms that look like some weird European soccer outfit (minus the sleeves).

Even if you hate the uniforms, you have to admit that they certainly have made the biggest splash this summer, all with the help of the team’s Global Ambassador.

P.S. – The Milwaukee Bucks win the first place prize for the best new uniforms this off-season.

*All image credits can be found on the References & Resources page.

Raptors Appease Coach Casey with Blue Collar Crew

CaseyPic
Dwane Casey

It’s no secret that Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey is a defensive-minded coach. The old adage Offense wins games, defense wins championships applies directly to Casey considering he has a 2011 NBA Championship ring for his work with the Dallas Mavericks as a defensive assistant coach. Casey was hired in the summer following the 2011 championship by the Toronto Raptors. He’s had the head coach position in the organization ever since.

I’m not a fan of Casey. I’ll come out and say it. However, I’m very curious to see how he and the players perform next season after all the offseason moves made by Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri. The Raps GM went out and signed defensive centre Bismack Biyombo, gritty forward DeMarre Carroll, veteran forward Luis Scola and Canadian guard Cory Joseph. With the exception of Scola, all of the aforementioned are known for being good defenders.

Casey has been preaching defense ever since he got to Toronto, something I do support. My biggest issue with Casey is his lack of good offensive judgment. I’ve seen a lot of questionable play calls by Casey on that end of the court. To a further extend, I’ve noticed a lot of questionable substitutions throughout the season by Casey. There’s no doubt that a team with hustling players clamping down on defense is a good thing, but the biggest thing to watch for next season with the Raptors is how well they do offensively. With the departure of shooting guard Lou Williams, you’ll see less isolation offense, but that just means that other players might play more ISO themselves.

If the Raptors don’t produce this season, Coach Casey is going to be short on excuses. This current roster was designed for him and his defensive tendencies. I’m very critical of Casey on the offensive side of the floor. In theory, Casey should be able to concentrate more on the offensive side of his coaching this season considering that the Raptors brought in natural defenders that won’t necessarily need buy-in on the defensive end.

Management has done what it needs to do to set Casey up with a team to his liking, all while being financially savvy so that the Raptors can be in play in big free agency summers of 2016 and 2017. This is the direction of the organization now, and Casey will have an entire season to fine-tune his offensive coaching. It’ll be interesting to see if Casey can translate his defensive success to the other end of the hardwood.

*All image credits can be found on the References & Resources page.