The last time that the Raptors played a competitive basketball game was in Oracle Arena, if you recall. 113-110 was the score as Kawhi Leonard planted his feet above the dark blue stripe and looked up at the shot clock above the backboard that showed 0.9 seconds in bright orange. While we held onto our loved ones at home and tried not to focus on our trembling limbs, we looked on in awe. What we had been waiting our whole lives for, and what we thought would never happen, was happening. Kawhi caught the ball. He hit the free throw. He sealed the deal.
“There’s a new NBA Champion, and it’s a team from Toronto, Canada!” echoed throughout every television screen and radio in the country. As we broke down in tears and our bodies fell numb, we realized that this wasn’t déjà vu of the moment we had dreamed of so many times – it was reality.
In just a few hours from now, the last part of that dream will be fulfilled – the final puzzle piece put in place – as we watch our kings get crowned. What might be even more exhilarating than the ring ceremony is that basketball is finally back, after the most monumental offseason in NBA history.
Tonight is the tip-off of the 2019-2020 NBA season at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto where the Toronto Raptors will host the New Orleans Pelicans. The political hysteria in the air right now can’t even begin to get in the mind of a Raptors fan today.
Though Zion Williamson: the teenage heir to the throne of the Smoothie King Center is out for the next 6-8 weeks with a torn meniscus, tonight’s game should still provide NBA fans with ample amusement.
Even without Zion, both teams will get their first look at some exciting young players new to their respective teams. On the Raptors’ side, fans will get to check out OG Anunoby for the first time since early April, who Nick Nurse has had high praise for thus far. He’s shown a much more dynamic offensive game during his preseason run, and expects to be at the top of the Raptors pecking order on the defensive end. In addition to OG, the undrafted phenom; Terence Davis Jr., who has recently been ranked 14th in Rookie Of The Year betting odds by Bet365 expects to make his debut off the bench. Going against an All-NBA defender in Jrue Holiday will be TD’s first true test of whether his stellar play was a factor of some lackadaisical preseason defense, or if he’s really the real deal.
On the other side, Louisiana basketball fans will finally be able to turn their attention toward the re-building, post-Anthony Davis toxicity Pelicans team, and hopefully be able to focus more on what’s happening on the basketball court than off of it. Most of the Pels’ rotation is new to the squad, so it could take a few games for them to hit their stride, but with veterans like J.J. Redick, Derrick Favours, and Jrue Holiday leading the pack, and smart young players oozing potential such as Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Jaxson Hayes, and the Canadian Nickeil Alexander-Walker, they should be in for a fun season full of growth, and depending on how much of it they see, could even find themselves in the Western Conference playoff picture. While Zion Williamson is out of the lineup, Brandon Ingram and Jrue Holiday should be expected to shoulder most of the scoring load, which shouldn’t be an issue as they combined to average 39.5 points per game last year, and are both still on the right side of 30.
As both teams look forward to a season without their respective superstars who have left to square off in Los Angeles, tonight’s game projects to be fast-paced and defensive focused. Neither team has a dominant scorer, while both sides have long and bolstered defenses, which is a perfect formula for run-out opportunities. Regardless of how sloppy the game might play out, NBA basketball is NBA basketball, and we’re all here for it.
As Kyle Lowry said in his The Players’ Tribune piece this afternoon, “Once that banner gets raised to the rafters, we won’t be looking up at it too long. All the focus will be on getting another one. Because that one isn’t going anywhere. It’s staying right there.”
The journey to another one starts now. Raptors fans, we’ve made it. Today is October 22nd, 2019: Game 1 of 82. Buckle up, it’s going to be another long ride.