The Toronto Raptors have just finished the best regular season in the club’s two-decade history, and are now one game into a round-one playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets. The winner will likely go on to face the formidable Miami Heat in the next round of the tournament, and so no matter what happens during the rest of the series (Toronto has already lost its first game out of seven against Brooklyn, and conspiracy theorists are blaming the refs), there may not be a lot of time left to get on the Raptors bandwagon.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still jump on with both feet. If you do, it won’t even be that hard to fool long-time fans into believing you’ve been there all along.
To that end, here are five key phrases to drop if you suspect your basketball-loving acquaintances are starting to question your bona fides.
1. “I can’t believe how easily Masai undid Colangelo’s two biggest mistakes!”
Who: Raptors GM Masai Ujiri; former GM Bryan Colangelo
What: Ujiri left the pre-existing roster mostly intact this season (his first on the job). But it was getting rid of two of his predecessor’s signature hires—sending former first overall draft pick Andrea Bargnani to New York, and packing Rudy Gay, the previous season’s major acquisition, off to Sacramento—that helped unlock the potential in holdovers like Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Freeing the ball from Gay’s me-first clutches set in motion a franchise-record-setting 48-win season for the club, destroying all talk of “tanking” to get a high pick in June’s draft.
Used when: The Raptors are flying, and no one on court is playing like his job is to kill all ball movement.
2. “They can’t let Lowry walk!”
Who: Point guard Kyle Lowry
What: Lowry, who was nearly traded to the New York Knicks in December (a deal that would have netted the Raptors a first-round draft pick, but was reportedly nixed by Knicks ownership) will be a free agent at the end of the season. While there are many Raptors who have shone this season—the ascendant DeRozan, the sublime and underrated Amir Johnson, the steadily improving Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross—it’s the 27-year-old Lowry who did so in a way he can take straight to the bank. He set or matched career per-game highs in points, assists, and rebounds. In other words, he has been very, very good, and he’s going to get paid like it. Whether the Raptors will be the team paying him is the biggest question the club will face over the summer.
Used when: Lowry does something spectacular on the court.
3. “What’s there to do at 3 a.m. in Wasaga Beach in the winter, anyway?”
Who: Centre Jonas Valanciunas; a Wasaga Beach drive-thru worker
What: Putting a damper on the team’s feel-good story was a late-night DUI charge laid against prized Lithuanian big man Jonas Valanciunas earlier this month, after he was allegedly spotted with an open alcohol container by a Wasaga Beach drive-thru employee. The club handled the matter as well and as professionally as could be expected, but it was an unfortunate and unexpectedly dark twist at the end of a season that otherwise made the future seem very bright for the young man.
Used when: Jonas gets into early foul trouble, maybe as a result of some dubious calls in favour of better-established opponents.
4. “Fuck Brooklyn!”
Who: The Raptors’ first-round playoff opponents, the Brooklyn Nets
What: Masai Ujiri shouted this to an erupting crowd at an event in Maple Leaf Square prior to game one of the Raps’ series against the Nets. It was a response to Brooklyn apparently intentionally losing its final two regular-season games in order to get their preferred playoff matchup, against the Raptors. “You know how I feel. I don’t like them, but I apologize,” Ujiri later told reporters.
Used when: Brooklyn’s veterans are rolling (and you’ve run out of filthy words to shower upon the refs).
5. “How do I get a ticket???”
Who: You, a newly-minted member of the Raptors bandwagon
What: Want proof of how starved for playoff success we are in this market? Raptors home playoff tickets are the highest priced in the league, and saw the biggest markup over regular-season ticket prices, according to a report from Forbes. That hasn’t stopped them from becoming scarce, though. The ACC’s entire upper bowl and several lower-level sections are entirely sold out for Tuesday’s game two—though those willing to pay the sorts of prices normally reserved for the Maple Leafs should still be able to find themselves a seat, either through official channels or on the secondary market. You might even be able to score one next to Nav Bhatia!
Used when: TV doesn’t suffice and you want to experience playoff basketball live. (And if you can’t get your hands on a ticket, TSN will air the entirety of the Raptors’ first playoff run in six years, with the next tipoff set for Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. at the ACC. Game three will be in Brooklyn on Friday, at 7 p.m.)
Andrew Stoeten is the editor of The Score’s Drunk Jays Fans blog.