–The fine levied on the Toronto Raptors by the NBA after Drake, the team’s “global ambassador,” gave an on-stage welcome to Oklahoma City Thunder player Kevin Durant at last weekend’s OVO Fest. (Durant was apparently in attendance.) Drake’s offense, according to the CBC, was “tampering with a player under contract.”
—Andrew Wiggins, the 19-year-old Thornhill native who on Thursday became the number-one pick in this year’s NBA draft, on the implications of his success for other Canadian NBA hopefuls. Wiggins isn’t the first to lament the narrowness of Canada’s basketball pipeline.
Poor Raptors. First the swift thieves of prehistoric, giant-reptile-ruled Earth were wiped out during the Cretaceous-paleogene extinction event. Then, some 65 million years later, they were reborn (not literally) in the form of an NBA franchise, only to be rendered extinct yet again (figuratively) by the Brooklyn Nets in a (metaphorically) crushing end to their season. But last night’s game started off especially inconveniently for Raps coach Dwane Casey.
En route to the ACC on Sunday, Casey’s car was rerouted because of road closures. Ultimately, he was forced to take TTC to the game, just like some normal, plebian commuter who doesn’t even coach an NBA team, the Canadian Press reports. Unlike those workaday commuters, for whom the TTC can be a daily frustration, Casey seemed entirely satisfied by his ride. “Good old reliable subway,” Casey, who last rode the rocket in summer 2013, told the press. “It’s great,” he added of the TTC. “I recommend it to everybody. Just not on game seven.”
If things don’t work out with the Raptors next season, Casey may have a new job as a TTC spokesman.
For bandwagon jumpers: five phrases that will make fans think you’ve been a Raptors supporter all along
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.
“I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I don’t womanize. But I Raptorize. That’s it.”
–Nav Bhatia, a Mississauga car dealer who (by his own reckoning) has never missed a regular-season Raptors home game, explaining his obsession to the New York Times for an article about himself. Bhatia is such a constant presence at Raptors games that he has managed to befriend players and managers. Some fans even recognize him from TV, because his courtside seats put him in view of the cameras. This season has been a standout for the Raptors after nearly two decades of mediocrity, and Bhatia is, naturally, very pleased. “This season has been very special because nobody expected this,” he told the Times.
Some good Toronto sports news, for once: the Toronto Raptors mascot, who was thought to be out for the season because of an achilles tendon injury suffered late last year, is going to be returning to the ACC on Sunday for the first time since his accident. This is kind of a big deal, because the raptor is amazing.
He’s a semi-legend in the world of sports mascots, and at least one sports writer has argued that he’s one of the hardest-working game-day sideshows in the league. Nobody else can swallow a cheerleader whole. Even his mistakes are weirdly graceful and entertaining.
The team has been promoting the return of the prodigal dinosaur with a series of “training montage”-style YouTube videos, featuring the raptor and his interim replacement, Stripes. One of the videos is embedded above, and the rest are below.
The raptor’s return game will be this one, against the Atlanta Hawks.
The Toronto Raptors’ ongoing rebranding efforts haven’t succeeded in doing much more than putting Drake and Rob Ford on a stage together, but today we finally got a glimpse of the future—and it turns out the future is dressed like a Swarovski bumble bee.
The Star’s Doug Smith writes that Raptors management is “definitely” considering switching the team’s uniforms from red and white to black and gold, starting in the 2015-16 season. He adds that he’s heard nothing to suggest that the colour change has actually been decided upon. The Raptors are still in the middle of executing a strategic self-reinvention plan—apparently losing constantly isn’t great for a team’s image—and nothing has been officially announced yet.
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Sayonara, Don Cherry. Toronto’s sports allegiance is quickly changing
One hundred and twenty-two years ago, a Canadian gym teacher with an unruly classroom grabbed two peach baskets and a soccer ball, and invented a game he called Basket Ball. Now, finally, the sport is coming home. According to a recent study, more kids in this country play basketball than hockey. The causes are varied—astronomical prices for hockey gear and waves of immigrants from hoops-mad countries, for a start—but the result is clear: a crop of insanely talented ballers, the majority of them with GTA roots, not so quietly infiltrating the sport’s upper echelons. Here are the four big names leading the charge.
I walked around downtown a little bit, and I got kind of a humble feeling, everybody was so polite and so cool. That’s when I first started loving Toronto…I’ll definitely consider living here. I love it out here…Toronto is part of me. I’ve been around, the people are very kind, I love it here.
—Raptor Amir Johnson, on his deep affection for his adopted city in general, and its residents’ courteousness in particular. The L.A.-born basketball player’s manners aren’t too shabby, either: every season, he treats 100 fans to a Raptors game and dinner, and last week, he spontaneously bought out two stores of the new album from his friend and new colleague Drake, and gave them out on at Yonge-Dundas Square. (Johnson was most impressed that the gathered fans politely queued up when he asked them to.) Since arriving in Toronto in 2009, the forward has also: danced in the Caribana parade; dressed up for the Zombie Walk; thrown the first pitch at a Jays game; become a Leafs fan and attended Nuit Blanche. Someone give this guy honorary citizenship already. [CBC News]
Today in weird match-ups: at a Toronto Raptors press conference this morning, Drake and Rob Ford together announced that the team will host the 2016 All-Star Game. Drake—who, along with being Toronto’s biggest booster, is an avid Raptors fan—was also named the Raptors’ new “global ambassador,” an as-yet-undefined position that could encompass anything from wearing more team gear to persuading his NBA buddies to sign with Toronto (Ford did not receive a similar basketball ambassadorship). Drake will also have a say on the Raptors’ new colours, which are changing from the current white-and-red scheme for the 2015–16 season. The franchise is hoping the All-Star Game, Drake’s golden touch and a new look will give a much-needed boost to its cool factor. We humbly submit that they might want to add one more to-do to that list: win some games. [Toronto Star]
This could get awkward: Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment brass axed Bryan Colangelo as general manager of the Toronto Raptors today, but he’s keeping his second, more corporate role as the team’s president. MLSE’s new CEO Tim Leiweke told reporters that a five-season playoff drought finally caught up with Colangelo, and that while the former GM is “ticked off,” he’s accepting the reshuffle. (Of course, Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke was also fired-but-not-fired earlier this year, and he only stuck around for another six weeks.) Leiweke plans to find a new GM within a month, and Denver Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri, Raptors vice-president of basketball operations Ed Stefanski and Oklahoma City Thunder assistant GM Troy Weaver are all reportedly on the short list. [TSN]
When 17-year-old Andrew Wiggins leapt into the air and reared back a tomahawk dunk this past summer at the prestigious LeBron James Skills Academy, even James himself jumped out of his seat in awe. Wiggins, the son of an ex–NBA player father and an Olympic track medalist mother, started his ascent at Vaughan Secondary School, where he led the Voyageurs to a provincial championship in 2011. Today, he’s considered the best high school player in the world and is expected to be a top NBA draft pick as early as 2014. At six-foot-seven, Wiggins blocks and rebounds, shoots three-pointers with ease and explodes to the hoop with a nearly four-foot vertical leap—the kind of all-around skills that draw comparisons to LeBron James. Wiggins is spending his last year of high school at a top prep academy in West Virginia, and big colleges are salivating at the chance to recruit him. Canada has long been an afterthought when it comes to high-level basketball, but that’s about to change, thanks to an abundance of talented Toronto-based ballers. Wiggins is by far the best.
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I am one of two women in an office of men, most of whom are diehard sports fans. The holiday party this year is being held in a VIP box at a Raptors game. The venue seems sexist to me. Is it fair to ask my boss to consider a less dude-oriented locale? If so, how do I do it without coming off as hyper-PC?
—Unsportsmanlike Colleague, Yonge and Eg
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