Boston, Cleveland, and Washington have really always been the staple teams to be discussed when it comes down to ‘who can win the East and advance to the Finals.’ The Cavs; we’re witnessing (haha) their collapse and what looks to be the 2nd post-Lebron era looming. Boston has a hot-shot coach in Brad Stevens and one of the youngest and most talented rosters that oh, just happened to acquire Kyrie ‘Uncle Drew’ Irving and Gordon Hayward, to vault themselves as the ones to dethrone the King, and I mean, I get it. Boston is an esteemed franchise which has a rich history of success on its resume. Washington is only mentioned because they have star power and no one wants to say Toronto, which brings me to the Raptors. If any year they should take a look at the model for success that the Eagles ran with, it’s by embracing being the underdog. The whole city of Philadelphia, and its fans, clung to the label and it unified the locker room to the point where they were able to bring in their first NFL championship since 1960, and their first Superbowl overall.
I can be positive that everyone in the East is tired of hearing that LeBron is the be-all and end all of the conference. It’s true; in order to get to the Finals, you have to take down the King. It’s especially evident in the AFC for Tom Brady and the Patriots. You have to go through the best to be the best. Toronto has been stewing for a while. One thing about Canadians is that we’re pretty damn passive. It’s not a good thing, but it’s our thing. Don’t ask, it’s just in our engrained DNA for the most part. We’ll shout things like “Fuck Brooklyn”and “We don’t give a shit about ‘It’” in the playoffs and be bounced gracefully, but we’ll always come back with that same energy until we ourselves grow tired of being that whimpering kid asking why people don’t like us.
After being swept by the Cavs in the ’16-’17 season (completely wiped from my memory, if I’m being honest), Masai Ujiri called for a culture reset. What was working when it didn’t matter wasn’t working when it did, and that needed to change. With a retooled offence, an aggressive defence, and a selfless environment hovering over the organization, for the first time in its franchise, the Raptors actually looked poised to make a deep run that has some people thinking that June basketball is a possibility. Now, barring any major injuries, because God loves to throw those hurdles in there, anything is possible.
This year’s Philadelphia Eagles are examples of that, but it’s not about a group of players going down, it’s about the attitude of the organization as a whole and the collective will that each person has in order to assert themselves in a position to win. The Raptors have put themselves in a position not for ‘win-now,’ but for steady growth so that when they want to win, they’re doing it in a consistent fashion.
Time will tell as to how the success of this ‘culture reset’ will result, but at the beyond halfway mark of the season, the Raptors have improved in their efficiency and are winning games against good teams – contenders, I should say. They deserve to have more respect in the NBA, and for them not to have a Christmas game while having two multiple all-stars on the team in the city that just held one of the best all star weekends, that was a big slap in the face, and the top dogs of the team let the NBA know it. They’re all about to “prove ‘em,” and where the expectation is for the Raptors to falter right out of the gates in April, I think these guys from the North have other plans that stretch past the expiry date a lot of people have already plotted out. We’ll all know soon enough.
That’s My Word & It STiXX