Posts tagged Toronto Raptors
Ball Don't Lie EP 58 - The City Is Under New Management

Pierce and Scott give their instant reaction to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George joining the Los Angeles Clippers!

As Justin Bieber readies to drop much anticipated new music, enjoy this Barber's Chair playlist of the best hits in Bieberveli's arsenal! 
Apple Music: https://apple.co/2HdG2yN
Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2HbTcME
Tidal: http://bit.ly/bieberveli

Throw your diamonds up for more than a decade of heat with the new TIDAL-exclusive Roc La Familia playlist from The Barber's Chair! The greatest hits from the most prolific label in hip hop history.
Listen here: https://tidal.com/playlist/dfcd8a98-7eb0-473e-8666-170acc564443

Listen to the new bangers playlist on Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music!
Tidal: bit.ly/tidalbangers
Spotify: bit.ly/spotifybangers
Apple Music: bit.ly/applebangers

WrestleMania might be over but you can still rep Becky Two Belts with the brand new #FreeTheMan tees up now on the Barber's Chair Net merch shop
teespring.com/stores/the-barbers-chair
or
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Ball Don't Lie EP 57 - AD Is On The Way

The NBA Finals are over, but the NBA is a year-long league. Scott Flows and Pierce weigh in on the Lakers trading for Anthony Davis before diving into the Raptors' championship win, the Warriors' dynasty and a spirited debate on whether Kawhi Leonard is a top five player of his era.

As Justin Bieber readies to drop much anticipated new music, enjoy this Barber's Chair playlist of the best hits in Bieberveli's arsenal! 
Apple Music: https://apple.co/2HdG2yN
Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2HbTcME
Tidal: http://bit.ly/bieberveli

Throw your diamonds up for more than a decade of heat with the new TIDAL-exclusive Roc La Familia playlist from The Barber's Chair! The greatest hits from the most prolific label in hip hop history.
Listen here: https://tidal.com/playlist/dfcd8a98-7eb0-473e-8666-170acc564443

Listen to the new bangers playlist on Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music!
Tidal: bit.ly/tidalbangers
Spotify: bit.ly/spotifybangers
Apple Music: bit.ly/applebangers

WrestleMania might be over but you can still rep Becky Two Belts with the brand new #FreeTheMan tees up now on the Barber's Chair Net merch shop
teespring.com/stores/the-barbers-chair
or
teespring.com/freetheman

Ball Don't Lie EP 56 - Durant Strong

Scott and Flows break down the NBA Finals as the Warriors force a Game 6 and one final game at Oracle. More on Kevin Durant's injury and how it effects the series and the entire NBA. Can Kawhi's Raptors get it done and bring a title north of the border, or will the Warriors complete a miraculous comeback?

As Justin Bieber readies to drop much anticipated new music, enjoy this Barber's Chair playlist of the best hits in Bieberveli's arsenal! 
Apple Music: https://apple.co/2HdG2yN
Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2HbTcME
Tidal: http://bit.ly/bieberveli

Throw your diamonds up for more than a decade of heat with the new TIDAL-exclusive Roc La Familia playlist from The Barber's Chair! The greatest hits from the most prolific label in hip hop history.
Listen here: https://tidal.com/playlist/dfcd8a98-7eb0-473e-8666-170acc564443

Listen to the new bangers playlist on Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music!
Tidal: bit.ly/tidalbangers
Spotify: bit.ly/spotifybangers
Apple Music: bit.ly/applebangers

WrestleMania might be over but you can still rep Becky Two Belts with the brand new #FreeTheMan tees up now on the Barber's Chair Net merch shop
teespring.com/stores/the-barbers-chair
or
teespring.com/freetheman

Ball Don't Lie EP 55 - NBA Finals 2019

It's all knotted up at one win a piece in the NBA Finals. Scott Pierce and Dante talk about the Warriors-Raptors series so far and who has the edge going to Oakland.

As Justin Bieber readies to drop much anticipated new music, enjoy this Barber's Chair playlist of the best hits in Bieberveli's arsenal! 
Apple Music: https://apple.co/2HdG2yN
Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2HbTcME
Tidal: http://bit.ly/bieberveli

Throw your diamonds up for more than a decade of heat with the new TIDAL-exclusive Roc La Familia playlist from The Barber's Chair! The greatest hits from the most prolific label in hip hop history.
Listen here: https://tidal.com/playlist/dfcd8a98-7eb0-473e-8666-170acc564443

Listen to the new bangers playlist on Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music!
Tidal: bit.ly/tidalbangers
Spotify: bit.ly/spotifybangers
Apple Music: bit.ly/applebangers

WrestleMania might be over but you can still rep Becky Two Belts with the brand new #FreeTheMan tees up now on the Barber's Chair Net merch shop
teespring.com/stores/the-barbers-chair
or
teespring.com/freetheman

Ball Don't Lie EP 54 - KD Doesn't Have a Hive

Wos of Count The Dings and The Athletic join Scott and Pierce to break down the 2019 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Toronto Raptors. Then, Sporting News’ rankings of the current quarterbacks in the NFL, how we’re coping without Game of Thrones, and Goofy Mog of the Week!

Follow Scott on Twitter: @BarbersChairNet
Follow Pierce on Twitter: @HennyOmega
Follow Wos on Twitter: @BigWos

CHICAGO! Come out and hang with The Barber's Chair Thursday, May 30th for Game One of the NBA Finals! The Golden State Warriors will face off against the Eastern Conference Champion at 8:00 p.m. Fall through for drinks and the big game and meet Scott, Flows and Pierce. 3439 N. Sheffield

As Justin Bieber readies to drop much anticipated new music, enjoy this Barber's Chair playlist of the best hits in Bieberveli's arsenal! 
Apple Music: https://apple.co/2HdG2yN
Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2HbTcME
Tidal: http://bit.ly/bieberveli

Throw your diamonds up for more than a decade of heat with the new TIDAL-exclusive Roc La Familia playlist from The Barber's Chair! The greatest hits from the most prolific label in hip hop history.
Listen here: https://tidal.com/playlist/dfcd8a98-7eb0-473e-8666-170acc564443

Listen to the new bangers playlist on Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music!
Tidal: bit.ly/tidalbangers
Spotify: bit.ly/spotifybangers
Apple Music: bit.ly/applebangers

Becky might no longer have two belts but you can still get your #FreeTheMan tee on the Barber's Chair Net merch shop
teespring.com/stores/the-barbers-chair
or
teespring.com/freetheman

Ball Don't Lie EP 53 - F**K The Fans

And now our watch has ended. The final episode of Game of Thrones has come and gone. Scott Flows and Pierce talk about where the show ranks among the greatest of all time. Plus, the bad-assery of John Wick 3: Parabellum, the NBA Playoffs, Magic Johnson airing out his dirty laundry with the Lakers and so much more.

CHICAGO! Come out and hang with The Barber's Chair Thursday, May 30th for Game One of the NBA Finals! The Golden State Warriors will face off against the Eastern Conference Champion at 8:00 p.m. Fall through for drinks and the big game and meet Scott, Flows and Pierce. 3439 N. Sheffield

As Justin Bieber readies to drop much anticipated new music, enjoy this Barber's Chair playlist of the best hits in Bieberveli's arsenal! 
Apple Music: https://apple.co/2HdG2yN
Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2HbTcME
Tidal: http://bit.ly/bieberveli

Throw your diamonds up for more than a decade of heat with the new TIDAL-exclusive Roc La Familia playlist from The Barber's Chair! The greatest hits from the most prolific label in hip hop history.
Listen here: https://tidal.com/playlist/dfcd8a98-7eb0-473e-8666-170acc564443

Listen to the new bangers playlist on Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music!
Tidal: bit.ly/tidalbangers
Spotify: bit.ly/spotifybangers
Apple Music: bit.ly/applebangers

Becky might no longer have two belts but you can still get your #FreeTheMan tee on the Barber's Chair Net merch shop
teespring.com/stores/the-barbers-chair
or
teespring.com/freetheman

Ball Don't Lie - The Show Must Go On

Dante sits in for Pierce and Flows to preview the rest of the NFL playoffs, and Wos joins the show to catch us up on everything going on in the NBA.

Follow Flows on Twitter: @Flowsandolini
Follow Scott on Twitter: @Scott_C-oh yeah...that's right nvm...
Follow Pierce on Twitter: @HennyOmega
Follow Wos: @BigWos
Follow Dante: @OctobersOwnTae
Follow the Barber's Chair: @BarbersChairNet

Celebrate your division champs by grabbing one of the NEW shirts straight from The Barber's Chair merch store!
teespring.com/stores/the-barbers-chair

Nearly Canceled: Entourage drops January 2019 exclusively on the Barber's Chair Patreon! Become a patron of The Barber's Chair on Patreon! $5 a month will get you a thank you on Ball Don't Lie and guarantees you access to Nearly Canceled: Entourage, along with more exclusive premium content from The Barber's Chair!
patreon.com/barberschairnet

Case(y) Closed
Photograph: USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA/REX/Shutterstock

Photograph: USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA/REX/Shutterstock

Now, depending on who you ask, you’re either shocked by the news of Dwane Casey’s firing, or not at all.

For me, someone who has not been shy to call for a head coaching change during his tenure, Toronto changing course comes to me as both surprising and not. Some of the positives with Casey during his time with the Raptors was the slow process of a sustained culture of winning, and he didn’t just use his words, the actions from the players spoke, and the teams got better as the years progressed.

Getting to the playoffs five years in a row, after the franchise as a whole had been to the postseason a grand total of five times its first 13 years of existence, that was a major boost into the culture that both Casey and president Masai Ujiri wanted to implement going forward. He challenged his players to be better game after game, and was never satisfied with wins – he wanted to keep getting better. That’s someone you’d want to play for, because the expectations he imposed on you were challenging enough that you’d want to improve, not just for yourself, but for the betterment of the team.

At times Casey was out-coached. He was slow to react to the opposition's chess moves, and looked frantic or desperate to make things happen; forcing the issue, if you will. As a coach, you want to be the most prepared person in the room. To know the tendencies of your opponent, to take advantage of opportunities given to you, those are things that take a lot of time and experience to adapt.

It also helps that you have great players in your disposal, and one particular reason why Casey ended up canned after being swept by the Cavaliers (again), is because he was working with good-but-not-great players. DeMar DeRozan & Kyle Lowry are All-Stars, absolutely. They’re not household names outside of the country of Canada, heck, they’re probably not even household names outside of the Greater Toronto Area. They both improved their games, but not in the season that matters, and that happened to be the regular season.

We’re one season removed from the “culture reset,” which a year ago Masai Ujiri famously proclaimed that the Raptors had to do; 59 wins, the 1-seed in the East, and pretty much a lock for NBA Coach of the Year was not enough for Casey to retain his position as the head of the North.

Where I stand with the move is this: the Raptors are in the worst position you can think of in terms of their team status. They’re a good team, not good enough to be great, and other teams within the conference (Celtics, Sixers, Pacers, and Bucks for examples) are loaded with a lot of young talent and have a higher ceiling. The championship window for the Raptors is closing, and the Raptors need a leader with Championship pedigree to take them over the top. Whether it’s challenging DeMar & Kyle to take their games to another level and bring everyone along with them, or making the Raptors a team that the league will actually take seriously in the months of April & May, a lot of it falls on the roster, but it does start with the coach.

Everyone will be quick to point out that LeBron James is the reason for his dismissal, but you have to cut ties with mediocrity some time. If this is a Mark Jackson-Steve Kerr situation, then that’s what happens, but if not, it’s the risk you take in order to get better. Consistency with getting to the playoffs is good, but all that effort for early exits every year isn’t ideal, and something has to give. Being the first top seed in 49 years to get swept before the Conference Finals is frustrating, and patience is always key to building a sustained successful franchise, but you’ve got to make a move that doesn’t jeopardize the roster and send the Raptors back into the Dark Ages.

avengers i dont wanna go mr stark.gif

Dwane Casey is a good coach. He influenced the locker room in many ways in order for the Raptors to ascend into a team where people had to mention in the same breath of title contenders. Even if the results didn’t pan out, the fact that the inkling of respect was evident, was a lot. It was more than what was given to the Raptors in their franchise’s history, so Casey deserves a lot of credit for his contributions.

It’s time to look ahead as to what the future holds. Whether significant roster moves are coming (*cough* Ibaka *cough*) or if the Raptors land gold with a new coach, the state of the franchise is in limbo until further notice.

Thank you for your time, Dwane Casey, we’ll take it from here.

Where that may be? Hopefully upwards.

That’s My Word & It STiXX

Hoops N Brews Ep.78: Melo Ran off on Sam Presti Twice

This week on @HoopsNBrews, @Pavyworld & @ReelTPJ are joined by @elCapitanCarter to discuss Joel Embiid's injury & its impact on the Sixers, Raptors recent struggle, should LeBron be MVP every year? and much more

No need for panic: it's not a wrap for the Raptors heading into playoffs
NBA.com

NBA.com

We can all agree that the NBA season is a long one, correct? This is obviously not to excuse any lapse of quality play from good teams, but it’s certainly understandable.

That being said, teams either get hot or have a shaky finish as they stumble into the playoffs, which doesn’t necessarily mean that the momentum will carry into the post-season. Lord knows we’ve seen teams fizzle out quickly (which is why the banged up Warriors can’t really be snuffed out as title favourites).

As far as the Toronto Raptors are concerned, they’re in a position they’ve never been in before, so it’s difficult to gauge whether or not the outside world should have faith in them having a deep run and being the first non-LeBron Eastern Conference team to reach the NBA Finals since 2010. Not only does that speaks to the dominance of LeBron, but also that parity in the East sucks and we’re in dire need for some change. Warriors-Cavs part 4 would be historic for storyline purposes, but it’s like watching a Patriots-Giants Superbowl again (no thank you).

After enjoying an amazing run of winning 20 of 22 games since late January, the month of March wasn't pleasant for the Raptors, as they prepare for a daunting finish to the regular season. They’ve lost four of their last seven, including an ejection-fest against OKC, and a thriller in Cleveland on the end of a back-to-back. In both games they surrendered 132 points, uncharacteristic of a top-5 ranked defense in the Association. With having given up 110+ points to 7 of their last 8 opponents, and stagnant play against lesser teams, critics are finding it uneasy to believe the Raptors will be fresh enough to make a run in the playoffs.

But I don’t believe there's much cause for concern. The reason being three key components: the Coach, the all-Star back court, and the bench.

Getting fresh legs is important, but the chemistry has been on point with the reset of the culture in Toronto for this season. A few bad games doesn’t suddenly dissolve all of that. But one thing that Toronto teams can’t seem to overcome is the pressure of high expectations. With the exception of Toronto FC winning the MLS Cup last year, the city has seen its fair share of disappointment. Look no further than 2015 and 2016 Blue Jays, who were in prime win-now situations and reached the ALCS both years, but squandered both opportunities and have watched their window for success close on them since.

The Raptors team who went to the East Finals in 2016 did win 56 games, but there weren’t any aspirations for titles. Getting out of the first round wasn’t something they’d done since 2001. The franchise was just happy to be where they were, and overachieved against weaker teams. Let’s be real, no one but the Cavs were getting out of the East and everyone knew it.

This is the first year in franchise history that the Raptors are seriously being looked at as contenders, and the fact that some American analysts are respecting that is quite something to believe. If the Raptors don’t get to at least the Conference Finals, it’s a failed season, and there’s no way around that. Those expectations weren’t set at the beginning of the season because no one knew how the team would respond to the “culture reset” that president Masai Ujiri wanted. No one knew that the bench full of unproven role players would happen to be the best in the NBA. No one knew that DeMar DeRozan’s playmaking ability would ascend over the course of the season, and certainly, no one expected the Raptors to hold steady at the top of the East for as long as they have, with a legitimate chance to clinch it. These expectations were grown through the quality of play, and since winning is what the team and fans have been accustomed to this season, it’s way beyond being happy to be in the playoffs; it’s about changing the narrative and adding some much needed hardware.

There’s no reason to panic. As much as the team has been scrutinized for past failures, this season has turned over a new leaf and there are too many players on the team and staff in the building who are hungry enough to go after it and take what they want. It's pretty much the Finals or Bust, and that’s the right attitude for success one would want from their teams. Obviously we don’t know how far they’ll go, but the hope is that they don’t revive the miseries of old.

That’s My Word & It STiXX

Respect the Raptors' Bench Mob

A lot of a team’s success certainly relies on its starters, but it’s the supporting cast that can make or break teams when going through the rough stretch of the dog days in the NBA, and even in the thick of the playoffs. They play an integral role in helping propel a team’s chances of winning on a nightly basis. Usually there’s 1 or 2 players who come off the bench and can make a significant impact (hence the 6th Man award), but the truly great teams can go deep into their bench to not heavily rely on the success of the starters. Ideally, that’s what you want in a fully functioning team.

The Toronto Raptors have had the best bench in the NBA this season so far, and the fact that the majority of the players who contribute to this bench are 1st and 2nd year players, is very telling to not only the drafting from management (shoutout to Masai Ujiri & Bobby Webster), but also to coaching. And quite frankly, you need some luck too, because you can have all the talent in the world, and it won’t translate on the court to get you the results you’re looking for.

Fred Van Vleet, Jakob Poetl, Delon Wright, CJ Miles, Norman Powell and Pascal Siakam are the key cogs that churn the 2nd unit for the Raptors. Including the starting 5 of Lowry, DeRozan, Valaciunas, Ibaka, and OG Anunoby, 11 players are averaging at least 6 points per game, which I’ve read has never been done before.

When Masai called for a “culture reset” after getting swept by the Cavaliers in 2017, I didn’t anticipate that it would have resulted in them having the depth that they do at bench. It’s hilarious to think of their depth, when in very recent memory, they had the ‘6 Man’ of the year with Lou Williams (which he has lived up to in his post-Toronto career – currently with the Clippers). Unfortunately, they were swept by the Wizards. The bench was decent, but not enough to get the Raptors to the next level.

What’s currently at hand is a unit that is not only young, but also mature enough to grasp the challenge of getting to that next level. When Lowry is down, you have two PGs who can get you 20 (FVV & Delon). When you need a shooter, CJ Miles can give you 3-4 threes a night (that’s not even an exaggeration either – the man can shoot). Jakob Poetl has proven nightly that not only is he a great rim protector, but the man’s offensive production is that which Raptors fans have been asking JV to be for years. I mean, JV has a 3-point shot now, and is noticeably quicker on his feet, so we’ll take that.

The biggest challenge that always proved to be the Raptors downfall, was the amount of minutes Lowry & DeRozan spent on a nightly basis. By the time the playoffs came around, they were groggy, consistently inconsistent, and visibly tired. It was a lot on their bodies, and they weren’t fresh. They’ve always had to carry the team on those latter stretches, and would run straight to the ground come the first week of May.

This year, they haven’t had that problem, but mainly because the team is so good and has been dominating teams so often, that they usually don’t play whole 4th quarters. That’s a testament as well to great bench play, because Dwane Casey has found significant footing with his approach to controlling his game. At times, he’ll pull the starters so the 2nd unit can give the team a jolt. The chemistry of the bench is infectious, and the guys enjoy playing with each other. They’re part of the reason why the Raptors are on pace to break their season-high wins record again, and why the possibility of basketball in June is actually a conversation (right now). The assist rate for the Raptors is the highest it’s ever been, because of years of watching ISO-ball-run rampant. It’s the method to their success that will only get better with time.

The significance of having a D-League team is also at play because the nucleus of the bench spent significant time there (and won the D-League championship). When you look at the Spurs, which is an organization that has set the bar for overall team success for the past 20 years, they pride themselves on developing their players into becoming key contributors on the next level. With that much experience and playing time, it only adds to a player’s confidence, and it translates when it comes to in-game action.

The Raptors 905 should be respected for the way in which they’ve been able to sculpt their players into becoming consistent performers when it matters. ‘Built not Bought’ is a phrase that rejects the notion that you have to buy your way to success, and through great drafting and coaching, that’s possible.

The Golden State Warriors are another model you can look at, given that they produced 3 all-stars through their draft and have had success with pivotal role players.

The end of season result is still to remain, but this Raptors team, with their upgraded and finely tuned bench, can give hope to the team and the fans of the team of future success, if not this year, then definitely sooner rather than later.

That’s My Word & It STiXX

The legend of Vinsanity: examining Vince Carter's place in Raptors lore

For the average basketball fan out there, if you’re wondering about a team to follow and you’ve been browsing your options as to which team you want to root for, there are many options in terms of what you’re looking for in a long-term commitment to a team. Some people like the style of play from one team (see: Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs), some enjoy specific star players, and other may have some sort of a special connection to a particular city. And even if you live in said particular city, it’s not a prerequisite to root for the home team (although, why the hell not?).

In Toronto, there isn’t much to root for in our short history, but for the long-suffering Raptors fans who had to endure specific eras of the franchise, it’s been quite the string of emotions in a span of 22 years, but mostly lows than highs.

Jed Jacobsohn /Allsport

Jed Jacobsohn /Allsport

On the heels of hearing rumbles about this year being Vince Carter’s potential final run in the NBA, and also Chris Bosh saying that he’s not finished with his basketball career, although his health might say otherwise, what are the odds that two of the most prominent players to ever play for the Raptors would be making some kind of news while the Raptors are enjoying their best season thus far at an all-star mark of 41-16?

To be fair, the writing has seemingly been on the wall for Vince for a few years, and there are many opinions about if the Raptors & Vince should come to some reunion. Reports have come out saying that there is no longer any interest of a reunion, so that dream can peacefully lie on the hill from whence it came. With The Carter Effect documentary honouring the impact that Vince made on Canadian basketball, it’s not to say that VC hasn’t been shown love at all in TDot, but the journey from his reign as ‘Air Canada’ to the most dissatisfying ‘Bosh’ years, to where we are now in the current state of the Raptors, it’s truly a tale in 3 acts that warrants a revisit just to appreciate how far the lone franchise in Canada has come.

Many are of the belief that if it wasn’t for Vince Carter and the red hot spotlight that he brought to the Toronto Raptors during his tenure from ’98 to 2004, the team, much like the Vancouver Grizzlies, who moved to Memphis (who Carter would also play for during the latter half of his career, ironically enough) would cease to exist. And you’d think that the city of Toronto would have embraced basketball long before ’95 when the team was created, when the first ever NBA game was played between the New York Knicks and Toronto Huskies in 1946. Only a lifetime of ‘what ifs’ could be asked if the team didn’t dissolve, and a culture of basketball was allowed to thrive along with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and then the Blue Jays. Toronto would have been permeating in sports all around, but it took one Vincent Lamar Carter to grace his presence in the city and captivate the hearts of millions and eventually inspire Canadian kids all over to embrace basketball and make it possible for them to envision life in the NBA, and now you can’t have a conversation about basketball without seriously considering the factory that Canada has built to supply the game of great talent (Andrew Wiggins, Jamal Murray, Kelly Olynyk, and Tristan Thompson for examples).

(Darren McNamara/Getty Images)

(Darren McNamara/Getty Images)

The expectations for the Raptors in their early years were simple – there were none. Having been a lottery team for the first 4 years of existence, there was an opportunity to stockpile talent and then see what would happen next. Personally, I didn’t really start paying attention to basketball consistently until I was about 10 or 11. My mom brought me to a game against the Alonzo Mourning-led Miami Heat in 2002, and it was one of the happiest days of my life. That said, I didn’t have to partake in the garbage that was being churned out from the SkyDome in the initial years, but I was still in elementary school, and no one really cared for the Raptors outside of the fact that we thought the logo was cool. The nickname ‘Craptors’ evolved naturally through their lackluster years (and I put that lightly) in the post-Vince era. In ’98, Vince won Rookie of the Year – that was good; in ’99, the Raptors made it to the playoffs for the first time in their history – that was good. Then in the year 2000, it happened. Yes, the Raptors won a playoff round and advanced to the 2nd round, but that wasn’t the highlight of that year. You know exactly what it was – the infamous Dunk-Off during All Star weekend. That’s when the basketball world (and world alike) discovered what the fans in Toronto pretty much already knew – we had a star. Since that magnificent display of athleticism and power, every dunker whom has shown some form of prominence has had to be compared to the likes of really two players: Michael Jordan and Vince Carter. That’s saying a lot, and the nickname of Air Canada was born (it helped that the Raptors played in the Air Canada Centre), but the play on words that drew instant comparison to ‘Air Jordan’ made it that much more significant. What else happened that summer? Oh yeah, this little thing called the Olympics and he cleared a 7-footer for one of the greatest dunks ever to exist on Earth. It was quite a time.

The 2000-01 Toronto Raptors set the standard for the franchise that future teams would have to catch up to. Despite the shock of losing Tracy McGrady in the offseason to Orlando (more ‘what ifs’), that team was loaded. Vince, Oakley, Alvin Williams, JYD, Dell Curry (yes, father of Stephen), Mo Pete, and freakin’ Antonio Davis (just to name a few). If there was any team that year that was poised to make a run for the Finals, it was this team. Philly had Allen Iverson, and Milwaukee had (a young) Ray Allen, but the confidence was that the Raptors would make their first Finals appearance vs. the Lakers. Again, I was 11 at the time, but you couldn’t escape the excitement from all corners of the city, no matter your age or allegiance to the Raptors. Vince showed the city and the NBA that the Raptors could be contenders for the future, and that was especially evident in the 2nd round series against the Sixers. Having the opportunity to dispose of the MVP, A.I, was a very real scenario that the Raptors could have taken advantage of. Being the leading scorer in 6 of 7 games during that series, VC put the team on his back, and in a back and forth thriller, where it looked like the Raptors could have cemented their status as a team that was ‘for real,’ that dream bricked off the rim just like Vince’s (unnecessary) fadeaway attempted game winner in Game 7. That wasn’t the worst part – it was the smile afterwards that turned Vince from beloved to hated in many of the minds and hearts of Raptors faithful.

That shot seemingly sent shockwaves in the world of the Raptors from that point on, because everything just seemed to get worse from that point forward. Raptors got back to the playoffs, but lost to the Pistons in the first round. Vince was hurt for the majority of the 2002-03 season, and that ended in a fire pit of misery. Luckily, we drafted some guy named Chris Bosh, and things looked like they were going to be good moving forward – Wrong. Wrong. Traded JYD & Antonio Davis, and seemed like it was a team that was all aboard the tank train. 04-05 will be the season that will haunt a lot of Raptors fans, because that’s when ithappened – the trade. To the Nets, no less. Management & Vince, by their own accords, have retold the story of why it happened (years later), but that didn’t stop Raptors fans from holding onto their hatred. We booed. A lot. Every time. There’s a generation of fans who grew up just hating Vince Carter by birthright. It was that bad. The game-winning 3 in 2006 at the ACC is a memory that still haunts a lot of people, but it got worse (because of course it did) when the following season, the Raptors played the Nets in the playoffs, and we lost in 6. Why him? Of all people, why did it have to be him? That’s what stung the most. It completely diminished the fact that the 06-07 team matched the high mark in games won for the franchise (which wouldn’t be broken until 2013-14), and that maybe the team would give us things to look forward to in the future (which it didn’t). It was just Vince. The hatred of him was the narrative. He was the one who ruined the glory that the Raptors were supposed to have. He’s the reason T-Mac left. He’s the reason why we didn’t advance in 2001. Him. Him. Him.

Only when Vince was on the last leg of his career is where the appreciation and calls for forgiveness evolved from whispers to actual conversations. That only came to be once the kids who idolized him in the city of Toronto (and surrounding regions) were entering the NBA and were thanking him for being the genesis of their pursuits to the big league. That’s a claim that can’t be associated to many players. Vince Carter has been designated as a role player for many years because his career was riddled with injuries. Of course there are still going to be a contingent of people who will hold onto past grudges, but for the majority of people who had an opinion on the matter of VC, the impact on the game in Canada matters more to the fans than a missed 3 pointer or bad blood with management that resulted in a trade. The Raptors are more than likely going to retire his number (which was also Amir Johnson’s number, but I think he’d understand), and he’s one of the greatest Raptors ever, and the argument is that he still is (although DeMar has certainly made his case). VC was a budding superstar that turned journeyman, and the Raptors bathed in the waters of mediocrity before the tables finally decided to turn in their favour. It’s very interesting to see the parallels of the player, and the franchise that came to be noticed because of the player. Love him or hate him, he’s a Raptor forever, whether you like it or not. There are many ‘what ifs’ that have followed the Raptors and Vince throughout their respective tenures, but what is true is that the two will be forever linked.

That’s My Word & It STiXX

Redefining a 'superstar'
  Brace Hemmelgarn, USAT

 Brace Hemmelgarn, USAT

A Superstar, when it comes to the field of athletics, is an individual who has been basked in a light of glory and awe for the masses to gaze upon. Their status is to bring much success to their franchise, the city of that franchise, and the fans of said franchise. They are the ones who are heralded and praised and compared to for future generations so that there can one day be a “next …” to compare the likes of our past’s great warriors, but when the lights aren’t too hot, and people aren’t really singing your praises, but you still end up having individual & team success, then at what point do you leap into Superstardom?

That’s been a question surrounding the current status of a one DeMar DeRozan, 4-Time NBA All Star, 3-Time NBA Player of the Month, and a member of the 2016-17 All-NBA 3rd Team. To call him an anomaly only scratches the surface of words associated with this player over the past few years. His name has slowly worked its way into everyday households, but he’s not quite there yet. 

One of the bonus songs from good kid, m.A.A.dcity is aptly called Black Boy Fly, in which tells the tale of two prominent Black men from Compton, from Kendrick’s point of view. One of those two men is Arron Afflalo (the other is The Game, if you cared to know, but it’s not important in this context). Obviously we can’t tell the future and know who’s going to blow up, get popular, and also make it to the NBA. It was Arron in Kendrick’s time, but who would have known that only a couple years later, it would be another Compton native that would be ‘flying’ across the league in such a way that the league didn’t know how to react to it?

Well, again, this is the case for DeMar DeRozan, because not only was he a shaky pick all the way back in 2009, but there wasn’t anything about him that was supposed to deem him as this next great player for any franchise let alone the lowly Toronto Raptors, whose most popular players in their franchise were Vince Carter, T-Mac (briefly), and Chris Bosh (okay fine, I’ll add Andrea Bargnani somewhere – kidding). Needless to say, the aforementioned 3 ended up finding their success away from the Raptors (VC & T-Mac remain ringless, while Bosh picked up a couple in Miami).

Stars never stayed in Toronto, and there are oh so many reasons as to why that happened, but what happened in 2014 after some promise shown by a seemingly fluke team was strung together, a star stayed.

That star was Kyle Lowry. Effectively, that started the domino effect that propelled not only the Raptors to winning consistently, and developing a kindred match made in basketball backcourt heaven with DeMar DeRozan, it was then DeMar who took it upon himself to stay with the team and finish what he started, proclaiming that he had the Raptors on his back to lead them to the promise land in the near to distance future. Either way, he showed his loyalty to the Raptors. The Raptors is a franchise that isn’t owed anything. We don’t have anything to stand for, historically, and for a team that represents a whole country, you’d think that there’d be some pressure there, but really there’s a small contingency of basketball fans who are just happy to have a damn team up here.

There have been ‘franchise players’ who have also been deemed superstars that haven’t accumulated prominent success, and most of the time it’s about being in the right situation at the right time. If we look at some franchises in the East currently there’s a lot of growth and rebuilding. Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee, Kristaps Porzingis in New York, Kemba Walker in Charlotte, John Wall in Washington, and Kyrie Irving in Boston. Now, basketball pundits will look at those names, some have, and all give them a Superstar tag because they’re names you know, and because of their individual talent, they’re going to make that jump to making their teams the best there is – not necessarily.

The only common denominator in all of those names is that they’re all younger than DeMar DeRozan, but I’m sure they’d want to take the playoff experiences and consistency of winning the same route (more or less) than DeMar has. The Wizards haven’t advanced out of the 2nd round in John Wall’s career, Kyrie didn’t touch the playoffs until LeBron went back to Cleveland (no fault of his own, just laying it out there – also got a ring and 3 straight Finals appearances), Kristaps plays for the Knicks, and the Bucks are just starting to come into their own but can’t evade the injury bug to other prominent players.

So why can’t DeMar be a superstar by his own measure based on what he’s accomplished? Having your own shoe, having a lot of commercials, and being that personality in which audiences can grow to love, that also constitutes what makes a superstar. But if that’s just not your personality (see: Kawhi Leonard) then I don’t feel as though that should work against you. I’m not one who’s big on advanced stats and all that jazz, but 23.7 PPG, 33% 3PG (career best), 5.2 AST (career best), and 13 games of scoring 30+ including the franchise high in points scored in a game (52), while simultaneously helping get the Raptors to the current 1-seed sitting at 41-16, sitting 2 games ahead of the Celtics, I think it’s time to create some dialogue about who the superstars are in our league.

Yes, being in a Canadian market is harder to get the eyes of those who matter, but as the Raptors get talked about more in American media (winning helps, I guess), then the play gets recognized. People have already acknowledged the ‘master of the midrange’ being the make-up of his game, but as he elevates and excels, there’s a lot more to be appreciated about DeMar, and just what he brings to the table from what’s an outsider’s perspective. The post-season is what really matters, and in that category, you can highlight all of the lowlights that have been presented and in theory could debunk this whole article, but there’s still time. There’s always time. But from witnessing the progress that DeMar has always built for himself, constantly getting better and better each season, the numbers don’t lie, the results don’t either, and I think he’s due to spread his wings so he can be ‘another black boy to fly’. Cheers to Comp10. Enjoy All Star Weekend. 

That’s My Word & It STiXX

The Toronto Raptors - Underdogs of the NBA

Fresh off Superbowl 52 and watching my beloved Philadelphia Eagles finally win the big game, my fandom will shift focus to my hometown Toronto Raptors, whom I’ve been loyal to since however long I’ve been watching basketball, which is definitely over 15 years. The 2017 Eagles played the role of the Underdogs. Their star QB Carson Wentz was having an MVP-type season before tearing his ACL on December 10th in Los Angeles, which I was in attendance for. The odds weren’t in our favour if you were to ask Vegas or any sports analyst who had a collective thought to offer up as to what the future of the Eagles was going forward for their season. For the rest of the season, the Eagles were underdogs in all but one game (Week 16 vs the Raiders) and the common denominator was Carson Wentz. Never mind the fact that the team had lost other core pieces of the team, but that didn’t stop the non-believers from adding fuel to the fire.

Rob Turennte - Getty Images

Rob Turennte - Getty Images

In the NBA, the Raptors have always been known as “that team in Canada,” or “that team that doesn’t matter” in whatever capacity in which they’re addressed throughout American media. Being the only basketball franchise in a country of 32 Million, which is still primarily a hockey country, the Raptors have their own problems gaining traction in the respect column from Canadians as a whole, but that has changed over the years since their improbable 7-game playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets in 2014. That series started a trend of making the playoffs repeatedly the following years to the point where it’s just expected that they make it to the postseason now.

As a Raptors fan, that’s still hard to believe sometimes. I can give one hard sneeze and be sent back flashes of a 4-19 start and multiple double-digit losses in a row. They were dark times that flash of bad Jay Triano coaching and heartbroken Chuck Swirsky calls, not to mention the putrid rosters that were ‘supposed’ to elevate Chris Bosh and a then young DeRozan who really hadn’t made anything of himself.

Without going into the history of how we got to this point, the fact is that the Raptors have consistently been a great team in the East without having a superstar player (although DeRozan’s play in this season is challenging that), an elite head coach (Casey’s pretty good), and a stacked roster. No one jumps out at you and says to the average fan that they’re a must have for their Fantasy teams. The Raptors aren’t always going to be a go-to team you run with on NBA2K. We’ve always been the fanbase that screams that we need “one more piece” in order to compete, but with so many people saying that Canada isn’t a desirable place to play ‘because of the cold’ (like New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, Detroit etc. don’t exist), the excuses are running thin. With notable names having played in Toronto in recent years by the likes of Rudy Gay, DeMarre Carroll, and currently Serge Ibaka, players are not adverse to wanting to play in Toronto like they used to.

DeMar DeRozan has been part of the 2-headed juggernaut to carry the team in years past, but for the first time in his career (maybe the 2nd), the team has been fortified from top to bottom to be put in a position to compete at a high level consistently, especially when it matters. Yes, regular season success is great, and with 7 rounds of playoff experience, including an appearance against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016, you’d think that they’d be on the radar for the forseeable future. In the famous tone of Charlie Murphy (RIP), Wrong! Wrong!

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

The most intriguing Finals matchups for the Warriors

In the last two weeks, the Warriors capped off their season series with the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference. Now comes the long wait until June to find out who’ll the Warriors will be facing. So in the meantime, here’s my subjective list of the most intriguing possible Finals Matchups.

Dubs in 3

(Darron Cummings / Associated Press)

(Darron Cummings / Associated Press)

Indiana Pacers

Indiana has been a pleasant surprise to the league. The Pacers seemed to have started a rebuild once they shipped out Paul George after another first round exit. Instead they've cracked the top 7 in the East, and the play of All-Star Victor Oladipo is a large reason why.

Their core has played well and they’re largely untested, but on the slim chance they make the Finals, they’ll have an even slimmer chance to beating the Warriors. While the everyday fan would hate the idea of Pacers-Warriors, Dubs fans would rejoice at Oladipo flourishing after Russell Westbrook conformed him into a dark skinned Alex Abrines.

Miami Heat

First of all, these dudes have all of my respect. Last season, they went 11-30 in the first half of the season, and completely flipped their season around going 30-11 in the second half of the season, just barely missing the playoffs.

Fortunately their late season success has continued on into this season, sitting at 4th place, with a 29-21 record. Spoelstra has worked his coaching magic to keep his guys in line and playing hard. He gets the most out of his talent, none of whom have even been an all-star (though Goran Dragic has played like one). At their best, they can make things uncomfortable for the Warriors (see Cavs-Pistons 2016, a hard fought 4 game sweep.)

You’ve got my attention

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Washington Wizards

John Wall will go under the knife for arthroscopic surgery on his knee, which may keep him out for 2 months, maybe more. With a 27-22 record, good for 6th in the East, they’re at risk of dropping out of playoff contention if Bradley Beal can’t carry the load. Beal has been their guy this season; partially because of how Wall’s injuries have inflicted his game, but also because Beal has avoided injuries of his own.

Nevertheless, the Wizards are always a pleasure to compete against because of the extracurriculars they bring to their games. Whether it's claiming the throne before they accomplish anything, being concerned with meaningless player rankings, or planning “funerals”, they're truly the hypebeast of the league.

Their last few matchups with the Dubs featured some theatrics. In 2016, Steph Curry and Wall exchanged 51 and 41 points in D.C. In 2017, Curry exploded for 42 points, holding Wall to just 20. And in the most recent matchup, Beal and Draymond Green got tangled up and brought the scrap into the first row. In a series, I’d give the Wizards a game, but for the most part, they’ll be too in their own heads to truly contend.

Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis is just incredible. He’s one of the few players that the Warriors really respect the hell out of. However, the pieces around him are still shaky.

Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton, and Jabari Parker (hoping he’s healthy) are all out matched by the Warriors counterparts, and the Bucks bench isn’t even worth talking about. There’s also the game within the game of Delly and Steph's Finals rematch (he isn’t well liked by the Warriors.)

But Giannis is amazing and at his best can make everyone's job easier. He’s also a matchup nightmare. He’s too tall to be guarded by a 3, but too shifty to keep a big man on him. The Warriors counter with KD, who mirrors Giannis’ body type, and can make things just as difficult for the Bucks. What’s most admirable about the Bucks is their demeanor, and it starts with Giannis. His rookie year, he ran through Milwaukee to get to a game because his car wouldn’t start. But for all young stars, the stage of the Finals can change their career trajectories, for better or for worse. So while it may hurt him in the short term to lose on the biggest stage, in the long term it’ll surely sharpen his iron.

Philadelphia 76ers

Much like the Bucks, the amount of young talent on the Sixers is entrancing. Ben Simmons has carved out a surprisingly effective role for the modern NBA, given his shooting woes, and Joel Embiid, if he can stay healthy, could be a generational player.

Trusting the process got them here but also credit some solid drafting & development of starters Dario Saric and Robert Covington. But there is serious concern with last year's #1 pick, Markelle Fultz. His shooting shoulder has been messed up since preseason, and from what recent footage has shown, his form just looks awful.

But the Dubs are the kind of competition that can teach these players a lot, whether or not they're playing (sorry Fultz). For now though, they just need to do as Embiid says and “Trust the Process”.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Ahhh, that’s pretty interesting!

Cleveland Cavaliers

There isn’t much intrigue left in a Dubs-Cavs Finals. I’m sure most people are expecting it, but I’m just not convinced. The Cavs just don’t have the same vigor and fire to compete that they had in the past three matchups. Lebron is planning his getaway, Kyrie already escaped, IT is cold snitchin’, and Kevin Love broke his finger and is out for two months.

There just isn’t enough focus and attention to detail in the game plan, and it starts with LeBron taking breaks on defense and being ambiguous about his future (which is his right, there’s no loyalty in this game, see Blake Griffin). It’s hard as a fan to really want to match-up with a team that’s half-assing it. There's more joy in beating someone who wants to win as badly as you do.

Still, while it may not be as fun a series as these last two teams, it’s still a nice feeling to beat Lebron in the Finals.

Toronto Raptors

(ERNEST DOROSZUK/Toronto Sun)

(ERNEST DOROSZUK/Toronto Sun)

So many factors go into my love of this matchup. For one, we’ll finally get to see Drake actually root against the Warriors. Also, the city of Toronto seriously deserves to host a few finals games, but the team could use it too. This is the best team the Raptors have ever had, and as the Cavs have become more vulnerable, they’ll have a shot at taking them out.

Demar Derozan, a pure-bred gym rat, has finally looked to have rounded out his game. He’s always had a smooth game, thanks to his excellent footwork, and he’s seemed to master the mid-range game. But as Steph and the Dubs have changed the direction of basketball, Derozan has just caught up to the party. He’s shooting a career high in 3PT% while putting up another career high 3.2 three’s a game. He’s also averaging a career-high 5.1 APG, another career high. While these numbers don't jump off the page, they're indicative of the pace, space, drive and kick offense that’s given the Raptors so much success.

Raptors fans are yearning to get to this stage, and while The Dubs may not think too much of this squad, this Raptors core has shown a serious ability to contend with the champs. It’ll all come down to Toronto's mindset when the playoffs return to the 6.

Anything less would be uncivilized

Boston Celtics

Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

The Celtics are exactly the team I want to see come out of the East for the Finals. Kyrie Irving is in the prime of his career playing under Brad Stevens. Behind Steph, he’s the most offensively gifted and explosive scorer at point, and he does so with so much control.

Stevens, a basketball savant in his own right, has crafted Boston's offense much like Golden State's, just without all of the talent. He’s made Boston play above their talents, which is how the most talented team's function, sports or otherwise. Their foundation though is the defense, cemented on Al Horford's smarts and fundamentals, and once he returns from injury, Marcus Smart's tenacity and lack of shit-giving.

There’s also the byproduct of Gordon Hayward's injury, immediately forcing the team to overcome heartbreaking and scary adversity. While he's unlikely to return his season, the prospect of what Hayward's presence can contribute to the already top seed is an encouraging reminder throughout the season.

The Celtics are Golden State's biggest challenge towards a third title in four years, their close loss to the Dubs last Saturday as evidence. Kyrie responded to Curry's 49-point performance with 37 of his own, giving them the same problems on offense as he did in Cleveland. On the other end, the way every (competent) team defends Steph is the way the Warriors guard Kyrie, sending doubles on screen and rolls, and being quick to rotate on defense, which plays into both teams offenses.

Still, Boston's offense can't touch Golden State. They just don’t have the fire power, but, again, Irving’s control of pace and possession lowers the amount of opportunities for Golden State to score. However, this is the most exciting Finals matchup because it’s inevitable. The Celts have set themselves up so perfectly to flourish in near future, that I just want to get a real glimpse into how this new rivalry takes shape come June.