For the first time since their inauguration in 1995, the Raptors have done a complete overhaul both on and off the court. In addition to extensively revamping the logo, roster, and jerseys, Toronto will be hosting the 2016 All-Star Game later this season.
This is an exciting season for the Raptors as General Manager, Masai Ujiri has made comprehensive changes to the team. Last year, they finished with a franchise record in regular season wins on their way to capturing a third Atlantic Division title.
It may have come as a shock that a team that performed so well would make such drastic changes, but being swept in the first round of the playoffs at the hands of the Washington Wizards really opened some eyes to the team’s defensive weaknesses. Ujiri has made strides this off season to improve Toronto’s defence, but at the same time has not hurt their potent offence from a year ago. He has brought in seven new players to help balance out the team. The most impressive player of the bunch is former Atlanta Hawk, DeMarre Carroll, who signed a 4 year, $60 million contract in the off season.
In addition to signing their prized free agent, they also managed to bring in some Canadian blood, something Raptors fans have been awaiting for a while now. Fresh off an NBA Championship, Pickering native, Cory Joseph joined the fold this season from the San Antonio Spurs. As well, Anthony Bennett of Brampton joined the team. He was the first Canadian player to be taken first overall in the history of the NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers back in 2013.
Superfan, recording artist, and Raptors Global Ambassador Drake has continued his position with the team this year and had influence on the Raptors this off season. Upon his hiring in 2013, President & CEO Tim Leiweke, who resigned last year, said, “Drake will be our ambassador and help us forge this new vision, this new buzz, this new excitement for where we’re taking this organization.” His involvement in the rebranding process was evident as he was even able to create a jersey just for Drake Night on November 25, where he will perform at half-time and give away some free swag. Their We The North campaign was the starting point of their rebranding efforts this off season as it implemented a more Canadian focus to the team’s look and feel.
On top of all these drastic changes, the Raptors will be hosting the All-Star Weekend for the first time in their history. When asked about the benefits of hosting, Ujiri said, “The biggest impact ever. It’s the first time outside the United States; I think it’s a platform for us to showcase our city, the people and how enjoyable it is to be here. It’s a great festival with the NBA, everybody is together in one place and it’s going to be in Toronto . . . it’s going to be amazing for us.” This will be an exciting time for us here in the GTA as our streets with be flooded with the likes of celebrities, politicians, and basketball fans from around the globe to catch a glimpse of some of the NBA’s elite talents. The Raptors organization will hope that their fanbase can reward the players by voting for a couple of them to play in the All-Star game this coming February.
This season, the Raptors have had their ups and downs; they currently hold a 7-6 record. Looks can be deceiving though as the Raptors are playing through their toughest month in their schedule. They have eleven road games and an array of strong teams to take on. So far they have played well in almost all their games, but have had a difficult time trying to beat some of the NBA’s elite teams.
However, there have been some positives; the team is playing much stronger defensively than last year and their losses to the league’s better teams have been narrow. Before the season started, Ujiri was asked about his thoughts on their tough November schedule: “It’s the same thing. It levels out at some point but it’s good to test teams that way. It’ll be tough for us but none of the players have complained about it or said anything, which tells me they are ready to get things going.”
This team has the capability of being a dominant force in the NBA, but they lack consistency on a night-to-night basis. Sometimes their star players fail to bring their A-game and the rest of the team is unable to pick up the slack, or vice-versa, the star’s shine but their bench lets them down when they need a break. Regardless of their current play, they currently sit in 5th place in the league, and hold a playoff spot.
The Raptors have been known to play better as the season wears on and they will battle to salvage the rest of this month. They must get accustomed to all the new acquisitions this season, and as the season progresses, so will their team chemistry.
GO RAPS GO!