Glitter gone from Toronto Raptors

Written by ECA Review

Toronto Raptors have lost their star power.

“I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” Dorothy said to Toto in the Wizard of Oz. 

There’s a similar refrain around the Raptors headquarters: “We’re not in 2019 anymore.”

Two complete National Basketball Association seasons have passed since the Raptors created basketball euphoria in Canada by beating the Golden State Warriors for the NBA title. 

A lot has changed since then. A lot.

Gone from that championship team are superstars Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry. Solid starters Marc Gasol, Danny Green and Serge Ibaka have moved on. Pascal Siakam is the only Raptor starter from that championship team still on the roster and his supporting cast this year is   … well, let’s just say coach Nick Nurse has challenges.

Siakam will be heavily counted on, once he recovers from shoulder surgery and returns to the lineup, but the leadership mantle this year will fall to 5-year pro Fred VanVleet, a 6-foot guard who was a reserve on that championship team in 2019.

Before this obituary continues, it should be pointed out that the Raptors still have a decent lineup, and while it might not be championship calibre, it will provide enough victories and competitive games to keep Canadian fans interested all winter.

Returnee AG Anunoby, who had 15.9 points per game last year, trade acquisitions Goran Dragic and Precious Achiuwa, picked up from Miami in the deal sending Lowry to the Florida team, and 6-foot-9 Scotty Barnes, the Raptors’ first round draft pick (No. 4 overall), will get a bulk of the floor time.

Canadian Chris Boucher, whose skinny legs resemble a barnyard chicken’s, averaged nearly 14 points last season and will be counted on for a few more this year.

Overall, though, the Raptors aren’t in the same class as defending league champ Milwaukee Bucks or the Brooklyn Nets, the top two teams in the East, nor the L.A. Lakers or Phoenix Suns in the West. 

The Sporting News pegged the Raptors as the 10th-best team in the 15-team Eastern Conference.

The stars aligned perfectly for the Raptors two years ago. Unfortunately, the team’s former stars are now floating elsewhere around the NBA.

Slap Shots

• Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “The Toronto Maple Leafs, worth $2 billion according to data compiled by Sportico, are the NHL’s most valuable team. In other words, the Leafs are raking it in.”

• Patti Dawn Swansson, on Twitter, after a slow start to the season by the Winnipeg Jets: “Can we start to measure the Jets coach for a suit of tar and feathers?”

• Montreal sportswriter Michael Farber, on Twitter: “ Although it’s only October, @CanadiensMTL  seem to be in midseason form. Unfortunately, it’s the midseason of the 1974-75 @Capitals”

• Columnist Norman Chad, on Twitter: “Dodger Stadium fans generally stand the entire ninth inning to get a jump on making it to the parking lot.”

• Phil Mushnick of the New York Post, criticizing Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash’s quick hook with his pitchers: “In a game with a DH, starter Collin McHugh threw 18 pitches, allowing one hit in two innings. He was then removed by Cash, perhaps because he wanted McHugh well rested for spring training.”

• RJ Currie of sportsdeke.com: “The American College of Physicians and Surgeons fears society isn’t heeding their warnings about obesity. The problem for Americans is they don’t trust any college that doesn’t have a football team.”

• Headline at theonion.com: “New York City Reinstates Full Lockdown After Disturbing Reports That Knicks May Resume Play

• fark.com headline: “To build team confidence, the Washington Football Team cuts their kicker and signs a guy named Blewitt.”
•   On the readerboard at the El Arroyo restaurant in Austin, Texas: “I wish I could drop off my body at the gym and pick it up when it’s ready.”

• Dwight Perry again: “The NHL suspended Sharks forward Evander Kane 21 games for using a fake COVID-vaccine card. Apparently someone in HR did some cross-checking.”

• Another one from Perry: “Bears TE Jimmy Graham has been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. If he has the virus, it’ll be just the second time he’s caught something this season.”
•   Nick Canepa of The San Diego Union-Tribune, after the NFL declared it found no other improper emails among the 650,000 it investigated: “Football’s Warren Report. Gruden acted alone.”

• Greg Cote of the Miami Herald: “The 76ers’ Ben Simmons now says he is not mentally ready to play. I’m sure famously empathetic Philly fans are quite understanding.”

• Patti Dawn Swansson again: “It’s Houston vs. Atlanta in the Word Series. Or, as the Astros call it, Bring Your Garbage Can To Work Day.”

 

by Bruce Penton

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ECA Review

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