Raptors kick off 2017/18 basketball season
By: Joseph Amodio
“We’ve got to come back extremely better individually and team-wise,” a disappointed DeMar DeRozan said to the media following a four-game sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016/17 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. This would be the second consecutive year the Raptors were eliminated by the Cavs.
Masai Ujiri, Raptors general manager also believed his team had more to give against a dominant Cavaliers team.
“The end of the year was disappointing, let’s call a spade a spade. We thought we could do better,” Ujiri said.
“We are trying to win a championship here, to me, making playoffs is nothing. We have to figure out how to win in the playoffs,” the general manager said about a Toronto team that was assembled for making a deep playoff push.
Ujiri and the Raptors front office responded by moving a few players including a trade that sent fan-favourite Cory Joseph to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for C.J Miles, a 6’6″ versatile 12-year veteran forward who can play as a small forward or shooting guard.
The Raptors also locked up all-star point guard, Kyle Lowry and Power Forward Serge Ibaka to hold the Raptors core together.
Tonight, the Toronto Raptors begin their first step of many to becoming a top team that isn’t just playoff bound, but a championship contender that Ujiri has built over his five-year. Toronto will start the 2017/18 campaign at the Air Canada Centre at 7:30 playing against a Chicago Bulls team that squeaked into the playoffs last year as the eighth seed with a record of 41-41.
— The Raptor (@the_raptor) October 19, 2017
Dwane Casey, heading into his seventh season as the head coach of the Toronto Raptors, said to media during a practice that his team is thoroughly prepared for the season.
“I thought we had a good training camp, we tweaked some things offensively, buying into more ball movement. We want to keep moving the ball, keep attacking and more than anything else build confidence,” Casey said during the Raptors practice.
Casey understands who he and the team will be relying on to carry the team on some plays.
“Kyle and DeMar are setting the tone, there are going to be situations where we ask DeMar to go get us a bucket,” the head coach said
DeRozan and Lowry were key players for Toronto last year. DeRozan averaged 27.7 points per game, an NBA career high for the Raptors eight-year all-star shooting guard and will have to put up similar numbers this year.
A 31-year-old Lowry, who was recently locked up for three years, will also be looked at to be a veteran presence and leader who also boasted an impressive 22.4 points per game average.
While everyone is looking at the dual all-star threat to lead the way for Toronto, their supporting cast will also need to make improvements on last year.
The seven-foot 255-pound gargantuan centre known as Jonas Valanciunas has cemented his spot as a dependable daily starter for the Raptors, averaging a respectable 12 points over the last three seasons.
Serge Ibaka, an eight-year veteran who was traded to the Raptors late in the 2016/17 season to help shore up any defensive liabilities the Raptors had, will need to be the same defensive juggernaut throughout the regular season if the Raptors want to make another trip to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals and beyond.
Without Terence Ross, P.J Tucker and DeMarre Carroll it’s expected that Norman Powell will no longer be coming off the bench this season and will be relied upon as a solid player on both ends of the court.
Casey realizes the ultimate goal for his team, but he’s not ready to look too far into the future, not yet anyways.
“Our measuring stick is the playoffs, but first we have to get there. We have to be ready for a feisty hard-playing Chicago team.”