The Toronto Raptors are welcoming a refreshing new era next Wednesday when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves in front of the roaring crowd of Scotiabank Arena.
The team underwent significant changes since the end of last season.
The biggest being no more Nick Nurse. For the first time in five years, Nurse will not be in charge of the bench after he was fired in April following their elimination from the play-in series against the Chicago Bulls.
After a long process, it was announced in June that Serbian native Darko Rajakovic would assume the head coach position.
The hiring of Rajakovic gives the team a unique perspective. He is just the second European to become an NBA coach in its history and is currently the only one.
The 44-year-old Serbian talked about what makes European coaches different from American ones.
“We have a different perspective of the game. We grew up watching one type of the game, we learned so much from NBA coaches and European coaches at the same time. We have exposure to that kind of different styles,” Rajakovic told the media on Oct 15.
Indeed, he told media in an Oct. 2 scrum that he wants a team “that shares the ball.”
Although this is his first gig as a head coach in the NBA he hopes his long tenure as an assistant coach with the Oklahoma City Thunder will help him lead the team to success.
Isolation plays were the most dominating game style last year in the schemes Nurse, who is currently coaching the Philadelphia 76ers.
Fans will also see some changes on the court.
After seven years in Toronto and four of them as the starting point guard, fans won’t see Fred VanVleet as he signed on with the Houston Rockets in free agency. The Raptors’ new signing Dennis Schröder will play point guard.
Schröder had an exciting off-season after helping Team Germany win the Basketball World Cup and was named the tournament’s MVP.
Schröder, 30-years-old and at the peak of his career, said he has positive feelings in his new locker room.
“I’m very confident in his group. I think we can do something with this group,” the former Lakers player told the media following a preseason game in Vancouver on Oct. 3.
He is expected to be in the starting lineup alongside Jakob Poeltl, Scottie Barnes, OG Annunoby and Pascal Siakam, who hasn’t yet discussed with the team an extension to his expiring contract in 2024.
Fans can also look forward to rookie small forward/shooting guard Gradey Dick, selected 13th overall in this year’s draft by the Raptors. He’s expected to solve the Raptors’ recent struggles with shooting.
At 19-years-old, Dick is the youngest player on the squad, while Thaddeus Young, 35, is the oldest veteran, starting his career in 2007.
Young has experienced considerable NBA action and has gone through similar situations like this one. Despite the changes in the off-season, he said the objective doesn’t change.
“The goal right now is just to get everybody acclimated to what we are doing and winning so many games as possible. And then, we will see how the season goes,” the power forward said in the team’s Oct. 15 media gathering.