There haven’t been enough great nights out on the Toronto sports scene in recent years, for obvious reasons. Kyle Lowry’s homecoming could have been a big deal regardless, but after all that’s happened in the past two years, it’s no surprise it’s been a great evening. Everyone did things well – The Raptors and Heat played a challenging, competitive and entertaining game. Laurie took up the challenge and played well. The organization put together an appropriate and worthwhile pre-game video and video package and fans gave Laurie his well-deserved applause.
It’s still a bit hard to believe that Lowry is a former Raptor and I think Sunday night cemented it.
One of the nicest things about Lowry’s Return is how different it is from almost every other game in the history of the Raptors.
The team’s best players are usually left in less than ideal conditions and treated like lepers whenever they come back, especially that first time: Damon Stoddamer; Marcus Campi’s Tracy McGrady—the first three first-round picks in franchise history—were each denounced, to varying degrees, for the rest of their careers. Vince Carter was right to hate him for his actions late in his franchise changeover period, even as things thawed as his career came to an end. Chris Bosh was booed, too. Only Morris Peterson (who kissed the Raptors logo on the floor upon his return), DeMar DeRozan and Jose Calderon showered in love when they returned, but none of them chose to leave either. Lowry’s decision was mutual, but he chose to go to Miami. But the fans truly showed him their love.
No one I’ve covered regularly affected the win like Laurie did (except for Kawhi Leonard, who was clearly only here for a brief period). It was one of a kind and changed the Raptors franchise forever.
– It’s brutal to see OG Anunoby come down again. We’ve discussed this with Anunoby many times before, but all that separates it from considerations of the NBA’s overall defense is availability. He’s simply out of the lineup more often than not for votes, even though he’s clearly one of the top 10 defenders in the entire NBA, and Toronto’s top choice (big compliment, considering Fred Vanfleet and Pascal Siakam are also on the team) .
There is no doubt that Toronto is a much better team and a bigger threat in a playoff as Anonobei locks down the opponent’s best player while also adding a much needed outside threat.
– The season’s biggest disappointment? Los Angeles Lakers, which isn’t even close. Are they the biggest disappointment of this decade too? They should be there, even if everyone knew right away that adding Russell Westbrook wouldn’t work (especially when you consider that they had replacements that included DeMar DeRozan and/or Buddy Hield).
Other nominees: New York, Portland, Orlando, Brooklyn, Utah, Atlanta.
Biggest surprises: Memphis, Boston, Toronto, Phoenix (we knew it would be good, but the Suns ran away with the best record in the league).
Coach of the Year is going to be fun. Nick Nurse deserves consideration, but Monty Williams, Taylor Jenkins, Eric Spoelstra, Em Odoka and possibly Michael Mallon will get more votes than him. I think Jenkins would win, but he would probably vote for Williams.
Nurse has his all-time win percentage above 60,000 thanks to the Raptors’ recent winning streak. He’s .602, and he’s one of only 14 coaches who have been responsible for at least 200 games to win a .600 clip or better. His win percentage is higher than the likes of Spoelstra, Chuck Daly, Mike Budenholzer, Tyronn Lue, George Karl and Doc Rivers.
Previous Night Rider:
He could have had 5 points, 3 foul assists and he would have been the choice. Lowry came in under pressure with a match that is usually an understated but massive one.
Honorable mention to Ochai Brissett who scored 20 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and four 3-pointers in an outstanding performance.
Wiggins took a big win for the Warriors, with 25 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Wiggins went through an awful second run after the first that led to the All-Star, but now he’s back.
Tracking the selection of Toronto would be dealing with San Antonio (from Thaddeus Young’s trade) and the choice they would return to from Detroit.
For now, Toronto will be sending the 18y 19y or 20y Choose San Antonio and take back either the number 33y or 34y Choose from Detroit. The ship that would watch the Raptors retain a choice if they did, but lost in play, has now set sail.
1 Pa Siakam
2 Kyle Lowry
3 Fred Vanfleet