It’s about to get crazy at the Air Canada Center in Toronto and Raptors veteran John Salmons is ready for some playoff excitement.
“I feel like the fans are going to be crazy,” Salmons said. “Just walking on the street is going to be crazy, it’s going to be a crazy atmosphere and that’s the fun part.”
This isn’t what Salmons or the other three Kings players were expecting when the season started. All they saw was another pointless season that would end too soon and that makes this experience especially sweet.
“Starting the season in Sacramento, we didn’t know we would be traded here and this team was going to turn it around and make a run, get to the third or fourth seed in the East and make the playoffs, all we saw was an uphill battle,” Salmons said. “For us, it’s a great ending to the (regular) season. The postseason never gets old. I haven’t been there the last two years. Going home early, it’s not fun. Watching everyone else play, competing and getting all that attention, it’s not fun being home.”
However, this time Salmons can’t just enjoy the ride. At 34-years-old and in his twelfth NBA season, he is the Raptors most experienced player and with 618 playoff minutes, Salmons has the most postseason experience as well, so the veteran knows he has a responsibility to his teammates.
“I am trying to play the minutes I get as hard as possible, help the team win as much as possible,” Salmons said. “I know we are a better team when I am out there playing well.”
But, just playing well isn’t enough this time, whether he wants the job or not, Salmons has leadership responsibilities, especially in the postseason.
“I have no choice, that’s my responsibility,” Salmons said. “I’ve been in the league for 12 years. I’ve been in the playoffs. I have to share my knowledge and step up and be a leader in that situation. I have no choice but to do that for us to be a better team and go far in the playoffs.”
Everyone knows the intensity picks up in the postseason, but knowing it and experiencing it are two entirely different things. The Raptors only have four players with anything close to significant playoff experience. It will be up to them and Salmons in particular because of his significant role in the rotation, to keep his teammates from going off the rails under the pressure.
“The intensity goes up a notch and the longer a round goes, the more intense it gets,” Salmons said. “It comes down to more mental. You need to just lose yourself in the moment and just worry about playing and not worry about being a hero or whatever – just play basketball.”
The good news is Salmons thinks his teammates are ready. There is a lot of confidence and cohesion in this group. They are light in experience, but they don’t lack desire or chemistry.
“I think they are ready,” Salmons said. “I think they are hungry, they are ready.”
With just two weeks left in the regular season and only playoff seeding left to be determined, the anticipation is already starting to build in Toronto. It’s been too many years since the Air Canada Centre was deafeningly loud in late April and this city is well past ready to go crazy again.
Raptors John Salmons Instant Veteran Leadership
“It is definitely different,” Salmons said. “It is an adjustment, something that coming up you never really see that coming. (It) just came – I got traded to Sacramento and all of a sudden, I was the oldest guy on the team. I was thrust into that role, it was different. I look at guys and they are coming younger and younger – man, where did all the years go? But, it is cool man. It’s 12 years in and I am still enjoying myself.”
Every Playoff Spot In The NBA East Is Up For Grabs
The home stretch for playoff seeding in the NBA Eastern Conference kicks off this week in a big way as no team knows where they will end up and only the top 4 teams have guaranteed themselves a spot in the postseason so far. First place is still up for grabs and thanks to the Hawks run of 6-20, both the Knicks and the Cavaliers are now eyeing the eighth and final playoff spot in the East as attainable over the last 2 weeks of the regular season.