By Frank McLean
Tuesday night the Raptors opened up their 25th season in the NBA by finishing off business from last year’s championship run by handing out their championship rings and raising their championship banner.
The rings are one of a kind, the diamonds have 14 carats and 650 of them total. Ring celebrations are rare if you are a Toronto sports fan and these rings are one of a kind.
I covered the 1992 and 1993 Toronto Blue Jays World Championships and the rings they received comparing them to the Raptors look like something you would get as a free surprise in a box of Crackerjacks.
But hey, it’s Canada’s first NBA World Championship and the rings have to be special eh.
It doesn’t matter what sport, coaches hate these things to start the season. They turn the page in the offseason and start preparations for the new one pretty quick.
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick who has done this thing six times winning six Super bowls once said he celebrates for about 48 hours and it’s on to next year.
When the game began with the New Orleans Pelicans it looked like the Raptors spent all their energy during the celebrations.
The Pelicans jumped out to a quick 13-4 lead in the first 3:02, and lead 61-56 at the half.
The Raptors did find their mojo in the second half and won the game 130-122 in overtime.
“I thought that energy was an issue,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse admitted after the game.
“I thought the energy of the night took its toll a little bit. We had to do what we had to do. We had to reach into our bag of tricks there a little bit, try to generate some turnovers things like that.”
But they did play in the second half like that championship team of last year even without Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.
Before the game Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry said he likes this current Raptors squad.
“I think they have good players. They have a great coach and they got a chip on their shoulders.”
There were more than a few advance scouts from other NBA teams in attendance at Scotiabank Arena and they all agreed that this Raptors team will still be a force in the eastern conference even without Leonard and Green.
“They are better than just a good team said one.”
“Pascal Siakam is a monster said another.”
And Siakam was a monster with 34 points, 18 rebounds and five assists before he fouled out with about 50 seconds left in regulation time.
The guards of Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry combined for 34 and 22 points respectively, and it looks like that’s where a majority of the offense is going to come from this year.
Nurse used just an eight man rotation Tuesday night with Marc Gasol at centre and OG Anunoby the other forward as starters, and Segre Ibaka, Norman Powell and newcomer Terence Davis II coming off the bench.
Nurse is looking for a ninth player to join his rotation as he said that with a long NBA season an eight man rotation will get exhausted.
So Nurse will be auditioning with the rest of his roster giving them a chance to get some regular playing time.
But now the 2018-2019 season has come to an end, four months after the Raptors won the World Championship in Oakland against the Golden State Warriors with the banner raising and the handing out of the jewellery.
From what we seen in just one game and from the opinion of others who coach and scout in the NBA this Raptors team again can be a playoff force.
It will be interesting to watch over the next six months or so.
Veteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors home game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. From 20 win seasons to the raising a of Championship Banner and he’s back for more.