The Toronto Raptors were pulling out all the stops again this year to get their Season Seat Holders revved up at the Season Preview Party and they left a big impression. Raptors Superfan and Toronto Path host of MoVernie On The Move, Vernon Chang was there soaking it all in. He watched as the Fan 590’s Tim and Sid, Raptors GM Masai Ujiri, The Raptor, Dance Pak and the players participated to ensure everyone had a good time.
Fans were greeted by staff and the Raptors Dance Pak on the way in and treated to free food and drink coupons that could be redeemed for a box that carried a bowl of salad, burritos, chocolate cake, fries with gravy and a choice of drinks including pop, water, wine or beer. Players were stationed at various gates around the Air Canada Centre for meet, greet and photo opportunities. MoVernie grabbed a number of pictures before heading in to the show and talked with Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira at Gate 5.
“When it was my turn, Bruno (with a big smile) shook my hand and scanned me top to bottom,” Chang said. “Bruno told me, ‘I really like your style and I really like your shoes.’ The shoes were a limited edition New Balance x Capsule collaboration shoes that I had won in a contest at the shoe’s product launch.”
Chang wished Caboclo best of luck.
“We believe in you! Besides you have long wingspan,” Chang said. “The Raptors rookie couldn’t help but laugh.”
Once in the ACC stands, guests could see the stage set for the Raptors season preview presentation and the festivities kicked off with Tim and Sid.
“Tim and Sid from Fan590 and Sportsnet were the hosts of the night,” Chang said. “The setup was on the Raptors Court with an elevated stage that includes sofa and backdrop. It was a very classy and elegant setup, like a talk show. Tim and Sid did a brief recap about last season’s unexpected success, the franchise record of 48 wins and the playoffs, so close to making it to the next round and then they sang ‘I believe in Masai.’”
Tim and Sid have been singing ‘I believe in Masai’ on the Fan590 for some time now as it seems that every move Ujiri has made since coming to Toronto has turned to gold. With that rousing introduction, Raptors President and General Manager Masai Ujiri came out to address the fans.
“Ujiri let everyone know that it’s nice to make the playoffs for one year, but it’s important to maintain, to provide a winning team consistently,” Chang described Ujiri’s comments. “Players play this game to win, not to just have fun, but to win! We need to provide consistency, to win consistently year-in-year-out and to build a winning team in a 5-year plan and as many years as possible.”
Then Ujiri brought his daughter out on stage.
“Ujiri told us I love Canada, I love this country,” Chang said. “He continued with I love my daughter, she is the only Canadian in my family, when we cross the border, we skip the long foreign line, we said she is Canadian, then laughter burst out from the crowd.”
Ujiri touched on last year’s playoff series against Brooklyn and his now famous and often censored line he used to rev up the crowd in Jurassic Park concluding he really doesn’t like any NBA team except his own.
Then he quickly switched gears to this season and what he sees from the current team.
“Ujiri told us our guys worked hard this summer. Jonas Valanciunas gained experience during World Cup. DeMar DeRozan won the World Cup and played substantial minutes. Lots of people thought Lowry would come back out of shape, that’s not the case, he came back in the best shape yet and Terrence Ross gained 13 lbs of muscle,” Chang said.
Then as Ujiri has often done before he asked for a round of applause for former GM Bryan Colangelo. After all, it was Colangelo who drafted DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross. It was Colangelo who thought Amir Johnson deserved that 5-year extension and it was Colangelo who traded for Kyle Lowry.
“Ujiri finished with a Thank you Canada as I am able to bring my parents, sisters and brothers to tonight’s event. He said we are a family! You are a family! We are all a family,” Chang said.
The Raptors then introduced the ever popular alumni Muggsy Bogues who was asked if Vince Carter’s number 15 should be raised to the rafters some day?
“There were cheers and also laughter and boos,” Chang said. “Muggsy told the crowd it`s a tough decision, but people should learn to forget. Vince put the team and Canada on the map. He did well for the team in the first part of his career, that cannot be taken away. Things happened and there is always two sides to the story. People should learn to forgive and forget.”
Tim and Sid then did some Q&A with Lowry, DeRozan and Valanciunas.
Chang recalls the questions and answers:
Asked what’s their reaction when Lebron returns to Cleveland
DeMar responded, I didn’t really have a reaction. I didn’t really care, it’ s not like he is playing for my team. All I care is my other 14 players.
Aren`t you tired after playing for Lithuania since like what, 9 yrs old?
Valanciunas responded, I’m not old. I am still young. I can play, I have energy.
Lowry was asked about the importance of family and the decision to come back.
He said it was a easy decision. I like this team. I like it here. I like playing with the best two-guard in the NBA in DeMar. It was a too good of a situation to pass after the playoff experience. I want to grow with this team. I have a son and a family, I don`t only think about myself, I think of my son, I want to give everything to him. I see how DeMar provided his love to his daughter. We can all feed off each other on the importance of being a parent. I tried to explain the feeling of the love we as parent to our kids but as we know, you all know, it`s hard to describe that feeling, it`s there but you can only feel it when you are a parent.
It looks like that family atmosphere means a lot to this team and the Raptors apparent close ties are in fact very real. This Raptors season preview may be a preview of many years to come.
“We have a lot in common,” Johnson said. “It’s easy to converse. It’s easy to be family oriented since we have kids around the same age. As you see in the hallway, we get a lot of gifts for our kids which is great. They treat us like family and we treat each other with respect, the kids with respect and everybody like family, so it’s good.”
Thanks to Vernon Chang “MoVernie” for his comments and pictures. You can follow him on Twitter @MoVernie or on Facebook.