Raptors excited for ‘electric’ season opener

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TORONTO — Nick Nurse says he can always feel a buzz in the air for a few days before a Raptors home game in Toronto — a pleasant humor coach hasn’t felt in nearly two years.

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The Raptors hosted the Washington Wizards on Wednesday to kick off a season that’s different in many ways. Longtime leader Kyle Lowry is gone. There is no superstar like Kawhi Leonard. And the team is back on this side of the border, home — finally — following COVID-19 protocols to the Raptors last season in Tampa, Fla. Forced to say “home”.

It was a poor choice of home.

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The key to Wednesday, Nurse said, is not to let the excitement of the moment get the best of your team.

“I love it,” Nurse said of the pre-game energy on Monday. “You can already feel it in the streets, you know?

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“Obviously it’s going to be electric at[Scotiabank Arena]. Everyone’s probably going to realize that the fans are going to be super amped. And I think from our seats, we have to make sure we get that electric use a bit of it, but let’s not get carried away with it ourselves… its for sure.”

The Raptors last played a regular-season game at the Scotiabank Arena on February 28, 2020, a forgettable loss for Charlotte, and then the Granthshala pandemic shut down the sporting world and eventually sent the Raptors to Tampa. The previous season was one of their worst in franchise history, with a COVID-19 outbreak in March that saw them bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. Toronto finished 12th in the East (27-45).

There are only four players left from that roster – Fred VanVallet, Pascal Siakam, Ozzy Annobi and Chris Boucher.

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Laurie left for Miami in a sign-and-trade deal last off-season. The Raptors lost Leonard to free agency in 2019.

But if hopes of rebuilding the Toronto roster for this season are bleak, VanVleet never got the memo.

“The goal is to win a championship every year,” VanVleet said. “I’m definitely not going to lower my standards. I don’t care who’s on the team.”

VanVallet, who would bear much of the leadership load in Lowry’s wake, read a quote he had read.

“‘There are things that have never been done every day (before),’ he said. “I am up for the challenge, I think the team is up for the challenge. We have a young, hungry group that wants to prove itself.”

Really young. Veteran guard Goran Dragic, who arrived in Toronto through a deal that sent Laurie to Miami, is the oldest at 35, with team leaders VanValet and Siakam just 27. Anunobi, whose excellent pre-seasons indicated he was ready for a breakout year, is just 24 years old. Energetic rookie Scotty Barnes is just 20 selected by Toronto with the No. 4 draft pick.

“(I) will just keep bringing that youthful energy into that locker-room every single day and just try to keep having fun, no matter what,” said Barnes, who has quickly become a Raptors fan.

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“I know it’s going to be a long season, something I’ve never done before, but just keep trying to bring in that positive energy. If people are tired, I have those young legs, then Just keep running, it puts pressure on them to be able to throw the ball on the floor or I just make easy transition buckets that help us maintain the lead and stuff. So that’s what I plan to do Am.”

Add in young dynamic players like Precious Achiuwa and Toronto native Dalano Banton and the Raptors are nothing but fun to watch. They are long and athletic and can last for days.

“I think it’s a little different, more feathers this year,” Anunobi said. “We switch more actions this year, now all can be swapped, we all learn everywhere. They make sure everyone knows everything, we haven’t done that in the past. Anyone can bring the ball up.”

The Raptors dropped from second place in the NBA to 15th place per 100 assets last season. The roster rebuilding – Barnes, as just one example, has been on the defensive end – lends itself to a better defense this season.

“This year we have more ability to see and protect people in the public eye, whether they are young or not, we just got a lot better matchup versatility and a lot more body that can go out there and watch people. eye, ”said the nurse.

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Whether the newness of this group has increased the workload of the nurse or not, she is enjoying it.

“This group is really fun,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of different things. I think it’s always fun too.”

Anunoby said the chemistry between the teams is already excellent after a season of COVID-19 restrictions that limited what they can do together.

“That translates to[chemistry on the floor],” Anunobi said. “We liked each other last year as well. But due to all the protocols, we could not go to dinner. We couldn’t hang out outside of practice.

“We’ve had dinner and stuff. Had fun. It’s good to have a light rule. I think it’s just a good group of people. Everyone gets along. There’s no bullshit.”

On Wednesday, the Raptors will have a full house at Scotiabank Arena after getting a green signal from Ontario’s government to increase their capacity. Fans must show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test upon entry.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on October 18, 2021.

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