At this time last year, Nick Nurse had no idea what kind of team he had or how the season might play out, and the Toronto Raptors coach admitted as much.
Gone was longtime leader Kyle Lowry, rookie Scottie Barnes’ was still unproven, and the team had no true centre.
Fast forward a year, and continuity was a theme of Monday’s traditional Raptors’ media day.
In what was intended to be a rebuilding season, the Raptors went a solid 48-34 last year, and saw Barnes win rookie of the year. They were eliminated by Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs, and headed into their longest off-season in five years.
Amid a frenzy of player movement around the league, the Raptors had a relatively quiet summer, going with the status quo instead of a major shakeup. Fourteen players returned, making Toronto the league’s top team for roster stability.
“We made a commitment to grow,” team president Masai Ujiri said. “We’re a young team, a young growing team. That’s all we talked about last year, lots of players who can make a jump. Even our veterans are young veterans in the league, with Freddy [VanVleet], Pascal [Siakam], O.G. [Anunoby], we’ve always wanted to preach patience.
“We want to win. We’re expecting to win. Honestly, we can’t react to what’s going on in the league. Yeah, we see other teams. We study all of that. But in terms of our plan, it’s to grow our young players and continue to develop and see [where] that takes us.”
Who do you think got better pics this year? 👀<br><br> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBAMediaDay?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#NBAMediaDay</a> <a href=”https://t.co/vNZ2tFbDA5″>pic.twitter.com/vNZ2tFbDA5</a>
Media day, held in a sunlight observatory in a posh hotel near the Raptors’ practice facility, had a sense of normalcy — finally — after a couple of seasons rocked by COVID-19. The pandemic hit the Raptors hard, forcing them to relocate to Tampa, Fla., for a season, and then playing much of last season in front of no fans at Scotiabank Arena.
“It’s really good to see us coming back from a normal summer again,” Ujiri said. “Hopefully we get through this winter and we have a bit of back to normal.”
The Raptors were scheduled…