TORONTO – Nick Nurse says he can at all times really feel a buzz within the air a few days out from a Raptors dwelling sport in Toronto — an agreeable hum the coach hasn’t felt in almost two years.
The Raptors host the Washington Wizards on Wednesday to tip off a season that’s totally different in so some ways. Longtime chief Kyle Lowry is gone. There’s no celebrity like Kawhi Leonard. And the group is again on this aspect of the border, dwelling — lastly — after COVID-19 protocols compelled the Raptors to name Tampa, Fla. “dwelling” final season.
It was a poor substitute to dwelling.
The important thing Wednesday, Nurse mentioned, is to not let the thrill of the second get one of the best of his group.
“I like it,” Nurse mentioned Monday concerning the pre-game vitality. “You possibly can already really feel it within the streets, you understand?
“Clearly it’s going to be electrical in (Scotiabank Area). Everyone in all probability realizes the followers are going to be tremendous amped up. And I believe from my seat, we’ve acquired to make it possible for we use slightly little bit of that electrical energy however we don’t get carried away with it ourselves … play with some sort of composure and … we focus in on the basketball a part of it for positive.”
The Raptors final performed a regular-season sport at Scotiabank Area on Feb. 28, 2020, a forgettable loss to Charlotte, after which the worldwide pandemic shuttered the sports activities world and finally despatched the Raptors to Tampa. Final season was one in every of their worst in franchise historical past, with a COVID-19 outbreak in March that noticed them somersault down the Jap Convention standings. Toronto completed twelfth within the East (27-45).
Solely 4 gamers — Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Chris Boucher — stay from that roster.
Lowry departed for Miami in a sign-and-trade deal this previous low season. The Raptors misplaced Leonard in free company in 2019.
But when expectations for this rebuilding Toronto roster are low for this season, VanVleet by no means acquired the memo.
“The objective is to win a championship yearly,” VanVleet mentioned. “I’m actually not going to decrease my requirements. I don’t care who’s on the group.”
VanVleet, who will shoulder a lot of the management load in Lowry’s wake, recounted a quote he’d learn.
“‘There’s issues which have by no means been carried out (earlier than) carried out every single day,’” he mentioned. “I’m up for the problem, I believe the group is prepared for the problem. We’ve got a younger, hungry group that want to show themselves.”
Younger certainly. Whereas veteran guard Goran Dragic, who arrived in Toronto by way of the deal that despatched Lowry to Miami, is the oldest at 35, group leaders VanVleet and Siakam are simply 27. Anunoby, whose glorious pre-season hinted that he’s primed for a breakout yr, is simply 24. Energetic rookie Scottie Barnes, chosen by Toronto with the No. 4 draft choose, is simply 20.
“(I’ll) simply hold bringing that younger vitality each single day into that locker-room and attempt to simply hold having enjoyable it doesn’t matter what it’s,” mentioned Barnes, who’s shortly change into a Raptors fan favorite.
“I do know it’s gonna be an extended season, one thing that I’ve by no means been by means of earlier than, however simply hold making an attempt to convey that constructive vitality. If persons are drained, me having these younger legs, simply hold working, it takes stress off them to simply be capable of throw the ball up the ground or I simply make simple transition buckets that assist us maintain the lead and stuff like that. In order that’s simply what I plan to do.”
Add in younger dynamic gamers like Treasured Achiuwa and Toronto native Dalano Banton and the Raptors will probably be enjoyable to look at if nothing else. They’re lengthy and athletic and may run for days.
“I suppose it’s slightly bit totally different, extra wings this yr,” Anunoby mentioned. “We change extra actions this yr, everybody’s interchangeable now, all of us study each spot. They make sure that everybody is aware of all the things, we haven’t carried out that previously. Everybody can convey the ball up.”
The Raptors plunged from second within the NBA in factors allowed per 100 possessions to fifteenth final season. The roster rebuild — Barnes, as only one instance, is dogged on the defensive finish — lends itself to higher defence this season.
“There’s far more potential for us to look folks within the eye and guard them this yr, whether or not they’re younger or not younger, we simply acquired loads higher matchup versatility and much more our bodies that may go on the market and look folks within the eye,” Nurse mentioned.
Whether or not or not the novelty of this group has elevated Nurse’s workload, he’s having fun with it.
“This group is absolutely enjoyable,” he mentioned. “We’re doing a whole lot of various things. I believe that’s at all times enjoyable, as properly.”
Anunoby mentioned the chemistry among the many group is already glorious after a season of COVID-19 restrictions that restricted what they might do collectively.
“It does translate (chemistry on the ground),” Anunoby mentioned. “We appreciated one another final yr, too. However simply due to all of the protocols, we couldn’t go to dinners. We couldn’t hang around exterior of observe.
“We’ve had dinners and stuff. It’s been enjoyable. It’s good to have lighter guidelines. I believe it’s only a good group of fellows. Everyone will get alongside. Nobody’s a jerk.”
The Raptors can have a full home at Scotiabank Area on Wednesday after they acquired the inexperienced gentle from Ontario’s authorities to extend their capability. Followers should present proof of vaccination or a unfavourable COVID-19 take a look at upon entry.
This report by The Canadian Press was first printed Oct. 18, 2021.
© 2021 The Canadian Press