With under a month of prep time, the Toronto Raptors have made the most out of their new Tampa Bay home, showing once again how far the franchise has come.
Let’s all take a trip down memory lane, shall we?
15 years ago, to the days of Milt Polacio, Rafael Arujo, and Rafer Alston. To the days when the Toronto Raptors somehow managed to draft Charlie Villanueva AND Joey Graham ahead of Danny granger in the 2005 draft. Back when Vince Carter took a proverbial dump all over the franchise, and the American media praised him for it.
Yes, the Toronto Raptors were a laughing stock indeed…but no one’s laughing anymore.
Last week when the team released pictures and video footage of their new setup in Tampa Bay, Florida, it certainly opened eyes. Less than a month after the team announced it’s hasty, and (for lack of a better word) desperate move down south, team officials have worked tirelessly to provide something resembling an NBA training facility and home venue. The results were beyond expectation.
This isn’t the first time the Toronto Raptors have displayed their organization’s class and character; just 5 months ago, their now infamous arrival into the Orlando bubble was a powerful statement on social justice. Only to be outdone by the creative and unique hotel set up they provided all their players and coaches, like stocking each member of the team with family pictures.
This time around is a different scenario than the ‘bubble. They’ve essentially been left to their own devices in terms of not only finding a place to play but setting up quality resources for their players to use throughout the season. Not to mention a place for the team to live.
With the season beginning this Wednesday, the Toronto Raptors are already set with a home venue, a brand new court, a locker room and film room that rival some other team’s regular home facilities, a fully stocked gym, as well as a ballroom-turned-practice facility complete with an OVO emblem on the wall (the sponsor of their Toronto practice facility). If all that wasn’t enough, they even brought down the 2019 championship banner to make it feel all the more like home.
"“It certainly gives you a boost, just a little bit of juice or energy, It’s nice to have the touches of home, for sure.” – Raptors’ head coach Nick Nurse on seeing banner."
It’s those little things, the banner, the armchairs in the film room, the family portraits. The extra thought and attention to detail separate the Toronto Raptors from many other organizations in the league. Interestingly enough, that philosophy goes hand in hand with how they run their basketball program. Smart scouting, player development, advanced use of analytics, and outside-the-box schemes. It’s all about thought, and attention to detail.
The common denominator to all this is Masai Ujiri. Once Ujiri took over the Toronto Raptors back in 2013, something changed down to the core of the franchise. It goes further than winning basketball games as well. The Toronto Raptors have become a free agent destination for many players, a far cry from the basketball wasteland they were once considered. Some of that is due to the rise in global popularity the city has undergone in the last decade, but most of it is due to Ujiri creating a positive, winning culture.
This was accomplished by smart hiring; Toronto has been a pioneer in terms of hiring women. When Ujiri first came on, one woman was working in their organization. Now, there are 14 across coaching, physiotherapy, and media relations. They have created one of the best farm systems in the league, one that has won several titles in the G-League, and produced the likes of Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and Norm Powell. All three were key contributors during the 2019 run.
All this is to say, it’s certainly no surprise the Toronto Raptors were able to make the most out of a tricky situation so quickly. No surprise that they set up a quality location and venue to host their 2021 season.
We’ve all come to expect nothing less from the 1st class organization they’ve become.