After Kawhi's Toronto chapter ended with him leaving to LA, the whole NBA community suddenly thought the Raptors would slip down into mediocrity. The majority opinion was that one of the most surprisingly won championships in history was carried on Leonard's shoulders. So after he joined the Clippers, the Canadian team was supposed to lose all of its confidence. Except that didn't happen.
The city of Toronto had witnessed another great year, and even though it didn't end with winning the silverware, the season was concluded on a high note. The Raptors pushed the Celtics to seven games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last year, and like the season before, they've yet again amazed everyone.
But the start of this season could imply that the Raptors don't have that same bite anymore. Before the Suns game, they've recorded only one win in six games, and judging by history, the Raptors could have a long season. Historically when the Raptors go 1-5 in the season, they end up having awful seasons. Just like they did in 1995/1996, 1997/1998, 1998/1999, 2010/2011, and 2012/2013.
In their defense, they're playing in Tampa and not in Toronto, so the players have to adapt and move their lives from Canada to Florida. If we take that out of the equation, the problem lies between those four lines on the court. When you get caught in this type of situation, the first thing is to address those problems, and the players are doing just that.
“This is uncharted territory for most of us. I've never been a part of something like this... Nobody's coming to save us. We've gotta do this ourselves. We've gotta do some soul searching and look at ourselves in the mirror. The part we need to be embarrassed about & disappointed about is just the fight & the belief. That's the part that we have to take more pride in. It's not our job to make trades or change the roster around. We've got enough on this team to do it, but we've gotta do it.”
Fred VanVleet, Twitter
There are a lot of issues in their game. The offense is not as fluid as usual, but it still isn't as bad as their defense and rebounding. They can't get any stops, so that means they can't go running in transition. Before playing Phoenix, they've ranked 16th in the NBA in Defensive Rating and 23rd in rebounds per game, snatching almost 43 boards per game. So those who believed Kawhi's departure would hurt Toronto were wrong. Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol leaving this offseason have left a more significant hole. Kyle Lowry, however, think's he has the right recipe for a turnaround.
"We just need to get a little bit grittier, get a little bit tougher and a little bit nastier, and have a little bit of a swagger to us. Right now, we have no swagger to us. We have nothing. There's nothing to us. Teams are looking at us like 'All right, let's go eat.'"
Kyle Lowry, Twitter
Lowry wants more passion from his teammates, which probably wouldn't resolve all the problems that coach Nick Nurse has. A trade or two would be just what the doctor ordered.