Kings of the North; Toronto the Championship City

The Raptors have done what we in Toronto have waited 26 years to do: Toronto is finally a winner again. Not since the 1993 Toronto Blue Jays has The Big Smoke been the winner of a major sports trophy, until now.

Fuelled by star power, supported by elite talent, and defined by hard work, the Raptors have set the new standard for Toronto sports teams. So what can the Leafs and Blue Jays learn from this never-back-down, no-quit team?

Patience.

Patience to develop your team and build a winning culture before playing the first minute of game one.

Masai Ujiri said it best, “championships aren’t built in one year.” Despite adding Danny a Green, Marc Gasol, and oh yeah Kawhi Leonard all this season, the backbone has been in place for years. Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, and Fred VanVleet are all long term Raptors and have massively impacted this team’s developed culture far beyond this season.

Can the Leafs take a page out of the 2019 Raptors playbook?

The Leafs are deep into the process of making their team into a championship squad. All the pieces are here: generational drafted talent, world-class free agent signing, recent playoff experience. So what lesson can they take from this season’s Raptors?

Sometimes you need to bet on yourself and take some risks to take the next step. Moving on from DeMar DeRozan was a massive risk, not to mention mortgaging the future with a first your draft pick to get a better return on the player, too. At the time of the deal it was a heavily criticized move, I mean Kawhi barely played last season!

Hindsight is 20/20 and now with a franchise-first Championship secured, the deal was a home run even if Kawhi doesn’t stay. The Leafs don’t need to make this much of a massive deal with the talent already on the roster, but moving out players and picks to push your chances over the top could be that next step for the Maple Leafs’ search for a cup.

Culture, culture, culture, for the Blue Jays now

The less glamorous lesson the Blue Jays can learn from the Raptors is to invest in creating a winning culture in the locker room now. This Blue Jays team is loaded with young talent, but without motivation and leadership, it could be wasted.

Kyle Lowry, that type of talented leader is what the Blue Jays need… to keep because the equivalent is Marcus Stroman and he’s already here. Yes he’s loud, yes he’s polarizing, but more than anything he’s talented and he hates losing. If that winning mentality can rub off onto the young core entering the league now, it can only have positive results.

Ken Giles, Freddie Galvis, Justin Smoak. All of these players are being brought up in trade talks but all of them play an integral role in the team’s development. Galvis’ Latin leadership role, Giles’ intensity and winning mentality, and Smoak’s even-keeled mindset are all assets to this team.

These players aren’t superstars but they lead by example and they are currently trying to hold the young players on the team to a higher standard of play. Invest in more players like this and the team culture will continue to develop alongside the players.

Now is the time for celebration, Toronto. The only city with a non-US NBA team has lifted the Larry O’Brien trophy. As unlikely as it was to happen the blueprint is there for the other big Toronto sports teams to follow. Boiled down: don’t be afraid to bet on yourself, and a winning culture breeds success.

Too Soon To Take Out The Broom?

By Kimberly Daniels

After a thrilling win in game two which saw all 13 players on the Raps roster hit the hardwood and DeRozan tie a playoff career high of 37 points in 37 minutes, it’s hard to deny the sense of pride Raptors fans are feeling.

We’ve never been here before: up two games in post season before hitting the road and damn, does it feel good to make our way to Washington with confidence rather than fear.

The last time we played the Wizards in playoffs it was a completely different story. So what’s the difference now?

Lowry says “he got slimmer and got more hair” but all jokes aside, we are watching a Raptors squad that is playing some of the best team ball we’ve ever seen.

Our starting unit found an offensive rhythm that produced 44 points in the first quarter of game two. The Raptors had a strong 20 point lead and when John Wall and the Wizards made a fourth-quarter surge, team members like C.J Miles and Delon Wright were there to help with some key plays to revive the lead and stop the Raptor fans’ heart-attacks.

Dwayne Casey is known for mixing up his lines and trying different player combinations but at any point that a player is called to the court, they’re ready to play with passion and energy. This series has seen our crew playing unselfish basketball, taking chargers, diving on the floor for loose balls and attacking the glass for defensive rebounds. Playoffs have come with the team mindset that every game is a game 7 and we need to do whatever it takes to win.

And while some team members are not as productive as others in this series – Normal Powell has struggled all season and Fred VanVleet only saw 3 minutes in game two before being taken off still not fully recovered from his shoulder injury – we know they don’t lack heart. Powell has promised fans “you may see me struggle but you won’t see me quit.”

If the Raptors can continue to build off of this electric team momentum they have worked so hard to create, all while being told by most that they’d never make it, you can guarantee fans will be seeing more wins.

The Raptors are clearly looking for revenge; DeRozan told the press post game two that he was feeling like Neo from the Matrix. So, how do we pull off a sweep? In the words of Morpheus “You have to let it all go, Neo. Fear, doubt, and disbelief. Free your mind…don’t think you are know you are.”

Or DeRozan and the Raps can just stick to his game plan and #ProveEm