All posts by Aaron Zaretsky

2019 NBA Finals Can be Shot at Redemption for Kawhi Leonard

Back in the 2017 playoffs, the San Antonio Spurs faced off with the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. The Spurs were coming off of series victories over the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets en route to a showdown with the powerful Warriors. In Game 1 of the series Kawhi Leonard (at that time a member of the Spurs) was having an outstanding showing against the league giants: 26 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists in just 24 minutes on the court. Kawhi’s performance propelled the Spurs to an incredible 23 point lead! Things were going better than expected for Kawhi and the Spurs, that was until Warriors big man Zaza Pachulia injured Kawhi in the 2nd half of the game, making him unable to finish the remainder of Game 1. The Warriors immediately went on an 18-0 run over San Antonio, stealing all momentum and eventually taking Game 1 in crushing fashion over the now deflated Spurs. Kawhi would not only miss the remainder of Game 1, but the remainder of the series against Golden State. Without Kawhi on the court, San Antonio stood no match for the Warriors and they were promptly defeated in four games. This series of events essentially marked the beginning of the end for Kawhi’s tenure in San Antonio.

 

Kawhi played just 9 games the following season for the Spurs due to injury. In the summer of 2018, the Toronto Raptors acquired him and Danny Green in a blockbuster trade sending arguably the best player in Raptors history, DeMar DeRozan, and Jakob Poeltl to San Antonio. Many thought Kawhi would not be the MVP caliber player that he was with San Antonio. He has since proved all of his doubters wrong, as he has dominated in the regular season and playoffs, leading the Raptors to their first ever NBA Finals appearance and playing more minutes than ever before. In six playoff trips with the Spurs, Kawhi averaged 33.4 minutes per game with 16.5 points. This current playoff run with Toronto, he is averaging over 38 minutes per game with slightly over 30 points per game.

 

Kawhi now faces the Warriors in the playoffs for the first time since that 2017 series with the Spurs, and he now has a shot at redemption.

 

If Kawhi can win Toronto their first ever NBA Championship, it would be the greatest individual comeback after missing a large amount of time since Michael Jordan, who in his first full season (1995-1996) after returning to the NBA from playing baseball, led the Chicago Bulls to 72 wins and an NBA title.

 

If the Raptors were to eliminate the powerhouse that is the Golden State Warriors, it would be the ultimate redemption for Kawhi Leonard. The Raptors organization, their fans, and the nation of Canada would as well be ecstatic to be a part of this redemption story, being able to finally fulfill their long sought after goal of bringing a Larry O’Brien trophy home to Toronto.

Advertisements

Raptors are in NBA Finals for the First Time: What This Means for Toronto, Canada, and the NBA.

The Toronto Raptors are 24 years old and there have been several times where reaching the NBA Finals would stay as a dream. Star players, such as Damon Stoudamire, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, and Chris Bosh, wanted out. Head coaches were fired every few years. They drafted Andrea Bargnani 1st overall in the 2007 NBA Draft, yes that happened. Throw in some rebuilds and unable to breakthrough LeBron James in the previous three playoffs, a Raptors fan could only be pessimistic that the team they support could reach NBA’s biggest stage.

 

In the past year, the Raptors fired head coach, and coach of the year Dwane Casey. They traded arguably their best player in franchise history, DeMar DeRozan, for superstar Kawhi Leonard who is a free agent this summer. Was a move that put the Raptors all-in for the 2018-19 campaign, proved furthered at the trade deadline by acquiring veteran Marc Gasol for Jonas Valanciunas, CJ Miles, and Delon Wright. Raptors make the playoffs once again and, although they had a couple hiccups, they “bounced” back getting through the Eastern Conference. And they did not have to worry about LeBron James who signed with the L.A. Lakers.

When the Raptors punched their ticket to the NBA Finals for first time in franchise history, it is equivalent to when the Toronto Blue Jays made their first World Series in 1992. Not only was it a historic moment for Toronto and Canada, but for their league. The World Series was played outside the U.S for the first time ever in 1992. 27 years later, the NBA Finals will be played internationally for the first time ever! A monumental moment for the NBA to grow their league globally as an international team is in the Finals for the very first time.

Another first is when the 2019 NBA Finals begin the Raptors will be seen by a global audience where millions of people across the globe will get a first impression of a Canadian NBA team. Depending on how the Finals go, the Raptors can grow their fan base internationally.

But regardless of how the series plays out, the Raptors will inspire Canadians to watch and/or play basketball. Just like Vince Carter, who created a generation of Raptors fans and Canadians playing in the NBA, the 2018-19 Toronto Raptors will create the next generation. And it will benefit the organization, city of Toronto, Canada Basketball, and the NBA.

Leafs face Bruins in Stanley Cup Playoffs: Will third time be the charm?

For consecutive seasons and the third time since 2013, the Toronto Maple Leafs clash with the Boston Bruins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

After Boston eliminated Toronto in seven games last spring, the Leafs will have another chance to exercise their demons from the 2013 Game 7 nightmare. That was the game Toronto had a 4-1 lead in the third period, only to lose 5-4 in overtime.

Continue reading Leafs face Bruins in Stanley Cup Playoffs: Will third time be the charm?

The Toronto Raptors have clinched​ a Playoff Spot,​ But it will be a Losing Year if They Don’t Make the NBA Finals

The Toronto Raptors have clinched a spot in the NBA playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, continuing their best stretch their best stretch in franchise history.

Since 2013-14, they have captured four division titles, won four playoff series and made the Eastern Conference Finals once. Compare that to when the franchise debuted in 1995 to 2012-13 season – five playoff appearances, one division title and one playoff series victory.

Continue reading The Toronto Raptors have clinched​ a Playoff Spot,​ But it will be a Losing Year if They Don’t Make the NBA Finals