Just to be clear: I’m not talking about the third wave of the pandemic, but rather the Toronto Raptors’ seven-season playoff streak that is finally officially ending like it did this week.
Yet some of the same logic applies: Better to look ahead and hope and plan for better days than stew of what has happened before and cannot be changed.
But as the Raptors prepared to play their first regular season game which had no playoff involvement since April 2012, it was hard not to look back at what could have been, especially with the Los Angeles Clippers visiting the Raptors in Tampa. and former Raptors great man Serge Ibaka in the building.
Was Nurse disappointed that the Raptors weren’t able to re-sign Ibaka, the 12-year-old veteran coming out of a career season in 2020-21?
Turns out he wasn’t happy to say goodbye to the large mobile that could protect the rim and was a deadly shooter both at mid-range and at depth.
“I certainly was, of course. I think our team was. I think our organization was, ”said Nurse, citing Ibaka’s ability to take over games on both sides of the pitch, his preparation and his veteran leadership. “… I had planned for him to come back and keep this core together as much as possible.” It doesn’t always work. It’s delicate. “
It wasn’t that hard, to be honest. According to sources, when the Raptors met Ibaka in Mexico, the Raptors would not pledge not to fire a platoon system with Marc Gasol, which put things on the wrong foot. Things got worse when they weren’t offering him more than a one-year deal as they wanted to keep their powder dry in case Giannis Antetokounmpo became available in free agency this summer. And when they didn’t offer more than $ 12 million on a one-year contract to make it worth Ibaka to refuse the $ 18 million he had received from the Clippers for two years, it was finished.
The Raptors also failed to keep Gasol and Toronto spent the first three months of the 2020-21 season playing without a usable starting center on their roster.
There were other contributing factors to the end of the Raptors’ playoff streak – move to Tampa, half of the squad receiving COVID-19 mid-season and a string of untimely injuries among them – but the end of the streak started in the off-season and the Raptors were catching up from the start.
What they had was no small feat. Only two other teams – Portland and Houston – have enjoyed comparable streaks of seven years. The Raptors also enjoyed a five-year streak with at least one playoff victory, not to mention 2019 when they won four en route to the NBA title.
They officially ran out on Monday night when an Indiana Pacers victory mathematically knocked Toronto out of the playoff picture, so Tuesday provided a moment of reflection.
“I mean, look, it’s definitely not easy to get a seven-year run,” Nurse said. “… So I think first of all that the organization, and all of us, should be proud of it.
“And then on the other hand, it’s disappointing. I thought we played as well as we could last year [Toronto had the second-best record in the regular season and lost a seven-game series to Boston in the second round] and with a break or two could have continued to ride who knows how far a year ago.
“And coming back for a bit and being where we are today is certainly very disappointing, and it’s kinda sad, to be honest, to have this race. It was a hell of a race. Hope it stings a bit this summer. We’ll feel that sting in summer training, things like that to get us back to where we’re used to.
This is what the last four games of the season are already geared towards and what the offseason will be like.
The 115-96 fall to the Clippers served both goals well. The defeat further boosted the Raptors’ chances (27-42) of finishing with the seventh-worst record, which brings 7.5% overall first choice chance and 31.9% top four pick chance.
But in a game where regulars Kyle Lowry (rest); Fred VanVleet (hip); OG Anunoby (calf) and Pascal Siakam (shoulder) were all selected – they could well be made for the season – there were plenty of opportunities to assess talent that may or may not be part of the Raptors’ immediate future. .
So even in an explosive loss, there were things to love. Freddie Gillespie made his mark with a few noteworthy blocks – first on DeMarcus Cousins, then on Clippers big man Ivica Zubac – and with 10 points and seven rebounds he also continued to argue that he deserved to to be a part of. the Raptors’ rotation next season. There should be Khem Birch who has shown he can find a way to contribute no matter who he’s on the floor with, finishing with 13 points and three assists in 31 minutes. Rookie winger Jalen Harris has a chance to make up for lost time in an injury-ridden season with his share of opportunistic scorers, scoring 10 points on six shots in 25 minutes to accompany encouraging defensive activity. Chris Boucher, back after missing nine games with a sprained knee, has enjoyed long rehearsals as a forward or even a winger – positions he will have to prove he can play now that he’s determined he can play. he can’t defend as a constant enough center to stay on the ground.
“There’s probably a lot more learning and teaching that needs to go on with the young players, maybe that’s what you see a little bit,” said Nurse, who was active during downtime with her youngsters. players, after the game. Usually the vets are, you know, you tell them once and they’re gonna make the change or whatever or they’re gonna do it on their own or whatever and the young guys just need, again, they don’t see it they don’t feel it so maybe you need to tell them again or tell them a different way or draw them for them or whatever you just keep looking for the way they can let it in and then bring it to the ground and run it.
They didn’t perform well enough to win against Kawhi Leonard (20 points, seven rebounds and five assists in 30 minutes) and a Clippers team preparing for a championship run and they might not win again this season. . The reality is that the days when the Raptors won enough to be in the playoffs and compete for a title are over for now.
It’s sad, but it was more than fun while it lasted. It was a time that cemented the profile of the Raptors in Toronto and Canada.
The bar has been set forever.
But now it’s time to look to the future.