The Toronto Raptors have never had a true enemy, mostly because they’ve sucked for the majority of their 18-year existence. Sure, they had a few playoff series with the Knicks at the turn of the century, but for the most part, the Raptors — and their fans — have never had a team to hate.
Enter the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers.
Kobe and the Sideshows picked up two players this offseason that will surely get booed when they come to Canada: Steve Nash (perennial All-Star, Canadian legend) and Dwight Howard (three-time Defensive Player of the Year, pouty baby). Nash, despite being offered everything but General Manager Bryan Colangelo’s wife, chose Hollywood over Toronto this summer. Howard? He's just really annoying. So there are reasons to hate LA.
But more important than farming beef is rearing respect — NBA teams earn it by playing tough and beating the best. And unless Kobe gets caught up in another sexual assault case, the Lakers are the team to beat.
Toronto is a young team seeking confidence and identity. But if league experts are correct, the new-look Raptors are much improved. Incoming centre Jonas Valanciunas finally gives the Raptors size and grit in the middle (read: a sparring partner for Howard). New point guard Kyle Lowry has said he wants to dominate his position, and will prove difficult for Nash to defend.
The first time the Lakers and Raptors play is January 20, 2013 at the ACC. While Toronto coach Dwane Casey regurgiates the “One Game at a Time” mantra, he also asks his team to have vision. If you want to make the playoffs, you have beat playoff teams. If you want to win a championship, you have to beat championship teams. Expect a championship atmosphere at the ACC on January 20.
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