Toronto Raptors (2 Events)
NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals: Toronto Raptors vs. TBD - Home Game 3 (Date: TBD - If Necessary)
Toronto, ON @ Air Canada Centre
NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals: Toronto Raptors vs. TBD - Home Game 4 (Date: TBD - If Necessary)
Toronto, ON @ Air Canada Centre
The Toronto Raptors were established on 30 September 1993, when the NBA, as part of its expansion into Canada, awarded its 28th franchise to a group headed by Toronto businessman John Bitove for a then-record expansion fee of $125 million. The Raptors, along with the Vancouver Grizzlies, played their first game in 1995, and were the first NBA teams based in Canada since the 1946–47 Toronto Huskies.
Initial sentiment was in favour of reviving the Huskies nickname, but team management realized it would be nearly impossible to design a logo that did not substantially resemble that of the Minnesota Timberwolves. As a result, a nationwide contest was held to help name the team and develop their colours and logo. Over 2,000 entries were narrowed down to ten prospects: Beavers, Bobcats, Dragons, Grizzlies, Hogs, Raptors, Scorpions, T-Rex, Tarantulas, and Terriers. The final selection, Toronto Raptors, was unveiled on Canadian national television on 15 May 1994: the choice was influenced by the popularity of the 1993 film Jurassic Park. The name Raptors is a common informal name for the velociraptor, a swift medium-sized dromaeosaurid theropod dinosaur. On 24 May 1994, the team's logo and first General Manager, Isiah Thomas were revealed at a press conference. The team's colours of bright red, purple, black, and silver were also revealed; "Naismith" silver was chosen as an ode to Canadian James Naismith, the inventor of basketball. The team originally competed in the Central Division, and before the inaugural season began, sales of Raptors merchandise ranked seventh in the league, marking a successful return of professional basketball to Canada.
As General Manager, Isiah Thomas quickly staffed the management positions with his own personal, naming long-time Detroit Pistons assistant Brendan Malone as the Raptors' head coach. The team's roster was then filled as a result of an expansion draft in 1995. Following a coin flip, Toronto was given first choice and selected Chicago Bulls point guard and three-point specialist B. J. Armstrong. Armstrong refused to report for training and Thomas promptly traded him to the Golden State Warriors for power forwards Carlos Rogers and Victor Alexander. Thomas then selected a wide range of players in the expansion draft, including veterans Jerome Kersey, Willie Anderson and his former Pistons teammate John "Spider" Salley.
In the team's first official NBA game, Alvin Robertson scored the first NBA points in Raptors history, while Stoudamire recorded 10 points and 10 assists in a 94–79 victory over the New Jersey Nets. The Raptors concluded their inaugural season with a 21–61 win–loss record, although they were one of the few teams to defeat the Chicago Bulls, who set an all-time NBA best 72–10 win–loss regular season record. With averages of 19.0 points and 9.3 assists per game, Stoudamire also won the 1995–96 Rookie of the Year Award.
In the 1996–97 season, the team improved on its win record by nine games. They selected centre Marcus Camby with the second overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft. By the end of the season, Camby earned a berth on the NBA's All-Rookie Team while Stoudamire continued to play well, averaging 20.2 points and 8.8 assists per game. As in the previous season, the Raptors were one of only 11 teams to topple the eventual 1997 Champions, the Chicago Bulls. The Raptors also defeated the Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz and Miami Heat, all of whom were eventual Conference finalists. However, the Raptors struggled against teams who were not of championship calibre, including three losses to the 15–67 Boston Celtics.
On 12 March 1998, Maple Leaf Gardens Ltd., the owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs, purchased the Raptors and the arena the team was building, Air Canada Centre, for $467 million. During the 1998 NBA Draft, in what became a defining move for the franchise, Grunwald traded the team's 4th overall pick Antawn Jamison to the Golden State Warriors for Vince Carter, who was selected 5th overall. To bring further credibility to the Raptors, Grunwald traded Camby to the New York Knicks for Charles Oakley, a veteran with playoff experience. Kevin Willis, another veteran acquired from the trade, solidified the centre position, while the coaching staff temporarily rotated Brown, Williams and Doug Christie to play point guard. Both Christie and Williams became talented players in their own right; Christie developed into one of the elite defenders in the NBA, while Williams improved his play on the offensive end. New coach Butch Carter was also credited with much of the team's turnaround during the lockout shortened 1998–99 season. Although the team did not make the playoffs, many were optimistic with the impressive performances of Rookie of the Year Carter and a much improved McGrady.
During the 1999 NBA Draft, believing that the Raptors still lacked a strong frontcourt presence, Grunwald traded first-round draft pick Jonathan Bender for veteran power forward Antonio Davis of the Indiana Pacers. In the backcourt, Carter, Christie, Williams and Dell Curry played at the shooting guard position and Muggsy Bogues at point guard. The rotation of Davis, Oakley and Willis in the frontcourt and Carter's and McGrady's improvement helped the team make its first ever playoff appearance, fulfilling a promise Carter had made to fans in the previous season. Lacking significant postseason experience, Toronto was defeated 3–0 by the New York Knicks in the first round. Nonetheless, team improvements and the rise of Carter—who emphatically won the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, attracted many fans around Toronto, many of whom were previously not basketball fans. The season was also the first full year played at the Air Canada Centre, after having played four years at the cavernous SkyDome, which was better suited to baseball and Canadian football. Overall, the Raptors concluded the season with a 45–37 record.
Still, playoff failures and Butch Carter's media altercations surrounding Camby led Grunwald to replace Carter prior to the 2000–01 season with Lenny Wilkens, a Hall of Fame coach and player with more than 30 years of coaching experience. The team roster was also largely revamped, including the signing of veteran playmaker Mark Jackson on a four-year contract. When Alvin Williams later emerged as a clutch performer, Jackson was traded to allow Williams more playing time. In the 2000 offseason, free agent McGrady opted to leave the Raptors in a sign-and-trade deal worth $67.5m over six years, while giving a conditional draft pick as part of the agreement to the Orlando Magic for a first-round draft pick in a sign-and-trade deal.
As predicted by analysts, the team easily secured a berth in the 2001 NBA playoffs with a franchise high 47 wins. The Raptors won their first ever playoff series as they defeated New York 3–2, advancing to the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the first time in franchise history. Wilkens was praised for having Williams defend shooting guard Allan Houston and Carter defend small forward Latrell Sprewell, the two major Knicks offensive threats. The series with Philadelphia 76ers was a landmark for the Raptors in terms of performance and entertainment value. The Sixers relied on Allen Iverson and Dikembe Mutombo for their respective offensive and defensive abilities, along with steady help from Aaron McKie. Toronto was the more balanced team with Carter, Alvin Williams and Davis providing much of the offensive game and Chris Childs and Jerome Williams on defence. The series came down to the last few seconds of Game 7, when Carter's potential series-winning shot rolled off the rim. Carter was later widely criticized for attending his graduation ceremony at the University of North Carolina on the morning of Game 7, as he scored only 20 points on 6-for-18 shooting, after a 39 point performance in Game 6. Despite the loss, the season is generally considered a watermark for the franchise, given the Raptors' franchise high of 47 wins and advancing beyond the first round of the playoffs.
The relocation of the Vancouver Grizzlies to Memphis, Tennessee in 2001, as the Memphis Grizzlies, left Toronto as the NBA's only Canadian team. In the summer of 2001, long-term contracts were given to Alvin Williams, Jerome Williams and Davis, while former NBA MVP centre Hakeem Olajuwon was signed to provide Carter with good support. The Raptors appeared to be on their way to another competitive season, with a 29–21 record going into the All-Star break and with Carter the top vote-getter for the All-Star game for the third consecutive year. Carter then suffered a bout of patellar tendinitis (also known as "jumper's knee") forcing him to miss the All-Star game and the rest of the season, and without their franchise player, Toronto lost 13 consecutive games. However, they were able to win 12 of their last 14 games, clinching a playoff spot on the last day of the regular season. The comeback featured some of the Raptors' best defence of the season, along with inspired performances by Davis and Keon Clark.
Despite Toronto's improved defensive performances, Carter's offence was sorely missed in the first-round series against the second-seeded Detroit Pistons. In the first game, Detroit overwhelmed Toronto 83–65, largely due to Ben Wallace's strong performance of 19 points, 20 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 steals. Detroit also won Game 2, but Toronto won the next two games at home to force a deciding and tightly contested Game 5 in Detroit. With 10.7 seconds left in the game, and the Raptors down 85–82 with possession of the ball, Childs raced down the court and shot a three-pointer that missed badly, apparently trying to draw a foul on the play, instead of passing to a wide-open Curry. In a post-game locker room interview, Childs repeatedly insisted that the Raptors had been down four points, not three. The Raptors' late-season surge was thus marred by a disappointing playoff exit; the Olajuwon experiment was also a bust, with the 39-year-old averaging career lows in minutes, points and rebounds. Furthermore, Childs, Clark, and Curry left the team, ensuring a new-look team for the next season.
The 2002–03 season began with the same optimism that the Raptors exhibited in three consecutive playoff seasons, although it faded early. Carter, while voted as a starter in the 2003 All-Star Game, suffered a knee injury, while Davis expressed disinterest in Toronto, and Wilkens'laissez-faire attitude created a team that lacked the motivation and spirit of the previous years' teams. The team was ravaged with injuries, losing an NBA record number of player games due to injury. Furthermore, the Raptors recorded the dubious honour of being the only team in NBA history to not dress 12 players for a single game in a season. Wilkens was criticized heavily by the Toronto media for his inability to clamp down on his players when necessary, especially given this was the year that Wilkens overtook Bill Fitch for the most losses by an NBA coach, with his loss total getting dangerously close to his win total. The Raptors ended the season with a 24–58 record and Wilkens was fired. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, when the Raptors were given the 4th overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft and brought another star to Toronto in Chris Bosh.
For the 2004–05 season, the team moved into the Atlantic Division and the Raptors decided to revamp the team. Raptors President and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Richard Peddie fired Grunwald on 1 April 2004, after the team ended the season three games short of the eighth and final playoff spot in the previous season. Head coach Kevin O'Neill and his four assistant coaches were also dismissed immediately after Grunwald's termination. Toronto interim manager Jack McCloskey said: "While the blame for that certainly does not rest on O'Neill and his staff alone, we need a change." Rob Babcock was named General Manager on 7 June 2004, alongside the appointments of Wayne Embry as senior advisor and Alex English as director of player development. Sam Mitchell, a former NBA forward and assistant coach of the Milwaukee Bucks was hired as new head coach of the Raptors.
After Vince Carter's annual charity game, Babcock implicitly revealed to the media that Carter's agent had asked for a trade confirming Carter was discontent. The Toronto Sun reported that Carter felt he was being misled by the Raptor's hierarchy during the General Manager search and had concluded that as long as the managerial structure at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. remained intact, the Raptors would never be an elite team. Carter was finally traded mid-season, ending his six-year tenure. Toronto received Alonzo Mourning, forwards Eric Williams and Aaron Williams and two mid-to-late future first round picks from the New Jersey Nets. Mourning chose not to report to Toronto, forcing Babcock to buy out the remainder of his contract at a reported $10 million, leaving him free to sign with the Miami Heat. Eric and Aaron Williams were supposed to add defensive toughness and rebounding, but were generally under-utilized for the entire season. Analysts had predicted Babcock got the bad end of the deal, and the trade eventually cost him his job.
Carter's departure heralded a new era for Toronto. Bosh stepped up to the role of franchise player and performed well in his sophomore campaign, ranking tenth in the league in defensive rebounds. In contrast to Bosh's emergence, Araújo struggled to keep a spot in the lineup, and became unpopular with fans and local media. Although the ACC was often well-attended due to the Raptors' 22–19 home record, their inability to win on the road (11–30) and poor defensive record made Mitchell's first year as head coach unimpressive. Additionally, Mitchell had problems dealing with Alston, who openly expressed his unhappiness with Mitchell in a post-game interview. Later in the season, Alston was suspended two games for "conduct detrimental to the team" for reportedly walking out of a scrimmage during practice. Notwithstanding the unrest, in their first season competing in the Atlantic Division, Toronto maintained the same regular season record of 33–49 as the previous season.
The Raptors continued to rebuild during the 2005 NBA Draft, selecting Charlie Villanueva, Joey Graham, Roko Ukić and Uroš Slokar, with Villanueva's selection being very controversial amongst basketball pundits and Raptors fans alike. The Raptors started their training camp by trading Alston to the Houston Rockets for Mike James, and signing free agent José Calderón as a backup for James. Despite the infusion of new players, Toronto's overall 2005–06 season was a disappointment; they set a franchise record by losing their first nine games and 15 out of their first 16 games.
The 2005–06 season was not a total disaster. Villanueva's play impressed both fans and former critics as he came in second in NBA Rookie of the Year and recorded 48 points in an overtime loss to Milwaukee Bucks, the most points scored by any rookie in franchise history and the most by a rookie in the NBA since 1997. Bosh was also named a reserve forward for the Eastern All-Star Team in the 2006 game, becoming the third Raptor after Vince Carter and Antonio Davis to appear in an All-Star Game. On 27 February 2006, the team named Bryan Colangelo, the 2004–05 NBA Executive of the Year, the President and General Manager of the Raptors. Known for his success in transforming a lottery Phoenix team into a 62-win offensive juggernaut, his hiring gave hope to many fans. Still, Toronto ended the season weakly when Bosh suffered a season-ending thumb injury. The Raptors lost 10 in a row after Bosh's injury and finished the season with the fifth worst record (27–55) in the NBA.
The 2006–07 season represented a watershed year for the Raptors franchise. The roster was overhauled, including the selection of 2006 NBA Draft number one pick Andrea Bargnani, the acquisition of point guard T. J. Ford in exchange for Villanueva, and the signing of shooting guard Anthony Parker and small forward Jorge Garbajosa. Bosh was given a three-year contract extension, while Maurizio Gherardini of Benetton Treviso was hired as the club's vice-president and assistant general manager.
The first half of the season produced mixed results as Toronto struggled towards the .500 mark. After the All-Star break, Bargnani continued to work on his defence and shooting (averaging 14.3 points per game (ppg) and 3.9 rebounds per game (rpg) in 12 games for the month of February 2007), and he was selected as the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for the second straight time on 1 March 2007. Bargnani became the third Raptor ever to win the award twice, joining Vince Carter and Damon Stoudamire. Toronto ended the regular season with a 47–35 record, securing the third seed in the Eastern Conference for the 2007 NBA Playoffs along with the Atlantic Division title, as well as home court advantage for the first time in franchise history. Bosh was voted to start in the 2007 NBA All-Star Game. The Raptors were also praised for their improved defence, ball-sharing and tremendous team chemistry. Colangelo, Gherardini and Mitchell were credited with Toronto's turnaround this season, which was one of the best in NBA history in terms of league standing and defensive ranking.
On 24 April 2007, the Raptors won their first playoff game in five seasons, with an 89–83 victory over the New Jersey Nets. They would end up losing to the Nets in 7 games.
Several changes to the roster were made before the 2007–08 campaign as Toronto sought to reproduce the same form as the previous campaign. Most notably, the Raptors acquired Carlos Delfino in a trade with Detroit for two second round draft picks, and signed Jamario Moon and three-point specialist Jason Kapono as free agents.
The Raptors ceded the division title to Boston, and qualified for the 2008 NBA Playoffs as the sixth seed, where they were pitted against the Orlando Magic. In Game 1, Dwight Howard gave the Magic their first playoffs win since 2003 as they practically led the entire game.
As it turned out, a blockbuster trade was agreed in principle before the 2008–09 campaign: six-time All-Star Jermaine O'Neal was acquired from the Indiana Pacers in exchange for Ford (who had become expendable with the emergence of Calderón),Rasho Nesterović, Maceo Baston, and Roy Hibbert, the 17th pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, giving the Raptors a potential boost in the frontcourt. Meanwhile, Bargnani, who had spent the summer working on his interior game, was projected to come off the bench. The Raptors also introduced a black alternate road jersey for the season similar to the earlier purple design that was dropped a few seasons ago. It had a maple leaf featured on the back neck of the jersey, symbolizing the Raptors as "Canada's team". Despite the introduction of O'Neal, who brought home the rebounds and the blocks, and a much improved Bargnani, the Raptors were too inconsistent. Following a 8–9 start to the season, Mitchell was fired and replaced by long-time assistant Jay Triano. Triano tweaked with the starting line-up to no avail as the Raptors fell to 21–34 prior to the All-Star break. O'Neal and Moon were then traded to Miami for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks, but with the losses mounting, the Raptors soon fell out of the playoffs picture, and were eliminated from contention with seven games of the regular season remaining. The Raptors eventually finished with a 33–49 record and headed into the next season with a potential overhaul of the core: Marion could become a free agent; Bosh could become one after 2009–10; Parker would soon turn 35; and Bargnani had his breakthrough season. On 12 May 2009, Triano was given a three-year term for the position of head coach.
The inevitable roster shakeup for the 2009–10 season began when Kapono was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for the aggressive veteran forward Reggie Evans. Toronto then drafted DeMar DeRozan with the ninth pick, enabling them to fill a spot on the wings. This was followed by the signing of free agent Hedo Türkoğlu, which in turn led to a sign-and-trade agreement involving four teams, with Toronto landing wing players Devean George (later traded for Marco Belinelli) and Antoine Wright, while releasing Marion, Kris Humphries and Nathan Jawai. Around the same time, Parker headed for the Cleveland Cavaliers, while Indiana point guard Jarrett Jack was added and Nesterovič brought back to provide cover for the big men. Finally, Delfino and Ukić were moved to the Milwaukee Bucks for Amir Johnson and Sonny Weems. It became increasingly clear that Colangelo, in securing a credible nucleus for the future, was doing this to persuade Bosh to stay beyond 2010. While the Raptors were off to a sluggish start, they picked up the pace around the All-Star break, reaching a season-high seven games above .500 and standing fifth in the Eastern Conference. Bosh was recording career-highs in ppg and rpg. However, a season-ending injury to Bosh after the break coincided with Toronto's descent down the standings from the fifth seed to the eighth, and they ultimately relinquished their spot to Chicago a few games before the regular season ended.
In 2013 GM Bryan Colangelo was replaced with Masai Ujiri, and with his first order of business traded former 1st overall pick, Andrea Bargnani, to the New York Knicks for Marcus Camby, Steve Novak, Quentin Richardson, a first round draft pick, and future 2nd round picks. And added Tyler Hansbrough, D. J. Augustin, and Dwight Buycks via free agency.