The Leonid meteor storm occurs when Earth passes through the orbit of comet Tempel-Tuttle, which orbits around the Sun every 33 years. Thousands of meteors can be seen from the earth for about 15 minutes, with the belief that Tempel-Tuttle can produce about 100,000 meteors per hour. This is a rare event and if you are of sound mind and health to see it, consider yourself lucky.
Not as rare, but perhaps just as rare (we don’t have the data yet), is what the Raptors are experiencing right now. Three events are coinciding with each other, giving the upcoming season a sense of both quality, totality, and finality. They are:
- The Raptors having a Top 5 NBA superstar (ESPN’s rank is wrong)
- A potentially short window of contention because of contract situations
- A waning East where LeBron James as left a meteor-sized hole
Put all three together and we have a bit of a motto for this season going, i.e., Finals or Bust. Let me be the first to stay that it takes some massive brass balls for a Raptors fans to say that phrase because, you know, we’re Raptors fans and Mike James isn’t that distant of a memory. Still, the Raptors are now in a legitimate, and possibly favourable position to come out of the East. In fact, anything else would be considered a disappointment, which, again, chokes me up a little bit considering how far we’ve come.
Tim Chisholm put it brilliantly on the podcast when he described Kawhi Leonard joining Nick Nurse as an “unknown upon an unknown”. Currently, the presumption is that both new pieces will not have integration difficulties, because of the relatively low turnover on the roster, and the fact that the offensive system is 1) fundamentally not that different from what existed (at the very least, most of the players will be familiar with the vernacular), and 2) Kawhi Leonard is an easy integration because of his skill-set and attitude. Both assumptions could get undone quite quickly, but the probabilistic odds are low, thus #FinalsOrBust. If you do care to be confident, this top 10 list of books might be helpful.
Given the potentially very short window, there is also a higher likelihood that Masai Ujiri will do whatever it takes to push us over the mountain. There are no half measures here. We have traded in a three year contention window for a single season and are all in. If at the trade deadline we’re sensing that we’re short on something, Ujiri is far more likely to trade from the young pile of crop to get what we need now than to slot them in for a rebuild program. This also put the Raptors in a slight disadvantage in trade negotiations as Ujiri has shown his intent in no uncertain manner. This should excite Raptors fans because we only have a single option to execute (i.e., win at all costs now) and one secondary plan (i.e., rebuild starting next season). There is a sense of finality and urgency this season that we haven’t quite experienced before.
Needless to say the LeBrexit has turned the East from a well-guarded fortress to a free-for-all where Toronto, Boston, Philly, and possibly even Milwaukee and Indiana feel that there’s a taste to be had here. This is the first time in 10 seasons that the East won’t have been spoken for before the season began (8 LeBron years and the Celtics Big Three). It is this openness and unpredictability that makes this season infinitely more exciting than years past. I finally understand what Knicks fans felt when Jordan retired for the first time.
In my line of work I do something called “pessimism day” where the team imagines the worst possible things that can happen to a project. Think systems exploding, production issues, people getting fired, etc. If we were to do a pessimism day for the Raptors season, it’ll probably look something like:
- Kawhi’s knee exploding and the shards blinding Lowry
- Ujiri panicking and trading OG for Rasaul Butler
- JV turning into Bargnani
You get the point. Even with all this, the Raptors enter a rebuild and possibly suck for a few years. Meh. If you thinks sucking scares a Raptors fan, you don’t know Raptors fans. We relish that stuff.
I welcome a rebuild almost as much as I relish a Finals appearance. If you’ve been a Raptors fans for the last few years, you have no idea how beautiful and dark the depths of darkness are. On some lonely nights, you want it to overcome you, take you by the hand, and lead you to a place beneath the shadows to the still water. As you gaze into your reflection, you see another face. A familiar one, the contours on the face speak to father time’s predilection for taking a slow but sure toll. And there you have it, it’s Jamario Moon’s shit-eating grin.
That, my friend, is darkness. This season going bust is nothing. I say we go all-in. If it’s Jimmy Butler you got to pay, steal funds from the Giants of Africa bucket and pay whatever tax is needed.
This is a season where we have nothing to lose. So what if Kawhi doesn’t work? So what if Lowry declines? So what if JV turns out to be, well, JV? Aim high, fail fast.
I leave you with an Arsene Wenger quote:
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