TORONTO — The Raptors host the Washington Wizards on Wednesday in their first season opener at Scotiabank Arena in two years. Here are five more games to watch this season:
Feb. 3 versus the visiting Miami Heat:
Considered the greatest Raptor of all time, Kyle Lowry crushed Raptors fans when he left for Miami in the off-season in hopes of chasing another NBA championship. Lowry and the Heat make their first trip to Toronto on Feb. 3, and the ovation for the six-time NBA all-star, and lovable curmudgeon, will be deafening.
Dec. 28 versus the visiting Philadelphia 76ers:
The Sixers visit Toronto a full 930 days after the Raptors beat Golden State to win the 2019 NBA championship, and so finally Danny Green will get his ring. Green played just one season in Toronto, but was a starter in the Raptors' run to the Larry O'Brien.
In normal times, Green would have received his ring when his 2019-2020 team, the Los Angeles Lakers, played in Toronto, but that game never happened because of COVID-19. The Raptors called Tampa, Fla., home last season — although it wasn't really home — and Green said he wanted to receive the ring in front of Toronto's fans. Philly visited Toronto this pre-season, but the Raptors want to honour the shooting specialist properly, in the regular season.
Oct. 29 versus the visiting Orlando Magic:
Raptors fans were perplexed and some displeased when Toronto selected Florida State's Scottie Barnes over Jalen Suggs with the No. 4 pick in the NBA draft. In the weeks since, Barnes has become a fan favourite with his high-energy game and his megawatt smile to go with it.
The Magic took Suggs at No. 5. The Gonzaga guard had said he would make teams that passed on him pay when they meet on the NBA floor. Bragging rights will be on the line when the two rookies play in Toronto.
March 1, versus the visiting Brooklyn Nets:
There are numerous intriguing storylines around the Nets, who are favourites to win the championships. Already boasting a star-studded trio in Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving, the Nets made several key off-season additions, including veteran guard Patty Mills. And they're led by Steve Nash — a favourite to claim coach of the year — who is beloved by Canada's basketball fan base.
Feb. 12, versus the visiting Denver Nuggets:
Nuggets guard and Kitchener, Ont., native Jamal Murray was having a fabulous season when he suffered a torn anterior cruciate in April. His absence wasn't just sorely felt by the Nuggets, who were dispatched by Phoenix in the opening round of the playoffs, but by Canada's national team, which lost in the semifinals of a last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament in Victoria.
While there's no timeline for Murray's return, there is a chance he could be back on the floor when the Nuggets visit Scotiabank Arena.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 18, 2021.
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press