Spring is coming, and for the Raptors, that means an annual bout of terror and apprehension.
Because for the last five years, spring in Toronto has meant the local basketball club is in its usual push toward 50 wins or more, soon to be followed by some form or other of postseason calamity.
This year is different, at least in a way. There is not the same level of dread about this team entering the playoffs and petering out in ignominy. There is no monkey on the backs of these players, thanks in large part to the critical changes the franchise has made over the past year.
Coach Dwane Casey, who so often took the blame for the team’s playoff woes, was fired last offseason. Kawhi Leonard was acquired from the Spurs, with Danny Green, for guard DeMar DeRozan, the guy who took the second-biggest heap of playoff blame.
In the past two months, the team brought in Marc Gasol (for center Jonas Valanciunas, with C.J. Miles and Delon Wright) in a trade with Memphis, then added Jeremy Lin off the waiver wire. The Raptors also signed former Warriors holdout Patrick McCaw back in January.
That has left star guard Kyle Lowry as the only Raptor to experience all five of the team’s recent playoff disappointments. Only Lowry and Norman Powell have been in Toronto for the past three postseasons, and three other players — Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam — were there for both 2017 and 2018.