Changing the culture that surrounds any franchise can be difficult, and at the very least incredibly time-consuming. Since their unexpected turnaround first began last December however, that’s exactly what the Toronto Raptors have been indirectly attempting to accomplish.
Currently in their 19th year as an NBA franchise, the Raptors have been at or near the bottom of the Atlantic Division in each of the last three seasons. Outside of their only first-place finish in 2006-07, which was followed by second-place efforts in two of the next three campaigns, Vince Carter remains the image that’s most often related to Toronto’s limited success in the playoffs.
Possibly even more critical to the negative atmosphere that has surrounded the Raptors than their own dismal performances, the city of Toronto hasn’t exactly built a reputation for producing champions in professional sports. Both the Toronto Blue Jays as well as the Toronto Maple Leafs have been epic disappointments for the last 20 years.
But while expectations are high for the city’s other pro sports teams, Raptor Nation simply wanted to avoid the hopelessness that the entire city felt the minute that Chris Bosh decided to leave.
This season, basketball fans in Toronto have been rewarded for their collective patience with a number of franchise records that signal the beginning of a promising run towards permanent, league-wide relevance, and most recently included the team setting a new high with their 21st victory on the road in 2013-14.
Under the direction of head coach Dwane Casey and new GM Masai Ujiri, the Raptors are now only two victories short of the team-high of 47. They will be making just the sixth playoff appearance in team history, and as long as they can hold off the Brooklyn Nets for another week, they will earn the franchise’s second Atlantic Division crown.
Soon, the Air Canada Center will be buzzing with the sound of playoff basketball for the first time in six years; but regardless of how these young Raptors fare in the postseason, the image of Carter missing that fadeaway jumper against the Philadelphia 76ers will be the last thing on the minds of the home crowd, and that’s the sign of a culture accustomed to losing beginning to change.