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Retiring Carter's jersey, trading a core player and (even) more unpopular Raptors opinions

Alex Wong
·7 min read
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I asked Raptors fans to submit their most unpopular opinions about the team a few weeks ago. We went through a bunch of them on "Run It Back" last week, but there were so many great submissions so here are a few more.

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This is like the No. 1 all-time Raptor discussion next to “Seriously Kawhi, why didn’t you just come back for one more year, win another championship, then move to Los Angeles and try to win a title with Reggie Jackson?”

So I was around during the Vince Carter era, and it was glorious, especially after the whole Damon Stoudamire-Isiah Thomas era fell apart. I still remember Carter promising the Maple Leaf Gardens fans (remember when they played there?) at the end of his rookie year that the Raptors would make the playoffs the following year, and then they did. The sweep to the Knicks. The dunk contest. The eight three-pointers in the first half against the Sixers when the whole team wore headbands. The graduation on the day of Game 7. The injuries. The trades. All the horrible coaches and players they surrounded Carter with (except for Alvin Williams. Shoutout Alvin Williams).

Vince Carter, Pascal Siakam and Nick Nurse have all felt the wrath of Raptors fans at one point or another. (Getty Images)
Vince Carter, Pascal Siakam and Nick Nurse have all felt the wrath of Raptors fans at one point or another. (Getty Images)

And then, of course, the final few months he was here. Most of you probably still remember the end of Carter’s time here. It was textbook superstar wants out and doesn’t care anymore behavior which we have seen many times over the years (James Harden’s last few weeks in Houston is the most recent example) and will continue to see.

Carter said dunking wasn’t cool anymore, may or may not have tipped off an opponent to what the Raptors were running at the end of the game, got traded to the New Jersey Nets, and told John Thompson in a nationally televised interview he was ready to try hard again.

So yes. I understand why there’s all this residual feeling about Carter. I used to be the guy to remind everyone who celebrated him about those final months, and there's been a lot of revisionist history over the years to erase those memories, but I’ve moved past that.

We can celebrate Carter and retire his jersey because he was that impactful to the franchise and basketball in Canada, but we can also remember how things ended with the Raptors.

Retiring his jersey doesn’t mean we have to forget those final months. It can be both.

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I’m not going to lie. “Can Nick Nurse deal with coaching a losing team?” did cross my mind a lot the first half of this season, but I’m honestly just going to give everyone the benefit of the doubt because it’s been an entire year and more of dealing with a pandemic at this point.

But also fire the coach and bring back Matt Thomas.

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I’m still thinking about trade deadline day when absolutely nobody wanted to see Kyle Lowry go somewhere else. The Raptors have already lost so much of their championship core (remember when they won the championship two years ago? How was that only two years ago, or already two years ago. I can’t tell time anymore), and it would have hurt to see Lowry go, but a part of me was excited to see him on a contender like, say, Philadelphia. He stayed, and the Raptors are resting him and the other starters and might accidentally make the play-in tournament anyway.

This leads me to the question: what were the discussions between Lowry and the front office before the trade deadline? Did Lowry say, "I don’t mind staying if you guys don’t get a good enough trade offer," not thinking Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster would actually stand pat? Did they agree to work out a sign-and-trade in the summer so the Raptors can get some assets back? Or did Lowry change his mind and say, actually, I’m gonna stay beyond this year? Or am I overthinking, and the front office went into the deadline convinced they would get a better offer than what was available at 3 p.m.?

Because everything from Lowry’s supposed last game with the Raptors from the way he greeted the camera after the game to the 20-plus minute Zoom session with reporters felt like a farewell.

I’m going to wait and see what happens this summer, but if Lowry leaves and the Raptors get nothing, I will certainly look at the trade deadline as a missed opportunity.

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Yes, but also look how fun the Raptors are now that they have a couple of competent centers in their rotation!

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I think this one is getting at the roster construction of the team and how to move forward. Again, Kawhi ruined the natural order of things. The Raptors had gone as far as the Kyle-DeMar tandem could take them, took a massive swing on a player coming off an injury and a year away from free agency and it paid off in a championship, and… he left.

Instead of having a clear-cut championship contender for another few years, the Raptors had to shift into this strange spot of being where nobody wants to be: Not good enough to win a title. Not bad enough to bottom out.

Is trading one of Fred, Pascal and OG the path to something better? If we learned anything from the 2019 championship, it’s that you need some luck (I mean, check how stacked this roster was. VanVleet and Ibaka came off the bench… and they still almost lost in Round 2. Also, Kevin Durant’s injury) but also you need a supporting cast.

You know who would be great supporting players on a title team? Pascal and Fred! You know why I know? Because they literally proved it two years ago. I’ll throw OG in there too even though he was injured during the title run. We’ve seen from his rookie season and last year in the bubble he’s definitely not someone who lets the spotlight get to him.

The Raptors need a star, yes. But when I look at Fred, Pascal and OG, I don’t see three guys who need to be moved. I see three guys who would be an incredible supporting cast for a No. 1 star — ask players like LeBron (a few of his Cleveland years), Stephen Curry (right now), and even Luka Doncic. Finding a supporting cast to surround your star is not the easiest thing. I still believe the Raptors have those pieces.

How they’re going to land a true superstar and get back in contention? Well… when are Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lu Dort’s contracts up?

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