The biggest cheer from the crowd on Oct. 3 at the Raptors’ intrasquad game was not when the Raptors were introduced, or when DeMar DeRozan showed off his dunking abilities. Instead, it was when head coach Jay Triano addressed the crowd before the game and declared that the Toronto Raptors are “Canada’s team.”
This year’s Raptors roster consists of 10 Americans and five Europeans, but regardless of their birthplace or nationality, they are all happy to call Canada home, at least for the duration of the season.
“We talk all the time about being Canada’s team, not just Toronto’s team, and what better place to hold a camp than right here in the nation’s capital?” said Raptors’ general manager Bryan Colangelo.
While it may seem like a burden to represent an entire country, the players don’t see it that way.
“To have the whole country behind us is unbelievable; I love that,” said the Raptors’ Spanish point guard Jose Calderon. “There are Canadian people everywhere in the [United States] so I think it’s great.”
“I’m happy about that, man,” added Turkish forward Hedo Turkoglu. “I hope I represent them in the best way.”
Even though Reggie Evans, like Turkoglu, has yet to play a regular season game in a Raptors uniform, he has already accepted and embraced the fact that the Raptors really do represent an entire nation. He draws motivation from the vast following of another one of Toronto’s professional sports teams.
“The Maple Leafs make us want to work real hard, kind of motivate us so we can get on their level,” Evans said, after a few seconds of contemplation. “No question about it, we’re definitely Canada’s team. That’s why it’s good that we’re down here in the capital. You know, show some love to the capital because they show us some love and all that, kind of spread it all over to make it real contagious. That’s the kind of cancer that you want,” he said.
And judging by the horde of fans gathering around the Ravens’ Nest last week, that’s the kind of cancer they’ve got.