It was a phenomenal season for the Raptors and their fans that consisted of rim-shaking dunks, huge scoring nights and so much overachieving that it’s fair to wonder if everything Masai Ujiri touches turns into gold.
Here are the top 10 moments of this 2013-14 Raptors season. This is a personal list, so if I missed anything important leave a comment and let me know what it was!
10. Patterson’s Game Winner
In the midst of “Patman” coming to fruition, Patrick Patterson wore his now famed mask while facing off against the Brooklyn Nets, who would later take on Toronto in the playoffs.
Being a spark off the bench all season and playing great with the mask on, it was a no-brainer to keep Patterson in the game until the very end. He was having a good night already, and it only got better as he stole the ball off a poor pass by Deron Williams that was intended for Joe Johnson. He hesitated as Williams flew by and then rose up to cleanly knock down the jumper and seal the game for the Raps.
In a season where close games weren’t Toronto’s friend, this was a great moment.
9. DeMar’s 40
Surprisingly, DeRozan had never scored this much before in his career.
Though leading the Raptors in scoring this season, it seemed that DeMar had never had “one of those” nights. Until a Wednesday evening in January, when he drilled the Dallas Mavericks for 40 points and a new career-high.
In that same game, he was dunked on by former Raptor Vince Carter, bringing about a weird feeling of the collision of past and present.
The two joked about it during and after the game, but what mattered most was that DeMar was able to push his team to victory. Scoring 40 (and becoming, at the time, just the 7th Raptor to do so) was just a nice consolation prize.
8. Raptors at All-Star Weekend
Three Raptors got to take part in this past season’s All-Star weekend.
DeMar was in the All-Star game and Skills Challenge, Ross was back in the Dunk Contest and Jonas Valanciunas was in the Rising Stars Challenge.
It was great to see Ross help the East win the Dunk Contest (even if the new rules are dumb), cool to see JV compete with other upcoming names and most of all it was fun to see a Raptor back in the All-Star game. Chris Bosh was the last Raptor to compete.
Hopefully, there will be more Raptors taking part in the weekend for years to come, especially with Toronto scheduled to host the event in 2016.
7. Bargnani Trade
In one of the best trades in a long time for Toronto, new GM Masai Ujiri traded Andrea Bargnani to the New York Knicks for Marcus Camby, Quentin Richardson, Steve Novak, two second-round picks (2014 & 2017) and a first-round pick (2016).
With fans at the point of booing Bargs (when he actually played) and his awful contract still on the table, Ujiri’s move was the first step in changing the course of the season. Toronto didn’t keep Camby or Richardson, but did stick with Novak and has those picks to use in the future.
It’s probably safe to say that after Bargnani’s first season with the Knicks, James Dolan has a picture of Ujiri’s grinning face on a dart board in his basement.
6. DeMar’s “Shhhhh”
I love this. I think it’s underrated.
After Game 4 of the Raptors first-round series with the Brooklyn Nets in which Toronto defeated the home team, DeRozan was caught post-game holding a finger to his lips and smiling as he “shhhh’d” the Barclays crowd.
This was an image that could’ve represented the entirety of the Raptors’ season. They were unappreciated, overlooked and dismissed. But after surprising people everywhere (except those that had watched them all year) in the playoffs, they finally started getting some recognition by the media.
I can’t wait for more of this next season.
5. Ross’ Jam on Faried
The dunk of the year. ‘Nuff said.
4. Ross’ 51
It was simply breathtaking.
In the month of January where every player in the NBA seemed to be going berserk and scoring new career-highs, T-Ross was no different.
He tied Vince Carter’s franchise record and nearly broke it, but missed a final free throw that would’ve given him 52. The night was electric. The crowd was into it, Ross could’ve made a three from Yonge Street and he looked like the second coming of VC himself.
The Los Angeles Clippers had no answers.
The best part was his swagger that night. He knew he was the best player in the building. And for 48 minutes, he was. Not CP3, not Blake Griffin, not DeRozan, not Lowry.
Let the record book show that Ross does, in fact, have potential.
3. Rudy Gay Trade
This was the turning point in the Raptors’ season.
They had gotten off to another slow start. Gay and DeRozan seemed to be locked up every offensive possession with the ball in their hands playing isolation. The orange may never have actually swung the full half-circle of the three-point line until Gay was gone.
Something had to give.
So Ujiri did it again. Like the Bargnani trade but on a larger scale, this trade catapulted the Raptors into what would be a franchise-best season.
Rudy and his $38 million contract got tossed to Sacramento along with Aaron Gray and youngster Quincy Acy, and in return Toronto received Greivis Vasquez, John Salmons, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes.
This move wasn’t meant to do what it did. It was meant to get rid of a guy who Ujiri recognized wouldn’t be the future star Bryan Collangelo had thought he would be as well as his contract and bring in some spare parts that had expiring contracts which could be crumpled up and tossed away come the offseason.
But what the trade did was make DeRozan an All-Star, push Lowry to a new level, give the team an insanely good chemistry, give Ross a shot at starting, allow for more ball movement and a whole bunch of other great things.
This one can’t be appreciated enough. Thanks, Masai.
2. Playoffs (Amir Johnson’s Game 7)
Lost in the fact that the Raptors were defeated and that he fouled out (mostly via ticky-tack calls) with lots of time left to play was that Amir Johnson had a throwback Game 7.
Early on in the game, he aggravated his right ankle and groans from Raptors fans everywhere could be heard. Amir had dealt with injuries all season (especially with his feet) and if the Raps were going to win this game, they needed him.
As if the aggravation pressed an emergency button inside of his brain, Amir suddenly went bonkers, out-hustling players from both teams, running the floor, sinking hook-shots and banging with opposing bigs on the inside.
He finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 1 block on 75.0% shooting from the field. He made 2-2 from the free throw line and only played a total of 22 minutes before fouling out.
This reminded me (on a lesser scale) of Tim Duncan’s Game 6 in last season’s NBA Finals. Duncan had come to play and started attacking early and often, going at the Heat all game to try to finish them off once and for all.
Amir had that look in his eyes once he got going. He wanted to finish the Nets and if he was the one to do it? Fine. Even better.
If he hadn’t fouled out at all, we might be sitting here talking about an upcoming Game 3 in Toronto against Miami. I’ll leave you with that thought.
1. Bringing Masai on Board
This was, easily, the most important thing the Raptors have done as an organization for a long, long time. They went out and got someone who knows basketball, who won Executive of the Year in Denver and who is one of the brightest young minds willing to take on the challenge of making basketball happen in Toronto.
He brought about the Bargnani trade, the Gay trade, didn’t fall for any offers for Lowry before the trade deadline, re-signed Dwane Casey and has done so many other behind the scenes things that have made this franchise relevant.
Ujiri is, without a doubt, the best general manager the Raptors have ever had. I hope with all my heart he stays here for a long time.
Even at this point, I’m almost ready to give him his own statue outside the Air Canada Centre.
Honourable Mentions: Lowry’s Emergence, Valanciunas’ post-DUI games, Casey’s Extension, “DeRozan Face”, Return of the Raptor