Media day always brings a certain element of excitement and optimism, as it signals the beginning of a new season and a fresh start for all teams around the NBA. That couldn't be more true for the Toronto Raptors, who find themselves surrounded by an amount of frenzy and buzz that hasn't been there in quite some time.
For a team that's struggled as much as the Raptors have in recent memory, change is always a welcome thing. Two new captains in the front office are looking to guide this ship back in the right direction as Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke and reigning NBA Executive of the Year/current general manager Masai Ujiri take over for their respective predecessors.
Even though it's going to take time and a lot of work, you can already get the sense that the culture of this franchise is starting to change. Coaches and players alike are primed and ready for the 2013-14 regular season to get underway, and so are the fans.
The 2016 NBA All-Star Game Is Coming to Toronto
For the first time in league history, the NBA All-Star Game will be taking place outside of the United States.
This is very much a huge deal for the city of Toronto. The festivities are still a good three years away, but the level of anticipation is already through the roof.
Although it doesn't mean much to the franchise itself, the economics behind hosting such a grand event and the amount of money it can potentially generate are absolutely staggering.
Estimated economic impact of hosting the NBA All-Star game: $100 million, says Mayor Ford pic.twitter.com/WkGmVoXnk2— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) September 30, 2013
If only for a short period of time in February 2016, Toronto will be at the epicenter of the basketball world.
It's moments like this that will help further erase the stigma that Canada is simply a hockey country. That couldn't be further from the truth.
Hockey will always be No. 1, but never discount the passion and love for the game that Canadians have for their basketball.
The 2016 NBA All-Star weekend will prove that to the rest of the world, if it wasn't obvious enough already.
Adam Silver announces Toronto will host 2016 all-star game. Everybody is so :D.— Eric Koreen (@ekoreen) September 30, 2013
Rap Star Drake Joins Raptors as "Global Ambassador"
He's the best we've ever had. He started from the bottom; now he's here.
All right, enough with the song analogies. You get the idea.
Drake, one of the biggest musical acts on the planet, has agreed to become the "global ambassador" for the Toronto Raptors.
This isn't a publicity stunt. This is the real deal.
Drake has been a huge supporter of the team since he was a child. He handled himself extremely well during the press conference, showing a level of genuine enthusiasm that was extremely refreshing.
As "Global Ambassadors" go, I am very impressed with Drake. Legit passion and interest there— Doug Smith: Raptors (@SmithRaps) September 30, 2013
So what duties come with being a "global ambassador" of the Raptors? Well, Tim Leiweke did his best to explain to the numerous media members in attendance what exactly his role will be, per The Globe and Mail:
Drake will be our ambassador and help us forge this new vision, this new buzz, this new excitement for where we’re taking this organization.
One of the things we've loved about [Drake's] addition to our thinking here is he wants this to be a celebration of Toronto. Not just about basketball, not just about sports, not just about music.
We're already talking about fashion, we're talking about film, we're talking about food, we're talking about all of the things we all know and I've learned in the last six months that are really the trademark of this great city.
Drake will also have a heavy influence on the events surrounding All-Star weekend:
You're going to see us try to add a few elements to the all-star game that's never been done, heavily influenced and directed by Drake. And so we're committed to making sure that he puts as much of a footprint on the all-star week as the NBA will allow us to.
Regardless if your a fan of his or not, you need to at least appreciate what Drake and Raptors management are trying to do here.
It's not going to translate to on-court success, but it will definitely help with the team's branding, image and notoriety around the NBA.
Having someone with as much mainstream appeal and fame as Drake choose to associate himself closely with the Raptors organization can only lead to good things.
Even if you're not fully behind this decision, at least the players are.
Kyle Lowry Is Ready for Redemption in 2013-14
After an offseason of reflecting, Kyle Lowry has fully come to terms with just how awful his first season in Toronto was.
All he wants to do now is leave 2012-13 in the past and use it as motivation for a more successful future with the team.
A season of atonement? Perhaps. But Kyle Lowry knows he has to be better; and away we go from media day. http://t.co/nFxc9KXshh— Doug Smith: Raptors (@SmithRaps) September 30, 2013
As Toronto Star columnist Doug Smith can attest to, Lowry is well-aware of all the criticism of his play at point guard last year. Now, with a clean bill of health, he will set out to prove his doubters wrong and return to form as one of the best young guards in the NBA today, per the Toronto Star:
It was a disappointment in general, in everything. My play, my body, just everything. It was just a bad year for me.
I'm lucky enough to have the opportunity to play one more year here and to make amends for a lot of things. I felt I could have helped the team do a lot better.
This was the first time in about three or four years where I had the opportunity to not be hurt this summer. I didn't have any surgeries, no nicks and bumps I had to worry about.
I had the opportunity just to work and it was a more steady schedule for me.
Like fellow Raptors teammate Jonas Valanciunas, Lowry appears to have spent quite a bit of time this summer working on his physique. He looks to be in the best shape of his career, which just goes to show how badly he wants to turn things around for himself in 2014.
Rudy Gay Adds 20 Pounds of Muscle
Speaking of players hitting the gym, what about Rudy Gay? During his media-day scrum, Gay mentioned how he added nearly 20 pounds of muscle to his frame this summer working with his trainer.
Gay is now listed at 6'8" and 250 pounds, which is roughly the same size as last year's Most Valuable Player, LeBron James.
Takeaways from Media Day
It's a good time to be a fan of the Toronto Raptors.
Having the NBA All-Star Game come to Toronto in 2016 and bringing Drake on as an ambassador of the team is fine and dandy, but that means nothing at this current time. It will pay dividends down the road, but not for the here and now.
What fans should concern themselves with is the 15-man roster that is looking to end a five-year postseason drought for the franchise.
From the top of this roster to the bottom, everyone is motivated and ready to work his butt off to make this season a success.
However, many questions have yet to be answered.
How will the minutes be allocated in the rotation? There isn't enough playing time to go around, so who is going to be left out in the cold?
Is Valanciunas ready to take on a much larger role? There is very little depth behind him, so whether he's ready or not, head coach Dwane Casey may not have a choice but to throw him to the wolves more often.
Is D.J. Augustin the backup point guard this team needs, or will Dwight Buycks eventually overtake him?
All of this will fall into place. Training camp will show where Coach Casey sees his team and which guys he's going to put his faith in.
The time for talk has ended. Basketball is just around the corner. All is once again right in the universe.
Follow Christopher Walder on Twitter at @WalderSports.