Lakers' LeBron James Praises Raptors, Says They Deserve More Credit Post-Kawhi

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistAugust 2, 2020

Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James (23) reacts after a play against the Toronto Raptors during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)
Ashley Landis/Associated Press

The Toronto Raptors haven't been given much of a chance to repeat as NBA champions by outsiders, but LeBron James said players around the league respect the defending champs as true contenders.

He said the following after the Lakers' 107-92 loss to Toronto on Saturday, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN:

"That's a great team. No ifs, ands or buts. Exceptionally well-coached and championship DNA. You can never take that away from a ballclub if you win a championship. And even before that, they just got playoff-tested guys. Guys that played not only here in the NBA in big games but also in FIBA games as well. Marc [Gasol] has been in big games throughout his whole life pretty much it seems like.

"So, that's just a great team. The media may not talk about them much or give them much credit because Kawhi [Leonard] is gone, but players in the league definitely know what type of team they are."

Many have spent the 2019-20 season waiting for the Raptors to regress to expectations. It hasn't happened. Toronto is 47-18 through Saturday, solidly in second place in the Eastern Conference, and is tied with the Los Angeles Clippers for the NBA's third-best point differential.

In other words: the Raptors are winning games because they're really good, not through luck.

While most Raptors are playoff-tested, Kawhi Leonard put the team on his back in critical moments last season. Before Kawhi, Toronto's postseason reputation was one of embarrassing gaffes and sweeps at the hands of LeBron-led teams.

Pascal Siakam has no experience as the lead scorer on a deep playoff run, and Kyle Lowry's postseason resume is inconsistent. It'll be interesting to see how the team handles the postseason spotlight, especially without a raucous Toronto crowd.