9/30/13

Media Day Gets Upstaged By All-Star Announcement and Drake

There is no question Monday’s Media Day might have been upstaged by a couple of announcements prior to it. First it was confirmed that Toronto will indeed host the 2016 All-Star Game as part of their 20th season in the NBA. The news that NBA will takes its mid-season showcase outside of the United States for the first time ever is big. That almost seemed to be upstaged by another announcement that Toronto’s own Drake will serve as a global ambassador for the Toronto Raptors.

What exactly does that mean? It really wasn’t exactly spelled out. It does include Drake being a big part of the organization of the All-Star Weekend in 2016. It also includes his involvement in the re-branding of the Raptors. Which will not include a name change as many had been thinking could happen. In 2016 the Raptors will still have the same name but a brand new look and perhaps colour scheme.

These seem like normal things that an outsider from the entertainment world would make sense to be a part of as it was done with the Nets with their move to Brooklyn in which Jay-Z played a major role.  He was a minority owner of the franchise though at the time. Drake is not becoming a partner in MLSE anytime soon.

The elephant in the room is what if anything Drake brings to the table in terms of recruiting NBA superstars to come play ball in his city of Toronto. It has been a constant storyline in the history of this franchise of having trouble not only recruiting free-agents to come to Toronto but keeping their own stars.

I am not exactly on the pulse of pop culture but I am not blind to the fact Drake obviously is someone who is cool or whatever the kids call cool today. He is friends with some pretty elite NBA Superstars at the top of that list Lebron James. In fact Drake has been seen around the Heat just as much as the Raptors at times. What exactly Drake can do that people have failed to do for 18 years remains unclear.

After all despite what some have been led to believe NBA Players love Toronto as a place to come party. It is clearly one of the best road stops in the NBA. Liking a city and living in a city is where the problem lies. Can Drake bridge that gap and help players understand that Toronto is a great place to call home? He can’t change Canadian Tax Laws…He can’t make crossing the border any easier.

What he can do is make Toronto seem cool and a place to be. Another even younger Toronto native has expressed his desire to play in Toronto named Andrew Wiggins who most likely will be at the 2016 All-Star Weekend wearing a NBA Jersey for some team.

That said Raptor after Raptor that came to the media scrums were asked about both Drake being a part of the Raptors and the fact there is a large faction that may want to see them fail to get a shot at Wiggins. The answers on both were far from surprising. They all gave their endorsement to the idea of Drake being involved and were more concerned about winning than Wiggins.

Masai Ujiri does not have Drake as his assistant general manager although at times you wondered with all this talk of Drake. He ultimately is the man that will have to decide the future and if he wants to take his lottery ticket or allow this group to stay together. He is not really committed to anything at this point. He has positive things to say about the current group he has but is not exactly willing to wait forever. The Raptors started last season at 4-13 prior to the Rudy Gay trade and even after were only a borderline .500 team. Safe to say that will not be good enough this year.

Dwane Casey’s position seems fairly clear given his contract status he has to win. Kyle Lowry in a contract year regardless of the Raptors’ future and his with the team has to perform for his own personal career. Rudy Gay sits with an option to become a free agent in a market place that could be starving for a top star talent to enter it. He however must play to level he did to earn his monstrous current contract to even consider it.

What it comes down to is there are a lot of people looking for the same goal to make the Raptors a winner but the road to get there is different from depending on where you sit in all of this. The wild-card to the whole equation might be the positive left from the Colangelo era in Jonas Valanciunas. He even knows who Drake is but more importantly the NBA all knows who he is thanks to a breakout performance in Las Vegas this summer.

It wouldn’t be the Raptors without more questions than answers at the end of the day. They have been at the bottom for years and now can the climb to the top of the world like Drake? It is hard to make a hit record but 18 years in Toronto have proven it much harder to build a winner on the basketball court.

Will Drake have a real impact or is he just latest celebrity to adopt a team and become part of the narrative? Like Jack Nicholson has done for years with the Lakers and Spike Lee for a long time with the Knicks. Better it be Drake than Justin Bieber I suppose.

At the end of the day if you love it or hate it Drake is here. But really there is not a downside to this move by MLSE that I can think of. If Drake ends up doing very little it was a well intentioned attempt to use someone that wants to help. This isn’t like giving Master P a tryout to play for the team in exhibition games. As long as Drake isn’t caught keeping Amir Johnson up late in the Raptors practice gym all should be ok.

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