Kawhi Leonard and Marc Gasol provide the kind of adult energy the Raptors have been searching for in the playoffs for years. In Game 2, the value of the team’s two new fatherly souls was on display. It wouldn’t be fair to suggest past editions of the Raptors lacked leadership. Dwane Casey was the ultimate figurehead, the spire around which an entire era of Toronto basketball was built. DeMar DeRozan had charisma. Revered by his teammates for his hard work and knack for buckets, all the while serving as fan liaison both in good times and bad. Few dudes have or will ever carry that kind of gravitas in Toronto. Even DeRozan’s surly sidekick, Kyle Lowry, while usually mum for the cameras, can’t be accused of being a passenger.
But five playoff runs ranging from uneven to Wizards taught us all something about the construction of the Raptors. Even with all those de facto leaders, there never existed a singular pyramid-topper who could unite the entire squad and provide it with direction when times were lean. Basically, the Raptors needed someone to play the role of dad.
Masai Ujiri spent the last year working to fill that …
Author: Sean Woodley / Raptors HQ