It baffles me at how little respect Canadian professional sports teams get. Brought to my attention the other day with the comments from Demar Derozan regarding the Raptors not receiving a Christmas Day game; EVER!
“We’ve won. We’ve been one of the best in the league the past few years. To not get that look is definitely crazy. … There is really no excuse. We’ve proven we are a top team in the league for a reason”, Derozan exclaimed after being asked about the NBA Christmas Day schedule.
Christmas Day NBA games have become a slew of marquee matchups; from this years Knicks vs. Sixers matchup at the mecca, MSG, or a repeat of last years lopsided NBA Finals, between the Cavaliers and the Warriors. So why have the Raptors not seen any time on the floor in one of the NBA’s most prime time slots. In my opinion, the simple answer is because they are in a Canadian market. A team with nearly an entire country’s support has been shunned by the NBA because of their unique location. Since 2014, when the “We The North” campaign came to surface, the Raps fan base has grown substantially and the team has only proven better since. Let’s check the stats. From 2014-2017 the Raptors regular season record has been an astounding 156-90, good enough for a .634 winning percentage. Not only that but their playoff production has been more consistent over the last two seasons losing to Cleveland (who ultimately made it to the Finals) in both series, 2016 in the Conference Finals and 2017 in the Conference Semi-Finals. As of today they currently hold a 23-8 record, which puts them 1st in the Eastern Conference and 3rd in the entire league behind only Houston and Golden State (based in Win Pct). They are currently on pace for a record breaking season with a 60-22 finish if they keep playing this way, barring injury.
This isn’t the only situation where the team and it’s players have been undervalued. Prior to the 2017-2018 season commencing, Sports Illustrated released its Top 100 NBA Player List and ranked Raptors star shooting guard, Demar Derozan, at a measly 36th, behind players like Khris Middleton, Mike Conley and Al Horford. No disrespect to any of these players but we are talking about a perennial NBA All-Star who has in fact been named a starter for this team in previous years. Before the 2016 season Sports Illustrated ranked Derozan even lower than this at 46th overall. This is an absolute competitor, who is arguably a Top 5 shooting guard in the NBA and currently leads his position in points per game, topping Jimmy Butler, Bradley Beal and Klay Thompson. A player who averaged 23.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists in the 2015-2016 season following that up with a stat line of 27.3 / 5.2 / 3.9 this past season. His averages this year currently sit at 24.9 / 4.4 / 4.9 and his 3-point shooting percentage has been the best so far over his career at 34.1%. This is a player who has been fairly underrated for a long time and yet seems to improve his game every year at the highest level of competition. How can such an outstanding talent in this league be this overlooked? I’ll tell you how. Because he does not play in an American market, the absolute kryptonite for not only Demar Derozan, but the entire Toronto Raptors organization.