- Air Canada Centre (1999–present)
- Rogers Centre (Formerly Skydome) (1995–1999)
Franchise history (by seasons)
The Toronto Raptors along with the Vancouver Grizzlies became NBA franchises in 1995. Both teams were the first NBA teams to play in Canada since 1946–47's Toronto Huskies.
After Isiah Thomas was named the General Manager in 1995, he quickly staffed the management with his own personnel,
naming longtime Detroit Pistons assistant Brendan Malone the franchise's first head coach (who was later reunited with Thomas in the Knicks organization in 2003). During the summer of 1995, the league had an expansion draft to fill out
the rosters of the new Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies. As a result of a coin flip, the Raptors had the first pick of the expansion draft, and selected
Chicago Bulls point guard and 3-point specialist BJ Armstrong. In a move that would seem to be a constant theme throughout Toronto's early days, BJ threatened
not to come to camp and Isiah Thomas promptly moved him to the Golden State Warriors for power forwards Carlos Rogers and Victor Alexander and the rights to 1995 second-round draft
picks Dwayne Whitfield, Martin Lewis and Michael McDonald. Thomas selected a wide range of players in the expansion draft,
including veterans Jerome Kersey, Willie Anderson and former Pistons teammate John "Spider" Salley.
As Toronto had selected first in the expansion draft, they subsequently selected after the
Vancouver Grizzles in the 1995 NBA entry draft. Thomas chose to build the franchise around Damon Stoudamire, a point guard out of Arizona. The Raptors' selection of Stoudamire was met with boos from those present at the 1995 NBA Draft at SkyDome in Toronto, many of whom bought into the hype surrounding the National Player of the Year in
the NCAA and NCAA Final Four MVP, UCLA's Ed O'Bannon. However, the selection of Stoudamire proved to be the right choice as he was named the 1995-96
Rookie of the Year by averaging 19 points and 9.3 assists per game. This team will also be known for beating the
72-10 Bulls despite being a first-year franchise.
Record: 21 wins - 61 losses
The team's win record improved by nine games from its inaugural season and attendance was rising.
Analysts predicted a playoff-contending or even a championship caliber team in a matter of a few seasons. Marcus Camby who was drafted second overall in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Raptors had a disappointing rookie season.
Record: 30 wins - 52 losses
All optimism evaporated when the team was hit by numerous injuries in early 1997-1998 season.
Although Thomas was a Hall of Fame point guard and skilled evaluator of talent (as evidenced by his selections of Damon Stoudamire,
Marcus Camby and Tracy McGrady), his failed ownership bid for the Raptors led to his resignation. Glen Grunwald, a lawyer and former All-American basketball player was then hired as the Raptors' General Manager.
With the exit of his mentor, Stoudamire immediately sought a trade and on February 13, 1998, Toronto's first "franchise player"
was shipped to Portland along with Walt Williams and Carlos Rogers for Kenny Anderson, Alvin Williams, Gary Trent, two first-round
draft choices, a second-round draft choice and cash. Kenny Anderson refused to report to Toronto and was subsequently traded
to the Boston Celtics on February 18, 1998 with Zan Tabak and Popeye Jones for Chauncey Billups, Dee Brown, Roy Rogers
and John Thomas.
Toronto limped to a 16-66 record and Grunwald faced the unhappy fans on the last game of the
season at Maple Leaf Gardens promising better days for Raptors fans. The largest step towards credibilty was taken when in
a pre-determined move, Grunwald traded his 4th overall pick Antawn Jamison to the Golden State Warriors for Vince Carter, selected 5th overall in the 1998 NBA Draft.
Record: 16 wins - 66 losses
In order to bring credibilty to the Raptors, Grunwald traded Camby to the Knicks for a proven veteran in Charles Oakley, whose tough mentality and playoff experience helped the maturity of the young players. Many
thought the trade would hurt the team, since he was trading away a promising prospect for an aging veteran. However, Oakley's
leadership proved crucial to the success of the 1998-1999 Raptors. The coaching staff temporarily solved the lack of a true
point guard by rotating Dee Brown, Alvin Williams and Doug Christie to play the position. This was an excellent move, as Christie greatly refined his defensive game
and became one of the elite defenders in NBA. Alvin also showed improvement, on the offensive end. Kevin Willis, another veteran acquired from trade, solidified the center position. With those two holes temporarily
filled, the team won more games than ever before. The new coach Butch Carter, besides doing an excellent coaching job, also helped develop the young players on the team,
especially future All-Star Tracy McGrady. Although the team did not make the playoffs, many were optimistic with the brilliant performances
from the Rookie of the Year Vince Carter and a much improved McGrady.
Record: 23 wins - 27 losses (a lockout-shortened 50-game schedule)
Grunwald decided that the solution to the Raptors' lack of experience and a strong front court
presence would have to come from mature veteran players. He also knew that the aging Willis and Oakley would eventually have
to play fewer minutes or risk injury. Thus, during the 1999 draft, he decided to trade first-round draft pick Jonathan Bender for veteran power forward Antonio Davis from the Indiana Pacers, who had been forced to play off the bench behind teammate Dale Davis. In the backcourt, Butch Carter rotated Carter, Christie, Williams and Dell Curry at the shooting guard position and Williams and Muggsy Bogues at point guard. The rotation of Antonio, Oakley and Willis in the front court and the maturation
of both Carter and McGrady helped the team make its first ever playoff appearance. However, without significant playoff experience,
the Raptors were swept by the New York Knicks in the playoffs.
Progressive team improvements and the ascendancy of Vince Carter attracted many fans around Toronto, many of whom were not previously basketball fans. Increased
attendance and change of fan base also helped contribute to the decline of the Toronto Blue Jays. This was also the first full season at the Air Canada Centre, after four years of games at the cavernous SkyDome.
Record: 45 wins - 37 losses; eliminated in the first round of the playoffs
Bringing NBA basketball back to Toronto, where the long-forgotten Toronto
Huskies had tipped off against the New York Knickerbockers in 1946, had been an arduous process, fraught with obstacle after
obstacle. It had not been such a struggle a half-century ago, when the Huskies became a charter member of the Basketball Association
of America, the forerunner of the NBA. In fact, Toronto had hosted the new league's first game on November 1, 1946, when the
Knicks beat the Huskies, 68-66. The Toronto franchise folded at the end of the 1946-47 season, however, and the NBA wouldn't
return to Canada for nearly 50 years.
The current franchise traces its roots back to April 23, 1993, when the NBA
announced that it had received a formal application from Professional Basketball Franchise (Canada) Inc. (PBF). The ambitious
group's president was Bitove, the son of a leading Canadian food services family and president of Bitove Investments Inc.
(His father, John Bitove Sr., had approached the NBA about a franchise in Toronto during previous expansions.) The PBF group
also included Allan Slaight of Standard Broadcasting Limited; Borden Osmak, a vice president of The Bank of Nova Scotia; Phil
Granovsky of Atlantic Packaging Limited; and David Peterson, former premier of the Province of Ontario, who served as chairman.
Originally, Bitove and Slaight were each to own 44 percent of the franchise,
with the bank holding a 10-percent stake and Granovsky and Peterson 1 percent each. The ownership group later cut in former
Detroit Pistons star Isiah Thomas, who received a 5-percent share from both Bitove and Slaight. Thomas later became a club
vice president and the architect of the Raptors' roster.
The NBA's expansion into Toronto was unique for two reasons. First, it marked
the league's first step beyond the borders of the United States. Second, PBF was only one of three viable prospective bid
groups in the same city. In previous expansions the NBA had been faced with choosing between competing cities, but never with
such a strong internal rivalry for a franchise within a single market. There was little doubt, however, that Toronto wanted
and could support an NBA franchise-top-caliber exhibition basketball games had twice drawn more than 25,000 fans to the SkyDome,
in 1989 and 1992.
The door to Canada had been nudged open the previous year by the Palestra
Group, led by road construction magnate Larry Tanenbaum of Toronto, who was joined in his application by the Canadian Imperial
Bank of Commerce and Labatt Breweries, both of whom were also founding partners in baseball's highly successful Toronto Blue
Jays. The NBA was not considering expansion when Palestra put down an unsolicited application fee of $100,000, but the possibilities
presented by the untapped Canadian market were irresistible.
Also joining the bid process were rock concert impresarios Bill Ballard and
Michael Cohl, who had NBA legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson in their camp and support from Metro Toronto to develop a new arena
on civic lands.
In July 1993 an NBA expansion committee, headed by Phoenix Suns owner Jerry
Colangelo, came to Toronto to meet with the bid groups, examine their plans, and visit their proposed arena sites. The PBF
contingent made an immediate impact, based upon its criteria for a downtown site: it was to be on the subway line-giving Torontonians
access without having to fight winter conditions-and close to the financial core of the city to entice major businesses to
buy corporate boxes, a key element in the financial plan of 1990s sport franchises. Neither of the other bidders proposed
a site that was so centrally located.
In the end, it was the arena plan that led the NBA expansion committee to
recommend on September 30, 1993, that PBF be conditionally awarded a franchise for the 1995-96 season to become the 28th team
in the league. The NBA Board of Governors endorsed that decision on November 4 and set a record expansion fee of $125 million,
about four times the amount levied for the previous expansion. It was agreed that Toronto would play its first two seasons
in the SkyDome while its own building was being completed.
The battle was still far from over, however. There was a chance that the franchise
agreement would be revoked over the thorny issue of an Ontario provincial betting game, Pro-Line, which among other things
allowed bettors to wager on the outcome of NBA games. The league's longstanding opposition to such a scheme ran up against
the province's unwillingness to do away with a game that could put some $100 million into Ontario's coffers, some of it earmarked
for hospitals. It took three months of sensitive negotiations involving the league, the PBF, and the province to resolve the
The province finally acknowledged the boost an NBA team would provide to the
local economy through taxes-$81 million the first year alone, according the the Metro Toronto Convention and Visitor Association-and
the creation of 4,000 jobs necessitated by construction and related activities.
The Toronto club took on responsibility for various youth and community programs
in order to offset dropping basketball from the betting slips. For its part, the NBA, eager to gain the Toronto market and
wanting to preserve good relations with its new constituency, contributed $1.5 million to medical research, donated $2 million
in television time to promote tourism in Ontario, joined with the Toronto team to create a charitable foundation, and agreed
to hold the 1995 NBA Draft in Toronto.
The Name Game
After meeting all of these conditions, PBF could finally get down to the business
of creating a team identity. It instituted a nationwide "Name Game" contest to name the team and develop team colors and a
The Name Game became one of the most popular such enterprises in league history,
generating more than 2,000 entries. The final top-10 list was dominated by animal names: Beavers, Bobcats, Dragons, Grizzlies,
Hogs (Toronto's nickname is Hogtown), Raptors, Scorpions, T-Rex, Tarantulas, and Terriers.
The team's first GM Isiah Thomas helps unveil the New look
for the Toronto Raptors.
On May 15 the PBF finally had an identity. No doubt fueled by the enormous
success of the movie Jurassic Park and the popularity of dinosaurs with youngsters who would grow up to be fans in the target
market, the team's new moniker, the Toronto Raptors, was unveiled on Canadian national television. The franchise's logo (the
work of NBA Properties) featured an aggressive, sharp-toothed little dinosaur dribbling a basketball. The team colors were
to be bright red, purple, black, and "Naismith silver" (in honor of Canadian James Naismith, who invented the game of basketball
in 1891). More than $20 million in Raptors gear was snapped up in the first month. By the end of 1994 the logo was hot in
the marketplace, and the Raptors, still a long way from their first game, were seventh in the league in merchandise sales.
Shortly after their name was announced, the Raptors made several additions
to their management team. On May 24, 1994, Isiah Thomas burst through a large paper Raptors logo to be introduced as the team's
vice president of baskeball operations. Thomas had long been admired by Bitove, who had attended Thomas's alma mater of Indiana
and had then followed the start of his Pistons career closely while studying at the University of Windsor, Ontario, across
the river from Detroit.
In September 1994 Bob Zuffelato, a 33-year veteran of coaching, player development,
and scouting, was hired to direct the talent search, with the help of a pair of video experts. Former Denver Nuggets vice
president Glen Grunwald, a member of the 1981 NCAA-champion Indiana Hoosiers, was hired as Thomas's assistant in November.
Later that year the Raptors' original downtown site, next to the Eaton Centre
shopping complex, was deemed too small to accommodate the new arena. Bitove wanted a construction site large enough to house
an additional 22,500-seat hockey rink, which would assure more event nights and give the structure more financial viability.
This was accomplished by acquiring from Canada Post the historic Postal Delivery Building at the south end of downtown, east
of the SkyDome and still served by the subway system.
Uncertainty about the arena obviously didn't deter ticket sales. At the end
of 1994 the Raptors reported 50-percent deposits on 15,287 seats for the inaugural season. In February 1995 it was announced
that the building would be named the Air Canada Centre. Revised plans called not only for an arena to be completed by fall
1997 but also for 200,000 square feet of adjacent office space.
The Raptors officially became an NBA franchise on May 16, 1995, and the work
of building the team began in earnest. Toronto held its first free-agent camp at Seneca College, under Brendan Malone, a longtime
assistant with the Pistons and well-known to Thomas. Although Thomas was well aware of Malone's abilities on the basketball
court, he had never pictured him in a head coaching role until he listened in on the motivational talk Malone had with the
crew of career minor leaguers and journeymen who had turned up in search of the NBA dream.
Five days after camp closed, Thomas introduced Malone as the team's first
head coach. Thomas wanted someone who was not only a teacher but also had the maturity to deal with what would inevitably
be a number of losing seasons. Malone, for his part, emphasized defense and rebounding as a key for the new club.
And On to the Draft. . .
The NBA held a coin flip between the Raptors and the expansion Vancouver Grizzlies
to determine the order of selection in both the expansion draft and the college draft. The Grizzlies won the flip, electing
to pick sixth in the college draft (Toronto would pick seventh) and give Toronto the first pick in the expansion draft. Prior
to the expansion draft Toronto had signed its first player by agreeing on contract terms with Vincenzo Esposito, an all-star
forward from the Italian League.
The 1995 NBA Expansion Draft was held on June 24. Toronto's first pick was
veteran Chicago Bulls guard B. J. Armstrong, although Thomas made it clear that Armstrong's wishes to be traded to a contender
would be honored. After the selection of Armstrong, the Raptors and the Grizzlies alternated picks until one player had been
taken from each of the existing 27 NBA teams.
Thomas filled out the Toronto roster with a combination of veterans and youngsters.
He acquired proven players in the Portland Trail Blazers' Jerome Kersey, the San Antonio Spurs' Willie Anderson, the Milwaukee
Bucks' Ed Pinckney, and the Miami Heat's John Salley. He also picked promising young players such as Dontonio Wingfield from
the Seattle SuperSonics, B. J. Tyler from the Philadelphia 76ers, Keith Jennings from the Golden State Warriors, Oliver Miller
from the Detroit Pistons, and Tony Massenburg from the Los Angeles Clippers. Others selected included Andres Guibert from
the Minnesota Timberwolves, Doug Smith from the Dallas Mavericks, Zan Tabak from the Houston Rockets, and Acie Earl from the
In the 1995 NBA Draft held at SkyDome in Toronto, the Raptors' first-ever
draft pick (seventh overall) was 5-10 point guard Damon Stoudamire from Arizona. The pick surprised most of the 20,000 in
attendance, who were expecting the Raptors to take Ed O'Bannon from UCLA. "They'll know who Damon Stoudamire is by the time
I'm through playing," the young recruit said confidently. In the second round Toronto picked University of Michigan guard
Jimmy King, the fourth member of the vaunted "Fab Five" to be drafted into the NBA.
Success is relative, and so a 30-52 record in only their second season in
the league was cause for celebration in Toronto, where the Raptors improved by nine games from their inaugural season.
At times, the Raptors were a team that belied their inexperience. Toronto
was one of only 11 teams to topple the Chicago Bulls. The Raptors also defeated each of the three other eventual conference
finalists - Houston, Utah and Miami. Mysteriously, the Raptors had more problems with teams that were not of championship
caliber, including three losses to the 15-67 Boston Celtics.
Like his team, prize rookie Marcus Camby showed flashes of
brilliance. Camby shook off early season injuries and flourished down the stretch, including games of 36 and 37 points, en
route to a berth on the NBA's All-Rookie Team. Toronto's other young star, the speedy Damon Stoudamire, ran the Raptors' offense
with the precision of a crafty veteran, finishing sixth in the league in assists (8.8 apg) and 19th in scoring (20.2 ppg).
Journeymen Doug Christie and Walt Williams found a home in Toronto. Williams
tied a team record by nailing six three-pointers during a win over Minnesota, and finished among the league leaders in three-point
percentage (.400). Christie finished second in the league in steals (2.48 spg) and was the runnerup for the league's Most
Improved Player Award.
Forward Carlos Rogers made international headlines after offering to donate
a kidney to his ailing sister, a move that would have ended his career. But a virus weakened Rene Rogers, and she died before
the transplant could be performed. Rogers dedicated his season, and his career, to his sister. "Everything I do now is for
Rene. My sister fought a long and hard battle. I'm not going to let what my sister went through be in vain."
Marcus Camby was named to the All-Rookie First Team as a member of the Raptors.
It was a tumultuous season for the Toronto Raptors, but with a core of talented
young players, a determined new general manager and ownership and the prospect of a new arena opening next February, Raptor
fans should be optimistic about the future of basketball in Toronto.
The troubles started early in the season with a slew of injuries which kept
Popeye Jones, Marcus Camby, Carlos Rogers, Walt Williams and Zan Tabak off the court and led to a 17-game losing streak in
the first part of the season. Executive Vice President Isiah Thomas, whom many considered the heart and soul of the organization,
severed his ties with the team and signed on as an analyst with NBC Sports. On Feb. 13, 1996, Schick Rookie of the Year Damon
Stoudamire was traded to Portland along with Walt Williams and Carlos Rogers for Kenny Anderson, Gary Trent, Alvin Williams,
a couple picks and cash, while assistant coach Butch Carter was promoted to the head job to replace Darrell Walker.
The Raptors were not done trading yet, however. On Feb. 18, Toronto sent Anderson,
Popeye Jones and Zan Tabak to Boston for rookie point guard Chauncey Billups, Dee Brown, Roy Rogers and John Thomas. Following
the trading deadline, the Raptors had become the youngest team in the league with an average age of 24.6. Toronto had five
rookies on its roster, including 18-year-old Tracy McGrady, the youngest player in the NBA.
With such a young team, growing pains must be expected, but the Raptors did
show heart and determination throughout the season. Toronto notched a win 102-93 win at Cleveland on Jan. 10 and came away
with a 97-94 victory over New York on Dec. 27. The Raptors were 5-1 in overtime games this season and swept season series
against both Golden State and Denver. In addition, Toronto beat Sacramento, Minnesota and Philadelphia in succession to tie
the team's longest winning streak in franchise history.
Despite the Raptors' disappointing 16-66 record this season, there is enough
talent on the court to look forward to next season. Guard-forward Doug Christie and forward John Wallace have become solid
NBA scorers and led the team with 16.5 and 14.0 ppg, respectively. Christie also ranked among the league leaders in steals
with 2.44 steals per game. Forward-center Marcus Camby, when healthy, can score, rebound and block shots. And Billups shows
great potential as a multi-talented point guard.
The Raptors now had three first round picks from the 1996 Draft, three first
round picks from the 1997 Draft and had three first round picks in the 1998 NBA Draft. Only three players -- Oliver Miller,
Doug Christie and Sharone Wright -- remained from Toronto's 1995-96 inaugural season team. Yes, there had been big changes
in the team's brief history in the league. But with the turmoil of the 1997-98 season behind them, the Raptors could focus
on the future, look forward to the opening of Air Canada Centre, scheduled to be completed early in 1999 and continue to contribute
to the growth of basketball in Canada
Raptors coach Butch Carter and rookie Tracy McGrady found a reason to laugh in an otherwise disappointing season.
Despite a shortened 50-game schedule, the Raptors looked forward to rebounding
from a disappointing season the year before. On Feb. 21, their fourth home game of the season, the Raptors opened their brand-new
home, Air Canada Centre, with a 102-87 victory over their Canadian cousins, the Vancouver Grizzlies.
The Raptors went on to their most successful season to date with a 23-27 record
for a franchise-best winning percentage of .460. They defeated the New York Knicks and the San Antonio Spurs, the teams that
competed later that year in the NBA Finals. Toronto posted its first winning record at home (14-11) and set franchise records
for longest winning streaks at home (nine wins, March 7-April 4), on the road (three wins, April 17-23), and overall (six
wins, March 26-April 4). In the process the Raptors became the most improved team in the NBA based on increased winning percentage
over the previous year.
Part of the Raptors' breakout season can be contributed to Vince Carter, who
the team acquired in a draft-day deal with the Golden State Warriors. Carter was named the NBA's Rookie of the Month in March
and April and was the NBA's Player of the Week for March 22, becoming the first Raptor to earn the accolade after leading
the team to a 5-0 record during that time. Carter went on to become the league's Rookie of the Year averaging a team-leading
18.3 points per game.
The Raptors also had the NBA's leader in three-point shots made and attempted
when Dee Brown sunk 135 of 349 shots from beyond the arc. Also contributing to the team's success was Doug Christie who finished
the season ranked fifth in steals with 2.26 a game. Kevin Willis scored his 15,000th point of his career on April 25, and
collected his 10,000th rebound on March 26, making him only the 17th player in NBA history to reach the double milestone.
Two high-profile debuts occurred this year -- Rookie of the Year Vince Carter and the opening of Air Canada Centre
After the 1998-99 season the future finally looked bright again for the Raptors
and their dedicated fans. At that seasons end Vince Carter took the microphone and addressed the Air Canada Centre crowd after
the final game and guaranteed a trip to the post-season next year. This was a bold promise by the rookie, but the promise
would be kept and the Raptors would have their best season yet.
With the offseason acquisition of Antonio Davis for a high draft pick, the
Raptors not only got older, they got a whole lot better. Vince Carter continued his climb to the apex of NBA stardom and his
younger cousin, Tracy McGrady, wasnt far behind. With a fifteen-point victory over the Wizards the Raptors went into the All-Star
break with a record of 22-19, marking the first time in their brief history the Raptors would begin the second half with a
As the All-Star game approached it became clear that Carter would become the
first Raptor to appear and start an NBA All-Star Game. He did so in true VC fashion amassing the second-most votes in NBA
history with 1,911,973.
So the stage was set for Vince. Not only would he be competing with the NBA's
best in the annual classic, but he was also the centre of all the media, public and player attention as the NBA.com Slam Dunk
Competition returned to All-Star weekend after a two-year hiatus. The pressure was on for Vince and the anticipation in and
around the arena was heavy as NBA stars, not easily impressed, gathered courtside with personal video cameras and jaws poised
Vince did not disappoint. He amazed the fans and pros alike with creative
dunks never even imagined before he completed them. Runner-up Steve Francis knew he was beat when Vince did the incomprehensible
by dunking the ball, cramming his arm into the rim and hanging from it as an arena packed to capacity stared in near silence,
unable to believe what they had just witnessed.
In the second half of the campaign, the Raptors continued to prove that they
had taken great leaps forward. In their first-ever NBC appearance, the Raptors posted a thrilling 103-102 victory over Phoenix
with Carter scoring a career and franchise-high 51 points. The team would finish the season with a franchise-best record of
45-37 and their first trip into the playoffs. Carter finished the year fourth in the league in scoring while Davis emerged
as the star he knew he could be, registering career highs in virtually every statistical category.
The playoffs proved to be a tougher test for Toronto as the club was eliminated
in three games by the New York Knicks. The Raptors lost the final game of the series, 87-80, in the first-ever NBA playoff
game in Canada.
Vince Carter was the star of the show at All-Star Weekend with an impressive victory in the Slam Dunk contest.
After achieving their goal of making the playoffs in 2000, the Raptors were
not about to stand pat. General Manager Glen Grunwald had a busy offseason as he was eager to improve the team. Joining the
squad was draft pick Morris Peterson, free agent point guard Mark Jackson and Corliss Williamson, acquired in a trade for
Vince Carter came off a busy summer after helping Team USA bring home the
gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Sydney. Vince added to his mystique and legend with his jaw-dropping dunk over (literally
over!!) Frances 7-2 centre Frederic Weis.
The first half of the season was a successful one as the Raptors posted a
first-half record of 26-23 and sent a franchise-best three players to the All-Star weekend in Washington. Carter led all vote-getters
once more with 1,717,687, and was joined by Antonio Davis in the starting lineup. Peterson played in the Schick Rookie Challenge
on the eve of the All Star classic.
In January Grunwald traded veteran centre Kevin Willis, Garth Joseph and Alek
Radojevic to the Nuggets in exchange for Keon Clark, Tracy Murray and Mamadou Ndiaye. The move sparked the team for a bit
but it wasn't the end of a roster makeover. On the trading deadline, Toronto triggered two more trades, sending Jackson and
Muggsy Bogues to the Knicks for Chris Childs and a first-round draft pick, and dealing Williamson, Tyrone Corbin and Kornel
David to the Pistons for Jerome Williams and Eric Montross.
The trio of trades revitalized a sluggish Raptors squad that won 19 of its
last 27 games to finish with a franchise best 47-35 record. Another playoff showdown with the New York was in the cards and
it looked like the result might be the same as the previous year when the Knicks shut down Carter and the Raptors in Game
1. However, this meeting would be a different story as the Raptors came back to win Game 2 by 20 points and triumphed in the
deciding Game 5 at Madison Square Garden, 93-89.
Advancing to the conference semi-finals, the Raptors met the top seed Philadelphia
76ers and league MVP Allen Iverson. Carter and Iverson engaged in a classic scoring duel during the series, each recording
games of 50 points. Toronto gave everything it had but ultimately fell short in Game 7 as Carter's potential series-winning
shot rolled off the rim.
In the team's most successful playoff run, Vince Carter and the Raptors pushed league MVP Allen Iverson and the 76ers
to a deciding seventh game in the Conference Semifinals.
The Raptors were hoping to rebound from a disappointing season, and reclaim
the success they achieved two seasons prior, with GM Glen Grunwald acquiring guard Lindsey Hunter from the Lakers, and forward
Lamond Murray from the Cavaliers in two separate deals in the offseason. These moves were made to solidify an already strong
Raptors lineup, and give the team some more veteran experience.
However, the season began on a sour note as Lamond Murray suffered a lisfranc
ligament tear in his right midfoot in a preseason game and had to miss the entire regular season. This was a sign of things
to come as fellow newcomer Lindsey Hunter would eventually miss 53 games, as well as Vince Carter missing 39, and Antonio
Davis missing 29. By the end of the year the Raptors set two dubious NBA records; the only team in NBA history to not dress
12 players for a single game in a season and the all-time high for man-games lost due to injury with 519, surpassing the Boston
Celtics 480 in 1996-97.
With all of these injuries the Raptors had a tough time living up to the preseason
expectations -- over a span of 17 games from December 8 January 10 the team won only one game -- leaving the club with a record
of 14-34 at the all-star break. Vince Carter was once again selected as a starter by the fans in the All-Star Game, but just
prior to tip off, Carter handed the honour over to Michael Jordan, who was playing in the final season of a storied career.
The Raptors never seemed to get their wheels in motion during the season,
other than a ten-game stretch where they won seven games from January 26 February 21, the team encountered losing streaks
of four or more games six times throughout the season. The Raptors went on to lose the final eight games of the season and
finish up with a record of 24-58, their worst record since finishing 16-66 in 1997-98.
But that record would eventually transform into the No. 4 overall pick in
the 2003 draft and bring another star to the Raptors; Chris Bosh.
On April 17, a day after the final game of the season, head coach Lenny Wilkens
and the Toronto Raptors reached a mutual agreement that concluded Wilkens coaching tenure with the team after three seasons.
Morris Peterson stepped it up in his sophmore season when the team was suffering from injury problems.
Despite what looked like some positive improvements, last season was another
step back for Toronto Raptors. Clearly management felt a change in direction was necessary to get the club back on the right
path to success.
The 2003-04 season started off with the hiring former Pistons assistant coach
Kevin ONeill as head coach replacing Lenny Wilkens. The ping-pong balls at the Draft Lottery didnt appear to help the Raptors
at the outset but getting Georgia Tech centre Chris Bosh with the 4th pick proved to be the most positive move the team was
able to make.
The changes continued, but this time it was the look that changed, as Canadian
country singer Shania Twain helped launch the new red Raptors alternate road uniform, the first in team history. The jerseys
made their debut in a 90-87 season-opening victory on October 29th against the defending Conference Champion New Jersey Nets.
At the time many thought the new look was set to be a good luck charm for the team.
The high wouldnt last long though, as the team tied a NBA record for fewest
points scored in a game by dropping a 73-56 contest in Minnesota against the Timberwolves on November 1st. This offensive
drought continued throughout the season. The Raptors finished last in the league in points scored.
Vince Carter was still half-man, half-amazing, as was demonstrated once again
when he scored 33 points in the second half of a 99-97 victory in Atlanta in November. The 33 points in a half set a new Raptors
With the team 8-8 on December 1st, general manager Glen Grunwald swung a blockbuster
trade with the Chicago Bulls acquiring Jalen Rose, Donyell Marshall, and Lonny Baxter in exchange for Antonio Davis, Jerome
Williams, and Chris Jefferies.
This new move made an impact quickly as the team reeled off a five-game winning
streak after the trade, including a team single-game record 17 three-pointers made on December 3rd. But, as if someone turned
off a switch, the Raptors lost momentum right away, following the winning streak by going 1-6 in their next seven games.
Although the offence struggled, the defence was thriving. On February 8th,
the Raptors held the Golden State Warriors to only two points in the fourth quarter of an 84-81 road victory, tying an NBA
record. After winning their next game on February 10th, the Raptors sat at 25-25, with just one game before the All-Star Break,
when that old injury bug came back to, once again, plague the team.
Jalen Rose (fracture in left hand, missed 16 games), Vince Carter (sprain
in left ankle, missed 6 games), and Alvin Williams (knee surgery, 25 games) all fell victim as the club limped to a record
of 8-24 the rest of the way. Oh, and those good luck jerseys? The team went 2-11 wearing them, losing their final nine. The
Raptors ended up missing the post-season for the second straight season with a final record of 33-49.
On April 1st, the team relieved general manager Glen Grunwald of his duties,
two weeks later head coach Kevin ONeill was dismissed on April 16th.
The one shining spot on the season was rookie Chris Bosh, who finished the
season first among league rookies in blocks and rebounds, earning himself a spot on the got milk? NBA All-Rookie First Team
Rookie Chris Bosh looked dazzling in an otherwise disappointing season