In the electric atmosphere of Scotiabank Arena, a new chapter unfurled for the Toronto Raptors with the thrilling court debuts of RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley. As fans roared and emotions ran high, the Raptors barely seized victory from the clutches of the Cleveland Cavaliers, securing a narrow triumph with a scoreboard reading 124-121.
RJ Barrett, in the afterglow of the game, shared the whirlwind of his homecoming, “Man. The past two days, it’s been crazy. Today, it was a lot of fun, man. Getting the win and just the way we started the game, lots of energy, carried us out throughout the game, they made a push, they made a run, and we were able to stay strong and get the dub.”
The ovation he received, he confessed, moved him deeply, “Man, it meant a lot, y’know? It meant a lot. I’m the hometown kid and just coming in and trying to get a win for the fans. Trying to win for the country, it felt great.”
Barrett placed this game on a pedestal of its own, “Yeah, this was special, man. This was special. Way better than any other time that I played here. This was a special one and I’m always going to appreciate that.”
Barrett opened up about his childhood passion, recounting how he grew up absorbing the Raptors spirit, “Just watching everything. My dad would take me to games when I was younger. I remember watching like DeMar and Jose Calderon and I remember when Kyle Lowry came over just a lot of early memories just going to the games, you know, being a fan, always being excited. So to be here playing on the court now it’s gonna be different.”
Immanuel Quickley, assimilating into his new squad, remarked on the smooth transition, “It’s almost like playing pick up a little bit. But if you’re playing with great players, it makes your job a lot easier, so credit to guys they made it easy for me.”
The advice from the coaches was simple yet profound, “Just be myself. They wanted me here for a reason. I’m going to take full advantage of it, day-to-day, continue to get better. But they just told me to be myself, that’s pretty much it.”
Reflecting on Barrett’s day, Quickley couldn’t hide his elation, “It was cool, I know he was really excited, there was probably a lot of emotions going through him. He probably got chills, playing today. It’s a big deal that he got to go out there and play in front of a lot of friends and family. That’s my guy, so I’m happy for him.”
The Raptors fandom did not go unnoticed by Quickley, “It was a lot of love man. Toronto fans, they’re already special, just the way they’ve embraced us, me not being from here, they’ve embraced me, I appreciate them for that.”
Starting the game was a mark of faith Quickley had earned, “It’s great. The trust he has in me, but I feel like I worked for it as far as myself. I put a lot of work into the summer and I want to continue to keep getting better. I’ll be watching film on tonight and try to get better.”
Coach Darko Rajakovic, taking a moment to reflect, saw the beauty in the team’s performance, “I think we played good basketball. I think that guys were enjoying playing good brand of basketball and just cheering for each other. You could just see the emotions, maybe after New Years, it was a lot of crowd to start the game. They really liked the applause for RJ Barrett, Canadian, coming back. I see that Canadians really excited about it. All of that together brought a lot of energy and juice to Scotiabank. It was a fun night.”
Indeed, the fun had just begun, with the Raptors leaving an indelible mark on the court and in the hearts of their supporters, signaling the dawn of an invigorating era.