The first statement of the NBA preseason was made by the Toronto Raptors, one that came even before Kevin Durant made his unofficial debut with the Golden State Warriors.
The Raptors’ players and coaches linked arms during the playing of the American and Canadian national anthems Saturday night, their statement serving as the latest entry in a widespread series of protests across sports in recent weeks designed to raise awareness of racial injustice and other social problems.
“Guys were real, guys had sincere feelings, sincere thoughts, sincere things to talk about and concerns,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said before the game. “That’s what all this should be about — to induce conversation.”
It’s an issue that has been addressed by high school, college and pro teams in the U.S. often since San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first refused to stand for the national anthem in August. The Raptors’ linking arms may be considered more than symbolic — they’re the only Canadian-based team in the NBA, and their game against the Warriors was played in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The Warriors’ players and coaches who were on the floor in Vancouver all stood for the anthems as per usual. In Bossier City, Louisiana, so did the members of the Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Pelicans, some with their hands over their hearts.
Durant took the first shot of the preseason, a step-back jumper from the right side that was well short. The former Oklahoma City star’s first basket with the Warriors was a dunk with about a minute left in the opening quarter, one that drew a loud reaction from the sellout crowd of 19,000.
“Felt good to play and play against someone else,” Durant said. “We can start building for the season and what we want to be. So it’s a good first step.”
Durant heard some boos during the game, though said afterward he felt there were more cheers.
“Once the ball was tipped, it was just another game for me,” Durant said.
RAPTORS 97, WARRIORS 93
Kevin Durant had nine points on 2 for 9 shooting in his preseason debut with Golden State, while Klay Thompson had 16 points and two-time reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry added eight. None of them played after halftime.
DeMar DeRozan scored 11 points and Kyle Lowry had six for Toronto. DeRozan and Lowry, the All-Star guards who led Toronto to the Eastern Conference finals last season, were taken out midway through the third quarter.
— WARRIORS: Thompson made 4 of 11 shots from 3-point range. Curry was 1 for 5 from beyond the arc.
— RAPTORS: DeMarre Carroll, who’s still working his way back from knee surgery performed last year, started for Toronto. He led the Raptors with 14 points, making 6 of 9 shots. Terrence Ross scored 11 for the Raptors and Jared Sullinger grabbed 10 rebounds.
— UP NEXT: Toronto (1-0) plays Denver in Calgary, Alberta on Monday. Golden State (0-1) plays host to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday.
PELICANS 116, MAVERICKS 102
First-round draft pick Buddy Hield scored 19 points off the bench for the Pelicans, who also got 19 from E’Twaun Moore and 13 from Anthony Davis.
Terrence Jones added 17 for New Orleans. Justin Anderson led the Mavericks with 14 points.
— MAVERICKS: Dirk Nowitzki got the night off to rest, as did Wesley Matthews, Andrew Bogut, Deron Williams and Devin Harris.
— PELICANS: Bossier City is about 325 miles northwest of New Orleans, and Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said playing the game there was significant. “We want to be Louisiana’s team,” Gentry said.
— UP NEXT: Dallas (0-1) hosts Charlotte on Monday. New Orleans (1-0) hosts Indiana on Tuesday.