Before the start of a new NBA campaign on Tuesday, the Toronto Raptors and their fans spent the final few moments before tip-off basking in last season’s glory by unfurling a championship banner and collecting diamond encrusted rings.
Best-ever NBA offering on Sky Sports
Watch 134 live games and a new weekly NBA show featuring Ovie Soko on Sky Sports this season
Then they went to work.
The Raptors needed to put in overtime to see off the New Orleans Pelicans 130-122 but the result was enough to keep the party rolling a little while longer.
Highlights of the Toronto Raptors overtime victory over the New Orleans Pelicans in Week 1 of the NBA season
Rarely in sport has so little been expected from a team that just four months ago accomplished so much, bringing an NBA championship to Canada for the first time.
In June, nearly two million fans clogged Toronto streets for a victory parade but, as the banner was hoisted to the rafters, few hopes were being raised along with it.
2019-20 NBA Primetime games on Sky Sports
Record number of weekend primetime games live on Sky Sports during 2019-20 NBA season
“One last nice celebration for everybody,” said Raptors coach Nick Nurse, summing the festivities up. “I think it is cool to have that piece of history certainly for this generation and for the next generation that every time they come in to a game or event and they are going to look up and see that (banner).”
Championship t-shirts on seats prior to a special night at the ScotiaBank Arena
There is little talk of a championship repeat in the NBA’s most northern outpost, in a matter of weeks fans have lowered the bar and their expectations to the point where simply making the playoffs would be an acceptable result.
Get NBA news on your phone
Want the latest NBA news, features and highlights on your phone? Find out more
Many bookies have set the defending champions a 30-1 longshot to retain their crown with a dozen or more teams ranked ahead of them.
That is what happens in the NBA when a team loses its best player like Toronto did when finals MVP Kawhi Leonard signed with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Live NBA: Boston @ Philadelphia
Thursday 24th October 12:30am
With Leonard on board the Clippers are now the bookies’ choice.
What Toronto has been left with is a good team.
But in the NBA good teams are not good enough. If a team is to contend they need a great player. Or two.
The Toronto Raptors pose for a photo and show off their rings before the game
When Leonard agreed to sign with the Clippers it was only after they had acquired fellow all-star Paul George.
That came after Anthony Davis decided to partner up with LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers while the Houston Rockets landed Russell Westbrook to go with James Harden.
Join our NBA group on Facebook
Sign up and join the NBA conversation in our Facebook group
“I don’t really like to live with a chip on my shoulder I just flip it and say it is more of a chance to prove ourselves,” said Nurse. “I see this as a tremendous opportunity for our organisation, our coaching staff, for a lot of players.
“I keep saying there are some really special guys on this team.”
Pascal Siakam shows off his NBA title ring
Not participating in the free agent musical chairs, the Raptors instead decided to spend their money rewarding Pascal Siakam, the NBA’s most improved player award winner, with a four-year, $130m contract extension.
While the 25-year-old, who only seriously started playing basketball eight years ago, has shown plenty of upside, the Raptors are still gambling he can blossom into a top drawer player.
Siakam has taken on the assignment with gusto and a smile finishing the opener with 34 points and 18 rebounds before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.
Follow Sky Sports NBA on Twitter
See the NBA's best plays and stay up to date with the latest news
“He (Siakam) was carrying us there for lots of stretches,” assessed Nurse. “We had to go to him time-and-time again there in stretches and he produced.”
Want to watch the NBA but don’t have Sky Sports? Get the Sky Sports Action and Arena pack, click here.