What's Good, Toronto?

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I’m still waiting for it all to feel real, man. It’s crazy. It’s like that first semester of school when everything’s going by so fast.

And I wanted to say right off the bat, the way this fanbase has already embraced me…. I’m really starting to feel like a Raptor for real. Like I have my own part to play in the next chapter of this story. I don’t feel like I even have the words yet to say how much this all means to me.

But I’ll just say this: Toronto, it feels like we’re about to do something special together.

So with that being said, I hope y’all don’t mind if I get down a few thoughts while I’m still in the moment….

It’s funny, I still kind of got that draft night feeling a little bit, the butterflies or whatever you wanna call it. I remember all the guys were on the bus together headed to the arena, and you could just see on everybody’s faces how much this meant. Anyone who tells you they were just chillin’ or cool is lying, man. I had to keep myself from being nervous. I was playing this song on repeat by Cochise and $NOT called “Tell Em” that goes hard. Lol. My favorite bar is that little line he keeps repeating like, “Better turn me up, huh,” so I’m mumbling that to myself the whole way there, and it was basically like my hype song when we pulled up to the arena. Like my WWE walkout song. Hahah.

Toronto, it feels like we’re about to do something special together. Scottie Barnes

One of the weirdest things about that whole night for me, that I guess just comes from kind of being caught up in the moment, was that my mind kept playing back all these old memories from when I was growing up.

Just little stuff, you know? Like how I used to be watching games with my dad. Or the moment I knew I wanted to play in the NBA. It was around third or fourth grade, for me. This was before the LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh era, and I remember my dad had taken me to a Miami Heat game versus the Lakers. Man, I still remember every single detail like it was yesterday — the drive, being that kid looking out the car window at all the lights. Packed house. Cars everywhere. Seeing the crowd kinda build when you walk through the doors of the arena. Fans filling up the gym. Then, that buildup throughout…. Keep in mind, it’s Kobe-and-Wade-era Lakers-Heat, so there’s just this crazy momentum, with everybody on the court going at it.

It was just surreal. I remember being in the crowd thinking, Yeah, this is something I wanna be a part of. Like forever. I was picturing myself on the floor making Kobe’s moves, and having that crowd cheer for me.

And now, I’m finally in the league, and it’s like it’s all coming full circle. I get to experience that same excitement from some of the best fans in the world. It’s a dream come true, for real. There’s nobody like Toronto Raptor fans. I promise you. Not even 24 hours after I got drafted I had like 80–100k followers JUST from Raptors fans. Y’all work fast! Lol. And y’all aren’t playing around. Y’all are about basketball and y’all are real. The love of the game is genuine. That’s what it’s all about with this fan base.

And honestly, that’s all I’m about too.

Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

So, after the draft, we get the actual like first-day-of-school experience.

Touring the city and the facilities and all that. Visiting the CN Tower and looking out the glass floor. And of course, visiting Toronto’s other most famous landmark, Drake’s house. Hahah. (I can’t lie, his basketball court is just as nice as you’re picturing.) We got in a workout at the OVO Athletic Centre then headed to eat at the team facility, and it’s so funny, man, because my birthday was actually a few days after the draft, so at this point the best gift I already got was being drafted to this team…. But they had other plans. We pull up to the spot, and the entire team and staff were there with a birthday cake and balloons, and everything. And they sang the song and all that.

And I guess I just wanted to tell that story because that’s the thing about this franchise. They actually genuinely care about everyone on the team.

As corny as it might sound, with the birthday stuff and everything ... it was like being with family. I even got to hit up The Real Jerk with Kardinal, and it’d been a while since I’d had a nice Jamaican meal. So it really just felt like I was coming home.

You know, you first start meeting folks during the pre-draft workouts, but at that point, you don’t really know how it’ll actually be. But I felt an instant connection with this team and this franchise, especially after I met Masai. I fell in love with him and Bobby, and their mentality in particular, just from linking with them at the facility and listening to all the coaches. Man, they had so much wisdom about the game, and I just remember how they were all about winning. But, the real love started for me when we started talking defense. They got me quick once they started telling me about their defensive mindset and the intensity they bring to it. For a guy like me, who has a passion for playing defense, and who prides himself on his versatility, that’s all I needed to hear to know this would be a great fit for both of us.

And I think we got to showcase a little bit of what people should expect during Summer League. When we got on the floor, I think you could see how it all came together for us.

Plus, the atmosphere in Vegas is just CRAZY.

It was great being out there and meeting my vets. And not just meeting them but really chopping it up about regular stuff…. Just building that foundation already. Like I remember being on the sidelines chopping it up with OG, just talking about the type of music we like. (We both like pop, reggae, a little bit of rock.) So getting to talk to him and Pascal just about life on and off the court was great. I feel like I’m already starting to get some important keys, and I just wanna be a sponge right now and take in everything. I don’t take any of this for granted.

We ended up losing ONE game the entire Summer League. ONE. And the whole time I’m thinking it’s going to be a playoff bracket, because all we really wanted to do was leave Vegas Summer League as champs. Then ... I found out it was only the top two teams that played in the championship. I was pissed. Lol. I’m still a little mad about it. But, that just shows the love I have for this game and this city because all I want to do is play hard for this team. And I’m looking forward to showing y’all that more and more.

I think we got to showcase a little bit of what people should expect during Summer League. Scottie Barnes

And I guess that’s all I really wanted to say. I’m just grateful to be here.

But before I go, I think I wanna leave y’all with one last little thing from draft night that made me smile.

I remember walking into the green room after Adam Silver called my name, and some people from the front office were waiting for me. We were shaking hands, and making introductions, and I was so excited I could barely get the words out. But there was one main thing that I really wanted to get across about myself: I’m ready to work. Not ease into it, not half-do things or make excuses because I’m one of the new guys. I’m ready to work. I’m ready to grind. I’m ready to WIN. And I could tell that the feeling was definitely mutual.

So, to the fans, I want y’all to hear it straight from me: I couldn’t be happier to be here in Toronto.

And one more thing ... I’mma need y’all to help me bring that energy to Scotiabank, because you already know I’mma be turnt up!!

I’m ready to go.

And I know y’all ready.

Let’s get it!