That’s what it comes down to — it’s right there in the title.
When I had to make my free-agency decision, there was a lot going through my head, a lot of roads my mind was traveling down. Family, first and foremost, and what’s going to make them happy, and give them the best life. Basketball, of course, and where I’d like to play for these next several years. And then there was also the gut-check aspect — just what I was feeling in my heart.
But for me, at the end of the day, this was an easy decision. And all of those roads … they all led me back to the same place: home.
They all led me back to Toronto.
When I got here, five years ago, there was a lot of rebuilding talk. A lot of, Man, this roster, I don’t know … the Raptors gotta blow it up. These experts, I think they wanted us to trade this, waive that, tank this, draft that. That was most of the talk surrounding our franchise. And I was definitely one of the names being included in that talk.
And that was tough because I think a lot of us here — we knew that, with the right level of commitment, this could be a special place. We knew we had some special pieces here, from the top down: From an ownership group that wanted to win … to an emerging young backcourt in myself and DeMar … to some of the best basketball fans in the world, that not a lot of people even knew about.
And I just think about that sometimes: How all of those people were telling us to blow this up, all of those years ago — but we stuck together. We took a look around at the group that we had, and we said, you know, as a team, as a franchise, as a city — we can make this into a contender, into a place where hoops really matters, if we just see it through. And that’s when the Raptors decided to believe in me.
And we’ve been seeing it through, and believing in each other, ever since.
So I kind of see this summer, then, as … it’s almost like coming full circle. We ended our season this past year with some disappointment. And that’s a couple of years, now, where — as exciting as it’s been around here — I don’t think we’ve reached our true potential. And you’d hear the whispers, you know, those same experts that were telling us to blow this up in 2013, there they are again with that same talk in 2017.
But the difference between then and now, and what I’m thankful for, is that this time the ball was much more in my court. I was a free agent. Which meant that it was up to me to decide whether this thing we have — is it worth sticking around for, and running it back again, and seeing if we can take that next step?
And like I said — to me, that was an easy decision.
The answer is yes.
When I told my sons that we were staying in T.O., their reaction, man — O.K., I’m going to be honest: My youngest, he’s too young to care. But my oldest … when I saw Karter’s reaction, that’s how I knew for sure this was right. I could tell right away, just from the look on his face. I could tell that if we’d left … for him, it wouldn’t have just been about moving, you know, from any one place to another. It would have been a lot tougher than that. It would have been about truly leaving — leaving his friends, leaving his school, leaving this city that he’s grown attached to. We would have been leaving a place that is really just … you know, it’s part of our family now. We’d have been leaving home.
(And yeah, just so you know, my guy’s second reaction was, “Alright, Dad — now we gotta get a bigger house!” We’ll see about that one.)
Anyway, that’s really all I wanted to say for right now. I just wanted y’all to be the first ones to hear it, and to hear it directly from me.
I’m coming back to Toronto because my heart is telling me that it’s home — and because staying home, for me and my family, feels like the right thing to do. My heart is telling me that this is the best city in the world, with the best basketball fans in the world. It’s telling me that the Raptors can be a championship-level team, sooner than later. And I’ll be honest (and don’t hate) — it’s telling me that I’ve still never had poutine.
But most of all: It’s telling me that, if you’re looking for people to believe in — choose the people who believed in you first.
And if you start something?
Man, you finish it.