Rap­tors make an­them state­ment

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Tim Reynolds

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 Cana­di­an­based 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 step­back 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.”

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