"I love the make-up of the team," Alvin Williams, a guard who played 417 regular games in a Toronto uniform between 1997 and 2006, said before Friday's game between the Raptors and Washington Wizards. "I love how the camaraderie seems there, how the confidence seems there.
"With constant improvement and that attitude of getting better every day, I think they'll be a very good team in the East and I think they'll be a force to be reckoned with."
Williams and former Toronto centre Antonio Davis were in town as part of the Raptors 20th anniversary celebrations. Both played for Toronto teams that made the playoffs in three consecutive seasons from 2000 to 2002. They won the only post-season series in team history in 2001 against the New York Knicks.
Davis, who said "a lot of great things happened here in my career," said he's thrilled to see the growth of the fan support in Toronto and across Canada for the Raptors and the game of basketball.
"It was great last year to watch all the fans outside," Davis said in reference to the large crowds in Maple Leaf Square watching playoff games on a big screen. "I'm just excited for this franchise."
Davis, who played 310 regular season games for the Raptors, admitted "misconceptions" about coming to play in Canada may have hurt the team in signing some free agents but believes the word is spreading about how good it is in Toronto.
"Winning kind of solves everything," Davis said. "If you're winning, guys want to come here."
Williams said he thinks the current version of the Raptors has "the same type of togetherness" as the teams of the early 2000s. The big difference was earlier teams had more experience and Vince Carter.
"I think we had more vets that had been through the wars, that had been through the battles," Williams said. "And, we had a young superstar, so we had a little more I think."