TORONTO - If there were any misconceptions about playing in Canada for the Toronto Raptors, Jalen Rose said winning has taken care of that.
The former Raptors guard was honoured during a first-quarter timeout of Friday's Raptors' game against the Dallas Mavericks — part of the team's ongoing 20th anniversary celebrations
"I think people get the message now," Rose said. "You don't hear the mumbling and groaning about players re-signing here. You just got Lou Williams to sign, Kyle Lowry re-signed, DeMar's on his second contract, Amir's been here for a long time.
"I think that novelty is over as it relates to winning. And when you follow winning in the NBA, it always starts from the top down. And I appreciate what Tim Leiweke has done with the franchise, creating a culture, bringing in Masai (Ujiri, GM), who undid a lot of moves in the past that probably weren't the best moves. So now the city has a team they can really be proud of."
The 41-year-old Rose, who received a standing ovation from the Air Canada Centre crowd, played part of three seasons with Toronto between 2003 and '06, but never made a playoff appearance with the Raptors. He both praised and sounded slightly envious of the current Raptors squad and management.
"I've always talked about how great the fans are here, how it's awesome not only to have a city or state rooting for you, but also to have a country rooting for you," Rose said. "And you have to look no further than the progress of Toronto basketball than how the crowd showed up in Cleveland, those 'We the North chants' on LeBron James' home floor. And to get a win, that says a lot about where the team has come."
He spoke about the growth of the game in Canada, mentioning consecutive No. 1 draft picks Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins, plus two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash.
"So it's not a novelty anymore, for a lot of people to feel who said 'can they really play ball in Toronto?'" Rose said.
Rose was hugely popular with the media during his time in Toronto — the game during which he was dropped from the starting lineup, he showed up dressed entirely in black, right down to his "black drawers."
He was similarly engaging as he spoke with reporters before Friday night's tipoff — funny, but honest, about the questionable moves made by management during his days in Toronto.
When asked about Vince Carter's emotional response when the Raptors honoured him recently, Rose said: "Well, the way he was overcome by emotion and the way he shed a couple of tears, that's how I felt when we traded him for Aaron (Williams), Eric (Williams) and Alonzo Mourning who never was deciding to make the trip."
Rose said Carter deserved the recent warm reception he received from Toronto fans.
"As a player who has been traded before I know that when things get out to the public like where your mom is parking, that means somebody in the front office is clearly leaking information to try to make you look bad and make the transition easier when you move a great player like him," he said. "Both sides deserved (a reconciliation), so I was happy to see it."
Rose said that Carter was misunderstood in Toronto.
"He was really a genuine, nice person and a lot of people said we wanted him to have the killer instinct of Kobe Bryant or we wanted him to have the fire of another player but he was such a talented player, long arms, big hands, could shoot the three, you guys knew he was a high flyer," Rose said. "I mean this guy could walk into practice and do a reverse 360 eating a sandwich. I'm serious, I've seen him do it."
Rose, who averaged 18.5 points and 2.6 assists a night in his one full season with the Raptors —2004-'05 — was asked about his favourite memory from Toronto. He offered up the broken hand he suffered in a game versus Golden State.
"I remember telling the guys I think I broke my hand," he said. "To finish that game, we won the game, and then I flew back to Toronto, had surgery on my hand, got a plate with five screws on my hand, still to remind me of it every day. So, my bionic hand from my time playing for the Raptors."