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Joseph, Thompson are longtime friends, but planned to put that aside for game

TORONTO — Cory Joseph was at Drake's concert last August when the Toronto rapper came out wearing Joseph's basketball jersey.

It was No. 6 in honour of Joseph's hometown, and the gesture was an unofficial welcome home to the Toronto Raptors. It took Joseph by surprise.

"I didn't know," Joseph said. "I asked (Drake) after, 'How did he get it before I got it?' But I mean, that's Drake. I guess it is what it is, but it was great."

Wednesday night's Raptors' game versus the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers marked the third annual "Drake Night."

It was also a meeting between longtime friends Joseph and Cavs forward Tristan Thompson, who said "it's amazing" to see Joseph playing a significant role with the Raptors, after playing his first four seasons in San Antonio.

"I'm always texting Cory, I was watching all his games on (the Raptors' recent west coach trip). He's playing great basketball right now," Thompson said before Wednesday's shootaround at the Air Canada Centre. "Hopefully tonight he takes the night off. But I'm happy for him, and what he's been able to do so far in the season.

"I've known Cory since Cory's been 12 years old, so I know how talented he is, and he definitely showed flashes when he was with the Spurs. . . I'm not surprised at all."

Joseph is averaging 24.7 minutes a night, up from 18.3 last season, and scoring 9.5 points compared to 6.8 last season.

Thompson, meanwhile, made pre-season headlines for a contract holdout that saw him eventually sign a lucrative five-year, US$82 million deal in late October. The Brampton, Ont., native said it was a seamless transition in rejoining his team, despite missing a large chunk of the pre-season.

"I asked my teammates 'How was training camp?' and they said I didn't miss much," Thompson said.

Cavs coach David Blatt said Thompson — who averaged 10.1 rebounds and 7.8 points through the first 14 games — has shown no signs of rust.

"He's doing pretty good," Blatt said. "The things that he does and the things that he brings to the table are really the same and it didn't seem like he missed a beat."

Thompson and Joseph were teammates both while playing AAU basketball and at the University of Texas.

Joseph said of Thompson's game: "It's pretty good, but hopefully he plays bad tonight," then added "Oh that's what he said about me? We'll see.

"He's a great guy, he's always had that motor that he plays with. He's been great."

Thompson predicted there would be trash talking.

"Of course, if he's picking up either Mo (Williams) or Jared (Cunningham) or Delly (Matthew Dellavedova) in the backcourt, I'm going to have to set a hard screen on him," Thompson said. "But he's gotta know it's not personal, it's just business. But I've got to make it tough for him, and gotta beat him up."

Joseph wasn't waiting until tipoff to talk some trash. When asked who won the one-on-one battles between he and Thompson growing up, Joseph said "Oh, that's an easy question, that's me. No questions about that one. I always beat him.

"To this day, yeah, but we haven't played in a long time. I'm sure if we did, I'd beat him."

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

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