Shortly after he signed with the Raptors in June, Lou Williams got The Call.
And what, exactly, did Drake say?
"He just said 'What's up? Welcome to the city. Here's my number. If you need anything, give me a call.' So we've been hanging ever since."
Fair warning, Toronto. Drake's just working through the new arrivals first. As residents, we will all get The Call eventually.
So remember to have your Drake Wish List ready at all times. (Here's mine: 'Hi, Drake. Can you name-check me in your next mixtape? And can you have every raccoon in the city murdered? If you're busy, just the second thing.')
The Raptors did their media day on Monday. It felt a little different.
It wasn't the format. The format hasn't changed since the 12 Apostles were doing this sort of thing.
One by one, the players are rolled out to address that pressing question of media days everywhere: "How much weight have you gained [for the skinny guys]/lost [for the chubby guys]?"
Everyone has gained/lost 15 pounds. Everyone.
There's a caste system at work. The earlier you are presented to the cameras, the less you matter.
First guy out of the gate? Greg Stiemsma, a gentleman so fetchingly Midwestern you want to take him home so that he can make everyone pancakes and advise you on livestock purchases.
"I didn't realize Toronto was so big," Stiemsma said. "Everyone keeps telling me it's the fourth-largest city in North America [small pause, eyes wide]. It turns out it's this huge city."
Hm. What's your previous experience of Canada?
"Growing up, when I thought of Canada, I thought of fishing."
Exactly. Just like the rest of us here in Toronto.
"We'd go up in the woods, all my buddies. We'd go on fly-ins, walleye fishing."
I don't know what any of those words mean.
"A couple of years ago, we went up to Lake St. Joseph."
Never heard of it. Is it west of Etobicoke?
"We stayed in a little cabin with no electricity. We'd pump the water right out of the lake into the cabin."
That is so, so … what's the word … horrible.
Well, thank you, Greg. I know Drake will be pleased to hear you're impressed. You should be getting The Call any time now. Drake will be happy to fly you over the vast expanse of The City That Is A Lot Bigger Than Chicago in one of his jets. You can choose the colour.
If there is any sense of newness in this Raptors team, it can't be found out on the floor. The same seven players will be eating all the minutes this season. Of the new arrivals, only Williams and James Johnson should see significant playing time.
Only two things have changed.
We've moved beyond the eternal mantra of Toronto sports – "We're looking to grow" – into a new, unfamiliar catchphrase – "We'd like to win." No guarantees, and "like" was the cautious verb of choice, but it's a start.
Second, and most important, the new guys weren't rolling into town like this was some sort of court-mandated work release. They seemed happy to be here.
Not the fake happy of every new Raptor since the Vince Carter era. But happy happy. Excited happy. Actually happy.
"What I thought of this team changed when I saw all the people lined up outside [the Air Canada Centre in 'Jurassic Park'] during the playoffs," said another newcomer, Jordan Hamilton. "I thought you guys were going to win Game 7. But hey, things happen. It's a new season."
That's kind of you to say, Jordan. It was hard on us, so we really appreciate that. Just because you're so good, Drake is going to personally add a few things to your Welcome to Toronto gift basket. Like a gold-plated tea service. Don't tell the other guys.
This was the first instance in which we got a good look at what a decent season and a great marketing campaign can do for a franchise.
The wins helped, but "We The North" tipped it over the edge. That basic, brilliant idea has worked its way south of the border, where they do love a slogan.
"I'm from the north side of Atlanta," said Williams. "So the whole We The North thing hits home for me."
Once again, Lou, Drake appreciates your effort. He'll be sending over an atlas in the next 15 minutes. Feel free to keep the car it arrives in.
While the Maple Leafs are trying to find their way into a space that isn't exclusively filled with white-bread yuppies, the pluralistic Raptors have been allowed to sidle in and claim that recently vacated "Canadian" territory.
Whether or not this is the reality, the Leafs feel like a Toronto and a Canada that no longer exists. They're the Canada Greg Stiemsma would have recognized from his childhood – bucolic and monochromatic.
The Raptors have taken the useful part of clichéd Canada – outsider resentment – and channeled it into new, more saleable stereotypes. Most of them have been supplied by Drake, the man who somehow managed to make Shoppers Drug Mart seem cool.
How did this happen? Absolutely no clue. You couldn't plan something like this. It rises from the ground fully formed and without warning, because it's always been there. The Raptors simply tapped a feeling. It is, on some unassailable level, an authentic vision. Which is why it's working.
In order to completely capture the imagination of this city, this country and even beyond, the Raptors just have to do one more thing – win something.