Title: Raptors training camp: Title belts are back, Marc Gasol and Kyle Lowry ease in and Chris Boucher’s popularity
Date: September 29, 2019
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I took a lap around the first day of Toronto Raptors training camp, highlighting the return of the WWE Championship, possible load management for 2019-20, Chris Boucher’s outlook, and more.
QUEBEC CITY — Norman Powell is a champion, now more than ever. Consider him a champion’s champion, or the champion of champions. He may as well have been 2001-era Chris Jericho, walking away from the Toronto Raptors’ first practice of the season with a championship cummerbund in each hand.
One year after assistant coach Nate Bjorkgren set the tone for a fun, competitive training camp by introducing replica WWE Championship belts as awards for in-camp drills, the gimmick was back in full effect at the Physical Education and Sports Pavilion at Laval University. Powell wore the belt around his waist as he left the floor, then draped it over a leg during an interview. The players take the rotating championship seriously, adding fuel to what was already a competitive camp before it even began.
Adding to the desire to be crowned the champion at the end of each practice session is a new wrinkle courtesy of WWE executive Triple H: The Raptors have an actual championship to carry around. Triple H, WWE’s executive vice president of talent, live events and creative, has long made a habit of sending exact versions of the WWE Championship to champions in the big four North American sports and beyond. Bianca Andreescu received one as well. The Raptors received theirs earlier in the summer, complete with custom Raptors logo side plates. Raptors coordinator of player development John Bennett is responsible for the belt’s safe-keeping, complete with carrying case, while a second version of the belt floats around between the winners.