The NBA court, a space where genetic freaks gather to lean on and leap over each other, draws out some absurd thinking. A 6-foot-3 point guard is small. A 225-pound forward is skinny. Guys you call slow or clumsy are, by any definition other than the most relevant one, quick and dexterous. I used to live in the same neighborhood as Bulls scrub Cristiano Felicio. I'd catch him walking his dog, occasionally. He scooped up crap more athletically than I've ever done anything in my life. We each have abilities, defined roughly and precisely by degrees. There is driving from Boston to D.C., and there is space travel. Cristiano Felicio, who has grown his hair out beautifully, is currently in the south of Spain with Granada, averaging a tick over 14 points per game in Liga ACB. He cleared that mark seven times in six NBA seasons.

I have fallen into watching quite a few Raptors games lately. They, along with the Cavs, are often the best team playing in that early pocket of League Pass time, when I have struck a temporary detente with work and am ready to melt into the couch or seek company while I chop vegetables and sear meat. I'm fond of the Raptors, as an idea. My little corner of the sportswriting world contains a disproportionate number of Canadians. I was raised on Vince Carter SportsCenter highlights. Kyle Lowry offers a peculiar and inspiring example of personal growth, how to fulfill your potential without scrubbing away the personality flaws you have become attached to over the years, that create drag in the wind tunnel but are nonetheless essential to your conception of yourself. I like that story about Nick Nurse getting a text that Kawhi Leonard was joining the Clippers, pocketing his phone, and going back to enjoying what was apparently a ripping performance from a Prince impersonator. 

I do not like these Raptors, specifically. Too grabby on defense, too blandly well-coached. Like a kid being ventriloquized by their father. There's a truculence about the whole enterprise that feels misaligned with reality. Their announcers could stand to turn down it down several notches. Pascal Siakam is an excellent player. He is not Charles Barkley in his MVP season.

But they're an interesting team, on a very basic level. Namely, they are long as hell. The sites and SEO-optimized listicles that quantify this kind of thing find that the Raptors are not, on average, one of the tallest teams in the league. Even adjusted for players who actually see significant minutes, HispanosNBA tells me they're tied for ninth. CraftedNBA doesn't have team figures, but it features height and wingspan for every NBA player and, by comparing the former against the latter, comes up with a length rating. Mo Bamba, who is able to pluck fresh seafood from the gulf while sitting in his central Florida living room, is the lengthiest player on the list. Seems about right. The lengthiest Raptors, Chris Boucher and O.G. Anunoby, rank 26th and 28th, respectively.

So, okay, I'll course correct slightly: the Raptors play in a way that emphasizes their length. They appear in your imagination as a mass of adolescent sycamores with limbs like an interstate highway system. They are annoying. Blowbys that should result in easy lay-ins turn into blocks, tortured floaters, attempts that kiss the top of the backboard as the guard tumbles into the baseline camera pit. Passing lanes open only momentarily. If Siakam or Scottie Barnes are having a night where their jumpers are true, it seems impossible to affect them in any meaningful way. They'll just fade and fire over any defender you throw at them. And while Barnes and Siakam are rare talents, Nick Nurse specializes in turning end-of-the-bench dudes into serviceable players. Dalano Banton barely exists, and yet when called upon, he can ably provide a zealous six-minute burst of Raptors-y nonsense.

All of this creates an aggravated atmosphere that marks Raptors games as distinct. I'm making them sound like a conquering force. They're not; they're a nose north of the .500 mark. They've had injuries, but your eyes tell you they're not quite on the Bucks' and Celtics' level, at least not right now. They work as hard for their shots as their opponents do, and there are spans of their contests, especially when they're not getting transition buckets, where you wish they had a scoring guard—Fred Van Vleet's been freezer section cold, a quarter of the way through the season—who could slam the step-back three button a couple times in a row. Movement and smarts run out, at a certain point. The Raptors go down nipping and chirping, a chipmunk you chase around your house for an hour before harshly brooming it out the door, but they do go down.

Uniqueness is a value-neutral thing. It can be as meaningful, as positive or negative or not that important, as the character of a dictator's speech patterns or the distribution of freckles across someone's face. A chill as the breeze changes direction. It's the essence of identity, and people are pleasant and terrifying and dull. It also, though it's sometimes deployed as if it were a superlative, belongs to the z-axis of description. It is not the best or the worst or the most. It is itselfness. We are getting into the metaphysical weeds, here. Dorm room stuff. Vaguely embarrassing.

When I watch the Raptors, I'm not necessarily enthralled. But there is an unresolved question there, that's satisfying to pick at. It's a quality you find in difficult art, or art that you are for some reason making difficult for yourself, by returning to it, hoping it'll say something it didn't before. The shooter dives to the rim and it seems like an easy bucket until the bounce pass is nudged out of bounds because, god, Scottie Barnes can cover a lot of ground when he wants to. That is the Raptors. Is there more than that? I'm not sure. Anyway, the fourth quarter is starting. Might as well see this thing through to the end.