Sunday, July 08, 2012

SPORTS: Raptor Report ... In Progress

[Do NOT click on ANY LINK found in the comment section of this blog. No matter how innocuous the link MIGHT appear to be, it is MOST LIKELY SPAM or a link to MALWARE. I am disheartened by the need to do this, which accounts for the sparsity of posts this year.]

Took a couple of days to rest from posting FIVE, count 'em, FIVE straight days. So, now, I've had a break and I'm baaaaaack!

The topic du jour is the incredible ignorance demonstrated by actual paid pro basketball writers, bloggers that consume too much of the wine and idiotic Toronto Raptor fans. It's a pretty nauseating bunch. NOTE: Not all pro basketball writers, bloggers or Raptor fans are included the in the Ignorance List.

Let's start with the hand-wringing over Steve Nash's declining Toronto's offer after LISTENING to the offer. He also listened to others, and if word filtered out in the least about what he was thinking of the offers, it didn't get to me, first-hand, second-hand, even fifth-hand. Did he STRING the Raptors along? Did he USE the Raptor offer to stimulate other offers? Uh, NO. Despite saying a week prior he couldn't see doffing his Suns' uni for the dreaded enemy's colours, his only mis-step that I am aware of, he signed to be relatively near his kids and with a team that can remedy that "Greatest Player NEVER to make the NBA finals" label.

And NOT getting Nash hardly qualifies Bryan Colangelo for the dunce cap. He offered 8-9 MILLION dollars MORE for Captain Canada than either L.A. or N.Y. He put on the kind of dog and pony show that DID work the last time he tried it on Nash. And instead of cowering in a corner like you all DUNCES want, he rebounded by stealing Kyle Lowry for a weirdly protected pick and third (maybe fourth) stringer Gary Forbes. The weird protection? For the next four summers (maybe it's five), the Raptors owe Houston a draft pick. It's protected a bit in case calamity (Andrea Bargnani getting hurt in training camp and every added player in the interim being crappy) strikes, so that Toronto can get a superstar to start  rebuilding with. But it's also protected the OTHER way. If it's not in the so-called lottery, then Houston gets to hold off taking the pick. Eventually 2018 will arrive and the Rockets will take the pick then, whether best or worst, or in-between. THAT's Toronto's plan, don't be in the lottery until 2019 at the earliest and finally hand Houston payment for Lowry in the 20's.

Which brings me to the most consistently idiotic phrase you heard over the last month when Raptor talk was heard. They'll amnesty Jose Calderon. GIVING away a player for ONE SEASON of cap relief without looking through the trade market or offering a buyout, is dumb, dumb beyond all belief. I like Glen Grunwald as a man and as a basketball intellect. How he signed off on ditching Chauncey Billups rather than trying to trade the guy first, I'll never know. Don't think Billups and a future first (supposedly never going to be of any value) would have merited a second-round pick from somebody? Or even two picks? A trade exception and a bench filler? No, despite the fact that Nash WOULD HAVE FIT INTO THE RAPTOR CAP WITHOUT AMNESTYING CALDERON by merely rescinding a contract offer to putative back-up PG Jerryd Bayless or amnestying a guy WITH a long-term contract that wasn't earning out (Amir Johnson, who, as much as I love the guy as a human being, has been too hurt, too regularly to earn out, especially with the influx of big men since he signed the contract).

Don't think Houston would love NOT TO START Shaun Livingston at point guard this fall? Think Calderon appeals to them, what with their fifty-five forwards, many of whom vaguely fill the small forward description. So, after Morely FINALLY gives up his vision quest for Dwight Howard for a season, maybe he calls ol' trading pal Bryan and says, all right, send me Calderon, Ed Davis, James Johnson and Amir Johnson and you can have that wacko trade pick back and one more future second, or two, plus SF Chandler Parsons and your pick of the forward draftees. (That would be Royce White for those of you who are wondering). Bryan would say sure, and follow up that deal with re-signing Bayless to be the mini-Lowry afterall. Plus the apparently already-done re-upping of Centre Aaron Gray.

Or does the fact that Dallas, who wiffed big-time on Howard making himself available legitimately this summer (the man-CHILD doing everything in his tantrumic powers to rectify THAT little mistake) and thus winning the heart of Deron Williams, now faces a future of starting Roddy Beaubois at the point. Sure, it might end up being Ray Felton on some three-year deal, or Ramon Sessions on a three-year deal or even Bayless. But surely that doesn't fill Mark Cuban's heart with pride or give Dirk Nowitzki any kind of confidence. Nowitzki thought he might be playing with Howard, Williams and roster filler come November. Now, it will be Vince Carter, Shawn Marion and Felton? Ahhhhhhh, NEIN! Maybe Dallas can spring free Darren Collison from Indiana. OR, the Mavs could come back to Toronto (yes, trade discussions did occur) and enquire if the price for Calederon had come down at all. Would Toronto be interested in Marion for Calderon straight up? Ahh, no. Maybe Dallas would so good as to add to their BIG man roster by taking on Amir Johnson's contract too. (and you ALL know, I dream the big man on the go would be Ed Davis). Sure, Dallas would have to send some draft picks back. Maybe some pay roll on short contracts. But getting ONE-YEAR of Calderon, allowing Dallas to re-tool next summer, would certainly have value. And indeed, if Dallas doesn't want to turn 2012-2013 into a full-on rebuilder, this is the kind of trade the Mavs will HAVE to make.

Giving away Calderon, ne PAYING Calderon to go away, has to be the single most idiotic thing ANY supposed roundball fan/expert/reporter has said, written or otherwise communicated in a looooooong time. And yes, I DID muse about the possibility AFTER Calderon's replacement was in hand (Nash) and after NO other team would have reduced themselves to NO COMPETENT NBA STARTER at the point guard position. Non mea culpa finished. I really do understand the ignorance of the American members of the non-intelligensia. They see one Raptor game a year and if it's a bad one, they can get the impression Calderon's old, worn and done. Limited sample leads to uninformed opinions. But Raptor fans? The ones who supposedly WATCH a lot of games. Idiots. (Sorry Mom).

Even evaluating the team on the work Colangelo has done thus far is premature exposition. That's obvious. The word circulating was that Jamaal Magloire was coming back to provide what he did last year: Occasional hard fouls, professionalism, cheer-leading, and teaching young'uns how to do the same. But the news today of Gray's signing probably means Magloire either goes directly into coaching (with a hefty community ambassadorial role) or plays elsewhere this autumn. And Gray won't be signed to look menacing on the bench. He'll be getting minutes. Hmmmmm, besides the legions of small forwards who secretly want to be under-sized power forwards (James Johnson, Linas Kleiza), there's Bargnani, uber-rookie Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson, Davis and the new Reggie Evans' clone, Quincy Acy. Add in Gray and you have eight guys trying to divvy up 96 minutes a night. Bargnani will get his 42. That leaves 54 for the others. Let's say Valanciunas starts out with 24 and Gray gets 16. Stay with me now. That's 14 minutes to share (until Valanciunas starts playing, oh, 36 minutes a night) for Amir Johnson, Davis, Acy and any of the SF candidates.  Now, if YOU were Davis or Amir Johnson, would YOU be putting in a bid for a condo in Toronto right now?

The small forward spot isn't manned to perfection. There are some nights that each of Kleiza, James Johnson, wing-type guards DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross and Landry Fields will fill the position and turn in a good game. Part of Dwane Casey's pay is to determine which of that group CAN guard the other team's guy AND provide some offence. But the best thing Colangelo could do for Casey is go get an actual, you know, starter-type small forward. Allegedly, Andrei Kirilenko cooled at the thought of NOT having Nash to play with and upped his salary demands. Gerald Green remains an awfully intriguing candidate. But the trade route seems clearly the path Colangelo is on. Maybe it's just payroll clearing deals to pay Kirilenko's stipend.

James Johnson has been a tease for three years now. Maybe he can catch some other team's eye. Kleiza is a pro and, once again, he's doing the deed in international ball. He'd be useful on any team (although, as a fellow Lithuanian to mentor Valanciunas, he's got a certain cache here in Toronto). The problem is he's a PF in a SF package. And you could make a case that the Raptors actually hope the Knicks match on Fields' offer. Or that DeRozan, clueless on defence and still not a great shooter, might have some trade oomph, what with his spot on the American Olympic Trial practice team. (I do remind you, DeRozan works hard and is actually a pretty good guy. Not sold on his basketball IQ). Add in the aforementioned power forward excess and there are too many chips in Colangelo's possession to think he WON'T be dealing before there's a little nip in the air.

WHEN Colangelo finally gets done dealing and the team assembles for Summer League and then training camp under Casey, THAT'S when Colangelo's off-season can be commented on. It'll still be too early for the rookie evaluations, of which there will be at least three to formulate. But the Raptor plan will stand revealed. To do so before, is to reveal the ignorance of the person claiming the Raptors are NOT play-off bound or are a LOCK to make the play-offs. So, my advice to the call-in show participants, "SHUT UP, Colangelo is doing fine."

So far.

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