Monday, July 02, 2012

SPORTS: Dreams for Raptors Close to Reality?

[Due to Google Blogger's COMPLETE and UTTER FAILURE to stop the COMMENT SPAMMING BY REGISTERED GOOGLE BLOGGERS (Yeah, I'm talking to the primordial slime that goes by Kevin and variations), all postings from now on will start with this preface. 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.]

Surprise. Back for more today. That's, if I'm counting correctly, TWO days in a row.

First, on this second posting in a row, let me wish the best of happiest birthdays to my brother Wayne. Hope he's getting some use out of the present I gave him three days ago.

Second, let me segue to the NHL for a second, yesterday being NHL Free Agent Signing Day and ... oh, yeah ... Canada Day.

I like what the Montreal Canadiens did. They've needed a shift disturber who can play a bit and isn't pint-sized. Brandon Prust MIGHT turn into yet another boondoggle from New York. But I have hopes. I like pairing him with Colby Armstrong, an ex-Leaf who will earn out a million-buck contract ... if he's healthy. Didn't happen for him in Toronto, but he's talented enough, for barely more than the NHL minimum. And I like signing pugnacious little Francois Bouillon to a one-year contract to fill out the defensive roster. With a load of young D-Men on their way to Montreal, the once and again Hab defenceman will serve as a bridge. Might even be able to tutor the young'uns in getting the most out of their talent. Next, the crowning touch will be to waive a certain ex-Ranger forward with a HUGE contract. Nice guy Scott Gomez needs to collect his cheques in Hamilton this year. His cap hit is too monstrous for his waning talents.

Okay, back to the Raptors. And the reported three year, 36 Million dollar contract they would like Steve Nash to sign. Them and me. Getting 82 games (plus?) of Nash on local TV with a rooting interest isn't a bad thing to look forward to this winter. And it's not like Nash will do much better at the pay window elsewhere.

And, looking at the possible destinations, I'm not sure that any of the other suggested destinations promise a better winning record, save perhaps for the Knicks, who play in his sort-of summer home of New York. Would a sane man join that team of cretins? Nash might. And would therefore be in line for another MVP award if he could reign in Clueless Carmelo Anthony and Jack-it-up J.R. Smith while getting some revival of talent from one-time teammate Amar'e Stoudemire. Plus he'd still have to find some passes for the rest of the team. He could succeed. And success would undoubtedly lead to yet another MVP, the King be damned. On the other hand, it could also lead Nash to retire ... or have one of those episodes we see on TV that lead directly to the scene after the commercial in the looney bin. Plus, the Knicks would be hard pressed to offer up much more than three million a year for his services. Has Nash ever looked like he wanted a haircut? (Well, there was that one time when he re-upped with Phoenix).

Could Nash take big bucks to play in Brooklyn? With a team devoid of Deron Williams? And with Gerald Wallace and, probably, Brooks Lopez as his running mates? Is THAT a better squad that Toronto, who add Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross and Quincy (Reggie Evans with a shot) Acy ... at a minimum? AND a healthy (hopefully) Andrea Bargnani? Plus one other guy, either quality backup Jose Calderon or .... I'll talk about 'OR' in a bit.

Phoenix? Home of the newly drafted next one, Kendall Marshall? Well, sure. But then why is Phoenix so hot to trot over Goran Dragic? I think they've gently closed the door behind their guest great for the last eight years. Dallas? Well, sure they'd like to renew the Nash-Dirk Nowitzki pardnuh-ship from early this century. But Nowitzki's almost as old as Nash. Shawn Marion and Vince Carter help make this a real old-folks home. No centre to boot. Might be nice for this season, but the next two years might rest on bringing in Dwight (I Left My Brain and Heart in the New York Boro) Howard. It could be real unpleasant in the Big D before it gets better in about four years. Steve Nash in Toronto makes a LOT of sense and cents.

The locals need a goosing and Nash would be as good as it gets at that. Even if Nash's arrival means so long Jose. As in Calderon on the move to other climes. The Raptors do NOT need to amnesty Calderon to get Nash inside the cap. The team could opt to do without current backup PG Jerryd Bayless and give up their rights to old SF Sonny Weems, who wants back on this side of the Atlantic after a real good season in Europe. Add their cap hits to the 10 Million Bryan Colangelo accumulated for this summer and Nash fits in. No more moves necessary.

Ahhhh, but more moves ARE necessary. There's the small problem at small forward. James Johnson didn't do the quantum leap in his third year. Neither did DeMar DeRozan at SG. And Linus Kleiza (like Johnson, a better under-sized power forward than a small forward) seems never to regain the full talents he showed at the world championships a few years back, thanks to a leg injury that cost him close to 12 months. The coin COULD drop and Johnson COULD harness that prodigious talent he possesses. And maybe Nash could be the dealer that does that. But the guess is NO, that's not going to happen. And Kleiza would be a better amnesty candidate if he wasn't a fellow Lithuanian to help smooth Valanciunas' experience here in Toronto.

Sooooo, Calderon goes to pay for a small forward. The quickest way to do that would be trade Calderon FOR that small forward. Problem is, there doesn't seem to be a match for that these days. Prior to the Portland drafting of Damian Lilliard, a Nic Batum sign and trade for Calderon was something to consider. Same thing in Brooklyn where Calderon might have replaced a Dallas-bound Deron Williams, at the cost of a just-signed Gerald Wallace. (That one might still be alive). Bigger ticket small forwards like Andre Iguadola and Rudy Gay don't fit into the Calderon pay slot. Not even if you add Ed Davis, as should any Raptor-loving fan. The Lakers WOULD love to trade Ron Artest/Metta World Broken Peace for Calderon, but I'd be happier cheering for Ed Davis for the rest of my life than seeing Crazy Man become a Canuck, even for a second. Dallas might take Calderon straight up for a draft pick if Deron Williams takes the last train to Brooklyn, but that's small (forward) consolation for the Raptors.

 I'm guessing the best chance for the Raptors involves Williams staying in Brooklyn, Calderon being traded to Dallas for draft booty and the Raptors using the money to sign ... Andrei Kirilenko. Yep, it would be audacious to steal Kirilenko away from Brooklyn and his one-time NBA home in Utah, but giving AK-47 all of the saved Calderon money and not force him to play behind Wallace for the Nets, is doable and desirable. Kirilenko had a great season in Europe with CSKA Moscow and is healthy. And a healthy Kirilenko is a good SF option in the NBA. He can do a little bit of everything but seems to take great delight in playing defence. A man after Dwane Casey's heart.

Thus, the Raptors wait out Deron Williams re-signing with the Nets and send Calderon to Dallas as the Mavs' consolation prize, receiving whatever draft picks Dallas is willing to give back. Maybe Ed Davis moves in that trade. Maybe in another. I don't expect much back in return. The reason Davis moves rather than Amir Johnson is because he has a lower ticket, some up side and a shorter guaranteed contract. SOMEBODY out there will think they can teach him to do more than block the ball and do some rebounding. The Raptors cut Sonny Weems and my man Solo (Solomon Alabi) loose. And enough of the rest of the detritus goes to keep Bayless, as it turns out.

If I have the math right, then the Raptors trot out Nash, DeRozan, Kirilenko, Bargnani and Amir Johnson come November. Valanciunas comes off the bench for Johnson eight minutes into the first quarter to massive applause (the game I'm talking about is Toronto's home opener). The rest of the second unit includes James Johnson, Ross, Kleiza/Acy (mostly Kleiza for scoring early) and Bayless. Gary Forbes fills out the active roster that first night. Eventually, Bargnani and Valanciunas start, of course.

The Raptors will also have Jamaal Magloire to be the 13th man and his main job, aside from six fouls against the likes of Howard and Andrew Bynum, will be teach nastiness and professionalism to Valanciunas and Acy. Tu Holloway, the ex-Xavier guard, will sign as third PG. I'd also like to find a way to keep Alan Anderson around, but the cap dollars will be squeezed as is.

Will that team contend in the NBA East? Healthy, sure! But there are the usual red flags for Nash, Kirilenko, Bayless and Bargnani. And it would be nice if James Johnson and DeRozan suddenly turned their hard work and great native athletic ability into something more than they were in the just completed strike-shortened season. It's a LOT of ifs.

Ahhhhh, July in the NBA, when everybody can dream of playoffs and title contenders.

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