Signings that got you a little excited on day one, only to let you down later. Here we go.
Lloyd “Sweet Pea” Daniels
Other than Hakeem Olajuwon, it is not an exaggeration that the most legendary player ever suited for the Raptors was Lloyd “Sweet Pea” Daniels (SI article #1, SI article #2). The dyslexic playground legend who was shot twice in the chest and once in the neck, does have a Raptors connection: he was signed to a 10-day contract in January of 1998, and that was his last whiff of the NBA. I remember the day he played his first game for the Raptors, he lit up Danny Ferry a twice and in my mind the legend of the guy who I had read all those articles about was reborn. In a season that ended up being the worst in franchise history (16-66), here was something to talk about. He was signed to a second ten-day contract before being released.
I’m not saying I had great expectations when Bryan Colangelo signed Fred Jones, unless of course you count not sucking ass as being an expectation. He had won the slam-dunk competition two years prior and had shown a pulse towards becoming a rotation player in Indiana. His shooting stats weren’t great to begin with, so Colangelo painted him as a defensive signing. That didn’t work either as Jones continued to make blunders unbecoming of even a high-school player, including dribbling off his foot in the backcourt with nobody around him, and attempting to shoot himself out of shooting slumps with the game on the line. I’m not a believer of PER being a great reflector of overall ability, but his team-worst (and that team includes Darrick Martin) PER of 9.9 says it all. He was soon shipped for Juan Dixon, which was hailed a pretty good trade considering how terrible Jones was.
The story goes that Glen Grunwald went searching for the missing piece in the Championship puzzle and knocked on Hakeem’s door in Houston to talk him out of near retirement and come play for the Raptors. Hakeem bit, such was the draw of Vince Carter back in the day. It also helped that the Raptors offered him a 3-year $17.4M contract which was exorbitant by any standard (he turned down $13M from Houston). The Raptors also didn’t care much about medicals at the time, because they skipped even the basic X-Ray which would have certainly revealed the fact that half of Olajuwon’s back bones were missing! He played one season for the Raptors, his highlight coming in a fade to win the game in Atlanta, before “retiring”. He didn’t really retire, though. He stopped coming to work while the Raptors paid his salary (yes, it counted against the cap) and ironically enough, when Houston retired his jersey, it was the visiting Raptors who were in town. Yes, he was being paid by the Raptors as his number was being raised to the rafters.
This fairly recent entrant to this list was an enigma of sorts, he came in with a reputation of being a pure scorer, an image helped in large part by him having great performances against the Raptors. Once Colangelo’s 18-month chase for Belinelli was finally met with success, he was installed as the full-time backup shooting guard. He didn’t respond well to guaranteed minutes, and proceeded to take shots that would make Rex Champman blush. And you really need to be taking one-legged fadeaway threes to make Rex blush, but that’s exactly what Belinelli did. I’ve never seen a player pass up an easier shot for a more difficult one as consistently as Belinelli did. It was like he didn’t believe in points that were scored off of spot-up jumpers, instead he felt he owed it to himself and his family to take a dribble right into the defender, spin off his pivot foot so the defender had a better chance at contesting his shot, and then jump backwards while unleashing a fade, all the while falling down and gagging on his mouthguard. He lost his spot to Sonny Weems.
This ended in more tears than a Shakespearean tragedy, but it started all smiles. The fan vision was that Turkoglu would facilitate the offense and have a similar role to the one he had in Orlando, where he was key to the Magic’s drive to the finals. It only made sense. Unfortunately, the franchise’s plans for Turkoglu were for him to be a spot-up perimeter shooter who would “help” in running the offense by partnering with Calderon. That didn’t sit well with Turkoglu who responded to the scenario with a severe bout of indifference and laziness, his frustration culminating in a loss of words after a night in New York where he only uttered ‘Ball’ in a post-game interview. This was before he got into a fight with a girl, called in sick and went clubbing, and that’s all after he made this commercial which was a little too close to reality.
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