As I write this, the owners and players are negotiating a way to end the NBA lockout. Of course, by “negotiation” I mean Derek Fisher is violently nodding ‘yes’ to every word David Stern is saying, desperately trying to limit the damage to the players. What is that damage? According to Liston, it’s $82 million a week. I tend to believe Liston, mainly because he’s probably quoting a proper source, one which I can’t be bothered to research so there you go.
So the lockout will soon come to an end and Raptors fans everywhere will ask themselves the question, “Just who again plays for the Raptors?” Fear not, denizen, I am here to answer that question. Briefly:
Jose Calderon: You probably remember him, he’s that guy you used to really like and thought was one of Babcock’s best moves, then he got promoted, injured, demoted, promoted, injured, almost traded, injured, demoted, promoted and now he’s on the roster as the guy standing to make the most money this year. His offensive skills are pretty good, as for his defense it depends on who you ask. He’s basically somewhere between Braveheart and Fogel.
Andrea Bargnani: Former #1 pick who is either the guy holding the Raptors back from reaching that elusive 30-win plateau, or simply the greatest player to ever suit up a Raptors jersey since Vince Carter. He’s a center, no wait, he’s a power forward, I don’t know, what I do know is that he was our leading scorer which means he’s probably our best player, right? Again, depends on who you ask. Other than Calderon, he’s the longest serving Raptor.
Leandro Barbosa: The guy the Raptors acquired two seasons too late. Great backup shooting guard, who will probably be asked to do more than he’s capable of this coming season. You still see glimpses of his Phoenix days sometimes, but the colors aren’t as vibrant or dynamic. Still, he’s to be appreciated, if not for his unrelenting pace, then for his attempt to play at an unrelenting pace.
Amir Johnson: You might recall him as the guy we traded Carlos Delfino for. After a good year he was signed to a contract which many felt was too much, until he started producing more than others who made more money, now he’s part of the core. He’s got a great work-ethic great, his jumper is improving but still takes half the shot-clock to unleash, and his offensive skills are getting better, especially in the pick ‘n roll. He also rebounds and has a website.
Linas Kleiza: Another man deprived of a position, let’s call him a 3 1/2. He suffered a knee injury which cut short his season last year, he was scheduled to be back around this time and the lockout was seen as an aid to his recovery. Last I saw of him he was doing some TV commentary at EuroBasket, and after not having shaved for a few days, had a somewhat disheveled appearance. It should be mentioned he’s the last of the Colangelo mid-levels around. His basketball game is best described by the word hmmm.
Jerryd Bayless: Future point-guard or future Jarrett Jack? That is the question. Well, actually, the real questions are whether he can shoot the ball, or drive to the rim without his outlet pass knocking down Matt Devlin’s roast-beef sandwich. He took some big steps last year, by which I mean was called for travelling a lot. Haha…see what I did there? I’m just getting warmed up for this man, got a long season ahead. Yeah, Bayless. Good player, I think. Something tells me he’s a lifer as a backup, but I could be wrong.
DeMar DeRozan: As of today, he’s the centerpiece. No, not the cheap kind which at your friend’s wedding was the “prize” in a “game” at your table, the centerpiece of this franchise damn it. The good news is that he’s not got a bit of a jumper and gets to the rim. The bad news is that that’s all he might ever have. This year is all about taking a “wait and see” approach, so let’s wait. And see.
Ed Davis: He’s a left-handed power forward so he must be 1) better than Chris Bosh, 2) not as good as Chris Bosh but totally not a pussy like Chris Bosh, 3) potentially as good as Chris Bosh in three years, 4) a serviceable NBA player who any team would like to have. #2 is correct already, #3 isn’t saying that much, and #4 is almost a certainty.
James Johnson: Acquired from Chicago for a late first-rounder, Johnson has made the starting small forward position his own, mostly by playing very mediocre ball. Of course, that says more about Julian Wright and Sonny Weems than it does about Johnson, but there you have it. Kleiza is supposed to compete with him for the starting small forward spot, but I’m thinking James Johnson will win because he can kinda dribble without staring fixedly at the ball and back at the ground and back at the ball and back at the ground and back…
Sonny Weems: He’s playing power forward in Europe and is probably not playing for a team who will refer to him and his buddies as “Young Ones” because that would just be stupid.
Solomon Alabi: He was tearing it up at David Thorpe’s gym this summer. This tells me one of three things: 1) David Thorpe’s gym was empty, 2) David Thorpe’s gym is fully of crappy players, 3) Alabi became good. We shall wait. And see.
Reggie Evans: Free-agent who if the Raptors sign will result in half the fan-base cheering wildly and the other half yelling “But we already have four power forwards!”
Alexis Ajinca: Free-agent center who is rumoured to exist.
Joey Dorsey: See Reggie Evans.
Jonas Valanciunas: Lithuanian rookie who is seen as the light at the end of the tunnel, mostly because he kicked ass at the U-19 World Championships and was halfway decent at EuroBasket. Will not be playing for the Raptors this season.
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