After the Lowry post, Blake Murphy emailed me this, explaining why Lowry looked so bad:

Re: your Lowry piece, the Rockets only had 2 above-average 3-pt shooters in the rotation, plus their centers (Sam & Camby) are complete voids offensively. I have some faith in his ability to improve his playmaking out of the p&r with our personnel, both because of a team more built for it (more shooters, theoretically, JoVal, AB>Scola) and because he has great incentive to do so – with 2yrs left on his deal and his desire to be seen as a PG1, seems like the type to be highly motivated to fix areas where criticized and/or where his PG2 excels (in this case, Jose in the p&r).

Blake generally knows what he’s talking about, so he’s probably right. Fear not Republic, we have signed a good point guard, not the next version of Jarrett Bayless.

Yesterday, Marc Stein, posted this neat bit of insight regarding how the Raptors wooed Nash (this type of insight should really be coming from our own media people but whatever):

Raptors president and general manager Bryan Colangelo was the first caller to get through shortly after 12:01 a.m. Officials from the Knicks, Heat, Lakers, Mavericks and Nets dialed in soon thereafter. And with his client sitting in such close proximity after their late-night meal, Duffy offered each team that rang an opportunity to speak directly to Nash.

It didn’t seem like much at the time, but that’s when Nash and Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak had their first chat. Kupchak let Duffy know that he was well aware of Nash’s comments to Stephen A. Smith on ESPN New York 98.7 just days before about how “hard” it would be “to put on a Lakers jersey” after all of the Suns’ playoffs battles with Kobe Bryant and Co. When Kupchak explained that he “had to call anyway,” Duffy thanked him and assured him that he was wise to check in, dismissing Nash’s quotes as “media hype.”

Yet that’s as far as things went with the Lakers on Day 1. Face-to-face meetings were quickly arranged with the two most obvious serious suitors to get the Nash sweepstakes officially underway: Toronto and New York.

The Raptors were first up at 10:30 a.m., with a seven-strong contingent of team officials arriving on a cross-country flight arranged by Raptors co-owner Larry Tanenbaum. With Raptors assistant coach Eric Hughes getting married that weekend in Pasadena, Calif., Tanenbaum made his private jet available to transport Colangelo, Raptors coach Dwane Casey, Nash’s former Team Canada coach Jay Triano and the rest of the group to the other side of the country as quickly as possible overnight.

Tanenbaum also provided his ritzy Central Park apartment to serve as the venue for what Duffy described as a “big presentation.” The food was lavish and the contract offer rich, but the video compilation Colangelo ordered up for the occasion made an impression on Nash that moved him more than a three-year, $36 million pitch ever could — largely because Wayne Gretzky was the narrator.

Rumbles that Gretzky, one of Nash’s boyhood heroes, would be involved in the Raptors’ Nash pitch leaked out through the Toronto media before the two parties got together, but “involved” was understating it. The Great One’s unmistakable voice was the backdrop for a compilation of clips and interviews that traced Nash’s lifelong journey from young basketball dreamer on faraway Victoria Island in British Columbia to two-time MVP with the Suns, hitting all the stops (Santa Clara, Canada’s fairy-tale run at the 2000 Olympics and more) in between and promising a Gretzky-esque legacy if he’d join the Raptors now.

More than one person in the room would later say that Nash was fighting back tears watching it all.

“We all were,” Duffy said. “It was like watching a Hall of Fame video.

“They wanted us to close the deal right then.”

Colangelo’s approach was reminiscent of the full-court press that greeted Nash from Phoenix on the opening day of free agency back in 2004 — when another extra-large traveling party descended upon Dallas to swipe Nash away from Mark Cuban’s Mavericks — with the bonus of knowing that the inspired Gretzky wrinkle took the whole operation to a new level. The difference this time, eight years later, is that Nash simply wasn’t ready to move that quickly. He couldn’t decide that fast knowing that the familiar soil of Toronto, home to Canada’s only NBA franchise, was an address far away from his kids.

A big presentation to Nash about Nash, this was a very interesting move. I guess when you can’t sell winning you sell nostalgia. Let’s leave aside whether Nash was a good fit or not (he wasn’t), give credit to Colangelo for going as all out as he can get in trying to get the man he wanted. As I was reading that piece by Stein and they got to the part about Gretzky’s voice coming on, the first thing that came to mind was cheeeeesy! but hey, you got to play the cards you’re dealt (except BC’s dealing his own cards).

Some talk yesterday from the ESPN article saying that Amir Johnson is the likeliest of amnesty cuts, and that the Raptors intend to play Jose Calderon along with Kyle Lowry:

The Raptors now say they intend to keep Calderon to play him with Kyle Lowry. Using the amnesty clause on Amir Johnson remains a possibility, especially since he would likely be picked up on waivers, which would save the team additional money.

Amnestying Johnson would be a dumb move, his contract is actually reasonable and the guy plays hard, the person that should be amnestied is Linas Kleiza because we’re jammed at the four, and he’s too slow to play the three (and we’re jammed there too with JJ and Fields). But we know that’s not going to happen since Valanciunas needs his national team friend to get him adjusted to North American life. From what I’ve read, Valanciunas is already quite “Americanized” and might not need a dedicated escort. On the other hand, unless the Raptors have someone targeted to spend Kleiza’s money on (assuming he gets picked up off waivers), there’s no reason to cut him either.

Let’s look at the remaining major free agents: O.J. Mayo, Raymond Felton, Courtney Lee, Chris Kaman, Antawn Jamison, Carl Landry, Delonte West, Randy Foye, Lou Williams and J.R. Smith (hopefully this list is accurate, I didn’t check each name again). Of these guys the one that might peak your interest is Carl Landry, the 28-year PF with a nose for the ball and penchant for playing bigger than his 6’9″. If the Raptors can offload Ed Davis and amnesty Kleiza, I’d sign on for a little Landry action. However, he made $8.5M last season so there’s probably not enough money to lure him.

The Raptors have 13 players on the roster (including Fields and Acy), so there are a couple roster spots to fill out. I would think the rotation players are all accounted for and stand as:

Starters: Valanciunas, Bargnani, Fields, DeRozan, Lowry
Second Unit: Gray, A. Johnson, J. Johnson, Ross, Calderon
Fodder: Davis, Acy, Kleiza

This gif sums it up. As with any season of late, excitement is not naturally induced in the Raptors fan but constructed, and looking at the above lineup I can see a fuzzy picture of where this team is headed: a season where if they get a good year out of Bargnani and DeRozan, stay injury-free, get production out of Lowry and Fields, and have Valanciunas do the rookie dirty work, they might enter the last 10 games of the season with a shot at the playoffs.