It may seem ridiculous that we’re even talking about this seriously, and I maintain that forfeiting a first round pick this year is better than losing it in more plentiful draft years, but you can already hear the Tank Nation rumblings starting up again among some Raptors fans, and it’s hard to blame them for that. After all, that fact that a group of fans thinks losing as many games as possible at this time of the year is what’s best for the franchise shouldn’t be seen as a negative representation of their loyalty. The fact that fans have been reduced to this yet again instead of being able to watch meaningful games in March and April is the real issue, and that’s an indictment of the need for change at the top of this organization.
“Some people are different,” Gay said. “Personally, I’m the type of guy if there is basketball to be played, I want to be a part of it. I love the game, I love my job.” In truth, there is very little to be gained by Gay playing the final dozen games, outside of the obvious building of familiarity with some of his new teammates. “We know what he can do,” Casey said. “But what I would like to have is for him to be healthy to where we could get a rhythm and a style of play established with he and DeMar (DeRozan) and he and Kyle (Lowry) and that group more than anything else.”
“I don’t worry about the future,” he continued, “I worry about the present. I worry about; ‘did I do everything I should have [done] to make it to tomorrow?’ ‘Did I shoot enough shots, did I go hard today in practice?’ I worry about that.” With his contract set to expire upon the completion of this season, his hard work could finally pay off and land him his first multi-year NBA deal. Based on potential salary cap restrictions and an abundance of players at the wing positions, the Raptors may be unwilling or unable to extend him. However, his play over the last 12 months has likely turned enough heads to net him a hefty raise wherever he ends up this summer.
“I was lucky because I had veterans who came in and didn’t let me settle,” Morris Peterson explained when he was in town last weekend. “If I was sitting out in practice they were going to say something. Now you get young guys sitting out of practice, and you don’t get guys saying anything. I was scared to miss practice because I thought I was going to get beat up or something. Just little things like that make you listen to the guys in front of you.” When you look at Toronto’s current roster, there isn’t a single player who will call a teammate out for dogging it in practice or not playing up to the level Dwane Casey expects. The big story coming out of practice last week was that DeMar DeRozan video-bombed Amir Johnson during an interview. The kind of jovial, country-club mentality is something that has permeated the club the past few seasons. The tough leaders Peterson talked about who helped the team succeed back when Davis and Oakley were here because they set an example. Guys like Johnson, Rudy Gay, Aaron Gray and Telfair aren’t loud guys, and they would much rather have a good rapport with their teammates.
Lowry was great with the Houston Rockets in a contract season as he averaged a career-high 14.3 points in 2011. While the Raptors didn’t get any career-bests from the guard out of Villanova, they still were able to have a guard who sees the floor very well and shoots over 40% from the floor. I didn’t expect the Raptors to extend Lowry when the team had Jose Calderon on the roster, however now that Calderon got dealt to the Detroit Pistons I think the team is sold on the 27-year-old.
Still, it is tough to see similar criticism arising if Lowe had spent his time with the brain trust in Houston, Oklahoma City or San Antonio. Replace every reference to the Raptors with “Rockets” in the ESPN piece and every stathead from MIT to Caltech would have been fawning over Daryl Morey‘s expanding genius. Heck, they might have called an emergency Sloan Sports Analytics Conference just to discuss the brilliance of Houston’s approach and their refreshingly open attitude about teaching the rest of the world the “right way” to analyze the game. The point of all this is not that the Raptors were wise to give their SportVU system its day in the sun, or that the Rockets are doing something fundamentally wrong. Morey certainly knows what he is doing in constructing the Rockets’ roster. Colangelo, judging by the results, does not.