To be fair, it’s hard to keep the Raptors haters straight. There are just so many. Basketball writers, entire sites dedicated to impartial NBA coverage, even some Raptors beat writers: haters. Players on rival teams, players on teams not particularly in any kind of rivalry with Toronto, players with their forwarded contracts barely in the hands of a new GM, desperately grasping for a parting shot (hint: starts with a ‘D’ and ends in ‘eMarre Carroll’), players who land in a beach city and cite sudden weight loss as the result of a rigorous new training system rather than living where it’s summer 24/7 (rhymes with ‘Blames Swanson’): haters.
The list goes on: coaches, sports broadcast personalities, some dude in your office who just started watching basketball last week, your dog when you skimp on its evening walks because you don’t want to miss tip-off, Leafs fans, Toronto FC fans, and honestly? Sometimes yourself. Haters, all.
But for the most part, that kind of trash talk is just that—garbage. It stinks for a bit and if it’s particularly ripe it might hang around the air for a while but for the most part, it’s easy to put in the proper mental receptacle and move on from. Being a Raptors fan, it comes with the territory. In the immortal words of DeMar DeRozan, “It’s nothing new.”
That’s why, as a seasoned sifter of trash talk, I was surprised when the tweet by Rockets GM, Daryl Morey, didn’t just get compacted along with the rest of the mental refuse piles I’d accumulated last week.
For one, I heard it late. Which is weird because I pride myself on getting unduly riled up at stupid things said in and around basketball at all times. But it was primarily because Morey’s “comments” (tweeted URL) were so off the mark, so insular, and failed at the multiple levels he’d hoped, that he truly entered a new territory well beyond the one marked within the familiar lines of haters. He’d become a basketball loser.
In a pro-sport with so many opinions fluctuating by the hour it’s a difficult feat. Everybody is capable of being a bonehead sometimes, but a basketball loser is different. A basketball loser has to have all excuses and capacity to know better, and to still insist on behaving like a moron. More than that, there has to be some real intent in the judgment one passes, and in Morey’s case this was in his weird joke-not-joke of implying not just that he was one up on everyone else—including NY Times writer Scott Cacciola, who might I add released his story on the Raptors retool the very same day I did—but that he had known all along some secret of the universe that he was going to let everyone in on when it came to, of all things, the Toronto Raptors, albeit smarmily.
Like, guy, we get it. We’re fans and writers and fans who write and believe me, we all understand intimately the sweet, frustrating, infuriating, wonderful, tireless, “oh god not again” nature of this team. Daryl Morey did not do us or frankly any other basketball person paying one mote of attention any favours. What’s more is that it didn’t even work! He tweeted a Wikipedia URL and then, five minutes later, tweeted a full explanation of what his ultra casual link was supposed to clearly illuminate the first time.
A common explanation for the perceived effect is that athletes are generally featured after an exceptionally good performance. Their future performance is likely to display regression toward the mean.
— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) November 25, 2017
And it doesn’t just fail because it states the obvious in such an overwrought, unnecessary way—who doesn’t understand that an athlete, that anyone, is more likely to get featured after a hot run, a good performance, or generally perceived as being successful—it’s that he’s not even right. What Morey suggests is that the mean the Raptors will inevitably regress to is a bad one, or more specifically, blowing it. Case in point, a glowing NYT feature (and an even more blinding Raptors Republic one) outlining all the ways Toronto is achieving success with a new mindset, focus on the core, developing the bench, and trying new things. But this is just generally a true thing, happening right now, and it doesn’t seem overly plausible, or even smart, for the team to somehow regress to the style in which they were competing last year. Moreover, they literally are not the same team. There have been key factors—Corey Joseph, Patrick Patterson—that were shed during the summer, and crucial additions—C.J. Miles, OG Anunoby, Jakob Poeltl—plus the sharpening focus on the existing parts and how to best use them that underline where the focus on the team reset has really crystalized.
So while Morey got a lot wrong with a seemingly asinine series of tweets, what he missed the mark on by a mile was assuming he even knew the so-called mean that the Raptors would return to. He doesn’t. No one really does. The team has shifted so far from their old core gameplay that they’re circling an entirely new centre. However Toronto closes out this season the path to that place will have been so radically different—it already is—that there’s no going back to the habits of season’s past.
It’s nice, though, that Daryl Morey, by trying to appear the cleverest man who ever liked stats, exposed his own mean in the process and moved right back to it. Plus, the Rockets lost.