Two weeks ago, Raptors coach Dwane Casey sent someone to Thornhill to find the rock.
The employee tasked with identifying the team’s new talisman, Graeme McIntosh, was given some rough measurements and a few lines of century-old verse.
“When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps 100 times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the 101st blow it will split in two, and I know it wasn’t the last blow that did it, but all the blows that have gone before.”
It’s uplifting stuff, but not much help when you’re standing in a muddy graveyard of landscaping detritus just off Hwy. 407 trying to find the only vaguely rectangular boulder in the spot with a flat bottom.
Eventually, McIntosh found something that looked about right. He texted Casey a cellphone pic for approval. They got the rock with delivery thrown in for under $500. That’s less than a buck a kilo — reasonable money for a genuine pagan icon.
On media day, the Raptors were already speaking of Casey’s idea and his motto — “Pound the Rock” — in reverential tones. Casey introduced the new good luck charm and its backstory during a team meeting on the first day of camp.
Since the athletic mind is primed for allegory, it was a hit.
“I loved it,” said guard Leandro Barbosa. “And you know what the funny thing is? There’s a real rock!”
Some were keen on the mystical end of things.
“I don’t know about that,” said Jerryd Bayless suspiciously, when asked about the meaning of the rock. “I don’t know if I’m supposed to talk about that.”
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The veterans on hand just liked the motivational kung-fu of their new boss.
“Dwane Casey is a mastermind,” Jamaal Magloire said, drawing out the key word.
Going forward, all huddles will break with, “One, two, three, pound the rock.” Players have been instructed to touch the rock going in and out of the dressing room. They’ll play 33 home games. So that’s 66 blows per player. As expected, the rock won’t be ready to split until some point next season.
It’s not a new idea. The quotation comes from Jacob Riis, a sort of 19th-century Oprah Winfrey. The Miami Heat have pounded Riis’ fictional rock. San Antonio also has its own rock.
“San Antonio’s rock is outside their building. I thought we should bring the rock inside,” Casey said Monday, in a tone suggesting a good idea raised to the level of inspiration.
Who’s going outside to pound the rock during the winter? Nobody. Toronto has the league’s first 365-day-a-year rock.
Initially, Casey hoped to stand the rock up in the middle of the Raptors’ dressing room. It’s only a foot across at its base and about waist high. It weighs 1,300 pounds. Someone pointed out that it might tip over and pulverize a $50 million foot.
So instead they leaned it up against a wall just inside the dressing room door. It still looks a little precarious. Sometime this week, building ops will get around to planting a couple of anchors around it.
Magical objects in sport are an old idea, but few Raptors could remember any personal talismans. The exception was Linas Kleiza. His alma mater, Missouri, apparently has more rituals than the Freemasons.
“There was a sword,” Kleiza said.
A sword? A real sword?
“Yes, we carried it around,” Kleiza said without the slightest hint of mirth. “Oh, we did all sorts of things.”
What other sorts of things?
“Oh, just things,” Kleiza said, retreating into the Jerryd Bayless world of ideas best left unexplained.
For some reason, all of these magical objects must be dangerous. Swords. Rocks. The Jacksonville Jaguars had a motto, “Keep chopping wood,” and props, a log and an axe, in the dressing room. They had it until punter Chris Hanson got a little excited and accidentally planted the axe in his leg.
Memo to building ops: Put the rock on top of your work-order list.
But be careful while you’re doing it. Right now, it’s just a dangerous slab.
If the Raptors go anywhere during Casey’s reign, it will be transformed into The Rock.