All of the Toronto Raptors are out in Las Vegas. It’s funny how team functions in that city seem to be easy to get a good turnout for. Jonas Valanciunas is there, Dwane Casey and Masai Ujiri are there, and the team’s marquee free-agent signing, DeMarre Carroll, was in the house as well for the team’s Summer League opener on Friday.
Carroll joined the NBA TV broadcast in the fourth quarter, as the Raptors were steam-rolling the defending Summer League champion Sacramento Kings. Among other topics that have been covered ad nauseam by this point, Carroll was asked if he thinks he can fill some of the “it” void that Paul Pierce identified prior to the Raptors’ playoff series against the Washington Wizards.
“We’ll see Paul Pierce again, we’ll see if he say that then,” Carroll said.
The quote doesn’t mean a whole lot, of course – Pierce is now in the Western Conference with the Los Angeles Clippers, and the Raptors will only see them twice in the regular seasons (and maybe seven times in the NBA Finals). I tweeted it out (incorrectly using “again” in place of “then” – apologies, DeMarre) and Pierce stans got defensive about it, which, sure, they’re entitled, I suppose. And to be entirely fair, Pierce kind of owns one over Carroll, as his infamous “I called game” shot came with Carroll on the bench.
But that’s not really the point here. The point is that Carroll, in his stoic way, is winning the fan base over quote by quote. Granted the “JYD 2.0” title by Jerome Williams, the Junkyard Dog always seemed the type of player Toronto fans would fall in love with. He’s fought through a ton of adversity to get where he is, he’s a defense-first player who brings the requisite toughness fans generally demand here. And he’s definitely not scared of talking a bit of trash, it would seem.
Here’s Carroll to Sportsnet’s Dave Zarum, describing a light-bulb moment in 2011:
That was when I took that jump. That’s when I realized that I could play at a high level, because I was in there playing with guys like Paul Pierce- back when he was still Paul Pierce- Kevin Garnett, Paul George, Tyson Chandler, Elton Brand, the list goes on. Paul Pierce and KG was like ‘We’re going to go back and talk to Danny Ainge about bringing you to Boston because we really need that toughness on our team.’
“Back when he was still Paul Pierce” !!!
Look, none of this matters, at all. The Raptors won’t have a rivalry with Pierce any longer, and Pierce has decidedly gotten the upper hand over the last two rounds. It’s what it signals about Carroll, his personality, and his potential place within the context of this team and this city that’s fun.