That foul on Pascal Siakam against Portland. When it happened, William Lou lost his mind and stared down patrons at Betty’s looking to avenge Paskal’s fall, perhaps even calling for a public execution via guillotine. On the other end, a calm and composed Andrew Damelin muttered, “Meh, it’s a common foul”. After various reviews, the latter upped his review of the incident to a flagrant one, but not without the caveat of referencing the play through the lense of the 90s, where it was 100% a common foul.
There’s no debate on how much the NBA has changed, and seeing different generations view the same play, some with the benefit of history, and others with a more modern viewpoint supplied by youth in vastly different ways, is thoroughly refreshing. Sports has always been a continuum where transitions happen seamlessly and almost invisibly. Mindsets change and perceptions are altered, kind of like being on magic mushrooms.
Chris Bosh was another guy that history misplaced. The calls for Chris Bosh to gain 20 pound and post-up guys were loud (including myself), because that’s what you were supposed to do with a PF. Bosh loved the jumper. The jumper didn’t love Bosh. That didn’t deter Bosh from loving the jumper. Eventually, she said yes and Bosh became a transitional, maybe even a transcendental player. Some might say he’d be MVP in a league like today. In his Toronto days, he was being asked to move closer to the basket when the game was moving away from it. Few recognized that shift until after it happened. That’s just how things go. Those who recognized it and pushed for it are innovators.
The narrative that Bosh couldn’t carry a team was also strong, and often held against him. The narrative was true, and also unfair. Not many can do that. Of all the Raptors stars to date, Chris Bosh played harder and more consistent than all of them.
We’re now seeing guys like Brook Lopez and Jonas Valanciunas transform their game with good results. For JV, the transition probably started a year or two too late, but to his credit, he’s committed to it. It’s hard to reinvent yourself in any profession, and perhaps professional sports is the most difficult – acquiring physical skills midway through your career when you’re conditioned to a certain style is daunting. Lopez and Valanciunas, the former also motivated by a contract and the latter by sheer will to be better, need to be given tremendous credit for inspecting and adapting. If there’s one guy on this team that’s willing to do anything for the team, it’s Valanciunas. He doesn’t care about stats, minutes or starting. Just helping the team. It’s how he was raised, how he played in Eastern Europe, it’s what his coaches instilled in him. It’s an unshakeable and underappreciated quality.
Kyle Lowry is shit. Kyle Lowry is awesome. Kyle Lowry is hurt. Kyle Lowry is a choker. Kyle Lowry is The Raptors. Getting torched by Jrue Holiday, D’Angelo Russell, and Malcolm Brogdon doesn’t change that. There’s an intangible in Lowry that the Raptors can’t do without. I can’t describe it. He’s the connective tissue that keeps this organism alive. As much as from a talent perspective there are better options, something (which I also can’t describe) says that without him the Raptors crumble. Maybe it’s the years of sweat that he’s already poured into the franchise that have to account for something. It surely can’t end like this. Without a product at the end. There has to be a product. A meaningful one which we can remember fondly. It can’t be a sweep, or getting blocked in Game 7. There has to be something else before this story ends and it has to be memorable for the right reasons. It simply has to.
More Andrew Damelin insights – Chris Boucher has a chance. Leave the stats aside, leave the G-League domination to the side, what I liked hearing about him is this: when he gets challenged by guys trying to take him up in the D-League, the guy relishes the response. And responds. He doesn’t back down. Contrast this with Bruno Caboclo, all the potential in the world but with the will of a wilting water lily. Stacking up on athletic types with wingspans and speed has always been a thing to do, overlaying those types with talent has been tricky. The Raptors have them in abundance and Boucher just may be a supplement to the potential (and eventual?) Siakam/OG/Fred rebuild. My money’s on him.
The quality of television analysis provided by Sportsnet and TSN remains disappointing. The same old faces relaying the same old messages. Three keys to the game? Offensive, defense, and rebounding? So braindead that it’s insulting to the viewer. It’s not for lack of supply of good analysts, though. There’s plenty of people who should be up for a chance – on the newspaper and television side. Much like we reset rosters and do a re-build, the same should be done on the media coverage side. The fans deserve it.
I’m not thinking about whether Kawhi will stay or go. Question becomes why I don’t think about Kawhi staying or going. In the past I’d been obsessed about whether Damon, T-Mac, Vince, or Bosh would re-sign or not. What’s different now? Three things: 1) As cliche as it sounds, it’s living in the moment and enjoying what you have, and since what you have is very enjoyable, it makes it easier to enjoy it and not worry about the future – kind of like being on magic mushrooms, 2) The team actually, for the first time ever, being a legitimate contender to go to the NBA finals which mutes out the uncertainty and replaces it with a focus on a short-term goal, and 3) The security that if things don’t work out, there’s still a healthy core to fall back on.