Category Archives: Basketball

The Leafs and Raptors need a Terry

A little over three years ago, I wrote an article about the General Managers of the Leafs, Raptors, and Rock. The Leafs had just hired Brian Burke as their new GM, and it seemed that the Toronto media had already decided that he was going to save the team; in fact, I facetiously referred to him as Our Saviour for a while after that. Bryan Colangelo had been the Raptors’ GM for a year or two, and had done a pretty good job of turning around the mess that Rob Babcock had left behind. The Rock still had Mike Kloepfer as GM, and the team sucked.

My article suggested that the Rock needed to get rid of Kloepfer and hire themselves a “Brian” who would overhaul the team and make them not suck, which Burke and Colangelo were obviously about to do with the Leafs and Raptors. One of the suggestions I gave for who could take over was Terry Sanderson, and another was Jamie Batley. Ironically, less then four hours after I posted that article, the Rock did fire coach Glenn Clark, who was at least part of the problem, and Batley was hired as coach. The rest of the problem was solved at the end of the season when Mike Kloepfer resigned. A month later Sanderson was re-hired as GM. The next season (2010), the Rock went to the Championship game and in 2011, they won it all. We’re now midway through the 2012 season, and the Rock are tied for first place in the Eastern division. I’d call that mission accomplished.

I could pat myself on the back for predicting the Rock’s next course of action (kind of – I suggested Sanderson though I said it was unlikely), but the original point of my article was lost. It wasn’t so much that the Rock needed a new GM,  it was that the Rock needed to do what the Leafs and Raptors did and replace their rookie GM who screwed the team up with a proven veteran who could turn it around. The Rock did that, but the Leafs and Raptors haven’t had nearly the success that we all envisioned when Our Saviours came to power.

In the 3 seasons prior to Burke’s being hired, the Leafs had 91, 83, and 81 points and missed the playoffs every year. In the two full seasons since, they had 74 and 85 points and missed the playoffs every year. This year they’re on pace for 83 points and missing the playoffs. They don’t have any first-round draft picks for a couple of years because of the Kessel trade, so the rebuilding process will be continuing for a long while.

Update: My timing was off. The picks involved in the Kessel deal were for the last two drafts, so that’s done now. Thanks Faisal for the clarification!

Bryan Colangelo was hired by the Raptors in February 2006, six years and a week ago. In the first couple of years, Colangelo looked brilliant. The Raptors finished first in the Atlantic division the very next year, and Sam Mitchell was named Coach of the Year and Colangelo Executive of the Year. The Raptors lost in the first round of the playoffs, but made the playoffs again the next year. They lost again in the first round, and then things went south quickly. They haven’t made the playoffs since and haven’t really been much of a threat at all. Last season they were a hopeless 22-60 and this year they’re not much better at 11-25.

Barring miracles, the Leafs and Raptors are not likely to win championships during the Burke / Colangelo eras. I’m not suggesting firing them now, though I think the Colangelo era has run its course and unless the Raptors start turning things around on the floor very soon, Colangelo should be done at the end of the year. I don’t think Burke has done a terrible job; he’s acquired some players who have been great like Phaneuf and Lupul. The fact that the goaltenders play like Turk Broda one week and a turkey sandwich the next isn’t entirely Burke’s fault. I’d give him another year or two to right the ship but unless obvious improvement is made, he’s gone too.

Three years ago, I said that the Rock needed to find their Brian, and they did. Now the Leafs and Raptors need to find their Terry Sanderson.


It’s not the humidity, it’s the Heat

So LeBron James is joining the Miami Heat next year with his buddies Dwayne Dewayne Dywane Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. A lot of people have gone completely apeshit over his decision to leave Cleveland for South Beach, which I don’t quite get. The Cavaliers negotiated a contract with James which allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2009-2010 season. Having fulfilled his contract he earned the right to become an UFA, and by playing as well as he did he earned the privilege of choosing where he wanted to play next year. I can’t blame James for making the decision he did, especially after Wade re-signed and Bosh announced he was heading to Miami as well. It’s not like he asked for a trade or asked the Cavs to let him out of his contract or something. Do Cavs fans have a right to be disappointed about LeBron’s decision? Absolutely, just as Raptors fans are disappointed about Bosh leaving. But I don’t get the hatred and talk of “disloyalty”. Players just don’t play their entire careers with one team anymore, so expecting LeBron to is just not realistic.

What I can blame him for is the ridiculous way he announced his decision. Seriously LeBron, you needed a one hour special on prime time TV to say “Miami”? Chris Bosh announced his decision with a two-word tweet. I do have to say that I did watch part of the special – up until LeBron announced where he was going. I did feel almost guilty about watching it though
like watching a train wreck.

Adding to the whole circus, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert wrote an open letter to Cavaliers fans lambasting James, calling his decision to leave Cleveland “cowardly betrayal” and a “shocking act of disloyalty”. This letter might be the most childish and least professional thing I’ve ever seen in pro sports. However narcissistic and self-promotional the TV special was, Gilbert added a level of immaturity to this whole episode that wasn’t there before. Don’t forget, Shaquille O’Neal plays for the Cavaliers now (or did last year, anyway). Shaq was drafted by Orlando, won Rookie of the Year with them, and led them to the finals (though they didn’t win), and then left as a free agent. Sound familiar? Cavs management didn’t seem too concerned with his lack of loyalty when they traded for him.

I don’t watch a lot of basketball on TV (the occasional Raptors game and the Finals are about it), but if the Heat play in Cleveland next season, I might check that one out.

Why Shaquille or LeBron could become Raptors

Take a look at the Raptors lineup. Not a lot of typical North American names on there: Bargnani, Nesterovic, Calderon, Garbajosa, Brezec, Kapono, Delfino. Moon and Baston are not too bad, but with first names like Jamario and Maceo, they fit in as well. Even Darrick Martin’s first name is spelled weird. This must have been why Fred Jones was traded, and I guess even Juan Dixon wasn’t “ethnic” enough.

The only players left are Chris Bosh, T.J. Ford, Anthony Parker, Kris Humphries, and Joey Graham. Look for one of these guys to be traded to Indiana for Ike Diogu, or maybe to Chicago for Andres Nocioni and Thabo Sefolosha. The rule for the Raptors: If we can’t pronounce your name, we want you on our team.

Pitching, hitting, and gambling

During the baseball offseason, I wrote that I didn’t understand why the Jays had signed Frank Thomas and Matt Stairs and had not done anything about their pitching staff. Obviously, I said, hitting wasn’t the problem last year, pitching was, so going out and improving the hitting while leaving the pitching alone didn’t make sense. So now, we’re halfway through the season, and what do we have?


  • One hitter over .300, only two others over .280
  • Five people with higher slugging percentages than Thomas and Wells
  • Eight people with higher on-base percentages than Wells
  • The Jays are 21st out of 30 in AVG and OBP, though 9th in SLG, and 29th in SB


  • Four pitchers with ERAs under 3.00, and eleven under 5.00
  • The Jays are 15th of 30 in team ERA, tied for 2nd in complete games, and right around 15th in a number of other pitching categories.
  • This is without Ryan and Chacin, and Halladay and Barnett have been out for part of the year as well.

Bottom line? The pitching ain’t the problem anymore. It’s not outstanding, but the rookies and young guys have stepped up and done a fine job. The hitters have not. Vernon Wells and Frank Thomas are being paid way too much money to have the stats that they do.

In another blog entry from a while ago, I talked about Pete Rose and how the fact that he never bet against his own team is irrelevant, gambling on sports while you are involved in them is bad in general. I said that if he gets into debt or some kind of trouble with the mob, they could ask him to throw (or at least influence) games for them as part of the debt repayment. Lo and behold, yesterday it was announced that an NBA referee has been suspended and will likely be arrested for getting in gambling trouble with the mob, and being forced to negatively affect the outcomes of games that he was working. This is just the nightmare situation that all of the major professional sports leagues have been dreading (though probably expecting) for years.

Raptors game #3

I went to the Raptors game against the New Jersey Nets tonight, my third Raptor game this season. In the first game, the Raptors led 2-0, then Atlanta tied it up and went ahead, and never lost the lead again. In the second game, they had a 2-point lead around 24-22 or so, but then lost the lead and never got it back again. So when the Raptors had a five point lead early in the game, I was pumped. Sure it was only 10-5 maybe 2 minutes in, and sure, this is basketball, where a 10-point lead can vanish within a minute, but still. I was kind of right – the Raps had 12-14 point leads several times, and almost every time, the Nets clawed back to within 1 or 2; they even tied it up at least once. The Raptors persevered (even without CB4), and came out on top, 90-78. Their defence was much better in this game than in the previous two, and I thought (being the basketball novice that I am) that T.J. Ford played really well.

Ex-Raptor Vince Carter was booed every time he touched the ball, and whenever he took a shot and missed, the cheers were louder than when the Raptors scored. One time, Vince even attempted a three-pointer and missed the net, rim, and backboard entirely; the crowd went nuts. Vince — an air ball? Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Vince ended up with a positively mediocre 12 points. Fans were yelling “Carter sucks”, and a couple of years ago, I would have been right there with them, but tonight I just didn’t feel the hate. He’s no longer the slimy bastard who admitted that he gave less than his all for the last year or so of his stay in Toronto, now he’s just a guy who used to play here. It’s not like he’s Roger Clemens or anything. Oh, and Alonzo Mourning, who was traded to the Raptors as part of the Carter deal but told them he would not play, and forced them to buy him out for $10 million, is still a scum-sucking dirtbag.

This was the third major sporting event that I’ve been to where something exciting happened to the person next to me:

  1. A bunch of years ago, I was sitting in the 500-level of SkyDome during a Jays game with Gail and another couple we knew, Mark and Kathy. We were way out (and I mean way the fuck out) in right field, just inside the foul pole. Mark jokingly mentioned the remote possibility of someone hitting a ball to us and I swear to God, the next batter hit a long foul ball that landed in the empty seat in front of Mark, who grabbed the ball.
  2. At a Rock game a few years ago, my buddy Jeff (with whom I went to the Raptors game tonight) was sitting next to me, and caught a t-shirt thrown from the field.
  3. At every Raptors game (and every Leafs and Rock game too), they pick two fans at random from the upper section and move them down to the front row (it’s the “Move of the Game”, sponsored by a moving company). Tonight, the chosen two people were sitting right next to me. Man, that would have been suh-weet.

Squeak squeak swish

I went to my first Raptors game in about 10 years last night – Raptors vs. the Atlanta Hawks. Last time I went to a Raptor game was around ’96 or ’97 with my old company – we went to a Raptors-Celtics game (fitting, considering the amount of time we spent in Boston) at the SkyDome. They, of course, play at the ACC now, and I know a little more about the game than I did then, which was precisely nothing.

I’m still no basketball expert by any stretch, but I can recognize bad defence when I see it, and the Raps were brutal in the first half. Chris Bosh couldn’t hit anything, and I think he might have had 4 points at halftime. He did have a bunch of rebounds though, but that doesn’t matter much if you miss the follow-up. The Raps quickly took a 2-0 lead in the first, then Atlanta tied it, went ahead, and never lost the lead for the rest of the game. The Raptors played better in the second half, and got to within 2 points of the Hawks a couple of times, but no closer.

I’m going to two more Raptors games next month – one with Ryan, and one with my friend Jeff. Jeff co-owns season tickets to the Leafs, and he’s taken me to a number of Leaf games, and never lets me pay for the ticket, so I think a Raptors game is the least I can do!

I’m just here to blog

I heard an interview with Morris Peterson of the Raptors the other day. He was talking about the fact that Chris Bosh was injured, and how the rest of the team has to play better because of it. During the interview, it struck me — why do basketball players always feel it necessary during interviews to remind you of what sport they play? Whenever you hear an interview, you get things like:

  • Yes, our star player is injured, so the rest of the team needs to step up and just play basketball
  • I’m not going to talk about that [some controversial issue], I just want to play basketball
  • I don’t know why I was traded, I’m just here to play basketball

You never hear hockey players talk about how they “just want to play hockey” or baseball players say they are “just here to play baseball”. Come to think of it, I have heard football players say stuff like that too – This weekend’s game is going to be tough, but we just have to be ready and play football. Thanks for the clarification, buddy, I thought perhaps we were going to have a spelling bee instead.

Showin’ Shaq the money, and goodbye to Joe and Gary

The Miami Heat signed Shaquille O’Neal to a 5-year $100 million contract today. This will actually result in a pay cut for Shaq, because his old deal (which he has now opted out of because of the new deal) would have seen him make over $30 million next season, but it gives the Heat more flexibility to be able to sign more players and still stay under the cap. The quote from Shaq that I thought was funny:

This contract allows me to address all of my family’s long-term financial goals while allowing the Heat the ability to acquire those players that we need to win a championship…

Sorry, Shaq, but if you haven’t addressed your family’s long-term financial goals by now, 12 seasons into your hall-of-fame multi-million-dollar-per-year career, either your financial goals are a touch lofty, or you really suck at financial planning.

So Gary Roberts and Joe Neiuwendyk (yes, I had to look up the spelling) have signed with the Florida Panthers, and so will not be back with the Leafs next season. I liked both of them, but I can’t say I’m really all that broke up about it – both of them are still good players, but well past their prime and too expensive. I’m sure players that are just as good, younger, and cheaper are out there — one of whom is Jeff O’Neill, who the Leafs just signed. Now if I could only convince the Leafs not to resign the vastly overpriced Tie Domi (unless he agrees to a big-time pay cut), I’d be a happy guy.