I can remember off-seasons, and not that long ago, when information, particularly Raptor-related in nature, simply dried up long before August arrived. Now there is still a fair amount of material being generated, discussions in various media corners, and some expectations of still more news to come. It seems to be the season of ranking the off-season moves of each NBA team, and soon there will be rankings of expected records for a season that is yet to begin. Yes - it is nice to get through the summer months with something to gnaw on, but I strongly dislike the way the game all-too-often gets looked at during this span when nothing happens on the floor.
There is too much emphasis on statistical wizardry, and far too much analysis of players as lone individuals. Turkoglu has been thought of as overpaid due to his age and his production peaking years ago. He’s 30. Why do I remember so many solid NBA players having their greatest successes post-30? And why does anyone look at a single individual’s production as if it was unconnected to the other four guys that shared the floor with him at the same time? Hedo has been on six 50+ win teams in his nine years of playing in this league. He knows how to join forces with his teammates to win consistently. So could Dr. Jack Ramsay please take over the internet and tell me how he helps my team, and what my team needs to do make sure his best years are still to come? And kind Dr. Jack, could you please wear one of those great pant suits from the 70’s? No?
Well let me try, and let me begin with his ability to simply execute plays, without panicking, be it in a system of tremendous ball movement with the Kings; or a much simpler offense in Disneyville, where he needed to be a part of spacing out the floor and creating within the spaces that were afforded to him. In both cases he learned to read and react and performed well within a fairly free style of play. He’s going to be good playing alongside players with a similar, unselfish mindset. And that is what he should find here, with a chance to team up with another Chris Webber calibre of player and force teams into bad matchups while forming something that could look like the baby that his Kings and his Magic might make if they had…you know…fertilised a basketball. It would seem to have been a factor in his choosing Toronto over Portland. And with depth added to the roster defensively, his defensive abilities should not be anything that hurts the team.
Overpaid? That’s a little silly to suggest considering that Portland was already willing to pay him about as much. So how impossible would it really be to see him as a tradable commodity if that is where the team needs to go? I’m really looking forward to seeing how truly valuable he can be here while part of a pretty strong starting lineup and a complete and well-balanced bench. Dr. Jack would surely give some indication of how he thought Triano might make it all work, and what might need particular attention. I’d really like to see some of that. I’d like someone with the know-how, to get inside the head of Triano and distill some of the thoughts that might be rolling around in there. Instead we get endless rankings that always end up proven horribly wrong, and involve tinkering with numbers to the point of missing how the game is actually played, or we get an over-analysis of the game as a business. And the team-oriented aspects of the game get lost in the shuffle more and more, year after year.
Maybe the dry spells that once occurred at this time of year meant that people who knew the game, wanted to wait to see the game played before surmising too much. Here in Toronto, it’s hard to deny that a team has been assembled. Where borderline players were forced into roles as starters last season, we now have players like Jack, Nesterovich, and perhaps Wright coming off the bench with a good number of games as proficient starters under their belts. We just need to see them assembled together in shorts and shiny shoes before we can really say where they appear to be headed, the noobs and the knowledgeable, the internet ranters and the paid pundits - all eyes need to be on the game.
Until then, this is a team that screams “the sum is greater than the parts”, particularly relative to the last couple of seasons. There is a good amount of experience, a good amount of still-improving youth, and an all-around hunger to get results. The fate of each player appears very much tied to the fate of the team, and the character of these guys has been shown to be about the game and the team before themselves. So to look only at what Chris Bosh might or might not do a year from now in another off-season, is to miss so much and make me feel like I’m in more of a desert of basketball wisdom than ever before, with the more-than-adequate interest and discussion blowing like wind along the dunes. So I’ll go along for now, blowing my own hot air…