It’s not just that the evil Pat Riley nabbed Chris Bosh. It’s how he set about his plan to crush Toronto for his own gains, ever since Mike James, playing for the Heat, unleashed an Amityville Horror show on the Raptors to end the 2002-03 season. That feat gave the Raptors a shot at the 4th pick in the draft, one spot ahead of the Heat. Riley had wanted that pick to get Bosh, but you have to feel that he knew he would get the best of us in the long run. And he did. The Heat would end up Wade using that 5th pick, and now have Bosh in his prime, and topped it all off with a much more desirable James than the guy from Amityville who was only the best player in his own mind.
Where did Mike James end up after winning that otherwise meaningless game? After bouncing around for a couple seasons he landed in Houston, under Jeff van Gundy. Brother Stan van was coaching the Heat at the time. You have to think that Riley had a word with his coach, and got him to convince Jeff that he needed to send MJ to Toronto in order to acquire Rafer Alston, who had also played for the Heat, and whom Stan could vouch was superior in every way imaginable. You have to be able to hear Stan squealing over the phone line - “Make the push Jeff! Go get this guy and send James the other way!”. Deal done. And a season of listening to Mike James talk about Mike James was underway. The first step in making Chris Bosh think he would probably like to play just about anywhere else was successfully executed.
But wait? What’s this? Toronto did not keep Mike James around, and instead found a couple of point guards that might actually make Bosh happy? What could Riley do about TJ Ford? The kid was coming back from a bad back injury. There had to be a way to bring that into play. Riley had easy access to Al Horford, who was playing for the Florida Gators during TJ’s first season in Toronto. Certainly Riley would have kept him under surveillance, and met up with him whenever he could, using his hypnotic powers to continually suggest a deep dislike of TJ Ford to Horford. “He thinks you have the same father Al…you are the Ford born of a whore…the Whore Ford…he thinks of you as his bastard brother…you must show him who is who…you must knock him down hard Al…you will have the chance…do not fail to bring him down…..”
Riley’s next ploy? Jason Kapono. He set him free, knowing that Bryan Colangelo would not be able to resist picking up the free agent. Toronto overpaid Kapono, but on top of what he got for not taking a whole lot of shots, I have to conjecture that he was getting something on the side from the man in Miami. Under what instructions would JK operate? Turn Sam Mitchell into such a golf fiend that he could no longer bear homestands of any length. Tell Jose Calderon that his shooting success comes from the legs and that he owes everything to a regiment responsible for building up the quadriceps, and only the quadriceps, to the point where, if he had to, he could wrap his legs around Joey Graham, and squeezing him between the thighs, leave him permanently disabled. He was prepared to be Jose’s personal trainer if need be. His thigh master. Getting those quads so much stronger than his hamstrings that he wouldn’t be able to do the hokey-pokey without incurring a bit of a tear. And finally, it was up to J Killah to drive everyone insane by not taking the three’s that he was brought in to take. Long twos. Awkward drives. They all came in abundance. He would force the team to come up with a whole new system, but made sure that turned out not to work until the team was down by thirty in the first round of the playoffs, in Orlando.
But the conspiring did not end there. Pat Riley is an evil man. You have to assume that he personally talked to Florida Gator stars Noah and Horford, convincing them not to enter the draft in which Toronto pick first, and were looking to find some good size to compliment Bosh. When Colangelo picked Andrea Bargnani, I can imagine that Riles laughed so hard that his breathing failed, to the point of needing to be resuscitated. Many people wondered why he stayed on as coach, instead of retiring to his GM’s office, after winning the championship that same year of ‘06. What got him through that 15 win season less than two years removed from the victory parade? I’d say he was able to rub his ring and laugh inside every time he thought about the ‘06 draft. I swear he was rubbing that ring and chuckling to himself on one of the nights where the Raptors routinely destroyed his Heat. But on that particular night Bargnani was laid out flat on his back with three broken teeth, and would never recover the few ounces of courage that Sam Mitchell had been able to dredge up from the depths of il Mago up to that point. The future was about to turn dramatically for each team. The Heat would find themselves shining bright at a championship level again, and the Raptors would be denied getting there yet again, their tomorrows dimming interminably.
The final piece of the puzzle? Taking on Jermaine O’Neal’s huge contract, which would expire just in time for the signing of Bosh and Lebron. Being sure to get a pick on top of everything else, and sticking Toronto with Marcus Banks. It was almost all too easy. But if only it was Pat Riley alone targeting the Raptors like easy prey. It seems clear to me that Riley was merely a more-than-willing participant in a circle of conspiracy involving all of Florida.
But why? Why does Florida hate us? Is it because our team’s name was derived from a fictional theme park that made the Magic Kingdom look like a big yawn? Perhaps. It might simply be that the It’s a Small World ride was built specifically for the enjoyment of multicultural Canadians, and that the insipid song that streamed into surrounding neighborhoods, instilled a vengeful outlook towards all of us and all of our meager exploits. There was word that local citizens had fought to put an enormous wall around that part of the park, and maybe even seal it off completely with a large dome. They could try to keep it from being resupplied with concession supplies, so that eventually it would just go dark with every last animatronic doll finally falling silent and going limp. Then the Blue Jays won consecutive World Series, with Joe Carter exclaiming that he was going to go to Disney World, and the It’s a Small World venue was flooded with happy canucks, to the point where making any changes would go against all capitalistic principles.
Was it because Canada refused to support the embargo on Cuba? Was it cigar envy? Did the Raptors become embroiled in political intrigue that had stretched back to Kennedy’s assassination? It seems entirely plausible to think that the FBI and CIA could have worked with the owner of the Magic and his hopped-up Amway followers, together with disaffected Disney-area inhabitants, as well as a Disney estate suspicious of Toronto’s Jurassic-flavored, theme park ambitions, and with anyone holding a grudge against Castro, to squash the dreams of Raptor fans. If not then why deny Toronto the number one pick that the Magic enjoyed for two consecutive seasons upon entering the league? If not, then what explanation is there for two Floridians becoming budding stars here, only to have one leave for Orlando to become like his hometown hero Penny Hardaway, and the other one asking to be traded after having his personal choice for GM turned down. And let us not forget that the GM candidate in question, one Julius Erving, was residing in Orlando at the time. Coincidence? Or full-blown conspiracy? The trade that was finally engineered did land the team Alonzo Mourning, who of course never reported to Toronto, but instead negotiated a buy-out while working with the Miami Heat, where he remains today, helping Chris Bosh with his poses.
It’s a never ending cycle. The team’s own history is intertwined with Florida’s. The franchise was awarded to the city of Toronto at about the same time that Elian Gonzalez was conceived. In January of 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia left Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. Thermal protection tiles on a wing were damaged by a piece of foam that broke away during take-off. The damaged wing overheated on re-entry over Texas. Coincidentally, months earlier, Vince Carter had gone down with jumper’s knee in Houston. He returned to action two days before the shuttle would disintegrate. The next season The Raptors would hire an animatronic male-double of former Attorney General Janet Reno, not long after her unsuccessful bid to run for Governor of the state of Florida. Can there be any doubt that the interests that could orchestrate hanging chads in order to deny Al Gore his place in history, would have any problem denying the Raptors any kind of achievement in the NBA? The only hope for Toronto’s Raptors would appear to be the flooding of the entire state due to the effects of the same global warming that Al Gore was prepared to combat. Until then the circle will remain unbroken.