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Old 12-16-2013, 08:33 AM   #1 (permalink)
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NP: Raptors need to get busy losing

Toronto Raptors need to get busy losing in fierce competition for high draft picks

*remember sitting courtside in those seats they sunk below the court at Gund Arena, almost like boxing seats at ringside, and watching Darius Miles, a third-year, 6-foot-9 kid out of high school who couldnít dribble, back the ball up the court. I remember Smush Parker, whom Kobe Bryant later called the worst teammate of his career, and the great doughy expanse of DeSagana Diop, ambling.

I remember Michael (Yogi) Stewart, too. I mean, really.It was clear the Cleveland Cavaliers didnít want to win. It was the final game of the 2002-03 season, and they had fired their coach, and they had 16 wins already. That was enough.The Toronto Raptors didnít want to win either, though, so they played seven guys, four of whom combined to play another 142 games in the NBA.

This crooked masterpiece painted, they lost and got the fourth pick in the draft, and Cleveland, despite it all, won the lottery to pick first. They took a local kid.The Toronto Raptors are in a tough spot these days. They won Saturday night against a depleted Chicago team, and that makes three wins out of four, and it is time to start feeling anxious. The Raptors are 9-13 now, with Charlotte on deck. There are seven teams with fewer wins, and three other teams who are sitting on nine, and the competition is fierce. Every game counts, even this early in the season.
And the Raptors are screwing it up by not screwing it up. Freed of having to watch Rudy Gay play like he was the focal point of a poorly controlled NBA video game, Toronto is sharing the ball, making some shots, winning a few games. Itís a problem.Because this team needs to get busy losing, or get busy dying. Yes, it is perverse that sports has incentivized failure in this way, but themís the breaks. In the NBA the superstars, if given the choice, usually gravitate to the glamour franchises. Raptors management is said to believe that yes, tanking is the way to proceed, breaking a long string of team history in which they accidentally lost games.

Failure is success. War is peace. Ignorance is strength.This draft class isnít 2003 reborn, but Thornhill, Ont.ís Andrew Wiggins has flashed reality-bending athleticism at Kansas, and Dukeís Jabari Parker is a polished gem, and Kansas big man Joel Embiid has only been playing basketball for three years, and could be great. Thereís Oklahoma State shooting guard Marcus Smart and Kentucky power forward Julius Randle. Thereís an Australian kid.

There are players. Get in the top five, and youíll get one.Since the Raptors have no surefire planks to a truly bright future ó Jonas Valanciunas was supposed to be that guy, but his progress has stalled, at least for now ó the smart play is to lose, a lot. With the worst record in the league, you will pick in the top four. Second-worst, top five. Third-worst, about a 95% chance of being in the top five. Fourth-worst, about an 83% chance. After that youíre edging towards the 50-50 range.

The math is pretty clear.So there is no time to waste. Point guard Kyle Lowry would already be gone to the Knicks if someone hadnít explained the value of first-round picks to New York owner James Dolan at some point last week. Lowry will be the next sail that is thrown overboard.
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