Toronto's first-round selection of Terrence Ross Thursday night brought out all the usual cries of consternation from the fans Raptorland. In a decade and a half of watching this franchise -- as a rabid fan, as a disgusted bystander and as a member of the media -- I've come to expect certain things. One of them is that draft night is never what anyone wanted it to be.
When I was a slackjawed teen in '95, the crowd at the draft in Toronto booed Damon Stoudamire over Ed O'Bannon. In '98 I myself asked whether Antawn Jamison would be a better pro than Vince Carter after the Raps and Warriors flipped their picks.
Yet In '01, following what still stands now as the ceiling of the Toronto Raptors' success, I questioned Michael Bradley ahead of Zach Randolph (or in 20/20 hindsight, Samuel Dalembert, Tony Parker and Gilbert Arenas). On a warm early summer night in 2004, a day or two after one of the worst general managers in the history of team sports (Rob Babcock) took Rafael Araujo at No. 8 because he was too incompetent to do his homework, I asked my buddy Puffy while we were waiting for a crossing light at the corner of King and John, "F**king Aroojo, really?"
This tall, long-haired dude rolled up next to me on rollerblades (anybody use those anymore?) Overhearing me, he said, defeatedly, "Hey man, what can we do?" Then as the light went green he bolted across the street only to get his blade caught in a streetcar track -- and went down like a ton of bricks.
Since then, there's been Charlie Villanueva (who Jack Armstrong told me the night of, "I like, but not at 7"), and the 2008 disaster where we knew Roy Hibbert would be traded for the incoming Jermaine O'Neal. All along, the franchise has been eviscerated by local fans as well as the likes of Stephen A. Smith and The Big Lead.
But there was also Chris Bosh in '03 (hey, we picked fourth in a star draft -- and thank Joe Dumars for accommodating us) and Andrea Bargnani in '06 (a pick I still argue stands the test of time given that LaMarcus Aldridge was too Bosh-like and Brandon Roy's career is over. Rudy Gay, maybe, but spending a top pick on defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha? No).
The point I'm trying to make, for lack of a better example, is that with a point guard under big money contract, Taj Gibson would have been a stretch at 9 in 2009. In the age of one-and-dones, things take a while to crystallize. I believe that the talent in this particular draft had a lot of parity after Anthony Davis, and by taking Ross (an uber-athletic wing with the lockdown defensive capabilites that Dwane Casey loves), the Raptors simply made a choice of the best player available.
Sure, Toronto wanted Harrison Barnes. But them's the breaks. Golden State got exactly who they needed/wanted without having to move. Obviously, that never happens to the Raptors. But that's life. Ross was a plan C wing, and not a bad one at that. It's easy to read the draft order five years from now and do critiques. The Raps did not want Austin Rivers -- the most point guard-ready combo guard in this draft -- or Jeremy Lamb, and there's a method to their madness.
That method is throwing everything and the kitchen sink at Steve Nash.
We've been hearing these rumours for a while, but there's a real feeling it's different now. We know the Raptors plan to have a "five deep" contingent to pitch the T-dot to Nash at his Manhattan residence when free agency opens on Canada Day.
It's been easy to dismiss it for months, but let's break it down.
- He's a proud Canadian. But the guy is from Victoria, 4,200 km away from Toronto. Although he hosted a charity game here after Vince Carter cut out in '05, in reality he has much attachment to this Canadian city as an Australian Perth native does to Sydney (I needed a comparable example). In my mind, he's never owed anything to the national program either -- Jay Triano's dismissal in 2005 was a crime -- and taking the reins of the men's national team now is more than enough in terms of patriotism.
- While he's on the record as not being a ring chaser, he should (I would hope) have to concede something to winning. But Miami doesn't really work because of who gets the ball. Dallas is a real possibility, but there's some bad blood (the 2004 contract) with Mark Cuban and the fact that they're really, legitimately too old.
- New York makes sense (his place is in SoHo), but does it? He told ESPN Radio in Gotham last week that "money, in many ways, represents respect." Say what you want about that, but the Knicks can't pay him top dollar. Brooklyn can -- if they lose Deron Williams.
So why would Nash come to Toronto?
This is likely a playoff team in the weak Eastern Conference with him. With Jonas Valanciunas at centre at a newfound defensively-capable (and hopefully healthy) Andrea Bargnani at the four, one of the greatest point guards in NBA history certainly won't hurt. The Ross pick is a bit of a kick in the butt to DeMar DeRozan, who needs to attack the rim more. Some suspect this Toronto "five deep" assault into Lower Manhattan includes Raptors' director of sports science Alex McKechnie, who previously and endearingly trained Nash in core work. Nash is known to hold training staff in very high regard.
This has really blown up in the last week. There's almost an expectation that he's coming here.
But remember something. Steve Nash owes us nothing. Let's not get too excited. We reside in a country where, on July 1, many people -- if they're not working or drinking beer and barbecuing -- will be watching free agents of another sort sign in American locales like Raleigh, N.C., and Nashville.
This could be all for Kyle Lowry too.
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