(UPDATES: Embry named interim GM; Peddie dangles club president out to be added to the next GM's portfolio; Babcock cites "philosophical differences" with ownership and Sam Mitchell, says he was surprised by the timing of the move).
Farewell, Rob Babcock. We hardly knew ya, and I mean that sincerely.
When the word first came down of a "major announcement" by MLSE president Richard Peddie, the early dough was on head coach Sam Mitchell, especially after the Raptors limped back from their recent western road trip, including giving up 81 to Kobe Bryant, following with a familiar defenceless effort at home against the Bulls on Wednesday.
Instead it's Babcock. How do you summarize his short tenure as general manager? The Vince Carter trade was the obvious cinder block around his neck. Rafael Araujo, who the Boy GM picked eighth in the 2004 draft within days of taking the post, has been awful
and may well end up playing in the D League or Europe next year. Rafer Alston was his big first-year signing -- a year later, Babcock traded him away for Mike James. Donyell Marshall wasn't traded at the deadline last year, and instead the club got nothing for him when he left to sign with the Cavs as a free agent.
With Joey Graham vanishing of late and Jose Calderon struggling like most first-year point guards do -- only Charlie Villanueva has really excited, though only intermittently; sometimes he looks like a flashback to John Wallace, another product of a Big East country club -- it's not like any of his summertime moves are paying off. Then again, this is such a young team overall, and each of them has shown just enough to offer a stay of execution for the GM -- at least, that was the prevailing opinion around the club.
Those earplugs he'd wear at games always struck me as a metaphor for Babcock. He wasn't much of a communicator. He never seemed to give the impression that he was listening to what was going on around the league.
The only surprise here is the timing. Perhaps the midpoint of the season was enough to say enough. Perhaps Wednesday night's half-empty ACC house was the trigger. Or perhaps there's more to this story than meets the eye right now. What now? Wayne Embry seems the obvious to take over. The trade deadline is Feb. 23. That's fish-or-cut-bait time for whoever takes over as far as a player like James.
One thing seems assured: Sam Mitchell is a lucky guy. He's safe. For another day or two, anyway.
Oh, and this just in: MLSE hasn't got a clue. The only way to fix this situation is to hire a proven GM, pay him lots of money to do the job and leave him alone for three years to try and do it. This just proves that Peddie and his dysfunctional crew made the wrong call in going cheap and unproven 19 months ago.