The press conference that MLSE called today to announce the Babcock firing was pretty surreal -- Babcock himself came on later, basically offering up excuses and no-hard-feelings to everyone involved in his usual bland way, while admitting he was blindsided by the whole thing. He even lauded the players for their "community spirit", which seemed a touch, well, weird and out of place.
But the baffling stuff that came out of Richard Peddie trumped all:
Peddie: "This was a tough decision, but one that we feel is in our best long-term interests. We recognize Rob's efforts to clear cap space and bring in young talent, but it's time to bring in someone with proven experience as an NBA general manager to take us to the next level."
(A reading: It's the shaft, Rob. You made some decent moves -- but now halfway through your contract, we're going to get rid of you. Exactly how this kind of action is going to attract anyone with "proven experience as an NBA general manager" is left unsaid and best avoided for now. Cliche alert: The "next level", surely one of pro sports' emptiest phrases.)
Peddie:"In fairness to Rob, once we knew a change was necessary, we didn't think it was right to have him continue. And from a team perspective, making this move today better positions us as we look toward the trade deadline and then the draft this spring. I thought he was the right choice but after working with Rob for a year and a half now, I went to the board and recommended that we relieve him because I'm not convinced he's the one that we need long-term. I'm disappointed that Rob was the wrong choice for us. In hindsight (I) should have got someone who was more proven."
(A reading: There have been many pathetic statements made in the history of the Raptors, but this might be the most pathetic. It starts off talking about "fairness" (cliche alert there) to someone he's just fired in the middle of his contract, and ends with an admission that the guy doing the firing made a mistake with the hire in the first place. Which begs the question -- isn't there one more person who should've been fired today?)
Peddie: "Wayne has the leadership qualities and league-wide credibility that we need to get to the next level. He has the full powers of a general manager. Included within his mandate to manage our team roster and player development, and to further develop Sam, Wayne's advice will be sought in the hiring of the next general manager. ... We also feel that in moving Wayne into the role of general manager on an interim basis we will be better able to develop Sam Mitchell's growth toward being a very good NBA coach during the second half of the season."
(A reading: So it was Babcock's deteriorating relationship with Mitchell that blew this one up. No surprise there. As for Embry's advice being sought in the hiring of the next GM, Mitchell would do right to polish off that resume. It doesn't sound like his front-office ally is fully in charge of this process, youknowwho being the unmentioned, passive voice still running things. If this really was totally about a power struggle, that's not much of a prize for the coach.)
Peddie: "As with a coach, a general manager is evaluated in large part by the results of his decisions. Unfortunately, while some progress has been made recently, those results have not met our expectations. We have plans in place that we believe will lead us into the playoffs in the near future, and enable us to compete for an NBA championship down the road. We will begin our search for a general manager, perhaps one who has the experience to serve as team president, who has the skills to build that winning team and deliver the results we expect."
(A reading: As with a coach and a GM ... but not a CEO. But what about these expectations? What exactly are they? What are these plans in place? He cleared cap space and brought in young talent, as you said. The carrot of team president is a nice touch, but is anyone going to want this job, given the results expected -- whatever they are?)
The Raptor follies. The MLSE follies. They never stop. Richard Peddie accomplished the impossible this afternoon: he took a guy with a pretty crappy record as a GM, and a guy who everyone knew was on a short leash, and turned him into a sympathetic character who deserves more than this.