The winds of change blow hard; and the Best of Oak
Nice day today, no game yesterday, no mass panic in fanworld.
Here’s the thing about fans that, in pretty much equal parts, irks and entertains a guy.
It’s always black and white.
This guy sucks? Make a change.
Team loses game? Make a change.
They’re pretty much exactly where a lot of people thought they’d be after three games? Make a change anyway dammit.
Trouble is, it’s never black and white, it’s always grey.
Take the whole “Jose can’t defend a lick, why is he playing, how in the world can they ever win a game with him out there?” stuff I’m getting floods of in the mail.
No, he’s not a great defender but the notion than anyone can defend anyone one-on-one is, as perhaps we’ve mentioned before, silly.
Yes, he will give up blow-bys just like every other point guard or wing man in the NBA.
Yes, he has to be better.
And the scheme has to work better.
And his teammates have to be better.
As Bosh said yesterday:
“It’s not one person’s fault, it’s the whole team’s fault. Guys are going to get blown by sometimes but we have to have a solid defence behind them and it just can’t be as easy as a blow-by layup or a blow-by one pass and a shot; we’ve got to make them work for it.”
Or as Jay said yesterday:
“(Perimeter blow-bys) means guys have to help and that’s how they kicked for threes. We worked on our close-outs today and we have to be better as a team. We’re not a super-quick team, so we have to be very good at closing out.”
Or as Jose said yesterday:
“It’s not only the point guard, there is not too many one-on-ones in the NBA, it’s all about pick and roll. That’s why when we talk about defence, it’s not like one guy penetrates because you got a pick. That’s why we always talk about team. Everybody has to help each other … we just have to be better as a team.”
It’s funny how things can change in less than a week, isn’t it?
A day after holding Cleveland to, what, 35 per cent shooting, there were no huge concerns about anything, really. The Cavs got into the paint but there were defenders there to help and they didn’t shoot an unconscious percentage from outside.
Two games later, things are a bit awry, no doubt but – and I say this with all due respect – IT’S THREE FREAKING GAMES!
The Oak cometh.
Yes, our good friend and the most quotable Raptor ever – Charles Oakley – is back in town, I’m told, to be singled out for his contribution to the team during tomorrow’s game against the Pistons.
There are too many good Oak stories to tell here, we’ll dribble ‘em out over today, tomorrow and Thursday but here are a couple (and forgive me if I’ve told them before, I imagine some here haven’t heard them):
We’re in New Jersey, it’s pre-game and Oak’s holding court as Oak did. But, it’s also a lot of stuff we’ve heard before, about kids not playing the right way, the game’s all about the hype, marketing blows, what about the game, yadda, yadda, yadda.
So, the Toronto scribblers, and Raptors staff, leave him to go off on other pursuits.
Well, we wake up the next morning to blaring headines the Post saying Oak says 65 per cent of NBA players, or some big number like that, smoke dope and some play while high.
From that day on, there always had to be a guy on Oak Watch. Just in case
And, one more.
We’re in Cleveland, Oak’s coming back from a one-game suspension (I think it was for smacking Jeff McInnis in the head before a shootaround) and it’s the first chance we have to ask him about it.
Rob MacLeod of the Globe says:
“Hey, Oak, do you think you let the team down?”To which Oak says something along the lines of:
“The NBA let the team down by putting it in Canada.”
Well, a couple of us do a spit-take at that one and we’re away to the races. Oak’s on a roll, and we’re prodding the bear with a stick with the Raptors media relations guru is looking on, his face ashen but you know he was smiling, too.
Not sure how the conversation unfolded exactly but it ended when Oak said, pretty much unprompted:
“Pimpin’ ain’t easy, pimpin’ ain’t dead; the ho’s are just scared.”
To this day, I have no idea what that means but it remains one of the greatest quotes I’ve ever heard uttered.
So, Jay, been thinking about moving DeMar out of the starting lineup (as if the kid’s been killing them or something!)?:
“Not for a second.”
Good answer. DeRozan’s been as everyone expected. Good for stretches, invisible for stretches, just another guy on the court for stretches.
The same, as a matter of fact, as the rest of his teammates.
Now, this is a bit over the top, don’t you think?
Venture out in the pre-dawn period to The Friendliest Starbucks On Earth (Hwy. 10 and QEW, tell ‘em I said hi) and what greets me?
Lots of them. Too many of them. Even the red Christmas cups for the quad vente non-fat lattes.
Do double-take, check calendar. It says, as I figured, Nov. 3.
Shake head in wonderment.
Okay, here’s the thing with Quincy’s contract.
As we know, there was another guarantee that kicked in Nov. 1 – or was supposed to kick in. The numbers are not precise but they’re close so think of it like this:
He made $200,000 for being on the roster at the start of training camp.
He made another $200,000 for being on the roster on Nov. 1 (or so the original contract said).
He’ll get the rest of the deal – about $400,000 – guaranteed if he’s still around Dec. 15.
What they’ve done is write a clause into the original deal pushing back the Nov. 1 date to Nov. 15; the December date stays the same.
No one’s saying on the record or officially, but I imagine it’s so they can see if they can find a place for him without waiving him, maybe pick up a second-round draft pick. Or maybe they’re giving his agent time to find a team that’ll take him if he’s waived, without the Raptors getting anything in return.
Given the economics of the day, I’d presume that second scenario is more likely.
I will tell you this, the coaches love the kid, good guy to have around, works hard in practice, entirely coachable and the furthest thing from a distraction even though he – and the coaches – know the chance of him ever playing is slim.
Tell you one thing, Chase Utley is rocketing up my list of favourite ball players.
Speaking of honours, I’m not sure how many of you realize this but it’s induction day for the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.
And one of the true basketball giants in our country is being feted.
Ken Shields, whose record at Victoria is unparalleled in CIS history, a former national team coach who’s worked with national teams in Japan, Australia, Georgia and Britain, and one of the great tacticians of the game, goes into the Hall and it’s a honour well due.
Ken and his wife, Kathy, have been integral parts of the growth of the game coast-to-coast for decades and it’s nice to see him recognized.
Would have been even nicer if Kathy went in the Hall at the same time. Missed the boat on that one.