April 20, 2011
If you're an avid NBA follower, then you're aware that certain teams will burn the village in order to save it. That a front office will make a series of one-sided deals, trading away actual talent for pennies on the dollar, in order to plan for a future that won't start to take shape until years from now. Or that a team will hire the third-string assistant coach to take over as interim coach with a month left in the season, so that they can send him back to the bench following the hiring of another coach after the season ends, handing the novice assistant all manner of needed in-game experience along the way.
And sometimes, when a lockout approaches, teams will take on certain players or pass on dealing for certain contracts under the assumption that the financial climate will change severely in a few months time.
Sometimes, teams won't even hire a coach to "run" the team during the lockout, because the coach isn't allowed to deal with players. Those teams are usually the Clippers.
And this time around, in anticipation of this impending lockout, it appears as if the Toronto Raptors are about to hire a de facto general manager for the duration of the lockout, to not really do anything, as opposed to keeping (and paying) their current one.
According to ESPN's Marc Stein, and via the National Post's Eric Koreen's fine column on the state of the Raps, Toronto is possibly going to fall back on 74-year-old Wayne Embry as GM once current GM Bryan Colangelo's contract runs out on June 30 (the day before the NBA will lock out its players, and cause ripples of economic uncertainty for the hundreds and perhaps thousands that use NBA news and NBA games to put food on their tables; mainly because Michael Heisley can't be bothered to use Restricted Free Agency).
Sorry about the aside.
The move could possibly go down because while Colangelo does have his supporters in the Toronto front office, keeping on a high-priced GM with a dubious record in Toronto (and, at this point, we wouldn't be wrong in picking apart his time in Phoenix) through the summer, fall, and possibly winter months when teams aren't allowed to even speak to their players (much less sign, trade or negotiate with new ones) doesn't really make a whole lot of sense.
And because Embry is already on the Raptor payroll, why not hand him the keys to a car that has a boot on all four wheels?
Embry has had his successes as an NBA gym, and as an interim GM with the team in 2006, he helped spearhead the team's rebuilding movement by trading away players making eight-figures a year before Colangelo came on to take over from there. The problem is that Colangelo didn't exactly take over from there in any way that demanding any sort of contract extension beyond this June. It's all about who you know in this league, but even with Colangelo's Rolodex, I wouldn't want him running my team if I were the Raptors.
Especially after the strange meeting he put together for Toronto scribes Tuesday. In it, Colangelo strangely pointed out that Andrea Bargnani(notes) (a good scorer but terrible defender and rebounder who has come to symbolize Colangelo's turn as Toronto GM) "absolutely" can become a better rebounder, which should tell you all you need to know about Colangelo the talent evaluator.
Multiple studies through the years have shown that, amongst NBA players, rebounding is really the thing that never significantly goes up or down. A player could have a freak rebounding season every so often (moving up or down from his usual mark), but rebounding percentage (the percentage of rebounds available that you grab) tends to stay closer to your averages than any other stat out there. With rebounders, you either have it, or you don't.
And for Colangelo to disregard this in order to mislead journalists or (much worse) not even know this is inexcusable for someone like him.
Nearly as bad was both Colangelo and coach Jay Triano (obviously after going over the talking points with the GM that hired him, trying to keep his own job), needlessly saddling second-year guard DeMar DeRozan(notes) with completely baffling expectations as they pointed out that the young shooting guard had a better second season than Kobe Bryant(notes) did for the Lakers back in 1997-98.
You heard me.
Just a terrible thing to bring up under any circumstance regarding DeRozan, who has struggled with confidence issues at times as he blossoms into a solid NBA player. And an insulting thing to say to anyone with half an NBA brain.
As both Dave Feschuk and Scott Carefoot have pointed out, Bryant was a full two years younger in his second NBA season than DeRozan; and his per-minute stats and overall efficiency fly way past what DeRozan came through with in his second year. DeMar started at shooting guard on a bad offensive team that needed him to shoot quite a bit, working in an up-tempo offense and playing a huge chunk of minutes. Kobe, while brilliant, came off the bench behind All-Star Eddie Jones that season, so his per-game stats didn't shine as you'd expect. And yet he was still good enough to make the All-Star team in his second year. Triano and Colangelo probably didn't mention that.
I'm clearly on the side that wonders just why anyone would want to give Colangelo a third (or possibly fourth, depending on what you think of the Hedo Turkoglu(notes) signing and eventual trading) chance to run this team. He hasn't exactly salted the soil in Toronto, but he hasn't done much else.
And what's the point of keeping him around, as the NBA tries to manufacture rules regarding player acquisition that would stand to prevent Colangelo from doing the same damage to himself and his team all over again?