If it seems like a well-worn rant, it’s because you’ve been well warned in advance: The Toronto Raptors are complaining about the hand that’s been dealt to them, this time in the form of yet another terrible call down the stretch of a game they should have won both by their own merits, or through the whistle of a referee that should have done what’s right.
For the third time this season the NBA will probably have to admit a blunder in the closing seconds of a Raptors loss, following the team’s Wednesday night defeat at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks. As was the case earlier this month and in November, the refs screwed up down the stretch of yet another close Raptors game, somehow looking away as DeMar DeRozan was hit while attempting a follow-up finish in the closing seconds.
“I’m tired of this,” Casey said. “I’m tired of losing games because of missed calls at the end of the game. I know the league’s going to come down on me for this, but I don’t care. Guys have fought their hearts out, played their hearts out and at the end of the game we get cracked, apology, go back to Canada.”
Casey said his initial belief a foul should have been called was supported by his review of the video.
“I’ve been in this league 18 years and I’ve never seen as many missed calls at the end of the game to cost us the game,” Casey said. “We have good officials. Too good to miss calls and short-change these young men like that. And it’s not right.”
Even the NBA’s own in-house video crew broke from script to point out that, yeah, DeMar DeRozan totally got whomped on his put-back attempt. Watch:
The “go back to Canada” line will get the most looks in this scenario, and for good reason.
The Raptors, at least from the front office on down, are a dangerous and frustrated thing right now. The team has done wonders to play great ball without what its front office thinks is the best player on the team in Andrea Bargnani (why else would they have paid him so much a few years ago?). The players had to wait a year for lottery pick Jonas Valančiūnas to show up, and the center is currently injured. His best young replacement, in Ed Davis, was shipped away before the Atlanta game. The point guard that makes his team the happiest, Jose Calderon, was shipped as well. The team’s brightest spot – rookie Terrence Ross – found out before the game that his minutes would be taken away by a below-average max player in Rudy Gay.
That couldn’t have been a happy locker room to begin with, and then it came within a couple of earned DeMar DeRozan free throws of stealing a win against a playoff team on the road. And the refs, for the third time this season, failed Toronto.
Agenda has nothing to do with it, the referees aren’t considering the fact that any fine for Dwane Casey will come out of his “cheque” and not his “check” when they decided to swallow the whistle. It was just another terrible non-call that co-incidentally seemed to go against one of the more poorly-run organizations in the NBA. Canada has nothing to do with it, as these terrible calls probably would have gone against the Steubenville Raptors.
This isn’t to say Raptors fans shouldn’t feel persecuted in a way.
This reminds me of a similar, martyr-y situation heading into the 2001 offseason when scads of NBA columnists (led by then-Chicago Tribune scribe Sam Smith) endlessly talked up the notion that no NBA player wanted to continue his career in the city of Toronto. The impending 2001 move of the Vancouver Grizzlies to Memphis was fresh on the minds of these writers, though the 2001 contract extension of Vince Carter (along with the re-signings of veterans Antonio Davis and Alvin Williams) rightfully shut that noise up. It’s a stupid insinuation that at once demeans the franchise and city while excusing the terrible front office leadership that has been in place in Toronto since 1995.
I’m also fresh off a morning errand that saw me listening to local (Indianapolis) sports talk radio, with a host talking up how crowd favorite Jose Calderon “wasn’t putting butts in the seats,” while insinuating that max-level Rudy Gay will. As if Raptor fans aren’t aware of Gay’s drawbacks, and haven’t been loudly backing Calderon (even on message boards, as we conversed back then) in the months before he played his first game as a Raptor. Raptor fans have been needlessly dismissed for years. The team’s front office hasn’t been dismissed enough.
That’s where the uneasiness comes in, and that’s not something an NBA-sponsored “my bad” or deal for a pseudo-star in Rudy Gay will help. The team’s players, coaching staff and fans feel as if they’ve been let down by the NBA, and we don’t blame them. A lot of us feel like they’ve been let down by the team’s front office, and considering the luxury tax payment they’ll be dealt next season for the core currently in place, you shouldn’t blame us.
So where do you go from here?
Blame the bum refs, of course, for missing yet another one.
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