Toronto Raptors Fans Take a Breather During NBA Lockout

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Toronto Raptors Fans Take a Breather During NBA Lockout
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Former Raptors Antonio Davis, Vince Carter and Michael Bradley taking it in from the bench

I have seen it all with the Toronto Raptors.

Alvin Williams, Antonio Davis and Jerome Williams re-upped in July, 2001 with the Raptors, who dolled out over $146 million for the trio.  

Despite Davis’ concerns with the Canadian school system’s curriculum, Jerome Williams averaging a meager 5PPG in a short stint with Toronto the season prior and Alvin Williams showing the telltale signs of a genuinely average NBA guard, GM Glen Grunwald hit the launch button.

That infamous month is where is all started. Where management’s ineptitude to sign, deal and build was born; the first of many one-step forward, two-step back moments.

Vince Carter gained insurmountable recognition by jamming his forearm through the basket in the dunk contest and Toronto won a playoff series, but those few bright spots were overcast with the Hakeem Olajuwon bust and the Carter swap to New Jersey (arguably the worst trade in NBA history).

Tracy McGrady was once a Raptor, but somewhere between him and Carter finding out they were cousins, not wanting to play the Keith Richards role to Carter’s Mick Jagger and the whole living in Canada conundrum, his stay was short lived.

Bad coaches? An abundance. Unqualified general managers? All of them, but Rob Babcock still found a way to stick out by trading VC for a pair of unrelated D-leaguers who share the same last name, and are now the answer to a seriously depressing trivia question.

Draft nights have been relegated to pathetic sideshows in Toronto. Rafael Araujo was selected eighth overall in the 2004 draft, sending Raps fans in a frenzy for the nearest bottle of under-the-sink poison to imbibe.

The photo of a goofy-looking Andrea Bargnani palming a ball, wearing a Raptors hat and pointing his index finger in the air—just in case you forgot he was chosen first overall—is an immediate inducer of head shakes in this town.

Remember Jonathan Bender? Right, neither do I. Michael Bradley? Anyone…anyone?

In reality, you can play the we-botched-the-draft card with any franchise, but it’s just some additional salt in the gaping wound for Toronto.

Just before the lockout, the Raptors fittingly added another European to their already UN-like roster: Jonas Valanciunas of Lithuania.

JV17, as I like to call him, may turn out to be the steal of the draft, or another stake in the heart of the suffering Toronto faithful. If basketball ever returns, we will surely find out.

I have seen it all with this team, but in reality, very little of it has been good.

In 16 laborious seasons, the franchise has made five playoff appearances and won a single series. Carter was the only true star player ever to wear the jersey, and lord knows his number won’t be raised to the rafters of the Air Canada Centre after his ungracious exit.

Chris Bosh came and went. Loved at first, but quickly overrated and pitched as a front man when he is clearly more suited for drums. Now relegated to booing-target status, CB4 was just another misused puzzle piece in management's failed attempt to build a winner.  

But, there’s no need for the Pepto-Bismol people, because it seems the player’s union and the owners are about as far apart on a fresh labour deal as President Obama and John Boehner are on America’s debt-reduction problem. Players are already signing contracts with unheard of franchises in Turkey; this mess could take a while to sort out.

So the positive news is, that after vacillating between mediocrity and misery for a decade and a half, the disparagement between the talent and the proprietors is actually providing fans in Toronto with some relief.

This season I may not see anything at all. At least there’s no chance of disappointment. 

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