Newman Stops by Vegas

Franchise makes like Newman...

Franchise makes like Newman...

Lots to discuss this morning so let’s get right into it as I play the role of Newman, postal employee extraordinaire...

Gerry - BTW, I know next to nothing about b-ball finances, but I sure can't recall that these money discussions were EVER this important back in the 70s/80s when I was growing up. Anyone out there feel inclined to give me a brief history of time: what changed so drastically to cause this to happen?

I’m not sure if I can break out a brief history but I do agree that in the 80's, the salary situations of teams weren't so under the microscope. My take is two-fold:

1 – First of all, I think the rules concerning the NBA’s salaries weren’t so rigid two decades ago. Relatively, salaries were still somewhat palatable and it wasn’t until really the late Jordan era and into the 90's that things got crazy. As a result, the NBA went through some massive salary cap restructuring so salaries have been under a more watchful eye the past seven or eight years. The culmination of the 90’s cash-crop of ridiculous contracts (anyone remember Larry Johnson's criminal long-term deal? Or even that of Allan Houston?) was of course the 1998-99 lock-out where owners put their foot down on the increasingly rapid rise of player salaries while from the players’ side, they didn’t want to stop a process which was putting them in the upper tier of professional athlete salaries.

Now that the salary situation has tightened a bit, teams are more vigilant.

2 – I think the other main piece of this puzzle is that in this era of information, fans have much easier access to salary data. In the past, fans would only really know about salaries based on what teams spouted and the odd report from the media. Now however, salaries are available at the click of a mouse and complex trade scenarios have been reduced to robust trade machines which factor in all of the math for us.

Therefore I think it’s a combination of teams forced to be more fiscally responsible (ok, most teams) because of the last few collective bargaining agreements and fans taking an increased interest in the area because the information is so readily available to them.

MAS - Franchise great point regarding Mendez, Brown and now possibly Dalembert. Why are we playing in this tournament without our best talent? This really hasn’t gotten a lot of press. If it really is due to Leo’s mismanagement of personnel, that is a shame. I’ve always thought Leo was not the right pick for this position as he has zero coaching experience and also seems to have a major ego problem.

This is going to be an interesting topic for a while to come I think. Some more detail regarding the situation between Rautins and Dalembert was revealed in a Globe Article yesterday and it’s tough to say at this point who’s in the right.

The article mentions that Leo may have been too much of a player’s coach and I can totally see that. Even based on my brief interactions with him at various Raptors draft and free-agent camp workouts, he always seemed quite content to be "one of the guys." That’s not what Team Canada needs obviously and as a result, Leo may simply be learning the hard way and forced to make some tough decisions.

I’ll probably talk about this tomorrow after we find out whether Canada wins their "do or die" match but it’s sad that what looked a year ago like the rejuvenation of Canadian basketball now could end up being a huge set-back.

Raptorman - It seems to me that the whole point of hiring Rautins was because of his involvement in the NBA. Well, if he's burning bridges with NBA players, doesn't that make Rautins an utter failure?

And on that note, yes, that’s something I’m going to get into tomorrow. You really have to question now the system that Leo set up as going forward, Canada will be missing three of its top talents. None of them were at the Kobe Bryant level of excellence but all I felt could have really helped this team and furthermore, you have to wonder what impact their dismissal will have on future Canadian recruits like Devoe Joseph.

Lorie - Who is broadcasting these Olympic qualifiers? Would love to be able to watch the next one on Friday.

The Score has been broadcasting the games and yes, Canada versus Croatia will be on tomorrow at 6 AM.

As a final thought on tomorrow’s game, I have to say I think despite the terrific comeback against Korea, Canada is going to get blow out for three reasons:

1) The team can’t shoot. Carl English is supposed to be the team’s gunner but the dude is so streaky and sometimes has terrible shot selection. Same with the whole team and considering they don’t really have anyone who can create their own shot and get to the line (sometimes Famutimi), that’s a major problem.

2) Their interior play on the offensive end is terrible. Yes Joel Anthony is a great defender and rebounder, but neither he or even Dalembert when he was still with the squad, have much in terms of post games. Therefore that puts even more pressure on a set of streaky shooting guards. Levon Kendall is by far their best option but he’s not used enough.

3) The point guard play is suspect. Jermaine Anderson is ok…but he reminds me of Smush Parker…more of a 2, than a 1. And they have NO ONE backing him up so when he’s out, it’s Rautins or English trying to run the show…which doesn’t work.

Switching back to the NBA…

Bball - Franchise, you said you would prefer O'Neal instead of Camby. I would agree but let's remember that their were rumours that Denver wanted to trade more than a month ago.

While I can only speculate as to whether Denver would make the following trade, I really wonder whether the Nuggets would have agreed to a trade of Rasho and the Raptors 1st round pick for Camby. It would have given Denver an expiring contract and a 1st round pick.

The Raptors could then have traded TJ for Gerald Wallace giving them Wallace and Camby addressing all of their needs - a centre who can defend and rebound and a slashing, good defender and scorer at the wing position. And the difference in Wallace's and Camby's contracts would have been about 3-4 million allowing the Raptors to sign a legitimate back-up PG. So, in this scenario, the Raptors would have had Camby, Wallace and a back-up PG instead of O'Neal.

In my opinion,that's a better team than the current one with O'Neal.

Speculation is always fun and yes, if Toronto were able to acquire a defensive presence like Camby AND still make a play for someone like Gerald Wallace that would have been an excellent situation. And as you pointed out, the salary constraints short-term would have been less enabling some better depth at the 1 (or another position.)

The problem is, we’ll never know EXACTLY what was on the table from Charlotte. If the Bobcats wanted TJ AND our number one pick then the deal would have been dead in the water anyways as under your proposal, number 17 would have gone to Denver with Rasho for Camby.

And on top of this, I just get the feeling that Denver really had no desire to take on salary at any point in time. So even though Rasho’s deal had only a year left, a first-round pick wouldn’t have swayed them. I think this is backed-up by the fact that the Nuggets took only the option to switch second-round picks (not even an ADDITIONAL second-round pick) to dump Camby on a team that could absorb his contract. Toronto was never in a position to do that unless they had decided to let Jose walk.

The final point that no one is really talking about is that I think the Nuggs were dead-set on keeping JR Smith and therefore needed to get back down near luxury tax range to justify re-upping him. To do that, they needed a team who could take on Camby’s contract and really, that situation didn’t present itself until very recently. Of the teams prior to the free-agency period under the cap, only Memphis made any sense as Philly already had our old buddy Dalembert playing the Camby role. And considering Memphis’ frugal nature, there’s was little chance of Marcus becoming a Grizzly.

Sergi P - There are many spanish news websites reporting that the Raptors have reached and agreement with F.C.Barcelona in order to buy the rights to Roko Ukic (he was still under contract). All sources I've heard report an amount of $650.000 for the buyout.

Reaction from Barcelona fans over here is basically they're very happy they got so much money for him, since they consider him a bust. Let us hope Roko proves them wrong!

I hope so too but still remain concerned.

However Roko is officially a Raptor as of last night. From the Raptors PR crew:

RAPTORS SIGN UKIĆ

The Toronto Raptors announced Wednesday they have signed guard Roko Ukić(pronounced RO-ko OO-keech) to a three-year contract. Per team policy, financial details were not disclosed. Ukić was a second-round selection (41st overall) by the Raptors in the 2005 NBA Draft.

Ukić, 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, played in Italy last season with Lottomatica Virtus Roma. He averaged career highs of 11.5 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.1 steals in 19 Euroleague contests. He shot .545 from the field and .824 from the charity stripe. He had a high of 23 points versus Partizan Igokea and eight assists on two occasions (at Real Madrid and at Panathinaikos).

In 34 regular season Italian League outings, Ukić again posted career bests with averages of 11.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.7 steals. He shot .599 from the floor and .748 at the foul line. He totaled a high of 27 points at Tisettanta Cantù

Let the Roko era begin...

Let the Roko era begin...

Toronto played against Ukić and Lottomatica during the Raptors’ NBA Europe Live ’07 visit to Rome. Ukić had 10 points and nine assists in 38 minutes as the Raptors won 93-87.

Ukić, 22, began his professional career in 2000-01 with KK Split (Croatia). He played four seasons with KK Split before moving to Spain and Tau Ceramica Vitoria for the 2005-06 season. He spent the 2006-07 campaign with FC Barcelona. He helped his teams to the 2006 and 2007 Spanish National Championship (King’s Cup).

Ukić is a member of the Croatian National Team and is competing in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Athens, July 14-20.

Nothing too earth-shattering there but the Roko era is now officially under-way at a reported price of a little over a mill as season. What is exciting is that Raptors’ fans will have a chance to see him in action first-hand tomorrow morning. Roko of course is running the point for Croatia.

Coach C - Courtesy of Hoopsworld...

Nathan Jawai was at Impact Basketball today working out with new front court partner Jermaine O'Neal. The young man from Australia gave Sam Mitchell an eyeful as he went through a number of drills to demonstrate both his physical prowess under the basket and his soft shooting touch.

First was a serious of low post power moves - Jawai on one side and O'Neal on the other. Jawai is a huge physical specimen, and he showed right away that he has the footwork and the raw power to be lethal under the hoop. Next up was a series of shooting drills, one of which had him shooting one-handed from the free throw line extended. He made a high percentage of those shots, too, and definitely has the potential to be a mid-range threat. Together with his power game under the basket he could turn out to be an important player for the Raptors this season.

Thanks for the blurb Coach C. Hoopsworld has had some great insight on new Raptors recently (check out this interview with Jermaine O’Neal if you haven’t yet seen it) and this description sounds promising. I’m looking forward to seeing him via RaptorsTV today or tomorrow in Vegas play so we’ll see if his in-game abilities translate the same way.

One final note to close off this mailbag, Raptors fans received some good news this morning when they woke up as James Posey has signed a four-year deal with the New Orleans Hornets thus removing himself from Toronto’s back-yard. I too think the deal is a bit on the rich side for Posey but it’s undeniably a big loss to the Celtics’ bench. Posey was a good defender and a huge asset for the C’s in terms of backing up both Pierce and Allen. Now, the team will have to rely perhaps on rookies like Bill Walker or a re-signed Tony Allen.

From the Hornets side of things you have to scratch your head a bit as the team only last year made a similar long-term commitment to former Raptor Morris Peterson, and recent draftee Julian Wright is a very similar player to Posey. Perhaps the Posey signing is a indication of New Orleans’ happiness with both players but in any event, I don’t think this signing puts them over the top. The club still needs help up front and while I like Hilton Armstrong, he just hasn’t been the answer behind Chandler.

FRANCHISE

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