It's on, it's off...Raptors' fans continue their ride on the free-agent roller coaster and the HQ wonders if the new media is partly to blame.
The whirling dervish known as Bryan Colangelo had other ideas as about 10 PM last night, news broke that the Raptors were honing in on signing Matt Barnes to a two-year contract worth between $4.5 and $5M per season.
On first take, I was ecstatic.
I had wanted to see Barnes become a member of the Toronto Raptors for the past few seasons, only to have Colangelo look the other way with his off-season moves.
He's only an average player by PER (12.7 over career but over 14 the past few seasons) but when you factor in defensive metrics, he's a lot more valuable (around 4 wins produced by Dave Berri's metrics.)
And that of course doesn't take into account his grit and ability to frustrate opponents:
Unfortunately there were immediately some questions about this proposed signing as soon as it was announced.
For starters, how would this even work financially?
Toronto had used the vast majority of its mid-level on Linas Kleiza and was over the cap. And from Orlando's vantage point, how could they do a sign-and-trade when S&T's must be for a min of three years with the first year guaranteed, and Toronto was only offering a two-year deal?
Something didn't make sense.
Sure enough, a few hours later, the reports started to trickle in that there had been some financial miscalculations and the deal was on the rocks.
Hmmm...I don't know about you, but this doesn't exactly look good for the Raps does it?
I mean first the Chandler deal gets vetoed, then a deal that everyone AGREES to gets shot down because Barnes' agent and the respective clubs he's been dealing with can't do a little math?
Well, it's not as simple as that of course, but barring some stroke of genius, the Raptors reneging on their offer to Kleiza, or Toronto clearing cap space by moving a player back to Orlando, this just doesn't seem to be a viable option any more.
I know that Brandon Bass reportedly wants out, and Toronto has been trying to move guys like Reggie Evans, so what about some type of permutation which would see Evans and maybe the newly acquired Dwayne Jones head to the Magic for Bass and Barnes? The deal works financially but we'll probably know more today as to what direction, if any, BC and co. are headed with this mess.
And I say mess not only because of this situation, and that of Tyson Chandler, but because if Toronto wanted Barnes, why did they make an offer to Kleiza in the first place? Barnes is the better defender, more versatile, and if the two-year deal that was first reported was true, comes with a much better contract from the standpoint that it gives the club a lot more financial flexibility for the next wave of big free agents.
Not to mention, we still haven't received any official confirmation of the Kleiza signing from the Raptors' PR folks, so you gotta wonder just what's going on now.
But can Bryan really back out of his commitment to Linas?
He's already flown him into Toronto and introduced him to the media etc, etc, so the optics won't be good, and would probably damage his reputation in these matters down the line.
In the end unless Barnes is part of some bigger sign-and-trade scenario, I think Toronto has to settle for Kleiza and we see Mr. Barnes take his talents to a contender like Boston.
It's unfortunate, but these things happen and I'd argue thanks to social media, will be happening on a more frequent basis going forward. It's not 2003 where trades still broke after the fact via local media, nor is it even 2008 where the internet dominated sports reporting.
Nowadays, the cat is out of the bag at the first opportunity, well before teams have a chance to finalize such matters. Last night ESPN.com, Yahoo Sports, the Orlando Sentinel.com, and a myriad of blogs and talking heads were immediately on the Barnes scoop and soon Matt Barnes was a trending topic on Twitter in Canada.
Barnes himself tweeted that he was off to Toronto so it really left very little room for error.
I waited a while before commenting on the proposed deal fearful of what now appears to be a reality, and I could just picture Colangelo and his crew frantically pouring over arcane copies of the CBA to find some loophole to now pull off something that everyone assumed was a done deal. I can't imagine how tricky social media has made things and you have to wonder if it isn't partly responsible for the downfall of such moves.
Sure, the bottom line is this might fall through because of poor economic planning or assumptions made by all parties involved. But maybe what ended up being plastered all over the net was just a first iteration or part of a process? Had things not been broken via Twitter, would the deal continued as planned until completion?
While I was in Vegas, I had a good chat with the Raptors' head of PR regarding this issue. It started when I had asked how Jose was taking the recent trade rumours and speculation etc. While the PR rep hadn't spoken to Jose, he assumed Calderon was riding quite the roller coaster of emotion, based on his feelings for TO etc in the past.
I went on to ask about how difficult social media had made his job and if he was now constantly putting out fires, instead of strategically positioning various communications to the masses. He acknowledged that it did make things a lot more tricky, but the media environment was a constantly changing one and there was little use in complaining about it. Twitter, Facebook, etc, etc, are the new reality and it was his job to do the best that he could to ensure their use met the Raptors' rules, regulations and needs.
And I agree.
But as we're witnessing this morning, I'd also add that from a fan's perspective, it means applying an old saying to this relatively new medium:
"Don't count your chickens before they hatch."