Well, it wasn’t quite the winning weekend we wanted! The Toronto Raptors looked good early against the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday, and it seemed like we might get a repeat of what we saw on Friday night. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, as tired legs, foul trouble, and a fellow named Luka Dončić got in the way.
But whatever happened over the weekend was quickly forgotten in a Monday morning news bomb from the Toronto Star — which is where we start today.
1. Edward Rogers nearly f--ked this whole thing up
Bombshell report in the Toronto Star this morning, wherein we learn that Edward Rogers — Donald Trump supporter and until recently the Chairman of the Board at Rogers Communications, which owns 37.5% of MLSE, which owns the Raptors — did not want to give Masai Ujiri a new contract this past summer, feeling that Ujiri wasn’t worth the contract he wanted.
Not only that, Rogers personally called Ujiri and told him this:
The sources said some time after the meeting, Rogers called Ujiri and told him he wasn’t worth the money he was being paid. The NBA source said the call left Ujiri feeling so angry and disrespected by Rogers that he considered taking a year off as president of the Raptors.
Larry Tannenbaum then stepped in — as team governor, he has override power, basically — and somehow, miraculously, convinced Ujiri to sign despite the massive insult from Rogers.
Rogers, of course, went full Karen and asked to speak to the manager: He called Adam Silver to complain. Like, even if Silver could do something, do you think he would? I don’t know that there’s an exec in the league Silver respects more than Ujiri.
Now, this story coming out now is the latest in a public battle between Ed Rogers and his family for control of the company. His anti-Ujiri stance clearly paints him in a bad light which is exactly what his opponents want.
But holy crap. The arrogance! To make that phone call. I just can’t even.
On the one hand, this is just another reminder that NBA owners are, universally, some of the worst that humanity has to offer. But on the other hand, thank God that Tannenbaum at least has his head screwed on straight enough to right that wrong.
2. Whither Boucher
Chris Boucher hasn’t impressed much in his first three games, and has thus earned the patented Nick Nurse early-season callout:
Nick Nurse on whether Chris Boucher has been a bit too up and down— Vivek Jacob (@vivekmjacob) October 24, 2021
"I didn't see any up. He needs to start playing better."
I’m not gonna be too hard on Boucher, who's still getting in game shape — he missed most of the preseason after all. But at the same time, Chris is a veteran now, who’s well-versed on what the Raptors run, and who has a fairly well-defined role off the bench. So I can’t really argue with Nurse: He’s got to play better.
3. Empty seats
The Raptors announced Saturday night’s game against the Dallas Mavericks as a sellout of 19,800. But just like Wednesday’s opener, they had to send out a “tickets still available!” email a few hours before tipoff — and there were a decent amount of open seats (far more than Wednesday).
Are people still being cautious because of the pandemic? Surely. Has MLSE finally priced people out of the seats? Maybe. What I think is also happening is that a lot of people just kinda got used to staying in over the past year-and-a-half, not spending money on going out, and once you’re in that habit, it can be hard to go back.
It also doesn’t help that the team was so underwhelming last season; many people only want to support a winner.
Ultimately it’s a bad mix. I guess MLSE feels it has to keep those ticket prices up to make up for a lost year (got to pay for that Ujiri deal, too, I guess!) but starting low to entice people back and then gradually upping the prices might have been a better approach.
4. Anaheim in the rearview
You’ve probably heard, seen and read everything you ever wanted to about former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. I certainly felt that way before reading this piece from Louis Keene at Defector. It chronicles the Clippers’ maybe-almost-nope move to Anaheim in 1996 that never happened — a move I’d never heard about before reading it.
The move itself isn’t the interesting “What If” of it, of course — the idea that Sterling would have given up control of the team is the real missed opportunity. Who knows what that team would have become in the early 2000s if they’d had competent leadership?
5. Can the Bulls keep it up?
I mentioned the Chicago Bulls’ defense in my preview this morning, but NBA.com (and longtime Bulls beat writer) Sam Smith has a nice writeup of what the team has been able to do over the first three games on that end of the floor that’s worth a read ahead of tonight.
I’ll admit I haven’t had a chance to watch the Bulls yet this season. But from what Smith describes, the Bulls are playing a scrambling style of defense that prioritizes getting into passing lanes, getting deflections and steals and rotating/recovering quickly on D.
Sounds familiar! Might be a sloppy, transition-happy game we see tonight.