Ujiri swings for the fences in Kawhi for Derozan swap

 

It’s been quite some time when the Toronto Raptors were the talk of an NBA offseason. This has been an absolute whirlwind so I’m just going to try and unpack my thoughts on here and see how I feel about the trade.

Why trade for 1 year of Kawhi Leonard?

The last NBA team to win the championship without having a top 10 player on their roster was the 2004 Detroit Pistons. The Pistons were not only an anomaly for that little piece of trivia, but they are one of the few modern NBA champions to build a starting unit consisting of five All-Star calibre players (Tayshaun Prince is the only one of the five to not make an All-Star team but his four all defensive second-team nods should give him a pass). You know… until this year’s Warriors…

When talking of Raptors championship aspirations these Pistons teams were kind of held up as a blueprint for how they could eventually topple the Warriors in the Finals (I think?). Well as constructed yesterday, the Raptors had two All-Stars in Lowry and Derozan, the ghost of Serge Ibaka, dinosaur center Jonas Valancunias and budding 3-and-D weapon OG Anonoby. While they supported that starting 5 with a very young and productive bench, this team clearly had a ceiling. A ceiling which was well below NBA champions and if that isn’t the end-goal then what the hell are we doing.

At his best Kawhi is a top-five player in the league that can dominate on both sides of the court. In my mind nobody in the league is as great of an option as the number 1 one shutdown defender on one side of the court while being a reliable scoring option on the other side of the court. Pairing Kawhi with Lowry and whichever young players remain when the dust settles raises the team’s ceiling immensely. The Raptors had one of the best benches in the NBA last year but if you can flip some depth for a legitimate star then you have to do it.

That being said trading for Kawhi Leonard is clearly a risk.

Kawhi has his warts

Now he could bounce for Los Angeles or New York in a year. He could be a diva from day one. Some are suggesting that he might not be the same player as he was pre-injury. The doubters have a point in saying that the asking price is very hefty considering all of these red flags. But at a certain point you have to stop treading water and start to swim. Let’s just hope this trade doesn’t sink the Raptors.

 

It’s well worth the risk

At the end of the day I’m all in on this trade. Sometimes you have to give up Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez to get Roberto Alomar. Without Lebron in the East it looked to be an arms race versus the up-and-coming Sixers and Celtics but the forever comfortable regular season Raptors have a legitimate claim at the NBA Finals.

While Kawhi might be a tough re-sign, a year ago people were already fitting Paul George for his Lakers jersey and Toronto is a hell of alot better of a city than Oklahoma.

If all else fails this move helps to kick start a rebuild that some people were calling for a year ago. If Kawhi walks then Toronto could finally just blow the entire thing up to get a shot at drafting lottery calibre players. I can’t stress enough that you can’t win without a superstar and this move more than anything else shows that the Raptors are going to make it happen whether it is now or down the road. A core of Lowry and DeRozan can only take you so far.

Demar Derozan: The Quintessential Toronto Raptor

Now what shouldn’t be lost in this is that Demar Derozan has been a star both on and off the court for the city of Toronto. While at their peaks you can argue that Carter and Bosh were more effective players, Demar has worked his ass of since day one to be–in my mind–the face of this Raptors franchise.

Vince and Bosh each forced their way out of Toronto in situations that just were not handled well, but as time has worn on the nostalgia goggles have made the duo out to be champions for the city of Toronto.

When Derozan’s free agency hit in the summer of 2016, many thought he would bolt to his hometown LA Lakers. But he had built a home here in Canada and felt that the Raptors had some unfinished business (the money also didn’t hurt).

When all is said and done Derozan is Toronto’s franchise leader in games played, minutes played and points while making four all-star game appearances and two all-league teams. In my mind he is the best the franchise has had and it’ll be tough to see him go.

Bonus: THE BOYS ARE BACK

Image result for rudy gay demar derozan

Just watch. Pop is going to have this Gay-Derozan tandem popping like nobody ever knew was possible. Giddy up

 

It’s Coming Home… Soon

England fans were treated to a different World Cup experience than they were used to this year. While it didn’t end the way many had hoped, it’s safe to that that it ended better than pretty much everybody expected prior to the tournament kicking off last month.

Fans are used to a team with big expectations that typically falls short. However, this year felt different from the start. This is a younger team than fans are used to seeing. In fact, England was the third youngest team in the tournament, with only Nigeria and France fielding younger squads. The biggest star on the team, Harry Kane, is just 24 years old. The Wayne Rooney-Frank Lampard-Steven Gerard era that most casual fans are familiar with is gone. The only remaining connection from the previous era is Ashley Young, and at 33 years old it’s likely that his time with the national squad has come to an end.

Read more

MLS: The Retirement League

It’s nothing new that European legends look to the MLS to continue their career once their time across the pond has come to an end. We’ve seen it happen countless times, with David Beckham being one of the first notable players to do so. With his transfer to D.C. United now official, Wayne Rooney has become the latest star play to take his remaining talents to the MLS.

Read more

For Leafs fans: A look at the last ten 25th Overall picks

This is Kyle Dubas’ first draft at the helm of the Toronto Maple Leafs warship. Toronto has the 25th overall pick, and as the following list will show you, this range of the draft is incredibly hit or miss. If the Leafs are going to make the jump from first round playoff fodder to full-blown contender, they will have to hit on these picks in order to give their core of Matthews, Marner and Nylander a solid and affordable supporting cast.

2017 Ryan Poehling, Montreal

Poehling was the youngest player in the NCAA when the Habs took him in last year’s draft. It seemed like a weird pick at the time, but the center from St. Cloud State had an excellent 2017-18 that saw him score 31 points in 36 college games as well as center the US’s top line at the World Juniors. April’s Hockey News “Future Watch” has him ranked as  the 37th best prospect in hockey and Montreal’s top prospect.  Read more

Breaking down the 2018 Hart Trophy Finalists

Tonight is the NHL Awards ceremony in Las Vegas and, while I’m sure people are itching for some Lady Byng talk, the Hart Trophy for the league’s MVP usually garners the most interest. This year you will be shocked to not see a Crosby, Malkin or McDavid (actually I’m really surprised to not see a McDavid) on the finalist list for the award. All three of the 2018 candidates have never been a finalist for the award before and all three have an equally legitimate claim to win the thing. In what should be the most open race for the MVP in years, here’s the case for Taylor Hall, Anze Kopitar and Nathan MacKinnon to each win the Hart.

Screen Shot 2018-06-19 at 11.53.55 PM Read more

Throwback Thursday: 2007 Cleveland Cavaliers AKA the Last Team to get Swept in the Finals

Let’s remember a few names. In honour of the Cavaliers getting pushed to the brink of Finals Sweep at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, I thought I’d take a look back at the last team to get swept in the Finals… Lebron’s 2007 Cavaliers. This by no means is a shot at the present or past Cavs. The 2018 Cavs can still win a couple of games to avoid the sweep and when all is said and done and the 2007 Cavs were not supposed to make it that far. Nonetheless it is an interesting practice to reminisce on some of the guys Lebron dragged to the Finals a decade ago.

Ira Newble

Image result for ira newble

Who? A quick glance at Newble’s Basketball Reference page shows that Ira was a veteran of eight NBA seasons split between San Antonio, Atlanta, Cleveland, Seattle and the Lakers. 380 career regular season games is nothing to turn your nose up at… But this guy was as big of a non-factor imaginable on an NBA Finals team. In the 2007 playoffs Newble only got in 6 games and averaged 1.7 minutes per game and didn’t score once. Lebron had his work cut out for him. Read more

Top 10 Biggest Blunders in Sports History

Professional athletes are the embodiment of power, grace, and skill. They are the peak of physical fitness and perform at the highest level for the world’s enjoyment. Likewise, they are also human and are prone to the same mistakes and lapses of judgment that us mere mortals face on a daily basis. The thing is: when I fall down the stairs at the Wizmer House, spilling three drinks I had just purchased all over myself, only the select few individuals who happened to be looking will remember my dignified tumble. For professional athletes, their mistakes are broadcasted on live television and will live in infamy for the rest of their lives. This article is going to look at some of the biggest blunders that sport has ever seen. The way these are ranked is based on how egregious the mistake was, and the severity of the situation. If there are any that you think I missed, do not hesitate to let me know. Without further ado, let us dive right in.

10. Patrik Stefan and the empty net whiff.

It is impossible to have a list of the biggest sports blunders without including this dandy from former first-overall pick Patrik Stefan. I mean, you know your career was bad when the biggest highlight is you not scoring. Stefan is one of the worst busts in draft history and this clip is a perfect illustration of his tumultuous career. The fact that he woefully misses the empty net only to see Ales Hemsky tie the game with seconds remaining is just perfect poetic penance for Stefan as he retired 13 games later. Thankfully, the Stars still won the game 6-5 in a shootout but this remains one of the most embarrassing moments in NHL history.

9. Jose Canseco and the header home run.

Jose Canseco will always get the last laugh about this video. After all, he is a two-time World Series champion, former American League MVP, six-time All-Star, and four-time Silver Slugger winner. REGARDLESS, the sheer improbability and hilarity of this clip make it one of the all-time best baseball bloopers. The saving grace is that this was during a meaningless regular season game in May. It was the 25th anniversary of this clip just last week.

8. Patrick Roy and the Statue of Liberty.

The Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings had one of the best rivals in NHL history during the 1990s and early 2000s. With a blood feud and multiple hall-of-famers on both sides, it was always must-see TV when these two squads were playing. Entering the 2002 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two teams were tied at two cups a piece in the past decade before matching up in the Conference Finals. The Avalanche jumped out to a 3-2 series lead and had a chance to finish the series off at home in Game 6. Instead, Patrick Roy tried to showboat after robbing Steve Yzerman in close and Shanahan buried what turned out to be the game-winning goal. The Red Wings went on to win Game 7 by a score of 7-0 and defeated the Carolina Hurricanes in five games to win their third cup in six years.

7. Leon Lett’s Super Bowl fumble.

See, if the Cowboys went on to lose this game then this could perhaps be the biggest blunder ever; but, they were playing the Buffalo Bills so obviously they were up by 35 points at this time in the game. Lett could realistically make another appearance on this list for his Thanksgiving Day debacle against the Miami Dolphins, but since it was in the regular season I decided to leave it out. Instead, we are blessed with this tasty gem that looks like it is straight out of Madden 18. Lett, being the showman that he is, decided to start celebrating his forthcoming touchdown at the ten-yard-line. Unfortunately, Don Beebe definitely had the Bills covering +40 as he hustled his butt and stripped Lett right before the goal line. The Cowboys still won the Super Bowl, handing the Bills their third consecutive loss in the big game, but Lett delivered another web gem to go into the archives.

6. JR Smith is off the henny again.

This is what inspired me to do this list in the first place. JR Smith has always been a bit of a wildcard on the court. The man will hit a half-court heave with a hand in his face but brick the most open jumper the world has ever seen. Furthermore, he has many fantastic off court hits such as his shirtless appearance during the World Series, and everyone’s favourite DM – “you trying to get the pipe?”. All these things aside, Smith has proven to be a serviceable player over the course of his NBA career and he played a big role during the Cavaliers 3-1 comeback in the 2016 NBA Finals.

WELL.. last night he had one of the biggest blunders in NBA history and it could not come at a more costly time for his team. The Warriors opened the game as 13 point favourites over the Cavs and many people thought that the Dubs would steamroll their way to another championship. Instead, LeBron James did what LeBron James does and put up 49 points during regulation which gave the Cavs a chance to win Game 1. George Hill went to the foul line with 4.7 seconds left and hit his first free throw to tie the game at 107. He bricked the second, but thankfully JR Smith was there to collect the rebound and kick it to LeBron for a game-winning shot opportunity. Oh, sorry. Wait a second. JR, a man who has played 13 seasons in the NBA and makes an annual salary of $12.8 million USD actually thought that the Cavs were in the lead and tried to dribble the clock out. I have coached Grade 6 kids in minor league basketball who had better late game awareness than JR did in this situation. Alas, the Warriors went on to decimate the Cavs in OT winning the game 124-114 and wasting LeBron’s historic 51 point effort. Thanks, Henny god.

5. Fred Brown forgets who he plays for.

Poor Fred Brown. After some guy named Michael Jordon knocked down a 17-footer to give UNC a late 63-62 lead in the 1982 National Championship, Brown brought the ball up the court for a last gasp attempt at stealing a victory. After faking a pass to teammate Eric ‘Sleepy’ Floyd, Brown thought he had Eric Smith open at the top of the key. Instead, Brown made a worse visual decision than I did the last time I took a girl home from the bar and passed the ball straight to UNC’s James Worthy which effectively ended the game. Brown and Georgetown would avenge their demons in 1984 as they knocked off Houston to win their first National Championship but this blunder still lives large in the minds of the Hoyas faithful.

4. Steve Bartman becomes the most hated man in Illinois.

We all know the Bartman story. The Chicago Cubs, a team seemingly cursed from ever winning the World Series again, were up 3-2 in the 2003 National League Championship Series against the Florida Marlins. They were searching for their first title since 1908 and were up 3-0 in the 8th inning of Game 6. Pan in, Luis Castillo hits a fly ball towards foul ground as outfielder Moisés Alou starts to track it. Instead of Alou catching it for the second out of the inning, this odd looking fellow wearing headphones reaches over the wall and interferes with the catch. As (bad) luck would have it, the Cubs went on to surrender eight runs in the inning before losing Game 7 by a score of 9-6. Bartman instantly became the most hated person in the stadium, and eventually in the city, as he was sent a multitude of death threats during the whole situation. Thankfully, the Cubs ended the curse in 2016 after defeating the Cleveland Indians in seven games and they attempted to rectify the Bartman incident by sending him a World Series ring of his own.

3. Chris Webber tries to be the Prince of Persia.

First off, for those uncultured swine who do not know what the Prince of Persia is – it is an older video game series where the protagonist has the ability to rewind time and correct his mistakes. Chris Webber certainly wishes he had that capability after this colossal choke job. It was the 1993 National Championship game. Michigan had made it all the way back to the finals after being manhandled by Duke in the championship the year before. Webber hauls in the rebound with 20 seconds left in a 73-71 game. He clearly walks with the ball but the officials do not call the travel. He proceeds past half-court, gets cornered with the ball, and looks at the official to reset and call timeout so they can draw up a play to tie the game. Except, Michigan had no timeouts remaining which meant UNC automatically got to shoot two technical foul shots effectively ending the game. It was a painful loss for Wolverine fans and haunted Webber for the entirety of his playing career.

2. Bill’s Buck Up.

We’ve talked about the Cubs curse already, but the Red Sox endured a lengthy World Series drought of their own. The Red Sox were up 3-2 in the 1986 World Series against the New York Mets. Game 6 was tied 5-5 in the bottom of the 10th inning. Mets left fielder Mookie Wilson hit a slow roller towards Buckner on the first base line which should have been the third out of the frame. Unbelievably, Bucker fails to get his glove under the ball and it rolls past him, bringing in the winning run and sending the series to a deciding Game 7. The Red Sox ended up blowing a 3-0 lead in that game and ultimately lost 8-5 as the Mets won their second World Series in franchise history. The curse continued for 18 more years before the Red Sox finally won in 2004 to end the 86-year drought.

1. Pete Carroll and the worst play call ever.

Yes, the worst blunder on my list is actually a coaches decision. With just 26 seconds remaining, the Seahawks are two yards away from winning back-to-back Super Bowls. For some inexplicable reason, Pete Carroll decided to throw the ball even with bruising running back Marshawn Lynch lined up on Russell Wilson’s left. Lynch was arguably the best goal-line back in the entire league, and the Seahawks were in their 94 Buck formation which was a running formation. Still, Carroll changed the play to a pass and the rest is history. Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler jumped Jermaine Kearse and picked the ball off at the goal line to give the Patriots the unlikeliest of wins. It is one of the most mind-boggling decisions ever made at such a high level and prevented the Seahawks from becoming a possible dynasty.

« Older Entries