Toronto Raptors Offseason: Plan Over Loyalty


Toronto Raptors Offseason: Plan Over Loyalty

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It seems Toronto Raptors’ GM Masai Ujiri has a definite agenda to his free agent spending – and size as well as defensive ability are among them. Addressing size, Ujiri has reloaded with former Atlanta Hawks forward-prize DeMarre Carroll (below, right), as well as paint-protector Bismack Biyombo from Charlotte.

As part of the general managers job, they have to make hard decisions. In this case, it appears that Ujiri is a man sticking to his gameplan and is not wrapped up in loyalty to now former team members. Long-time forward Amir Johnson (below right), who I feel has been around forever, was let go as the Raptors did not match the two-year, $24 million contract laid out by the Boston Celtics (seems like a lot of money to me… but then, most of them do – but this one perhaps especially?). Amir, we will remember your dedication and your hard work – you will always be a Raptor. Good luck, sir.

Apr 1, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Toronto Raptors forward Amir Johnson (15) shoots against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first quarter at Target Center. The Raptors win 113-99. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

May 22, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward DeMarre Carroll (5) reacts during the second quarter in game two of the Eastern Conference Finals of the NBA Playoffs against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Another casualty in this vain, the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year was not offered a deal by the Raptors. This causes much sadness in Raptors’ nation as we will never again be privy to hear play-by-play commentator Matt Devlin serenade us with his “LOUUUUUU” calls for Lou Williams, as he has left town. Raptors’ fans know we’ll miss his scoring. Where will that come from now? It’s a really good question…

“How many nights did Lou Williams save everyone’s asses when no one could do a damn thing?” asks an emphatic Sid Seixero of Sportsnet’s Tim & Sid. The answer? Quite a lot of times. Enough times to win the Sixth Man Trophy for the first time in franchise history anyway.

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“I was kind of disappointed I wasn’t allowed to stay in Toronto, but you move forward,” Williams said to Tim and Sid (of Toronto) after signing a three-year, $21 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers. He expanded on the Raptors’ closed-mindedness via Instagram: “A lot of Canadian hate for me I see. [But you’re] mad at me for not signing a deal that I was NEVER offered (crying emoticon, crying emoticon).”

“Yeah, I was surprised,” Williams stated, “but the playoffs left a sour taste in everybody’s mouth and I happened to be one of the guys who wasn’t on the books for years to come, so I became expendable.”

“The last time a sixth man went looking for work was James Harden, and it worked out pretty well for him in Houston,” co-host Tim Micallef reminded us (Harden got paid, and announced himself as a superstar).

Mar 13, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard Lou Williams (23) during their game against the Miami Heat at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Heat 102-92. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The main reason the word expendable was used, was the signing of Toronto product, Cory Joseph, a guard himself. I said the Celts overpaid for Johnson, but I know that the Raptors significantly overpaid for Joseph. Four years and $30 million? That’s crazy-talk! His numbers don’t warrant that contract. (Just 5 points and 1.7 assists per game… and just 2.8 PPG in the playoffs. However in games he started, 13.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG, and 3.6 APG.)

“Absolutely I wanted to stay in Toronto,” Williams explained. “Actually, we called Toronto, out of courtesy, to let them know we have another deal on the table. And they just said, you know, if you have another deal on the table, just take it.”

The Raptors need defense, sure, and maybe Williams doesn’t have much of that. Neither did Greivis Vasquez, the Raptors’ other backup point guard, and Ujiri sent him and his contract to Milwaukee. But you need to score to win basketball games. And replacing’ 15.5 points off the bench won’t be the easiest thing to do. By committee? That doesn’t sound too reliable…

“I really wanted to be a part of what they were building there,” said Williams. “But I understand the nature of the beast.”

“It was one glorious year in Toronto,” Seixero said of Williams’ tenure as a Raptor. Sweet Lou will not be as sweet in Los Angeles as he was in Toronto. Or not very likely, as Williams will have to team up with ball-stopping forward, basketball immortal, Kobe Bryant. Both need the ball to be effective, so it’ll be interesting to see how they interact with each other. “How are you looking forward to sharing the ball with Kobe Bryant?” asked a tongue-in-cheek Micallef. Williams, always gracious, laughed at how cleverly worded the question was.

A glorious year, it was. However, the Raptors were swept in four games in the playoffs by a lower-seeded team – that was not so glorious… nor was it sweet. And Ujiri (below, right) has addressed the toughness and defense aspect with Carroll and Biyombo.

Ujiri, lest we forget, has won NBA Executive of the Year for his work in Denver, and has turned miracles in “sending Rudy Gay out through that open door” and “made (Andrea) Bargnani go away.”

So maybe, like the title of that song spoof on earlier renditions (Dec. 9, 2013) of Tim and Sid, we should just “believe in Masai” (I very much encourage you to check out the video for that segment.)

Next: Raptors: Will Terrence Ross stay or go?