Chuck, I've done it. After suffering through another season of watching a Raptors team without any direction. I have come up with a plan for re-building the franchise. On the surface this plan may seem too simple, too obvious...but the brilliant ones always do. You want a team with an identity? Well try this on for size: from now on the Raptors will only sign European players. Now hear me out! I'm not some racist crackpot, I have 6 solid reasons why this plan simply cannot fail.
1. American players do not want to come to Toronto. Let's face it. Whether its Canadian customs, the metric system, or lack of ESPN, they just don't dig it here. Well I don't care. With my plan we can stop wasting precious time appeasing current malcontents and chasing second-rate talent. How many times did we have to get Mo Taylor laid over Caribana weekend just to have him almost play here? No more.
2. Young European players don't know what they're "missing". Are you telling me that if Darko Milicic arrived at Pearson Airport instead of the Auburn Hills last June he'd have any idea he wasn't in Detroit? Hell, I could drive him out to Markham and Eglington and tell him we've crossed 8 Mile. These guys are happy and appreciative to be playing in the NBA. Period.
3. Toronto is the best place for Europeans to play. Vlade basking in the glow of waving Serbian flags, the Greek National team getting more fan support than the Canadians during their World Basketball Championship match-up, hundreds of Asians showing up at an autograph signing for.... Mengke Bateer? Are you kidding me Chuck? I'm surprised some crazy Scot doesn't throw a haggis out at half-court when Robert Archibald draws iron on a free throw. The point is that Toronto is a city where people embrace their heritage and celebrate it through basketball. It also offers European ex-pats a true taste of home-do you think Hedu Turkoglu would rather be on the Danforth or in San Antonio when he's jonesing for a kebab at 2am?
4. These guys are good...over the long term. The fact that these guys can play is obviously no secret with the emergence of All-Star caliber international NBA talent like Nowitzki and Peja. However I think a key point is missed when it comes to European players, they get better with age. It's like Kirsty Alley versus Sophia Lauren. These guys complement great fundamentals with experience, rather than relying solely on athletic prowess that fades. I may like Ricky Davis, Speedy Claxton, and Darius Miles today at Rucker Park, but I'm giving out long-term contracts to Jiri Welsch, Marko Jaric, and Manu Ginobili.
5. European players fit better with a basketball system. Teams that are successful over the long term have a system, identity, produce a 'brand' of basketball that wins games. It is first built by identifying the right type of players to fit the system. But once successful, that system then becomes attractive to the right types of players. Look at Utah: great system, terrible roster...but looks who's got the 8th seed out West. Would you like to deliver the news to Jerry Sloan that Kirilenko and Giricek have been traded for Iverson and Glen Robinson? European players have been playing professionally for a longer time and are better suited for more structured team-oriented basketball.
6. Make the Raptors a true reflection of the city. I'll make this simple: Who would you rather cheer for-a team of American players two years removed from high-school, or a racial mongrel of a roster that looks like it was plucked from the Scarborough Town Centre food court. I thought so. A team like this would be more meaningful to the city. Book it.
So other than simply purging the Raptor roster of all its current players (save Chris Bosh-there are exceptions to every rule) and replacing them with Europeans, here are a two more suggestions to make the transition a bit easier:
First, hire Wayne Cooper. He's the junior architect of the system that is closest to what I'm suggesting. Now keep in mind the new Euro-Raptors will make the Sacramento Kings look like the Harlem Globetrotters, but I presume we'll need someone who knows something about players and contracts.
Second, if Grunwald wants a new job, he's got one-making friends and passing out old JYD jerseys to tall kids in Belgrade. We (Me, you, Glen, and Herbie Kuhn) are going over to Europe to spread the news about the new Toronto Raptors-I'll pass out the brochures and you and Herbie can work the crowd. I've got a good feeling about this Chuck. Now that we've got the plan, the Raptors just need the onions to put it into action. Email me back soon so we can get started.
- The Blue Baller