Saturday, December 18, 2004

THE SATURDAY NIGHT VINCE- UM, I MEAN LOCKOUT UPDATE

Well, here it is, another Saturday, another Hockeyless Night in Canada. I'll talk a little about hockey later, but first I want to talk about Vince Carter.

Clearly the Carter deal is the talk of the town and has been getting more attention from ordinary folks than these stupid hockey talks. Last night I was at the convenience store and the one brother says to the other brother: "heard they dealt Vince?" And that's all that people want to talk about on the radio and in the coffee shops. I'll tell you, no one cares about the NHL today. Among ordinary folks and young people it's the NBA that rules around here in Toronto, and all they care about is this deal that sends the Franchise out of here to New Jersey.

That injury-prone crybaby was finally shipped to New Jersey and good riddance to him, but this deal to ship him out of here is getting a lot of mixed reviews. Many people like the deal, but others feel Rob Babcock got hosed and that the Raptors got nothing in return. There's a story that Alonzo Mourning may never play for the Raptors and may be part of another deal to come. But a lot of people feel the Raptors basically only got Eric Williams in return for Vince and are mad about that; others are really upset that Vince was traded to a team in their own division.

Vince's fans, and he still has fans here, are completely aghast that he's been traded; an almost equal number of others are saying good riddance and don't ever come back. People either like this deal or they hate it. And there are probably a few middle-ground type people who want to see what comes of these draft choices and whether or not a few other deals are made.

Certainly the one thing a lot of fans aren't happy about is with the team on the court. This has been a TERRIBLE season so far for the Raptors, in a terrible Atlantic division. A .500 record is enough to be in first place but the Raptors are sitting there, dead last. A lot of fans are angry that they have to put up with what appears to be a rebuilding year for the Raptors and they have every right to be angry, but that's the reality right now. They weren't going to win with the team they had, so they've had to blow it up. But that doesn't mean the fans are any happier about it. There's a lot of criticism about the draft picks by the Raptors recently, and general complete disgust with the direction of the franchise. Personally, I'm glad they made the Vince deal now: I was getting really worried about his injuries and was worried one more injury would finish him for the season, or even for good. Then the pathetic Raptors would have been stuck with him.

This Vince Carter is not the same Vince Carter that we saw a few years ago. This Vince Carter is too injury-prone and doesn't seem like a happy camper. He may have been something back in 2000 when he was setting the league on fire and winning every big game on a last second jumper. In fact, that team seemed to have so much potential. I wish that group was able to stick together a little longer, but the truth is they never recovered from the departure of Tracy McGrady to Orlando. McGrady and Carter were a young-one-two punch who could have built a dynasty in Toronto had they hung around here. But they didn't, and then came Carter's injury problems. To make matters worse, Glen Grunwald panicked over players not wanting to come to Toronto, so he broke the bank for over-the-hill Hakeem Olajuwon. That was really the worst deal of all time and hung the Raptors out to dry. And the reason that deal hung the Raptors out to dry was simple: they needed some cap room to bring in some more young talent. As exciting as that team was back then, they needed better players.

I remember back when Vince re-signed with the Raptors to a multi-year deal three years ago. Everyone thought this was it, the Raptors were going to win the championship. People were celebrating as if the title was in the bag. Which shows you what these people in Toronto know. The problem was that they were not going to win with the group they had. There was Vince, and then there was the rest of the team. The rest of the team needed an overhaul; some of those players were old guys who had the best seasons of their careers in 2000-2001 and weren't gonna ever be able to improve on that. And Lenny Wilkens was too much of a veterans' coach so the young guys ended up getting dealt, and that came back to haunt the Raptors. And this team never did get their freaking center! The Grunwald regime botched the overhaul, pure and simple. I could go on. But the Raptors never did get it together and now here they are again, back to being the Devil's Island of the NBA.

And now you have all the sportstalk people on the radio talking about the team leaving again. I wish they would shut up. Rob Babcock had to blow this team up. This team isn't going to become a champion with Vince Carter, so you might as well look to rebuild through the draft and get some young guys in here. I say look at what the Detroit Pistons were able to do and follow that approach; they were where the Raptors are now, and they got it together eventually. Hey, you guys running the Raptors: make sure to get your act together quickly, that's all we ask.

HOCKEY WEEK:

Well, beyond what happened in the boardrooms there isn't much to talk about. Bob Goodenow had a cow over something Gary Bettman said in his press conference about the players' proposal; big deal. They're still not talking. In other news, you have the Worldstars playing over in Europe, that's getting a lot of press. You have the squad for the World Juniors in Winnipeg, getting all set to go next week to North Dakota. And finally, the LONDON KNIGHTS STREAK ended last night at 31 games, they finally lost... 5-2 to the Sudbury Wolves.

It looks like the NHL season is toast for December and probably all of January. Press people had been speculating that December 15th was the probable drop-dead date for this season: that they had to get a deal done by then or the whole season would be toast. Now they say that the drop dead date is actually in early January. Well, guys make up your mind when the drop dead date is! These sports media people are driving me up the wall, speculating on when the season is going to be called off. Others are saying: "the posturing is over, now the REAL negotiations can begin!" I thought these were supposed to be real negotiations? Then again, they really didn't do any negotiating, these two sides simply listened to each other's proposal and then announced it was no good.

Anyway, a lot of people are saying after this week to "get your hopes up fans!"... again... even though there are no more negotiations! They insist these two sides are really not that far apart, now. Well, make up your mind, either they're hell-bent on wiping out the season or they're not! They're now saying there's a chance they'll make a deal in early January. They also say there's a chance they could even make a deal in late January and salvage a portion of the season. There are some silly people, lots of them in fact, who say we can possibly get in a 30-game regular season (!) (?) (!) and have full playoffs. Now that is truly ridiculous. It won't erase the fact that in the pit of winter, ice-cold December and January, there will be no NHL hockey. I'm sure people will want to watch the NHL in the middle of summer. Now that is hockey weather for you. I won't be tempted to tune into a baseball game. Especially now that the Expos are playing in... well, where are they going to play? A homeless shelter, perhaps?

NHL Hockey may still come back this season, but still, wintertime in Canada has been RUINED. We'll never get it back. This is truly a winter without NHL hockey.

Gotta run: gotta watch the movies on TV, you know.

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