Toronto Sports fans, I have good news. It seems we bounced off the bottom in August and things are looking up.
At that time, the Jays, Leafs, Raptors, TFC and Argos were all in pretty dire straits. You'll have to click back for details. I called it a "brand new low", but as I type this today I'm pleased to report the Argos are Grey Cup champs, the Blue Jays are entering the pre-season as World Series favourites and both the Leafs and Raptors are on four game winning streaks. Heck, the Leafs might even make the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
And let me tell you as someone who is watching both the Leafs and Raptors these days, they're both entertaining and full of hope, something that's been sorely lacking the past few years. The Toronto professional sports scene is suddenly respectable again.
Go Jays Go! And go Leafs, Raptors and Argos, too! I'm not sure about TFC, but the other teams are headed in the right direction.
The Memphis Grizzlies' leading scorer is now a Toronto Raptor. Rudy Gay and his big contract now belongs to the Rap who traded Jose Calderon and Ed Davis to land him and centre Hamed Haddadi.
What does the National Post tell us about this deal?
Gay, 26, is having a poor year by his standards. He is averaging 17.2 points while shooting just 41% from the floor and 31% from three-point range. However, his career statistics are 45% and 34%, and it is very rare for a player to start declining at this stage of his career. It is likely he is just having an off-season. Almost certainly, Gay would slide in as the Raptors’ best swingman since the departure of Vince Carter.
But there are concerns for the future, most notably how he might pair with DeMar DeRozan, whom the Raptors signed to a four-year, US$38-million extension this year. Both struggle to hit the three-point shot, and are not elite creators. However, Gay and new starting point guard Kyle Lowry played together in Memphis, and are close friends.
The move would be an expensive one for the Raptors. Calderon’s contract was set to expire after this year, while Davis’s rookie-scale contract is only guaranteed through next year at US$3.15-million. He would be due for a raise after that. Gay is owed more than US$37-million over the next two years.
In 24 games as a starter, Davis has averaged 12.9 points and 7.7 rebounds on 56% shooting from the floor. After struggling in his first two years, Davis’s player efficiency rating has shot up to 18.1, well above the league average. However, there is a suggestion that this Davis is playing at or near his peak — that a skinny power forward with limited range on his jumper has a limited ceiling. Davis was the 13th pick in the 2010 Draft.
Calderon, meanwhile, will go down as one of the greatest Raptors ever — a low bar, perhaps, but meaningful nonetheless. Calderon’s 525 games with the team are just 17 behind Morris Peterson’s franchise record. His 3,770 assists more than double second-place Alvin Williams on that all-time franchise list. He is also a top-five Raptor in career minutes played, field goals made, field goals attempted, three-point field goals, steals and free-throw percentage.
Andrea Bargnani remains a Toronto Raptor.
I only became aware of Andrew Wiggins last year when my brother Ryan espoused his virtues as a slam-dunk #1 pick in 2014. Wiggins is from Vaughan "The City Above Toronto" and currently plays for Huntington Prep High School in West Virginia. I'm told the nickname "Canada's LeBron" is well deserved.
If Andrew Wiggins stays healthy, he's a lock to go first overall in 2014, but already I'm seeing articles asking if the Raptors shouldn't tank for Wiggins.... next season.
I've never been comfortable with the idea of a team intentionally sucking in order to score a better draft pick. I like to root for my team to win, even if I know they can't win the championship, and I believe we owe it to sport to make the opposition earn every win against us. The notion of tanking has never agreed with me.
And in the NBA, you can come in dead last and not get the #1 pick. In fact, there's a 75% chance you won't get the first pick overall if you come in last. That's far from a guarantee.
Wiggins may be a once-in-a-generation player, and he's even Canadian, but if we're already talking about tanking to improve our odds of drafting him in 2014, we really are hopeless.
Less than a month ago, the Raptors were 4-19. 4-19 is pretty ugly. 4-19 was enough to get me to stop tuning in, despite the fact my main winter team isn't playing at all.
Since then, the Raptors have won 8 of 9. 12-20 is nothing to write home about, but it beats the mess out of 4-19. Heck, in the Eastern Conference, 12-20 puts us in 10th place, only 2.5 games out of the playoffs. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
With Andrea Bargnani out of the lineup, and the Raps putting in a solid defensive effort most nights, I've been watching again, and it's been fun. It's not a star-laden team, but it's a cohesive collective that plays together and shares the wealth between DeMar DeRozan, Jose Calderon, Kyle Lowry, Ed Davis, Alan Anderson, Amir Johnson and Terrence Ross who managed to score 26 points last night.
I'm not foolish enough to suggest the Raptors will make the playoffs, and I'm well aware these wins are coming against weaker teams, but with 8 wins in 9 games, they certainly have my attention.
Ping me when we trade Bargnani for a 2nd round pick.
P.s. Sorry to hear Raptorized John passed away. I've heard his calls on The FAN 590 for so long, it was like he was a part of the station. Raptorized John had a distinctive voice and always started his call with "Yo!".
Raptorized John died last week during his sleep. I'm thinking he would have been jazzed about Ross's effort last night.
My brothers and I ended up in the same room Tuesday as we met up at my mom's for Christmas dinner. Many topics were passionately discussed, but the one that caused the biggest uproar was Toronto Raptor Andrea Bargnani.
With an embedded photographer in the room, a great deal of this debate was captured. In a nutshell, my brother Ryan is somewhat blinded by the Fantasy Sports value of a player and gets that confused with the real-game value of a player. Apparently, he really likes Andrea Bargnani's numbers and considers him an asset. Meanwhile, Steve and I are ready to ship him out of town for a couple of basketballs and consider him an overrated disappointment.
Here's Ryan emphatically telling me Bargnani should yield a first round pick in a trade.
Here's my brother Steve and I trying to decide which course of logic to follow first.
As a courtesy, we heard him out, of course.
At some point, Ryan compared Andrea Bargnani to Dirk Nowitzki. That's when I needed to sit down.
This argument could go all night...
To the computer!
Conclusion: Bargnani is a nice pickup for your fantasy sports team, but if you have a real NBA team, you'll be better off when he's out of the lineup. Sorry, Ry.
When the Toronto Raptors released Toronto native Jamaal Magloire the other day, it brought the number of Canadians in the NBA down to 8.
Here are the 8 Canadians currently playing in the NBA:
- Joel Anthony - C - Miami Heat
- Samuel Dalembert - C - Houston Rockets
- Cory Joseph - PG - San Antonio Spurs
- Kris Joseph - SF - Boston Celtics
- Steve Nash - PG - Los Angeles Lakers
- Andrew Nicholson - PF - Orlando Magic
- Robert Sacre - C - Los Angeles Lakers
- Tristan Thompson - PF - Cleveland Cavaliers
Nash playing for the Lakers presents an interesting dilemma I'll address in episode 11 of Toronto Mike'd, which just happens to be recording tonight.
I think we're about to hit a new bottom... at least a new bottom for Toronto sports teams. With the Euro Cup and Olympic distractions behind us, and summer winding down, I've decided to do a quick State of the Union analysis of Toronto professional sports teams.
Toronto Blue Jays
I'm sad to say I haven't followed this team much the past few weeks. Oh... I see we're dead last in the AL East, 15 games behind the Yankees. And our wild card hopes have evaporated... and half the team is on the DL. Wasn't that new wild card supposed to belong to us? Nah, we'll finish last instead.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs haven't made the playoffs since before the last labour stoppage, and now it looks like we're heading into another. We diehards don't even get to enjoy watching our team miss the playoffs again. That might be the only thing worse than the longest non-playoff streak in the league. Sad and pitiful.
We sucked last year, and we'll suck again this season. Every analyst and pundit has assured me of that. And really, even if a miracle of miracles occurred and we slipped into 8th place in the conference, Miami would chew us up and spit us out in 4.
Firstly, I fully acknowledge that almost none of you care about the CFL. I just checked the standings and we're 3-3. That almost sounds decent until you see in an 8-team league only one team has a worse record. That shit's cray!
Lastly, we check in on our professional MLS soccer team. I remember getting off to a horrible start, but I've lost touch with them recently. I wonder how they're doing.... Oh... dead last in the Eastern Conference. That sounds about right.
So there you have it, a quick review of how it currently looks for Toronto sports teams. Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we've found a brand new low.
Andy Gray from Sports Illustrated is tweeting Toronto-centric pictures this afternoon.
I'm a Toronto-centric kind of guy who loves sports (and gets Sports Illustrated every week), so I'm collecting them all here along with Andy's accompanying tweets and some commentary from yours truly.
AG: Jack Morris, Dave Stewart, Todd Stottlemyre & Juan Guzman pose at a 1993 SI photo shoot
TM: Damn, I miss these days. I once stalked Stottlemyre at the CNE to get his autograph.
AG: Toronto Argonauts owners Bruce McNall, Wayne Gretzky and John Candy attend a 1991 game
TM: The kids and I just watched Planes, Trains and Automobiles. A few months ago, we watched Uncle Buck. I miss John Candy.
AG: SI photographer John McDonough took this great shot of Vince Carter
TM: Nope, I'm still not ready to make nice.
AG: Felix Potvin and his cat pose for a 1982 (sic) SI photo shoot
TM: Of course, Andy meant 1992. Speaking of stuff I miss, damn I miss Felix Potvin and this Leafs team that made the Conference finals twice in the early 90s.
AG: How amazing was this Toronto promotion (from 1946 Knicks-Huskies game)?
TM: I hate the name "Raptors" and wish we had gone with "Huskies".
AG: Get your cigar, recline your La-Z-Boy. We're going with Toronto photos all day. David Wells is excited!
TM: I saw STP and RHCP with David Wells... sorta.
AG: Tie Domi and Lyle Odelein get acquainted during a 2000 game between the Leafs and Devils
TM: My old pal.
AG: Marcus Camby poses for a photo at Raptors Media Day in 1997
TM: I can't believe Camby is still playing. He's old... he's my age!
AG: Blue Jays shortstop Danny Ainge in action
TM: NBA star Danny Ainge started at third for the Jays back in 1981. Here are the other starting third basemen in Blue Jays history.
AG: Joe Theismann in action with the Toronto Argonauts during the 1972 season
TM: This is the first photo, outside the Huskies ticket, that doesn't bring back memories.
AG: Cousins Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter in 1999
TM: T-Mac never seemed happy.
AG: Kelly Gruber celebrates Toronto Day at the SI Vault (for @GrubersMullet and Gruber lovers everywhere)
AG: Roberto Alomar lays out for a catch during the 1992 World Series against Atlanta
TM: The greatest Blue Jay of all-time.
AG: Toronto fans celebrate after the Blue Jays won the 1992 World Series
TM: I'll never forget.
AG: Jesse Barfield and his son let their Soul Glo before a 1996 (sic) Blue Jays-Orioles game
TM: I loved Barfield, and I love this picture. There's my Exhibition Stadium in what is likely 1986. Barfield had a cannon for an arm.
AG: Wendel Clark scores a goal during a 1993 Caps-Leafs game
TM: All heart.
AG: Canadian legend Tim Horton played 18 seasons for the Maple Leafs in the '50s and '60s
TM: That's right, kids. Tim Horton was a Leaf. In fact, he was one of the greatest Leafs.
AG: Dave Keon and Pierre Pilote chase down a loose puck during a 1967 Maple Leafs-Blackhawks game
TM: I missed Keon's entire career, but I caught his return.
AG: Brian McNamee stretches out Roger Clemens before a 1997 Toronto-Baltimore game
TM: Roger Clemens, part of baseball's lost generation.
AG: How did Chris Bosh let SI take this photo of him?
AG: SI's Chuck Solomon with a great aerial shot of Joe Carter scoring the winning run of the 1993 World Series
TM: Joe touched 'em all, and it's been all downhill since then.
AG: Toronto Day is over as I have to meet Robbie Alomar at his Skydome hotel room for dinner. Hope you enjoyed
TM: Fess up, Toronto. How many of you slept with Roberto Alomar?
I watched the Oklahoma City Thunder eliminate the Los Angeles Lakers last night. That's rather significant, because I can count the basketball games I've watched this season on one hand.
Since the Raptors arrived in 1995 this is by far the least I've followed them. For one, it was a shortened season, and I was rooting for the lockout. It was a lost season and we all knew it so why emotionally invest? I opted out.
Having said that, I've never opted out of a lost Leafs season, and there have been plenty of those. I chalk that up to the simple fact that I'm a bigger hockey fan than I am a basketball fan. Still, I'm shocked at how invisible this Raptors season was... it started and then it was over.
Heading into this season, I wanted two things. I wanted the Mavs to fizzle out because I didn't want Vince Carter winning an NBA Championship. That happened. And I'd like the Heat to lose.... just because. Here's hoping that happens in the 2nd round against the Pacers.
So that's my super late Raptors recap. We stunk, but we knew we'd stink, and we think we have a decent coach and brighter days ahead.
So this just happened...
The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan has sold its 79.53 per cent stake in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment to Rogers Communications and BCE for more than $1.2 billion. BCE is fancy talk for Bell. That's right, Bell and Rogers now each own 37.5% of MLSE, which owns, among other things, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Toronto Raptors, TFC and the Toronto Marlies.
A couple of thoughts immediately spring to mind... These partnerships between Rogers and Bell make me very nervous. We need them to hate each other, right? It can't be good for the competitive landscape, for those of us who need Internet access and mobile talk and data plans and cable tv, when these telecom behemoths keep jumping into bed together.
And what will become of Pension Plan Puppets, the go-to Leafs blog in these parts? I hope they keep the name for tradition, the way we secular folks still call this Santa holiday Christmas.
But what matters most, of course, is will this help my Leafs win the cup? Since we've already given Brian Burke autonomy and let him spend the cap, I'm thinking it won't make a difference. At least it won't hurt...
What do you guys think of the sale of MLSE?
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