We're done with NBA All-Star Weekend and now we get to the home stretch of the regular Season. Bring it on! Here are a few quick thoughts.
1. All-Star Weekend (Toronto 2016?): Count me in! It would be a terrific event for the city and a wonderful opportunity for the organization to put its best foot forward and show the NBA community and basketball world that this is a top-notch market; one that should a 'destination market' in the league.
An event like this gives MLSE the chance to go on the offensive and attack any/all misconceptions that have existed over the past 18 years about whether the Raptors and the NBA can be a viable fit in Southern Ontario and across the country. You only get so many chances to make a major statement to some of the major players in the sports and entertainment industry in the same weekend; this is one of those events.
Every single possible step and detail must be taken and looked after. If the Raptors want to be 'major players' in the years to come, not only do they have to build a successful and sustainable winning franchise, they also have to create a new narrative or message for how the NBA/basketball community views Toronto as an NBA city.
We're in the recruitment and retention business and the impressions made on the significant power brokers (players, agents, league officials and major media) is vital if this is going to get turned. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has to get on board with this effort and make sure it's a slam dunk event for Toronto and the growth of the sport across the country. Seize the opportunity!
2. Terrence Ross (Raptors): Congratulations on winning the Slam Dunk Contest! I'm thrilled for him. He is a classy young man and I'm happy it worked out for him. Ok, now that that's over with, I hate to rain on the parade but I'm old-school, time to become a player.
A lot of forgettable players have won and/or competed in the Slam Dunk Contest and I think every one of them would trade it in for the chance to have had a career that defined consistency, high-end productivity, and long-term success.
The fact that you're a wonderful athlete and can dunk doesn't assure that you'll become a legit player, we've seen this happen all too often. The style is there but the substance never catches up. I think Ross has the potential to be a very good player. Hopefully this is a springboard for his growth and maturity and leads him down the road of success.
So enjoy the pats on the back for another day and get ready for games vs. Washington, Memphis and New York this week. Back to work and back to the most important task of all: fulfilling the potential you have and becoming a high-end producer that defines winning.
3. Billy Hunter: Hunter was unanimously voted out by the Players Association as their leader this weekend, and I couldn't agree more. His time has come and gone. Players have a long-term agreement in place (second year of 10 with opt outs for both sides after the sixth year - which hopefully doesn't lead to another lockout) and I think it's important for them to find someone who is going to work well with new Commissioner Adam Silver and create a sensible partnership to grow the game and revenues.
Will that person have to be tough on occasion? Yes. On the other hand, you also need someone who has both the good of the players and the game they play at the top of their list, and handles himself in an ethical fashion. The better the leader for this Union, the better the league will become here over the next 10-20 years.
4. Jerry Buss (Lakers): RIP. It's a sad day in the NBA with his passing. Buss won 10 NBA Titles and when I think of him I think of the phrase ‘committed to winning' in every way, shape, and form. In a sport that's become 'big business,' he defined how to do it and do it in a first class fashion.
5. NBA Trade Deadline (Feb 21): Big day this week. We've seen stars like James Harden and Rudy Gay get moved because of the more punitive luxury tax that's approaching. The big thing to keep an eye on is whether teams will make moves to get out from under commitments that could cause major money damage long-term, or do they sit tight for now.
If they sit tight, I have no doubts that come early July we'll see a very active trade market due to the new tax. Few teams can or will stomach paying it. A new NBA world is approaching; money and taxes are just as important as winning. Andrea Bargnani? Who knows what happens, but he surely didn't help his trade value his last few games.