Believe it or not, ladies and gentlemen, the New York Post’s Peter Vescey comes to praise rather than bury the Toronto Raptors. Even more impressively, he sneaks in a couple of Walter Berry references without mentioning anything about an insufficient tip left at Sammy’s Roumanian.
The 10-in-a-row Nets are playing so well, I did a double-take to make sure Bye-Ron Scott hadn’t been fired the day before the run started. Before Vince Carter’s 42-point detonation and game-ending trifecta laid the Raptors to rest, Toronto had won five straight, its finest showing in more than two seasons. I’d be derelict not to acknowledge Rob Babcock for drastically recouping from the Carter hijacking and seemingly (I’m not so sure anymore he’s going to be a bust) unspeakable decision to choose Rafael Araujo No. 8 overall in ’04.
Babcock made a miraculous recovery last June when he resisted the herd mentality by tabbing controversial Charlie Villanueva No. 7. He also took Joey Graham No. 16. Two months later, Jose Calderon was signed as a free agent. All three rookies are important pieces surrounding emerging franchise player Chris Bosh (Walter Berry with a head) to the Raptors puzzle that gradually but clearly is becoming visible.
If those aren’t redefining command judgments, then the next one unmistakably qualifies. The mark of a successful GM is to correct a glaring error as quickly as possible after admitting one was committed. That’s precisely what Babcock did by rerouting Rafer Alston (in constant conflict with coach Sam Mitchell) and his $24M, five-year guarantee for Mike James (above). It’s arguably the slickest ripoff of last summer.
Think Houston counterpart Carroll Dawson might like a do-over on that obtuse move? Think Houston might have liked to have James in its starting lineup last Friday night instead of him adorning Toronto’s? Think Tracy McGrady could’ve used his former running mate’s 30 points, eight assists and seven rebounds?
But that’s not all James accomplishes. Counting his demonic defense, The Amityville Terror is one of the league’s precious few quadruple threats. James does things that show up in the box score and he does things that limit opponents’ impact on a box score. Aside from the above glitzy stats, he also goaded Juwan Howard into an early ejection (14 minutes) from that game and suspended from the next for shoving a Spalding into James’ face with two hands.
Fittingly, before Sunday’s opening tip in Toronto, Carter threw his full support behind Babcock for Executive of the Province.