I have heard it all. From the naysayers and eternal Raptors' optimists, I think we've covered every camp from 'they look like a second year expansion team' to 'Don't worry, Davis. It's only 6 weeks'. Whatever camp you belong to, please do me one favour. Don't get your hopes up. There are pockets of Raptors greatness to get excited about this season but don't fall into the trap most die hard Leaf fans do. We can't expect DeMar DeRozen to pick up after Chris Bosh, though we would all like to see him have a great season. If you honestly think the Raptors are going to make the playoffs this year, you need to book an express train back to reality. You can't expect a team who struggled last year to take you to the promise land. With training camp starting soon, let's take one game at a time and build on it. With all the things going wrong with this club, the Toronto Raptors need support from everywhere, especially its fans. But if they don't start moving past the 'pockets', fans will set up camp elsewhere. Let's talk about the NBA's 'Power of Immunity', another Davis in the headlines and Ron Artest throwing his championship ring at a good cause.
Unloading and Reloading
Let's pretend DeMar DeRozan, Andrea Bargnani and even Ed Davis proves to be everything the Raptors need and more. It won't matter because a little thing called the Traded Player Exception will hang over this, meaning it could make the Raptors' situation better or worse. Allow me to explain. When Bosh went to Miami, the Raptors got a bargaining chip worth $14.5 million and has about a year to use it. This means the Raptors can get salaries from other teams up to the face value of the exemption without sending any players or salaries back to match. But with this $14.5 million, there are some NBA salaries that are too big to be taken on by the team because then any NBA player could be signed on without any sacrifices being made. For example, look at what Utah and Minnesota did this summer. Al Jefferson was sent to Utah so he could replace Carlos Boozer. So Utah is all happy to get a 20-10 power forward to replace an out-going 20-10 power forward and Minnesota is happy to dump $13 million from the Timberwolves' books this season - AND a cool $32-million over the course of the rest of his three year deal I might add. So now, Utah can look forward to a possible Western Conference final. The Raptors can make a move like this one at any time this season but making sure they do it before the trade deadline. I know - this is all enough to make your head spin but things we need to think about going into this season.
Artest at his Best
I know he got knocked for it but I think it was cool Ron Artest thanked his psychiatrist for relaxing him during last year's playoffs. It takes a pretty strong person to admit they are seeking professional help and the fact that Ron Artest did it on a national stage will certainly help lift the stigma. But he wants to do more. He wants to give his championship ring away and not just to the highest bidder, either. He has had some celebrities and investors offer him some serious cash but he wants to raffle it off so that an everyday fan can have a chance to own it. The price of these raffle tickets? Between one and three dollars. All the proceeds from the sale of the ring will go to programs helping families and kids with mental health issues. He took advantage of a program when he was 13 years old but funding for the program was dropped so he never saw it through. He is even helping push for the passage of a Mental Health in Schools Act which would support funding for schools across the U.S. to set up mental health programs for students. He's still looking for investment partners but he wanted to make sure the fans were taken care of. For someone who sometimes comes across as from another planet, he brings us down to earth with a project like this one. Kudos to Artest.
Davis wins an Emmy?
So another Davis is making headlines in the NBA lately. This time it is Baron Davis of the Los Angeles Clippers. Next Monday, the Emmy awards for news and documentaries are handed out in New York City. Why should this be associated with a point guard from L.A.? Well, it just so happens Baron Davis served as executive producer of "Crips and Bloods: Made in America" which is up for best documentary. His money and expertise went into it as he escaped from the world the documentary describes - through basketball. The documentary focuses on the root causes of gang life and why some kids choose this life. I want to see it just for the narration alone. Academy Award winner Forrest Whitaker lends his voice to the piece and it includes interviews from actual gang members and NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown since he works with inner-city kids. Davis has also started a production company called Verso Entertainment and hopes there are more documentaries to come. So now there's two more NBAers looking past the end of their careers. Just wonder who's company will make more of a name for itself - Steve Nash's or Baron Davis? Time will only tell.
Good News for Paul Allen
This guy has fought the good fight with cancer. Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma last November. Twenty years ago, he also battled another cancer Hodgkin's Lymphoma. But now, he said on the team's official website his follow-up cancer test came out clean. His secret? He said attending basketball games helped take his mind off of his health issues. Basketball saving lives. Love it.
Basketball Beyond the Floor
Be sure to tune in this Thursday for Basketball Beyond the Floor when we discuss Rick Pitino's Rebound Rules: The Art of Success 2.0. Until then, happy reading.