Never an Idea

Bryan Colangelo

Sometimes in life, it is a good idea to go with the flow. Be spontaneous. Live in the moment. Don’t worry about what is next and just let life come to you.

Solid advice. Except, not when you’re the general manager of a professional basketball franchise.

Unfortunately for the Toronto Raptors, that’s the way Bryan Colangelo seemed to run his operation on far too many occasions.

It appeared that Bryan Colangelo’s option year would be picked up by MLSE. That is until Tom Leiweke was hired to be the President and CEO of MLSE. After keeping Colangelo in limbo, reports are that Leiweke and MLSE have decided to move the once hyped GM into a corporate, non-basketball role.

After being foolishly extended 2 years ago, Colangelo has rightly been ousted from his position.

Bryan Colangelo wasn’t simply a bad general manager. What made matters worse was that, at a certain point, it became apparent that he was more concerned with keeping his job than building a true contender.

Moves were made on the fly as players would become available. They were not based around a master plan that all GM’s should have. Colangelo lost sight of the big picture and focused more on doing things for the short-term. Moves that he hoped would finally bring the Raptors back into the playoffs. A first round post-season exit would not have phased him because, to the general public, it would have signalled steps in the right direction.

Jerry Colangelo he was not.

The most recent change Colangelo made to the roster was bringing in Rudy Gay, a supremely talented individual scorer. A player who should be able to bring the Raptors to the playoffs next season. The move was flawed from the beginning though. It was only done because the opportunity arose. Otherwise, why extend DeMar DeRozan, the poor man’s Rudy Gay?

But Colangelo could get Rudy Gay at a steal of a price. He sold high on Ed Davis, a solid power forward with a limited ceiling.

The deal on paper was fine. It made the Raptors a better team and brought excitement to the city. However, the deal cost the team much more than Ed Davis and Rudy Gay’s excessively high salary. Once again, it mortgaged the Toronto Raptors long-term future. It was, at least, another two years of mediocrity before the healing could really begin.

The brightest executive on the planet won’t be able to change that.

The past year have featured some of Colangelo’s other finest moments. First, it was trying to bring in Steve Nash with the reason being, well, no particular reason. The man who turned Bryan Colangelo from the son of Jerry Colangelo into ingenious NBA executive couldn’t do anything to save this team. Still, Colangelo tried to seal the deal and he ended up wasting 3 years and $19 million on Landry Fields.

Welp, Steve Nash did not work out so Colangelo had to improvise as he had done time after time during his tenure. He traded a 1st round pick for Kyle Lowry who was given the keys to the franchise. Keys to the franchise? Lowry couldn’t even keep his starting job.

Related: Head Over…Head for Steve Nash

Kyle Lowry wasn’t able to turn the keys of the franchise the right way so Colangelo had to work his magic again. He found Rudy Gay. If he hadn’t used the “keys to the franchise” line at the Kyle Lowry-Landry Fields press conference, he certainly would have used it on Rudy Gay.

Luckily for Bryan Colangelo, Bryan Colangelo was always a fantastic salesman. If he sold Bentley’s, I would probably buy one even though it would take me 35 years to pay it off. He and former Toronto Blue Jays general manager J.P. Retardi..err Riccardi are very similar. In spite of poor decision after poor decision, they both had the ability to assure their bosses and the fans that there were greener pastures on the horizon. It allowed them to stay much longer than they should have.

If there was one person who could write a book entitled “how to keep your job as a general manager”, Bryan Colangelo would be the author. Mike Milbury and Matt Millen would even learn a thing or two from it.

A couple of weeks ago, Bryan Colangelo presented his supposed plan to Tom Leiweke and the board of directors at MLSE. I wouldn’t be surprised if Colangelo walked into the meeting with a blank piece of paper and handed it to Tom Leiweke.

From the moment when Colangelo’s attempted to convince Chris Bosh into staying in Toronto with a roster featuring Hedo Turkoglu, there has been no one direction (yes, pun intended!) that the franchise has gone. Colangelo has steered the franchise as if he had a broken compass.

His talking of the talk afforded him opportunity after opportunity. He somehow turned perennial underachieving into 7 years as the decision maker for the Toronto Raptors, which makes him the longest tenured GM in the franchise’s history.

Although the future is brighter for the Raptors sans Colangelo, the damage has already been done. Without any real idea of how he would go about creating a contender, Bryan Colagelo has the Raptors stuck in gear 3. Too good for Andrew Wiggins, not good enough to even sniff the second round of the playoffs.

A new general manager can only do so much.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @chrisrossPTB and I will happily return the favour.

The Everyman Star

The word ‘superstar’ is thrown around a lot these days.

In game 1 of the Denver-Golden State series, Doris Burke was foolishly anointing Ty Lawson a superstar on the rise. Doris Burke was just doing what so many analysts do. Hyperbolizing the stardom of professional athletes. Those who are only well-known to fans following the particular sport and understand that athlete’s greatness within their sport.

Ty Lawson is not even a star, much less a superstar.

Heck, I would argue that Lebron James and Kobe Bryant are the NBA’s only two true superstars. They are the only players that have a significant reach to the public beyond those who care about basketball.

Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard are stars. They will be known to the average sports fan. However, my mom is going to be utterly confused if I start a sentence involving any of those guys.

Steph Curry?

He is well be on his way to surpassing those stars and he just might be knocking on the door of legitimate superstardom. Kobe/Lebron territory and that’s no joke. Steph Curry is everything that Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant are not. He has something that none of them will ever have.

He is relatable.

No, he isn’t tiny like Muggsy Bogues. But Steph Curry isn’t imposing either. He is an unintimidating 6 foot 3, 185 pounds. He went to a small school because no one thought he was good enough. He beat the odds in a Cinderella-like fashion.

His game isn’t intimidating either. He has that silky smooth jumper we all wish we had but he can’t just pull up whenever he wants. Remember, he is not 6 foot 9. He is the opposite of physically dominating. He has crazy handles but they aren’t made for an And1 street ball mix tape in a Jamal Crawford style.

Despite the fact that his Dad, Dell Curry, played in the NBA, there is no sense of entitlement or superiority. There is no gorilla chest pounding after a slam dunk in a meaningless first round series against a relatively hapless opponent.

There is passion though. Lots of it. The man is not without personality by any means. He gets pumped in a manner that doesn’t come across as smug or arrogant. He reacts to the energy of the game the way many of us probably imagine we would as well.

Steph Curry could be this generation’s Allen Iverson, except he won’t be broke at 35. He is not the same player as Allen Iverson in any sense but his appeal to fans is similar.

He is the little engine that could.

With a bum ankle, unthinkable scoop shots, rainbow 3’s and one-handed dimes, Curry carried the Golden State Warriors to the 2nd round of the playoffs. Although their double-double machine David Lee was missing for most of the series, Curry was still able to step up and did so at the most opportune moments as only a superstar can.

Most importantly, Steph Curry is a joy to watch. There is more to his game for the average viewer than say, a Chris Paul. You don’t have to be a basketball person to appreciate what Curry does on a night-to-night basis.

He needs a championship calibre team though. No one becomes a superstar without championship runs. Multiple championship runs. Steph Curry could possibly be the scorer’s version of Steve Nash, who is a borderline superstar in his own right (Note: He is a superstar in Canada). Playing in a run and gun system that never fails to generate excitement, Curry already has a sidekick for years to come in fellow sharpshooter Klay Thompson.

With a guy like Curry, any franchise has the ability to build a team good enough to make a run a championships for years to come.

Without Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo and Jeremy Lin in the 2013 NBA playoffs, Steph Curry has become the darling of the entire league. The underdog role fits him more perfectly than, well, a glass slipper.

Steph Curry won’t be able to shake that label but that isn’t a bad thing. He will always be the little man beating the odds. As a professional athlete, it is what makes him so endearing. To think, this is just year 1 of his rise to stardom. As long as he stays healthy, he will be one of the NBA’s premier stars.

With a little bit of luck, he might be a superstar too.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @chrisrossPTB and I will happily return the favour.

Acceptance

Jason Collins is gay.

You might not know who Jason Collins is. He is a 34-year-old journeyman NBA center. He is now the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. Jason Collins came out in a ground breaking article that he wrote for Sports Illustrated.

This was inevitable. The talk of a gay athlete finally coming out has been increasing recently and it was simply a matter of time before someone did it. It takes immense courage to be the first athlete to come out. It is unchartered waters and for Collins to be the first to put himself out there to face the unknown must be commended.

Jason Collins will be likened by some to be the Jackie Robinson of gay athletes.

Although what Jason Collins is doing cannot be diminished, his coming out of the proverbial closet will not be nearly as difficult as what many have anticipated.

Collins writes himself that “I’m glad I’m coming out in 2013 rather than 2003. The climate has shifted; public opinion has shifted.” The landscape in 2013 is not one where the public will harass and demonize Jason Collins for being openly gay. The world has changed.

If you take one look at the comments on the article from Sports Illustrated website, the majority of comments are those praising Collins for his bravery. For every negative comment, there is at least one other commenter willing to attack that person’s narrow-minded perspective.

Search Jason Collins on twitter. Read all the tweets mentioning his name. Despite the anonymity and cruelty that is the twitter world, the majority of the people are expressing their congratulations to Collins. Other than the kudos, there are not many tweets harsher than a mildly inappropriate joke, often making fun of his ability as a player or that this should have been Chris Bosh (I still don’t get those ones).

While there are probably lots of other people, especially among the older generation, who may be disgusted by Jason Collins that simply aren’t tweeting or commenting on Sports Illustrated, it shows that entire landscape has changed.

Not only are people much more accepting of homosexuality in general, people who are not accepting of that lifestyle do not publicize their opinion out of fear for being labelled a bigot or a homophobe. In the politically correct North America that we currently live in, the outspokenness of small-minded individuals is lessened due to this fear.

If Jason Collins ever finds his way onto another team at age 34, the first fan to chirp Collins in the stadium about his homosexuality will be met by a whole host of fans defending Collins.

When Jackie Robinson became the first black professional baseball player, you could imagine the outcry from the media.

Jason Collins does not have to face any of that.

Collins will not have to face the scorn of the media. As Collins continues to receive congratulations from left, right and centre around media circles, those in the business who don’t approve of his behaviour cannot speak up. Even those who wish they could speak out against Collins will not because they will get fired.

Jason Collins might never play another NBA game. It will take a bold owner to take on a 34-year-old center who, in almost all likelihood, isn’t good enough to be on an NBA roster anyway. Jason Collins knows that.

The locker room is still the place where acceptance is up in the air. Having to face the public and the media is one thing, but trying to be accepted in the locker room is quite another. It’s the Tim Tebow dilemma all over again, except multiplied exponentially. Teams don’t want the distraction.

This is a monumental day in sports because Jason Collins has opened the floodgates. Gay athletes can now start to reveal their true colours, however slowly that may be, without the anxiety of going down in history as the first to come out.

As straight athletes like Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo continue to speak up for gay athletes to come out, more and more players have warmed to the idea of having an openly homosexual teammate. It just isn’t an obscene concept anymore.

While this is undoubtedly a monumental day, it is not quite as monumental as one would have imagined 10 or even 5 years ago. The world is a different place. Jason Collins, alone, is not bearing the brunt of the blow like pioneers of the past have. There are hundreds of thousands of supporters that are willing to help him along the way. The ignorance is not as real as it once was.

By doing it on his own terms and in such an eloquent way, Jason Collins finally opened the doors that needed to be opened.

But Jackie Robinson, he is not.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @chrisrossPTB and I will happily return the favour.

Questionable Person

Geno Smith

If Geno Smith wasn’t on national television he might have thrown a tantrum.

Slipping in a very Aaron Rodgers-like fashion, Geno Smith did not handle what was in store for him in a very Aaron Rodgers-like manner though. Geno pouted, his head was slumped down as he texted and he eventually left early, too rattled to endure a few extra minutes of pain. There were even reports that Geno Smith wasn’t going to stay in New York for the 2nd round, which garnered a lot of bad publicity. So Geno Smith stayed, saying he never intended to leave.

His response to finally being drafted. Well, that wasn’t anything to be proud of either.

Geno Smith told you everything you need to know about Geno Smith the person without saying a word and, when he did speak out loud, it didn’t help anyone change their mind.

It is always dangerous to read too much into these types of things. For such a young person to have the most exciting day of their life turn into the most depressing day of their life documented in front of the world cannot be easy to deal with.

Nevertheless, this isn’t a good sign for the New York Jets, who have now officially wasted the past 4 seasons on Mark Sanchez. They could be wasting another 4 on Geno Smith.

Geno Smith already has tons of question marks surrounding his ability to be a franchise NFL quarterback. Duh, he went 39th overall. All those question marks have been dissected to the Nth degree. There have also been mixed reports regarding his possible lack of character, most notably from Nolan Nawrocki of Pro Football Weekly.

I wasn’t sure what to make of Nolan Nawrocki’s report before the draft. Now, I have to say that I am buying whatever Nolan was saying.

To be a great NFL quarterback, having it figured out between the ears is a must. More so than any other position in sports. Ryan Leaf, Vince Young, Jamarcus Russell. None of them had it.

Geno Smith does not strike anyone as the brightest bulb in the janitor’s closet. He was unable to replicate a simple white board play with NFL Network’s Steve Mariucci. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III breezed through the white board test during last year’s NFL Network special. People don’t rave about Smith’s intelligence like they did with all 3 of last year’s rookie sensations.

Not being smart does not make Geno Smith a bad quarterback. Dan Marino has shown that you can be great without having too much going on up in the ol’ noggin. It certainly doesn’t help though.

More importantly, it is the way Geno Smith reacted at the draft. What he did was confirm all these character questions surrounding him. To react in such a childish manner demonstrates a lack of intelligence, character and an inability to handle adversity. Geno Smith thought it wasn’t fair that he did not get his cookie and he didn’t care who knew that he was upset.

He had to have known it was a realistic possibility that he would drop out of the 1st round altogether. Did no one give him a draft history lesson?

You think that was tough Geno? Wait until the New York media gets a hold of you.

Geno Smith has mentioned how the critics have been motivating him, that the chip on his shoulder is getting bigger and how he wants to prove all the doubters wrong. I guess those things were a lot easier to say when he thought he wouldn’t drop outside the top 10 because, by responding the way he did to the situation, the critics are all refueled and ready to pour more onto the fire.

Instead of showing everyone how mature he could be in handling a very difficult situation, Geno Smith melted. He said that “I think it was just a test of patience, a test of character,” and that “I wanted to make it my duty to come back today and still represent for my family and all of those that support me.” If this was a test, he failed big time. Furthermore, he should not have had to explain why he decided to attend the 2nd day of the draft. It should have been common sense.

It isn’t fair to compare Geno Smith to a guy like Aaron Rodgers. Aaron Rodgers is a rock. Nothing bothers the guy. He handled the Brett Favre debacle as well as any sane person could.

The thing is, that’s the type of character I want in my quarterback. I don’t want the guy who knows that all eyes are on him but still can’t turn his frown upside down when Roger Goodell wants to go in for one of those ridiculous bear hugs.

Geno Smith is entitled to be unhappy but a person in his circumstances puts a mask on That’s just what you do. The fact that he wasn’t able to do that says something about the guy and it isn’t anything good.

If any other team was thinking of taking Geno Smith, he must have made them feel pretty good about their decision to pass on him.

The New York Jets got some pretty good value out of a guy some felt would be snapped up as early as 6th overall. An incredibly physically gifted quarterback, Geno Smith is going to bring a lot of buzz, as there always is, to the city of New York.

The past is the past. It’s time for these young men to get to work.

But the way the past 36 hours unfolded for Geno Smith, all I can say is, thank God he isn’t on my team.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @chrisrossPTB and I will happily return the favour.

Didn’t Even See it Coming

Like the great Roman and Greek civilizations, the National Football League’s demise has officially begun.

America’s 365 day a year pass time took a big blow right in the gut today. After a 31-1 vote, the NFL’s passed the ‘Helmet Rule’, which penalizes a player who makes or initiates contact with the crown of his helmet outside of the tackle box. The NFL has made a big statement with this rule change in regards to the health of its current and future players.

However, the NFL made another statement that just might not be one that anyone can foresee right now: The NFL will cease to exist in 50 years.

Go ahead, call me crazy.

But before you do, think about it.

The NFL is currently at its pinnacle with regards to not only its own history, but in the context of professional sports history as a whole. In terms of advertising, television viewers and gross revenue in general, the NFL is second to none. To put it simply, the NFL has become the ultimate money-making machine.

The game is changing though. Due to the enormous amount of law suits that have been piling in from former NFL players, Roger Goodell has been forced to act. Head shots have been taking out of the game, and rightfully so. Quarterbacks are treated like royalty, and rightfully so.

The NFL is going too far though. Even though Mike Florio of NBC’s Pro Football Talk has pointed out that the new helmet rule is more limited than it is widely believed to be, this is a classic sign of the beginning of the end.

The NFL moved kickoffs up to the 35 yard line last year, which has partially removed the kick return from the game. The next logical step would be to eliminate the kickoff altogether. Well, doesn’t that sound fantastic? It won’t be long before the NFL removes what can be the most exciting play in any given game. A play that has the potential for fireworks every time it isn’t kicked out of the end zone. I’m looking at you Jacoby Jones.

Although former players will always have a biased view, not much different than the elderly man at the bus stop who yearns for the way things were back in his day, they correctly understand the game is leaning too much in the direction of safety. They know what the risks are, and they accept them. Current players make the same conscious decision. As callous as it may sound, those are the cold hard facts.

Professional football is not a bubble-wrapped world.

The NFL has been able to create this empire in large part due to the violent nature of the game. The NFL is the first world version of the Roman Gladiator’s. The greatest physical specimens are placed in a confined arena where the ultimate goal is to smash their opponent into oblivion while each armed like Iron Man light.

And we love it. Maybe it’s just me, but the rugby shoulder tackle isn’t quite as exciting.

It’s probably not the first time you have heard this, but the game is slowly but surely turning into a game of flag football. While flag football may be a lot of fun to play, I imagine it’s not as good on TV, even if it is in high def. Little does the NFL know that this gradual transition is putting the league towards its inevitable termination.

These changes do not just have ramifications on the way the game is going to be played in the future for professionals either. Every rule change affects how the game is being viewed by parents looking to put their kids into sports at a young age. From 2009-2011, the number of kids who play tackle football was down 15 percent. Although it could be viewed as a good thing that the game will be safer to kids, a lot of parents might simply be saying, why risk it? If all these rule changes are necessary for the game to be safer, what does that say to a parent who has the choice between soccer, baseball, basketball and football for their child?

There has already been a drastic decrease in youth participation in football across the United States. To believe that these rule changes will work to increase those numbers is a very utopian outlook on the situation. Despite the rule changes, the risk will always be there as long as players are armed with the equipment that they have. Most parents will understand that.

With the ever-expanding body of medical evidence outlining the damaging effects playing football can have on an individual later in life, the NFL will be forced to make the game even safer as time goes on. That, or face an enormous amount of law suits.

What’s the next?

Tackle football, with helmets and pads, is an extremely dangerous game. The way to change that involves compromising the very thing that makes the game appealing to so many fans.

The NFL is succeeding at both.

The seemingly natural evolution, or de-evolution, of the rule changes that have transpired over the past few years would be to continue down this safety road. The NFL reached its peak of violence and, not coincidentally, its peak in revenue and viewership. As the decline in violence continues, so will its decline as the league all other leagues aspire to be.

Before we know it, the game will have turned into something almost unrecognizable. Again, this won’t be an immediate transformation. It will be a snail’s pace change that will face serious opposition from a multitude of outlets.

But 50 years from now, the NFL as we currently know and love, in all its concussion-filled glory, will be no more.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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