It’s funny what a fiasco does to us. Even when we tell ourselves we’re not going to get sucked in again or that we are the ones who perpetuate the madness.
I’m absurdly guilty and don’t take an ounce of shame in it.
I was eating a delicious sandwich hundreds of miles from home on business, trying to do that drive-and-eat thing that I abhor. The radio was turned to Colin Cowherd, who is usually a staple when I have the opportunity, but even more during a time when speculation was running rampant on all these shows, honestly more a spectacle than anything I can remember.
And then, no more than five bites into the elite hot sandwich, it happened.
I pulled the car over and set the sandwich aside. Colin started to read the letter on-air and I checked my pulse.
The anticipation was immeasurable. I had a feeling it was going to read like a businesslike memo, saying something about owing it to his guys to keep the train going as long as he figured they could be successful; he trusted Pat Riley enough to make it work. I thought a two-year deal was coming, perhaps with an unwritten, informal commitment to Cleveland after that.
Of course I should have known better. Such an avenue to inform the hungry public had such pathos that it could only have signaled an emotional triumph of sorts.
The king had his court once again, and I was so riveted by that narrative it took about seven minutes before I started driving again, and even longer before I realized I had a sandwich to finish.
But all the while, even as marquee free agents like Carmelo Anthony wallowed to relative anonymity (and probably a little bitter about that, too, not that he would admit it), the Toronto Raptors have meandered down the free agent road, albeit quietly, with a sense of purpose and continuity. There is no sense of desperation or pomp with any of their moves.
It’s amazing what perception will do. The Raptors have been in flux for so long; the summer’s usually ripe with measures to keep players they shouldn’t or cut costs to try and lure players that simply won’t come.
But that scene, even in a first-round playoff loss, and the lauding the players did about the organization and the future, it changed the perception.
All the Toronto Raptors did this offseason was re-sign the players that makes them go in Kyle Lowry. The Heat made him a priority.
Lowry stayed true to the optimistic vibe he cultivated during the season. Realistically, Lowry is probably the harbinger for the shift of power in the East.
If he decides to sign with Miami, what are the chances that LeBron James has that same level of commitment to Cleveland … right now? I’m convinced he would have signed a two-year deal with Miami under the idea that he was going to win another championship before making the grand homecoming.
But Lowry didn’t spurn Toronto. And that seems to be the kind of stabilizing move that begets other moves of the same ilk.
Look at what they have done in the past few weeks: bringing back Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson on very reasonable deals and both very much wanted to return to Toronto. That isn’t the kind of theme you heard coming out of Toronto in recent years.
That, combined with the under-the-radar signings of Louis Williams and James Johnson, is making it clear the improving depth is a necessity. These subtle signings are showing a complete lack of flash; it is the antithesis of everything even the casual basketball fan has been subject to the past week.
It’s a relief. There is nothing wrong with swinging for the fences, but there is something to be said for having complete faith in your process.
For the first time in a while, the people in Toronto should take solace in the idea that what they’re doing might be good enough.
And that’s plenty of egg in my face, considering that at one time I was urging a blowup that would have had them superficially reaching for big names all over the league. The fiasco may be fun, but the stability is a welcome change for this franchise.
Success and confidence has changed the Raptors narrative, and I’ll take that over the madness.