“…if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled…” - P.G. Wodehouse, The Code of the Woosters
Loyal friends of this scribe’s work know I awarded Coach Casey the ’11-’12 Rookie of the Year, a decision I’m starting to regret. Yesterday the Raptors donated James Johnson to Sacramento. The Raps receive a fig leaf of a 2014 second-round pick, in order to show everyone that it really, really was a trade. JJ is a defensive force to be reckoned, with great hands and hops. Offensively, he’s a problem. His jump shot is bad, but that didn’t stop him from flinging it up time and again. Regardless, he’s an athlete, and him grabbing a starting role in Kings-town wouldn’t surprise me at all.
If Johnson’s dumping was a one-off, I could live with it. Rumours of a spat with Coach during practice flew about in mid-season, and JJ was benched for 2 games. JJ has to bow to authority, but isn’t two games’ punishment enough? And Johnson’s eviction from the Good Ship Raptor is but the latest example of the purge the Coach seems to be leading. Malcontent Jerryd Bayless’ team option was rescinded, and he signed with Memphis for zero compensation. (Sonny Weems was also released but in fairness to Coach, since Sonny never played under Casey, it seems unlikely that a vendetta could have been created).
Bayless and JJ could have, and should have, been offered a chance to make the big team, or traded for a meaningful return. Instead, we have a purge of players who object to their role. Bayless was well-known for imagining himself to be the starting point guard, and resisting the thought of becoming a useful backup at the 2. I don’t blame the kid for resisting the bench; every player should want to be a starter. Bayless is now at his fourth NBA stop in as many years, so he’s clearly no saint, but that’s not the point.
GMs and coaches of pro sports teams must always view their players in a bifurcated manner. Management loves its players when they are drafting or trading for them, but must be ready to dump them in service to the higher cause of constant club improvement. In short, all players are assets, like cash, or draft picks. I accept that, and I accept that a player who can’t, or won’t, do what the coach asks of him has to go. But I don’t have to accept players being donated to other teams for no return, because Coach doesn’t like them. If you have decided a guy must go for disciplinary reasons, you feature him (yes, even in Summer League) at your earliest opportunity. Then you strike your best deal. How can dumping JJ and Bayless for a total return of a second round pick in 2014 be considered an adequate return? What was the rush?
I’ve yet to find anyone who pays big money to go to a Raps game in order to watch the coach, and the Tough Guy shtick gets old fast. I’m not quite ready to rescind my Rookie award to the coach, but one more charity stunt like these two, and I will.