While watching the NBA playoffs, I noticed two things of importance. The first is that the Toronto Raptors have not been part of the playoffs in the last five years (I don’t miss much). The second and most striking – the announcers! After listening to Matt Devlin and Jack Armstrong all season long, I find myself almost glad that the Toronto Raptors did not find their way into the playoffs.
I believe that Matt Devlin does a tolerable job covering playoff games for other teams, specifically game one Indiana vs Atlanta on April 21st with Mike Fratello. With Matt as the Raptors play-by-play announcer however, I heard too many bad jokes and what feels to me like false excitement. To highlight a typical Matt Devlin evening, I will take you back to a February game in Washington where Matt commented disrespectfully about a “local rapper” named Wale, to wit, “Wale is inspiring, and I’m sure somebody on Twitter could tell me exactly if they’ve ever heard of Wale. He’s not Drake, that’s for sure.” Here’s a video of the incident. At the end of the video, we see Wale walking up to the announcers table, but not the more major confrontation (which occurred off-camera and was thankfully taken care of by security). Why Matt felt a need to comment on Wale I will never understand. Matt is there as a basketball play-by-play man and he is not even the colour commentator of the pair. Wale was at the game specifically to watch his friend Rudy Gay play that night who presumably smoothed things over with Wale and Matt afterwards.
Jack Armstrong is not much better. Armstrong goes off on personal tangents during the game, and only becomes really excited for the 4th quarter brought to you by “MILLER GENUINE DRAFT”. For that reason I feel his commentary has detracted from games as well, although from time to time his analysis will land on topic. I think the only time this year I really felt the way Armstrong did is during a game against Indiana when he called Tyler Hansborough a thug for throwing Jonas Valanciunas. What Hansborough did was uncalled for and dangerous, it appeared to me as a judo-like throw onto JV’s surgically repaired hand.
The reason I found myself almost glad that the Raptors did not make the playoffs is simple. Had the Raptors made the playoffs we would be deprived of great announcers such as Reggie Miller, Steve Kerr, Chris Webber, Mike “The Czar” Fratello, Jeff Van Gundy, Jon Barry, and Marv Albert…just to name a few. We could have been deprived of the half-time analysis of Ernie, Kenny, Charles, and Shaq as Raptors games tend to be analyzed by our own team of Sherman Hamilton, Akil Augustine and Leo Rautins. Personally I feel that Sherm and Leo are the best we have, perhaps they should be considered for the announcers table. I have also enjoyed Magic Johnson, Michael Wilbon, Bill Simmons, and Jalen Rose. I have to admit that one of my favorite half-time moments is Jalen Rose telling Bill Simmons “Don’t get fired Bill!”. Bill seems to make similar comments that Matt and Jack would on a night to night basis. I have to wonder if Bill’s comments are a set-up, as almost every halftime wrap-up seems to end with that comment (which most of the time it makes sense). I have to wonder if Jalen Rose was sitting opposite of Matt Devlin during the comments directed toward Wale whether we then would have heard “Don’t get fired, Matt”.
As I have noted above there are a lot of fine announcers out there to woo. Personally I have a vain hope that we can attract Jalen Rose back to Toronto as a colour commentator. Jalen can be quite humourous while staying on topic, and has a great basketball mind with which to provide quality analysis during games. Masai Ujiri has just thrown out some front office dead wood, and I hope a review of the current announcers will be next on our new GM’s to-do list.
Your turn, Rapture Nation.