Jun 16, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra looks on as small forward LeBron James (6) runs up the court against the San Antonio Spurs during the third quarter of game five in the 2013 NBA Finals at the AT

Raps need bigger tent

The Toronto Raptors waived Quentin Richardson, which barely qualifies as news, and certainly not as a surprise. He was a throw-in to the Andrea Bargnani deal for salary-matching purposes, and while I hold my nose at having to buy out two players (the other: Marcus Camby), I can understand the reasoning. What I can’t fathom is word from the Raptors office to the effect that they don’t anticipate filling the 15th spot on the roster. Does that make sense, and are they really planning, to commence training camp with only 14 players?

I’m opposed on principle to the notion that pro athletes have a guarantee of making the big team prior to camp. While it seems counter-intuitive, I’ve seen too much evidence (over the course of many seasons, and in all sports) of the need to ensure players never get too comfortable. For the sake of the team, everyone on it should always feel he’s a few bad games, or even a few bad plays, away from the bench or a demotion to the farm. Scotty Bowman, who won a ridiculous number of Stanley Cups, was a huge proponent of this “keep ‘em off balance and running scared” attitude. His players hated him, but they kept winning.

Nov 21, 2012; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward/center Tim Duncan (21) talks with head coach Gregg Popovich during the first quarter against the Boston Celtics at TD Banknorth Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

That’s the negative perspective – let’s think positive. There’s always the possibility of a training camp surprise player to gladden the hearts of jaded fans. It’s not at all unusual for Joe-from-the-sticks to arrive as an unheralded free agent or late-round draft pick and make the team through hustle and coach-ability.

The Raps are not the San Antonio Spurs or the Miami HEAT. Those teams have the luxury of zeroing in on those players who have proven they can produce wins under coaches (Gregg Popovich and Erik Spoelstra, respectively) who demand adherence to team goals. Alas, there is no identifiable “Raptor way” to play NBA basketball. Until that style emerges, if it ever does, I’d have training camp be a cattle call. Invite a bunch of free agents, and players like Jonny Flynn who are aware they are already viewed as washouts. Let’s get some ultra-hungry guys challenging the incumbents, and perhaps posting big numbers in pre-season.

Everyone’s got to sing for their supper.

Brian Boake is Senior Editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.

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