Vince Carter is lost to us, Raptors fans. Air Canada has taken flight from Dallas, but not to finish his career in the city where the legend began. Instead, he’s selected the Memphis Grizzlies, inking a two-year deal. I wasn’t comfortable with the notion of Vince returning to the Toronto Raptors. He never struck me as a leader-in-training while he was wearing our colours, and I haven’t seen any signs of gravitas since he left. Vince has never been within sniffing distance of a championship ring, and I doubt he’s going to put the Grizz over the top. On the court, he’s a useful rotation swingman, and no more, at this stage of his career. I’d rather risk the money on a younger player, but Memphis didn’t ask my opinion.
The Raps appear most unlikely to add a veteran presence. The planet is desperately short of Charles Oakley-types, and anyway there’s no roster room or money should one drop in from another galaxy. I don’t think we need view the lack of a locker-room “enforcer” as a serious defect. While I would have been thrilled to add Luol Deng to our team, I don’t know if he ever considered Toronto, and it’s moot now. Kyle Lowry has laid claim to be the team’s leader and, as one of our eldest players at 28, he needs to don that mantle.
Leadership is a difficult asset to determine the value of. There are other nebulous terms which swirl around players, like “high basketball IQ”, and “glue guy”. I like to use these expressions, as a counterbalance to those of us in the observer/commentator community who have sold our souls to the High Priests of Analytics. Look, no one doing this job can overlook statistics. I wear out various advanced-data websites before I recommend, or turn thumbs down on, a trade. But I also trust my eyes, and my gut. Do we have a fit, or no?
Our General Manager, Masai Ujiri, is not shy about how impressed he was by the improvement in the team’s results when the chemistry improved. He’s also modest enough to claim no credit in foreseeing the magical effect on the team’s fortunes from having a bunch of guys who didn’t care about personal stats, but cared a great deal about wins. What’s impressive is how Masai has taken the knowledge to heart. I think he decided Vince’s return to Toronto would be more about Vince, and less about the team.