Jun 27, 2013; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Lucas Nogueira poses for a photo with NBA commissioner David Stern after being selected as the number sixteen overall pick to the Boston Celtics during the 2013 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Rookie Raptors - will they be happy if they aren't on the floor?


The Toronto Raptors have enjoyed a successful off-season, following their 48-win ’13-’14 campaign. The team roster’s is all but finalized, unlike so many other NBA teams who are scrambling to find players. The Raps were not part of the LeBron James chase (a.k.a. The Decision…again), nor was our team mentioned as a candidate in the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes. Kevin Love is the latest object of lust, with the Cleveland Canadians Cavaliers being mentioned as the most likely landing spot for the Minnesota Timberwolves’ star. Our GM, Masai Ujiri, concentrated his efforts on bringing back to Toronto those free agents who have proven useful in Raptors attire. Let someone else scramble for the dwindling number of players still looking for homes.

Our team’s roster consists of battle-tested yet youthful players on a mission to bring a championship to our city. But management seems intent on adding our rookies, first-round draft pick, Bruno Caboclo, the recently-acquired centre Lucas Nogueira and perhaps second-round selection DeAndre Daniels to the big team. While part of my brain can accept the notion of having the kids watching and learning, another part is repelled. There doesn’t appear to be a reasonable place for our youngsters to learn by doing. I’ve harped enough about the Raps needing a D-League affiliate, so I won’t do it here, though I was intrigued to read about how the Oklahoma City Thunder are coping with the problem. In effect, OKC and their draft selection, Josh Heustis, are gambling he can develop quickly enough in the D-League to make the Thunder in a year or two. That decision has a startling impact on his income this season [read the entire article, by the valuable Zach Lowe, to learn how much money Heustis is turning down, and why].

I’ve been around long enough to remember what a dismal first season Tracy McGrady had as an 18-year-old Raptor. His coach, Darrell Walker, decided the best way to motivate TMac, fresh out of high school and in a new country, would be to treat him like a raw Marine recruit. Walker acted like a drill sargeant, and made Tracy’s life miserable. Would Tracy have left town as a free agent at his first opportunity had his rookie season been more about basketball and less about his coach’s machismo? That’s impossible to know, although TMac has admitted he wishes he had stayed in Toronto. The thought of he and Vince Carter, in their primes, starting on the same Raps team is enough to bring water to my eyes.

Anyway, I don’t want history to repeat itself. Bruno is a long way from home, as is Lucas, and Portugese, not English, is their mother tongue. Let’s be careful with these kids, and not expect them to run before they can walk. They need a place to play –  practices aren’t games, and gathering splinters at bench’s end won’t endear them to our organization.

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