Raptors Undergo Huge Changes
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) _ They had a chubby guy, a couple of short guys, a skinny teenager and an admittedly unprepared leader who could only shrug at his plight.
They looked just like a YMCA team, except these were Toronto Raptors in their first hours of the post-Stoudamire era.
Reggie Slater was the starting forward. Chris Garner was the sixth man. Butch Carter was the former clipboard carrier who was thrust into duty as interim head coach.
Only seven healthy players were available to the Raptors after Friday’s trade of Damon Stoudamire and two others to the Portland Trail Blazers
They played playground-style ball with the requisite lack of defense, gave up 130 points, goofed around and didn’t seem to mind that they resembled an NBA freak show in the immediate aftermath of several drastic changes.
In 24 hours, the team was sold, the coach resigned and the best player was traded.
``It’s just crazy,″ said 18-year-old stringbean rookie Tracy McGrady, the youngest player in the league. ``I guess this is my introduction to the NBA. I’m glad to get it over with in my rookie year.″
``Tricky business, you just have to swallow and go on″ said Oliver Miller, the 350-pound Toronto center, ``but life in the NBA goes on.″
The Raptors might have had it easier if the NBA had just canceled the game. But Toronto had the minimum eight players in uniform _ even though Marcus Camby was injured and couldn’t play _ and was obligated to do its duty.
The result was a 130-115 loss that dropped Toronto’s record to 11-39.
``It was a relief to get this all over with,″ said John Wallace, the most talented of the leftover Raptors. ``Now the deal is done and we can go out and try to salvage the rest of the season.″
Carter replaced Darrell Walker after the second-year coach resigned following the Stoudamire trade.
``I just thought that if they were going to trade Damon, they were going in a different direction than I wanted to,″ Walker said. ``I don’t mind coaching an expansion team, but I wanted to see some light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t see any light.″
Stoudamire had informed the Raptors they had no chance of re-signing him, so the team decided to get something in return rather than risk losing him as a free agent.
Over the past two weeks, a number of proposed deals fell through at the last minute, including trades which would have sent Stoudamire to Houston, New Jersey and Orlando.
He ended up in his hometown of Portland, along with ex-Raptors Carlos Rogers and Walt Williams. In return, the Raptors received Kenny Anderson, Gary Trent, rookie Alvin Williams, two 1998 No. 1 draft picks (Portland’s and New York’s) and a substantial amount of cash.
Camby said he wouldn’t be surprised if he was among the next to be traded.
In other NBA cities, players on other teams were hoping they wouldn’t be the ones getting relocated to Toronto _ a city that is looked at as unappealing NBA outpost with high taxes, long winters and no appeal to most of the league’s players.
``No one wants to play in Toronto, but when players sign contracts they do it with the knowledge that those contracts are assignable,″ Nets general manager John Nash said.
In the hours following the trade Friday night, the remaining Raptors said it was tough to take such upheaval.
But they also acknowledged that they would have a chance to receive increased playing time. And by using it well, many of them could help write their own tickets out of Toronto.
``I don’t think it’s turmoil,″ Carter said of his team. ``I think it was a hard day because guys in the locker room lost someone they were close to. It was very hard for them to say goodbye.″