It Ain't About You, Raptors. It's About LeBron. Get Used To It
To paraphrase that old breakup line, “It ain’t you, Toronto. It’s LeBron.”
Because no one gets to break up with Toronto, the current humiliation of the Raptors by LeBron James is being seen as all about Hogtown. Sad. But when you’re the centre of your own universe, you think you should be able to buy, intimidate or use every means at your disposal to get what you want. Now.
The kabuki from courtside jester Drake sums up Toronto’s pretensions to NBA relevance. The pop singer has been trying to diss the Cavs, efforting the resistance his own team abandoned days ago. But Drake’s wannabe act was put in his place by the collapse of his Eastern Conference regular-season winners.
While the Cavs easily eon the clinching Game 4 clincher, the dagger to Toronto’s hopes of entertaining Shaq, Charles Barkley and the NBA elite for the Eastern Final came with a LeBron buzzer beater in Game 3. How fatal was that shot to the Raps? “Shot hurts my heart and we ain’t playing!” tweeted a rival NBA player with no stake in the game.
The Raps have been a fine team all year. They backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry has been a machine. Their big man, Jonas Valanciunas, has made great strides. Their bench has been a terror. They used it to subdue Washington in six games.
And then along came LeBron. Here’s the 2018 playoff line for the 33-year old. The last three lines represent his punishment of the Raps that has earned him the nickname LeBronto.
38 PTS, 7 AST, 6 REB
43 PTS, 14 AST, 8 REB
26 PTS, 13 AST, 11 REB
45 PTS, 7 AST, 8 REB
22 PTS, 7 AST, 5 REB
44 PTS, 8 AST, 10 REB
32 PTS, 7 AST, 13 REB
28 PTS, 8 AST, 12 REB
46 PTS, 5 AST, 12 REB
24 PTS, 12 AST, 10 REB
In short, it wasn’t about you, Toronto. The man is greatness. He does this to everyone this side of the Golden State Warriors. He’s indefatigable. He’s a wrecking ball with the hands of a cat burglar. You had no one who could— or wanted— stop him.
Don’t despair. He’s a free agent this summer. Maybe he’ll come to Toronto to be the final piece of the Raptors championship puzzle. Maybe he’ll go to L.A., where you’ll only have to see him in the NBA Final.
But trust me. This isn’t about you. Hard as that is to accept in Toronto.
There’s a hankering for nostalgia in our society. Doing it the way they did it back in the day. Old-timey values.
This sentimentality does not extend, however, to watching hockey the way it was played 15 or 20 years. If I wanted to see how Darryl Sutter likes hockey played I’d just call him up for a chat.
And yet the NHL, in its wisdom, has decided to throw away many of the advancements of the past decade and return to the bad-old days of clutch and tackle in the playoffs. After empowering referees to call fouls as they occur, we’re back to the days of “managing” games to keep them close.
As anyone who’s been watching knows, managing games means the recessive elements on the ice dictate play. So casual obstruction, subtle interference and some blatant mugging are back in, uncalled by zebras.
Remember when hurrying up face-offs was a priority? Today’s face-offs are slower than the Mueller inquiry. They still result in many unsatisfactory draws.
The Winnipeg Jets have been an exception in many cases. Their élan and speed are the hockey we’ve been trying to permit. But other series have ground down to trench warfare, punctuated by Sean Avery II— Brad Marchand— and his licking lunacy.
(Maybe this is paranoia, but does this happen every time Jeremy Jacobs’ Bruins get on a run in the postseason?)
It’s unfair to blame the referees. It’s not like they got together to concoct a plan to sidetrack the playoffs. This recidivism starts at the top of the league where the commissioner and his cohorts show the resolve of a boozer being offered one for the road. Obsessed with appeasing the Don Cherry crew, they keep pushing away fans who want more of the Jets and less of the two-handed checks into the boards.
Hopefully the Jets will prevail. After all, the Bruins are now eliminated. Maybe we’ll have a classic final. But I wouldn’t bet on it. Because in the NHL, it’s about Gary… not you.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy.is the host of the podcast The Full Count with Bruce Dowbiggin on his website is Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). He’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author whose new book Cap In Hand will be available this fall.