Off-season slacking

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

It has become a modern cliche to say professional sports leagues don't have much of an off-season anymore.

But if there is such a thing as a summer break in the basketball world, we're smack-dab in the middle of it right now.

Relatively speaking, the final two weeks of August represent the only dead time there is in the NBA. Most general managers are taking something close to a vacation.

Raptors GM Rob Babcock, for example, is in Minnesota, and he does not plan to be back in his Toronto office till after Labour Day. Hopefully all those rival teams frantically calling about the availability of Eric Williams will leave messages.

Of course, now that we've said all this, there's nothing stopping the Raptors from pulling off the biggest trade in league history today. If past behaviour can be used as a gauge of future behaviour, we won't hold our breaths. But technically and formally, there is no moratorium on transactions.

Be that as it may, possibilities tend to emerge with the changing of the leaves, as some GMs take a cold, hard look at their rosters and fight the urge to throw up.

The remaining free agents will get increasingly desperate next month. And when those free agents start settling in surprising places through necessity and the pressures of Hummer payments, sparks can appear on the trade frontier.

Raptors fans who have been frustrated by the club's lack of activity should keep that in mind before making a final judgment. While the percentages always are against trades occurring -- just because, at their base level, they're hard to pull off -- there still is plenty of time to make alterations, even if they're small ones, to this Raptors roster, through buyouts or whatever.

Now, whether the Raptors have much to offer anyone else with regard to a more dramatic facelift is doubtful.

Shockingly, other teams around the NBA have shown only limited interest in picking away at a Raptors roster that has produced fewer than 100 victories -- 91, to be exact -- over the past three seasons.

If you're a Raptor and you don't answer to the name of Chris Bosh, you just aren't that hot a commodity.

Another hurdle: The Raptors have the maximum 15 players under contract, and Babcock has indicated he wants to add a third point guard, even if it merely is a minimum-salary guy, to back up Rafer Alston and Jose Calderon.

For those of you who have e-mailed to ask about how the development league might alleviate the Raptors' roster woes, well, we have some bad news.

One of the most interesting aspects of the new collective-bargaining agreement between the NBA and its players is the ability of teams to send a maximum of two players (with two years or less of experience) to the development league. Players can be sent down a maximum of three times per season.

That won't sound like a big deal to anyone who follows the NHL and Major League Baseball, but really, it's a paradigm shift for the NBA. Previously, all players in the development league had to be free agents.

Here's the restriction, though: When an NBA club assigns a player to the development league, that player will continue to take up a roster spot with the big club.

It was hoped by some that if the Raptors could assign, say, Rafael Araujo and Pape Sow to the development league (start packing, fellas), that would open up two roster spots with which to play around. Sadly, that is not the case.

Considering all these factors, it isn't going to be easy for Babcock to change much. He isn't exactly dealing from a position of strength.

But just because nothing has happened yet doesn't necessarily mean nothing will.

On the NBA weather map, things heat up in September. Raptors fans only can hope for some unseasonably high temperatures.


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