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  Wed, November 12, 2003


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Blazers bad boys good fit for Raps?
Duo doesn't fit the image, but ...

By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

PORTLAND, Ore. -- At first, you might think there is something evil in the Oregon water.

But upon closer inspection, the public face of the Portland Trail Blazers is the direct result of bad character, bad leadership, bad decisions and plain old bad luck, percolating in the stifling coffee pot of a small city.

It's unlikely something like this ever could happen in Toronto, isn't it?

Well, if the Raptors' on-and-off fascination with Blazers forward Rasheed Wallace eventually results in a blockbuster trade, a huge step toward punk-dom will have been taken.

According to league sources, the Raptors had agreed to a trade last summer that would have landed them Wallace and Bonzi Wells for Antonio Davis and Morris Peterson (there would have been some extra ballast here and there to make the salaries match). However, the Blazers backed out at the last minute. A similar deal could be revisited at any time, of course, and the Blazers would be more willing to pull the trigger now.

The Blazers wanted to crack down in terms of both finances and conduct this season, but already there has been a series of tense incidents. The most obvious involved Wells, who was fined $10,000 US by the team for making an obscene gesture toward a couple of Portland fans.

Wells at first said he couldn't recall what had happened, but his memory returned after video and photographic evidence prompted the fine. Blazers management took some heat, too, for the vague suggestion that while Wells was wrong, he was no more wrong than the allegedly abusive fans.

Ex-Raptor Damon Stoudamire has been charged with marijuana possession on a few occasions, but he still might qualify as the Blazers' valedictorian.

It's somewhat surprising the Raptors even would consider acquiring Wallace and Wells. Both undeniably are talented and effective.

If channelled and coached properly, the 6-foot-11 Wallace could wreak havoc in the NBA's height-challenged Eastern Conference.

But the off-court demeanour often exhibited by Wallace and Wells is opposed to the image the Raptors have endeavoured to project since, well, Stoudamire left.

Wallace is surly, superior, dismissive of the patrons and contemptuous of the media. Say what you will about the Raptors' Vince Carter, but he speaks to reporters after every game, every practice, every shootaround. Wallace regularly goes weeks without uttering a syllable.

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. president and CEO Richard Peddie has been quoted in the past as saying the Raptors did not covet any of the NBA's bad boys. But the deal for Wallace virtually was done, which means one of three things: Peddie forgot his earlier pledge, the club was worried Davis was going to be far more of a distraction than he has been, or general manager Glen Grunwald and coach Kevin O'Neill were convinced they could control Wallace in a way the Blazers never have been able to do.

This is where the small-city issue comes into play. The Blazers are the only major pro sports team in Portland, which obviously gives an egocentric individual like Wallace a sense of enormous privilege. You know, kind of like how an average third-line winger or sixth defenceman for the Maple Leafs feels in Toronto.

But despite Hogtown's myopia about the local NHL entry, there actually are plenty of other things to do. Image is vital to a team like the Raptors in such a competitive market.

With sellouts no longer a lock for the Raptors, could they afford to add a marquee player who doubles as a poster-child for anti-social behavior? Keep in mind a segment of the Toronto population already unfairly attributes all those negative qualities to practically every player in the NBA.

The Blazers still are a good team that even could be a great team with the likes of Wallace, Wells, Stoudamire and emerging star Zach Randolph. But the Blazers' attendance is way down, too, and the franchise is getting antsy about making big changes.

The Raptors should think very carefully about whether they want to be an accomplice.









Do you like the new-look Raptors heading into the 2013-14 NBA season?
  Yes, new GM made great moves
  No, they will still be a terrible team
  Unsure what to make of it


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