Raptors will be better off
By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun
Antonio Davis went numb. Jerome Williams wept. Davis finally got what he wanted. Williams got the last thing he wanted. And Chris Jefferies? He never got a chance.
The Raptors have pulled off one of the biggest trades in club history, sending Davis, Williams and Jefferies to the Chicago Bulls for Jalen Rose, Donyell Marshall and Lonny Baxter. The deal won't become official till tomorrow when the NBA's hierarchy saunters back to work after enjoying an all-too-idle U.S. Thanksgiving weekend.
Despite Davis' obvious desire to be dealt and all the trade rumours that surfaced nine days ago, he apparently still felt some shock yesterday when he heard about the trade. Williams, who is something of an innocent bystander in all this, cried when he realized he was leaving Toronto.
Trades are emotional experiences, regardless if players know a swap is in the works or if they get blind-sided. But feelings aside, both the Raptors and Bulls felt they needed to make big changes.
It was the printed opinion of yours truly last week that if Raptors general manager Glen Grunwald could find anyone to take the 35-year-old Davis and his cumbersome contract, the trigger should be pulled. However, that advice came with a strong recommendation that Grunwald should do his best not to trade Williams in the same deal, because of the negative impact it could have on the glass.
Simply put, the offence-challenged Raptors have given up rebounding for scoring, the latter coming particularly in the form of Rose, whose high-maintenance personality might clash with intense Raptors coach Kevin O'Neill. But Grunwald could have something else up his sleeve, too. At the very least, you have to believe Morris Peterson will be shopped around the league with great vigour as the Raptors troll for some serviceable size.
Davis had grown weary of his Toronto experience, both professionally and personally. He decided to remain a Raptor when he signed his big free-agent contract in 2001, but that was a fall-back after his supposed deal with the Bulls fell apart. From that point on, Davis never seemed completely happy, although his stats remained respectable.
This season Davis has been on a work-to-rule campaign. He was playing hard enough on the court so that no one could accuse him of not trying, but spiritually he had checked out. Certainly he abdicated his role as a team spokesman.
Williams, on the other hand, is the same individual he was last season and the season before that. An endearing memory: Back when he was traded to the Raptors from the Detroit Pistons in the winter of 2001, he drove all night through a snowstorm to Toronto. The Junk Yard Dog is a limited but enthusiastic role player whose self-promotion sometimes drove his teammates crazy. But he will be missed greatly by Raptors fans, if not necessarily by O'Neill.
The Raptors will visit Chicago once in January and once in February, but Friday, March 19, has taken on some added significance, with the Bulls set to visit the Air Canada Centre. Prediction: Davis will be booed, Williams will be cheered.
But Davis had some great years in Toronto and that should not be forgotten. Regardless, how the fans react is far less important than how the existing Raptors and Bulls react to their new teammates.
Looking at the way the two rosters have been altered, the Raptors will have more adjusting to do in the next couple of weeks than the Bulls. But considering the man-to-man nature of the transaction, Rose is five years younger than Davis, Marshall and Williams are a saw-off and Baxter probably has more potential than Jefferies.
So who wins?
Short-term, the Bulls.
Long-term, the Raptors.