The Last Word
By STEVE SIMMONS, TORONTO SUN
This must kill Larry Tanenbaum, watching his Raptors become such a public, plummeting, laughing stock. It must kill the very optimism he began the season with, the belief this was a playoff team, a contender he told me just a few months ago.
Now with fingers pointing, losses mounting, turmoil everywhere, headlines screaming, the chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, who always sees the good, who always believes tomorrow will be better than today, has to blow up his basketball team.
He has to blow it up real good.
General manager gone. Coach gone. Scouting staff gone. Everybody who made a basketball personnel decision gone.
He has to start over again because every season can't go this way, this disjointed, this full of shock and bedlam.
This is Tanenbaum's team. His baby. And it's crying out for change.
Crying louder than ever before.
THIS AND THAT: The fact Carlos Tosca didn't get a contract extension as Blue Jays manager means he's being set up as a scapegoat if the team doesn't start the season well ... The whispers around Scott Stevens aren't optimistic in New Jersey. The odds are he won't play again this season ... A T-shirt spotted in spring training: "Milwaukee...a drinking town...with a baseball problem." ... How come Eric Lindros never thought of this? After losing a key fight, Sugar Shane Mosley looked in the mirror and fired his father ... The longevity of Mats Sundin continues to amaze. Other than the shortened lockout season, Sundin has never played fewer than 73 games for the Leafs. Over the same period of time, Peter Forsberg has missed 203 games in Colorado ... As if life wasn't bad enough for the Raptors, there are castoffs Rafer Alston leading Miami into the playoffs and Jannero Pargo popping in 34 points on Friday night.
HEAR AND THERE: From the department of life ain't always fair: Joe Nieuwendyk, Tie Domi and Bryan Marchment are all making the same money, $2 million US a season, with the Maple Leafs ... Nieuwendyk, by the way, was three goals away from tying Frank Mahovlich for 25th on the all-time list heading into last night's game and if there is a next season and he plays, he is certain to pass both Stan Mikita and Rocket Richard. Heady territory indeed ... The NHL visor issue really loses its steam when half of the Top 10 scorers in the league are wearing eye protection ... Just a hunch, but I like Dallas to win the West with Marty Turco being the difference maker ... The Sunday Stat: Mark Messier, who may or may not be retiring, has missed the playoffs for seven straight seasons ... The real cost of the Todd Bertuzzi suspension won't be known until after the Stanley Cup playoffs. But this much we know: The team has already shelled out half a million in salary, a quarterback of a million in league fines and if you assume about $1.2 million for every home playoff date lost, we're talking big-time expensive if the Canucks tap out early ... Don't know if this means anything but the decline of Pete Sampras as a tennis player began just after he got married. Tiger Woods seems ahead of Sampras. His decline, if that's what this slump is, began upon engagement.
SCENE AND HEARD: Hall of Famer Billy Smith couldn't play in Colin Campbell's NHL. He would be perpetually suspended for stick infractions ... How small a figure has Lindros become in New York? News of him having shoulder surgery received one sentence this week in the New York Post ... Going from Clinton Portis to Garrison Hearst in the Denver Broncos backfield is like trading in your Porsche for a used, but dependable, Honda ... Numbers: In 1985, the Winnipeg Jets had six scorers with 30 or more goals. This entire NHL season, there may be 20 30-goal scorers among the 30 NHL teams ... A debate I'd pay to hear: Ken Dryden vs. Brian Burke. Best two out of three adjectives ... Mark McGwire, who has been basically invisible since his retirement from baseball, will throw out the first pitch at the home opener for the St. Louis Cardinals. No word yet if he required supplements for the toss ... My favourite Canadian basketball team: Yukon ... Glad to see the Rangers are paying for somebody to get into the playoffs. But it does smell just a little that Glen Sather tossed pal Kevin Lowe a paid-for lifeline in Petr Nedved, who is heading the impressive push of the Oilers into the playoffs ... Most NHL players just react with a whack. Vince Damphousse did it with a phone call. After watching teammate Marco Sturm go down to injury because of the NHL's ridiculous rule on icing, Damphousse called the league and complained. Good for him. Somebody other than Don Cherry needs to speak up on this issue.
AND ANOTHER THING: With 10 goals scored and as a minus player, Paul Kariya is playing to the level of his well-advertised compensation -- $1.2 million a year ... Where did all this Leaf Nation, Red Sox Nation, Cowboys Nation nonsense come from? And how do we get rid of it without gagging? ... The NBA playoffs are almost certain to begin without Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter and Allen Iverson in the playoffs ... Why you fire Glen Grunwald, Part 846. The Grizzlies before Jerry West: A .229 winning percentage. The Grizzlies since West was hired as general manager: A .480 winning percentage and on their way to the playoffs for the first first time ... Never upset a woman with a gun. All of a sudden Myriam Bedard, the former biathlon champion, is chirping like a song-bird with wild accusations in all directions. Funny, when she was winning gold medals you had to book appointments to get her to say hello, and most of the time she cancelled those ... One of the best high school basketball players in America is Joakim Noah, son of the former tennis star, the graceful Yannick Noah ... And hey, whatever became of Tom Wilkinson?