Embry has 'strategic plan'

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:23 AM ET

In a shock to no one, Jalen Rose finally is a member of the New York Knicks.

But in a shock to everyone, Antonio Davis is the return gift to the Raptors.

The Raptors finally traded Rose and the Denver Nuggets' first-round pick to the lowlier Knicks, the long-rumoured destination for those two assets, for Davis -- the ex-Raptors centre who whined his way out of town in 2003 -- and his expiring contract. An undisclosed amount of cash also went to the Big Apple. The move, orchestrated by interim general manager Wayne Embry in his eighth day on the job, will put the Raptors at least $10-million US under the salary cap next season, giving them room for juicy transactions such as the offer of a long-term contract to point guard Mike James.

Ironically, the Raptors played host to the Knicks last night with the home side winning 104-90 in a sideshow game played without Rose or Davis. Rose showed up to sit with his new teammates in a suit, while Davis opted to stay at his Toronto hotel.

Swap talk all season had the Knicks' Penny Hardaway, who also has an expiring contract, coming to the Raptors for Rose and Denver's pick, which likely will not be a lottery selection.

Whether Davis plays a minute in Toronto -- if he doesn't, he'll be tossing out about half of his $13.9 million US contract, which might not please his fight-happy wife, Kendra -- really isn't a big deal. The move was all about freeing up cash and removing the financial obstacle that was Rose.

"As part of our strategic plan, one of the top priorities to move this franchise forward has to be to get under the salary cap," said Embry.

"I've never seen a team rebuild itself without starting from that point ... Being under the cap gives us flexibility to sign and trade, trade picks for a desired player, make multiple player deals for quality and broker deals for value."

Star forward Chris Bosh, who expressed his desire on Thursday for the Raptors to re-sign James, understands why the move was made.

"That's what I think the move is for, for future references," he said. "They're trying to clear out cap space."

As for Davis, it will be interesting to see what his next move will be. Knicks coach Larry Brown talked to Davis yesterday and didn't seem sure about the big man's future plans.

"I told him he can help any team," Brown said. "I don't want to see him stop playing ... I don't know what they have in mind for him right now and just on a personal basis, I want to see him finish his career on his terms."

Davis, however, did play with Raptors coach Sam Mitchell in Indiana and the two have remained friends.

Without Rose last night, the Raptors placed rookie forward Charlie Villanueva in the starting lineup, his debut as a starter.

Short-handed, the Raptors pressed little-used centre Loren Woods into duty and he performed admirably, notching four points and eight rebounds.

The Raptors won their third game in a row to open a five-game homestand. Bosh led the Raptors with 29 points. Knicks star Stephon Marbury (shoulder) did not play.


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