Raptors could use another Oak

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:32 AM ET

In the 15-year history of the Raptors, players have come and gone quicker than Charlie Villanueva's happy trigger finger from the perimeter.

Moves have been made that exposed management's incompetence, much in the same manner as Jose Calderon gets exposed on defence.

The trade with Indiana to get Antonio Davis for a lottery pick that would become the bust that was Jonathan Bender ranks among the most astute and impactful deals in Raptors history.

Losing Tracy McGrady for nothing in free agency is among the worst ever.

The low-water mark must be Raptors' inability to get basically anything for Vince Carter.

JURY IS OUT

No one knows what the future awaits the Raptors and the jury is out on the team's current face, Chris Bosh.

But as the team celebrates its 15th anniversary, no move has had the biggest influence on the team, its culture and its identity than the acquisition of Charles Oakley.

Marcus Camby was offered to the New York Knicks at a time when the gang from Gotham needed a youthful, athletic presence in the frontcourt.

In return, the Knicks parted with tough guy Oakley, a man so unique that no one has ever and likely will never come close to matching, both in terms of on-court ability and off-court deportment.

Oakley allowed Carter and McGrady to play above the rim because any opposing player who dared mess with the Raptors' dynamic duo had to face the wrath of the Oak Man.

Oakley mangled metaphors like he abused opponents in the paint.

When scores needed to be settled, Oakley was as subtle as a Shaquille O'Neal dunk.

Jeff McInnis bore the brunt of Oak's ire as did Tyrone Hill.

No subject was too sensitive for Oak to offer his unique take.

No one was exempt from his elbows or his biting tongue.

It has been often said, but it bears repeating in today's NBA game of soft players and perimeter-happy jump shooters, that there's old school and there's Oak School.

There is only one pupil in this academy. The requirement for entrance are so rare that it could only house one individual.

Just as last night's buzzer sounded to signal the end of the opening quarter, Oakley was introduced as the overhead scoreboard paid tribute to him for his service in Toronto.

Carter's talents were undeniable. McGrady's athleticism was obvious. Neither would have developed without Oakley running shotgun.

Davis would never have developed into an all-star without Oakley. The Raptors would never have won a playoff series and come within a jumper of playing in the Eastern Conference final without Oakley.

"Back then, Vince was our lead singer, Tracy was the backup and the rest of us were the musicians, playing the guitar, the drum and the flute,'' the inimitable Oak said.

"The more music we played, the better and better the music got."

All Oakley wanted was to win.

No cost was too high and every sacrifice was made.

There was and remains no pretense with Oakley.

CREDITS CARTER

He gives a lot of credit to Butch Carter, who should be honoured by the organization but won't because of the bridges he burned.

Carter held Vince Carter and McGrady accountable.

Carter might be the only coach who has ever double-teamed an inbound pass and is the best head coach in Raptors history.

"We had an attitude under Butch,'' Oakley said.

Oakley wants to coach in the NBA, but he has to somehow embrace today's me-first generation.

"Too many guys break down, they cry, just like a girl,'' he opined.

"The good teams today are tough because they have a tough mindset, like Los Angeles (Lakers) and Boston."

Oakley never enjoyed the adulation. Last night, he revelled in it, a deserving moment for a player whose contributions to the Raptors can't be measured.

FRANK.ZICARELLI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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