May the best man win.
That, in essence, is the way it should be when it comes to divvying up playing time in competitive sport.
But in actuality, that’s not always the way it is, particularly in the pro ranks.
And yes, we realize that’s not a revelation but it’s something that needs to be pointed out at this time in the Raptors season.
The reason for this is there’s a lot up in the air right now with regard to which way Jay Triano’s rotation is headed.
Triano admitted to the possibility of change yesterday when the question of what happens to his rotation when Jose Calderon returns to health was raised.
Triano’s response: “He’ll have to earn his minutes. They will all be fighting for it. That’s the one thing about this team, we have depth. When Jose comes back everybody is going to be in a little bit of a fight and we’re going to have to play the guys who are helping us win.”
Triano could have trotted out the old sports stand-by “No one loses their job because of an injury,” but that’s not the case here.
Triano has done it before and he’ll do it again if it makes the team better.
“You go back a year ago and Marco Belinelli was starting and he got hurt,” Triano said. “Sonny Weems came in and took over his minutes and really hasn’t looked back since. Same thing now. Guys get hurt, it provides another opportunity for other guys.”
This is not to say that Jose Calderon is losing his starting job to Jerryd Bayless or anyone else necessarily. Or that Julian Wright, who is getting minutes because of the trickle-down effect Calderon’s absence is having, will suddenly be pulling down 35 minutes a night.
The point is, anything is possible with a 9-15 team still looking to find its way.
For a guy like Wright, just getting the opportunity is big.
His first three years in the league have been far more bench than court and his first with the Raptors has certainly started out looking like it will follow that trend.
Saturday’s huge comeback win in Detroit with Wright playing a key defensive role in the rally may be the start of a change in that tide.
Quite often it’s not what you’re doing for your team or how you’re currently playing as much as where you were picked and what the team has invested in you that determines how much or how little you actually see the court.
Garbage time — that part of the game where the outcome has been determined and both sides are just playing out the clock — aside, getting actual meaningful minutes for a guy like Wright can be very tough.
Wright is the Raptors’ return on the Marco Belinelli trade with New Orleans this year. Belinelli came to the Raptors in exchange for Devean George who was part of the Shawn Marion trade that also brought Hedo Turkoglu and Antoine Wright to Toronto.
So the actual investment the Raptors have in Julian Wright isn’t huge.
Not surprisingly, Wright has played in 13 of the 24 Raptors games and watched 11 others.
“I was going to say it’s unfortunate, but this is how it’s been for me my whole career so far,” Wright said. “I’ve been playing behind guys that I have no control over so it’s nothing for me to be jealous of players. It’s business management and I know it’s a business. The only thing I can do is be professional and be ready because you never know. It’s a long season and that’s what I keep telling myself ... it’s a long season.”
This isn’t Wright’s first rodeo when it comes to waiting his turn either.
“I’ve been here before,” he said. “In Kansas as a freshman I didn’t start playing until the end of the season. In New Orleans in my rookie year I didn’t start playing until the end of the season and then helped in the playoff run.”
Wright sees a good possibility here, but so far has had to be patient.
“I would say the style of play is definitely suitable (to me),” he said. “But so far I’ve actually played fewer games here than I did in New Orleans.”
Triano is putting it on the players to earn their minutes. For a guy like Wright, that’s as even a playing field as he’ll ever see.