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Don't panic, but ... OK, maybe go ahead and panic, Raptors fans. Let's draw the line at looting, or gunplay. For the moment, anyway. We are a civilized, sane and rational people, up here.
Which is what makes it funny that the decline of the Toronto Raptors has gotten to the point where I'm making up trade scenarios in my spare time, and there's no limit to the crazy.
But hey, it's the time for fever dreams, which helps to explain the imaginary trades. Like, say, offering Jose Calderon and the expiring contracts of Marcus Banks and Reggie Evans to Washington for - wait for it - Gilbert Arenas.
And so clearly, something needs to happen. Either the Raptors need to rediscover their guts and cohesion and finish the season strong - hey, if they play Boston in the first round there's a solid chance that Kevin Garnett's knee could fall off, allowing Toronto to extend the series to at least six games - or they need to make a change. Or maybe both.
Because if Bosh leaves, what you have is long-term contracts that belong to Calderon (three more years, US$30-million), Andrea Bargnani (five years, US$50-million), and Hedo Turkoglu (four years, US$44-million, endless jokes about pizza, paparazzi, and "ball"). Appetizing? Not even when you throw in the jokes.
So, maybe it becomes time to roll the dice. Again. (See Jermaine O'Neal, Shawn Marion, and Turkoglu.)
Sure, if you're the Raptors you make a call on Chris Paul first, just in case cash-strapped New Orleans is tired of paying the best point guard in basketball US$15- or US$16-million every year when it can pay rookie Darren Collison about 10% of that to just be pretty good.
Or you inquire about Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala, who was reported to be on the block for salary relief at the trade deadline, and offer, say, DeMar DeRozan, Banks, Evans, and a No. 1. Or you call Minnesota about Al Jefferson, or Golden State about anybody, or Detroit just to see what a Ben Gordon or a Tayshaun Prince is going for these days. You offer to absorb salary, along with talent.
But assuming those teams can do better than the assets Toronto has to offer - and don't ask about trading Bargnani, because I'm willing to bet Colangelo will voluntarily don a Bikini Inspector T-shirt before moving his most prized Italian - you're faced with the puzzle of how to add superstar talent at a discount price.
And so, this largely weightless discussion comes back to Gilbert. Assuming he doesn't go to jail for a year or more when he's sentenced on March 26, he'll be owed about US$80-million over the next four years. Washington has already given away Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood for salary relief, and with a new collective bargaining agreement threatening to chop salaries, Arenas has the worst contract in the NBA.
But he has talent, too. Sure, he's surgically repaired and will have played 47 NBA games in three years and may just be a Grade-A loon, but in his last full month of play Arenas averaged an inefficient but notable 25.2 points, 7.6 assists, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.4 steals in 15 games. The guy might be hell on earth to play with at times, but he can play.