Four-Team Deal Fueled By Creative Number Crunching
July 9, 2009
Mike Ulmer - raptors.com
And an accountant shall lead them.
One piece of creative thinking paved the way for a gargantuan four-team trade that has brought forward Hedo Turkoglu from Orlando and forward Devean George and swingman Antoine Wright from Dallas.
The notion might even emerge as the move that kept Chris Bosh in Toronto. Really.
The problem with free agency in the NBA is that because of legalities and exceptions, Larry Bird rights and salary cap considerations, landing someone who will help your team and boost your gate often involves sacrificing any hope of improving the rest of the roster.
And that’s where the Raptors were, just a few days ago.They knew they had forward Turkoglu, the most coveted free agent in the business. Still, they had just pledged a reported $50 million to centre Andrea Bargnani. They had one card to play in Shawn Marion who was amenable to a sign and trade but the Raptors were still looking at renouncing their offer to Carlos Delfino and had resigned themselves to losing Anthony Parker to the Cleveland Cavaliers. As recently as Wednesday, General Manager Bryan Colangelo was telling reporters how many swell bargains were available at the minimum NBA rate.
Now, the Raptors’ director of finance for basketball operations is a man named Steve Fruitman. What would happen, he wondered, if you worked two sign and trades, Marion going out, Turkoglu going in, and then filled in some more bodies to make the salaries leaving Toronto comparable to what was coming in. That meant dealing Nathan Jawai and Kris Humphries and throwing in some cash. The Raptors would need plenty of help from the Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies and the Magic. That’s where Colangelo’s highly evolved sense of salesmanship would come into play.
Fruitman called the league to get some feedback. The news startled him. It would work.
“I said ‘I’m stunned. This is my first time one of my crazy ideas has ever passed muster with you guys.’”
Colangelo took the unusual step of congratulating the club’s accountant in the official welcome for Turkoglu.
“That creativity we’re talking about, that credit belongs to Steve,” he said.
“A four-party trade including two sign and trades, that is not common,” marveled Turkoglu’s agent Lon Babby.
Instead of settling for bargain basement leftovers, Colangelo can bring back Delfino to an already crowded guard-forward rotation. He has initiated talks to see if he can get Parker to come back although he may have committed to the Cavs.
The Raptors have three more roster spots and there has been much talk of using one of those to return Rasho Nesterovic, a popular and competent big man.
There is one more newsy element to the story. Colangelo used Chris Bosh to recruit Turkoglu in the hope that Turkoglu, by improving the team and playing with Bosh, would induce Bosh to sign a contract extension. The recruit would become the recruiter.
“Chris helped recruit Hedo last Friday,” Colangelo said. “I reached out to Chris and Chris made a phone call. I believe it would be an important call for this guy (Turkoglu) to get. Chris is buying into the plan and we will see what happens over the course of the next 12 months.
“First of all when I heard his voice, I was really happy about it,” Turkoglu said. “I know he is going to enjoy playing with me and I am going to enjoy playing with him. Hopefully we will have a big year and he will make a decision to stay here with a big guy who has been successful for many years. I will try to do my best to help him and he will have to make his decision.”
Colangelo admitted that he wanted Turkoglu when he was a GM in Phoenix but could not land him. “I said I would not let that happen again,” he remembered.
At six-foot-nine, Turkoglu is one of the league’s premier talents because he has helped pioneer a point-forward position. Turkoglu is a master of the pick and roll, his ballhandling, shooting and court vision are similar to those of an elite point guard.
“It was really easy for me,” Turkoglu said of the move. “I just look at the opportunity. The basketball side of it, I have been successful for many years and I am happy to be a part of this. I am going to have great players around me, one of the best all around players in Chris Bosh and great European players around me in Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon.“
Soon, Colangelo will lay out the lineup before Bosh in an effort to keep him in Toronto long-term. On his side is an economy that suddenly makes the notion of an extension seem much more reasonable. In basketball, as Fruitman and the rest of the staff discovered over the last 48 hours, things can change quickly.
“You’ve got a cap that dropped for the first time in years. You’ve got projected loss in revenue growth possibly worse than expected,” Colangelo said. “It’s been projected at two and a half percent and it might go as low as five. There is, all of a sudden, implications of free agency that people would not have imagined.”