Larry Fedora: America’s Future Depends on Dudes Bashing Skulls Together

North Carolina football coach Larry Fedora had some pretty, um, radical prophecies of doom he decided to relay during ACC media day today. Apparently, the man correlates America with football, and is saying when football falls, so will America. That’s a spicy one.

Reporter Nicole Auerbach with The Athletic had Fedora’s quotation down, showing that the man is afraid that football is under grave threat. Or something:

So, why? Charlotte Observer reporter Brendan Marks made sure to follow up with Fedora, just to try and figure out what the hell he was talking about:

Ah yes, is he talking about the data that shows a link between concussions and CTE and the debilitating symptoms associated with the disease, a link that the NFL readily admits, by the way (after years of lying about it).

OK, so on the one hand, we have years of scientific research that shows a link between repetitive, sub-concussive hits—like those sustained in, say, football—and athletes riddled with post-career symptoms like violent mood swings, dementia, depression, and suicidal thoughts, with those athletes later getting diagnosed with CTE after they die—usually on the younger side—because we haven’t figured out a way to poke around in your brain without killing you yet. On the other hand we have an unfashionable hat saying “I don’t think so” and “the game is safer than it’s ever been.” Good stuff.

So what does the future hold? He apparently believes that there’s some kind of correlation between the military and football. Football = good military men. Also, this implies that our military is what makes America great? Check it:

If that’s true—that football is going to be unrecognizable, does that mean football is going to look like this?

Because if so, I’m all for it.

Larry Fedora: America’s Future Depends on Dudes Bashing Skulls Together syndicated from https://australiahoverboards.wordpress.com

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DeMar DeRozan’s Loyalty to the Toronto Raptors Was Admirable

“Don’t worry, I got us…”

For the last eight years, the immortal tweet from DeMar DeRozan in response to Chris Bosh leaving for the Miami Heat has been a comfort for Toronto Raptors fans. In the moment, it seemed too bold a claim. DeRozan, coming off a shaky rookie season and then only 21 years old, did not yet look the part of franchise player. The confidence was appreciated; the degree to which it would ring true was unexpected.

The Raptors have traversed a great distance in the time since. There were some painful years in the immediate aftermath, and as they ran their course, DeRozan’s slow ascension was one of the lone bright spots. There was Andrea Bargnani, Rudy Gay, a number of ill-fated or short-sighted trades, a coaching change, and a five-year stretch without a playoff berth. DeRozan offered reprieve with Slam Dunk Contest theatrics, improved shooting and ball-handling, and glimpses of an All-Star future, the hint of a spark that if nothing else, the Raptors had a piece to keep building with and around.

When Masai Ujiri came aboard and flipped Bargnani and Gay, then had a Kyle Lowry deal fall apart, DeRozan had his best opportunity yet to deliver on his promise. What has come since is something maybe only DeRozan believed possible back in 2010: He truly did have the franchise and the city covered. First, there was an All-Star berth in 2014, his first. Later that year, the Raptors would make the playoffs for the first time since 2008, helping an expanding Toronto basketball culture reach what to that point was a crescendo, DeRozan’s promise and unlikely ascent standing as the perfect avatar for the team’s We The North marketing campaign built on collective doubt and being the other. If DeRozan wasn’t Toronto before, he became it at that moment, embodying the growing rabidity of the city’s appetite for the sport.

The years that have followed have been the best in franchise history. DeRozan has made three more All-Star teams, two All-NBA teams (including Second Team this past season), earned down-ballot MVP votes, and helped lead the Raptors to five consecutive playoff appearances for the first time ever. There was an Eastern Conference Finals trip, a franchise-record 52-point game, countless posters, beautiful moments with Lowry in one of the league’s best friendships, and a downright assault on the Raptors’ all-time record books. DeRozan ranks first in Raptors history in games, minutes, points, and Player of the Week and Player of the Month honors, second in steals, third in assists, third in Win Shares, fifth in rebounds, first in playoff games and points, and has played more seasons with the Raptors than anyone else at nine.

There have been times where that impact became somewhat divisive. Advanced stats and specifically on-off numbers haven’t always been as kind to DeRozan as counting stats, and the fan base has occasionally tried to cut off its nose to spite its face debating DeRozan and Lowry, while Stats Twitter, until recently, held DeRozan up as a relic. His game is imperfect and a bit outdated, and his defense has always proved a problem come playoff time. He has not been the “best” Raptor during this stretch, nor does his remarkable peak match that of Vince Carter.

At the same time, he’s pretty safely had the “best” Raptors career, and he has been their most important player during this run in a larger sense, given his commitment to the team and how that helped secure other commitments, his commitment to improving and his role in culture-setting, and his status as the face of the franchise and the fan base. He has become a spokesperson for mental health advocacy and a community leader, and he played while dealing with heavy off-court burdens this year. He’s never not been there. All of that stuff matters.

When he became an unrestricted free agent, DeRozan took no meetings, quickly re-signing and claiming “I am Toronto” at the press conference that followed. When recently yelled at on the street to join his hometown Los Angeles Lakers, he replied “hell naw.” At every turn, DeRozan has been steadfast that Toronto is home and that he hoped to be the rare player to spend an entire career with one organization. He was not promised that—he was ineligible for a no-trade clause when his contract came up—but it at least seemed likely he could be the first career Raptor, the franchise’s first home-grown and long-term star, perhaps even the first jersey to be honored in the rafters of Scotiabank Arena (assuming Carter, who left on far more acrimonious terms, does not beat him to it).

https://sports.vice.com/en_ca/embed/article/8qy834/vince-carter-should-be-the-first-raptor-to-have-his-number-retired?utm_source=stylizedembed_sports.vice.com&utm_campaign=8xbgpb&site=sports

Because through everything, there has been DeRozan. He’s been the biggest constant for a franchise that until recently was identified by its consistent tumult; he’s been the one player to stay for a franchise that was always a place people wanted to leave; he’s been the most or second-most important player as the Raptors redefined themselves from perennial afterthought to legitimate high-end organization. The growth in Toronto is not singularly credited to DeRozan, but it’s also inextricable from his own individual growth.

That’s all in the past now, as DeRozan’s career will continue in San Antonio after Toronto completed a blockbuster trade with the Spurs on Wednesday.

The Raptors shipped DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a 2019 first-round pick for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. In strictly basketball terms, it is a good, if risky deal. Leonard at his best is a top-five player and was in the discussion as the league’s second-most important player behind LeBron James. He is an all-world defender, one of the best perimeter defenders of the modern NBA, and he is an efficient scorer on or off the ball. It is an upgrade, and that the Raptors made the deal without having to include OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, or a valuable 2021 pick is somewhat shocking.

This is not playing out strictly in basketball terms, though. Leave aside questions about whether Leonard will report, whether he’s healthy, and whether he’ll walk at the end of 2018-19. The Raptors surely weighed those risks, and the trade is structured such that Toronto didn’t sacrifice too much of its long-term future to roll the dice. It’s messy on the Toronto side alone.



DeRozan is reportedly quite upset, as the Instagram story of him and his brother would both suggest. Multiple reporters have indicated that DeRozan was told as recently as Las Vegas Summer League that he would not be traded, and him feeling slighted and lied to is entirely understandable. Players know well at this point that the idea of loyalty in sports is an illusion. Teams will trade players on their whims, and players have little recourse. Similarly, players should never be questioned for leaving or exploring options in free agency. The loyalty DeRozan has shown the Raptors is admirable, and it is the exception rather than the norm. The Raptors trading him is understandable, but if it’s true that he was misled, that’s a terrible look for an organization that has built up its reputation and cache around the league in large part because of a run that was made possible by DeRozan. It’s always difficult to navigate the trade of a player who committed to a franchise; it’s more clear-cut if the player was done wrong by.

If that’s the case, DeRozan unquestionably deserved better. He’d earned honesty, at least. The franchise can’t be beholden to his commitment if a trade is for the good of the team now and down the line, but for a player who as vociferously put on for the city and the organization like DeRozan did, grace was warranted.

In addressing the idea of a difficult DeRozan trade earlier in the offseason, I’d more or less come to terms with the idea, on the condition that a deal does somewhat right by him and offers a return commensurate with letting a player of his off-court importance go. The latter is satisfied here, and San Antonio under Gregg Popovich could be a good fit for the next stage of his career. Considering what he’s given to the team, it sounds like it could have been handled better. There’s an organizational risk at the player or agent level to handling a star player poorly, and more importantly, DeRozan has earned that kind of respect.

From a personal perspective, DeRozan will be missed. To pull back the curtain a bit: I’ve been writing at least casually since 2008, and my first ever post at Raptors Republic was an analysis of DeRozan immediately after the Raptors drafted him (after which I purchased his Compton High jersey). Watching him turn from a raw player and immensely shy teenager into a legitimate All-Star, an outspoken player, and an advocate for mental health has been remarkable. Getting to speak with him about designing his own Kobe AD Compton player exclusive was one of my favorite stories I’ve written. He’s always been a consummate professional, and his consistent desire to improve himself is a great example inside and outside of sport. There is an entire generation of new Raptors fans who look at DeRozan as a favorite player and as an extension of the city’s basketball identity.

That DeRozan is no longer a Raptor will feel weird for some time. His first visit back to Toronto as a member of the Spurs will be awkward, and a cause to celebrate what he meant to the franchise. It’s a little strange, I guess, to be eulogizing the career of a 28-year-old still in the middle of his prime, but DeRozan’s impact on the Raptors warrants it. Ironically, the opportunity to make an all-in push for a player like Leonard, the ability to offer a compelling package, and a situation where it all made sense is only possible if DeRozan becomes the player he’s become and gets the Raptors as far as he has. That the Raptors might take the next step without him will take some getting used to, because DeRozan has been Toronto for so long.

This article originally appeared on VICE Sports CA.

DeMar DeRozan’s Loyalty to the Toronto Raptors Was Admirable syndicated from https://australiahoverboards.wordpress.com

Every Angle of the Kawhi Leonard-DeMar DeRozan Trade

The second LeBron James announced his decision to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kawhi “If Healthy” Leonard instantly became the NBA’s most seminal figure. Early Wednesday morning, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year/Finals MVP/all-around enigma was traded with Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a top-20 protected first-round pick in 2019.

It’s a deal that gave one team clarity and another hope. Let’s take a closer look at what it means for both sides.

Toronto Raptors

The Raptors are a formidable regular season team and a habitual postseason punchline. Before this trade, it was fair to look at the Eastern Conference’s foreseeable landscape and slot them below the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, with the Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers, and maybe one other team built to pass them by sooner than later, as current basement dwellers stock up with lottery picks and cap space.

Coming off an embarrassing sweep against the Cleveland Cavaliers, this organization was stagnant at the worst possible time, firing Coach of the Year Dwane Casey without adding any first-round pick or notable free agent signing to the rotation. Their young guard is filled with complementary pieces who’re competent and useful, but the only one with pseudo-star potential (OG Anunoby) won’t get there until Kyle Lowry joins DeRozan as an ex-Raptor, if ever.

Their best options were to remain still and hope LeBron James takes their playoff demons to the Western Conference with him, package some younger assets in a deal to win now, or swing for the deepest fence by shipping out their best player for a better player and going all in on a championship in 2019—with a slim chance to extend that window if said “better player” re-signs long-term next summer.

The upside of this trade should be obvious, even with Leonard reportedly already having one foot out the door. The excitement in obtaining someone that special overshadows how bittersweet it must feel for the culmination of the Lowry/DeRozan era to be one of those players getting traded, but Toronto is now not only positioned to contend for a title, but can also spend the 2018-19 season selling the sport’s most elusive attraction on its culture, city, and vision.

The Raptors were desperate for someone exactly like this. They were also in need of change. DeRozan is soon to be a 29-year-old All-NBA player who improves a different area of his game every summer. He finally embraced the three-point line last season (with troubling results) and functioned as more of a playmaker/ball-mover than ever before. Over the past three seasons, only LeBron, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard, and Steph Curry have scored more points. Buckets matter.

But as the face of a franchise that’s mid-fizzle, DeRozan also epitomized its annual fragility in a way that makes his presence feel exhausting. Compared to the regular season, his points per shot attempt plummeted in the playoffs. Every single year. When opponents have seven games to strategize against him, DeRozan tends to shrink. That doesn’t mean he’s bad, but it’s fair for his team to look at what’s taken place over the past few years and want to distance themselves from his hefty contract. Exchanging it for a potential megastar without yielding any of their very best prospects is an indisputable coup.

Photo by Warren Toda – European Pressphoto Agency

Moving back to Leonard, let’s quickly glance at the financial fallout before we get into his on-court fit in Toronto. The 27-year-old is officially no longer eligible for the five-year, $221 million supermax contract only San Antonio could ink him to. The most Toronto can offer is about $190 million over five years (a $31 million pay cut), and the most any other team—aka the Los Angeles Lakers—can give is $141 million over four years. This dude really didn’t want to play for the Spurs.

What we don’t know is how reliable Leonard will be post-quadriceps injury, or if he’ll pout his way through a second-straight season. But for the sake of discussion, let’s assume that a change of scenery going into free agency will have Leonard on his best behavior, at the peak of his powers—the best-case scenario is the only one that’s relevant. In how he affects both ends of the floor, this is the type of player who can do what DeRozan can’t. He’s a knockdown three-point shooter—off the dribble and spotting up—who can create for himself and others while locking down the opponent’s very best player. In a playoff series, few humans (like, LeBron, Kevin Durant, Curry, and maybe Harden?) are more valuable.

This doesn’t make Toronto the favorite to emerge from the Eastern Conference, but it does vault them well past every team except the Boston Celtics. Putting Leonard on the wing, they can throw out some of the most physically intimidating lineups in the league, with Jonas Valanciunas, Serge Ibaka, Anunoby, and Lowry/Fred VanVleet/Delon Wright at the point. They can also get extremely modern and throw Leonard deeper into the frontcourt (next to Pascal Siakam) with three guards scampering around, wreaking havoc. Norm Powell, Green, and C.J. Miles allow the Raptors to play five legitimately like-sized players at the same time and not get crushed. It’s all very devastating. Leonard is a franchise-altering presence who will alleviate an aging Lowry while up-and-comers bloom by his side. How it all fits with Nick Nurse’s vision is unknown, and time isn’t on Toronto’s side; there’s still a better chance than not that Leonard leaves as a free agent next summer. But even if that happens, the thought of building around a young core, whatever they can get for Lowry on the trade market, and the cap space (though not max room next summer) afforded by DeRozan’s departure is not atrocious. They were headed for a rebuild sooner or later, and this is one of the sweetest ways to get there.

If the Raptors struggle to fit Leonard in, and for whatever reason take a step back from what they were the past couple seasons, watching Masai Ujiri dangle Leonard before the trade deadline will be fascinating. (The haul on that sort of deal won’t be anything special, but if it’s clear Toronto won’t make a deep playoff run or retain Leonard’s service, something is better than nothing.) Either way, this is a trade that Toronto will make 101 times out of 100, and Ujiri should be commended for being so bold without cutting the strings on his safety net.

San Antonio Spurs

Gregg Popovich will celebrate his 70th birthday in January. He understandably wants no part of a rebuild, and San Antonio’s entire offseason up until and including this trade reflects that. They re-signed Rudy Gay, Bryn Forbes, and Davis Bertans, folded old friend Marco Belinelli back into the mix, let Tony Parker walk, and valued DeRozan over any future-asset-heavy packages that were offered for Leonard by a third of the league’s teams.

The Spurs did not get Siakam, Anunoby, Powell, or Wright, and instead took the 22-year-old Poeltl—a smart, talented, productive seven footer—along with a protected pick. That’s not enough, on paper, and reveals how little leverage San Antonio had, given what their goals are over the next few seasons.

DeRozan can opt out of his deal in 2020, which is the same offseason LaMarcus Aldridge’s contract is only guaranteed for $7 million. That summer Popovich will coach Team USA at the Summer Olympics. Afterwards, there’s a decent chance he leaves the Spurs for good. That gives San Antonio a two-year window to compete in a loaded Western Conference—by dealing Leonard to Toronto they’ve ensured he won’t be in their way for at least one of them.

The questions now surround San Antonio’s ceiling with their new dynamic duo. DeRozan’s flaws are well known, particularly in the playoffs, but how will he look under Popovich, beside Aldridge, in a tried and true system that will demand far fewer dribbles than he ever has before? The Spurs had one of the lowest effective field goal percentages in the league last season, and spacing the floor could once again be an issue. Patty Mills, Belinelli, Bertans, and Forbes can all be above average three-point shooters, but not every one can provide two-way contribution in the playoffs. (Add Manu Ginobili to that list if he plays one more year.) Dejounte Murray is one of the worst outside shooters at his position, DeRozan made 31.6 percent of his threes last season, and Poeltl is a rim-rolling big man. Green, always the dependable spot-up threat, is gone.

Pessimism is easy, but this team also won 47 games last season, and a hobbled Leonard only appeared in nine of them. They will defend, rebound, take care of the ball (Poeltl should start beside Aldridge), and find ways for DeRozan to open up the offense, be it out of the post, as a primary pick-and-roll ball-handler, or isolating in the middle of the floor. He’ll have an opportunity to operate off the ball more than he ever has, particularly in ways that will punish defenses that hard double Aldridge on the left block. San Antonio also ranked second and first in three-point percentage in 2016 and 2017. Last year they sunk to 26th, but some regression mixed with DeRozan’s ability to create better looks should give them a much needed boost. He brings essential needs to the table as an assassin with unguardable footwork, ambidextrous flair around the basket, and a recent willingness to stretch himself out beyond the arc.

With DeRozan onboard there’s no rational reason to expect San Antonio to slide out of the playoffs—bad news for the Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Minnesota Timberwolves, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers (?), and any other team that wants to pencil itself into one of eight available slots. He’s established and, in many ways, taken for granted, with best days that may still be to come. Wondering if San Antonio can now defeat the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets in a playoff series opens up a darker set of questions, particularly without enough cap space to frolic through next summer’s star-popping bonanza. With a healthy Leonard they had a puncher’s chance. With a healthy DeRozan they’re bringing a knife to a gun fight. But crazier things have happened.

Internal improvement from Murray spliced with DeRozan’s drive-and-kick game should reassert the Spurs as a team nobody wants to play. If he continues to push himself on the defensive end, San Antonio’s upside, flexibility, and consistency can be that of a legitimate championship contender.

Every Angle of the Kawhi Leonard-DeMar DeRozan Trade syndicated from https://australiahoverboards.wordpress.com