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WOZ BLOG: Raptors should have put a ring on it

Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas during practice at the  BioSteel Centre in Toronto  January 10, 2019. Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun
Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas during practice at the BioSteel Centre in Toronto January 10, 2019. Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun

Boy, this ring thing is getting a lot of attention.

There have been strong arguments for both sides when it comes to whether the Raptors should have given everyone on last year’s team a championship ring or not (they went with only those around for the playoffs).

My belief is they should have offered one to Jonas Valanciunas, who thought he was getting one based on his public comments about what Kyle Lowry told him. That said, I get that then you’d have to also offer one to Delon Wright, C.J. Miles and even Greg Monroe, who played against the Raptors in the playoffs, and that last one seems quite strange and perhaps unpalatable.

But Major League Baseball and the NFL traditionally hand out championship rings to everyone who played for the team that season. And that’s with rosters four or five times the size of NBA rosters. Why doesn’t the NBA do the same? It’s usually up to the players too in those sports. They decide.

I also get that many would say why would someone who was traded away even want a ring, which is a fair question. But someone like Valanciunas was around forever. Only Lowry had been around longer and Valanciunas was a heart-and-soul type who loved the franchise and his teammates. He had a full Raptors buy-in, despite being benched for the first time in his life (and he never complained about it, helping Serge Ibaka flourish). Despite being called out often for his poor defence while in prior years, others like DeMar DeRozan were almost never questioned for just as glaring issues.

But I’m getting off-topic. The latter stuff is just ancillary. If they do it in other sports, they should at least give players the option of accepting (Valanciunas would have, and Wright told Mike Ganter he would have accepted one too). They didn’t even have to give them the Tier 1 rings the likes of Lowry received (rumoured to be worth about $30,000 US each, which seems low, to be honest). There were five tiers, give them a less valuable ring to signify they still deserve something, if not the main ring.

“It’s their decision, they made a decision and took care, right? I’m thinking about Grizzlies now, right?” Valanciunas told Memphis reporters on Monday.

I’m also generally against participation trophies and that line of thinking, but Valanciunas, in particular, just seems like a different case. Even though he was injured when Draymond Green hacked the hell out of his hand and missed a large chunk of the season before being traded, Valanciunas was still a big part of a championship season and the build-up to what later happened.

It’s crazy to equate that to “DeMar and Dwane deserve one too then,” which some have been trying to say, but it’s not crazy to think offering Valanciunas a ring was the right thing to do.

For an organization that has made so few missteps, it just seems like an odd choice to make.

— And that’s the last I’ll say about the rings. On to other stuff.

— You aren’t going to see a more impressive five-point performance than the one Gasol put on against the Hornets. He masterfully solved any defensive schemes the Hornets threw his way. Gasol threw a number of incredibly difficult passes to set up scores. His nine assists were his Raptors high and his most in a game since January. He was also a major part of Toronto’s dominance on the glass and was a strong deterrent inside. (Side note: Love the way Gasol sends opponents flying by bouncing them off of his belly, more often than not doing so without getting called for a foul.)

— Seven offensive boards for Chris Boucher? “I’m trying to fly,” Boucher quipped.

— Terence Davis said he is feeling more confident thanks to the extended run the injury to Lowry has granted him. He seemed most pleased about his seven assists and improved playmaking, but also talked up the work the organization has done in tinkering with his jump shot to make it even more effective. He looks like a good one. Another coup by Dan Tolzman and the rest of the staff.

— The blowout allowed Nick Nurse to play Dewan Hernandez and Oshae Brissett for the first time. Nice for Brissett to get to live his dream at home.

— More strong work by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Looked like he might challenge his career-high of 25 points when he scored 15 in the first half, but that was it from there.

— Charlotte’s late surge made this only the eighth-biggest blowout in Raptors history.

THREE STARS

1. OG Anunoby

2. Pascal Siakam

3. Marc Gasol

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