So long Joey, we hardly knew ya.
Well, that's not right. If there was anyone Toronto Raptors fans felt they knew well it was Joey Graham, the frustratingly talented small forward who will likely be playing somewhere else this season.
The Raptors have until today to make a qualifying offer the fourth-year player, but that won't happen. According to league sources the Raptors would have to offer him a one-year, $3.4-million (all currency U.S.) qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent but they aren't going to because it's unlikely Graham would get a better offer elsewhere and they don't want to have the $3.4-million they'd have to pay him on the books as they try and sign their other free agents: Shawn Marion, Carlos Delfino and Anthony Parker (who the Raptors would like to keep but may not be able to afford) in particular, and still be able to sign players using the mid-level and biannual exceptions without heading into luxury tax territory.
There's a chance Graham could be re-signed as a free agent at a lower number, but for all concerned it's probably best that Graham find his NBA fortune elsewhere.
If he goes it's hard to imagine he won't be welcomed warmly back by the faithful at the ACC.
One of the nicer guys in the locker room and a regular face in the community at various charity events, Graham became known, with some affection, for his "Good Joey, Bad Joey" trait.
Good Joey was a muscular, quick, aggressive forward who drove hard to the basket, drew fouls and shed bodies on his way to some of the ACC's most stunning dunks this side of Vince Carter. It was a sight to behold.
Bad Joey was a passive, jump shooter with average range who constantly needed to be reminded of assignments on both ends of the floor, and played with neither confidence or vigour. Drove people nuts.
The mirror images could show up from one game to the next or one play to the next (once against Charlotte he caught a ball heading out of bounds off a Bobcats player while himself standing out of bounds; it was a Grade 8 moment right in the middle of an NBA game) and no one, particularly Graham could predict when or why.
Through it all he remained friendly and accessible, if maddingly and innappropriatey confident. "God gave me this body for a reason," he would say after a good game or a good stretch of games, conveniently ignoring the fact the same ability would disappear like magic as quick as it arrived. Whose fault was that?
One of the best stretches of Graham's career came when Toronto went 8-1 at the end of the 2006-07 regular season with Graham starting in place of the injured Jorge Garbajosa. But in the Raptors' first-round loss to New Jersey, Graham disappeared and lost his starting role in favour of Morris Peterson.
Good Joey, Bad Joey. You could never see which one was coming, now it looks like they're both gone.
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