It's fair to say that Toronto Raptor fans are happy so far with swingman Rudy Gay, acquired from Memphis in the three-way deal on January 31. Gay has scored more than 20 points in every one of the five games since he arrived from the Grizzlies. The Raptors have won three times since the trade which saw guard Jose Calderon end up in Detroit, while forward Ed Davis was shipped to Memphis.
Having missed the playoffs for four straight seasons, the Raptors needed a dynamic player like Gay; their star power has been nil since Chris Bosh took his talents to South Beach in 2010. So call this good timing. Gay might not have been available to the Raptors in anything approaching an even trade (as the Memphis-Toronto-Detroit deal was) before its 2011 NBA collective agreement,.
But under the more stringent cap system adopted by the NBA in December of 2011, teams are now being squeezed to jettison troublesome contracts, even if they're productive players and give teams a chance to win a title. Despite evidence otherwise in MLB, the NBA has decided that parity is what the public wants. So trades are made to clear cap space, not improve rosters.
Thus, the league will see more loaded teams like the Grizzlies scrambling to get under the tougher cap rules, making valuable players like Gay disposable.
What you see...
Not that this leavening of talent will help the Raptors much. Gay's contract (he has a $19.3-million player option for 2014-15) and DeMar DeRozan's $38-million extension starting next year have pretty much tapped out Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo's ability to shoot high for a couple of seasons. With a 2013-14 cap of about $72-million, any wiggle room is gone. And that's even if they dump the over-market Landry Fields, Linas Kleiza and Andrea Bargnani contracts.
So what you see in Dwane Casey's team is likely what you'll get in the near future. A team that can improve but will likely never enter the NBA elite. And that's not good news for Colangelo, who's already on thin ice with the new bosses at Maple Leafs sports & Entertainment.
NHL fans take notice
The cautionary tale here is not for the Raptors or the NBA. They know what they have. The warning is for hockey fans who don't know what lies ahead. Their favourite teams have adopted the same hair-shirt CBA approach in another attempt to save the shopping mall next to the Glendale arena.
Under the terms of the new NHL CBA the salary cap will drop significantly over the next two years to $60-million. Barring a dramatic restoration of the NHL's $3.3-billion revenues from 2011-12, it might not see this year's projected $70-million for a while. That means that teams will be forced to make harsh decisions about players carrying large salary-cap figures.
We don't see the impact yet in this 48-game season, but it's coming to an arena near you this summer.
The two amnesty buyouts (allowing up to two contract buy-outs) will accomplish some of this culling, although the quality of those players will not make hearts skip with excitement. The Rudy Gay effect in the NHL will likely be seen on successful teams with established rosters who'll now have to let players go to weaker sisters in the league.
That brings joy to the heart of Gary Bettman, the redistributionist commissioner, who's determined to enforce mediocrity on his sport (as does his mentor David Stern in the NBA) by punishing success and rewarding failure. How NHL fans feel about a decade of roster churn is another matter.
Cranking up the rumour mill
Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer was hurt in last night's big 5-2 win over Philadelphia. Should we start a Roberto Luongo rumour now or later?
Where have we heard this before?
The NFL suggested this past weekend that one way to reduce injuries, particularly head injuries, is to adopt a wider field. Former Buffalo and Indianapolis GM Bill Polian thinks more room on the field will mean fewer collisions which means fewer concussions and injuries.
Now where would we find a goofy example of a league with a wider field?
Oh, right... the CFL, that funny little league in Canada that has been, for the previous five years, running the read-offence with which the NFL has fallen in love. The league that has featured innovative head coach Marc Trestman, late of Montreal and now the darling saviour of the Chicago Bears.
Monday, the tall foreheads of NFL comment were debating whether the game could still be played on a larger field and be called football. (Because we've only been playing the freakin' Grey Cup game for 100 years.) There was concern that the extra space would actually accelerate speeds and make for worse injuries.
More sober voices suggested that they'd need to look at the data from the CFL before they completely lost their brain. But you can be sure that the toughest part of widening the field will be convincing everyone that the NFL got there first.