By Rob Mahoney
• Against all logic, the deluded chatter propping up Rudy Gay as a star player continues. In a post for SB Nation, Tom Ziller explains exactly why that's not the case -- and why treating Gay like a star is both typical of Toronto general manager Bryan Colangelo and unfortunate for the future of the Raptors franchise:
"Star power" is so useless. The Raptors have always drawn pretty well, despite typically mediocre rosters. Marketable stars are good for the bottom line because they can draw the attention of the casual fan. But winning does that far better, and a team paying Rudy Gay $20 million repeatedly is going to have trouble building a winning team. That desperately needed "star power" isn't going to get the Raptors anywhere in the long run unless Gay massively improves or Colangelo pulls a couple of rabbits out of his Fedora.
The salary cap is real. The Raptors' owners aren't going to be paying the luxury tax. Figure that during Gay's extended deal the luxury tax threshold will climb up to $75 million. If Gay signs for $20 million in the extra two years, matching his 2014-15 salary, he'll be soaking up more than a quarter of the payroll. The other $55 million Colangelo has to play with needs to account for four starters, seven rotation players and 11 roster spots. That is a totally unnecessary hurdle to overcome, especially considering Gay has never and will possibly never be even an All-Star.
To make it work well enough for the Raptors to be a truly winning team -- a legitimate competitor in the East -- Colangelo would need to ace the draft and find great value in free agency and trades. Does anyone count on Colangelo doing that based on recent history?
• If you bet on Philly to have the first "Almost Got 'Im" of the post-deadline season, feel free to collect your winnings. According to John Mitchell of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Sixers were close to a deal at the deadline that would have swapped Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes for free-agent-to-be Hawks forward Josh Smith. (via PBT)
• Meet "Yao," the Masai Giraffe recently born to the Houston Zoo and named in honor of Yao Ming's local career and global efforts to protect wildlife.
• Smart thoughts here from James Ham of Cowbell Kingdom regarding the chicken-and-egg problem of being labeled as a bad defender.
• Sports Illustrated's own Lee Jenkins joined the chaps of HoopSpeak Live to talk Clippers and bat around all manner of NBA topics.
• Hornets head coach Monty Williams rightly drew heaps of praise for his work last season, in which he motivated an undermanned, relatively untalented New Orleans team to scrap its way to far more close games than they had any right to be in. This year has been a bit different, to say the least; the Hornets don't necessarily want for effort, but Williams' motivational prowess has been offset by a number of strategic missteps -- the most glaring of which is the periodic benching of Anthony Davis. Rohan Cruyff of At the Hive openly ponders the job that Williams has done this season, specifically in reference to the disadvantage he put his team in on Wednesday against the Lakers:
I mentioned it last month, but I'm really not sure what Monty Williams brings to this team from a game planning and strategy perspective. In many ways, that really pains me to write. The job he did in holding together a rudderless, talentless, ownerless team was just absolutely tremendous. The hand he's been dealt this year -- injuries everywhere, nonexistent depth, a very, very, very mediocre Eric Gordon -- has not been an easy one to play at all. The defense he assembled and directed during the first half of Chris Paul's final season in New Orleans was simply masterful.
And that last one is what gives me pause, makes me want so desperately to hand wave away the 27th-ranked defense, the bizarre insistence on benching the team's best players, on playing them out of sync and rhythm. It's why I haven't given up on Monty Williams just yet. It's easy to forget he's still an extremely young coach, one that admittedly set our expectations relatively high early on in his career.
But at the same time, he's making the same mistakes again and again and again at an alarming rate. I just don't know.
• An interesting thought experiment: If you were running the Sacramento Kings, which players would you keep and which would you look to move? There might be less consensus with that roster than with any other team in the NBA.
• One Sunday morning the warm sun came up and -- pop! -- out of the egg came John Wall's shot chart.
• More from Blazers GM Neil Olshey on the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference and building the Blazers.
• This is both the first time I've seen any artistic rendering of Gordon Hayward and the first time I've seen a fan bring a poster to the arena done in charcoal. • If you're in search for some Nets-centric reading, hop over to Brooklyn's Finest -- the newest addition to ESPN's TrueHoop Network.