Raptors drop the ball
"Hey Valanciunas! Don't spill your beer while you drive to the hoop, you big jerk!"
Actually, I didn't scream that particular insult at Jonas Valanciunas of the Toronto Raptors Wednesday night. I attended the game, you see, with my two little lads and we were at the ACC courtesy of the Raptors, who bestowed a bunch of free tickets to local schools.
Still, I did boo the big man a few times. Not that it seemed to bother him, however, as we were way up in the nosebleeds while JV enjoyed a career night, racking up 26 points and grabbing 12 rebounds; an impressive stat line that proves there really is no justice in the world.
Earlier this week, Valanciunas was charged with impaired driving after being spotted at a fast-food drive though with a bunch of beer bottles in his car. To his credit, Valanciunas apologized and the Raptors said they don't condone his actions. However, just three days after getting busted, the team saw fit to place JV in the starting line-up as opposed to slapping his big butt on the bench.
There's a collective bargaining agreement in place between the NBA and its players that says the league or a team can't suspend an individual until he's actually convicted of a crime. But there's nothing that says the Raptors couldn't send a message to Valanciunas, and to their fans, by making JV sit on the bench, or at least not inserting him in the starting line-up.
Instead there was Valanciunas, strutting out to the court as the PA announcer screamed his name, with most fans giving the big guy a huge ovation while he danced around high-fiving his teammates.
Look. We all make mistake and I'm not saying the kid needs to be crucified. But he also doesn't need to be glorified and by giving Valanciunas the minutes they did, the Raptors disrespected anyone who has lost a loved one in an accident involving an impaired driver. My grandmother, for instance, was one of the most important people in my life. She died way too young at the hands of a drunk driver who, as fate would have it, walked away without a scratch. Grandma was the core of our extended family and in the years following her death, the people who gathered at her home just about every single Sunday gradually drifted apart. That's the type of huge hole this type of tragedy can leave. Thankfully, despite the carelessness of Valanciunas, nobody was hurt. However, by showing they care more about results than delivering an important message, the Raptors did significant damage to their reputation as solid corporate citizens and community ambassadors.
Sure, the Raptors won on Wednesday and Valanciunas had a big night. But to be honest, you could probably find five guys in a pick-up game at the local YMCA who'd be able to put up 26 points against the pathetic 76'ers.
More importantly, while watching JV take the ball to the hoop, the Raptors dropped the ball when it comes to their responsibility to set a good example, especially for all those free-of-charge school kids up in the crowd on Wednesday night.