Trash-talk Toronto Raptors: All-Star break in Chicago

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Toronto Raptors – Kyle Lowry (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Welcome back to another edition of Trash-talk Toronto Raptors! Here we will discuss everything that happened with the Toronto Raptors except… basketball.

The Toronto Raptors had their winning streak snapped by the Brooklyn Nets just before All-Star weekend. Still, they remained in the spotlight with Pascal Siakam entering the Skills Challenge and Nick Nurse and Kyle Lowry joining him in the All-Star Game on Team Giannis.

All-Star weekend is notorious for two things: celebrating the game and hullaballoo. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of watching the celebrity game, then you know what I’m talking about. This particular All-Star weekend was full of goofiness, potential collusion, and a new style for the actual All-Star game with what I have come to understand is called the “Elam Ending.”

I’d be lying if I had said that I knew what the “Elam Ending” was before the All-Star game. To me, I’d known it as “that rule we play at the hoop without a net and the vaunted double-rim,” but I digress.

There’s a lot to unpack from All-Star weekend, of course, but there are a few things that I need to discuss: the Slam Dunk Contest chicanery and collusion, Kyle Lowry being the ultimate version of himself, and, ironically, John Beilein and the Cleveland Cavaliers, both of whom were nowhere to be seen in Chicago, but heard ’round the world.

As always, these segments wouldn’t be as enjoyable without you, the readers, tagging along. So, in the future, if you spot anything that you deem worthy for a Trash-talk column, then please feel free to tag @RaptorsRapture or @HughesWithMe.

Without further ado, onto this week’s edition of Trash-talk!

Has there ever been so much controversy surrounding the Slam Dunk Contest?

The Slam Dunk Contest is notoriously silly and a bit contrived. There are some players who just seemed destined to win a contest, as long as they enter. Think about it: Vince Carter, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant — these guys all are inspirational and were destined to wow at the contest.

After what we just witnessed, it’s safe to say that Aaron Gordon is not that guy as he got snaked, again. Which is to say… perhaps it’s time to rethink the way we do the contest as a whole.

But, before we get there, we need to sum up the situation. The contest came down to Derrick Jones Jr. and Aaron Gordon, who had nailed five perfect dunks. Gordon’s turn came and he pulled lovable, tall man Tacko Fall out of the audience to jump over.

After bringing it home over him — with some head scrapping along the way, I might add — the judges went to confer. Here’s where things got interesting. The judges came out and the final score was 47, which was one point less than Jones Jr. Gordon was mad, the audience was confused, and that could have been that. Yet, Common, a judge in the event, said this to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne:

So with Dunk-gate officially underway, we put on our Sherlock Holmes detective hats to figure out who robbed Aaron Gordon.

The three judges under the microscope are Dwyane Wade, Scottie Pippen, and Chadwick Boseman. The two other judges — Common and Candace Parker — are out since they awarded Gordon a ten, the highest possible score.

We can automatically throw out Boseman. He’s definitely a big hoops fan, but his loyalty to either of these two players is nonsense; he just has no dog in the fight. Plus, it would be extremely out of character for him to put his agenda ahead of two competitors.

That leaves Dwyane Wade and Scottie Pippen, obviously both big hoopers who appreciate quality dunks.

It’s easy to point a finger at Wade since he played for the Miami Heat and Jones Jr. currently plays for the Heat. But that is too suspect, too obvious in my opinion. Of course, Pippen, like Boseman, doesn’t have a dog in this fight, either.

So, then, what happened?

Honestly, what probably happened is there was a lot of commotion going on while the judges were talking. Being the ring leader in Common, he probably assigned each person to give out numbers to equal up to 48 or another tie. Then, when it came time to reveal the numbers, Pippen, with all the commotion and discussion and in the moment decision-making, forgot if he was a nine or a ten so he guessed and guessed wrong.

Afterward, Common looked at Pippen and was like, “What the hell, bro?” And, Pippen came back after him like, “Dude, Common, sorry I forgot what number I was.” So, Common, being a gentleman, wanted to make sure that Gordon didn’t think they robbed him on purpose, so he let it slide to Shelburne that it was supposed to end in a tie.

Boom, there you have it: Scottie Pippen accidentally robbed Aaron Gordon in the Slam Dunk Contest.

Kyle Lowry was the most perfect Kyle Lowry

Was it just me or did it seem like there was a lot of fawning over Kyle Lowry?

Take this for example:

Lowry was perhaps always lovable, but it seems that after he earned something other superstars haven’t, now he’s turned into some kind of lovable teammate that people are pining over. Needless to say, trading him from the Raptors might be a terrible mistake given his undeniable “cool guy” attitude.

Then, Lowry did something that I have never witnessed in an All-Star game: taking not one, but two charges against Kawhi Leonard and James Harden. It was Lowry at an all-time peak Lowry moment: stealing the show from two other talented players much to their collective chagrin.

While that was important and he made for a great show in the final, untimed fourth quarter by playing crunch time with a bunch of ballers, it was his candor about the Toronto Raptors that hit it home during the whole weekend.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a floor general — one of the best to ever grace Toronto.

The Cleveland Cavaliers and John Beilein made headlines even as they took very little to no part in the festivities

Two things can possibly happen when a talented, superstar basketball player leaves a team. It is either A) the team makes a surprisingly quick recovery and goes on to have a successful season or B) the team unceremoniously collapses and it proves the worthiness of the superstar.

Then I guess, actually, there’s a third option C) which is becoming the Cleveland Cavaliers and their mess of an organization through and through.

During the middle of the All-Star game, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski in conjunction with Brian Windhorst reported that John Beilein and the Cavs may be parting ways.

On Wednesday, the news became official that John Beilein and the Cavs were done and JB Bickerstaff would be taking over as head coach.

This didn’t come as too much of a surprise, but then The Athletic reported a bit more of a tumultuous locker room that never jelled almost from the moment John Beilein took over.

By far, the pettiness had stooped to an all-time low after Beilein made his unfortunate “thugs” comment, which he attempted to explain away as a slip of the tongue. The Athletic reported a nearly unbelievable loss of power:

(M)ultiple players began playing songs that included the word “thug” whenever Beilein was within earshot, sources said: Bone Thugz-n-Harmony’s “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” and Tupac’s “Thugz Mansion” among them. As the team boarded the bus a few days after the incident, one player was intentionally playing Trick Daddy’s “I’m a Thug” with Beilein a few feet away. Other players blasted songs with the word “thug” loudly during workouts in the facility. Players did this to make light of a very tough situation, according to one team source.

Two things I want to point out: First, very obviously Beilein had no control over this locker room whatsoever. And, I mean, it didn’t even sound like he tried to retain it. Not that he should have punished the players for playing songs that had the word “thug” in it, but surely he could have addressed it at the very least. It’s like he figured that if he ignored it for long enough the situation would go away. In fact, he was ignoring his own house burning down.

Secondly, I am incredibly happy to say that Bone Thugz-n-Harmony, Tupac, and Trick Daddy are the musicians that the Cavaliers chose. They could have gone with some more modern artists, sure, but likely those would’ve skipped over Beilein’s unknowing noggin. These guys were popular in the ’90s, so even Beilein would’ve likely known who they were.

Look, I’m sad that things didn’t work out for Beilein; I truly am. I was hoping that he’d do well, but this was a mistake from the get-go. But, to be honest, I’m not sure if it’s all entirely Beilein. In The Athletic’s report, they go on to show other boneheaded mistakes that have been made by the Cavaliers just in the last few years. It’s truly a wonder that LeBron ever gave them a second shot.

The Cavaliers have nearly broken every relationship they’ve ever had with a player, coach, or GM for that matter. They fired Tyronn Lue after he won a championship, which the players liked. They didn’t find a way to keep David Griffin, who LeBron — PROBABLY THE SECOND GREATEST BASKETBALL PLAYER EVER — adored. They traded Kyrie Irving for bit players when LeBron and Kyrie could have run it back for one more go. Judging by the way LeBron has helped other stars in the league, I’m pretty confident that he could have found a solution with Irving instead of this philosophical nonsense he’s touting now.

Yet, if there’s anything that proves to be the most suspicious and the biggest “stay the hell away from here” moment for a franchise it is this: Larry Drew didn’t even want to become the head coach after Lue was let go. Doesn’t that tell you something about the franchise? Doesn’t that just show you that it’s a ticking time bomb that’s just waiting to explode? Isn’t that why you just don’t even bother picking up the phone if Dan Gilbert is calling?

I know the New York Knicks are bad and they have been bad for a long time. But people at least care about the Knicks. The Cavaliers have been handled like garbage for so long I am unsurprised by this disaster.

And yet, the problem is that it’s Cleveland and people expect misery. If the Cavaliers were to suddenly dissipate, I wouldn’t be surprised whatsoever. But they won’t go away, they’ll be in a perpetual rebuild, another process, building towards a future, or whatever you want to call it.

Just know this, they won’t be finding their way back to glory anytime soon. At least, not until the third greatest basketball player of all time is born nearby. And even then, they might find a way to mess it all up.

Next: Reassessing the Jeremy Lin signing

That’s all for this week’s edition of Trash-talk! Tune in next week when the games will have picked back up and we’ll begin the long slog to the playoffs.