Piece by Piece

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Two blocks from my apartment, a long-deserted building is finally being cleared away. It had been boarded up and empty for awhile, but only now, with some new owner’s name on the title to the land, is it finally being leveled.

Everyone walking by stops and watches.

It doesn’t strike me as your usual rubbernecking, though. Human beings draw some sadistic pleasure from seeing the aftermath of a horrible car crash, but no one was pulled to this lot and it’s bulldozers for the destruction. After all, there’s little cleansing to be had in simply destroying what had already been destroyed, in making rubble of a building that was barely anything more. I think they watch for the process. When the final wall is torn down, no one will breath a sigh of relief, but only anticipate what the lot will look like when all of the rubble is cleared away. Then, they’ll pace the new building’s progress with every day and every week, until finally something new stands in the once-used-and-once-vacant lot. That will be the moment of finality.

A lot has been made of what Jarrett Jack now means to the New Orleans Hornets, but his impact on the Toronto Raptors has been ignored. Jack is a Raptor no more, and while his departure alone doesn’t signal the end of an era, it’s the clearing of a wall. Chris Bosh vacated Toronto months ago, and that should have been the signal to bring in the wrecking crew. Instead, Bryan Colangelo inked Amir Johnson to a silly, frivolous deal, inked stopgap Linas Kleiza to a four-year contract, and sat on Jose Calderon’s three remaining years for $29.3 million. Everyone was already watching in anticipation, but the wrecking orders stalled.

Jack is the kind of player a rebuilding team can’t afford. He’s due $15 million over his next three seasons, and that’s not the kind of money a young team wants on its cap…It’s the kind of money a playoff team already over the cap can spare to spend on a quality reserve. Timing is everything, and though Jack may be worth $5 million this season to both teams, Toronto is the franchise that needs to be conservative in its cap maneuverings. They acquired a bigger expiring contract in Peja Stojakovic should they luck into a trade, nabbed a young guard in Jerryd Bayless who should eclipse Jack at some point down the line, and moved Jack’s three-year deal off the books. New Orleans added a useful player and ducked under the luxury tax line, but the Hornets’ decision to trade for Jack doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know: New Orleans is still open to making moves to get better, and will do anything necessary to appease Chris Paul.

The message out of Toronto, though, is a bit different. The Raptors just traded their starting point guard for a prospect, and one who makes half as much money at that. That doesn’t mean the rest of the salary holdover will be shipped out tomorrow, but it’s a start. It’s tearing down eight feet of concrete that needn’t be there anymore, no matter how reliably it once held. There’s no catharsis for Raptors fans in trading Jack, but there may yet be some if other moves follow. There isn’t a new foundation, or even a new blueprint, but this is part of a transition. Everyone, stop and watch.

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