Toronto To the Toronto Raptors, it was the contractual equivalent of an anchor.
So interim GM Wayne Embry finally cut it loose Friday, trading veteran Jalen Rose, a first-round pick and an undisclosed amount of cash to the New York Knicks for forward Antonio Davis on Friday.
Whether or not Davis ever dons a Raptors jersey, the move will pay off literally ridding the franchise of its biggest contract while providing the Raptors with $10-million (U.S.) in cap relief.
"Cap room is very important and a franchise that's in transition, it's much easier to build when you've got cap room, not necessarily just signing free agents, but in making trades, brokering deals," said Raptors interim GM Wayne Embry.
The Raptors started the season at 1-15 but were 16-30 going into Friday night's home game against the 14-30 Knicks. Rose, dressed in a designer suit, embraced his former teammates as he strode to the Knicks bench. He high-fived Toronto fans as he headed through the tunnel to a standing ovation at halftime. Davis was not at the Air Canada Centre.
Rose, 33, is making $15.7-million this season and is due to make $16.9-million next season.
"He's exactly what we need," Knicks coach Larry Brown said of Rose.
But not what the Raptors needed. Rose's sizable salary made him a poor fit for the Raptors' blueprint to rebuild around youth and there had been speculation about his future in Toronto for the better part of a year.
"Jalen was a pro," Toronto coach Sam Mitchell said. "In my year and a half, Jalen was great to me. It was great working with him. .-.-. New York is getting a good guy, a guy who can score. We're going to miss his scoring. But that's life in the NBA."
"I had mixed emotions about that because I really like Jalen as a person and as a basketball player, but this is the NBA," said Embry.
This is Embry's second trade in the eight days he's been interim GM, taking the reins after the Raptors fired Rob Babcock last week. Earlier this week, he traded seldom-used Aaron Williams to New Orleans for two second-round draft picks.
The 37-year-old Davis, who played for the Raptors from 1999 to 2003, is in the final year of a $65-million, five-year contract he signed with Toronto in 2001. He'll make $13.86-million this year, but his salary comes off the books at season's end, giving the Raptors the financial breathing room.
"Antonio bring size, he brings experience, and we think he can help the growth of our young bigs (big men)," said Embry. "He has experience here, and he's a good guy."
Good guy he may be, but he wasn't well-liked in his final days with the Raptors, and he's booed whenever he plays here. He has 48 hours to report to the team.
"We think he is but you never know until he gets here. But I'm assuming he is, yes," said Embry.
The move wasn't about Davis though, but more about the flexibility the Raptors now have in signing free agents, or keeping their own, and point guard Mike James is at the top of that list. The guard has been a pleasant surprise since the Raptors traded Rafer Alston to the Houston Rockets for James during training camp, averaging 17.2 points and 5.3 assists heading into Friday' game.
"I tell you, it gives us a lot of flexibility and Mike James is a proven player .-.-. I like proven players and we like what Mike has contributed to our team thus far," said Embry.
Raptors star forward has been vocal in his hopes the Raptors will keep James, who could opt out of the final year of his contract this summer.
"That's what I think the move is for, for future references," said Bosh. "If we have space to sign guys, that would be a plus. I'm sure we'll sit down tomorrow and discuss what are the future plans and what this trade means for the team."
James said he has no idea what the future holds.
"I appreciate Chris's words, that meant a lot to me for another player to step up for me like that, especially with his calibre," said James. "But at the end of the day, I've got to finish the season. I could go on a complete turnaround and have the worst remainder of the season, and they aren't going to want to talk to me any longer."
The 2006 draft pick originally belonged to Denver and came to Toronto in the deal that sent Vince Carter to New Jersey.
The Knicks already have the NBA's highest payroll. But they needed to do something after losing three straight and nine of 10 going into the Toronto game.
Rose issued a statement after the trade.
"I can't wait to play in front of the many Knicks fans, friends and family in the NYC area and very much look forward to being a part of the Knicks organization," Rose said. "Ask any athlete. One of his dreams is to play in New York wearing a Knick uniform. It's also always been a dream of mine."
Davis has just finished serving a five-game suspension after going into the stands in Chicago during a confrontation between his wife, Kendra, and a fan.
In 2001, he made headlines as a Raptor when he expressed concerns for his kids being in the Canadian education system, citing the metric system among other differences with U.S. schools.
Kendra made headlines of her own this week when she was charged with misdemeanour battery for allegedly throwing a cup of coffee at a another woman in a traffic dispute.
Rose, a six-foot-eight guard/forward, led the Raptors in scoring last season with 18.5 points a night, but he's been struggling this year, averaging just 12.1 points per game on 40.4 per cent shooting.
His role on the Raptors had diminished to the point where he lost his spot in the starting lineup early in the season, though he reclaimed it Jan. 20 and had averaged 16.7 points in seven games since.
A favourite among Toronto fans and media, Rose was the only remaining Raptor from the Dec. 1, 2003 trade with Chicago that sent Davis, Jerome Williams and Chris Jefferies to the Bulls for Rose, Donyell Marshall and Lonny Baxter.
Toronto was Rose's fourth NBA team. He was taken 13th overall by Denver in the 1994 draft, and went on to play for Indiana, the Bulls and then Toronto.
Davis saw his playing time diminish in his first season with the Knicks after coming to New York along with centre Eddy Curry in an off-season trade with Chicago. The six-foot-nine veteran averaged five points and 4.8 rebounds in 36 games with the Knicks.
Davis, president of the NBA Players' Association, emerged as one of the Eastern Conference's top centres during his tenure in Toronto, and was chosen to start for the East in the 2001 all-star game. He averaged 13.7 points and 10.1 rebounds that season, and helped lead the Raptors to within a game of the Eastern Conference final.
Davis was drafted in the second round, 45th overall by Indiana in the 1990 draft and was traded to Toronto in 1999 by the Indiana Pacers for Jonathan Bender. He has averaged 10.1 points and 7.5 rebounds in 895 career games.