Jalen Rose

The Ultimate Raptors Rankings are the RaptorBlog editors’ attempt to rank the top 30 Toronto Raptors of all time. These rankings are obviously somewhat arbitrary and endlessly debatable, but they’re based on each player’s contribution, performance and longevity as a Raptor, and on how beloved they are by Raptors fans. We’ll count down a new Raptor every Wednesday on this blog.

Jalen Rose’s Raptors résumé:

  • Fourth in franchise history, points per game, minimum 100 games (16.2)

If I had to describe Jalen Rose’s Raptors tenure with one word, that word would be “crafty”. He wasn’t particularly athletic but he usually found a way to get where he wanted to go on the court, regardless of who was guarding him. He had this patented move where he’d post up and then use his arm to hook around the defender while he drove to the hoop. He’d usually get away with that move once or twice a game before he’d get called for it and then he’d react as though he had no idea what he just got called for. That never got old.

Jalen joined the Raptors after a blockbuster trade in December 2003 that sent Antonio Davis, Jerome Williams and Chris Jefferies to the Bulls in return for Rose, Donyell Marshall and Lonny Baxter. The Raptors won their first five games after Jalen joined the team, but that 2003-04 Raptors squad was woefully lacking in talent and they finished the season with a 33-49 record.

Replacing Kevin O’Neill with Sam Mitchell as coach didn’t improve the team’s record in 2004-05, but Rose rebounded from a subpar season to finish with averages of 18.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists along with a career-high .394 three-point shooting percentage. After struggling early and clashing with Mitchell after he was benched so that Joey Graham (!) could start, Jalen became known as “Captain Crunch” for his late-game scoring exploits and a fan favorite because of his swagger and charm.

Versatility was one of the hallmarks of Jalen’s game — he could play the one, two or three effectively with his size, court vision and playmaking ability. What he couldn’t do was defend any of those positions, not like he tried particularly hard on that end. He was one of the Raptors tasked with trying to stop Kobe Bryant in his historic 81-point game — although poor Mo Pete was Kobe’s primary victim. A former Air Canada Centre vendor claims that he once made a bet with Jalen that he couldn’t outscore LeBron before a game against the Cavs. Rose led the Raptors with 30 points, but LeBron went off for 56. To Jalen’s credit, he paid off the five dollar bet by leaving him an envelope addressed to “that smartass vendor”.

You could make the case that Jalen Rose’s most significant impact on the franchise occurred in February 2006 when interim GM Wayne Embry traded him, a first round draft pick and some cash to the Knicks for Antonio Davis’ expiring contract. That expiring contract and the 2006 cap space it created was certainly one of the aspects that made this franchise seem appealing to Bryan Colangelo — he quit the Suns to take the Raptors job later that month.

Although the Raptors didn’t achieve much success while Jalen was in Toronto, most fans remember him fondly because of his smooth, fearless game and his entertaining quotes. I’ll wrap this up with my three favorite Jalen Rose quotes from his time as a Raptor.

3. “Even bad teams have optimism. You don’t want to take away the optimism so early in the season. The Bad News Bears coach wouldn’t even tell (his team) that.” — on Rob Babcock’s negative comments about the Raptors’ upcoming 2005-06 season

2. “You want me to take the time to count ‘em? No comment.” — on how many of his Raptors teammates are question marks

1. “Who’d we get?  Richard Jefferson?” – on being told that the Raptors traded Vince Carter to the Nets