Raptors Cage

An Itty Bitty Conspiracy

Look, I’m not a superstitious man.

I don’t fret when a black cat crosses my path. Nor do I care when I knock over a salt shaker. Friday the 13th? Never a worry in my mind.

I think of the universe as a random, chaotic space, and I mainly try to draw meaning from what I can understand. With that said, there is this one particular cosmic relationship, that I’ve found impossible to disbelieve.

The GoDaddy Curse.

Enough is enough. It’s real, it’s pressing, and the Toronto Raptors organization would be irresponsible not to address it immediately.

I’m not here to make jokes, I’m here as an investigative journalist. Everything from here on out is cold, hard, facts.

What is the GoDaddy Curse?

If you’ve watched even a handful of Raptors games over the past few years, then you might already be familiar with the relationship between the team and the domain distributor/website-builder GoDaddy.

Midway through the 2016-2017 season, GoDaddy teamed up with Jonas Valanciunas to launch Itty Bitty Ballers; an ad campaign in which the big man sold mini-figurines modelled after himself. It was amusing and well-received – enough so to make GoDaddy’s Raptor-related ad campaign a yearly occurrence.

Since then, two other Raptors players have been featured in a GoDaddy commercial. Last year, it was former wunderkind Norman Powell, with his product coming in the form of a song; Powell on the Piano. Not quite as viral a campaign as Valanciunas’ the year before, but it was enough for GoDaddy to renew the Toronto connection into this season, with sharpshooter CJ Miles recently releasing his own line of sleepwear; CJ’s PJ’s.

At first glance, this is all harmless advertising. But there is a sinister presence lurking beneath the surface of these ads. I don’t claim to know what it is, or why it is, or how it works, but I do know one thing:

Being in a GoDaddy commercial makes you worse at basketball.

Jonas Valanciunas, Patrick Patterson, Lucas Nogueira, Norman Powell, and CJ Miles. All names of victims – victims to something that we don’t yet understand.

If you think I sound crazy right now, I can’t blame you. I never thought I’d believe in a malevolent basketball spirit either. At this point, however, there is simply too much evidence to pretend that it’s not there. Come along, as I open your eyes.

Jonas Valanciunas

The first Itty Bitty Ballers ad debuted on January 2nd, 2017 – right in the middle of the season. Let’s compare how he played before and while starring in a GoDaddy commercial.

31 games pre-GoDaddy commercial: 26.8 minutes 12.1 points, 9.6 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.7 blocks, 1.5 turnovers, 54.5 FG%, 84.8 FT%

59 games post-GoDaddy commercial (incl. playoffs): 24.9 minutes, 11.7 points, 8.9 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.7 blocks, 1.2 turnovers, 56.1 FG%, 75.9 FT%

Observations:

Valanciunas is probably the most unscathed of any player afflicted by the GoDaddy Curse, but there are still effects to be noted. His first game after the premiere of the ad on January 2nd was a 28 point loss to the Spurs, in which he scored only 2 points and grabbed 6 rebounds.

What the per-game averages don’t show is the slow drop of his on-off numbers. He ended the 2016-2017 season with a -0.6 BPM (Box Plus-Minus), the worst of his career. His defensive issues were particularly glaring this season.

For Valanciunas, the curse was most apparent in the playoffs. After emerging the postseason prior with a monstrous 13.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks, he finished the 2017 playoffs averaging a lame 11.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 0.6 blocks. The Raptors ended up getting rather disgracefully swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Patterson and Nogueira

Here’s where things start to get worrying.

On March 30th, 2017, Patrick Patterson announced his new association with Itty Bitty Ballers. On April 10th, 2017, another Itty Bitty Ballers commercial was released – this time starring Patrick Patterson and Lucas Nogueira as employees in Valanciunas’ Itty Bitty Business. Neither Patterson nor Nogueira could have possibly known that they were getting caught in the crossfire of something far more dangerous than action figures.

Patterson’s 64 games pre-GoDaddy commercial: 24.6 minutes, 6.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks, 0.6 turnovers, 40.0 FG%, 36.9 3P%, 71.7 FT%

Patterson’s 11 games post-GoDaddy commercial: 18.1 minutes, 3.3 points, 2.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.2 blocks, 0.6 turnovers, 29.7 FG%, 33.3 3P%, 100 FT%

*Nogueira wasn’t getting enough meaningful playing time to warrant having a whole stat-line analyzed. He ended up seeing just under 20 minutes of cumulative action in his 11 games after the ad. In those 20 minutes he shot 1/5 FG; 1/2 FT; had 8 rebounds, and 2 assists.

Observations:

Patrick Patterson had been having a bit of a down year, but he was still considered the heartbeat of the Raptors’ bench unit.

He became virtually unplayable, however, the moment he appeared in the Itty Bitty Ballers ad. He scored a confident 15 points the day before the ad was released, and then a meager 3 in the game immediately following the ad.

Patterson and Nogueira, in gross fashion, combined to make just 12 of the 42 shots they took while the commercial was airing. It was at this time that Valanciunas’ struggles really took hold as well.

Patterson was not re-signed by the Raptors that summer – he’s now playing in a lesser role for the OKC Thunder, looking to regain the stature he had once had in Toronto before partnering with GoDaddy. Lucas Nogueira came back for the 2017-2018 season, but played only 418 minutes – a huge downgrade from the 1088 minutes he’d played the season before. As of the writing of this article, Nogueira does not have a NBA contract.

Norman Powell

While it was disheartening to watch the GoCursed Patrick Patterson build a brick house in the playoffs, watching a prodigious Norman Powell become the basketball equivalent of nails on chalkboard was straight up depressing.

Given a role in the starting lineup out of training camp, the 2017-2018 season, by all angles, was poised to be Norman’s breakout. It took about a month and a hip pointer for him to fall out of the rotation, where he stayed for most of the season.

Unlike his preceding brethren, Powell’s GoDaddy ad came at the beginning of the season, on October 29th, 2017. It aired regularly, all season long.

In fact, “Powell on the Piano” did not stop airing until after the final buzzer of yet another Game 4 series-ending loss against the Cavs. You can probably see where this is going.

Powell’s 2016-2017 season stats (incl. playoffs): 18.5 minutes, 8.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.2 blocks, 1.0 turnovers, 44.5 FG%, 34.2 3P%, 79.7 FT%

Powell’s 2017-2018 season stats (incl. playoffs): 14.9 minutes, 5.2 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.1 blocks, 0.9 turnovers, 39.6 FG%, 27.9 3P%, 82.1 FT%

Observations: 

Norman Powell’s fall from grace made absolutely no sense. A hard-nosed player who’d earned his way onto the team with stellar defence and a history of performing under the brightest lights – somehow he was suddenly incapable of making layups. For an entire season and the playoffs.

After topping 10 or more points in 37 of 85 games in his sophomore season, he did it just 16 times in the 76 games that were broadcast with his GoDaddy commercial running as an ad.

Yet in the 2017 playoffs, with all three members of the Itty Bitty Committee struggling – Powell, not yet touched by GoDaddy, was thriving.

Along with a playoff career-high of 25 points in a legendary performance against Milwaukee, he averaged just about 12 points on 49.1 percent shooting. In the 2018 playoffs, with Powell on the Piano commercials airing, he scored 12 points. In six games. 

This season he is no longer affiliated with GoDaddy, and his play has already begun to creep upwards. But still, no player who has ever appeared in a GoDaddy commercial has set a new career-high in points since appearing in it. Who knows how much of Norm’s once-enormous looking ceiling got cut down by the curse?

CJ Miles

Let’s get something straight. CJ Miles is not a good shooter. He is a great one.  Which is why I was so disappointed to see his first GoDaddy commercial, CJ’s PJ’s, premiere this October 17th, 2018. Because I know that when a shooters’ rhythm is thrown off, it can get ugly quickly.

Last year, CJ averaged 10 points on 37.1 FG%, with 36.1 3P%. This was considered a down year for CJ Miles’ efficiency.

In the first eight games of this season, CJ is averaging 5 points on 31.7 FG%, with 23.1 3P%.

It’s ugly. The effects of the GoDaddy Curse have been immediately apparent.

Has he always been a streaky player? Yes, most shooters are. But I’ve looked through his game logs. There are only six other eight game stretches in CJ’s now 14 year-old career that can rival this one in terms of how poorly he’s shot the ball from distance at comparable volume. Think about it – a 14 year-old career. If his career were a person, it’d be starting high school.

Now, imagine this hypothetical freshman has had six asthma attacks in 14 years. Then, immediately after walking into a room filled with the most polleniferous plants in the world, this teenager has the seventh asthma attack of its life. What triggered it should be pretty obvious, right?

This would be the perfect metaphor for CJ Miles’ current situation – “asthma attack” provokes very relevant imagery as to what he’s accomplishing on the basketball court at the moment – except, unlike the hypothetical asthmatic, CJ is shoving his face into the flowers for more.

CJ’s PJ’s look like a wonderful idea on the surface, but they have to go.

My Solution:

Easy. If the Toronto Raptors are serious about winning a championship, they will cut ties with GoDaddy effective immediately. All past sponsored tweets, Instagram videos – everything is scrubbed clean, as if it were never there. In the NBA, millions of dollars are on the line every night and every competitive (dis)advantage needs to be addressed, no matter how small. I think I’ve already made my case.

And listen – if you’ve read this far, and you think you’re still not convinced, just ask yourself this one question:

“How will I react if Kawhi Leonard decides to make a cameo in CJ’s next commercial?”

I’m expecting some nervous laughter right about now.

 

 

3 thoughts on “An Itty Bitty Conspiracy

  1. The curse is real, but I think your solution is flawed. For max impact, Toronto should subsidize Go Daddy partnering with Gianis, Kyrie or Simmons.

Leave a Comment