It was another tough loss to swallow for Raptors fans. After ANOTHER lack luster showing versus the lowly Pacers for three quarters, the boys came up short in a game they not only needed to win, but should have – especially after a hard fought 4th quarter comeback. As a side note, imagine what this team could do if they actually committed to playing defense and sharing the ball on offense for 2, 3 or heck, even 4 full quarters! After the game I had a chance to sit down and go one-on-one with Raptors Radio Commentator, and Fan590 and Raptors TV Host, Eric Smith, to talk about the disappointment of Raptors fans so far this season and what, if anything can be done about it. Here is what he had to say:

PHD: We know the Raptors need some help at the wing positions, but truthfully, is there anybody out there that can help? And if so, at what cost?

ES: As long as Jermaine O’Neal is banged-up, he’ll be tough to move. When he does come back (which he did tonight vs Indy) he’ll have to play a handful of games to prove he’s healthy. And that’s all based on *IF* Bryan Colangelo is looking to move him. Jose Calderon isn’t going anywhere – and he’s hurt too. I don’t see Chris Bosh being traded, so the only other valuable piece – that might actually fetch you something legit – would be Anthony Parker’s expiring contract. Plus, given how he’s playing, can you afford to move Andrea Bargnani?

PHD: With all the JO rumours floating around (and with Andrea’s improved play)- is there any truth to the idea that Bryan Colangelo is looking to move on? And either way, do you think this is the right decision or should the Raps give more time to the idea of Bosh and JO together?

ES: Well, similar to question # 1, if the Raptors are going to make a move, I think you have to look at what they truly have in terms of “value” that other teams might want: Bosh, Calderon, O’Neal, AP’s expiring deal, and Bargnani. If Bosh and Calderon aren’t going anywhere and you’re not dying to deal Bargnani, then I would think moving O’Neal is a true possibility. That probably has more to do with his BIG ticket coming off the books at the end of next season though, and not necessarily his “chemistry” with Bosh this season. I think they’ve been alright together.

PHD: Is there still time this season for the Raptors (as currently constructed) to turn things around? If yes, what needs to happen?

ES: Given how jumbled the East is between #7 and #14, I’d say there is still PLENTY of time to turn things around. Can the Raps make it back to .500 or go above .500? That may be tough. But just get me to the post-season and I’ll take my chances from there. We’ve seen enough upsets in many sports – not just basketball – to be able to say an “upset” is possible against the likes of Boston, Cleveland, Orlando, etc. (maybe not probable – but possible).

PHD: Evaluate the job that Jay Triano has done as coach to date. Do you think he deserves the chance to be the coach of this team long term? If so, why? If not, what type of coach would you like to see succeed him and when do you think such a move might happen?

ES: Considering he lost 2/5th’s of his starting 5 (JO for 9 and Calderon for 5-6) for a good chunk of games and he’s trying to put in a new defence and offence all on the fly … I think Triano’s 6 weeks have been pretty good. There’s still a lot of work to be done, thus, I don’t know if it’s fair to truly grade him yet. After Friday’s game we will have hit the halfway point so let’s see what the 2nd set of “41 games” brings Triano and the Raps and then make the call on him at the end of the year. Given all of the expectations you, me, we all had for this team though … Toronto has got to make the playoffs.

PHD: Raptors fans are like scorned lovers- as soon as we feel that there is a chance for rejection- we shut down. We did it Damon, T-Mac, Vince, and now we are doing it with Bosh. With the scare of 2010 approaching, many fans are calling for Colangelo to trade Bosh now. Thoughts?

ES: I think they’re all different. Damon wanted out – and asked to get out. TMAC got out when he had every right to. Vince re-signed and committed to this team but then – a short time later – asked out. I think it’s unclear right now what Bosh might do. If Toronto were to miss the playoffs THIS year, they’d have to do something really special in 2009-10 to make sure Bosh knows the future is still bright. All of that said though, Bosh would be leaving a TON of money on the table if he walked away so that could be another great reason to stay.

PHD: On behalf of all the members of the Raptors Republic- thanks Eric for your time and for shedding a little light on the issues.

Be sure to check out Eric with Paul Jones before, during, and after every Raptors game on the Fan (AM590 on your radio) in addition to every Thursday night from 7-9 on both the Fan and Raptors TV for the most excellent “Hoops.”

As always, standing in the key, I’m the Dr. I’ve got my feet planted, and I’m planning on taking a charge!

phdsteve