I am sure many are thinking I am sitting back, looking like a cheshire cat, reveling in the current state of affairs in Raptorland. Wrong. My spirits are actually somewhat buoyed and turning optimistic as I read comments around the web and even mainstream media relating to the upper management of this basketball club and how fans and writers are starting to feel a change is necessary. The candy coating is starting to wear off and a salty nut is all that is left.
In many ways, Bryan Colangelo is like Chris Bosh: he is better than most, but without a supporting cast of talent, he just isn’t going anywhere. Some poo-poo the notion that his father was the real mastermind in Phoenix, stating that he was just the owner and Bryan the brains. Believe what you will, but when USA Basketball wanted someone to run their squad, they turned to Jerry. Money wasn’t a factor there, but picking talent that worked together was. In that regard, Bryan has shown an uncanny ability to not follow in his father’s footsteps. Yes, losing begets animosity which begets finger pointing, which has started to happen according to recent reports. That is not a healthy environment and will, once again, make this city undesirable to many. Granted we do not have many pieces that teams will find desirable, but if the Bobcats can move Adam Morrison……
I will use this space to talk about what Maurizio Gherardini has brought to the franchise since we have been mired in this slump. Okay, done.
I have been a basketball fan my entire life. I grew up fighting for TV time so I could watch Dr Js Sixers and Larry Bird’s Celtics and Magic Johnson’s Lakers while my family wanted to watch football and hockey. I used to run to the store when the new SI was out just to read the NBA part, since it was difficult to get any NBA news other than quick snips and box scores. I bought my seasons tickets and went to every single game every single year, knowing that, sure we only won 20-30 games, but soon enough it will be alright. I wasn’t expecting that squad that took us to Game 7 against the Sixers to make up a perennial contender, but I did think it was a nice starting block. Even with the injuries to Vince and his trade, I felt enough pieces were present to move forward. Then we, admittedly, over achieved and won our first banner. Again, my expectations were held in check. I never once thought this team was built for a deep run in the playoffs that season. Games against injured teams and some lucky bounces are the seams of that banner, not a deeply talented, well built team.
Which brings us to now. The year we won the division, we would enter a game against a weaker/injured opponent and get the expected result: a victory. Today, with the best Raptors team Bryan has put together, we can barely stand to watch. There is no excitement in the fanbase, no joy in talking Raptors basketball at school or at the office, and I am sure that asking people to go to a game with your extra ticket is not unlike asking your best buddy to help you wax your privates.
As a supporter of this franchise, all I have ever wanted was to have a contending team. I know it is very difficult to build a championship worthy team, I really do. It shouldn’t be difficult, however, to build a team that starts out at .500 and inches its way up over the course of a few seasons. I think anybody can honestly say that we did not see what has happened coming when we were looking ahead 3 years ago. I would give Bryan a mulligan except that, when all the players are healthy (given that Jose is never 100% it seems), we still cannot compete with above average teams. To sit back and allow that to go on over the course of a professional NBA season is criminal, full stop.
At any given point in a season, I want to have the ability to go to a game or turn TSN2 on and think, “we can get this”. I want to say that as we face the Lakers, Celtics, LeBrons. I think I’ve earned that right. It’s time for Bryan to give it to me.