New feature at RR. We let the readers have their say in an article or so here and there. Feel free to rip this guy. – Arsenalist

Greetings, humanity! My name is Chris, known as “Sign Carl English” to those of you who frequent the live chat during the games. If you’ve spent more than a few minutes in those chats, you’ll know the majority of my (very strong) opinions about this team, its direction and its personnel. What many of you don’t know is that I’m an experienced net journalist, writing articles for 411mania.com’s wrestling and video games zones, as well as a former blogger on AltRaps.com. And today, we’re going to rip a few people some new orifices.

The Rot Starts at the Top

Remember when Bryan Colangelo won Executive of the Year? Boy does that seem like a lifetime ago. Toronto signed The Great Illusionist after “suffering” through The Babcock Years (incidentally, almost all of his decisions are now panning out…) and at the time it was seen as a major coup. After all, this was the man who got Phoenix out from under a bunch of bad contracts and made them into the highest-scoring team in the league with a stellar record and, perhaps most important, an entertaining style of play. Not only would free agents flock to Toronto to play under this great man, but the fans would come flooding in too, exulting in the high-octane offence that Toronto would be offering. Anybody know where any of that went?

Colangelo is a blind squirrel. He found his nut in Phoenix, and now he’s up the creek sans paddle. Hell, even his kayak has sprung a leak. BryCo’s Phoenix was built around Steve Nash, a man that fell into his lap because Mark Cuban lowballed him. He lucked into Amare Stoudamire, and already had Shawn Marion. Stoudamire’s lack of height at the 5 was compensated by his arm span, his strength and his athleticism, and Marion’s rebounding for a guy who essentially has the body of a 3 meant he could run a small, fast lineup without sacrificing too much on the boards. He added a bunch of underachieving streaky shooters who were available and relatively cheap, and he had himself a team. He got even luckier in that Boris Diaw and Leandro Barbosa proved to be gold nuggets sifted from the silt, and others like Quentin Richardson caught fire when the main offensive threats couldn’t produce. The team was not built with skill and cunning, but with a wish and a prayer.

Fast forward to Toronto. With the possible exception of Anthony Parker, Colangelo’s moves have all been subpar at best, busts at worst. Only recently has Bargnani started to show why he was picked first overall. Calderon was a Babcock pick, as was Ukic. Ford was traded, Jermaine looks like he could be traded. Joey Graham is emerging as a useful role player but wait, he was a Babcock pick too! Delfino is gone, Kapono came to Toronto and forgot what made him worth the $7 million or so he’s being paid and the less said about Hassan Adams and Will Solomon, the better. Oh yes, and he fired Sam Mitchell when the team was a game above .500, simply because he didn’t rant and rave over a crushing defeat at the hands of Denver. He didn’t do this because he had a superior coach lined up to take his place, oh no. He did it so that Jay Triano could take over on an interim basis (awful long interim, especially with Iavaroni now unemployed…) and bring the benefit of his years of NBA head coaching experience to the team. Oh wait…crap.

Franchise player? Where?

At the end of the season before last, I said we should trade Chris Bosh. My preferred trade would have sent him to Minnesota for KG. I said at the time that Bosh was not the player to lead this or any team, that he could not score down the stretch, that he was too quiet with his team-mates. It was still early, and you might have been able to fool someone in the league that Bosh was, or could be, a franchise player. I should start buying lottery tickets.

Bosh is blessed with quick feet, some dazzling moves off the dribble for his size, a good shot and a nose for rebounding. So what does he do as soon as Toronto hitch their cart to him? The same thing every player ever to don a Raptors uniform has done: transform themselves into a jump shooter. He’s lost any will he ever had to drive the lane, and seems to have lost a good deal of his hustle as well. You can see the same phenomenon in Jamario Moon, Jason Kapono, Rafer Alston, Fred Jones…Bosh is supposed to be the leader of this team, and others should be following his example. So they do. He stands 18 feet away and takes fading jumpers when he’s guarded by behemoths or point guards. When playing the likes of Dwight Howard, you HAVE to take the ball to him and try and get him in foul trouble. I don’t care if you get blocked 4 times, because the next 2 or 3 could be whistled. With Howard on the bench you can have your way with whichever jobber they bring in. Of course, that would make sense. When Joey Graham is outhustling you, you’re doing it wrong.

Then of course there’s the whole “will he, won’t he?” fiasco regarding the summer of 2010. Let’s face it folks: Bosh has no reason to sign here. He’s been booed, he’s been surrounded by the wrong players and he can win a ring elsewhere. He started the season trying to be a leader, and he couldn’t maintain it. As long as he is in Toronto he will be seen as a leader, but if he goes elsewhere he can be the second banana. Just like a certain Vincent Lamarr Carter. Bosh is the best second option in the league, but that’s the best he can be without the all-to-rare veteran motivator like Jason Kidd or Grant Hill to make him do the things he’s not doing. To avoid being held up by teams next year, teams who know we’re desperate to offload him, he needs to be traded NOW. As long as he’s here, he’s hurting us.

That’s without even mentioning the fact that he seems to coat his hands in Teflon before each game. Someone in the live chats gave him the name Chris Botch, and never was there a more appropriate moniker. As good as Jose Calderon is at avoiding turnovers, Botch more than makes up for it. Simply apply a small amount of pressure and presto! Instant turnover. Game still close down the stretch? No problem! Botch’s patented 2-minute Choke feature guarantees an easy finish every time. All this can be yours for a mere $18 million per season!

That and a coupon gets you a free donut

But wait, there’s more! Act now and you’ll also get a former seven-time All-Star! This defensive force comes complete with full medical records (owing to size of package, an extra $150 shipping will be added), snazzy headband and a guaranteed increase in both technical fouls AND missed layups! 13 points and 7 boards a game too! This sort of production would normally cost you $12, 13, even $14 MILLION dollars! But for just the low low price of $21 million you can have your very own Jermaine O’Neal next season!

If someone had told me before the trade that Toronto would be acquiring a seven-time All-Star who can rebound and block shots, I would have been moderately happy. OK that’s an understatement, I would have been delirious. Right up until they told me who it was. I’ve said all along that Jermaine O’Neal was not worth Ford, Rasho and a pick in the teens. Not that any of those three was going to give us good value, but I truly believe we could have done better. The value of what we gave away was fairly high to a lot of other teams, and I somehow knew Jermaine could not perform as advertised.

O’Neal has toughened our interior defence to an extent, but not as much as he could or should have. He has not provided the promised one-two low post punch we expected, he has not lead to more open shots for our perimeter shooters and he has not turned us into a contender. About all he has done is allow Bargnani to blossom…by getting hurt.

The bright side? The Great Illusionist seems to be willing to admit to his mistakes and trade them. There is interest in Jermaine, and it might net us the player I’ve wanted since summer: Shawn Marion. I know many people think he’s lost his edge, but we have a guy who was always successful in Phoenix and who hasn’t been in Miami. Toronto would be the “rubber match”, so to speak, and if he comes in and does nothing more than he’s doing in Miami, at least we’ve improved our dreadfully weak wing position.

Jose, can you score?

Last season at this point, the Toronto media (who are a topic for another day) were up in arms over a perceived all-star snub for Jose Calderon. He was leading the league in assist-to-turnover ratio, had taken over admirably from an injured TJ Ford and as both shooting and scoring at a good clip. It was an argument with little merit, but certainly worth bringing up.

Now this season, Calderon is a starter (one of the arguments against his inclusion last year was that he was a bench player), is once again shooting well (especially from the stripe), and is once again leading the league in assist to turnover ratio. He is once again not going to the All-Star Game (unless he is named as Jameer Nelson’s replacement). But nobody is complaining.

Why? Well he’s a defensive liability for one. Opposing guards blow by him so much that Triano has to rotate Parker on to them, leaving the shooting guard with Calderon on them. Which can be just as bad. Calderon guarding anyone puts added pressure on the interior defence who are always having to leave their man to help out, putting them woefully out of position for rebounds. It’s not a question of skill or knowledge, it’s simply that Jose cannot match foot speed with them.

There’s also the issue of scoring, and to me this is key. Jose is a great half-court playmaker and he has good vision, but the top point guards know when to take the game into their own hands and call their own numbers. We know Jose can shoot, we know he can break down defences and drive, we know he can come of screens. Unfortunately he is too unselfish and tries to make plays for others when there isn’t a play to make. The last thing we want is another Mike James, but there’s a happy medium there somewhere and Jose needs to find it if this team is going to turn around.

Fly him to it

Jamario Moon flattered to deceive last year. Blessed with the type of natural ability that I can only dream about, he won over the Toronto fans with his hustle, his leaping and his stat-sheet stuffing in the second half of last season. It seems as though this season, he’s let it go to his head. Moon has lost his minutes to Joey Graham, who certainly deserves them and probably should even be starting. Giving Joey regular minutes at a regular position might do exactly what it’s done for Bargs this season – bring out some consistency. But I digress.

Others have mentioned Moon’s halfwit grin and he stands outside the arc and watches the game unfold. If Bosh has Teflon on his hands, Moon has that epoxy putty on his feet. He’s not a HORRIBLE shooter, but he takes horrible shots at horrible times. When he takes open shots, he hits them. The fact is a man of Moon’s athletic ability should not be planting himself on the outside, especially not on a team with 4 shooters who are undoubtedly better than him (Kapono, Calderon, Parker and Bargnani, in case you were wondering). Move around, get yourself open, be the man who makes the second pass out of a double team! CRASH THE BOARDS!

If Moon would occasionally catch the ball and drive, using his freakish leaping ability to draw some fouls and get the crowd on their feet, I could forgive the occasional ill-advised contribution to the construction industry. Does he do that? My ass he does. I understand he’s built like a pipe cleaner, but for God’s sake man DRIVE! If you get flattened, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and hit your free throws and don’t cry like that other high-flier we had here. During the “game” against the Cavs, Matt Devlin said that Moon’s 2 free throws were the first he had taken since January 16, a span of 8 games. For a guy who should be the slashing 3 that we sorely need, that’s unacceptable. Hell it’s unacceptable for anyone seeing more than 10 minutes a game.

General Deficiencies, meet Major Problem

At times, watching this team feels like Corporal Punishment. We know that this team has problems: we can’t stop anyone scoring from the outside, we can’t rebound, we show no passion and we settle for bad shots. These are caused by general deficiencies in our roster: no perimeter lockdown defender, or even a good perimeter defender. That lack also contributes to our rebounding issue, but the major cause of that is that one of our bigs is almost always 18 feet from the basket and not crashing the boards. Nobody on the team cares because they know they don’t have the tools to be any better. Watching the Cleveland and Orlando games it looked like half the squad was just there to show up, and Cleveland especially looked like they couldn’t be bothered breaking a sweat to beat us. We settle for bad shots because our leaders settle for bad shots, Bosh especially.

Our major problem is that we just don’t know. Who’s the guy we look to in the last two minutes, the guy we know can score for us? We don’t know. Who’s the guy who gets the ball when we need to stop a run? We don’t know. Who’s the guy we can depend on to make the opposing team’s star have a difficult evening? We don’t know. Who’s our best starting 5? We don’t know. Who let the dogs out? Well, I’m sure you can see the pattern. The answer to most of these questions should be Chris Bosh. After all, he’s our franchise player, right?

How many games has Bosh won for us down the stretch? How many has he LOST for us down the stretch? How many times have we given him the ball during a big run by the opposing team, only to see him take an 18-foot jumper and miss? How often has Bosh shut down or even limited anyone offensively? I’ll give him this: he is part of our best starting 5. Without Bosh, we still won’t know the answer to most of these questions, at least not right away. However, we will have a better chance to find out, because right now when I think of this team, I think of a quote from Charles Barkley during the Dream Team Olympics when asked about the game with Angola.. To paraphrase Barkley’s reply:

“We don’t know nothin’ about the Raptors, but the Raptors in trouble.”

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