I love the internet and the world of blogging.
If I write that the Raptors could win 50 games if Colangelo goes out and makes one more move to solidify his bench (as I did after the O’Neal trade) I get labeled a homer and told that I’m part of the problem with fans in this city. If I write that the Raptors’ season is over as long as Triano is the coach because guys like Bosh just aren’t committed to playing hard under him (as I did in December) I get told that it’s people like me and my doom and gloom forecasts and knee jerk reactions that are killing this franchise and I should stop overreacting. And yet, time and time again, as the weeks pass, the reality of the scenario comes to the forefront. Phdsteve tells the truth and the Raptors will never win as long as Triano is the coach.
If I hear Leo, Jack, Matt, Colangelo, Sherm, PJ, Triano, Doug Smith, or anyone else in this town mention injuries as the reason for this teams disgusting record one more time, I think I may, in fact, punch someone.
Yes, I also predicted a 50 win team (with the side note that if Calderon rolled an ankle this team would be lucky to win 30 games) but come on, look at the real stats and see why this team is losing.
I get it, the bench is thin, the top guys like Bosh, O’Neal, Bargnani, and Calderon, all missed time and there was a mid season coaching change that didn’t take. But there is more going on here that the main stream guys just wont say – this team quit. It’s not an issue of talent, hey dont suck, in fact, if you look at the starting 5 it’s puzzling why they lose so much. The answer is that they have no heart and it starts at the top: the coach, the franchise player, and the #1 overall pick – all have no heart. They all quit on this season long before the new year and that is, well, inexcusable.
It cant be the bench: I mean did Boston and the big 3 blame their bench? They had no bench in the first 4 months of their championship season and yet they were winning at a rate of close to .700. Sure, Allen, Pierce and KG have been awesome together, but all the local media hype in Toronto continues to suggest that: Calderon is almost an All-Star, Matrix was a defensive player of the year candidate (and max money guy), Bosh is a franchise player, and Bargnani is starting to live up to the hype of a #1 overall pick. And none of this is true. I mean, if any of the Raptors starters were actually All-Stars or max money players, the combination of them playing together should be enough to win them (or at the very least steal them) a game or two every now and then. Look at Wade, he has no one on his team and he is singlehandedly taking them to the playoffs?
So whats the real deal?
For arguments sake lets give this team a mulligan for the first 45 games. Lets pretend that in fact it was the injuries and that “oh so tough schedule to start the season” that everyone kept talking about that led to Sam’s firing and the dismal start to the season. Instead, lets just look at this team since the All-Star break and examine why this team is actually losing:
During the break Shawn Marion was acquired for O’Neal (the second Colangelo scapegoat of this lost season) but the team has gotten worse, not better.
Since the break the team’s record is 4-11 winning less than 1 in every 3. This is even below their abysmal seasonal winning percentage of .357 and at a clip that only teams like Washington and Sacramento can compete with (and both those teams were actually missing their franchise players for 1/2 the season).
What is even more disturbing is that since the break the team has enjoyed perfect health. Bosh has only missed 1 game, Bargnani the same, and Calderon and Marion have played in every game. So, if this team has all the talent to compete how is it then that they continue to loose?
It’s because they don’t care. They know this season is going nowhere, they have known it since that fateful night in Utah when Jay Triano stood behind the bench after Mitchell had been fired and the GM had committed publicly to keeping the one-time Canadian national treasure on as the head coach for the entire season. They lost by 30 that night, and the losing has continued at an alarming rate. How could he be the guy to save us? It was a sad admission by the clubs top brass that the season was a write-off. The players have simply taken their cue from the GM and stopped caring too.
So here is my proposal: make the moves that are necessary. Fire the coach, slash the roster, pick up multiple late 1st round picks, and aggressively attack the FA market.
Don’t just blow it up but “blow it up real good.”
- Iavaroni is not the answer. Messina is not the answer. Only a veteran NBA coach with a proven NBA record (and a successful one at that should be interviewed). The new coach must demand respect and effort by his name and reputation alone.
- Pick a system and go with it. Make up your mind one way or the other and just do it. Whole hog. If you want to run and gun then hire a coach who will run and give him the players to do so. Stop signing halfcourt players like Calderon and Kapono to big deals and trading away assets for halfcourt players like O’Neal if you want to run and gun.
- Once you have your coach and system in place get rid of everyone who cannot play that system. Period.
The Existing Roster/Payroll:
- Keep only 1 of Bosh and Bargnani (and insist that whatever team wants the other takes Kapono’s contract)
- Keep only 1 of Parker, Graham, or Delfino
- Keep only 1 of Calderon or Roko – and buy out Banks.
- Keep only 1 of Pops, Jake V, or Humphries
- Send Jawai to the D League for the entire season next year or cut him and save the cash
The Free Agent Market:
- Aggressively go after restricted free agents. Many teams are feeling the economic strain and looking to save money and others are looking to make cap space for 2010, therefore several good young players could be easily signed away from other teams. RFAs include: Josh Childress and Marvin Williams in Atlanta, Raymond Felton in Charlotte, Linas Kleiza in Denver, Jarrett Jack in Indy, Juan Carlos Navarro and Hakim Warrick in Memphis, Ramon Sessions in Milwaukee, David Lee and Nate Robinson in NY, Channing Frye in Portland, Rashad McCants in Sacramento and Paul Milsap in Utah
- Use cap space to sign veteran players who have “an edge.” Guys who will not only show up every night but will punch someone else on their team if they mail it in so that they can rush off to be the guest weatherman on the local news. This summer guys like Ron Artest, Allen Iverson, Rasheed Wallace, Jamal Crawford, and Chris Anderson are all on the market. Most of them are coming off of big money deals and will be fortunate to get anything close to the mid-level. This team needs a little bit of toughness.
- Attack some of the better players on the market who are looking for a bigger deals than their teams are willing to pay because they already have someone else to play their position. Guys like Ariza or Odom in LA (since its inconceivable that LA re-signs both to $6-8 million deals). Same goes for Utah if Boozer and Okur both opt out and guys like Millsap are also on the market. I spoke with Sam Smith last week at NBA.com about the Bulls and he suggested that there really wasn’t any space for Ben Gordon, not with Hinrich, Rose, Deng, and the recent addition of Salmons taking up space in the Windy City.
- Buy wisely – veteran players who are not stars but solid contributors and who will bring a presence both on the floor and in the dressing room will come cheaper this year than most seasons. Guys like Antonio McDyess, Michael Finley, Bobby Jackson, Joe Smith, Kevin Ollie, Flip Murray, Juan Howard, Devean George, Anthony Carter, Tyron Lue and Rasho Nesterovic.
- Trade down! This is a great draft to stockpile a couple of late first round picks, since there are so many good young PGs and SGs coming out and so few of them appear to be lottery bound. As usual, the lottery tends to focus too much on size and potential which often leads to many valuable NBA-ready players (with less “upside”) slipping in the draft. Think of Chalmers or Rondo. Teams later in the first round such as the Blazers, Magic, Celtics, Lakers, and Cavaliers might be motivated sellers, willing to take nothing more than cash for their pick. Many teams have already unloaded their late first round picks: with the Bulls, Kings, and Thunder all boasting two first round picks, while the Timberwolves have 3! Why not send Bosh to Minnesota for all three picks and Mike Miller (to make the salaries work). Think Mitchell might be interested in coaching a Minnesota team that boasts Jefferson, Bosh, and Love in the front court?
Ive already written a piece about the point guards in the draft this year. The same can be said for the SGs, there will be lots of quality players available in the late first round. Ive got a column coming later this week on this topic so check back!
The point is simple. This team doesn’t suck, no, instead it’s just a team of quitters so break’em up. Turn over the roster and start again. Do it while you still have the chips to make some moves and a fan base that cares.
As always, standing in the key, I’m the Dr. I’ve got my feet planted and I’m planning on taking a charge!