Usually I expect to learn nothing from a Colangelo press conference because he’s so great at talking whilst saying nothing. Proportionally speaking, we still didn’t get enough out of the 70+ minute presser but at least he confirmed some fears, admitted other failings and hinted at his plan for the summer. Of course nothing concrete was said but there were strong hints at who’s returning, who’s not and who’s back into the mix after being out. The Bosh issue was brought up but as expected, nothing came of it which to be fair is natural this early into the off-season. The major news items were the imminent return of Carlos Delfino, the quest for a backup point guard, Parker’s designation to the bench, possible options for Shawn Marion and Colangelo yelling at himself for not bringing in gritty players.
Before we get to all that, check out my talk with Tim Chisholm from TSN where we covered all the major issues that were up for discussion in the press conference along with some NBA playoff and TSN2 talk. And since Colangelo didn’t discuss Joey Graham we thought we’d do him the justice. You can listen by clicking the play button below or directly in iTunes. You can also download the mp3 file.[audio:http://raptorsrepublic.com/blog/audio/2009-04-20-TimChisholm.mp3]
This was a pretty tame press conference which started with Colangelo giving a little speech before answering the press. His reasoning for a failed season were very simple: the Raptors didn’t execute a defensive plan, did not push the ball up the court and there wasn’t any ball movement. That’s it in a nutshell. It seemed to me that he’s really nostalgic about the 2006-07 season and wants the team to return to that style of basketball. When he made the Jermaine O’Neal trade he must’ve known (I hope) that he was acquiring a player whose game is counter to the one prescribed by the running/ball movement style of ball. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we didn’t push the ball up the court, that was mostly due to O’Neal coming in and the speed merchant Ford going out.
He then philosophized whether the success of the division winning team came “too much, too quickly” and perhaps he had done a “poor job of managing expectations”. In my opinion he didn’t do a poor job of that at all, what he did do a poor job of is not recognizing the needs of the team at the end of that season by inking Jason Kapono of all people. The success of that year had as much to do with our style of play as it did with the state of the Eastern conference that year. New York, Boston and Philadelphia had terrible years and New Jersey struggled with injury and inconsistency, sure, you don’t win a division title for nothing but those who thought that we’d improve the following year were ignoring the fact that the roster had gotten worse. A first round defeat at the hands of the Magic was a result that sounded about right and fair.
Colangelo’s very confident that Carlos Delfino will return to the Raptors and will add the toughness, grit that he admitted the team lacked. “We are too nice, we are too nice. Collectively, the group is too nice”, said Colangelo. The doubt I have is that Delfino’s too much of a nobody to light a fire under this bunch. As I recall, he wasn’t exactly impressive in his stint with the Raptors and frustrated me as much as anyone on the roster. His return will no doubt help the situation at the backup SF, but whether a player we let walk only a year ago is the answer to the wing woes is an entirely different matter. To his credit, Colangelo did reiterate that Delfino will not solve everything, “I don’t want to oversell Carlos Delfino. I don’t want to oversell Carlos Delfino”, said Colangelo. Based on that I’m hoping the toughness need will be filled through other channels as well.
He also revealed that Jose Calderon came up to him and suggested that Delfino’s toughness would help the Raptors. Colangelo pointed out that Parker had played the backup point guard admirably this year and that part of Delfino’s role could easily be to do that. As mentioned in my chat with Tim Chisholm, Sam Mitchell rarely took advantage of Delfino’s ball-handling abilities. I’m getting mixed messages here, from one end Colangelo’s saying that he doesn’t oversell Delfino but from the other he’s projected as being a major component of this team. Which one is it?
I was a bit surprised to hear that Roko could very well be demoted to third string duty next year. Chisholm thought that Roko’s to blame for that because of his rather selfish play coming down the home stretch of the season. Colangelo conceded that his biggest failing as a GM this year was not taking care of this position which only makes sense because he also thought that the biggest failing of the season was Jose Calderon not being 100% which in turn affected everything. Later on he even mentioned how Calderon has played a year straight of basketball which makes the signing of one Will Solomon even more perplexing. Colangelo knew that Jose would play a lot of basketball at the international level and also knew that this was his first starting job, yet he didn’t give us a backup ball handler and to make it worse, he let one who could handle the ball walk. I thought the Olympic groin injury should’ve been a warning sign that another deal needed to be made.
Colangelo described the O’Neal trade as “swinging for the fences” but then said he would pull it again if he had to because “it was the right thing to do”. I thought he was being stubborn and arrogant and brought this up with Chisholm who felt it’s a good kind of stubborn. He argued that you want your GM to have confidence in himself and not doubt his evaluation abilities even after a deal goes south. I disagree, it’s known to the whole wide world that the deal was bad for the record, bad for the franchise and bad for player development and I was hoping Colangelo would say something like, “I learned my lesson”. Instead he brought up the very debatable point that we are somehow financially more flexible after the trade. I don’t get that, I also don’t get how you equate something with swinging for the fences, fail at it, and then say you’d swing for the fences again.
His stubbornness surfaced again when he said that he still believed that this was the best team he had ever assembled. “I can honestly tell you today that on paper, I still believe, man for man it was the best team I’ve had since I’ve been here”, said Colangelo. I can’t even comment on the ridiculousness of this statement. I don’t know how he defines the words ‘best’, ‘team’ and ‘assembled’ but going into this year there were more questions about the roster than going into the previous season. Seriously, I almost blew up when I heard him say that. We all make mistakes, let’s just admit them and move along. I do think Bosh’s comment that it’s “not about the paper, it’s about the game” made him reflect about this and will influence his evaluation this summer.
As I said earlier, Jose Calderon’s injury and subsequent defensive struggles were, according to Colangelo, the chief reason why the season failed. It was still funny to hear him describe Calderon’s defense as “atrocious”. Through the law of transitivity, I agree with his assessment. Our biggest problem this year was defense, more specifically dribble penetration and Calderon was singled out by teams to be exploited and since he couldn’t defend the point-of-attack, our defense fell apart. Still, we can’t just throw our hands up in the air and blame it on a single injury. There are four other guys on the court who have the duty to step up and help out a fallen mate, but we couldn’t do that because the system and personnel to compensate for a beaten guard weren’t there.
We will get new rebounders. Colangelo admitted that Bargnani will never be a great rebounder and we will need rebounding from the shooting guard and small forward spots to make up the difference. He also said that he will try to get players with a mean streak who have some ‘dog’ in them. These two needs can be filled through the same player but I doubt that’s going to happen. If Rasho Nesterovic is deemed the answer to the rebounding problem, he’s definitely not bringing any meanness with him.
Colangelo described Anthony Parker as ‘invaluable’ and admitted that there were a few teams that had called up asking about his services at the trade deadline and in his own evaluation they wanted him in a bench capacity. He let Parker know that and encouraged him to expand his ‘scope’, seeing how he’s always been a starter and it’s not going to happen again. Colangelo was very clear on Parker: “I would very much like to have Anthony back, he’s been invaluable to the organization…As far as the role, I would anticipate that he’ll be coming off the bench if he comes back.” Could he be the backup PG that Colangelo’s looking for? I’m not a fan of that, we need a spark off the bench, a guy who can come in, attack the rim, create and score a few points. Parker’s going to do none of that and the only thing he’ll add to his game for next year is one year of his age.
Chisholm felt that Marion’s options this summer are very limited and that he doesn’t foresee the Raptors losing him. In his opinion, if that happens the successes of the last few weeks should be discarded because Marion was the primary reason for them. I think I have to agree with him here, Marion’s key to the style of basketball we want to play and is in many ways his talents are irreplaceable in the short term. Colangelo wants to bring Marion back but in case things don’t work out he seemed fairly confident that a sign-and-trade would bring something useful back. I hope it does because if Marion walks we’d have traded two first-round picks, T.J Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, Maceo Baston, Jamario Moon for nothing but Marcus Banks’ terrible contract.
None of the assistant coaches are under contract and Chisholm thinks they’re all done here. He brought up an excellent point regarding the feelings they might have towards Triano after being “passed over”. Chisholm thinks Iavaroni’s addition will help (Note to Dave – I asked him about your defensive concerns about Iavaroni) on the defensive end and that Triano needs all the experience he can get on the bench. Colangelo’s going to sit down with Triano in the next couple days and “interview” him. It’s a done deal, its boring but its true: he’s the head coach next season.
As for Bosh, he’ll offer him an extension because he believes he’s the best player on the team and is part of his long-term plans. “I will sit down and talk to him and his agent this summer about the possibility of signing an extension”, said Colangelo. Whether Bosh accepts anything less than max-money is going to be the road block in getting the deal done. If it doesn’t happen, he’s hoping that a sign-and-trade with a team that deems Bosh max-money worthy could be swung and if it is, it’ll be in the best interest of the franchise. Colangelo’s current valuation of Bosh is that he’s “arguably a top 10 player”. I strongly feel the Raptors need to resolve this issue before training camp because it has the potential to be a huge distraction during the season.
I found Colangelo to be of very positive mind when looking back at the post-trade part of the season. He doesn’t see this is as a 33 win team at all and feels that if this current roster was there from opening day, we’d be in the playoffs. So Bryan, why didn’t you make it happen in the off-season? Miami was looking for a point guard before the draft and we had T.J Ford, seemed like a natural fit. The playoff remark didn’t sit right with him, you can’t possibly extrapolate the success we had playing bad teams at home to the whole season. I fear that this kind of thinking could get this franchise in deeper trouble this summer. I’m hoping Colangelo evaluates talent for what it is and not what it once was, doesn’t use falsities as a basis for evaluation and once and for all makes this team more athletic and thus give it a better chance of defending people.