Colangelo might be right. Triano may be the best coach out there for this team. As Colangelo and his staff went through the options of who might be the head coach next season, they apparently all came to the same conclusion: there was really no better option. “It always kept coming back to Jay Triano”, Colangelo said yesterday at the press conference that introduced Triano as the Raptors head coach for at least the next two seasons. Chris Bosh and his teammates all echoed similar sentiments in their exit interviews and went so far as to say that they wanted to see Jay back. So, while we could argue that as fans we’d prefer to see a more sexy choice (from Jeff Van Gundy to Ettore Messina), it is difficult to argue with Colangelo’s logic for re-upping Triano. He is trying ot build a “basketball family” in Toronto. And that is why the re-signing of Triano is actually a much larger statement than any other move to be made this off season. It is a sign of whats to come…and the answer is…not very much.
In his end of the year press conference Colangelo laid the groundwork for yesterday’s announcement: “Guys, like I said before, this team is not that far away.” And while critics will argue that the team was 25-40 under Triano, it was a much more respectabl 12-14 since the Marion trade, when Andrea Bargnani emerged as a legitimate NBA starter and Jose Calderon returned from injury. And fans for the most part have been pretty happy with the team since February. The excuse of choice appears to be : “It was the whole October until January thing that really did this team in” or to blame it on Mitchell, O’Neal and Calderon’s injury. It’s not just the fans and the media who feel like this, Colangelo, Triano, and the rest of the Raptors brass believe that this team, as is, is a legitimate playoff contender. Even Chris Bosh said that if the Raptors had the same roster that finished the season for the whole season they’d have home court! So let me be the first to pass on the memo:
Attention Bryan Colangelo and others:
If you think that this team, as is, can win even 1 game against Lebron and his Cavaliers in this year’s playoffs, then you are right, you are not that far away. However, I disagree. To win the East (forget about the NBA title) over the next decade is going to require more than the collective sum of Bosh, Bargnani, Calderon and Marion.
However, you are right, those four are an excellent starting point for building a contender.
Four months back, only days after the Marion deal, I asked Mr. Colangelo to do nothing else until the summer and to let this team play out the regular season and get a chance to see what they can do. And while I was wrong to drink the O’Neal kool-aid a year ago, I must admit that there is something rather impressive about how Colangelo has handled the team amidst the chaos since February. You see, Colangelo knew this season was a write-off back when he fired Mitchell in December. And yet, instead of blowing this team up or swinging for the fences to try and re-tool on the fly, Colangelo did not listen to fan and media pressure (including several articles by yours truly calling him out). Instead, he sat patiently and gave his “coach-in-waiting” a chance to learn the job. He gave his young draft pick stud a chance to play his way into form. He gave his starting point guard a chance to heal a longstanding injury. He gave his disgruntled franchise player a chance to work through his personal issues without demanding on court results. He turned his O’Neal mistake into a solution for the wing issue and he gave his team a chance to either play its way into the playoffs or miss the playoffs and earn a top pick in this year’s draft. He sat back and let the story unfold.
And now where look where he and this team is heading this offseason:
They have locked up Triano and the next moves suggest that they will work to name Iavaroni and Messina as his assistants, which would give Toronto an excellent bench of strong basketball minds and a coach whom the players appear very fond of.
They appear to be moving forward with the idea of keeping the core of this team together and the next moves suggest that this summer’s focus will now shift to getting Bosh to sign an extension this summer (as a side note, I expect Bosh, Wade, and Lebron to all sign extensions this summer) and resigning Marion.
They have a top ten pick in this summer’s draft along with the commitment to buying a second pick later in the first round. The next moves suggest that those two picks should be able to bring the Raptors a good young PG and SG who are capable of playing 15-18 minutes a night at a relatively inexpensive rate.
They appear poised to both bring back Delfino and actively recruit players with some “toughness” as Colangelo mentioned in his state of the union address.
All of these actions suggest that the team should easily be able to improve on its 33 win season and win between 45-48 games next season. Good enough to make the playoffs…yes. Good enough to challenge Lebron…not even close.
So begins the Jay Triano era. An era that suggests several years of mediocrity in Raptorland appears to be the future: several years of 45-50 wins, and maybe even a playoff victory or two. However, if this team really wants to contend in the East, with the way Lebron is looking this spring, Colangelo is going to have to do more than just re-sign the “safe” choice because it makes everybody happy and MLSE is going to have to be prepared to spend over the cap and pay the penalty. Even the “big three” in Boston may not be enough to stop Lebron.
As always, standing in the key, I’m the Dr. I’ve got my feet planted and I’m planning on taking a charge!