If you compare the 2006-07 Raptors with the group we have currently assembled you’ll notice a significant shift in Colangelo’s basketball paradigm. Two years ago when questioned by the season-seat holders about the lack of rebounding on the team, he stated that there was no need to focus on rebounding because the Raptors could simply out-shoot their opponents. Yes, that’s what he said. Now, two years on and multiple lessons learned, Colangelo’s trying to build a more conventional NBA team. Don’t get me wrong, he still believes in free-flowing offense and the fast-break but he’s realized over time that if you want to be serious about success, you have to start addressing the team starting from the defensive end.
Call it the growth of a GM because that’s exactly what he’s been doing in Toronto, growing. It was practically the first time he could make a decision without at least consulting his father. I don’t want to debate how much his father’s philosophy ran the Phoenix Suns but let’s just say he left for a reason: he wanted his own team where he called the shots. He wasn’t a rookie GM by any means, but technically speaking, this was the first time he removed himself from his father’s shadow. When either Colangelo is jokingly questioned by reporters about the influence of the senior one in Toronto, both categorically deny having any for a good reason. There is none. Point is that just like Mitchell was learning on the job, so was Colangelo and now he’s now much closer to finding what he himself is really about.
He’s always had the financial smarts, the smooth tongue, and the personality befitting of a great GM, he’s got everything but the playoff success and has accepted that for that to happen, it’ll require a departure from his old way of thinking. Reggie Evans was freely available two years ago when we needed a rebounder and no attempts were made to acquire him, this summer he was the very first acquisition made. Other acquisitions like Pops, O’Bryant, Brezec and O’Neal were all attempts (albeit, some failed) at trying to make the team tougher and stronger inside. You’re not going to see a signing like Kapono anymore, he’s going to opt for the Jarrett Jack type of player because he’s learned all too well what the primary ingredients of success need to be. Good for him and great for us.
You hear less and less run ‘n gun talk from him and more about how the half-court offense will function under Calderon. Perhaps the O’Neal trade which saw transition-happy T.J Ford pack his bags was the first real sign of this change in thinking: opt for the half-court point-guard and get a low-post presence. Marion – one of the best transition players in the game – was let go in favor of Turkoglu, a slower half-court player that tends to slow the game down. We’ve now got some solid defensive players and are working our way towards an offense that is much more methodical in its nature than what existed in Colangelo’s previous three years.
Even if you’re a harsh critic of Colangelo you have to admit that he’s put together a team that, at least on paper, looks pretty good. Forget about the contracts and over-payments (since when do fans care about that?), from a basketball perspective we’ve got a decent team. Rebounding and getting an additional wing is an issue but it’s nothing that can’t be addressed before training camp and if he does that adequately, we’ll be heading into the season with some realistically high expectations. It might all implode later on but at this moment in time, make a mental note that you were “with” Colangelo. If you’re still not “with” what he’s trying to do then you need to state your case.
Last year at this point we were busy acquiring Will Solomon and Hassan Adams and Colangelo was rightfully lambasted for those acquisitions. Those of us who ripped on him last year need to give him credit this year even though his basketball philosophy might inherently be different than yours (although it is in constant evolution). This summer he’s shown a shrewd eye in his signings and the only gaffe that I can think of is offering Shawn Marion a large contract, but the more I think about it the more I sense he knew it was going to get turned down before it was even offered. AltRaps is one of Colangelo’s biggest critics and even he’s breathing a satisfied sigh of relief at what’s transpired this season and if he’s living in peace with where the Raptors are, I’m sleeping like a baby.