I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer but I know this scene all too well.
As a Wolves fan, I’ve been through my fair share of this stuff. The situations were pretty similar too.
You’ve got this ridiculously talented power forward. I mean this guy is FREAKING GOOD. He doesn’t walk on water necessarily but he’s pretty much crab walking across that piece whenever you’re looking. And you just can’t surround him with the right talent. It should be easy too.
He’s not a selfish guy at all. He wants to lead the team and he wants to do it the right way but he’d never put himself before the team. You can never seem to find the right point guard to put around him. The centers you put out there and the wing players that come through a turnstile to play along side him are never quite right. You’d love to give him a post presence to take the pressure off inside and allow him to play his mid-range style that he so loves. But nobody ever fits just right.
As the years go by and the playoff success isn’t plentiful, the frustration in his post-game comments, interviews about the future and overall declining disposition are worn on his face and sleeves. He’s tired of not having success. He’s considering greener pastures and he so badly wants a competent coach alongside a strong supporting cast. I watched it for a decade and can see the similarities with this Raptors team.
Growing up with Kevin Garnett as the best player on your favorite team is a blessing and a curse. You constantly pine for the next step to be taken. You deal with playoff failure after playoff failure and make as many excuses as you can for why things don’t go your way. You end up hating the architect of your team for not being able to put a proper posse around this man on the court. You may have a different view of him now but when Kevin Garnett was repping ‘Sota and dying with every loss, he was an awe-inspiring ball of energy and determination. You wanted him to be successful just because it meant so much to him. He was strapped with the failure tag because he was saddled with dead weight that couldn’t be moved or shaped into a winning program.
I see a similar situation with Chris Bosh in Toronto.
The guy is uber-talented and you can definitely have an argument that he’s the best power forward in the game. Maybe you can’t prove he’s better than Dirk Nowitzki (just like you couldn’t prove Kevin Garnett was better than Tim Duncan) but the conversation can be had without you looking like a completely biased zealot.
But the problem is the guy has never and may never have the proper talent around him. You can talk yourself into Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack in the same way I talked myself into Terrell Brandon and Troy Hudson (well, not so much with Huddy) but there are some inherent problems with all of the parties here. Calderon can’t defend well enough to justify his distributorship and Jarrett Jack is never going to be a starting point guard on a legit playoff contender. I’m sure you’ve had the same reaction to Hedo Turkoglu and his enormous contract with the realization I eventually had with Wally Szczerbiak – “seriously, KG/Bosh has to share the ball with THIS GUY?!?”
Go ahead and blame Bryan Colangelo for this (which I know MANY of you do). Rob Babcock also deserves some of the blame too. It seems incomprehensible that you can’t put the right talent around Chris Bosh. Lord knows I still curse the name of Kevin McHale on a daily basis whenever I see anything reminding me of the Big Ticket in a Wolves jersey. How hard can it be? Add a steady hand at the point guard position that isn’t a saloon door on defense. Put a couple of perimeter dead-eyes that will stretch the defense and make the double team think twice before swarming your guy. Give him a couple of tough inside players that can get you a bucket in the post on occasion. All of this allows your phenom of a power forward to flourish against incapable single coverage and confused defensive rotations. It should produce absurd statistical seasons that start getting you to prematurely evaluate your guy on a historical plane of comparisons.
Rinse. Lather. Repeat.
And yet, you can’t seem to get that simple formula from your organization. Now you have to worry about him leaving when a losing streak runs a little longer than seems reasonable or when your team can’t stop anybody when they need to.
The Raptors are going to go into this post-season without a clue of how things can go. Most likely, they’ll be out in the first round. They’re a combined 3-10 against the top four teams in the East. They don’t have enough talent, defense or resources to win four out of seven games against the Cavaliers or the Magic. The Hawks might not be ready and the Celtics might not be young enough to keep a hot Raptors offensive attack from stealing a game on the road while protecting their home court.
However, you still hold out hope that things fall in the right places. It’s been rare in which a Chris Bosh team has been favored going into the first round of the playoffs and this year will be no exception. You don’t want the label of “playoff failure” or “incapable of leading a team to playoff success” dropped on your guy. It’s frustrating because you know it to be false. But maybe things can fall into place, the balls can bounce the right way and justice can prevail for the underdog.
I saw it happen once in 2004. Maybe the Raptors can see it happen in 2010.
Ultimately, the thousand words you read here won’t provide any answers or any real insight into a situation you’re already living in. You love your guy. You want him to succeed properly and you want him to do it in your uniform. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. I can’t provide the light at the end of the tunnel for you to hang your hat on.
I just wanted to tell you that I get it. I know the frustrations. I know the paranoia. Even if you don’t necessarily get answers, sometimes it’s just cathartic to hash this stuff out with someone who has been through it.