Mild shock. That’s how I’d describe the feeling right now. The Raptors season has come to a sudden end and knowing that there won’t be another Raptors game for 6 1/2 months brings over a feeling of sadness. Then I remember that we had every chance to make the playoffs and just didn’t care enough to do so, and that’s when the feelings turns to anger and disappointment and you refuse to see anything else except how we played against Golden State, an unmotivated Cleveland side and Chicago to end the season.
No, we didn’t deserve to make the playoffs but we should have. We had a chance to ice things at home against Chicago but laid an egg, the season was practically over after that game because there was no way Chicago would lose to two teams who weren’t even trying to win. Don’t blame David Stern, LeBron James, the Bobcats, Doc Rivers, Chris Bosh’s injury or anyone or anything else, the Raptors chose their own fate, there is no conspiracy here, you win the game against Chicago and you’re in, we didn’t and we’re out. Simple as that.
As Chris Bosh’s face was shown on the jumbotron, the crowd barely applauded. They’re smart enough to know what lies ahead for both them and him. More importantly, they’re starting to realize that the problems on this team are plentiful and the question of “Will Bosh stay?” doesn’t seem to matter as it once used to. There’s lots of work to be done in either case and the fans are smart enough to know that a player, even of Bosh’s caliber, cannot make a difference if the supporting cast resembles anything like it has the past three years. The effects of the Kool-aid, if you will, have worn off.
There’s plenty of blame to go around and you have to start at the top. Bryan Colangelo has failed as a GM in Toronto. It’s a statement that rings too true and there isn’t an argument against it. Except for Jarrett Jack, his decisions in the free-agent market have been terrible, his coaching hire was wrong and his philosophy on team-building flawed. He’ll be the first person to tell you that the blame lies on him and I agree. We can berate Jay Triano for his tin-can coaching, we can analyze Andrea Bargnani’s allergic reaction to rebounding, we can debate why Marco Belinelli just didn’t fit, we can wonder what the point of Rasho Nesterovic was, we can blame Hedo Turkoglu for checking out once he got his money, we can deride Jose Calderon’s defense, we can ridicule Reggie Evans for being Reggie Evans but at the end of the day, there’s one man who got these misfits here and that’s Bryan Colangelo.
His next job is to re-sign Chris Bosh to an extension, let’s hope he doesn’t fail as spectacularly at that as he has done with everything else. Bosh might even sign, if for nothing than for the money and not to look like the bad guy. Of course, that doesn’t mean that he won’t demand a trade in December when Colangelo puts out another set of oddballs around him.
Jay Triano failed to hold anyone but the meek accountable all season, he had the guts to only bench the scrubs, notably Belinelli, Wright and DeRozan. He shied away from making the hard decisions, he chose to address the PG issue by splitting their minutes down the middle – a total cop-out. He refused to bench Hedo Turkoglu until very late in the season that by that time, it was almost considered lunacy to experiment with new lineups. He didn’t respond to Andrea Bargnani’s defensive problems and continued to feed him minutes while getting nothing back. He refused to acknowledge that the team was putting out poor efforts; even after the Chicago game he maintained that the effort was acceptable when anybody with a singular brain cell could tell otherwise. Him and his coaching staff failed to implement even an average defense scheme which would’ve been enough for this team to get 45-48 wins; instead we got one of the worst defenses in NBA history. Sure, we got some defensive liabilities, but were we really this bad? Overall, he just wasn’t the hard-nosed NBA coach that this unmotivated, uncaring under-achievers needed. They needed someone who could kick their ass, we gave them a chaperone.
As we ponder whether Chris Bosh will stay or go, I can’t help but blame him for one thing and that’s total and utter lack of leadership. This team is a rudderless boat that loses its direction too often to be successful, their coach is a pansy yes-man and the players are soft. The job of keeping them on the straight and narrow is a tough one, but Chris Bosh didn’t even attempt to bring them together. As the best player on this team he should command respect and even invoke a sense of fear amongst his teammates. He should be holding them accountable, not tolerating lack of effort, leading by example every second he’s on the court, and not showing signs of bending even in the face of utmost adversity. We haven’t gotten any of that from Chris Bosh, not this year or any year before that. We all know that he’s part of the “second tier” of NBA free agents when it comes to talent, but talent isn’t the only measuring stick when determining franchise players. He had the chance to elevate his status through his personality and demeanor but didn’t bother doing it; take Kevin Garnett for example, I hate his guts and he’s not a top talent in the league, but he brings with him a swagger and attitude that shapes the Boston team. We needed Bosh to bring that along with the points and rebounds but he didn’t consider that to be part of the job description. That is the main reason why I won’t exactly be crestfallen if he walks.
The long and arduous process of another rebuild is on the horizon this summer but unlike last year, the financial flexibility isn’t there as Hedo Turkoglu, Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani are tied to long-term contracts that can best be described as over-priced. Chris Bosh is a free-agent along with Amir Johnson, Antoine Wright, Rasho Nesterovic, and Patrick O’Bryant. Of the lot you’d obviously like to retain Bosh and Johnson but at what cost? Without Bosh we have $46M tied up, throw in a max-money contract for him and a decent one for Johnson and you’re touching $70M which puts us in the tax. And we haven’t even added anyone else yet.
Before we even decide who to add and who to kick out, we need to decide what we’re doing. Are we going to go apply another round of bandaids this summer or are we going to genuinely rebuild brick-by-brick. With three failed summers under his belt, one would think Colangelo might’ve learned his lesson but I doubt it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he countered our cap inflexibilities by signing players from Europe on the cheap, who knows, maybe Milt Palacio’s already on his way. He’s already known to be scouting some players in the Israeli leagues so you never know. By the way, aren’t the Raptors and Maurizio Gherardini supposed to have an inside track on European players? How come we haven’t seen someone from a European league pan out in the last three years?
I’ve been saying this forever – I don’t mind losing, but it has to be part of a plan or a process with a light at the end of the tunnel. There needs to be a roadmap leading towards a goal, a nucleus needs to be identified and strategically built around, we need to draft well, sign key free agents, get coaches that demand nothing but all-out effort and command respect. As we’ve seen the last three summers, we don’t have a hope in hell if we try to “wing it on the fly” and sign players because they’re friends or coaches because they’re friendly.
As for the game, a comfortable win over the Knicks wasn’t enough as Chicago comfortably beat Charlotte who were pacing themselves just like Boston. This was a game where the Raptors looked really good on offense but conceded a ton of threes to the Knick guards who were continually left open. Between great offensive possessions featuring DeRozan, Weems, Calderon, and Johnson, we saw the over-helping of Calderon, Belinelli’s late rotations, Weems cheating to get burned and no-name guys like Bill Walker and Toney Douglas score on us. It was almost fitting that we scored 131 points but conceded 113. Even more fitting was Turkoglu ending his miserable campaign with a smile on his face as he took his 5 points and 5 fouls to the bench one last time.
I honestly believe that missing the playoffs hurts me far more than it does him. This morning I’ll be off to my 9-5 job wondering in the back of my mind what the hell happened this season, whereas he’ll soon be off to some exotic destination without a care for the Raptors’ future. It’s sad, but it’s true. His lackadaisical play and flippant attitude has been a cancer for this team, he’s rubbed everyone the wrong way and is an appropriate figurehead for this Raptors team. If there’s one thing I wish of this off-season, it’s that we manage to exile him to another team, preferably in Antarctica.
I don’t have much faith in Bryan Colangelo’s team-building so I simply hope that just like he did with Weems and Johnson, he gets lucky and turns this thing around over the summer. That or he blows it up so we can reset our expectations and enjoy watching the Raptors rise out of the ashes, we just don’t want to be sold chocolate only to later find out it’s utter shite.
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