Jay Triano’s time in Toronto may be over.
Triano has survived three coaching purges — Lenny Wilkens, Kevin O’Neill and Sam Mitchell. It’s obvious Triano has an ally at the board level, but his work this season almost cries for yet another coaching change.
Now that the Raptors are officially done, talk has already begun to percolate that Triano had a tough time communicating with his players. He certainly never got them to play defence and his relationship with Turkoglu has been characterized as tenuous.
What the Raptors need is a strong-minded coach who won’t tolerate any b.s.
Depending on who is ultimately calling the shots, the Raptors have to move away from this Euro-centric blueprint to one that is more balanced.
There was friction between the Euro-based element and the U.S. faction, a rift that was temporarily brokered, but it ultimately fractured the locker room.
Even if the Raptors want to trade Turkoglu, who will earn $9.8 million next year, and Jose Calderon ($9 million), teams won’t exactly be lining up for players whose play does not justify their salary.
So many questions, but so few answers.
Andrea Bargnani ($8 million), Turkoglu, Calderon, Reggie Evans ($5 million), Jarrett Jack ($4.8 million), Marcus Banks ($4.7 million), DeMar DeRozan ($2.4 million) and Marco Belinelli ($2.3 million) are under contract for next season.
The Raptors have a club option on Sonny Weems ($850,000), while Amir Johnson, Antoine Wright, Rasho Nesterovic and Patrick O’Bryant are free agents.
“We’ve got a lot of regrets,” said Andrea Bargnani.
Said Reggie Evans: “(Stuff) happens.”
There was an upside to the downer. The Raptors keep a lottery pick that would have gone to Miami had Toronto made the playoffs. Toronto will have something in the range of a 0.6 per cent chance of winning the No. 1 overall pick, and will, odds are, pick in the 12th slot in June.
“Lottery results and the final early entry list will determine how valuable the pick will be and what sort of consolation we are talking about,” Colangelo said this week.
Where did it go wrong? You can argue there’s not enough incentive for an NBA team to play hard down the stretch. The Raptors missed out on a collective playoff bonus of $179,092, a sum that, once split among the 15-man roster and support staff the players deemed worthy, would have amounted to pocket change in a league in which the average salary is more than $5 million a season.
But there are no easy answers. If Bosh leaves, there’s no easy way to fill the gulch in the lineup. And if Bosh signs and stays, there’s scarce flexibility to add additional talent, and the status quo isn’t especially appealing. The Bosh-led Raptors are a sub-.500 team since he became a perennial all-star five seasons ago. And now they’re saddled with undesirable contracts from underperforming players that won’t be simple to shed. There’s $43 million and four years left on Hedo Turkoglu’s deal, and he’s 31 years old and coasting. There’s $29.3 million and three years left on Jose Calderon’s deal, and he’s never played a full season as an NBA starter.
And there’s $50 million and five years left on Andrea Bargnani’s deal. If you’re a fan, you can only hope that at, age 25, he still has some growth in a skill set that is frequently effective but maddeningly erratic.
“In this league, you have to be very wary of injuries that can happen or confidence levels dropping and I think that’s the one thing you have to guard against,” Triano said before Wednesday’s game.
“I was never in that boat, I tried to stay focused on every single game. Did I feel good about where we were going into the all-star game? Absolutely, but who was to know that Chris (Bosh) would have an injury the first game back. Those are the things you can’t control.”
The Bosh issue is one that will dominates the discussion from now until July 1 when he can become a free agent. The 26-year-old, who led Toronto in scoring (24.0 points per game) and rebounds (10.8) this season, made his first appearance at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday since he broke his nose and had surgery in Cleveland last week.
He got a warm — not overwhelming — reception when he was acknowledged during the first half.
And in a corporate show of wishful thinking, fans were given small cardboard placards that read We Want More on one side and CB4 on the other, in reference to Bosh’s initials and uniform number.
If there was one bright spot in the final few games of a lost and disastrous season, it was that the front-court duo of Andrea Bargnani and Amir Johnson seemed to work quite well.
Bargnani, showing a willingness to attack the basket that was missing for much of the season, finished with 24 points against the Knicks while Johnson had 21 points and five rebounds.
It’s a case of one teammate being able to create opportunities for others.
“A lot of it depends on Amir,” coach Jay Triano said of Bargnani’s offensive effectiveness. “Amir’s ability to roll to the basket and finish meant that they had to help with somebody (Monday in Detroit when Bargnani had 33 points).
“Andrea, as we’ve seen, feeds off other people. It’s hard to run isolations for him although against this (New York) team we think we can do it and we’ll try to get him in the low block.”
The Raptors were greeted to adoring cheers as they walked onto the floor at the Air Canada Centre yesterday.
The crowd was dressed in a mix of red and black T-shirts, emblazoned with ‘Red and Black Attack.’
The love rained down. It was a playoff atmosphere.
Unfortunately, it was also about 10:15 in the morning and the Raptors were coming on the court for their game-day shoot around, mostly still groggy with sleep. The crowd were Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. staff, full of coffee and out of their offices for a pep rally.
The players looked surprised and a bit sheepish but it’s the thought that counts.
Lord knows there are hard issues. Colangelo has publicly put on the “outside influences” fig leaf – suggestions are they’re with Bosh – and the great Raptors tradition of covering one’s ass by expediting a player’s exit from the city with a little nudge-nudge, wink-wink to the press corps is now in full force.
And what about the “internationals,” who can’t get any respect from NBA officials let alone opponents? Again: nothing wrong with having Andrea Bargnani on your team, providing you don’t count on him to do anything other than jack up treys. But Jose Calderon has no business starting an NBA game. And Hedo Turkoglu’s contract looks like a millstone. Enough with the FIBA overload. It’s nice to be all Kumbaya and One Love and stuff like that but what happens when Kumbaya becomes kumba-yuck?
You can try to win without a bona fide point guard or bona fide centre, but you can’t win without both of those commodities. The Raptors have neither, and more to the point they have $43.6-million (U.S.) tied up over the next three years in Calderon and Jarrett Jack – not onerous, but an issue in a salary-cap league.
Colangelo cannot begin next season with Turkoglu, Bargnani and Calderon in the starting lineup. Not after the softness and lack of self-respect they have shown this season. And he needs a coach who can speak authoritatively to his players. I mean, it’s good that a Canadian like Jay Triano was given a shot. But – and read this carefully and understand it – this team has played like it was coached by somebody out of his depth. I don’t know Triano enough to state definitively that that is the case. But I do know his team played like it.
"We can compete against anybody," guard Jose Calderon said. "We’re just now thinking about a lot of games, Phoenix, L.A., and some (teams) we were leading here by six, eight points with two minutes to go. It’s kind of tough now."
(It was not necessarily so tough for every Raptor; swingman Sonny Weems was belting out R. Kelly’s Step In The Name Of Love in the locker room after the game.)
Well, at least the Raptors got their fans free pizza – they surpassed the 100-point mark before the third quarter had ended – and a victory. Andrea Bargnani delivered his second consecutive command performance as the team’s go-to presence.
Bargnani was magnificent, not missing any of his first six field-goal attempts, and finishing with 24 points. He also seems to have developed a nice working relationship with Amir Johnson, finding Chris Bosh’s replacement in the starting lineup with a few dart passes into the post. Johnson had 21 points.
DeMar DeRozan added a career-high 24 points.
During the game, though, Bosh wandered out to the bench and was introduced, his parents in attendance, and the in-house announcer tried to get a "We Want More/C-B-4" chant going. But it was tepid at best; there was no standing ovation, no sea of the aforementioned cards, no fire. Maybe it was a crowd dulled by this deadening season, but it didn’t feel like this town would be heartbroken if he left.
And maybe that’s for the best. The winds swirling around this team are sour, and getting worse; the reasons for failure are being mapped and explored, theorized and itemized. Whatever their flaws, this was a playoff team at the all-star break; since then, the Raptors have settled like dust, going 10-19 in the stretch leading up to last night’s finale. Whatever went wrong, it was pretty comprehensive.
"If the chemistry isn’t solid," said one source, "it doesn’t take much to screw it up."
Like the off-season, it begins with Bosh. Some sources believe Bosh quit on this team after the all-star break to protect his impending free agency. Others counter that he was talking to friends about catching Boston in the heady days before the season began to die, and that his post-all-star injury was the culprit, sapping his explosiveness and reducing him to a jump shooter.
Of course, some of those same people believe that the injury was a knee, not an ankle as was reported, and that the franchise player is a medical wreck waiting to happen. The truth, like Bosh on the subject of his pending free agency, remains elusive.
Bosh sat along the sideline. During the first quarter, the public address announcer implored fans to chant, “We want more CB4.”
So do the Knicks. Bosh is expected to be one of the summer’s most coveted free agents.
Toronto could have helped its playoff cause by beating the Bulls when the teams played Sunday. Instead the Raptors lost badly.
“Good thing about the N.B.A., guys turn around and play the next night,” Triano said.
There will be no more turnarounds — jumpers or games — for either the Knicks or the Raptors for a while. Instead, the summer holds more intrigue and a series of possibilities for upgrades and downgrades.
- I’d like to be there when Sonny Weems find out he’s the third Graham brother. It’s going to be a really touching moment.
- By the way, I learned today that Sonny Weems/Graham’s real first name is Clarence. I assume there’s a legitimate backstory for his nickname, but it’s still a shame to see a Clarence go to waste.
- If you skipped this game, you missed Walt Frazier trying to figure out the Fahrenheit-Celsius conversion on air. He didn’t get that in-depth, but it made me wonder…how good do you think Clyde is at math? It’s possible that he’s compensating for poor computational skills with a large vocabulary, but it’s equally possible that he’s just a genius.
- After the game Amir Johnson admitted to the media he’s at a loss for how he’ll spend the next few weeks. He’s used to playing in the playoffs and he’s not sure what he’ll do over the next few weeks.
- Danilo Gallinari started an abysmal 3-11 from the field but he didn’t stop chucking. He finished with 22 points while going 6-18 from the field. You’ve got to appreciate his swagger and confidence to keep shooting even when he has a tough start to the night.
- Before the game Jay Triano informed the media that Sonny Weems would suit up tonight while joking “I don’t think he knows how to swell.” Triano’s words were prophetic as Weems had 14 points in the first half while going an impressive 7-9 from the field. Weems finished with 18 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals.
- Speaking of Weems, he couldn’t have scripted a better end to his season. After the game he was disappointed about not making the playoffs but his strong play to end the season means he’ll be able to ink a nice deal this summer as a free agent.
It seems like we were just talking about the Raptors gunning for fourth in the conference and a home court advantage for their first round in the playoffs. For those who don’t follow the Raps, we finished ninth in the conference and that means we missed the playoffs for the second season in a row.
At least the Raptors played a playoff game three seasons ago. Our Leafs haven’t played a playoff game since 2004. That’s five seasons ago and six years. My daughter’s about to turn six and she’s not been alive for a single Leafs playoff game.
Most of the blame will fall over bust fee agent sign Turkoglu who lost a number of games due to weird injuries and doubtful illnesses and who didn’t performed anywhere close to what he did with the Magic last season, on a contract year but that fault should be shared with Coach Jay Triano. Triano’s inability to make this team defend was the ultimate reason why this team failed overall. All 8 East playoff teams rank on the TOP 15 in defensive efficiency, actually Charlotte & Milwaukee who are two teams with less talent than Toronto are 2nd & 3rd. Toronto, also the 3rd team that allowed more points. Triano’s inability to realize that a frontcourt composed by Bargnani & Bosh is incapable to protect the rim affectively, mostly because of Bargnani’s inability to grab rebounds at all combined with the fact that Bosh isn’t a true Center, resulted in so many second chance opportunities for every team that played them. Toronto was 22nd in rebounding rate & defensive rebounding rate, ahead of good teams like Denver, Boston and Dallas but way behind the bottom four seeds of the East playoff bracket. Defense matters, numbers prove that Triano was unable to pass that message.
Enough with the numbers. Eye test. On paper, the Raptors was supposed to be, hands down, at least the 5th best team on the East. Yes, Dwayne Wade is much better than all Raptors’ swingmen combined but the talent around him is terrible. The boost on the Bobcats’ season ended up being punk Stephen Jackson who someway, somehow ended up fitting with punk coach Larry Brown. Brandon Jennings started red hot and Bogut finished red hot but the real boost on the Bucks’ push ended up being John Salmons, who couldn’t hit a shot in Chicago this year. The Bulls overcame all the bad breaks, all the late mess to appropriate themselves from the last spot. Although the Raptors couldn’t necessarily matchup against the real contenders, Cavs & Magic, and the other conference powerhouses, Celtics & Hawks, anyway, they were supposed to be the clear next best team and not have to fight with anybody else. That’s, off course, on paper. On the court, the Raptors combined to be a dysfunctional team with an offense that lacked creativity, mostly because of Bargnani’s persistence in being an outside shooter (just like Rasheed Wallace, expect for the fact that Bargnani hit his 3s) and a defense that was horrific, mostly because of Bargnani inside and Calderon outside. Yes, there are no words to describe how much of a dog Hedo was this season and there’s nowhere to ship him either but he wasn’t he only problem. The Raptors ended up being a bad team with good players which more often than not is the coach’s fault.
Having never made the playoffs in his career, Jarrett Jack was positive despite the disappointment.
"I enjoyed every minute of it," Jack said of the season. "I enjoyed playing with each and every one of these guys in this locker room. Next year when we come back, hopefully we won’t be having this talk, we’ll be talking about the postseason and playing in the first round."
Another thing that will take center stage in the offseason will be the free agency of Chris Bosh. Bosh did not speak after the game, but will address the Toronto media in the upcoming days There are likely to be lots of questions that won’t have answers. Kind of like the Raptors campaign this season.
- Getting the must-win victory, period.
- Chicago beating Charlotte and eliminating Toronto from the post-season for the 2nd straight year.
- “A disappointing end; a disappointing year. I have nothing more to say.”
- “It was a good performance overall tonight but too many others got away over the course of the season.”
The reality is that the Raptors were in position to try and fight for as high as 4th seed in the NBA Eastern Conference after tying a franchise record of 29 wins at the All-Star Break. From there, the Raptors proceeded to finish the season 9-19 in their remaining games, and ended up on the outside looking in, missing the ’09-’10 NBA Playoffs by ONE game.
The Raptors’ offseason begins now, and what will happen next is still total speculation. So many questions surrounding the player personnel of this team, and unfortunately nothing but time will answer them. Raptors Nation will collectively be holding their breath between now and July 1st.
At least the Raptors never stopped playing, even though it was a virtual certainty that the players were as aware of what was happening in Charlotte as the fans.
The game wasn’t a sell-out with just 18,333 fans in attendance. The Blue Jays game going on across the street undoubtably diverting some of the interest.
But most of those in attendance stayed late knowing the end result was not going to put their team in the playoffs. Even though they were frustrated, most of the Raptors fans wanted to watch as long as possible.
There were no boos on this night.
With barely a pause, we can now expect the dissection of this season to begin and speculation about what the anticipated busy off-season will bring to commence.
One surprising moment in this evening’s contest was the initiative orchestrated by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment during the 1st quarter break. It was at this time, that all members of the ACC’s sold out audience cheered while raising a sign that stated ‘We Want More, CB4.’ This surprisingly pleasant moment may not serve any purpose in keeping Bosh in Raptor red, but at the very least it does bring a warm ending to a Raptor who truly deserves a lot of praise and appreciation for his tenured work with the club. Bosh is amongst several big name players that will be available to the entire association this off-season, all of which will be discussed in great detail, particularly once the post-season comes to an end.
The most scary thing of all it is only likely to get worse. If you were not aware the World Championships will be held in Turkey this summer. No surprise that Hedo will be playing for Turkey as he did last summer. So once again we will start with a tired Hedo that has given a better effort for his nation then the team paying him 53 million bucks. This comes on the heels of Colangelo admitting through a trade with Miami that his last big move Jermaine O’Neal was a complete and total failure. That cost the Raptors not only T.J Ford, who I will admit has struggled in Indiana, but it cost us Roy Hibbert who if you have watched this season is becoming a pretty decent center. A much more traditional option at center than Andrea Bargnani. As for the Raptors draft choice from that draft. He was unloaded in the Hedo deal and later moving on to Minnesota. Nathan Jawai most of us barely knew ya. I did cause I did a ton of research on him and was hopeful he could turn out into something. A heart condition before training camp would render him pretty much useless. It was unfortunate for him but more so for the Raptors when you check out what they could have had in Hibbert.