One of the most interesting and intriguing off-seasons in the history of the Raptors officially began on Monday when Colangelo addressed the media.
He was equally parts enlightening and forthcoming, honest in his appraisal of a team that finished out of the playoffs for the second straight season, but evasive at times on issues that can’t be answered.
For a team that led the East and finished fifth overall in scoring, Colangelo admitted the team’s deficiency on defence must be addressed.
Only Minnesota and New York were more prone in surrendering points than the Raptors, a concern that will be addressed through personnel changes, modifications in how coaches motivate players and prepare for games.
In typical Colangelo fashion, he hinted that no stone will be left unturned and that every option will be explored and exhausted.
The biggest unknown in an off-season of unknowns is the fate of Chris Bosh.
Colangelo wouldn’t pin the burden of blame entirely on Bosh’s pending free agency, but he went to great lengths in trying to explain a team that flirted with homecourt advantage at the all-star break to a team that finished out of the playoffs.
Ignore the sky-is-falling crowd Colangelo said. (That would be the media). Things aren’t as bad as those nasty naysayers are making it out to be he added. Yes, his team won 40 games this past season, missing the playoffs for the second year and, while he’s not proud of that, it’s really not as bad as it looked.
“It’s important to acknowledge that a team winning 29 games going into the all-star break, which tied the franchise record for wins at that moment in the season, is not a bad basketball team,” Colangelo said.
“It’s important that a team that is able to put together a 25-11 stretch during a 36-game stretch of the schedule is not a bad basketball team. It’s an inconsistent basketball team to end up with just 40 wins but it’s not a bad basketball team.
“It’s important that this so-called frenzy that is occurring right now, this very negative picture that is being painted of our situation, is not as doom and gloom as many want to make it. And I say that with great confidence.”
Seriously? It’s not that bad?
Your franchise player is giving every indication he may jump ship come July 1. The team you put together, as you admitted on Monday, was split down the middle with North Americans and Europeans unable to bridge the cultural gap to play as one.
And we won’t even start on the fact that defensively, this team is nowhere near where it has to get to win even one playoff series.
Colangelo wants you to trust him and that it’s not that bad.
That’s a broad leap of faith your GM is asking of you.
Colangelo wants you to trust that this team was more than it showed this season.
In his summation of the season, his group had a poor first quarter, bounced back in the second and third with a strong performance and then failed to finish it off.
You can’t argue with that. It is the way the season went.
But to suggest the doom-and-gloom scenario being painted is somehow inaccurate is flawed.
Two seasons after he told you Jermaine O’Neal was the answer, six months after he told you Hedo Turkoglu was the answer, on Monday Colangelo insisted he isn’t far from hitting on the actual answer. Never mind that his only all-star, Chris Bosh, is committed to testing free agency. Never mind that, in a guard-driven league, Toronto’s starters are certifiable second stringers. Never mind that Turkoglu’s massive contract appears as immovable as Jose Calderon on defence — not to mention Calderon’s contract. Never mind the toothless (and cheap-as-they-come) coach who is “learning” on the job, and slowly.
Colangelo actually attempted to sell his audience on the notion that MLSE is in these games to win these games.
“The plan is to win basketball games at whatever cost,” Colangelo said at one point.
I am not making this up.
“At whatever cost,” are the words he used.
That, folks, isn’t a sales pitch: It’s just a lie. The defending NBA champion L.A. Lakers are spending some $25 million (all figures U.S.) more than the Raptors on salaries this season — you can argue their plan is to win basketball games at whatever cost.
Heck, the Cleveland Cavaliers are outspending the Raptors by millions upon millions in their quest to keep LeBron James in town, this while Colangelo and MLSE are only now talking about possibly spending to keep Bosh. This week brought news that the Cavs have been losing many millions in the process. And yes, you should always distrust claims of losses with a lockout looming. But you can’t deny that Cleveland’s majority owner, Dan Gilbert, believes victory can’t be achieved on a balance sheet. And you just can’t say the same thing about Toronto’s owner.
“It comes down, really, to what he’s looking to achieve out of free agency,” Colangelo said in a wide-ranging, hour-long state of the union address Monday.
“There’s the thought and speculation that he wants to be a No. 1 guy; we have that. If he’s content being a No. 2 guy then there are other options for him.”
But if Bosh does want to bolt for another franchise, Colangelo figures to point out the opportunities that exist in Toronto.
“This city is a place that has grown fond of him and I think that he’s grown fond of. The unknown of moving to a new city and a new situation, acclimating to the pressures that come with a maximum contract, etc., etc., are all things that he’s going to have to consider.
“This is a unique opportunity for him to market himself to an entire country, not just the city of Toronto.”
“The plan … is to win basketball games at whatever cost and whatever extent,” he said. “The board is fully committed to doing whatever it takes to put a winning team on the floor. That includes re-signing Chris Bosh. That includes exceeding the tax limit.
“… I’ve got scenarios where we’ll be a $3-million [all currency U.S.] tax team and a $7-million tax team. And I’ve got scenarios where we’ll be higher than that.”
What Colangelo couldn’t offer were certainties after his hand-picked club fell short of his stated goal of 50 wins and home-court advantage in the first-round of the playoffs, referring to the Bosh situation as an unknown heading into the off-season.
What he did offer were regrets:
“I’d be leaving it short if I said it was anything less than heartbreaking to be sitting here talking about the off-season that we’re about to embark on.”
Colangelo argued that the situation facing the team isn’t as bad as popularly portrayed. “Our situation is not as doom and gloom as they want to make it. I say [that] with great confidence … we’ve got a core of people that are very talented, we’ve got very good young players that continue to develop and emerge.”
It is natural when a team underperforms to look for elements that stick out – things that vary from the norm. Two things immediately jump out about the Raptors: they rely on internationally trained players as a large part of their core (Turkoglu, Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon are regulars) and they have a Canadian-born coach. International players are a fact of NBA life, but few teams seem to rely on as many international players at one time as do the Raptors.
Draw from that what you will. As I wrote earlier this year: the Raptors’ season was so remarkably messy that even those among us who are so jaded as to think “chemistry” is an overused cliché began to second-guess that idea.
Colangelo was candid in saying that Bosh’s impending free agency had an impact on the locker room – that it “couldn’t help but take its toll on the locker room.” But more telling was his unsolicited observation that he underrated the impact of Anthony Parker, a North American-born player who played in Italy and Israel and who joined the Cleveland Cavaliers as a free agent.
“One thing that goes unnoticed and unwritten was we really failed in bridging some of the relationships, per se, in the locker room,” Colangelo said. “There might have been a guy in the past – like Anthony Parker – who did a great job in kind of understanding what the international players were going through and understanding what the North American players were going through. We didn’t have that ‘glue’ guy who could make it happen.”
That is not an admission by Colangelo that his team is too international or too Euro-centric. But it is an admission that sometimes the winds of change need to be controlled. Colangelo said he will resolve that matter in the off-season – neat trick: who do you quantify as a “guy who plays well with others?” – and that he will also end the Raptors’ three-year trip through the point-guard desert.
Chris Bosh has proven not to be a superstar of the first order. He is not LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Kobe Bryant, a player that can carry an average team to extraordinary heights.
That has led to speculation that Bosh, who is a five-team all-star, is not deserving of getting a maximum contract when he hits free agency this summer. However, Bryan Colangelo, his boss for at least two more months as the president and general of the Toronto Raptors, left no doubt as to what Bosh’s future earnings will be as he spoke with the media during his exit interview on Monday.
"There are only three or four guys in the league who are franchise guys worth maximum contracts but quite a few more receive maximum contracts," Colangelo said yesterday. "Chris Bosh is our maximum-contract guy, who is considered the cornerstone of the franchise because of his abilities for the same reason he’s considered one the top players out there.
"Contracts are not always justifiable in sports, they’re just not. But it’s a situation where Chris Bosh is considered a maximum contract player for multiple reasons."
And in his favour, Colangelo has apparently convinced the board of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment to pay the luxury tax, which is not unlike convincing a mother bear to give you her cubs for the afternoon.
But he was also oddly off-key at times; saying of the enduring lack of an explosive swingman, "Kobe’s not available"; blaming fan dissatisfaction on a media-fuelled "frenzied movement"; defending MLSE’s commitment to winning, which is contradicted by a significant amount of evidence.
"We cannot be swayed by the angst of a vocal minority that wants us to be someone we’re not," Colangelo said. "What we are is we’re a solid organization, one of the best-run organizations in the NBA and in professional sports. Top to bottom. I’m talking about hockey, basketball, soccer, real estate, everything. Television. It’s a company that will do everything in its power to answer the fans’ concerns, and that’s what we’re doing."
This has been the fallback option for Raptor fans who liked the idea of the team keeping Bosh through last February’s trade deadline. It does make some sense for him because Toronto can sign him to an extra year which means more long-term security and bigger raises over the life of the contract. Conversely, if he agrees to a sign-and-trade, it needs to be with a team that has assets that would be deemed expendable given his arrival (i.e. Miami trading Michael Beasley because they play the same position, or the Knicks executing a sign-and-trade with David Lee, whom they wouldn’t re-sign if Bosh were headed to New York). Otherwise, why would Bosh agree to fleece his new team of most of its good, young assets when he can sign with the team outright?
How can Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon, and Hedo Turkoglu compete? They can’t. And Toronto can’t either.
Instead of avoiding the inevitable, Colangelo should recognize that Bosh and the Raptors have run their course. And instead of dreaming about building a contender with Bosh, Colangelo should consider rebuilding without him.
For instance, suppose Turkoglu or Calderon came with Bosh as part of any sign-and-trade. Toronto would get an albatross contract off their books and still receive assets for Bosh.
With Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment’s deep pockets and this summer’s uncertain free agent market, the Raptors could successfully remodel their club through a Bosh sign-and-trade. Colangelo, however, must first face reality.
And there you have it. In one of the most awkward, painful press conferences I have ever seen, the Bryan Colangelo Toronto Raptors honeymoon is officially over. I know it’s a little late to be saying it, but it is now open season for the critics to go after Colangelo. Go after him they will. It’s already started.
We have all seen too many of these post season press conferences. We just saw Brian Burkes, so it may as well serve as a basis for how these things generally work. It is funny how Burke and Colangelo are attached. The hockey world in Toronto, from a media perspective implored Richard Peddie and his search committee to find the NHL’s version of Colangelo; the bright shooting star who do the franchise proud, the guy who would tell ownership what he needed and that was about al. It’s funny how there world’s appear to be diverging now.
Colangelo basically said it’s up to Bosh. His star power forward has two options: he could either accept the maximum he could get in a new contract from the Raptors and stay with the team, or he could sign the same max contract and give the Raptors a list of teams to trade him to.
In either case the Raptors avoid the third option, which is letting him walk in free agency and get nothing in return. Colangelo is too smart to let that happen.
Chris Bosh has been the face of basketball in not only Toronto, but the entire country of Canada since the Vince Carter trade. He was tasked with leading the franchise back to respectability (a.k.a. the playoffs) and he didn’t disappoint. But as much as he’s enjoyed his time in Toronto, Bosh looks to be ready to take on a new challenge.
Bosh has said that he is excited about the possibilities of the free agent market. It’s his first chance since college to choose for himself where he wants to live, raise a family and play for a championship. Don’t get me wrong, Bosh doesn’t have any problems with living in Toronto. He loves the city, loves its fans and loves its diversity. But if he was planning to stay in Toronto long-term, he definitely would have had a new contract signed with Colangelo before the start of the season.
Colangelo offered Bosh a contract extension in January, but it was turned down. He hopes Bosh will see enough positives in his role with the Raptors to consider staying with the team that drafted him fourth overall in 2003.
"[It] depends on what he is looking to achieve out of free agency," Colangelo said. "There’s been talk he wants to be a No. 1 guy … we have that. If he’s content being a No. 2, there’s other options for him.
"This city is a place that has grown fond of him, and that I think he has grown fond of. This is a unique opportunity to market himself to an entire country, not just the city of Toronto."
If Bosh can’t be re-signed, Colangelo said, he won’t hesitate to pull the trigger on a sign-and-trade arrangement that would likely see Bosh get a maximum contract, while the Raptors ended up with players, draft picks or both.
"[Bosh is] the guy that’s considered the cornerstone of this franchise for the same reason he’s considered one of the top-tier free agents out there," said Colangelo. "If you can secure that asset, then you keep the asset. If you can take the asset and turn it into other pieces, then that’s what you do.
"Replacing him is going to be difficult. We might not get dollar–for–dollar, but that’s not something that I’m sure we were ever going to get."
Anyway, those are the things which I found most interesting. He did talk about the problem between Hedo and Jay Triano, among other things. Needless to say, I disagree with him on a number of issues (Triano coming back, Bargnani’s contract), but based on what he said, I am pretty sure about a couple of things:
1) One of Jack and Calderon will be gone.
2) If the Raptors isn’t making a huge splash before July 1, Bosh is gone. Team building will depend on sign-and-trade.
3) There will be a lot of moves coming regardless.
4) Looking to find good defenders for this team. Wright isn’t coming back.
5) Bargnani, Triano are not going anywhere.
6) Rebuilding isn’t going to happen, at least not with Colangelo at the helm. Not even if Bosh leaves.
Alot of people are not too excited about our pick, but there is reason to be as quite a few studs were drafted pick 10 or later in the last 10 years such as: Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, Marcus Thornton, Brook Lopez, Jason Thompson, Anthony Randolph, Bill Walker, DeJuan Blair, Rodney Stuckey, Wilson Chandler, Thaddeus Young, Aaron Brooks, Ronnie Brewer, Rajon Rondo, Andrew Bynum, Nate Robinson, Danny Granger, Jarrett Jack, David Lee, Andris Biedrins, Al Jefferson, Jameer Nelson, Josh Smith, J.R Smith, Kevin Martin, David West, Leandro Barbosa, Josh Howard, Caron Butler, Tayshaun Prince, John Salmons, Joe Johnson, troy Murphy, Gerald Wallace, Zach Randolph, Richard Jefferson, Samuel Dalembert and Tony Parker.
Further analysis of mock drafts around the net have North Carolina power forward Ed Davis, Donata Mutiejunas who is another 7 foot center from Benneton Trevisio (who has been tied to the Raptors in many mock drafts), WV forward Devin Ebanks, U Conn forward Stanley Robinson.
- Bryan Colangelo Press Conference 12PM EST – Live Blog
- Rapcast #71: End of season wrap-up