You know how Bryan Colangelo wants the goal for the Raptors to be a “50 win team”? Well, don’t tell that to Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks. After 10 straight 50-win seasons, they find themselves exiting the first-round yet again, this time as the #2 seed at the hands of the Spurs. The series was over in six, but those watching it knew after Game 2 that San Antonio had seized the advantage and wasn’t about to give it up.

The playoff loss has larger implications. Blowing a 2-0 lead in the finals and getting knocked out as the #1 seed against ex-coach Don Nelson wasn’t bad enough. Last year they got embarassed in five games against the Nuggets (after beating an injury-riddled Spurs squad in the first round), and now this. What’s a German looking for a title to do? Just like Bryan Colangelo might have lost the faith of Chris Bosh, the same could be said about Dirk Nowitzki and Donnie Nelson/Mark Cuban. Nowitzki’s quotes last night weren’t re-assuring, but will he opt-out of a $21M contract to make himself a player in this summer’s free-agency madness?

It’s unlikely, simply because it’s too much money to just pass up. Then again, he’ll likely find himself earning a bigger contract as a 32 year old, then as a 33 year old next year, so you never know. Where do the Raptors come in? Nowhere in particular, only because Nowtizki’s disappointed about not winning a title, and coming to Toronto in search of that would be like going to a desert to find water. Nowtizki’s potential Dallas exit would mean Chris Bosh could go back to Dallas as the #1 option and franchise player of the team, something he apparently covets. It’s hard to believe that replacing Bosh with Nowitzki alone would make Dallas contenders, but at least it’s more of a long-term plan for them than just reloading with the likes of Brendan Haywood.

The chances of what the Raptors can get in any sign-and-trade are best framed by this Sun-Sentinel article from a few days ago:

It has nothing to do with what Toronto wants. The Heat simply can sign Bosh into its cap space. Bosh then can go back to the Raptors and say, “I’m going to the Heat, but I can earn more if you want to get something back in a sign and trade.” What the Raptors want has absolutely nothing to do with the process. It’s what Bosh wants. Bryan Colangelo is Bosh’s pawn right now, nothing more.

It really summarizes just how much control the Raptors have over this situation. Say Bosh decides to go to Dallas, and Colangelo wants a signed Dirk Nowtizki in return? How fast do you think Cuban will hang up on him? At best, we’re going to receive players the other team doesn’t want, not the players that could actually be good for us.

The interesting thing about the Rockets as a trade partner is that, unlike Miami, New York and Chicago, Houston is forced to deal using a sign-and-trade since they are currently over the cap. It’s a rare case where Chris Bosh actually needs Bryan Colangelo’s help, and the latter would be wise to leverage his position.

Take this rumoured Houston deal which would see us take back Jordan Hill. The only reason Houston would be giving up Jordan Hill is because they’d be receiving back Chris Bosh, who also happens to be a PF. For salary matching reasons, Houston would have to throw-in Shane Battier and Jared Jeffries (both expiring); don’t know how much they’d be willing to part with Battier, considering he’s their glue-guy, but that would be ideal for the Raptors. At worst, we’d take back a contract like Trever Ariza, who could always be shipped because of his defense and championship experience.

f there is any truth to this rumour, I say the Raptors should jump on it. Not because of Jordan Hill, but because Houston would take back Hedo Turkoglu’s contract which would allow us to draft a small forward and field a team truly consisting of “young guns”, mentored by Jarrett Jack and possibly Shane Battier, not a bad situation. Yes, there’ll be losing but at least there won’t be tears, disappointment and hair-pulling.

We all want change this summer; the season was a disaster and not even the lowest expectations were met, and it’s apparent that the fans and organizations hopes were not aligned with the results produced on the floor. So, when Colangelo announced that he’s bring Jay Triano back as head coach, it went some ways to souring the off-season for me.

See, if Triano had only shown even the slightest ability to manage the personalties that are present on any NBA roster, I’d perhaps feel different. If he had made this group to play with an effort-level acceptable to a high-school coach, I think I’d be okay with him coming back. His players airing out dirty laundry in the media, the GM organizing team meetings on his behalf, and his management of Hedo Turkoglu, all point to a coach that is still learning how to handle the business. The question is do we want to be the organization where every coach gets on-the-job training? The list is getting quite long: Darrell Walker, Butch Carter, Kevin O’Neill, Sam Mitchell, and now Jay Triano. The only experienced head-coach we ever hired, Lenny Wilkens, didn’t do a half-bad job his first couple years, at least he made the talent shine through before he got old and senile.

This won’t be said in public because things like these aren’t said in public, but I fully believe that Chris Bosh does not believe that a team led by Jay Triano can go anywhere of significance. You see the coaches that in play right now, and the only “young” ones are Scotty Brooks and Scott Skiles, two coaches that breathe defense, which is the main reason why their teams are hanging tough. Both are stubborn mules that ride their players and get a consistent effort out of them, I just don’t see Jay Triano coming anywhere close to these guys. Forget about the X’s and O’s for a moment, the attitude and sense you get out of the Thunder and Bucks locker-room is something totally foreign to us as Raptors fans. Those teams might not go far in the post-season this year, but they’re under the right leadership which is more than I can say about the Raptors.

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