A couple days ago a fatigued Hedo Turkoglu mustered up the strength to get out of bed, pick up the phone and lambaste the Raptors franchise and Bryan Colangelo. It’s well-established that Hedo Turkoglu was a lazy, out-of-shape moaner that took his money and hid in a corner. We all know that, nobody’s arguing that, what is up for debate is how much damage these words are causing as they’re replayed in the ears of NBA players across the United States.
It doesn’t even matter if what he’s saying is true or not, the mere fact that players are publicly talking about the Raptors with this kind of disdain has to have a negative effect. As forum poster, DirtyMikeSeaver, put it: At what point does perception become reality?
The concern is twofold. First, are NBA players confident that playing in Canada will not hurt their ability to make money. This includes taxes, exposure for endorsements, and salary. As Bosh admitted, he wanted to be on TNT and ESPN to showcase his skills, the Raptors simply didn’t provide that opportunity for him. I can’t comment on the tax-issue but there have known to been loopholes where the players aren’t charged the same tax as you or I. This concern has everything to do with the Raptors being located in a different country and players being reluctant to get into a situation they are unfamiliar with.
Second, do NBA players have confidence in the Raptors management’s ability to win. Winning does a lot for you and as we saw with Carter, that includes getting you on US national TV. However, those memories are so distant that NBA players born after 1985 will have a hard time remembering them. Rob Babcock, Bryan Colangelo and to a lesser extent, Glen Grunwald, haven’t been able to build teams that might galvanize the confidence of players.
The combination of playing in Canada and not being able to win has hampered this franchise, and it finds itself constantly fighting an uphill battle to gain respectability, attract players and most importantly, win. Hedo Turkoglu’s public comments might be laughed off by Raptors fans, and even most NBA players, but the perception that there are problems with the Raptors remain. It’s much like Fox News insisting that Obama is a socialist, it could be the farthest thing from the truth and totally unsubstantiated, but it’s now in the conversation whenever one discusses Obama. (Note: this is just an example, I don’t care about politics).
As much as I enjoyed watching Bryan Colangelo “call it like it is” on Bosh, the public discourse between the two has hurt the Raptors more than anything. It is the Raptors who have come out looking petulant and are accused of back-biting, not Bosh or Turkoglu. It’s one thing to burn a bridge with a player, but it’s another to have that bridge be the discussion on major media outlets and national TV, something that only seems to happen when there’s something negative to be said about the Raptors.
The Raptors are banking their hopes on Weems, DeRozan and Johnson to take this franchise to the next level, or at least where Vince Carter took them. So far all three have bought into it, but if history is to repeat itself, will the Raptors be put into the same situation two or three years down the road? Being the Raptors GM is a difficult job, on one hand the fans are asking you to put a winning product on the floor and on the other, profitability is the bottom-line. Juggling these responsibilities while dealing with the constraints put on by the NBA’s social atmosphere is a job that one can’t be envious of.