Dear Tim Leiweke,
First of all, congratulations on your new job with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. I know you just landed the job, but before you unpack your bags, there’s something you really need to do.
You see, I am a Raptors fan.
I have been one since the day David Stern announced Toronto was getting an NBA team in September of 1993. I followed them through their expansion days when Damon Stoudamire was thrilling fans with his adrenaline fuelled game, during the golden days of the franchise when Vince Carter was electrifying the league and taking the team to new heights, then through the dark days when Carter was traded, when Rob Babcock’s transaction record started looking like a textbook example of what NOT to do, and when Kobe Bryant scored 81 points on a 27 win team that seemed to have completely lost it’s desire to compete.
As the old saying goes, it’s always darkest before the dawn, and just a few months after Kobe eviscerated the Raptors, it did look like dawn was finally coming for a moribund team who hadn’t even sniffed at the playoffs in four long seasons.
Bryan Colangelo was coming to Toronto to run the team.
I admit, I bought into the hype. I quickly forgot about the criticism I threw his way while running the Phoenix Suns for trying to win with a defensively flawed roster and a coach that seemed to believe defense should be an after thought. I knew the importance of defense to any team hoping to win a title. Since they began keeping defensive ratings for teams, only one team has won a Championship without being ranked in the top 5 during the regular season. That’s going back 40 years.
There’s a difference between trying to be innovative, and simply ignoring common sense.
But I wanted to believe. That’s why I wrote off Colangelo drafting Andrea Bargnani off as a difference of opinion (I was vehemently against it). Sure, I thought selecting a big man who was a poor rebounder and had bad defensive instincts was a recipe for disaster, but I trusted Colangelo.
I trusted him when he built a team whose ceiling looked rather limited, even after they won 47 games and the Atlantic Division title.
I trusted him when he made move after move that didn’t seem to make a whole lot of basketball sense at the time, or in hindsight.
I trusted him even though the team kept getting worse despite the moves he made.
I trusted him when he signed a 30 year old defensively challenged small forward with a history of motivational issues and a declining game to a 5 year, $53 million contract, to add to a team of defensively challenged players and start in the same frontcourt as Andrea Bargnani.
I trusted that he didn’t REALLY believe that team could win 50 games that year, because it was fairly obvious to anyone outside of his office that wasn’t going to happen.
I trusted him when, after losing Chris Bosh and trading away Hedo Turkoglu, it became evident he was trying to build around Bargnani, because I trusted he would realize that this was a disaster in the making.
Well, after a franchise record five year playoff drought, a team with the payroll of a contender, but the roster of a borderline playoff team, after trying to sell an inefficient, inconsistent and massively overpriced Rudy Gay as an elite player, I’ve had enough.
After seven years running the Raptors, it’s clear that Colangelo has no clue how to built a championship team. Or he’s given up trying, knowing he can take advantage of the Raptor fans loyalty.
Raptor fans deserve better.
Over the last five years, the Raptors are 14th in the league in attendance, despite averaging only 30 wins. That’s loyalty. And I’d say that deserves to be rewarded.
Raptor fans are a passionate group. Often without reason. Over the 17 years the franchise has been in existence, only two teams have made the playoffs less than the Raptors. And they’ve only had four winning seasons during that time. They are one of the least successful franchises in the NBA on the court. But that doesn’t have to continue.
First things first. Colangelo has to go.
He’s a fantastic salesman, but we’ve had enough of him selling us lemonade and trying to convince us it’s wine. He’ll no doubt give you the whole song and dance that he needs to finish what he’s started. That he should be given another year to see what this roster he’s built can do with a full season.
But do we really need a full season to see what this roster can do? Gay isn’t the elite player Colangelo pretends he is. DeMar DeRozan isn’t the All Star Colangelo envisioned him to be, and certainly not worth the extension he was signed to. Not with the one-dimensional game he’s shown so far. Kyle Lowry couldn’t even beat Jose Calderon for the starting position until Calderon was traded away. He’s not a bad point guard, but maybe there’s a reason two previous teams gave up on him.
We’ve already given Colangelo seven years. He doesn’t need eight.
I hear that you might be considering Phil Jackson to replace him. I admit, I have no idea whether Jackson would be any good at running a franchise, since he’s got no front office experience. At this point, however, we’d all willing to overlook it if it means ending the Colangelo era. Raptor fans are that desperate.
I haven’t seen such a lack of hope among Raptor fans in a LONG time. It’s worse than when Bosh left town. Most of them see this team for what it is. A last gasp attempt by Colangelo to keep his job by trying to field a team that he can sell as competitive, even though being competitive is basically the upside for this crew.
Give the fans something to hope for. Maybe it’s a shot at Andrew Wiggins or even Jabari Parker. Raptor fans will be patient if you give them a reason to be. More than anything, they’d really like a chance at this…