Having just heard the word "rebuild" said to him, Dwane Casey, the new Toronto Raptors coach, wanted to make one thing clear.
"I've got a sense of urgency," Casey said earlier this month. "I'm going to be a patient teacher. But patience isn't one of my strong points as far as where we want to get in terms of wins."
Alas, the roster he is inheriting does not offer much in the way of wins. And it is unlikely the league's new collective bargaining agreement, assuming ratification, will do too much to expedite turning the Raptors from a lottery-bound team into a contender.
The new CBA should rein in the spending of some of the league's richer teams, making it harder for those teams to spend into the luxury tax year after year. That should, in theory, enhance the chances for every team to be a contender. But even if it works out like that, that process will take a few years to take hold.
And the Raptors? They were a 22-win team last year. Sure, there is the hope that Ed Davis, DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson will improve, that Andrea Bargnani will go from atrocious to passable on defence and Casey will coach them upward. This, however, is a team that Vegas has pegged as 1501 longshot to win the NBA championship. The Raptors retain the same structure, and president and general manager Bryan Colangelo is not in it for the quick fix.
"Let's just say to go out and spend money [immediately] just to spend money would be probably swimming against the current idea of what the plan is all about," Colangelo said.
"The plan is to acquire the right pieces, the correct pieces to keep adding to this young nucleus that we have or to put championship pieces together."
Translation: Colangelo is going to be patient and not go for the immediate-dividends move he has made in the past.
Hunter told reporters he plans to take the same approach. "I'm a players' coach, but the players will know when I'm mad at them - If you continuously make mistakes, there will be repercussions."
The play of Ovechkin, who has only one goal in the last eight games, has been the focus of talk that Boudreau had lost his team's ear. It was 12 games ago, on Nov. 1, that Boudreau famously benched his star scorer in the waning seconds of regulation time with Washington trailing Anaheim 4-3. Nicklas Backstrom scored the tying goal with 42 seconds left. When Ovechkin saw the ice again in overtime, he assisted on Backstrom's winner at 2: 18.
? Toronto has 10 players signed for the 2011-12 season - and in most cases beyond - leaving the teams with about US$7-million to fill the final five roster spots.
Jonas Valanciunas, the team's first-round pick this summer, will not come to the team until next year
Two others, restricted free agent Sonny Weems and unrestricted free agent Joey Dorsey are locked into overseas contracts that do not allow them to return to the NBA this year.
Reggie Evans, Julian Wright and Alexis Ajinca are also unrestricted free agents, and except for maybe Evans, are as good as gone.
? The Raptors will have two big needs - centre and small forward - when free agency opens Dec. 9 (the same day training camps begin).
Casey, while preaching defence, will be desperate to get Bargnani away from directing traffic. Tyson Chandler would be a perfect free-agent candidate, especially considering he and Casey formed a relationship in Dallas.
Alas, money and wins will ensure Chandler is somewhere else, likely back in Dallas.
But cheaper options such as Joel Przybilla, Francisco Elson or Jason Collins could make sense.
At small forward, the Raptors return only the inexperienced James Johnson and Linas Kleiza, who is coming off microfracture knee surgery.
The likes of Andrei Kirilenko, DeShawn Stevenson and the highly quotable Shane Battier are on the market.
? The biggest wild card might be the amnesty clause in the new CBA.
It allows each team to waive one player who signed a deal under the old CBA before the season starts. Each team can use this just once during the tenure of the new deal. That team would still have to pay the player, but the money would not count against the salary cap or luxury tax.
For example, using the amnesty on Jose Calderon would suddenly give the Raptors almost US$17-million of room under the salary cap.
Calderon, Bargnani, Barbosa, Kleiza and, arguably, Amir Johnson all have contracts that outpace their production.
But since the Raptors are more than one piece away from contending, it might make more sense to see how those players perform and make the move next year when the free-agent class is deeper.
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