There were quite a few subplots to last night's contest between the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors.
1) Giving up another fourth quarter lead, the Raptors lost yet another winnable game 101-94, to another of the league's best teams.
2) Dwayne Wade aka Flash, won the battle between the fourth and fifth draft picks from that famous 2003 draft class scoring 32 points to Bosh's 19 and more importantly hitting 15 of his 19 shots spearheading the Heat to victory.
3) Looming over all of this was the shadow of the most anticipated event in years for the Toronto Raptors...and no, this was not the East Coast Music Awards held last night in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
But to borrow a page from the ECMA's hosts, The Trailer Park Boys...
"Holy (explicit) boys...we're gonna get Colangelo as our GM!?"
While an official announcement is expected this morning, it sounds like it's official...Bryan Colangelo, formerly of the Phoenix Suns, will become the fourth General Manager in franchise history.
So pick your story.
In the short term, last night's loss was another painful reminder of how far this team still has to go. Great play through three quarters, especially on the defensive end, gave way to turnovers, terrible shot selection and passive play in the fourth as the Raptors let another one slip away. Toronto did a good job on the boards most of the night only losing the rebounding count 39-36 but once again were unable to corral several key rebounds in crunch time. And the balanced attack through the first three periods of play suddenly turned into a game of one-on-five as Mike James overdribbled, Chris Bosh was too hesitant and CV Smooth suddenly morphed into CV Sloppy.
And just what can you say about Dwayne Wade? While the rest of his team did their best sleep-walking impression until the fourth quarter (even Shaq was hardly effective thanks to some solid Toronto double-teaming) Wade kept the Heat close until some of his compatriots started waking up.
Watching the Heat last night however reaffirmed something I've felt since last summer's bonanza of moves whereby Pat Riley brought in Antoine Walker, James Posey, Jason Williams and Gary Payton; this Heat team is not as good as last year's squad. Coupled with the fact that Shaq is not the omniscient force he once was, the new players simply don't have the chemistry from last year's team and for a team with so much talent on paper, they really rely on Wade to win games. There is also very little flow to the Heat's offence and too many of the Heat's "role" players take shots like they should be the featured players in the offence. A perfect example of this was Antoine Walker who took 13 shots only hitting on five of them. Shaq, who the ball should run through, took only three more than Walker.
For the Raptors it was another display of "how not to win games in the fourth quarter." As has been the rule rather than the exception lately, Toronto took ill-advised shots early in the shot clock (CV Smooth - this means your running three-point attempt,) tried to force penetrations (Mr. Space Mountain on several occasions) and the smooth offensive ball movement from the first three quarters was all but forgotten. Mo Pete, who was great on and off the ball, barely touched the rock in the fourth, something that is completely unacceptable for someone who had been bombing away from beyond the arc with people in his face last night.
The big positive though for Toronto last night was the play of Charlie Villanueva. While he did commit a few sloppy turnovers as mentioned and still took an ill-advised shot or two, this was perhaps the most complete game I've seen from the former UConn product all season. He played a team leading 47 minutes, had 16 points and 11 rebounds, had two steals, picked up only one foul and did a great job staying down on his man defensively even taking a charge. As my colleague Howland pointed out in his article yesterday, CV Smooth is looking more and more like a perfect fit in Toronto's starting lineup and is another big asset for the incoming Raptor GM Bryan Colangelo.
And oh yes...our new GM.
A press conference today will undoubtedly make it official but the reins to the franchise are going to be handed over to Colangelo who right off the bat will add an element of respectability to the club.
I for one love this signing and as a fan, you have to kind of pinch yourself to see if this is real. Who would have thought last summer that the man who had made the recent version of the Phoenix Suns into such a powerhouse squad, would now be the man to lead our own franchise? And now isn't this upcoming summer the most important and exciting one possibly in the history of the franchise? With some money to spend on free agency, an eagerly awaited Chris Bosh decision, the future of several players including Mike James in question, another draft and of course decisions on everything from coaches to scouts, this will indeed be an interesting summer for the Raptors and their fans. My hope is that Colangelo can keep what Babcock started in terms of the youth movement and rebuilding process and as fans we're not subjected to another plan which takes another few years to come to fruition. Such a scenario would definitely be trying for a fan base already disenfranchised over the past few seasons.
Finally, perhaps lost in this signing however is the irony (or comedy, take your pick) that the "long and extensive search" that MLSE CEO Richard Peddie advocated after firing former GM Rob Babcock, took only a month. Apparently, we don't even have Peddie to thank, as usual, for this signing either. In fact, at face value maybe this is the biggest plus from the Colangelo hiring. With Colangelo at the helm, Peddie will no longer be involved in basketball operations and perhaps now the team can finally focus strictly on its "on-court" product.
Call it dumb luck but just when we needed an experienced GM to right a ship that has been adrift for too long, one of the league's most revered has a fall-out with his owner and is up for grabs. Dumb luck or not, this move puts Toronto in a great position for the future and sometimes you need a little luck in the world of sports.
Or as Ricky's Dad Ray from the Trailer Park Boys may have put it:
"Boys, sometimes that's the way she goes. Sometimes she goes, sometimes she doesn't cause that's the way she goes."