At first glance, Bryan Colangelo hardly looks the part of an NBA General Manager.
He seems more apt to be trading portfolio pieces on Wall Street (or Bay Street in this case) or giving motivational speeches to boardroom execs than being cooped up in gyms in the Ukraine looking for the next Dirk Nowitzki. However once Colangelo took the mic at yesterday's press conference, it became quite clear that this indeed was the type of GM the Toronto Raptors have been in need of for a long time and someone who was cut from an entirely different cloth than former GM Rob Babcock.
Soft spoken and possessing a quiet passion, in truth, Rob Babcock could probably have cared less about salaries, caps and attendance. Babcock was a "grinder," the type of GM who simply wanted to assemble the best basketball team possible under the constraints imposed upon him. With the play of his three rookies and Mike James this season, and with rumours that it was he who had the Aaron Williams and Jalen Rose deals ready to go, it's hard to argue that he wasn't on his way to doing this.
But to be a successful GM, it takes more than just "good basketball IQ" which is why this article is by no means meant to be a staunch defence of Toronto's former GM or another rehashing of past events. No, if anything perhaps now we understand some of the logic behind Richard Peddie's decision to pull the plug on the Rob Babcock experiment.
Maybe Rob would have taken this team to the playoffs in a year and had them competitive for years beyond that. Maybe Chris Bosh would have re-signed anyways and the team's salary situation would have been managed so to bring in as much help in securing this team's future as possible. Maybe Rob in more time would not have been part of the Sports Guy's round table with the worst GM's in the league. In any event, Peddie realized that while Babcock, the outcome of the Vince trade and the rushed "Hoffa pick" aside, was a good basketball mind, he did not possess the all-around skills necessary to lead this franchise.
Bursting with charisma and ambition, Bryan Colangelo in contrast, has those skills. Not only did he say "all the right things" concerning the city, its media and all aspects involving the club, he also demonstrated an all-encompassing passion and knowledge beyond his years. Colangelo also interestingly divulged that one of the main reasons for his decision to take the position was the fact that he really respected MLSE's governing body and felt that there were enough like-minded people on-board to make this hiring, and the subsequent plan of action that he would lay out, a success.
So if the former GM and the present GM had different styles, do they also have different plans? It was only a month ago that we the fans were told that someone needed to be brought in who could speed up the plan. We highly doubt there was a clause in Colangelo's contract that he adhere to "the plan." Seeing the success he had in the desert, will the plan now be to become the "run-and-gun" team in the East? Colangelo DID yesterday allude to the fact that he thought the Raptors team makeup was quite similar to his former Phoenix club which begs the following question. Are the Raps going to try and play Western style basketball? If so, with both the titles of President and GM, does Colangelo have the green light to abandon Babcock's original plan and bring in the players to fit the style of ball he wants to play?
To try and predict what Colangelo is going to do with this team just doesn't make sense. The only thing we can assume with great certainty is that the Dinos are less extinct to the NBA today then they were yesterday. This is a great hire. Fans, however, are now in the unknown. From what we were told as a kids, "You are what you eat". We've been munching away and gladly eating up the vision of the old regime. We supported it. Suddenly there is a new lunch lady behind the counter. This is not the same meat loaf.
This than brings us to the "less clear" section of our discussion. Based on this hiring, and as we've previously alluded to, there are now a lot of questions to think about as fans of this team.
Who will quarterback this club and which direction does the team go with the draft?
Colangelo mentioned the Mike James situation unprompted in an interview with the ever-affable Norma Wick. Is Colangelo going to want a pass first PG rather than a scorer after his success with Nash? Colangelo went into the merits of choosing Nash over Kobe in free agency two summers ago and a betting man would argue that based on this experience Colangelo will look to do the same thing here in Toronto. So where than does Mike James fit?
This links directly with the draft as well and the Raptors' plans concerning the three picks that they currently hold in their possession. With no star point guard available this year, and needs at center to be addressed, what will the Raps strategy be?
What happens with Joey Graham?
With Mo Pete's rebirth this season at the shooting guard spot, CV Smooth's success recently playing small forward and Eric Williams inability to get himself traded, will Joey get the minutes he needs to continue his development next season? This is an even bigger question in relation to the draft as many of the draft picks in Toronto's projected range will be of the "slasher/scorer" mould playing either the shooting guard or small forward spot and this would also affect Graham.
What style of play will Colangelo want to play and will Mitchell be the one implementing it?
If Colangelo decides to use his Phoenix "run-and-gun" blueprint, would Sam Mitchell want to play this style? Will Mitchell even be the coach next season? Chris Bosh wants Mitchell around and Colangelo has stated that Mitchell "has a clean slate with this team in his eyes." What this exactly means for the future is obviously yet to be determined however seeing Mitchell in the front row at the conference made me think that at any moment he was going to raise his hand to enquire "um...Bryan...should I start getting my resume ready?"
Calling our Euros and other roster moves
The Raptors' two second-round picks from last year's draft were seen as part of the long-term plan. Now? With three picks at present in next year's draft, and our two Euros stashed overseas, there are going to be some major roster decisions obviously not to mention talks concerning Pape Sow, Loren Woods and the project known as "Hoffa."
So with these questions fresh in our minds, we're quite anxious to get the Colangelo era rolling. It seems he's already layed down the law as reports out of New York are stating that Colangelo and Co. have vetoed Eric Williams' request for a buy-out so he could return to New Jersey and play for the Nets. Seems like Colangelo remembers the last time we were taken for a ride by New Jersey.
To close off this discussion in which we've perhaps beaten the whole Colangelo hiring to death with a dead horse, (yes, taking this metaphor to a whole other level) my one lasting impression from yesterday's media circus was that of irony. There at the head table for all to see was our new President and GM Bryan Colangelo, Richard Peddie grinning away like the Cheshire Cat, and former interim GM Wayne Embry. It's been stated ad nauseum that it was Colangelo's relationship with Embry that lured Colangelo to Toronto and this is where you get the definition of irony. For it was none other than our former maligned GM Rob Babcock who was responsible for bringing Embry on board.
Can a General Manager fire himself inadvertently? Even for this Raptors franchise which has seen everything, it would be a first.
Franchise and Howland