I'm not Eric Koreen.
I'm not Doug Smith.
I'm not Duane Watson and hell, I'm not compatriot Scott Campsall.
All of the above spent significant time around the Toronto Raptors this past season as credentialed media, whereas for the first time in about six seasons, I failed to make a locker room appearance at the ACC.
And that brings me to last Wednesday night. Raptors vs Celtics. Final game of the season.
During the game, I was critical of Raptors' play-by-play man, Matt Devlin, for doling out heaping upon heaping of praise for the club's play through its final five games, and what he perceived to be big steps in the right direction for the entire franchise.
To that end I tweeted:
@RaptorsHQ: If you're a longtime
#Raptors fan, this is the point you mute the broadcast. Pretty tough to hear some of the Matt and Leo spin right now.
Devlin took notice and responded with:
And to a certain extent, he was right.
As noted to start this piece, I wasn't physically around the team this year, so indeed, I wasn't there to see many of the on-court and off-court developments that only close team observers are privy to.
But what I was privy to was a fifth-straight playoffless season for the Raptors,and another round of "we're not that far off talk" from management and MLSE employees alike.
There's a reason so many of the comments on the site this year took on a negative tone after a few weeks of the 2012-13 campaign; fans had seen this movie before.
And very recently, as in, oh, the past five seasons to a large extent.
So my response to Devlin was for him to don the shoes of your average long-time Raptors' fan for a second. I understand quite well that it's his job to try and get fans excited for next season and play up the potential positives of the club, but after five years the "next year will be different" talk rings pretty hollow.
It's the old, "don't put lipstick on a pig..." expression.
Devlin noted that the team had made dramatic improvements post Chris Bosh but to me, winning percentages of 27, 35 and 42 per cent are hardly giant leaps forward. In my books, Golden State going from 23 wins last year to 47 this season qualifies as dramatic. Or the Raptors in Bryan Colangelo's first season jumping up to 47 wins as well, after winning twenty less the year before.
Maybe we were talking apples and oranges here but to me, the big picture is what's important in the end. The club can show all the "dramatic improvement" in the locker room that it wants, or even in terms of on-court chemistry, but if you're missing the playoffs yet again...
Put it this way.
Was this season not in many ways a near disaster?
Even the glass half-full type would have to acknowledge that Dwane Casey's second season was hardly a step up from his first, Kyle Lowry failed to meet expectations, Landry Fields (regardless of why) had a bust of a campaign, Terrence Ross (dunk contest aside) failed to distinguish himself, and Linas Kleiza was essentially an extra security guard.
Even the team's top offensive options at year's end, DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay, hardly separated themselves from the pack. DeRozan did show statistical improvement over last season, but only by a hair (some categories remained exactly the same in fact), and still sports a PER that's basically at the league average.
Gay up until the season's final few games looked to be on course for career lows in a number of statistical categories, and per the National Post's Bruce Arthur, apparently needs glasses.
Then there's that Primo Pasta guy, the one who failed to meet the already ridiculously low expectations I had set for him prior to the season by destroying what little trade value he had.
Obviously Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas were the overwhelming bright spots, with a bit of Quincy Acy mixed in for good measure, but when the vast majority of the roster qualifies for the "disappointing list," well, again, it's pretty hard to feel great about next season.
And that's not getting into maxed out rosters, a lack of draft picks, lack of elite talent, and potential Coach/GM philosophy issues.
Yep, it's all smooth sailing into the 2013-14 season!
Really, this all comes back now to Mr. Colangelo. Nearly everything mentioned above is a product of his regime and while he still thinks he's got the team pointed in the right direction, many, including myself, would disagree.
The Toronto Sun's Ryan Wolstat penned a blazing piece yesterday systematically noting why a change at the top is needed, and I'll likely add some of my own additional rationale in a piece later this week. There's a litany of reasons why change is well overdue, and unfortunately many of these reasons also tie directly into why it's so hard to be extremely optimistic about this club going into next season.
As Bruce Arthur pointed out in his article yesterday discussing Colangelo's future, the Toronto Raptors dwell in the same apartment every year, and whether the furniture is changed, the end result is really the same. This franchise needs to completely relocate to a new apartment and to do that, it means parting ways with the current management that's in place.
Only then do I get the feeling that we'll see some optimism return, and fans, especially here at the HQ, looking forward to discussing something other than another season that's over by the time February rolls around.