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The Dismissal of Rob Babcock - Part II - A Ship With No Rudder

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So now what? I think after the confusion and bewilderment of the initial announcement, this is one of the next questions most fans are asking. I mean, really, what now? This franchise was on the upswing only a few years ago but quickly fell from grace being panned as going nowhere fast with a reluctant star in Vince Carter. And while the team has struggled on the court, the team has gotten far less negative attention then other cellar dwellers such as the Hawks and Knicks. Why? Because this team was supposed to be rebuilding. Newsflash to Peddie and co…rebuilding takes more then a year. I mean, it’s just beyond comprehension. Peddie's comments at the press conference almost spell out that they thought that the team would be much better then last year! Speed up the process? At RaptorsHQ we’re worried about speeding up the Dino’s extinction. If interim management now comes in and starts moving players in effort to get more short-term success, the effects could be disastrous. And by this we of course mean losing Chris Bosh.

Now before we start getting ahead of ourselves with talks over CB4 and whether he resigns, let’s think more short term. Embry takes over. Embry is interim. Embry has all the power three weeks away from the deadline. Hold on to your seats folks, we could be in for a hell of a ride. Think the craziest Space Mountain game and then multiply it by ten. The Raps will almost definitely make a move…but what sort? And if it’s a bad one, who is to be held accountable? Peddie clearly is a member of some special union where getting fired is impossible and Embry knows he is short term. So no matter what happens, in reality NO-ONE is accountable. Is this a way to manage a franchise for the next few months? Not quite. The concern is if they totally ruin this team in the next little while the chances of bringing in an experienced GM/President decreases. In fact, if they royally screw this up someone coming in will have to be weary of taking the rap if they don’t clean-up the mess quick enough. This is a very pessimistic view, no doubt, but where there is no accountability, there is no progress.

Let's not forget that making a move like this cannot look good in the eyes of those who are adequately qualified for the job. This can’t make the position more attractive. On top of all of this is the Canada factor. Look, we all know that Canada, wrongly so, is considered a barren wasteland to NBA folks….at least until they get here and experience the city. So what is it that is going to be attractive to potential replacements? The ownership….wrong! The city…wrong (again incorrectly so, but I digress). The talent base…wrong! The first concern will be re-signing Bosh, and if the new GM is unsuccessful….good luck to ya.

The Bosh Man

Yes, CB4. Lost in the shuffle of this deal is the impact this has on him. The key in any decisions management makes should be to retain Bosh at all costs. He’s the one sure thing on this club and losing him could possibly send this franchise the way of the dodo. In fact if the rumours concerning severed ties between Mitchell and Babcock are true, this then may be one aspect of the firing that may make sense short-term. We know that Mitchell and Bosh have grown close so this may be a chip in the Raps favour. Mitchell and Embry are close too and if anything, this firing speaks volumes in terms of Mitchell’s situation. But once again this not straightforward either. If Toronto now is set on bringing in an experienced GM to lead the club, there’s no way the Raptors can attract a GM of that level and still guarantee Mitchell’s tenure.

So WHO then is crazy enough to take on this position. We have some ideas, but none of them are making us start signing “ Hip-Hop Hurray!”

The Candidates

Well what do we want? What should the franchise look for? We think someone like R.C. Buford would be perfect. Obviously the Spurs are not going to let him walk but someone with the same characteristics. That guy is like Dr. Claw, you know he is powerful, that he knows what's up, but no-one ever sees this guy. At least we have a character that could play Mad Cat in Sam Mitchell.

Not all of these guys have shining resumes, but here are a few possibilities:

Don Nelson â€" The man from Dallas has slowly been shown the door in the lone-star state, and his name was mentioned at the press conference. Is this a sign of things to come? Nelson managed to assemble a pretty solid squad in Dallas. Nelson has the peddigree, he was drafted in the 3rd round of the 1962 draft and managed to play 14 years in the NBA, 11 with the Celtics. Since then he has been a head coach (second winningest), and has been an NBA GM for 22 years. He did re-vitalize Dallas and made the draft day deal Tractor Traylor for Dirk. Right now he is a consultant in Dallas and although not a young buck health wise there was little indication in the press conference when he stepped down that it was health related.

Nellie would automatically bring credibility to this franchise, that is provided Peddie is locked in a cell and the only decision he is allowed to make is whether he should shave in the morning.

Kiki Vanderweghe â€"This is the buzz right now. Denver has not committed to Kiki past the end of this season. Sure he would be a big name, but his track-record has been questionable. K-Mart? More like Costco, except he did cost three first round picks and a max deal. Tskitishvili? Perhaps not the best 5th overall pick, and his inability to get a decent shooting guard in there is well documented. Further, John Hammond is quoted as saying Denver would have picked Darko had he been available and in fact tried to trade-up so Detroit would not take him.

Kiki for some reason just sounds like a good solution. Call it gut instinct I guess. Kiki is now without his flaws but who isn't on this rag-tag list. Denver is headed for salary cap hell when Carmelo signs the extension and they are probably going to have to let Nene walk for nothing which is never good. But he did take a Nuggets team that was the joke of the league and turn them into a contender in a couple of short seasons.

John Hammond â€" The Raps have tried to land this guy a few times, and if he is even marginally responsibile for the success in Detroit, regardless of his lack of "experience" as an NBA GM he is a guy you would have to consider. Perhaps not a big name amongst players, making the signing of free-agents no easier, he has a winning track record and that says something in itself. Hammond seems to be the spokesman for the Pistons management team, including Dumars, and often is the one discussing the state of the Pistons with the media. Media savvy perhaps? Well you have to be in order to survive in this city.

All this being said it is hard to imagine him deciding that now is the time to change teams. The Pistons are arguably the best team in the NBA and now that we are in a state of uncertainty that makes the firing of Grunwald look organized, I would be shocked if he were to accept any overtures by this team. I would not be shocked if these overtures are soon coming.

John Gabriel â€" Although executive of the year in 1999-00 his tenure while GM of Orlando was turbulent. He did bring Orlando McGrady for a conditional pick (that hurts even to write), and flipped Hardaway to Phoenix for Danny Manning, Pat Garrity and two first rounders, but he also traded Atkins and Ben Wallace for Grant Hill and that has been enormously detrimental to that franchise. My personal favorite out of his numerous moves....Bo Outlaw and a first rounder to Phoenix for Jud Buechler. Seriously a first rounder as well? There is such thing as championship experience, but that is a steep price for a third tier NBA forward.

He has been able to draft some quality players and see immediate returns as Mike Miller was ROY, and he was also responsible for drafting Maggette, Zaza, and was responsible for the C-Webb - Hardaway trade which resulted in the Magic being in the NBA Finals.

Mixed bag with this guy....but maybe worth a look?

Gabriel gave up his GM role in March of 2004 and he would likely enjoy another opportunity to run an NBA franchise.

Scott Layden - All we can say about Layden's time in NYC is yikes. When I attended the NBA draft where Yao went number 1, the only real thing that stands out in my mind is when Layden pulled the following deal:

To Denver: Marcus Camby, Mark Jackson and the No. 7 pick (Hilario)
To New York: McDyess

Dear God, in hindsight he traded Denver's future front court for a bag of nickels. McDyess was awesome in his prime, but this was a steep price to pay for injured goods. Layden was also responsible for signing Allan Houston (and we all know about the Allan Houston rule....Layden is responsible for a rule!) and also signing guys like Shandon Anderson and Howard Eisley to wooley mammoth sized deals. Layden is clearly not the person for this job as James Dolan and the Raptors ownership could not be more different, Dolan willing to spend tons of cash, the Raps brass only concerned about making it.

Currently Layden is an assistant coach with the Jazz. But it is not like there have not been worse GM's for the Knicks. Our readers know how much we like to dwell on the Knicks and how we take solace in the fact we are NOT Knicks fans. And here is the million dollar question; How is it that Thomas takes over as GM, dismantles a bad team, and replaces it with an even worse team, trades away the future for Eddy Curry, AND THEN gets slapped with a sexual harassment charge and an investigation into getting the opposing players drunk before games and doesn’t get fired? Is there no justice?

But back to Layden...start the chant now just in case....Fire Layden.....

Rod Black - Is there a guy who would be any better than Mr. Sports Broadcast Canada, Rod Black? Every GM needs a moustache like this guy. A jack of all trades. He would follow the party line and would be another perfect fall guy for MLSE. In some ways we would not be completely against this as we would never have to listen to him broadcast again....and hopefully he would hire Brian Heaney as a special advisor. TSN really needs to change their basketball crew.

Bob Whitsitt - Former GM of the Portland Jail Blazers Whitsitt has GM experience if that is the only qualification that is being looked for. That is about the only good thing on his resume however, as Charlie Boone of InsideHoops described Whitsitt as follows: "The GM's personality alienated journalists, fans, and players alike, while his amoral wheelings and dealings made the once fan-friendly Trail Blazers team synonymous with sex offenders, drug users, and thugs." Rave review indeed.

That being said, although chemistry and character were lacking in many of the players he brought to Portland he did manage to assemble talent and make smart basketball trades (not including Jermaine O'neal for the Rain Man). If you took his basketball knowledge, linked it with the teams desire (if that remains the plan....really we question what the plan is now) to bring in character guys, could we have a winning combination?

Probably not. Whitsitt recently ran himself out of Paul Allen's business ventures (he was the GM of the Seahawks as well) and his departure has been described as a sigh of relief. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean that he can't be interested.

John Nash - Well we looked at the former Portland GM, now for the current one. Nash is in the last year of his deal and the press has not reported any conversations regarding the extension of his reign. Is he a possibility for the job in Toronto. Your gut just has to say no. You just don't hire people from franchises that are WORSE than your own. What is his track record like? Well here are some of his transactional high/lowlights:

To Atlanta: Rasheed Wallace and Wesley Person
To Portland: Abdur-Rahim, Ratliff, and Dickau

To Memphis: Bonzi Wells
To Portland: Wesley Person a conditional first rounder and cash.

His drafting ability has been ok (Jarret Jack, Telfair and the Russian Mob) but his willingness to give out $$ to guys that just don't deserve it, i.e. Randolph, Miles and Ratliff leaves many questions to be asked. There would be some serious questions asked if Nash was even interviewed.

Until the NEXT Press Conference - Many More Questions then Answers

What can Raps fans expect as this search goes on? The importance of the next month cannot be overstated. Trade deadline. Looking ahead. Thinking about the value of those two-first rounders and a high second rounder. Lots for this interim team to consider and the Raptors franchise and brass can only be described as a ticking time bomb at the moment. Any day they could make a deal that sets the franchise back 5 years for a 5 game bump in wins. Is Embry going to value the picks he will never make? And firing Pete Babcock probably makes sense (although there goes our Pete Babcock and CV Smooth joke) but firing the Raps director of international player personnel Scott Howard? After the intrigue of Roko, Uros and Calderon this move is another head scratcher.

In spit of all of this, we will continue to update you, the readers with our thoughts on the upcoming draft with our "Around The Mocks" and look at how this team could continue to improve. We believe there is some talent in the draft and while not franchise altering there are guys who could contribute. The question is whether our updates will have any value once Embry is done dealing. He has mentioned that he plans on trading anyone who has ever let slip that they do not want to be here so we're expecting deals. However, that raises another issue. What happens if he trades all the vets? Will he bring back other vets? Guys with better contracts? More youth? Youth is good but you always need vets. There is really so much up in the air right now that it's almost futile to over speculate until we start seeing some moves.

The Moral of the Story

The moral of the story is until this ship gets some direction there is no telling where the rough seas of the NBA will take it. In the meantime raise a pint of Creemore (Babcock's favorite) and wish Babcock luck. We never will see if his plan would have worked....but we were drinking what he was selling. Now we are wondering who the next Kool-Aid seller is going to be.

THE HQ STAFF