It's been a long time since the Toronto Raptors have entered into an off-season with so many questions. The face of the franchise has changed, and will continue to change as the summer months march on. But one thing must be made clear...no matter how sunny, how hot it gets this summer and how many times were are reminded of Colangelo's last job, do not be mistaken....we are, and will not become the Phoenix Suns of the East.
One thing is for sure, Bryan Colangelo has proven himself to be a great basketball mind. Although he has made mistakes along the way, his successes have definitely outnumbered the failures. The team he left behind in Phoenix is now battling it out with a tough Dallas team, the winner to make a bid for the Larry O'Brien trophy. To think all of this is being done without what were expected at seasons start to be two key contributors, Amare Stoudamire and Kurt Thomas, makes such a run equally as impressive. The factors contributing to this success are numerous, and there is much credit to go around. Colangelo obviously built a great team with players that can play a variety of positions, and at the same time has provided that city with one of the most entertaining products that the NBA has to offer. D'Antoni deserves much credit as he always seems to get the most out of his players, and obviously Steve Nash deserves a great portion of the credit as we all know the PG is an extension of the coach.
They built a formula for success and it works. Kudos to the Phoenix Suns.
As a Raptor fan, knowing that the maker of the Suns is now holding the destiny of OUR beloved franchise in his hands, we feel more comfortable than virtually any time in the past. We have a guy that can turn Joe Johnson into the Most Improved Player and a couple of picks. We have a guy that can turn perennial loser Stephon Marbury (all be it in a round-about way) into a two-time MVP. And what we really have is a guy that thinks outside the box and in doing so has been successful.
Now BC is TO's...or maybe TO is BC's? However you look at Colangelo coming to Toronto one thing needs to be made clear. Colangelo is not going to be looking to build Phoenix of the East. Will he be looking to build a winning franchise? Yes. Will he try to get some multi-faceted players who play various positions? Quite possibly. And will he continue to take risks and think outside the box? Of course. But will he try and replicate the 2006 Suns? Doubtful. And the reason is simple.....
Something needs to be made very clear before I proceed with this article. This is not a story of national pride. This is not the anti-Chris Broussard article in response to what he wrote in February:
I know it's hard, brothas. After all, this is our sport. It's one of the few areas of society that we dominate. Hip-hop, football, basketball and boxing (though Hispanics are coming on strong). They're ours, and we ain't trying to give them up.
But y'all have to look past that. You have to put your racial pride aside, ignore the sociological implications of this, and be honest: Steve Nash is the MVP.
I'm hearing Kobe, I'm hearing Chauncey, I'm hearing Elton Brand, LeBron and Dirk Nowitzki. But it's really a no-brainer. It's really not even close.
Nash deserves it again. I know this is a phrase usually reserved for brothas, but "that boy is bad.''
Knowing this my point is quite simple...regardless of skin color, or nationality, Nash really is a one of a kind at not only what he does, but at the level he does it at. In many ways he is one of a kind. Just look at the PG's in the league today, (or perhaps more importantly those that may or may not be available this off-season), and Nash really is a one of a kind. The Raps will never be the Suns simply because the Raps will never have Steve Nash. If the Suns are a well oiled machine, Nash is the ignition and the gas. Without him it simply wouldn't run. We all know what his characteristics and flaws are and I won't lead you down that well worn path...chances are you have been there many times. Knowing what you and I both know about Nash, in particular his uncanny ability to make those around him better, you must also know that comparisons to what Phoenix has and what Toronto should become are ludicrous and a complete non-starter.
So let's stop thinking about Phoenix (outside of watching them play) when it comes to building the franchise here in Toronto, and to a lesser degree let's stop thinking about trying to find a possible replica of Nash. Colangelo knows that now his job is to build around Toronto's best player... a multi-talented PF who can beat virtually any big man off the dribble, and who continues to expand his range and offensive repertoire. This is a totally different situation and who is to say that Bosh would succeed or reach his MAXIMUM potential in a Phoenix system even if it were possible to duplicate it? The Phoenix style of play, unlike Colangelo, will not be brought North of the border.
Instead, let's as fans, act like Colangelo and begin to think outside the box. Who says small-ball is now the only way to be successful? Or on the flip side, who says we need toughness in the centre? I am sure Colangelo, despite what he might say when the mics are placed in front of him, is thinking about things in this way. Am I sure he looks at Bosh and his primary side-kick, multi-talented big-man Charlie Villanueva (who by the way is just now starting to realize what sort of player he could become and whose production per dollar for the next three years will be tough to beat) and really is considering adding another 7 footer who can play the 3/4/5 to the mix in Bargnani or what some are calling another CB4 in Aldridge? No, but who says that this wrong? Isn't it possible that BC could once again be building something the NBA has never seen before? Find me another starting five with three guys over 6'10" who can all shoot from a great range, can all beat you off the dribble, can all run the floor, and can all succeed in the half-court? Whose to say this couldn't develop into a 55 win line-up even with a second-tier PG? This is only an example of what we, as Raps fans may need to prepare ourselves for. The possibilities are endless....well except that of actually becoming the Eastern rendition of the Suns.
Once fans can get over this idea that Colangelo can't simply turn orange and purple into black and red, then a more sensible conversation can be had as to what the focus of this franchise should or more importantly COULD be. Obviously, there will never be consensus, and the great comments we have received over the past few weeks in particular, is a reflection of that. Everyone has a different sense of what the Raps should do. Some say toughness, some say "pass-first", others say vets. When it comes to the draft, some say Thomas, others Aldridge and some say trade. I don't pretend to have all the answers...I do know however, that shifting focus from what is and has gone on in Phoenix to what is going on here in Toronto is a must. Colangelo is building around something that the Suns don't have...and that is multi-talented bigs. Let's just keep that in mind as the off-season moves forward.