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3 In the Key – Toronto Raptors Game-Day Preview vs. Wizards

If Bosh needs to go, Franchise would love to see this guy come back in return.

If Bosh needs to go, Franchise would love to see this guy come back in return.

It’s hard to believe that tonight’s match was originally scheduled to be an ESPN must-see game.

Raptors vs. Wizards in April, a battle between two teams expected to be fighting it out for one of the top seeds in the East.

Arenas vs. Calderon

Jamisone vs. Bosh

Songaila vs. Kapono

Talk about sports drama at its finest!

However as we all know, this game instead is probably a good representation of two teams that fans look at and say "what happened?"

The Raptors sit at 30 and 48 while the Wizards, 18 and 61. Health issues have obviously played major roles in the issues both clubs have had this season, but if you rewound the clock to October, I’m not sure you could find a single NBA follower who would have predicted the struggles both teams have undergone this year – hence the ESPN scheduling.

Of course once it became quite apparent that both teams were hardly going to be challenging each other for anything other than the right to draft Blake Griffin, ESPN pulled the plug on televising this match-up and once again, fans are stuck with TSN2. Sunday’s game against Philly represents (hopefully) the end of this TSN2 fiasco but it’s extremely important that as fans we don’t allow this to happen again next season.

So for those who haven’t signed it yet, I point you in the direction of one of our readers, Tom, who has set-up a petition online to have TSN2 put on Rogers.

Raptors’ Nation carries a lot of weight at times so my hope, and obviously Tom’s as well, is that with enough digital signatures, MLSE gets the idea that next year, perhaps showing the bulk of the team’s games on a channel a huge percentage of their core fan-base doesn’t have access to, isn’t such a smart thing.

Moving on to tonight’s game, I’m not sure there’s a huge amount of game footage or statistical information to break down in terms of preparation or "keys." Toronto gave up 130 points for the third time this season against Indy while Washington managed only 86 in a loss to the Cavs.

Yep, this one has all the ingredients for an instant Easter classic.

I expect (and hope I might add) to see a lot of Ukic, Douby, O’Bryant, Mensah-Bonsu etc and I expect to see similar fringe players getting lots of minutes for Washington as well.

Will Andrea or Gilbert play?

At this point no one’s said one way or another so both may be game-time decisions.

The bigger interest for me going into this game, is if GM’s Bryan Colangelo and Ernie Grunfeld decide to sit down and talk about their teams’ respective futures. While I’d prefer for BC to find a way to hold onto Bosh and Bargs and make things work financially, as we’ve discussed time and time again, the reality is that one of them is probably going to have to go and if that’s Bosh, why not move him to Washington? As long as he assures the Wiz that he’d re-sign, I can’t see why this scenario, in particular if the Wizards land Blake Griffin, doesn’t make a huge amount of sense for both clubs.

Washington gets Bosh (and rids themselves of Banks or Kapono), Toronto gets the top pick (Griffin) to fill in at the 4 and Caron Butler (a huge boost at the 2-3, especially on the defensive end). To make things work financially, Toronto would have to take on another $10 Million or so in salary so perhaps that means the ridiculous contract of Etan Thomas, and then maybe Songaila or someone else in that price range. Thomas’ deal however expires after next season and another "big," one that loves to mix it up down low, certainly wouldn’t hurt considering how soft this bunch is. Perhaps Toronto even tosses in their first-rounder this year to complete the deal.

In any event, for a Wizards team desperately seeking a low-post presence, with an up-and-comer like Nick Young at the 2-3, and having a ton of money committed to its perimeter players, something has to give and my hope is that BC and EG are on the phone as we speak.

Last night on Hoops on RaptorsTV and the Fan590, I called in to discuss not so much moving Bosh to Washington or other parts, but the dilemma that Colangelo faces financially regarding his two prime pieces of real estate moving forward. I wanted to hear Eric Smith and Paul Jones’ take on the whole affair and it started a great discussion about "what options BC has." While there was no clear-cut answer, the consensus was that there are still just too many moving pieces now; from whether Bosh still even wants to be here, or for that matter if he’ll even acknowledge that to Colangelo this off-season, to even if he does want to remain a Raptor, will he take less money to make things work.

One point made by Paul Jones in response to my query that I found extremely interesting was that while everyone assumes that Toronto would be averse to paying the luxury tax, what about "going over the tax to keep superior talent, and gaining ancillary revenue via increased playoff dates, merchandise, etc etc?" It’s an interesting approach that the Raptors, which still boast one of the best fan-bases in the league even in troubled times, may want to consider.

Of course the team would need to win, and as Eric so aptly put it, can you have half your payroll invested with three guys should the cap drop (Bosh, Bargs and Calderon) when the team has won only 30 games?

The other option if not, is moving Bargs, who admittedly is the team’s best trading chip right now.

He’s still improving, has a very reasonable salary considering his upside, and is a multi-talented big-man, something that teams around the league covet.

One of our readers liked the idea of moving Andrea along with Kapono to Golden State (a popular destination in rumours as well for Bosh), taking back Crawford, Azubuike and thus enabling BC to waive Marion and Graham. The overhaul wouldn’t stop there though and the eventual roster would have looked something like this:

C: Channing Frye/ Pops Mensah-Bonsu/ Nathan Jawai
PF: Chris Bosh/ Marcus Haislip/ Kris Humpries/
SF: Quinton Ross/ Draft Pick/
SG: Jamal Crawford/ Kelenna Azubuike/ Roko Ukic
PG: Jose Calderon/ Anthony Parker/ Marcus Banks

It’s an interesting premise and while I’m not exactly a big Marcus Haislip or Channing Frye fan, our reader’s point is that while Bargnani has shown flashes of greatness, and has been quite good for the past little while, Bosh is the known commodity. So why not move the piece that has the biggest upside and value to enable the greatest return?

Earlier this season I viewed things in that light but as Andrea has developed, I’m not so sure I’d look to move him over Bosh. However you slice it though, it’s obviously not an easy question to answer, and the Raptors’ management is definitely in an unenviable position this summer.

Unbelievably now, that summer is only four games away.

Which considering the loss to Indiana, and the opponents the rest of the way, is probably a blessing right now for Raptors’ fans, even those with TSN2.