We're less than a week out until the end of the season, and we at the HQ have been discussing a lot about what the Raptors need this summer. Just going by an unofficial checklist, we've got:
1) Figure out the coaching situation, which includes the assistant coaches
2) Plan for the Salary Cap (including a possible decrease) and upcoming CBA issues
3) Move some contracts for useful pieces
4) Negotiate with players to get some of them back at reasonable cost
5) Inject new blood via the draft free agency
6) Figure out Chris Bosh's future plans
It's enough to make any seasoned GMs' head spin.
While a lot of people are putting emphasis on Chris Bosh's future, I'm much more interested in the smaller moves that Colangelo will make over the summer. I think figuring out what BC is going to do with players such as Shawn Marion, Jason Kapono, Joey Graham and Kris Humphries will be team-defining for the Raptors moving forward. They're the players and adjustments that can determine the future outlook of your team and will be the indicators about solutions to the so-called identity crisis we've seen the Raptors incur over the past year. It is also in these small moves that GMs really earn their stripes.
And so far, Colangelo has had a series of missteps and bad luck in the past two years with just about every mid-level-to-small move he's made.
So what I'm looking for from Bryan Colangelo this summer has got to be decisions that he will make according to his and his head coach's philosophy. Gone should be the days where it seemed as if there were certain players brought in for the benefit of Sam Mitchell's tough, smash-mouth philosophy, and others to run Colangelo's finesse run-and-gun style. In this off season, I fully expect there to be a cohesive philosophy in every move that Colangelo makes. Whether it be good or bad, every decision will be solely his responsibility as the last conflicting voice has left the building.
So in this final home game, what can we expect from the Raptors?
I'm sure that there will be many conflicting emotions. After such a disappointing season, the game the Raptors have dubbed "Fanapolooza" will undoubtedly cause mixed reactions; if the Raptors lose, or put in a sub-par effort, will the crowd boo? If they win, will some in the crowd boo anyway because of the draft implications? Heck, some of us at the HQ have been speculating that this could possibly be the last game for Chris Bosh as a Raptor. Toss in a public address to the fans, and the game might have some interesting moments.
So here we go, our last 3 In the Key for the last home game of the season 2008-2009:
1) Got an Injury? Rest -
I'm sure it'll be looked upon as being bad form for resting impact players in a "Fanapolooza" game, but the long term reasons have to outweigh the short term. If Bargnani's got a bum ankle, we've already seen what happened to his shot and form last year when he tried to play. And Pops Mensah-Bonsu? He simply cost the Raptors a few possessions Friday night despite his energy and enthusiasm. I'm sure the last thing any Raptors fan wants to read about is how Bargnani blew out his ACL in the final game of the year and how Pops Mensah-Bonsu tore a tendon his hand and needs major surgery. Show up for the game, do some nice stuff for the fans, but don't play if it means risking further injury.
2) Fight Big -
Without Bargnani and Mensah-Bonsu, the 76ers might just have their way with the Raptors interior. Especially since Samuel Dalembert and Reggie Evans have both completely decimated the Raptors interior in recent match-ups. It'll be up to guys like Joey Graham, Shawn Marion, Jake Voskuhl, and Patrick O'Bryant to show some of the grit that we saw a little over a week ago. Otherwise, the 76ers will simply overrun the Raptors from the inside and get an overwhelming amount of 2nd chance opportunities.
3) Token Defense -
I've got to hand it to the Raptors. I can't even ask them to play good defense at this point, but simply average defense will do. Make Philly a jump-shooting team and just take your chances. Sure, if Philly shoots over 50% with hands in their faces, it just wasn't meant to be. But can we at least see SOME sort of restriction placed on Philly's offense? Too often this season, it's felt like the Raptors were playing 5 on 4 rather than 5 on 5, and that all comes down to determination. If Toronto loses this game, but plays some adequate defense, will I pull out my hair? I don't think so, and I don't think fans should either.
On a final note, for a season filled with so many disappointments, I have to say that it's impressive that the Raptors have maintained such a strong attendance. Even with inflated numbers, the fans have continued to show their support for the team, and in a season where there is little to cheer about, knowing that the community is still healthy and strong is very satisfying to me.
Just think if BC can get things turned around this off-season!