It's been a bitter year as fans and the team look back and see that this team just didn't have enough to be competitive down the stretch. With the Raptors now eliminated and the team and its fans obviously on the outside looking in, Vicious D puts his sights on Bryan Colangelo and the management team that has failed on so many levels.
This season has been a tough one folks.
I won't lie to you. Between emergencies of our own making thanks to drama in our own lives and changes coming to our way of living, the HQ staff have had a long battle to cover this team. There's no doubt we had a sense of optimism back on media day when Bryan Colangelo so famously talked about this team being a possible "50 win" team and how confident he was in this group being able to do great things.
It was just very reminiscent of a speech a certain US president gave many years ago about the Iraq War.
For many fans, they gave this team tons of chances while it still looked numerically possible for the Raptors to get into the playoffs. There were times when we, Raptors HQ, gave this team lots of rope because we thought this team was just needing time to develop chemistry, adjust to injuries, or adjust to each other. I thought that I would trust the experts of the Raptors staff since they were so confident in this team and what it could accomplish in a short amount of time. My worries about all the long term, high paying contracts seemed to be far in the back of my mind as we hoped this team would overcome and surprise as that magical 2006-2007 team did many moons ago.
Now this campaign has just about the same bad feeling as the US invasion of Iraq. We have no exit strategy, and we're now mired in contracts and have locked up players who give us no chance at turning things around quickly.
The stated goal was to make this team tougher and I guess you can say that this team is in certain ways tougher than last year. But then again, last year's team was just about as tough as a box of kittens (Jermaine O'Neal, Chris Bosh, and Shawn Marion being the exceptions). And while Bryan Colangelo made moves in the off season to fix this issue, here we are lamenting about this team's toughness yet again at the end of the year.
Underneath that goal was the not-so-hidden goal of retaining the services of one Chris Bosh. Arguably the Raptors best franchise player, and undoubtedly the best franchise player-leader, Chris Bosh's impending free agency meant that Bryan Colangelo had to create an environment where Chris Bosh was comfortable in and was willing to sign a long-term contract with. He had to win the heart and mind of Chris Bosh so that the people of
Toronto Canada would greet the Raptors as our pride and joy instead of hanging our heads in shame.
We at the HQ have been highly critical of this team because of all of these goals and more. We've talked about mortgaging the future for the present, but even the present has never been great. We've talked about managing the salary cap because in the future, tying down your team with long, expensive contracts is going to make it extremely difficult to turn the truck after it's barreling down the highway at 200 km/h and fully loaded. Heck, we've even talked about lineup changes that needed to be made in order to make this team more competitive.
And we've done all of this without using our press passes for the majority of the year.
Instead, we looked at what needed to happen to make this year a successful one and were left shaking our heads at the choices made in the summer. Myself, I took it on blind faith that just maybe things would work out despite my skepticism. Instead, almost every single fear became realized as every single point, save one, was left unaccomplished.
1) Draft someone who can help now because we need all hands on deck to support Chris Bosh so that he'll want to stay.
No offense to DeMar DeRozan, but projecting a guy to be effective for the team in two, three years does nothing to improve this team immediately. There may even be a time in the near future where we can say DeMar was the correct long term choice. But was he worth it if he comes at the expense of losing Chris Bosh? Was his development for the majority of the year worth it if it cost us games that could have propped up our win-loss record so we could get into the playoffs? Now that we've seen that we were one game out of the playoffs, it's decisions like this which have really plagued the team. In all of our minds at the HQ, picking DeRozan and sticking with him in the starting lineup for most of the year was a complete failure for accomplishing the immediate needs of this team.
2) Hire a coach who would making winning his sole priority.
You may have some patriotic feelings towards Jay Triano. I certainly do. But for all his qualities, his one biggest flaw was his unwillingness to do whatever was necessary to win. Tactically, Jay Triano has been quite good for most of the year, but strategically, he has been a nightmare. From ignoring advanced statistics to playing to player's egos, Coach Triano may have been a diplomat (how Canadian!) in his approach, but there is no doubt he cost the Raptors many wins. Who cares if a few egos get bruised after the halfway point in a season? This is a job, and if you don't perform, you should be demoted or have your minutes cut.
Instead, Jay Triano insisted on maintaining status quo, whether it be at the point guard position, or with how he has handled Hedo Turkoglu. There's only one guy at the end of the day, who could have put his foot down on the whole Jarrett Jack-Jose Calderon combo lineup that has cost us numerous leads over the course of the season. There's only one guy who threw his hands up in the air in helplessness and announced that there were only so many changes he could make to this team, only to have injuries force his hand and change his lineup for him, thus proving what we in the independent press have been saying for months.
There's only one guy to blame for mishandling this team and costing us any hope of getting into the playoffs.
3) Get a free agent who was high impact and could solve some of the Raptor deficiencies including, but not limited to rebounding.
You can have Bargnani and Bosh playing at the four and five. It's not that big of a deal. Bosh will get you a lot of rebounds, and on most nights, Bargnani will at least box out his man. However, you better put in someone who is going to assist Bosh with rebounding at the small forward position. Instead, Bryan Colangelo decides to grab Hedo Turkoglu, a guy whose claim to rebounding comes from the fact that he's tall for his position. Spending the majority of his cap space and overpaying a player who had many warning signs that he would under perform in a Raptors jersey, the Raptors got a player who was redundant to many positions.
Put it to you this way. Hedo Turkoglu's best claims to fame were his 3-point shooting, his overall play making ability, and his ability to get assists. His supporters point out his assists and (meager) rebounding statistics as proof positive that he's doing something on the court.
But let me ask you this: Were the 2008-2009 Raptors lacking in a point guard who had turnover issues and couldn't pass the ball? Were the Raptors of yesteryear deficient in scoring the long ball? Instead, Hedo Turkoglu is a piece that covers areas which we were already strong at, which is exactly why he doesn't get the touches he wants and isn't the focus on the offensive side of things that he so readily complains about.
And as for rebounding? Turkoglu averaged about half of what Shawn Marion managed to pull down in 27 games with the Raptors.
4) Fill the roster with stronger talent from spots 6-12
Perhaps the only thing that was accomplished with any success over the summer was the fact that Bryan Colangelo managed to get Sonny Weems, Antoine Wright, Amir Johnson, and Jarrett Jack to fill out those final roster spots. Let's also keep in mind that two of these players finally became effective starters down the stretch due to injuries, another has become a constant in the bigs rotation and has filled in amicably for Chris Bosh in his absence, and the final has become a challenger for a starter position (and quite frankly, deserves it). Is that an indictment of how this roster is built? I certainly think so.
5) Fill out the coaching staff with people who would be able to create a winning atmosphere and provide a clear philosophy.
This is not a knock against Micah Nori or Alvin Williams. Those two have done a great job with Sonny Weems and DeMar DeRozan for most of the year.
But I am calling out the Raptors for continuing with Alex English and hiring Marc Iavaroni as their defense coach. While Alex English has shown that he has a good idea about how he runs his offense, we have not seen any of the hard pick and rolls that were hinted at from day one. We haven't even seen any of the Raptors pick and slash, or do anything to create space so that they can attack the hoop. Instead, we've got another year of the Raptors taking jump shots down the stretch when everyone in the arena knows where the ball has to go. Of course, it doesn't help when your next best free throw attempts per minute outside of Bosh are coming from bench guys who aren't seeing any daylight, but that's an argument for another article.
Marc Iavaroni, while he may very well be a nice guy (seems to be the only prerequisite to become a coach for the Raptors) has never proved he was a defensive guru. Not with the Phoenix Suns who always were intent on out shooting an opponent and not with the Memphis Grizzlies where he was routinely outmatched by just about every single team in the NBA. Why you would put such a coach in charge of your defense in arguably your most important season with defense being an issue for the past three years is beyond me.
I started out writing out about by equating how the executive branch of the US has misled the public during the Bush-Iraq campaign with our own executive staff of the Raptors. We were all lead to believe that this year, things would be different. We were sold on some goods thanks to some "bad intelligence" and ironically enough, the media also became overly protective of the organization that they should have been criticizing. There were some detractors, a lot of blogs who were critical, but by large, the mainstream media was not critical of this team until it was too late.
For those that still defend this year as being a bad year due to injuries and how no one was able to predict what this team would do, I would ask you this: Who have the Raptors hired to put this team together, who is ultimately the person responsible for making sure that they are the basketball expert who is supposed to know more than everyone else in the room, and is being paid millions for that expertise?
That's the person who has gotten us into this mess and who should know better.