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Picking up the Pieces in Cleveland and Toronto

The NBA now has a real-life version of NBA Jam...
The NBA now has a real-life version of NBA Jam...

With the LeBron James decision over, the Toronto Raptors can now attempt to move forward, but Franchise questions how that will be possible with Bryan Colangelo still steering the ship... 

I'll start this morning's post by saying that I'm not exactly sure how this jumble is going to come out.

Between last night's LeBron James madness and the Raptors' current drama, there are about a million things I want to touch on, and I'll try here to put them into some sort of cohesive form.

So let's start with Mr. James.

Yes, I did watch his little spectacle, but on re-run late last night on TSN2.  While part of me wants to say that I attempted to avoid watching the truth is, I had a wedding rehearsal dinner during the original broadcast, and when I returned from it and flipped on "The Decision," it was akin to a car wreck that I simply could not take my eyes off.  Like a Jersey Shore marathon, or Paris Hilton's My New BFF, I found myself sitting on the couch in disgust, yet unable to extricate myself from the proceedings.


-There was LeBron of all people talking about being "humbled" by the process, and coming off sounding more impossibly like a jerk than I could have ever dreamed.  My personal highlight was his reaction to the footage of his jersey being burned in Cleveland, where he immediately switched into Kanye West 3rd person mode saying "I can't get into that...I wanted to do what's best for LeBron James."

-There was ESPN's team of Stu Scott and co doing their best to not COMPLETELY come off sounding like LeBron's lapdogs (seriously, why is Jon Barry an "expert" in these matters, he was a career role player)

-There was obligatory yet painful camera footage of the reaction in both Miami and Cleveland after James' announcement aka, "sure ESPN, drive the knife in a bit deeper will ya?"

-And anyone else find it ironic that "The Decision" was sponsored by Bing, who like LeBron recently teamed up with a former top competitor (Yahoo) when it realized it couldn't take down the top squad (Google) alone?


Afterwards, I was left with a mixture of emotions (unlike Cavs' owner Dan Gilbert.)

For starters, how anyone can chear for this Miami team aside from original Miami fans is beyond me.  To do so would be the pinnacle of "bandwagonism" and I'm guessing said person is also a fan of other manufactured acts like The Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and Auto-Tune.

That being said, part of me was undeniably excited about the James-Wade-Bosh combo.

It's simply so fantastic and ridiculous a scenario that I can't help but be curious to see how it turns out.  I mean, this is a video game, and every single team in the NBA, especially the likes of the Magic, Celtics and Lakers etc, will be gunning hard for these guys and they're going to need to bring it every night, no question.

And on its own, has anything like this ever happened in the history of pro sports?  The Celtics big 3 was an impressive feat, however that was put together thanks to some shrewd moves by Boston's GM, combined with a desperate franchise on the brink of relocating (Seattle) and a perfect storm of team stupidity (Minnesota) and team apathy (Chicago - which had a shot at KG and blew it.)

As well, if this team doesn't win a title in the next few seasons, how is this then not one of the most collossal failures of all time?  It already speaks volumes that James picked Miami, choosing to be a hanger-on rather than Jordan or Bird-esque leader of a club.

The true greats get stars to come play with them.

James has seemingly shrugged his shoulders in a "if you can't beat'em, might as well join'em" type of way.

And even with James now joining Bosh and Wade, does this guarantee a title?  Not necessarily as the Wages of Wins' David Berri points out.  People forget that teams like the Houston Rockets have attempted such a move in the past (Olajuwon, Drexler, Barkley) and injuries and lack of support from rest of teammates have done them in.

Now James, Bosh and Wade are all playing in their primes, so hopefully this won't be the same issue.

But as Raptors' fans, we know that Bosh is hardly the most durable player in the league, and Wade too has battled injury issues in the past.

And let's turn to the Raptors now.

The other immediate emotion I felt was one of disdain for Bryan Colangelo.

Yes, I've been quite critical of Toronto's GM over the past year-and-a half or so, but it was always a rationale "if A then B" situation.  Last night though, I simply wanted him gone.

Beyond his dealings with the Bosh situation, the recent Johnson and Kleiza signings, Hedo, Bargnani, etc, etc, last night was the first time it really hit me that Bosh was gone.  Not that I think Bosh is on-par with James or Wade, or that this team and city are ground zero ala Cleveland for the next half decade. 

However watching clips of Bosh on ESPN tugged at the old heart strings just a bit.

This was "our guy," a truly unique talent, one that had nothing but good things to say about Toronto and who gave his all on and off the court the vast majority of the time.

Maybe he wasn't Vince Carter in terms of putting Toronto on the map, but maybe that's why to me he was even bigger; you always got the feeling that Carter would bolt but with Bosh, there was a great chance he'd stick around provided the right pieces were in place.

Not only did Bryan Colangelo not find those pieces, but he also now continues to preach that he did all the right things at the time, and looking back, essentially wouldn't change a thing.

Listening to him talk to the media yesterday was frankly unbelievable.

A year ago by not trading Chris Bosh, Colangelo embarked on the riskiest of poker games and simply lost.  Yes, maybe Chris cut off communication etc but wasn't that always a possibility?  BC is acting like his hands were tied, there was nothing he could have done.  He even went so far as to say that even if the Raptors had cap space this off-season, would anything have changed?


So smartly making a play for other free agents wasn't an option?  Regardless of how you feel about Drew Gooden and Corey Maggette, wasn't that the type of strategy employed by the Bucks?

And are you telling me Bryan that if you hadn't done a better job evaluating talent and collecting future assets that attracting another free-agent to play with Bosh (say a Rudy Gay or Joe Johnson) wasn't even an option? 

Above everything, do you want your club's General Manager to even think like that?

Now fans are left with the worst-case scenario I've been dreading for quite some time; a team that needs to start over yet that refuses to do so.

Colangelo said as much yesterday:

"I can’t tank..." "I’m about competing and winning. I don’t plan to lose. That won’t happen as long as I’m here."

Sorry Bryan, but if you look at your record in Toronto, you have been losing since you've been here.

Perhaps not as much as your predecessor...

...but your predecessor also didn't faciliate the creation of a real life version of NBA Jam.