After summarizing the events of yesterday's Media Session last night, Raptors HQ turns to the big fish, Bryan Colangelo and his promises of a "fresh start..."
These were examples of some of the numbers I heard thrown around by the various media in attendance at yesterday's annual Raptors Media Day when prognosticating the upcoming Dino season.
Not exactly cheery estimates.
This was all off-camera and off the record of course, more banter between rival scribes, many of whom hadn't seen each other in months off the Raptors' beat, yet a good gauge of how most view the 2010-11 version of the Toronto Raptors.
It even got to the point that at the conclusion of his talk with us, Bryan Colangelo turned to a couple of the aforementioned scribes and urged them to "write something positive."
is this what the former Legomaster has been reduced to?
Begging the Toronto media to cut him some slack?
It's difficult to fathom that the once heralded saviour of the franchise is now being viewed in this negative light but when he spoke yesterday of Bargnani taking a big step forward again this year, it was hard not to see the collective eye-roll from all gathered.
The magic folks has worn off.
That being said, the talk with Bryan Colangelo is one of my favourite parts of any Raptors' media event. As you can see from the clip on Raptors.com, BC has this politician approach to speaking and whether you agree with what he says or not, it's pretty hard not to at least get sucked into listening to what he has to say. In fact, while I found myself doing an eye roll myself at some of his points, I stayed right to the end of his dissertation, even talking to him one-on-one a bit after.
The question for me the past couple of seasons has been, how much of a salesman is he as opposed to a good GM. Recently he's been all salesman I'd argue, even going so far as to discuss yesterday the great "assets" the team got back for Chris Bosh, and how the team is in a "completely different financial position going forward," one with "financial flexibility", and no longer being held hostage with big contracts.
You mean the "assets" you were forced to take and the same "big contracts" that you brought on Bryan?
Of course he's got to emphasize the improved financial situation and "feeling a lot better" about the things in that respect. There's not much on-the-court to emphasize at this point in time but you can be sure that if Linas Kleiza has a break-out season (he already labeled him yesterday as a big improvement over Hedo Turkoglu) we'll hear about that until the cows come home.
It's also the reason both he and Jay Triano quite frequently yesterday talked about the positive impact of losing Chris Bosh.
Aaah, the old reverse psychology!
In fact you got the feeling from talking to Bryan, Jay and others yesterday, that Bosh was the problem last season and the reason the team didn't win 50 games!
He held the ball too long on offence, limited opportunities for other players, was unhappy and definitely wasn't a leader. In fact Colangelo went so far as to say that he "couldn't tell you who the leader on this club was last year," but that he "knew who the leading scorer was..."
So essentially by losing Bosh, other members of the team can now step up and as Colangelo put it, "we'll find out what the rest of the players can do." This is especially true of players like Weems and DeRozan (who BC loved to note had just turned 21) and of course Andrea Bargnani. BC is as high on Bargs as ever and said that Andrea will be able to step out of "the shadow of Chris," and there will be a "lot more opportunity now to score and express himself on the court."
As we noted many a time this off-season, statistically even with Bosh, Andrea got a great amount of touches last season and had a pretty high usage rate. I'm not sure where this huge increase in offensive opportunities is going to come from, and it scares me to think about him doing more "expressing" on the court.
Colangelo also emphasized Andrea's great off-season, especially in terms of being the leader on his national team and spending more time in the post. From the clips we saw this summer, he did indeed look more comfortable down low, which is great, but it's still a bit of a "wait and see" scenario in terms of how much he applies this to his NBA game.
The thing is, as negative as this post sounds to this point, I actually came away from yesterday's session encouraged, unlike most of my media counterparts.
Do I think Colangelo screwed things up royally over the past two seasons regarding numerous transactions?
And do I think this team is in for a rocky time this season?
However this is the season this team needed two years ago I'd argue. The blinders are now off, and there's no defending certain acquisitions any more. Bryan Colangelo loves to focus on what could have been, even going so far yesterday as reaffirming his belief that last year's squad was a "50 win team" based on the talent he had assembled, but he won't be able to do that this time around.
If this team wins 25 matches all season, that's all she wrote.
If Andrea fails to get to the 8 rebound mark or fails to significantly advance his overall game without Bosh hanging around, there she be.
And with second year being almost always the point in which we see future NBA wingmen studs take off, all eyes will be on DeRozan, and even Sonny Weems considering this in many ways is his sophomore swing at the bat.
So I'll let most of the other Toronto press print the obituaries this morning. (Especially incorrect ones like this - sorry Jeff but Bryan was talking about Kleiza's performance at the World's, not DeRozan's in Vegas.)
I think we'll see a club next year that will at least be entertaining, and I'm excited to see just what tricks Jay Triano has up his sleeve. I was pretty down on him as an NBA bench-boss by the end of last season, but talking to him yesterday I got the feeling that he's grown by leaps and bounds thanks to both last season and the off-season experience of working with the likes of Coach K and Nate MacMillan with Team USA.
Whether that will mean a team that wins 30 games as opposed to 25 is yet to be seen but Triano and co. are enjoying playing the underdog role. I asked Jay if he felt the pressure on him was lessened this season now that the Bosh situation had been resolved, Hedo had moved on, etc, and while his statement of "never feeling the pressure" was a bit ridiculous, he went on at length about how the team would use the critics' views as motivation this season and therefore they were one of the teams with the least amount of pressure or expectations placed on them.
Colangelo even likened this season to his first year here in Toronto when the team was supposed to finish 12th in the East. Yet they not only had a top five playoff ranking but won their division.
Most importantly though, this season represents a "fresh approach," both from coaches and management and let's hope that's true.
"The worst thing that could have happened is us coming back to camp with the same miserable faces" said Colangelo, "and having lost Chris Bosh and being in an unknown there because now you're talking about having some pretty expensive hand-cuffs on."
"Now we're talking about a newness, there's a bright light out there, there's some good, young, enthusiastic talent that's ready to take the court, and I think the one thing we can promise is, without a star-centric system, there's no one to defer to."
It's just too bad this "fresh start" didn't occur two seasons earlier...