The general manager has been fired, the coach may be on his way out as well, and as for the rest of the Toronto Raptors, they’ve been downright awful for the past two weeks despite playing for their playoff lives.
With their fading postseason hopes all but dashed, the Raptors will be playing mostly for pride, and maybe even for coach Kevin O’Neill’s job, when they host the playoff-bound Milwaukee Bucks.
Toronto pulled within a game of eighth place in the Eastern Conference after a wild 121-120 overtime victory in New Orleans on March 21. But the Raptors have lost six straight since, a skid that has resulted in the firing of longtime general manager Glen Grunwald on Thursday and added to speculation that O’Neill could be next.
“If you ask them, every one them is assuming that I’m going to be fired after all the articles that have come out,” O’Neill said of the widespread media speculation regarding his job security.
“Unfortunately, it puts those guys in a tough position because they don’t really know or have a feeling for who they’re going to playing for in their minds. I don’t know what my situation is going to end up being. That’s something we’ll deal with at the end of the year. But the players are the ones I feel bad for.”
All-Star Vince Carter, who scored 20 points in Friday’s 84-64 loss to conference-leading Indiana, is still holding out hope that the Raptors can make a push for the playoffs. Toronto sits 4 1/2 games out of the eighth spot with seven games remaining.
“We’ve got seven games left, if I’m not mistaken, and it has to get done if we want to make it to our second season,” Carter said. “We’ve got to turn it around.”
Despite a lackluster March, the Bucks opened April with an important 107-89 win over Cleveland. Michael Redd scored 13 of his 23 points during the third quarter as Milwaukee moved back to .500 and climbed into the fourth spot in the East. Only the top four teams in each conference qualify for home-court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.
The Bucks and Raptors will meet again in the regular season finale for both teams April 14 at Milwaukee.
STANDINGS (through April 2): Bucks - 3rd place, 18 GB, Central Division. Raptors - 6th place, 25 1/2 GB, Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Bucks - Redd, 21.7 ppg; Smith, 8.5 rpg; T.J. Ford, 6.5 apg. Raptors - Carter, 22.6 ppg; Marshall, 9.5 rpg; Rose, 4.9 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Bucks, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 23; Bucks, 98-86. At Milwaukee, Carter returned from a three-game absence due to a quadriceps strain, but managed just eight points on 4-of-12 shooting for Toronto as Redd smothered him on the defensive end while putting up just 10 points himself.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Bucks - 12-26 on the road; Raptors - 17-20 at home.