February 15, 2011
This would be an instance of kicking a guy when he's down, but Toronto Raptors boss Bryan Colangelo has a contract that is about to expire and he needs both the Raptors organization and its fans to understand he would like to keep running the team. If you wouldn't mind.
And while Colangelo doesn't "want to be accused of negotiating through the media," adding that "he won't," he actually will. And you can't blame the guy, because it would be nice to run a team like the Raptors, and in a city like Toronto.
The Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons sat down recently with Colangelo for a question-and-answer session, and it should be pointed out that the following back and forth came before Bryan pointed out he doesn't want to be accused of negotiating through the media, which makes sense, because nobody wants to be accused of something they're actually doing, unless they're doing it right.
Q: This is Year 16 for the Raptors and Toronto and while the team has had some promising seasons, it has never been an NBA contender. Do you foresee the day Toronto contends for a championship or are the Raptors doomed to being a franchise on the fringe?
A: Absolutely not doomed. This franchise will be fine because it has an ownership committed to winning, a dedicated and passionate fan base and Toronto ranks as one of the elite cities in North America. Couple all of that with a shifting landscape where competitive parity remains a key objective and I think this franchise is poised, not poisoned.
Nothing about the team's players, mind you. Just reminding the fans that they're great, that the city is great, that his bosses are great and what a great audience! Go and give yourself a big round of applause!
As with most franchises on the fringe, bad luck and bad moves have relegated this group to the outside. It has nothing to do with the city (and what a dedicated and passionate city it is!) or the team's history. It has everything to do with having cap space in a very bad summer for free agents (2009) and having the top draft pick in what was a pretty terrible draft in 2006. Bad luck, there, especially when you realize the Chicago Bulls were in the same boat (same draft, cap space in a bad offseason in 2006), and yet they were able to pull out of that muck by lucking into Derrick Rose(notes) in the 2008 draft.
The Raptors have had no such luck, and they've made their situation worse by committing to top pick Andrea Bargnani(notes) without even giving him the chance to try to earn some scratch as a restricted free agent. Bargs' defense and rebounding woes make him a sixth man-type on a very good team, or perhaps a starter alongside a, well, Bill Russell- or Wilt Chamberlain-type. But as a franchise guy? Your franchise is lost.
And the Raptors are lost. Maybe not poisoned, but certainly not poised. The team has lost 16 of 18 contests, and though it will have a lottery pick to work with this summer and as little as $40 million on the books for 2011-12 (if the team declines to sign Julian Wright(notes), Sonny Weems(notes) and Joey Dorsey(notes)), this guarantees very little. The NBA's salary cap could vault way, way down before the offseason eventually starts, and all indications point to a very weak draft. Sadly, Colangelo has seen this before.
Assuming he's around. Though he rankles quite a few in NBA circles, Colangelo's time with the team hasn't been completely miserable. He just hasn't put together a very good team. Not the biggest NBA offense, to be sure, but certainly nothing to try and sell your fans on as you hand a person like Colangelo a contract extension.
That's the nice way of putting it. The hard thing to point out is that, as much as we like the people on this Raptors team, there's nothing there.
It's an offense-first team that is 22nd in offense. A defense-last team that would be last in the NBA in defense were it not for the once-in-a-decade season we're seeing in Cleveland. Bargs is clearly limited -- he's not keeping this team in games -- and there is nobody else on that roster with a ceiling worth drooling over. I appreciate DeMar DeRozan's(notes) strides in his second year, Amir Johnson(notes) has cut the fouling and played well, and Ed Davis(notes) is a keeper up front, but these aren't the things that contract extensions are made of.
So, no, the Raptors haven't been "poisoned," to use Colangelo's word. And he can't be blamed because Chris Bosh(notes) was more of a follower than a leader (and what player in their right mind wouldn't want to follow LeBron James(notes) and Dwyane Wade(notes)?). But at the very best the Raptors are where they were five years ago when he took over. And that's ignoring the team's winning percentage in 2005-06 (.329) and this season (.273).
Considering the fact that the organization thought of the time surrounding Colangelo's 2006 hire as a bit of a low point, this cannot be considered something worth sustaining, can it? We're poised to find out soon.