The Changing Of This Season
In recent days I wrote a column wondering why, with all that has befallen the Raptors in recent seasons, none of the blame ever seemed to fall Bryan Colangelo's way.
Well, it's pretty clear that is no longer the case. The general manager is squarely under the gun now, with pretty much everyone wondering how much longer he can last as the boss of this dreadful basketball team, one that is now also battling some significant injuries.
Well, in the long term, he probably can't.
This season is gone gone. Unless you look at the collection of bodies now under the guidance of Dwane Casey and see a finish of 10-15 games over .500 during the remaining 59 games, there is no playoff berth waiting as some imagined there would be at season's start.
Much more likely is a finish among the bottom three teams in the league, and given that the first rounder given up for Kyle Lowry (now owned by Oklahoma City) will be lost if the Raps finish higher than that but still out of the post-season, there's reason to stay down.
More to the point, this season now (already) has to be all about next season and beyond, obviously a refrain long-suffering Raptor fans have been hearing for some time and of which they are undoubtedly sick.
It's no longer about Colangelo and whether Casey can coach and whether Andrea Bargnani can be the franchise player.
By next fall, there's a pretty good chance none of those three will be here. If we're looking at a 20-25 win season, it will be next to impossible for Colangelo and Casey to survive. Bargnani will almost certainly be traded.
So this season, instead of being about trying to scratch out a playoff berth, has to be about developing young players to position the team for future seasons.
So it's about Ed Davis - pretty darn good against Brooklyn in a breakthrough-type performance the other night - and Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross. And DeMar Derozan. Its about trying to position that group so sometime in the post-Bargnani era at least three of the four can be legitimate NBA starters, as opposed to guys who start because there's no one better or because they were first round picks.
The notion of trading any of these four to get better now, even if you don't necessarily love them, is absurd. Moreover, the trading of Bargnani as a means of affecting immediate improvement doesn't make much sense, either, because the moving up three or four slots in the conference will only ensure the team loses that first round pick.
It's not a great draft, the experts say, but a top 3 pick is a top 3 pick. So Bargnani for youth and/or expiring contracts is probably the play. Or waiting until the off-season. This pie-in-the-sky Pau Gasol scenario would be truly pointless.
The danger, of course, is that Colangelo will see other objectives as more compatible with his short-term future. He met with the MLSE board on Thursday and undoubtedly outlined his battle plan. In the past, MLSE has been reluctant, whether with hockey or basketball, to go down the path of tanking a season, but if there ever was a season to go down that path, this is probably it.
There's no real point to firing Colangelo now, other than to stop him doing things that would help the team get significantly better now. He built this mess, he shouldn't be permitted any quick fixes just to put a bowtie on a pig.
There's just not much to be gained even if this team were to sharply correct its current tailspin and even go .500 the rest of the way. If that happened, you'd still be looking at Colangelo's future and at trading Bargnani, with only Casey likely to benefit at this point from that scenario.
Coaxing more performances out of the kids like that delivered by Davis against the Nets has to be the objective. Anything that interferes with that or keeping that top 3 pick should be dismissed.