Archive

Archive for the ‘Toronto Raptors’ Category

Bryan Colangelo – Game of Thrones

July 15, 2011 3 comments

Colangelo was hired 5 years ago and was seen as the saviour of the Raptors.

Last month, MLSE re-signed Bryan Colangelo to a two-year contract to be the GM of the Toronto Raptors. Fans on both sides (Colangelo haters vs. Colangelo there’s nobody really betters) decided to take a wait and see approach to how he rebuilds the team in the next couple of years before deciding if he had a long-term future with the Raptors. However, Colangelo envisions things going a little bit differently.

Now, we’ve known for a little while that Colangelo was looking to add a GM and retain┬áthe President tag, but the story lost a bit of steam as our local beat reporters had been unable to gain any traction on the story. However, Adrian Wojnarowski (really the best in the business for my money) broke the story last night that there are three potential candidates in place.

With the decision to hire a GM, and with the recent firing of Jay Triano, Colangelo has set up a safety net should things go wrong in the next couple of seasons even though all personnel decisions have been made by him. He’ll be the one doing the firing, and ironically, the GM would probably be the first one to go. BC has taken a page straight out of Richard Peddie’s book.

I’ve always been a BC sympathizer because I think the man is extremely intelligent and is in good standing with most of the league. He is quick to realize his mistakes and his work ethic is unparalleled. However, this is where I stop sympathizing. Five years ago this man was brought in to be the new GM of the Raptors. Last month he was re-signed to be the GM of the Raptors. Now, Colangelo has decided he doesn’t want to be the GM anymore and that says everything I need to know about his confidence in running this team – he’s lost it. He’s trying to save his job (like we all would) and he’s fantastic at doing so.

If Colangelo is unwilling to be the GM of this team then he should step away from the organization completely because whether or not he’s GM he will have final say on all basketball decisions without any of the accountability. It’s dishonest, cowardly, and the Toronto faithful deserve a better fate than what is going to befall them in the remainder of Colangelo’s reign.

Advertisements

What does a lockout mean for the Raptors?

July 4, 2011 1 comment

Billy Hunter and David Stern have been through this before.

According to most, the NBA’s 2011-2012 season is in real jeopardy. Hockey fans will remember this well – a broken system with the majority of owners losing money and a real change in the way business is done becoming a necessity. The difference is that hockey has experienced (and desperately needed) a sort of revival – commonly referred to as the post-lockout era – whereas the NBA is coming off perhaps its most hyped and entertaining season in decades. Here at Toronto Sports Fanatic all we want to know is: How will this lockout affect the Raptors?

The Raptors organization is one of the few that makes a nice profit despite their perennial bottom-feeder status, so I’m sure the board at MLSE is none too pleased to see an entire season go to waste – especially if the rumours are true for any impending sale of the teams. However, with the continued financial success of the Leafs and the hundreds of other projects undertaken by MLSE, ownership can afford to fight alongside their brethren until a favourable deal is reached with the Player’s Association.

As for the team and players this is pretty much a lose-lose situation. The Player’s Association – like that of the NHL’s – is going to have to give back a lot. Salary rollbacks, a hard or flex cap, player amnesties, and lower max years and money for contracts all seem like an inevitability. Also, with one of the youngest teams in the league and the inability for players and coaches to interact, an entire season of development would be lost for the likes of Amir Johnson, Ed Davis, Jerryd Bayless, and Demar Derozan. It is up to the players to stay in shape and find ways to work on their games during the lockout – something I’m sure management discussed thoroughly with the players before the lockout began.

The only positive of losing an entire season may sound a bit pessimistic; it’s one less year of pain – one less year of the stress of having to watch this young team throw away leads or get blown out of the gym on the back end of a back to back during another horrendous west coast trip. The contract of Leandro Barbosa would expire and Jose Calderon would become a more tradeable asset with only one year remaining on his contract. Calderon could still function as a veteran leader in a young locker room while helping to groom any young point guard that may be drafted in the 2012 draft before being jettisoned off to a contender for a draft pick. And, Jonas Valanciunas would make his NBA debut after a developmental year overseas and hopefully quiet the wolves who came out after his name was announced on draft day.

Finally, that brings us to the topic of the 2012 NBA Draft. So, what exactly happens if the entire season is locked out? What would the draft order be? Well, according to Larry Coon of ESPN, a system similar to what the NHL adopted after their lockout could be used. Every team would have a chance at the #1 pick, but a weighted system based on playoff appearances over the last three seasons and #1 picks over the last four would determine the division of ping pong bals. That would seem to immediately give the Minnesota Timberwolves the best chance at winning with the Raptors not far behind. And with a talented crop coming through the results of the 2012 NBA Draft could have far greater consequences on the future of the Raptors than this past one did.

The Raptors have been unwilling to go into luxury tax area in recent years, so a hard cap and salary rollback would appease the owners. League management, including perennial overspenders, would have to scramble to alter their philosophies and adapt to any new system. The NBA would then become something similar to that of the NHL – creative and flexible management would determine success rather than simply money and city status. Raptors fans need to ask themselves: Is Bryan Colangelo the man you want in charge in a new system? Are his talents best suited to an NHL type system or could his impatience and seeming short-sightedness (with everyone besides Andrea Bargnani) hurt this franchise for years to come. Lots of questions to be asked, but few answers until pen is put to paper and the future of the NBA’s financial system becomes more clear.

More Questions Than Answers

Valanciunas has a buyout issue with his European club and might not be able to play next season.

Bryan Colangelo needed to make the safe play in order to appease his critics. He didn’t. That wouldn’t be his style.

Instead he chose the 6’11, 240 pound Lithuanian center with a name that Jeff Van Gundy didn’t even bother trying to learn – Jonas Valanciunas (pronounced Val-en-choo-niss).

All reports leading up to the draft had the Cavs favouring Valanciunas with the #4 pick. San Antonio made a late push dangling Tony Parker for a chance to get into the lottery to snap up Valanciunas. None of the lottery teams bit and instead the Spurs traded backup guard George Hill to the Pacers for another name tied to the Raptors all draft in Kawhi Leonard.

However, when the Cavs chose Brampton native Tristan Thompson with the #4 pick there was a sense in the air that the Raptors would follow up with a similar surprise. When David Stern stepped to the podium Raptors fans wanted to hear the name Brandon Knight. A lot expected to hear the name Bismack Biyombo. A very select few expected to hear Jonas Valanciunas. The rest of the Raptor faithful scurried to ironically tweet their anger and seemed to collectively shake their heads that Bryan Colangelo had selected another soft euro.

The questions began to rain down:

Is this guy strong enough to play Center? – Valanciunas doesn’t believe so right now.

Will he even be able to play next season?

The Raptors are drafting another big? What happens to Andrea Bargnani – we aren’t going to trade him???

What is this guy’s ceiling? Is he really anything like Big Z?

And unfortunately for Bryan Colangelo the answers won’t come soon enough. Colangelo has two years to get this team on the right track and part of that process came with this selection. By not making the safe pick Colangelo has hammered one nail into his own coffin.

Brandon Knight fell to the Pistons at #8 (and he certainly wasn’t happy about that). Raptors fans saw him as a long-term solution to the point guard problem in Toronto but apparently Colangelo, and quite a few other teams, didn’t. Knight is going to have a good rookie season in Detroit and Raptors fans will curse Colangelo like they did when Brandon Jennings went off for 55 points and completed a rather solid rookie season himself. At that time fans were upset that Colangelo passed on him but how many would now trade Jennings for Derozan?

The point of this exercise is that none of us know how Valanciunas will turn out. He might end up being a better player than Knight or Biyombo or Kemba Walker. If he does, Bryan Colangelo might not even be around to see it. Colangelo needed to make the safe pick to most likely save his job, but he made the choice that he thought would give the Raptors the best chance to win an NBA title in the future. It’s honourable, risky, and probably stupid. More questions than answers – that’s what it’s like being a Raptors fan.

NBA Draft Tonight at 7PM!

The Raptors are picking 5th and there is an enormous amount of bluffing and posturing leading up to the draft. 90% of the reported rumours won’t happen, but part of the fun of the offseason is dealing with fantasy-type situations. So enjoy it for another few hours before the selections and a few trades are made.

I believe the Raptors will simply pick their guy at #5 and won’t be involved in any other way. Who they pick is completely up in the air right now but it looks like it will be one of Knight, Kanter, or Biyombo at this point. Tune in for what I think is the most exciting draft in pro sports.

Tomorrow we’ll break down the draft and take a look at what the Raptors did.

Categories: Toronto Raptors

The Next Head Coach of the Raptors…Part II

Casey posted a 53-69 record in Minnesota.

Yesterday we took a look at the career of Lawrence Frank and assessed his fit as the next head coach of the Raptors. Today, we’ll look at the other frontrunner for the position: Dwane Casey.

You would have to be a hardcore basketball fan to recognize the name Dwane Casey. It’s certainly not a household name, but that doesn’t automatically disqualify it from this race. Dwane Casey has more experience as a coach than Lawrence Frank – just not as a head coach.

Casey’s only stint as an NBA coach lasted less than two full seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Casey was hired ahead of the 2005-2006 season to try to revive a Timberwolves team that only two seasons before had reached the Western Conference Finals. Instead, the team stumbled to a 33-49 record and midway through his second season (with the Wolves battling for a playoff spot at 20-20) was relieved of his duties.

Casey’s time with Minnesota was unsuccessful, but his coaching resume is long and versatile. He began his career as an assistant coach at Western Kentucky University before moving on to be an assistant at his alma mater Kentucky where he won the 1978 NCAA championship as a player. After 5 seasons at Kentucky, Casey was embroiled in a scandal involving alleged player payments to recruit Chris Mills. Although Casey denied the allegations he was placed on probation for 5 years by the NCAA and was forced out of Kentucky. With his career in tatters, Casey looked overseas for his next opportunity.

That opportunity arose in Japan where he would spend 5 more seasons as the men’s and women’s national program’s head coach. His time in Japan rejuvenated his career and in the 1994-95 season he found his first gig at the NBA level. He would spend 11 seasons as a Supersonics assistant before landing the head coaching job at Minnesota.

Since his firing, Casey has rebounded again and is in the spotlight because of his work with the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks, gifted offensively but whose failings could be attributed to a porous defense, have carried a new defensive focus to the brink of an NBA championship. And the man credited with the transformation is Dwane Casey.

Casey has spent nearly 30 years as a coach, but only 6.5 years in charge, and 1.5 at the NBA level. He’s known for instilling tough, efficient defenses and is praised for his preparation and player development. However, he has been questioned for his rotations, offensive creativity and laid-back attitude.

To be fair, that Minnesota team was flawed and Casey had a lottery bound team in a playoff race before his firing. To evaluate him based on his time in Minnesota alone would be cruel. However, if this team is looking for a veteran “head coach”, Casey isn’t the man. This team has experimented with lifelong assistant coaches before and it hasn’t worked out. If Colagelo’s M.O. is to bring in someone with immediate credibility then Casey might not be the best candidate. However, if Colangelo can look past his head coaching resume and see a man that instills a solid defensive philosophy along with his ability to work with a flawed roster (which the Raptors certainly have) then perhaps he is the better choice.

It seems the race has come down to two men: Casey or Frank. However, both of them could be out the door if this team doesn’t show enough signs of success in the next two seasons. Their jobs will be in the hands of Colangelo who is feeling the pressure to assemble a roster that can win sooner rather than later.

So, who do you think would be the best fit for the current Raptors team?

The Next Head Coach of the Raptors…Part 1

According to Mr. Smith the candidates for the head coaching position have been narrowed to two:

Boston assistant coach Lawrence Frank and Mavs assistant Dwane Casey.

Today, let’s look at Lawrence Frank.

Frank started his career as a student manager at Indiana University working for Bobby Knight. After his graduation, Frank became an assistant for everyone’s favourite maniacal former Raptors head coach and defensive guru (yet offensive putz) Kevin O’Neill at Marquette and Tennessee. From there Frank joined the staff of the Vancouver Grizzlies before finally joining the Nets in 2000.

It would be in 2004, after the Nets had gone to the NBA finals in two consecutive years under the leadership of one of the most underrated coaches in the league in Byron Scott, that Frank would finally get his chance. The veteran-heavy Nets had simply tuned Scott out (like most teams do to their coach at some point), and sensing a change was needed, then President and GM Rod Thorn made the decision to promote Frank. The decision paid off as the Nets went on a 13-game winning streak to start Frank’s career. After that, Frank would lead the Nets to 4 straight playoff appearances (including a series victory against the Raptors – click if you want the rest of your day to be ruined), but never got past the 2nd round.

Jason Kidd was traded in 2008, then Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson would soon follow. Two seasons had passed and the Nets had finished with identical records of 34-48. What was left was a roster so flawed that Frank and the Nets would open the 2009-2010 season on a 16-game losing streak. Frank was fired and the Nets would only win 12 games that season.

Frank’s career arc is similar of that to many coaches. A successful start with a bit of playoff success followed by a pink slip because of a roster dismantling and rebuild. Frank deserves another shot, and the Raptors probably need a new voice.

Rod Thorn called Frank “a good X’s and O’s guy”, and that he “understands players”. He’s considered a very good player development coach, but struggled to translate that into team success (which is a hard thing to do in the NBA). And at least we know he’ll be entertaining after every Raptors loss because Frank certainly doesn’t mind mincing words, but what the fuck you gonna do about it?

 

Frank is certainly more experienced because of his time with the Nets, but I’m not convinced his story will play out any differently than Triano’s. His personality, demeanour, and approach to the game are admirable but seem better suited to a veteran team. But, if Frank can instill a defensive culture and bring some real accountability to the Raptors then go ahead and hire him. If it doesn’t work out he’ll be out the door along with Bryan Colangelo in two years time.

Update: Triano out as Head Coach

According to several sources the Raptors have declined the option on head coach Jay Triano for next season. He will reportedly be retained as a special assistant to the President and GM.

I’m sure there will be a huge reaction from Raptors fans tonight and more word on the status of Jay Triano later.

Categories: Toronto Raptors