President and General Manager, Bryan Colangelo, gave his season-ending state of the franchise address on Monday, and as usual, it occurred before the calendar flipped to May.
Instead of fully transcribing sections of the more than an hour long news conference, I’m going to simply examine various points of Colangelo’s conference. I’ll get to his own contract status at the end.
- Colangelo supports Triano
By the sounds of it, Bryan Colangelo remains a believer in Jay Triano. Colangelo never came right out and said Jay would be back if he was back, but often referred to Triano in a “we” context, indicating that both men are on the same page. He also believes that he and Jay had to “check their egos at the door” and sacrifice their personal reputations to follow through with this currently painful youth movement. There likely is a bit of truth in that statement, but I would ask, what reputation had Triano garnered as a head coach over the last two years? Exactly.
Colangelo also added that should another man replace him as General Manager, he will recommend that Triano be considered for the coaching job.
- The other “R” Word
Well, he finally admitted it. After months of throwing around that useless “retooling” nonsense, Colangelo finally admitted that the Raptors are in the midst of a full on “rebuilding” process. Retooling is what you do when you fall short of high expectations but believe you are still just a few moves away. Rebuilding is what you do when you’re coming off of a losing season that included losing your franchise player, and you currently boast one of the youngest teams in the league.
While it may be painful to struggle through in the short-term, the word “rebuilding” should be music to Raptors fans’ ears.
- Season Ticket sales are ahead of pace
Of course, there is really no way for the average person or fan to ever find out whether or not this is true. But according to Colangelo, the pace of season seat renewals and new season seat purchases is ahead of last year’s pace, and even ahead of the pace from two years ago, in the Chris Bosh era. This is obviously good news for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and the Raptors as a whole, but the comical part came when Colangelo added that he doesn’t think this uptick has everything to do with lowering prices.
I suppose Colangelo has to say that, and it could be true. But realistically, as excited as people are over the current youth movement, do you really believe that fans would have snatched up more season tickets and renewed season tickets after a 60-loss season with no added incentive? Come on, if season ticket sales really are up, it’s because of the price-cuts.
Though I will add, this is the best time for people thinking about it to buy season tickets. It’s better to buy when prices are low and the team is in the early stages of building towards something than it is to wait until the team is successful and buy high.
- More on Bosh and last season
Once again, Colangelo alluded to the fact that there were problems in the locker room last season, and hinted that those problems involved Chris Bosh’s up-in-the-air status and Hedo Turkoglu’s less than stellar arrival. This is old news, as it seems every remaining player, coach or management member from last season has dropped hints about this over the course of the season.
The real interesting point, for me, was when Colangelo addressed, again, not trading Bosh mid-season last year. He said that Bosh repeatedly told him that he wanted to stay in Toronto, and always brought up loving the city. Again, we’ll never know if this is what really went down, but I tend to believe Colangelo in this case. Even if Bosh was tampered with, I doubt he would have ever told Bryan that he was going to Miami. Having said that, he didn’t have to lead Colangelo on about wanting to stay in Toronto. I guess Bosh didn’t want to be a rental player somewhere (other than Miami) where he knew he wouldn’t stay.
- How bad is Amir’s ankle?
According to Colangelo, the ankle that caused some problems for Amir Johnson toward the end of the season may need surgery. Hopefully that’s not the case, and if it is, Amir can make a full recovery. He’s played six seasons, but he’s still only 23-years-old and showing signs of improvement. With his youth and energy, Amir can still be a key component of the Raptors’ core going forward.
- What exactly is that “core?”
You’ll hear fans and analysts speak of a team’s “core” very often, especially with a young team trying to decipher which players are worth building around and moving forward with. Colangelo spoke of the young core on Monday, and when he did, these were the names he mentioned: DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis, Jerryd Bayless, Amir Johnson, James Johnson and Andrea Bargnani.
I’m sure you all could have figured that’s what Colangelo would say, but it was still interesting to hear him name all of those young men.
Even more intriguing, is that like Triano a few days ago, Colangelo mentioned that DeRozan had a better sophomore season than Kobe Bryant did. While some laugh at the very mention of those two players in the same sentence, I see the statements for what they really are, and that is an open challenge to DeMar. Last season, Colangelo and Triano were very careful about how they spoke of DeRozan, almost walking on eggshells to avoid putting too much pressure on the youngster or getting fans too excited.
With their words in the last week or so, it’s clear that the eggshells have broken under their feet, and Triano and Colangelo now believe DeRozan can rise to super-stardom. Colangelo was right; if DeMar can extend his shooting range (which I believe he will do this summer) and improve defensively, he can be a special player. In terms of improved rebounding, I saw an improvement in DeRozan’s glass work towards the end of this season.
- The Bargnani factor
If you were waiting, patiently, for Colangelo to lose his undying support of Bargnani, it appears you got your wish. Colangelo will never come out and say he regrets his 2006 draft selection or that he has given up on Bargnani, but his tone regarding the seven-foot Italian this year is much different than it was at this time last year.
Colangelo referred to Bargnani as “the enigma of all enigmas to you and many” and mentioned that “he has not done the things that we would all like him to do.” Say what you will, but Colangelo would have never gone that far in his criticism of Andrea in the past, and when you consider the report that emerged last month about Colangelo opening up to the possibility of moving Andrea, it appears as though the writing is on the wall.
Now Colangelo did mention that he wants to find a true centre who can be a post presence, especially on defence, to add to the lineup. Perhaps Colangelo believes, like I do, that pairing a player like that with Bargnani could elevate the former no. 1 pick’s game. However, that would severely cut into Ed Davis’ minutes and development at this point, and I would not be willing to do that for a guy in Andrea, that quite frankly, probably doesn’t deserve it.
- Colangelo’s own status
It’s weird to think that we may have witnessed Bryan Colangelo’s last public appearance as the President and General Manager of the Toronto Raptors, but that may indeed have been the case.
Colangelo stated that he wants to be back and hopes he is back in Toronto, but also finally admitted that he is not sure that he will be, adding that his contract status is still unresolved. In addition, for all of those who compare Colangelo’s work to that of an Italian gangster, he did throw in the famous mobster’s line, “this is the life I’ve chosen.”
In all seriousness though, here’s my take on the Colangelo situation. If MLSE honestly believes it has a better candidate waiting in the wings, then make that move. Get rid of BC and get on with it.
But if they don’t have that next great candidate in mind or waiting for a call, then they are seriously screwing this whole situation up. As poorly as Colangelo’s teams have fared over the last few seasons, the evidence is clear that he finally has the right plan in mind and is willing to execute it at all costs.
You don’t fire a guy like Colangelo (who is still a powerful NBA executive) when he has a solid plan in place for the future, unless you have an equally powerful candidate standing by. The decision should really be that simple.