“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end”

While our guy Tas gives his take on the job Bryan Colangelo has done with the Toronto Raptors, I’m going to try to give my take on the war of words between Colangelo and Chris Bosh as someone who has had to listen to and transcribe a lot of tape of both. Especially this past season, where, more days a week than not, I’d have to speak with Chris after practices, games and during shootarounds, as his team –and playoff aspirations– fell apart around him.

Does this mean I know much about the guy away from basketball? Nope, but I feel like you do see pieces of players when you have to deal with them –or they with you– day after day after day.

While the end has been messier than I would have ever expected –although we never think about the end of a partnership when we hope there isn’t going to be one– I felt a sense of empathy for Bosh, watching him on Sportsnet last night. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: Why am I feeling empathy for a guy who “conspired” with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to pull off the biggest move in free agent history, changing the reality of parity within the league as we know it?

I felt bad for Bosh because when he says he has never, ever in his life stepped onto a basketball court and not given his all, I believe that he believes that. I also believe that what was really up for debate in the eyes of disgruntled Raptors’ fans wasn’t whether he played hard, but why he wasn’t on the floor to play hard after spraining his ankle when he was medically cleared to play.

This really shouldn’t be a surprise to Raptors’ fans (or to Colangelo) who have spent seven seasons with Bosh. I’m not ripping him when I say this, and I truly hate speculating about the extent of an injury, but I will say that I don’t think Bosh’s pain tolerance is as high as a lot of guys in the NBA.

Using his staying in the game after spraining his ankle against Memphis as evidence that he wasn’t giving up, I couldn’t help but think of an example on this Raptors’ squad. I can tell you that there was a chunk of time during the race towards the playoffs where Antoine Wright was scratched off of the practice list by trainers, only to decide he was going to practice and then play through the pain anyway.  Now, I don’t know how that sprain would limit Bosh’s game and effectiveness. Those are things only he can answer and I’m sure, in his mind, he did by not playing.

If I am a general manager who felt my franchise player was quitting on his team during the season, but I am okay enough with that to try my damndest to re-sign him anyway, how could I then use that quitting as an excuse for the team’s struggles down the stretch?

If you know your franchise player doesn’t bounce back from injury quickly –and after seven seasons and many nagging injuries, the Raptors organization knew this– and you don’t flesh out the roster with guys who can make up for the absence of that franchise player and you are still willing to bring him back, it seems a little hypocritical to bring it up a month after the fact.

I hate to compare this to Dan Gilbert’s ridiculously inappropriate letter to LeBron James –and yeah, really, really not a fan of that mess–  but it’s similar to ripping James for calling himself the King when the franchise promoted the hell out of it when he was in Cleveland. If Bosh re-signs with Toronto, do we take all of this talk/speculation about the deterioration of his performances and commitment to the playoff push and sweep it under a rug?

I think it’s undeniable that Bosh was a different player after the All-Star Break. Maybe that was a result of  a dampened spirit accompanying the injury as a result of the injury and downward spiral of the team. Maybe it was frustration with the lack of success that another supposed “key acquisition” in Hedo Turkoglu was unable to provide. Maybe his mind was focused elsewhere or his number one priority was making sure his body, his own personal meal ticket, was healthy and in tip top shape when July 1st hit.

I don’t claim to know Bosh personally and if anything, the unexpected media parade he has taken himself on in the days since free agency started is proof that I really didn’t know him at all. I will say I still believe Bosh to be one of the biggest professionals that I’ve seen in this game, at least when he is under contract with a team. I believe he did give his heart to the Raptors’ franchise and that Toronto will always be a special place for him because he grew up as both basketball player and man here. I also believe he was ready to move on and when he cut his ties, he did so in a business-like fashion, where he began looking forward and has no desire of looking back.

Regardless, it seems as if a perfect free agency storm like no other hit the Raptors and Bosh himself may not truly have the answers for what went on in the final months of the 2009-2010 NBA season. If you’re willing to pay a guy millions and millions of dollars after you feel like he quit on his team, your team, can you expect anything more from him than what you’ve set as an acceptable standard? There are far too many enablers in this league. Maybe Bosh truly believed he gave his all because he has never had someone in a place of authority staring him in the face, questioning it.

Comments (12)

  1. Holly, I agree with you right up to the end when you totally overlooked someone in authority who would question Bosh about his effort on the floor. You may recall, we had a coach named Sam Mitchell, remember him? He was on Chris all the time, never cut him slack, and was the ideal coach for him to develop, as his tough love helped Chris improve his game a lot quicker than it would have been with a different coach. I have had my differences with Smitch, mainly over his handling of Bargnani and his execution within the games, but as far as Bosh goes, he did an exemplary job.

  2. Great post overall, Holly, though I don’t think comparing Bosh’s pain tolerance to Antoine Wright’s is entirely fair. Bosh knew he was getting that big contract no matter what. Wright might have thought that he was playing for his NBA career.

  3. Raptors: Did the front office keep Sam Mitchell around? Or, replace the assistant coaching staff with someone who would have that same attitude with the players? That’s part of my point, really. This season, he didn’t have anyone really questioning him when it came to that playoff push, at least as far as we know.

  4. @Scott: Just a comparison in terms of, guys play through ankle injuries, etc. all the time without us knowing. Wanted to try to use an example from this team, if possible. It all worked out for Wright though, as he’s a Sac King now!

  5. “If I am a general manager who felt my franchise player was quitting on his team during the season, but I am okay enough with that to try my damndest to re-sign him anyway, how could I then use that quitting as an excuse for the team’s struggles down the stretch?”

    Colangelo may have tried his damndest to resign Bosh, but he also portrayed it as desire to keep hold of a valuable asset (a top 15 player in the league). Players with much worse character flaws and issues have recieved max contracts in the league, beacause in basketball high-end talent is so correlated with winning (perhaps more so than in any other major professional sport).

    Criticizing him after he has left the team may be a case of sour grapes. I think it had more to do with Bryan trying to deflect personal responsibility for the team’s struggles last year and to dampen the significance of losing Bosh as a free agent.

  6. What hard evidence do you have that BC was really trying to resign Bosh?

    If you have any please write another article and bring it.

    I for one think that BC had no intention of resigning Bosh, however there is no way that he could ever make that publicly known. So he had to go through the steps in the public with the media and the fans.

    Bosh has been injured his whole career. His knees are chronically bad and getting worse. It was obvious that while he may have strengthened his upper body during last summer that he could not keep up with the “Young Gunz” on the court. The Raptors offense was too often dump off to Bosh watch him hold it for 10 seconds or more and then either shoot a jump shot or try and get to the basket.

    On top of that his help defense for Bargnani was very limited especially compared to Amir’s.

    I have no problem with what Bosh did in the media or or on the Net. He was just being consistent with his self promotion personality that all Raptors fans saw in Bosh’s self promotion for the all-star team. Bosh did what he was capable of doing and I believe did it to the best of his ability knowing that he was not going to be playing for the Raptors in 10-11 and beyond.

    Could BC have been more honest with the media and fans and say that the Raptor management had no interest in resigning Bosh? That is a good question. I think if BC had said that during the season it would have totally wiped out whatever playoff chances the Raptors had. Remember the Raptors would have made the playoffs if Lebron hadn;t sat vs the Bulls during the last two weeks after playing the game before vs the Raptors and if Rondo hadn’t tanked vs the Bulls in their game in the last two weeks. If anyone doubts that Rondo tanked go look at his numbers in that game and compare it to his career averages vs D. Rose. Rondo tanked.

    So the Raptors got shafted by the NBA in the last two weeks and that is the main reason that they did not make the playoffs, not because Bosh may not have played when he could have or because he maybe didn’t give 100% when he was on the court. I am sure he gave all he could give under the circumstances.

  7. Agree with Carefoot that saying Bosh should’ve played through injury like Wright isn’t fair. Bosh was on a team that barely missed the playoffs, but let’s not kid ourselves; our Raptors were not going to do anything against the Cleveland Cavs. If he had been slacking while healthy, that’s one thing.

    Personally, for whatever reason, I don’t blame the Raptors’ failures on Chris Bosh. The guy came out to play hard for much of the season, and he attacked the paint far more than before. If he has other thoughts on his future in mind, I don’t blame him. The failed Hedo Turkoglu experiment probably left a bad taste in his month in terms of believing in the ability of the franchise to add talent.

  8. I still think the most telling part of BC’s interview with the Fan was when he talked about Bosh and LeBron drinking Riley’s “Kool Aid.” BC convinced himself that one way or the other, Bosh would want a max deal. If he couldn’t sign him, he would have leverage in a S+T. Didn’t work out that way, obviously, and I think BC is just ticked off because he overplayed a card he didn’t really have.

    BC looks like an ass, and there is an analogy to Dan Gilbert here. BC essentially said Bosh quit on the team, wouldn’t play through pain, that he tried everything he could to build around Bosh but nothing worked, and that he was relieved not to have that max contract hanging over the team like an albatross. Again, why the hell did he want to sign him then?

    In the end, this is much ado about not very much. Vince was an icon in TO. Bosh was not, and I don’t get the sense that most Raps fans are all that worked up over him leaving, even if he did essentially check out after the all-star game and turned into an attention-starved teenager when his season ended. I’m less interested in Bosh than I am in the way BC has reacted.

  9. If BC really believed all those things he said in the interview, then he shouldn’t be mad that Chris left, he should wish him the best and get back to putting a real franchise guy in Toronto, or putting together a squad that is gonna give it their all and play as a team all season.

    I really hope when the Heat make their way to Toronto Bosh gets the applause he deserves. He gave what he felt was his best effort while he was here. If management didn’t have the guts to check his ego while he was here that is their fault and Bosh should not be villified because of it.

    Like Holly was alluding to, if he started to think he was bigger than this team, it was only because the raptor management helped foster it by not being strait with him.

    If this city has a beef with anyone it should be raptors management.

    I can bet that in Miami, Pat Riley will never let Lebron or Wade or Bosh think that they are bigger than the Heat organization and that is because he commands all their respect.

  10. Great piece, Holly.

  11. Bosh is the perfect hero for a mediocre town full of pussies like Toronto. You get the team you deserve….

  12. One thing to think about – if Bosh had resigned, of course this would have all gone away, because he clearly wouldn’t have had motive to sit out, if he was just going to resign.

    Since Bosh walked, and in a seemingly premeditated fashion, him sitting out when cleared is seen in a different light. He clearly had motivation to not play, or at least had very little motivation TO play, and it is this difference that separates the two scenarios (of resigning vs not resigning).

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