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Eastern Conference Insider: Raptors GM not afraid to trade

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
Posted Jan 29 2009 11:50AM

With the trading deadline exactly three weeks away, there have been reports that Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo has been the most aggressive of league GMs in trying to make a deal.

Colangelo expected the Raptors to be a top four team in the Eastern Conference this season. At 19-38 after Wednesday's win in New Jersey, they are in the East's bottom three.

"We are looking to do something," Colangelo said Wednesday, "because we haven't been that good this year. And if it means making a move, tweaking the current roster or putting ourselves in a better position to win now, then we'll do that."

Still, the Raptors stand just two games out of a playoff spot. They have won three in a row and have a chance to make up ground Friday when they host they host the eighth-place Bucks.

Colangelo admits that his team has been "a disappointment," but also says that injuries have knocked it off track. Jermaine O'Neal has missed 14 games, including 11 over the last four weeks with a bone bruise in his knee. And point guard Jose Calderon missed 10 games recently with a strained right hamstring.

Not coincidentally, the Raptors' win streak (their longest since starting the year 3-0) began when Calderon returned. He's shooting 22-for-32 in his three games back, while dishing out 29 assists and committing two turnovers. He's also has kept his consecutive free throw streak (86 in a row) alive as well.

"You also now have some things that are evolving with your team," Colangelo said, "and you might want to make some adjustments based on that evolution."

The Raptors have made some mid-season adjustments that they're still adapting to. Coach Jay Triano changed their defensive principles when he took over for Sam Mitchell and has recently had Anthony Parker handling point guard duties when Calderon sits.

"Some of those changes are starting to take effect," Colangelo said of his team's recent improvement, "and we're starting to get more out of some of our players that were underperforming early."

One of those players is Andrea Bargnani, who is averaging 20.4 points and shooting 49 percent from 3-point range since being made a starter 16 games ago. The former No. 1 pick is finally looking like a consistent contributor and his emergence has allowed Colangelo to explore options in dealing O'Neal, who has come off the bench since returning from injury.

A trade of O'Neal to Miami for Shawn Marion has been rumored to be on the table for a while, but if he doesn't get the deal he wants, Colangelo isn't averse to giving Bargnani, O'Neal and Chris Bosh more time to develop together.

"At the end of the day," Colangelo said, "if you feel like a change is required, you want to be in a position to know what the value of your players is. So, you've got to be in touch. I'm on the phone all the time and it's just part of the job. You want to know what value your players have, and you want to know what other teams are thinking about their players."

For now, the Raptors will look to build on their win streak. Even as they lost seven straight before Calderon's return, they were in games down the stretch. Often, the ball just didn't bounce their way.

"It's just time for things to start going our way," Bosh said after the Nets' Devin Harris missed a potential (and wide open) game-winning jumper Tuesday.

"We've had major highs and major lows," Bosh said. "We just need to stay consistent right now and keep improving on that record."

After Friday's game with the Bucks, the Raptors play the Magic, Cavs, Lakers and Hornets, a true test of where they stand. Things may be different after that stretch, but for now, Colangelo remains focused on this season and believes that they can improve with the roster as is.

"I'm not ready to give up on the notion that this team's a lot better than our record," he said.

Same old Hawks?

The Hawks did not make the playoffs last season because of their ability to win on the road. They went 12-29 away from Philips Arena, never winning more than two straight. After Atlanta won its first four road games this season, and its first road loss was on a last-second jumper by Paul Pierce in Boston, it looked like the Hawks had grown up.

Now, the Hawks stand at 9-14 on the road. They've had injuries to key players, but Joe Johnson believes their recent struggles (they've lost eight of 12 overall) also have to do with mental toughness.

"It's a long season and it wears and tears on your body," he said after Wednesday's loss in New York, "but at the same time this is our job, we're professionals. We have to figure out how to handle things like that."

Layups

LeBron James is averaging 30.5 points, 11.3 rebounds and 10.5 assists over his last four games ... Both Triano and Indiana coach Jim O'Brien said they voted for Harris as an All-Star reserve ... The Lakers (Monday), Cavs (Wednesday) and Celtics (Friday) all visit Madison Square Garden next week.

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