Season Preview: Colangelo Reworks the Raps
Posted Oct 1 2008 1:32PM
Oct. 1, 2008 -- Bryan Colangelo is beginning his third full season as the President and GM of the Toronto Raptors. In his first season, thanks to savvy acquisitions and the improvement of Chris Bosh, the Raptors were a breakout success, winning 20 games more than they had the year before and their first ever division title.
But last year the Raptors took a step back, going 41-41, sixth in the Eastern Conference. They bowed out in the First Round again, putting up little fight in falling to the Magic 4-1.
So, Colangelo went back to the lab this summer and made some significant changes to his roster. He traded T.J. Ford, Maceo Baston, Rasho Nesterovic and the No. 17 pick of the draft (Roy Hibbert) to Indiana for Jermaine O'Neal and the No. 41 pick (Nathan Jawai). The departures of
He spoke with NBA.com a week before camp opened.
NBA.com: How would you summarize last season for your team?
You're constantly striving for more. We felt last year that we had improved our team, felt that perhaps the depth of the team was better. But we seemed, for whatever reason, to lack the chemistry that we had in my first year here.
Now, we've cleaned up the roster a little bit. We've taken out some of the guesswork so to speak. Part of it was by design and part of it was by necessity with the financial ramifications of the trade.
We did clear up at least one issue that was a factor in last season's step backward, and that was somewhat of a point guard controversy. A decision was made to go with Jose Calderon, and that's not a knock on T.J. It was just a decision that was made and there was value in T.J. in the trade market. And we ended up making a deal for Jermaine that we feel was the best deal to propel us forward of about four or five deals that were out there.
NBA.com: How much risk was there in trading for Jermaine?
But with the situation with Jermaine, there was calculated risk. We knew his health history. We knew his health status at the time of the trade. And so far this summer, he has had a very solid summer in terms of his return to basketball and his rehabilitation. He's basically been symptom-free for several months now, and he's been strengthening the areas around the joint, he's been working on his core strength and core exercises.
There's a whole different Jermaine O'Neal than people last saw on the basketball court. Having said that, we went into it with the full knowledge of his scenario and still went forward and made the deal.
NBA.com: Rebounding has obviously been a weakness for your team, so Jermaine should be an important addition in that regard.
Further, last year, we were relying a lot on Jamario Moon to rebound the basketball, and in that case, he was unable to run the floor perhaps. So, there are other things that spawn from the improved rebounding scenario.
I also think that you'll see, based on what we've already seen in informal workouts in our gym, you're going to see a bigger, stronger, more confident Andrea Bargnani, who showed up in terrific shape and put a very solid summer in of strengthening and conditioning and rehabilitation.
He had some surgery to take care of a nasal situation, both a deviated septum and an adenoid removal, which has given him a little bit better health picture, just overall health picture from the standpoint of avoiding some of the situations that he had last year, which was sapping his energy. So, I think you're gonna see a different look from him, even. But having said that, I feel like we've dramatically improved our rebounding picture.
NBA.com: How about Jermaine and Chris working together offensively? It seems like a good match of both high post (Chris) and low post (Jermaine) players.
Obviously, on paper, things always look good to you and appear right before the season starts, but it's going to be up to our coaching staff to figure out how to best utilize the two individuals, and incorporate everybody else into the picture offensively. But without question, you've got two legitimate scoring and rebound bigs that we feel are somewhat interchangeable, and should clearly improve our scoring and rebounding capabilities.
NBA.com: How important is Bargnani's progress to the success of your team?
And again, what he has shown this summer is a lot of forward progress with respect to the parts that are fully controllable by him: the time spent in the gym, the time spent in the weight room. And he appears to be a completely different person coming into camp early on. He has shown a lot more personality. I think he's feeling a lot more comfortable with himself right now. Perhaps it's the additional strength and size.
He seems very confident in what he's done so far and part of that may be a little bit of pressure taken off his shoulders. We had thrust him into a situation where, in just his second year, to basically be the starting five on a playoff team. Perhaps he wasn't ready for that. Perhaps it wasn't necessarily the correct position. He's probably a natural four that can probably play some three and some five in our system. But I think you're gonna see a player that, with the addition of JO, is a lot freer to benefit from the addition size, strength and scoring that Jermaine brings.
NBA.com: How do you think your lineup looks at this time?
I'm not sure it matters that much. Having said that, you possibly may see a big lineup of Bargnani, Bosh and O'Neal out there from time to time. You may see small lineups out there where Bosh and Bargnani are the bigs.
There's gonna be different scenarios, different lineups. The one thing about getting players that are versatile is your ability to put different lineups on the floor and different combinations that make sense to cater to your opponent or to play to the strengths of the units that you put together.
NBA.com: And Jose is healthy after his injury at the Olympics?
NBA.com: What's your favorite thing about him as a player?
But his ability to shoot the ball makes him tough to defend, because he can also get to the hole, especially since a lot of the things you'll see with us are side screen-and-rolls, high screen-and-rolls, and he's got the option to get to the basket through penetration or as he turns the corner, the defender has to stick with him or he's gonna knock down the shot. Plus, he's got range on his shot. He's not just an 18-foot jump shooter. He can shoot the three with proficiency and he's another weapon for us out there as a very good perimeter shooting team.
Jose's just one more weapon for us with respect to outside shooting and that should definitely benefit Chris and Jermaine in terms of what they're trying to do inside.
Read John Schuhmann's 2008-09 Toronto Raptors Preview.