Colangelo Sees Hope As Underachieving Raptors Move Ahead

Colangelo News Conference: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
More Interviews: Triano Pt. 1 | Pt. 2 | Bosh Pt. 1 | Pt. 2 | Pt. 3 | Turkoglu | Jack | Calderon | Bargnani
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Mike Ulmer - raptors.com

April 19, 2010

Speaking at his season-ending press conference, Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo expressed his disappointment in a 40-win season and a second consecutive spring outside the playoffs while casting a hopeful eye toward the future.

Thats an easy job if you dont mind throwing everyone into the dunk tank but yourself.

But while he attributed the lost season and 11th hour swoon to a host of factors -- from the buzz over Chris Bosh to the lack of a cohesion that seemed to extend to every player -- Colangelo also stressed the club wasnt as bad as the standings showed.

Its frustrating, heartbreaking to be sitting here talking about the off-season we are about to embark on. Its never easy to look at a team that underachieved or perhaps underperformed and that was really the story of our season.

(But) a team winning 29 games going into the all-star break which ties a franchise record is not a bad basketball team. Its important that a team that was able to put together a 25-11 stretch is not a bad basketball team. Its an inconsistent team to end up with just 40 wins, but its not a bad basketball team.

Critics see an underachieving team with an unsteady guard combination, a free agent in Hedo Turkoglu whose play was so poor he felt compelled to apologize to fans and Chris Bosh who it is widely suspected will leave town by signing elsewhere or helping to negotiate a sign and trade. Two of the clubs better defensive performers, Antoine Wright and Amir Johnson will be free agents this summer.

Not so fast, said Colangelo.

Its important that this so-called frenzy thats occurring right now and this very negative picture that is being painted about our situation is not as doom and gloom as many want to make it.

I say that with great confidence.

Colangelo pointed out that even if Bosh wants to move on and take his 24 points and 10.8 rebounds, it remains in his interest to orchestrate a sign-and-trade to max his salary and, not incidentally, bring a talented body or two to Toronto.

We have a core of players that are very talented, very good young basketball players that continue to develop, Colangelo said. You look at the emergence of an Amir Johnson, Sonny Weems, DeMar DeRozan and the continued evolution of Andrea Bargnani. We also have very tradeable players.

The reasons for the unsatisfactory season are plentiful, Colangelo said.

I think our entire team came back from the All-Star break a different team with a different mentality.

Im not pinning anything solely on Chris Bosh, but I would be somewhat remiss not to acknowledge that we have had this ongoing issue of free agency. It couldnt help but take its toll in a locker room.

That locker room, he said, never came together or if it did it didnt show on the court.

It was about getting 14 individuals to work together and thats something we felt short on, Colangelo said.

One thing that goes unnoticed and unwritten is we really failed at bridging some of the relationships per say in the locker room. There might have been a guy in the past, an Anthony Parker, who did a great job of understanding what the international players were going through and what the North American players were going through. We didnt have that kind of a piece that brought that kind of stability or a glue guy who made that happen.

The player who seemed destined to bridge those two divides and bring badly-needed toughness to the roster was Reggie Evans.

Reggie is a guy that probably could have and was acting out a certain role for this team. He was a factor in practice every day, in games. He looked like the kind of guy who could carry that role out, that tough guy, that defender, Colangelo said.

But an injury to the midfoot area of his left foot sabotaged the veteran forward.

Colangelo termed the injury very significant and said the club had to decide what to do if Evans cant return.

We are going to sit down with our doctors and trainers and foot specialists and assess if he is going to be capable of coming back. If thats a possibility we will welcome him back, but if not we need to find someone who can help us in those areas of concern weve had in the past.

The Raptors GM stressed coach Jay Triano would not be replaced but expressed his disappointment in Hedo Turkoglu, who was signed by the Raptors last summer amidst great fanfare. In his final media appearance of the regular season, Turkoglu apologized for his poor play and unwillingness to bend to the demands of Trianos offence.

I really appreciate the fact that he acknowledged it and apologized to fans for some of the things that took place during the season, Colangelo said. He made some progress down the stretch with the relationship with the coach. Perhaps a common ground was found on a few things. Hes a solid basketball player and he could help this team win some games, but he needs to be more prepared next year to do so.

Rightly or wrongly, he just never got himself in the right kind of condition to compete as he had the previous year. That was pretty clear. It wasnt from a lack of work. He worked hard but he never seemed to recover. Hes frustrated, he doesnt feel good about it, hes embarrassed. I would say the chapter is not over. You will see a better Hedo Turkoglu."

The Raptors point guard tandem of Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack was a source of discontent for Colangelo.

The combination of Jarrett and Jose has to be looked at and thats something we are talking about. They both want to be here. They both have professed to not care about starting, but clearly there was some sort of disconnect there and we need more consistency at that position. We need to truly ascertain whether they can play together and co-exist.

Colangelo managed the impossible as well as could be expected. While conceding that 13, 14 individuals were playing more as individuals than as a team, he insisted that he could set things right.

We have the knowledge of the value and the talent of the players, he said. Youve just got to trust we are going to do what we need to turn this into that 50-win season.