Puzzle Pieces Don't Come Together For Raptors

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Mike Ulmer - raptors.com

April 14, 2010

There are no quotes in this column.

Tonight, actions and facts and my opinion will carry the day.

No explanations. No excuses.

The Toronto Raptors will watch the playoffs on television for the second consecutive year and while this in no way threatens the Leafs record of five straight misses, it is a lower-case tragedy nonetheless.

The Raptors bettered the New York Knicks 131-113 at Air Canada Centre and it wasn’t even that close. The Knicks were only interested in jump shots. They had 28 points in the paint. The Raptors countered with 62.

The evening brought little in terms of suspense. The Chicago Bulls ran away from Charlotte 98-89. They take home eighth in the East and the odious pleasure of facing the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round.

There are thousands of questions you can ask about the Toronto Raptors. How did a team with the number one free agent of the offseason, a team whose best player had his best year, a season where the team finally found complimentary guards and solid role players in Amir Johnson and Antoine Wright, how did this team miss the playoffs?

Was it the season-ending injury to Bosh? Was there a left over schism when Jarrett Jack surrendered his starting guard spot to Jose Calderon? Did Hedo Turkoglu’s piddling contribution hasten the club’s freefall or was he just a peripheral factor?

So many questions but just one answer.

The Raptors didn’t care enough. You could see it as Sonny Weems and Jack held an impromptu clogging competition in the shadows that preceded the player introductions. It showed with the winning smile Reggie Evans beamed to courtside fans at game’s end and the broad salute he directed when they chanted his name. It showed with Sonny Weems singing loudly as he stepped into the dressing room from the shower after the game.

Now this is not to say that clogging or singing or saluting are bad things. But not on the night you are eliminated from the playoffs. Too many people work too hard for their money to countenance that.

A year after he blew up the roster, GM Bryan Colangelo must do the same thing again. Turkoglu was a failure and is virtually untradeable, even for Colangelo who has made a career from burying his mistakes in other people’s backyards.

Chris Bosh is a free man and there is little in missing the playoffs two years running that would compel him to re-sign here. If Bosh wants to play elsewhere, Colangelo will work the sign and trade.

Then there is the coaching. Jay Triano could not coax consistent defence from his team and when the season moved into the homestretch, devastating losses to Golden State and Chicago put the Raptors in the shadow of a flatline.

Triano never used the lever of publicly criticizing a player, even when he left Turkoglu on the bench for an entire game for disciplinary reasons.

Amir Johnson and Antoine Wright are free agents and thus may not return. Both were effective late in the year although Wright was scuttled most recently by an ankle injury.

There is plenty of material left. DeMar DeRozan scored a career high 24 points in the win and looks ready to take off. Andrea Bargnani was better very late and finished with 17.2 points a night. Mix that with Bosh or whatever Colangelo can get for him and you have promise.

But the Raptors did not fail because they had the wrong players. They failed because they had the wrong mix of people. The standings tell the tale. Don’t take my word. Look it up.


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