Today was locker clean out day for the Toronto Raptors, who's disappointing season came to an end, falling 1.0 games short of heading to Cleveland this Saturday for post-season action.
Season ending final interviews were conducted today at the ACC, with the media trying to gain insight on what turned out to be a roller coaster season among other things..oh, and what Chris Bosh will do come July 1st. Hedo Turkoglu, Jarrett Jack, Jose Calderon, Andrea Bargnani, Chris Bosh, and Jay Triano took the podium to have their say. (See the bottom "SEASON EXIT INTERVIEWS")
If anybody told me in October that in April I'd be rooting for the Celtics, Bobcats, and hell, be deeply invested in a Bulls-Nets game (as I was last Friday), I would have...well, I still can't even imagine it. But let's be honest, nobody (with the exception of ESPN - natural Raptors pessimists) could have guessed that this is how the Raptors' season would turn out. Even after the all-star break when there were talks of the Raptors catching Boston for fourth spot in the east...wait, that was this season?
So what was wrong? They never truly found their stride. The way this team was built, I don't think it was easy to anyways. They lacked diversification and balance. There was simply too much offensive minded players on this team and not enough shots to go around for anyone to get into a rhythm. And even when they did somewhat figure it out in the middle of the season (keep in mind the winning streak was against sub-500 teams), you still lacked a lot things, including rebounding, defence, and toughness (ex/ versus CHI last Sunday...what was that all about?).
The bright spots? There were a few. They did play well against elite teams, and beat a number of them including the Lakers, Spurs, Mavericks, Magic, and the Cavs. DeMar DeRozan's development and potential, and a pleasant surprise from Sonny Weems and Amir Johnson (FA this summer).
Image source: Toronto Star: MIKE CASSESE/REUTERS
Does Jay go? No. I don't think so. I don't think firing your coach because your players couldn't come through is the right answer. Yes, it was in part his fault, but the same goes for everyone else. Keep in mind this was his first full year as an NBA coach with a training camp. He's going to make mistakes, and it takes time to learn your players.
No doubt it's going to be a busy summer for Colangelo (in his contract year also). Everything depends on whether or not Bosh stays.
Looking forward to next season:
Ideally, who I'd like back (the problem is they're mostly bench players, and if Bosh resigns, that won't leave a lot room for getting new players, unless BC trades his golden boy, Bargnani...which probably won't happen):
- Chris Bosh
I think advocates of CB4 leaving forget that he is an elite player in this league, and especially at his position. They also are confused if they think Bargnani can be the number one guy..sure he'll probably have plays run for him and sure he'll put up some big numbers, but at the same time you'll probably get only 25 wins, just saying.
- Hedo Turkoglu
Contrary to many, I want him to stay in a Raptors uniform. Yes, he had a horrible season but there were many reasons. Everyone saw what he did in Orlando, even Sacramento if you remember. I really believe that, put in the right role and surrounded by Bosh and another all-star caliber player, he can be a huge piece of the puzzle.
- Jarrett Jack
He cares, he's passionate, and he brings it every game. Oh yeah, he's pretty good too. Is he your starting one guard? That's hard to say, at times you would think so, but others (such as one on one situations against players like Rondo) you don't.
- Amir Johnson
One of the very few Raptors that goes for rebounding position after every shot. He finds ways to consistently give the Raptors the rebounding and second chances that they need. They need more people down there like Johnson to clean up the garbage.
- Sonny Weems
Another pleasant surprise this season for the Raptors. A good player to have come off the bench. A lot of energy, can score, and not a bad perimeter defender.
- DeMar DeRozan
A good young player with promising talent who looks like he's been learning and willing to learn more. Expect a great season from him next year. By the way, he's only twenty, remember?
- Reggie Evans
Although he wasn't the player he was this year like in Denver or Philadelphia (largely due to injuries which I don't believe he fully recovered from), he's tough player with grit that the Raptors need off the bench for next season.
- Jose Calderon
He's definitely digressed this season, but he'd still be one of the better back up point guards in the league.
- Marcus Banks
He's proven in his limited role this year that he can be a solid backup point guard when called upon. He needs to improve the consistency his long-range shot.
So it looks like I'd keep nine guys from the current roster. It's not about having a major overhaul like many are suggesting, they've tried that time and time again and look where they are. It's not about making tonnes of moves, it's about making key ones. I think this year hasn't gone to total waste, as we've all had a good look of who is capable of what. Of these nine players, only three are starters (Bosh, Turkoglu, Jack), the other two are key, including a need for an all-star caliber guard and a rebounding/defensive minded center. Of course, all of this is pending one thing: what Chris Bosh will decide this summer.
SEASON EXIT INTERVIEWS
Some key quotes (and some paraphrasing since I don't have the time to quote everyone word for word) from these players & Triano:
- "I'm not happy the way I played, the way I performed."
- "I know I disappoint a lot of people, especially the fans, after they watch me many years. Coming over here and expecting a lot of things from me, and I couldn't do those things and I know I upset a lot of people, but it wasn't really on purpose. I'm sorry if I break somebody's heart or expectations really high after signing that kind of contract and playing that many years. But it happens but I have to move on and learn from this."
-Turkoglu also talked about being in a very different role this year which he wasn't really comfortable with. He talked about being a forward-point in Orlando.
-On team chemistry: It was as good as it gets when you have 10 new faces. Also, we had a whole new coaching staff. Everybody is friends on some type of level.
- On coaching staff: “I think they did a great job. I think the coaching staff was absolutely wonderful. I think it comes down to us as players. It’s the will of the players.”
-On suggestions that CB4's head was somewhere else after the all-star break: "He’s one of the most focused people I’ve been around. If you know Chris, he’s methodical about the game. For anyone to suggest that his head was anywhere else … is ridiculous.”
-On CB4's FA situation this summer: “Chris is a very, very loyal person. He loves this city. I remember when I was in college and he first came, and I didn’t know much about Toronto at all and he would just call me and just telling me how unbelievable the city was, how receptive the fans were to him from the moment he stepped on the court. He seemed to have a love for the city. He’s from Dallas, but Toronto is definitely a home away from home for him. He spends a tremendous amount of the off-time here which is very rare for an NBA player. Most people use it for a working city, in that sense. He really dedicates himself to this city, he does a tremendous amount for kids around the community. He loves playing here. I think he loves being the face of the franchise, loves having a place to call his team. I think those are all incentives that you want to look at.”
- "Everything was good, coaching staff, everything was perfect. we just needed to play better basketball"
- On Bosh's this summer: "Right now, I cannot answer because I cannot imagine the Raptors without him. I’ve been here for five years and it was with him, so we’ll see."
- He just talked about how he needs to work on off the ball defence..He said it's not something he can just work on anytime because it's hard to find nine other guys, so he's probably going to use the world championships to work on it.
- On his FA situation: "I wish I knew, man. I'd let everybody know so they'd leave me alone, but I don't."
- On whether he thinks Colangelo can build a contending team around him: "I've been playing for seven years..I don't know how many years I'll have left. I have to start thinking about things like that (winning, advancing in the playoffs, etc)"
- The media asked him if he let the opinions of close people around him influence his decision: He said even his mom just asked him once what he was doing, he said he doesn't know, and she never asked again. Simply put, he said he was raised to make his own decisions (mom never help him with college choice)
- Asked if the last stretch of the season where he got injured and the team didn't really pick up the intensity would affect his decision: He said he would've liked the team to, but doesn't think it will affect his decision regardless.
Finally, Jay Triano:
- Asked he would do differently: Should trust his assistant coaches with the basketball stuff, and he should spend more time with the players, develop more personal relationships, focus on psychology aspects..it might have fostered leadership in the locker room
-On Turkoglu: "In hindsight, we wouldn’t let him rest (miss training camp) after world championship. And we discussed it with him already, it won’t happen again next year. We need him in training camp to get to know the other players"
-"The big thing for us, we need to find a better balance. Offensively we don’t have an issue. If we can drop in offence efficiency from 5th to 10th, and have defence climb in the top 15..We don’t have a lot of guys that can contain the basketball. Our defensive scheme is the same as every other team."
Colangelo's season exit interview is scheduled for next Monday, Raptors TV or streaming live on raptors.com.