Saturday, December 20, 2008

At Center Court with AltRaps

Most of our readers have probably spent a little time at Raptors Republic, a one stop petting zoo of dribbling dinos. Raptors Republic has a good stable of writers, one of whom is AltRaps. AltRaps manages to balance out his obsessive-compulsive zeal for the Raptors by being a smart guy, in both senses. After last night's disheartening loss to the suddenly improved Thunder, he painted the Bryan Colangelo era with broadstokes. Here is what he had to say in response to a few random questions from 48 Minutes of Hell:

TV: Disappointing season so far for the Raptors faithful? In a nut shell, what's up with your team?
AR: Depends on who you ask. GM Bryan Colangelo is on record as saying this is the best Raptors team he has put together "on paper" before the season started. Where has that put us so far? On pace for a 30 win season and a lottery pick. Given our track record in the draft, that doesn't leave much to hang our "IN BC WE TRUST" hats on. Others, myself included, looked at a roster of 13 that included one player with a heart condition (Nathan Jawai, who has yet to suit up this season), Will Solomon (never heard of him? shocking), Roko Ukic who had never played an NBA minute, and Hassan Adams. We had about as much depth entering this season as a kid's play pool. Factor in the health issues of Jermaine O'Neal and the Olympic summers of Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon, and some were left wondering if we'd make it to Christmas with a full roster. One week to go!!! As it stands, we have given up numerous double digit leads, had Vince Carter kill us (again), and became a hilight reel for LeBron James. The turnstiles in your local arena play better lock down defense than our perimeter guys and we get slayed on the boards by the ball girls pre-game.
TV: Some folks are suggesting that Ettore Messina could be in your head coaching cards. Is this the sort of rumor that excites you? What are your concerns about the possibility of landing a top Euroleague coach?
AR: Given the presence of Maurizio in our front office and Bryan's penchant for all things Euro lately, this move wouldn't surprise me. I do question his ability to learn the NBA system on the fly, though, and that concerns me since we have a group of players that need coaching. They need to be put through drills, educated via video, and have a coach that demands and receives respect both by them, opposing players and the refs. Does he bring it? I'd have to say no. We as a city and a country also suffer from a huge inferiority complex. We are convinced that nobody born in the US over the height of 6' would want to don a Raptors jersey. I can't see the hiring of Messina prompting any 2010 free agents to say "hey, they've got that new coach there. Sure, I'll go north".
TV: Is Andrea Bargnani a sunk cost? If not, what is his value to the team? As a trade asset?
AR: Bargs actually broke out a bit this year. He was playing with confidence, playing some (still minimal) defense and he was driving to the hoop as opposed to standing by the 3pt line and flinging rainbows. Much was made of the move by Sam Mitchell in training camp to tell Andrea he wasn't allowed to shoot any 3s. One might think it actually sunk in since in the first 15 games you probably saw more Andrea dunks than in his first few seasons. Since Sam left, however, he has regressed a bit and new coach Jay Triano has admitted he needs to draw up some plays to include Bargs. He will never ever be a rebounder since he lacks that hunger, but he really does have a shooting gift. The prevailing feeling amongst the faithful is he will never be traded since it would be akin to Colangelo admitting he made a mistake. Personally, I think he has some value on the market and would thrive in a system like Utah. He needs some hands on attention and reassurance.
TV: Ding. Going up. Quick: your best elevator speech about the Sam Mitchell era.
AR: Sam went from being Coach of the Year (a year of great overachieving by this ballclub) to scapegoat at the hands of mismanagement. Is Sam a great coach? No. Is he a good coach? Maybe. Does he have the respect of players? Definitely. We have been living under a carousel of fringe players the entire time he was here. Sure, you had a nice core in Bosh and Calderon and now O'Neal, but we have had upwards of 20 guys come in and out of the locker room, guys going down to season (and near-career) ending injuries, a rotation of immature point guards, and players that couldn't remember what play they were supposed to run if it was being held up on a 20x20 whiteboard by 2 Hooters girls. Sam got a bum rap, in my opinion, as is evidenced by our record since he was let go. The players, as is often the case but is REALLY the case here, are the problem. Even worse, you fire the coach that was close with your MVP and the new starting point guard. Hell, the guy you are trying to keep here in 2010 even blogged about wishing Sam the best. How often does THAT happen? I'm sure Sam felt he could probably suit up and do a better job than most of the scrubs he was handed....and, sadly, he is probably right.
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