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Toronto Raptors Chris Bosh stands with Jose Calderon near the end of NBA action against the New York Knicks in Toronto on Wednesday April 14, 2010. (FRANK GUNN/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Toronto Raptors Chris Bosh stands with Jose Calderon near the end of NBA action against the New York Knicks in Toronto on Wednesday April 14, 2010. (FRANK GUNN/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Jeff Blair

Another Toronto team outside looking in Add to ...

Toronto sports has given us some lame moments in recent seasons but seldom has anything been as cheesy as last night's attempted group hug of Chris Bosh.

Maybe the Toronto Raptors were attempting to counteract the "outside influences" that the city is now hearing about as the skids are greased for the departure of yet another "franchise" player. Whatever, with Bosh in street clothes on the Raptors bench at the end of the first quarter, Air Canada Centre public address announcer Herbie Kuhn urged fans to chant and wave placards with We Want More CB-4 on them. The response was as tepid as could be imagined in an arena in which sections of lower level seats went unused.

Bosh did not speak before last night's game but it's all on him, now. This whole season was set up from the start to be about Bosh's imminent free agency and whether he'd re-sign with the Raptors or take a sign-and-trade elsewhere. Playing good basketball kept all the bad away because Bosh was smart enough to play dodge ball with the media. But now the great come-uppance is upon us.

The Raptors managed to lose a life-and-death struggle with a team (the Chicago Bulls) who had just about everybody of consequence injured at one point and a head coach, Vinny Del Negro, and general manager, John Paxson, who had a physical altercation over Joakim Noah's playing minutes.

The Bulls have, according to the Chicago Tribune, hired "independent lawyers" to investigate an incident that occurred March 30, when Del Negro let Noah exceed a medically imposed minutes-limit put on the player, who is suffering from plantar fasciitis. (I mean, you can't make up stuff like that?)

That inquisition will have nothing on what's going to go on in Toronto, even though it's doubtful anybody within the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment hierarchy will have the stones to call Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo on it. Hockey? They think they know that. Basketball? Nah, we'll just listen to the American.

Lord knows there are hard issues. Colangelo has publicly put on the "outside influences" fig leaf - suggestions are they're with Bosh - and the great Raptors tradition of covering one's ass by expediting a player's exit from the city with a little nudge-nudge, wink-wink to the press corps is now in full force.

And what about the "internationals," who can't get any respect from NBA officials let alone opponents? Again: nothing wrong with having Andrea Bargnani on your team, providing you don't count on him to do anything other than jack up treys. But Jose Calderon has no business starting an NBA game. And Hedo Turkoglu's contract looks like a millstone. Enough with the FIBA overload. It's nice to be all Kumbaya and One Love and stuff like that but what happens when Kumbaya becomes kumba-yuck?

You can try to win without a bona fide point guard or bona fide centre, but you can't win without both of those commodities. The Raptors have neither, and more to the point they have $43.6-million (U.S.) tied up over the next three years in Calderon and Jarrett Jack - not onerous, but an issue in a salary-cap league.

Colangelo cannot begin next season with Turkoglu, Bargnani and Calderon in the starting lineup. Not after the softness and lack of self-respect they have shown this season. And he needs a coach who can speak authoritatively to his players. I mean, it's good that a Canadian like Jay Triano was given a shot. But - and read this carefully and understand it - this team has played like it was coached by somebody out of his depth. I don't know Triano enough to state definitively that that is the case. But I do know his team played like it.

All these issues would only have been delayed if the Raptors had managed to get that playoff spot and be best-of-seven road kill for the top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers. But, damned if it wouldn't have been a nice little diversion.

Instead, this morning, there is another Toronto team on the outside looking in as the playoffs begin. You won't see playoffs this year from the Blue Jays or Toronto FC. Lord knows about the Argonauts - in an eight-team league you'd think even they'd have a shot - and the Maple Leafs are still in "wait 'til next beer" mode.

The NBA really is "Where Amazing Happens."

A team whose coach and GM get in a fight and call in the lawyers can somehow make the playoffs. Amazing.

Toronto? It's where "Amazing Goes To Die" … but where the fans still cheer because they get free pizza on a night when their team scores 100 points and misses the playoffs.Talk about cheesy.

 

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