No Toronto franchise wasted as much opportunity as the 2012-13 Raptors, but the good news for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., is that with the Maple Leafs on the verge of their first playoff appearance in nine years, there will be plenty of cover to fire Bryan Colangelo.
Ample opportunity and ample reason not to pick up the option year on the contract of the NBA team’s president and general manager.
A season that started with the team having the local sports scene all to itself, because of the NHL lockout, deteriorated into a fifth consecutive season without a .500 record, let alone a sniff of a playoff spot.
The Raptors won their final game of the season on Wednesday night, 114-90 over the visiting Boston Celtics.
The sad part of this season is that people wanted to like this team. Lithuanian rookie Jonas Valanciunas was a hugely likable presence. Kyle Lowry looked like the type of ball-busting point guard who would give the team some jam. That first-round pick it cost to get Lowry? Meh – weak draft, anyhow.
And head coach Dwane Casey? Think back to the reception he received at the home opener: a city that had just seen the manager of its baseball team step all over the sensibilities of a franchise, city and country to pursue a “dream job” with the arch-rival Boston Red Sox wanted this particular coach to succeed.
And then it all just went away.
A 4-19 start, another disappearing act from Andrea Bargnani – the increasingly irrelevant and untradeable millstone – a loss of confidence in Lowry ... it all started to look depressingly familiar.
Hockey came back, Leafs GM Brian Burke was fired, the Toronto Blue Jays traded their way into (maybe) contention – and here are the Raptors at the end of the season: a team coached by a defensive specialist that worked its ass off in the strike-shortened 2011-12 season, which was eighth-best in the NBA in opponents’ field-goal percentage and ninth in points per game allowed; a team that went into the final game of 2012-13 standing 18th and 17th in those categories.
Incapable of winning close games, the Raptors went into Wednesday 26th in the NBA in games in which the point differential is five or fewer with a minute to play (.381) and 30th in the NBA in shooting (27.5 per cent) in that situation.
Not good enough.
Not close to being good enough.
MLSE president and chief operating officer Tom Anselmi said Wednesday that he would be making a recommendation to the board of directors about Colangelo’s option in “a couple of weeks.”
One of those board members, BCE chief executive officer George Cope, knows basketball. He played basketball. It is to be hoped, then, that he will see that Colangelo, who misplayed his hand with Chris Bosh, waited too long to dump Bargnani and has given out contracts that routinely make Top 10 Worst lists, is perilously close to wreaking further long-term damage if he follows through with his threat to sign Rudy Gay to a contract extension.
Gay still has a year plus a player option remaining on a deal worth more than $37-million (U.S.). Using the player-efficiency rating developed by John Hollinger, who is now the vice-president of basketball operations for the team that traded Gay away, the Memphis Grizzlies, Gay went into the final game of the season with the 127th-best PER out of 342 players.
Every stats system has its biases, but not enough to make any less ludicrous Gay’s status as the 17th-highest-paid player in the league.
Sure, MLSE could exercise its option and tell both Colangelo and Casey: one more year, playoffs or bust, but that was essentially the message everybody thought was delivered before this season, no?
How’d that work out?
Colangelo seems to play better with others better than Burke did, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve the same fate before he creates a bigger mess for somebody else to clean up.
See, that’s the thing with the Raptors: they have operated in such a talent and personality vacuum that nobody really knows what ‘up’ looks like.
Colangelo will tell you he does, but why would you listen?