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Toronto Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo speaks to reporters during the Raptors' first day of training camp in Ottawa, Ont., Tuesday, September 29, 2009. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Toronto Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo speaks to reporters during the Raptors' first day of training camp in Ottawa, Ont., Tuesday, September 29, 2009. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Jeff Blair

Colangelo out of control Add to ...

However the Toronto Raptors or his few remaining apologists try to spin it, general manager Bryan Colangelo badly misread the intentions of his franchise player and in effect lost control of his most marketable asset.

He blew it, in other words.

Mario Chalmers, trade exception … his own draft pick … whatever other type of faux NBA currency Colangelo ends up getting in return for Chris Bosh, Raptors fans are going to be left with a whole lot of "trust me I know what I'm doing" - and nobody can do that in this city. Not any more.

Bosh's announcement Wednesday that he would, if necessary, forego maximum money to join fellow top free agent Dwyane Wade with the Miami Heat is the most serious body blow yet to an NBA franchise with one playoff series win to show for 15 years of overpriced tickets and beer.

This wasn't Vince Carter quitting. Or Tracy McGrady being immature. This wasn't a guy of dubious character screwing over a city and team. This was Bosh, who, although at times seems to work too hard to make himself interesting, was nonetheless articulate and open in a new media kind of way.

He had the whole post-modern NBA star gig down pat and showed a deft touch in dealing with his approaching free agency, to the point that where even when the whispers started happening after the all-star game that "voices" were telling him to err on the side of health, it was easy to imagine it as pre-emptive spin from the Raptors. Looking for a scapegoat, in time-honored Toronto tradition, they went for the star player.

Any discussion of the Raptors or the Toronto Maple Leafs must, of course, include the caveat that they are owned by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., a Tim Hortons of sports owners: Successful, all over the place, producers of stuff that won't kill you but won't increase your lifespan either, and whose main product is dough with an empty core.

So it is possible at some point Colangelo went to his bosses and said: "I want to trade Bosh before he becomes a free agent." Only to be told he couldn't do it. You never know with MLSE. You just never do.

But Colangelo is paid handsomely to do the boardroom politicking necessary to get MLSE honchos Richard Peddie and Larry Tanenbaum to see his side of things. He's supposed to be smarter than fans and sportswriters. It is his job to be the resident basketball genius in this city.

From a distance, this smacks of a complete misreading of his team - and, please, don't try to run out that whole thing about this being the NBA and it's a complicated business, yada, yada, yada. It matters naught whether there were communication issues with the agent: The Raptors had seven years to get to know Bosh. Colangelo was here for five of them. And he's surrounded by advisers, none of whom appear to be working for free. Where were they in all this?

Colangelo could not afford to have the ultimate decision in this process taken out of his hands. But he let it happen - and compounded it prior to the 2009-10 season by signing Hedo Turkoglu for $53-million (U.S.) over five years, and Jarrett Jack for $20-million for four years. At the end of the day, the GM was left with the same product: Bosh, a bunch of European players and a backcourt that was all-too irrelevant at crucial times. It was an unmotivated, poorly-constructed, fundamentally flawed team, whose happy-go-lucky demeanour on the night it was eliminated from the playoffs left many feeling that if they were Chris Bosh, they'd get out of here, too. (There was singing in the locker room, for Pete's sake.)

Now, Bosh has done just that - in effect, sending a message to the rest of the NBA that the Raptors aren't to be taken seriously.

This is what Toronto is to the NBA: A cool, multiethnic city that's a great place to hold over-the-top parties but not worth living/playing in. The best thing is you can take a private jet in and then take a private jet out and be done with the place, or wait around for a few years until you move on with your career.

The Raptors, in that way, have become the hard-court Montreal Expos. (There, it's been said. I don't use that comparison freely, but there it is.)

And there is no evidence to suggest Colangelo is the man to reverse the process. In fact, there is considerable evidence to the contrary.

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