It's kind of telling that the reaction to Jay Triano being retained as head coach has been muted. It's says a lot actually. One thing it says is that the Canadian basketball fan has become pretty sophisticated. If there was a time when the news that a Canadian was being named head coach of the only Canadian team in the NBA would have been cause for celebration, the time has passed. Now the response is to question if he's qualified; if there's not a big name to be brought in or to kind of give a shrug of the shoulders as if to say coaching doesn't mean much anyway.
My take is that Triano deserves a chance to succeed or fail. Not because he's Canadian but because he's a hard working coach and a seemingly decent person who's in the NBA, but necessarily of the NBA. In a way he's kind of perfect for what the Raptors are trying to do under Colangelo, which I guess is to create a kind of European-NBA hybrid, drawing from the best of both models. Not that he's doing it on principle, but because he thinks thinking outside the NBA box is an efficient way to try and play winning basketball. The jury is out on that, but in Triano he has a coach willing to embrace his ideas and presumably offer some of his own.
I know from talking to both Mike D'Antoni and Colangelo in the past that Colangelo valued having an open-door policy when it came to his coach, and for his part D'Antoni -- who spent most of his career in Europe -- was fine with that. This is not always the norm in the NBA. One of Sam Mitchell's first acts as head coach was to attempt to ban Rob Babcock and the rest of the front office staff from watching practice at training camp.
Mitchell and Colangelo were on better terms, but it was still a relationship with its fair share of tension, though they did their best to get along. One night early last season I was chatting with one member of Colangelo's front office staff as Mitchell was getting ready to do a post-game scrum. When the post-game interviews started I asked a pretty inocuous question and Mitchell tore my head off. I was kind of shocked. Later it turned out that he thought one of Colangelo's staffers was feeding me questions and trying to set him up to look bad.
I don't see this as being an issue with Triano and Colangelo, and not because Triano owes Colangelo his job, more that Triano is just kind of -- reasonable. This is not to be under-estimated as worthy trait.
So does Triano make a difference? Ummm, hard to say. No coach is good enough to turn a bad team into a good one in the NBA. And say what you want about Mitchell, he had a bad team at .500, a record that Triano never approached. And it's hard to see the Raptors making the kind of sweeping personal changes that would create an expectation that the Raptors would be a 50-win team.
The reality is finishing .500 and making the playoffs would be considered a success by most Raptors fans right now, so battered is general outlook for the team after last year. I can't see Triano being an obstacle to that. The test will come if the roster improves.
At the begginning of last season I thought the Raptors could win 47 or 48 games. The main reason for that line of thinking was that I thought Chris Bosh was on track to earn first-team NBA status. I was wrong on both counts.
Here is the NBA's release for first, second and third team honours:
2008-09 ALL-NBA FIRST TEAM
Position Player, Team (1st Team Votes) Points Forward LeBron James, Cleveland (122) 610 Forward Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas (35) 383 Center Dwight Howard, Orlando (116) 598 Guard Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers (119) 604 Guard Dwyane Wade, Miami (103) 572
2008-09 ALL-NBA SECOND TEAM
Position Player, Team (1st Team Votes) Points Forward Tim Duncan, San Antonio (39) 378 Forward Paul Pierce, Boston (27) 330 Center Yao Ming, Houston (8) 354 Guard Brandon Roy, Portland 189 Guard Chris Paul, New Orleans (32) 424
2008-09 ALL-NBA THIRD TEAM
Position Player, Team (1st Team Votes) Points Forward Carmelo Anthony, Denver (2) 116 Forward Pau Gasol, L.A. Lakers (2) 165 Center Shaquille O'Neal, Phoenix 68 Guard Chauncey Billups, Denver 131 Guard Tony Parker, San Antonio (1) 158
Other players receiving votes, with point totals (first team votes in parentheses): Deron Williams, Utah, 105; Kevin Garnett, Boston, 72; Chris Bosh, Toronto, 56; Joe Johnson, Atlanta, 36, Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City, 34; Danny Granger, Indiana, 25; David West, New Orleans, 12; Mo Williams, Cleveland, 10; Al Jefferson, Minnesota, 8; Steve Nash, Phoenix, 7; Antawn Jamison, Washington, 7; Ray Allen, Boston, 6; Nene, Denver, 6; Devin Harris, New Jersey, 5; LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland, 4; David Lee, New York, 4; Rajon Rondo, Boston, 2; Vince Carter, New Jersey, 1; Paul Millsap, Utah, 1; O.J. Mayo, Memphis, 1; Mehmet Okur, Utah, 1; Jermaine O'Neal, Miami, 1; Hedo Turkoglu, Orlando, 1; Derrick Rose, Chicago, 1; Caron Butler, Washington, 1; Carlos Boozer, Utah, 1; Andre Miller, Philadelphia, 1; Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia, 1.
I can't really argue with any of the selections, seriously. The first team? Who are you going to drop? Nowitzki maybe, but only so you could put Chris Paul on it, but it's a two-guard, two-forward, centre format, so that doesn't work. Second team looks about right. Third team? Yup.
So that's 15 players who were better than Bosh this past year. Then you look at the other players who got votes. Deron Williams and Garnett were ahead of Bosh, no controversy there. That puts Bosh at 18th. But I'd have a hard time taking Bosh over Kevin Durant or Joe Johnson right now. And how did Andre Iguodala get one vote, total. Am I missing something? Isn't he really good?
Anyway, my point is that while I think Chris Bosh is a very good player, I'm don't see him as a guy who's going to be first-team all-NBA anytime soon. First team NBA players are guys, in my mind, who elevate their teams. LeBron is one. Kobe is one. Dwight Howard is one. Chris Paul is one. Dwyane Wade often is one. Tim Duncan used to be, as did Shaq. When healthy Garnett is right on the bubble.
Bosh isn't. And the biggest risk facing the Raptors going forward in my mind isn't whether Bosh stays or goes, but whether they pay him like a first-team all-NBA player even though he's not one.