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Toronto Raptors President and General Manager Bryan Colangelo and Head Coach Dwane Casey (R) discuss preparations for the Raptors' shortened 2011-2012 NBA basketball season during a news conference in Toronto December 7, 2011. (MIKE CASSESE/REUTERS)
Toronto Raptors President and General Manager Bryan Colangelo and Head Coach Dwane Casey (R) discuss preparations for the Raptors' shortened 2011-2012 NBA basketball season during a news conference in Toronto December 7, 2011. (MIKE CASSESE/REUTERS)

NBA PREVIEW

No shortcuts for Raptors Add to ...

Bryan Colangelo will admit to being an impetuous sort, a basketball executive with a fierce desire to win along with an itchy trigger finger for brokering the big deal.

Sometimes, that can be a lethal combination, as the Toronto Raptors general manager will be the first to admit.

When it comes to the rebuilding process of the Raptors – or building process, as the NBA team now prefers to call it – Colangelo is steadfast in his resolve that he won’t resort to any shortcuts to try to land the team instant credibility.

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If that means not dabbling in any of the big-name free agents who are about to discover new riches with the NBA about to officially proclaim itself open for business once more, so be it.

And if Colangelo feels so tempted to go out there and throw big bucks and long-term deals to the likes of Tyson Chandler or Marc Gasol, he’s now got a second lieutenant in Ed Stefanski to keep him on the straight and narrow.

“Every time I kind of get lured back in,” Colangelo said Wednesday of his penchant to try to make a big deal to try to rectify whatever is ailing his team. “It proves Ed’s worth to the equation because he said I’ll tackle you on the way to the phone if you want to pursue that.”

You only have to look back to 2008, when Colangelo traded for aging centre Jermaine O’Neal to see how those grand schemes can backfire.

With the player lockout now over and a truncated 66-game NBA regular season set to begin on Christmas Day, training camps are expected to open Friday if all the paperwork of the new collective bargaining agreement can get signed, sealed and delivered.

That will also be when a frenzied free-agency period will start, allowing teams a pre-Christmas shopping spree to try to improve their roster.

With a team that finished low in the pecking order a year ago, with a 22-60 record, Colangelo has a lot of holes to fill, specifically at centre and guard positions.

But, the GM said, don’t expect the Raptors to go out and try to spend their way out of their problems, at least not this year.

“One thing I will tell you, we have a plan in place … and we’re going to stick to that plan,” Colangelo said during a briefing on the upcoming season with reporters at the Air Canada Centre, flanked by new head coach Dwane Casey and Stefanski.

That plan includes the ongoing development of core players such as DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis, along with Jonas Valanciunas, their first-round pick in the 2011 draft.

Colangelo threw cold water on a recent flurry of Internet reports that suggested the seven-foot Valanciunas was negotiating a buyout with his European pro team so he could join the Raptors this season. That’s not going to happen, Colangelo said.

Going forward, the GM said he will be looking to sign or trade for players – “system pieces” is how he referred to them – that have shorter contracts so as not to affect the team’s financial flexibility moving forward.

If all goes according to plan, Colangelo said he expects to have between $10-million to $20-million (U.S.) in salary cap flexibility to play with for the 2012-13 season.

Colangelo said cynics might suggest that by taking such a slow and steady approach the Raptors are only trying to set themselves up for another low finish that guarantees another high draft choice in 2012.

“I’m not going to tell the coach to have his team lay down at any point in the season,” Colangelo countered. “To some degree you are competitive and you want to win every game. But the reality is, this year, it’s not in the cards.

“We’re going to do everything we can to fight. And if we somehow get to the playoffs, that would be a great story.”

The Raptors will open the regular season Dec. 26 in Cleveland against the Cavaliers and will play 17 of their first 26 games on the road. Toronto will play 19 games in 31 days in January, a franchise-high for one month.

Colangelo said he currently has nine players under contract, not including forward Linas Kleiza, who is still about two months away from returning to action following knee surgery.

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