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(Chris Young)
(Chris Young)

Raptors GM feels team can build on young nucleus Add to ...

It has become a familiar routine for Toronto Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo.

He focused on the positives at his annual season-ending media availability Monday, less than a week after his team wrapped up another disappointing season. As he has in previous years, Colangelo pointed to the bright future and the building blocks that are in place while accepting some of the blame for the team's poor record.

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It has become a frequent refrain for the 45-year-old GM and team president, who has spent five years at the helm of Canada's lone NBA team.

"You ride the highs and you ride the lows," Colangelo said. "It's a reality."

The Raptors finished with a 22-60 record and have been stuck in a rut since making a first-round playoff exit in 2008. Colangelo guided the team to the post-season in his first two seasons in Toronto but this marks the third straight year out of the playoff picture.

"This is the painful part of rebuilding," he said. "You lose a lot of games."

A 22-win campaign is also not how Colangelo wanted to enter his contract year, with his current deal set to expire in June. He hopes to return so that he can finish what he started.

"If I'm here and I'm able to finish it, that's my preference," Colangelo said. "If I'm not here, I know that I'm going to walk out of here with my head high knowing that I did everything I could while I was here, acting in the best interests of this organization and hopefully representing the city well."

The Raptors never got on track after losing star forward Chris Bosh last summer. When injuries became a problem early in the season, the rebuilding push was on and the youngsters were given valuable court time.

Players like DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis and Amir Johnson showed flashes of their potential but the losses kept piling up for the defence-challenged roster. With a poor on-court product and the absence of a franchise player, the team's fan base also slowly eroded, with empty seats becoming much more noticeable at Air Canada Centre.

Toronto will have a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft, although the depth of this year's crop is unclear as some players may stay in school given the league's labour uncertainty for next season. The Raptors also have some financial flexibility and could be active on the free-agent front.

Colangelo said it's "business as usual" for the time being.

"I hope to be back, I want to be back," he said. "I'm committed to Toronto, I'm committed to the country of Canada, I'm committed to this organization in the highest way."

The future of head coach Jay Triano is also up in the air. The Raptors have until mid-June to exercise the option year on his contract. The players appeared unified in their support for Triano when they cleaned out their lockers last week.

"One thing I would say is that continuity in this business is pretty important," Colangelo said. "The ebb and flow of winning and losing, it happens to almost every franchise, some more than others."

Colangelo said the team's biggest need is a true centre so that Andrea Bargnani can return to his natural power forward position. He gave credit to the former No. 1 pick for his improved scoring this season, but also pointed out that Bargnani needs to improve his defensive play.

Defensive rebounding and three-point shooting percentage were other areas where Colangelo hopes to improve. While the list of weaknesses is a long one, he's feeling good about where the franchise can be down the road.

"Right now we're stockpiling assets, we're stockpiling flexibility, we're stockpiling the talent that will yield a better overall team next year," he said.

Colangelo added that he always uses a glass half-full approach.

"We've done some positive things," he said. "Now we're in a position as we build without Chris Bosh, we're building a good young team here and there are some bright spots on the horizon that I think this market should be excited about."

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