Raptors end season with worries about Chris Bosh
Toronto Raptors General Manager Bryan Colangelo speaks to the media in Toronto on Monday, April 19, 2010. (Nathan Denette / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Emily Ragobeer, Special to CTV Toronto
Published Tuesday, April 20, 2010 1:23PM EDT
There's a lot to be said about the Toronto Raptors 2009-2010 regular season, all of which might have been summed up in one word uttered Monday by the club's GM Bryan Colangelo during the his end-of-season media address "underperformed." However, the failed season is by far the least of Colangelo's worries at this point as the focus has now become centered on whether the club's star franchise Chris Bosh will stay or leave Toronto.
"It's the biggest unknown in our situation right now," said Colangelo. "I still embrace the notion and fully intend to talk about him staying a Raptor, and talk about the possible success that we can have here, and why Toronto is the right place for Chris Bosh. That will all happen in due time."
The 26-year-old All-Star is expected to become an unrestricted free agent after July 1. Before then, the club has the opportunity of negotiating a contract extension in hopes he will resign. The Raptors do have the financial advantage where they would be able to offer Bosh $130-million U.S. for a six-year contract if he decides to stay compared to other teams who would only be able to sign him for $100-million over five years.
There is no question, Bosh has some major options to weigh in figuring out what he should do.
He admitted last week he himself does not know what is going to happen – but going into this decision one thing is for sure:
"I just want to win basketball games. You know, I want to play in the post season, I want to advance. I've been here seven years so it's time to start thinking about stuff like that."
When asked what good reason Bosh would have for staying in Toronto – his teammate Jarrett Jack most likely summed it up best.
"He loves playing here. I think he loves being the face of the franchise. He loves having a place to call his team and I think those are all incentives if you want to look at anything to be able to come back and play for the Raptors."
All of these factors in addition to the huge salary upgrade are all attributes Colangelo must pitch to Bosh in a convincing manner in the hopes of persuading the franchises' cornerstone to stay.
Bosh's seven-year stay in Toronto has solidified his star status in the NBA. He has set a career high (24.0) points and (10.8) rebounds a game and has become the franchise leader in scoring and rebounds.
Raps need to regroup
One aspect that continues to overshadow the club's lack of success is Colangelo's continued shortcomings in building a team around Bosh who are able to pull their own weight both offensively and defensively.
Today however, Colangelo insisted the team is not as bad as people think.
"This very negative picture being painted about our situation is not as doom-and-gloom as many people want to make it, and I say that with great confidence," he said.
"We've already gone through an assessment of where we are, where we fell short, what areas of weakness we have, and what we have to address. And those issues will be addressed and fixed in this off-season. We're starting at a place much further along than people like to think. We have a good core, and we have good young players that continue to emerge."
Before the All-Star break in February, the Raptors were sitting comfortably in the fifth spot of the eastern conference. In the first game back from the break, Bosh sprained his ankle during an over-time loss to the Memphis Grizzlies and from there his team lost 4 of the following 6 games without their leading scorer. Near the beginning of March, he returned to the starting lineup -- but the team let their momentum slip and ended up losing 10 of their next 17 games. It was then Bosh met with a freak accident on-court against Cleveland where he took an inadvertent elbow in the face by Antawn Jamison that put him out of commission for the rest of the regular season.
It would be easy to place blame of Bosh's roster of injuries this season for the teams lack of success – but head coach Jay Triano said that just isn't accurate.
"The big thing for us is we have to find a better balance," said Triano. "We've shown that we can score with the best teams in the NBA. But if we can drop from the fourth-best (offensive) efficiency rating to 10th, and have the defensive part of it climb into the top-15, then we're going to do that."
Inconsistencies have plagued the team throughout the season. There's no question the team has enough talent on the court when looking at their seven-foot centre Andrea Bargnani's variety of offensive abilities, combo guards Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack's ability to set plays -- and then there are the young athletic sparks the fans have come to love from the likes of Sonny Weems, Amir Johnson and rookie DeMar DeRozen. For coach Triano, it is just a matter of applying that talent to work accordingly on a consistent basis that has seemed to be the nagging issue.
If Bosh does not stay on in Toronto, come next season the team could easily centre around Andrea Bargnani who currently is under a five-year contract with the Raptors at US $50-million. Whether or not he would be ready for that responsibility would be another story.
"I don't know that he'll ever be ready to replace Chris fully, but he'll have the opportunity to assume a much bigger scoring role." said Colangelo. "There's times where he gets a little bit lost in the offence, but you're talking about a seven-footer who's 24 years old (who has) gotten better every step along the way. Despite the constant criticism of the contract, it is a very good contract, and a lot of people out there in the league seem to agree with us."
When asked if he would be ready to assume the role, Bargnani kept it modest.
"CB is still here. We don't know what he's going to do…the only thing I could say is I will do whatever they ask me to do." said Bargnani. "I play that's my job I'm not scared about doing anything".
How this will all play out remains to be seen. Either way, Colangelo has his work cut out for him this off-season and equally so does Bosh.
"The plan … is to win basketball games at whatever cost and whatever extent," said Colangelo. "The board is fully committed to doing whatever it takes to put a winning team on the floor. That includes re-signing Chris Bosh."
Emily Ragobeer has been producing with CTV News (News Channel, National, Toronto, Canada AM) for the past three years. She's recently been covering Raptors Basketball with TSN during the 2010 regular season.