Raptors Still Searching...for Everything: the 08-09 Debacle

micheal malcolmCorrespondent IJune 15, 2009

NEW ORLEANS - FEBRUARY 06:  Head coach Jay Triano of the Toronto Raptors watches the final minutes of the game agaainst the New Orleans Hornets on February 6, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)



So Raptor fans, where do we begin? This year was a tumultuous year at best. Our star player apparently doesn’t want to be here, we may actually have an injury prone point guard, we still can’t defend anybody, and the leadership vacuum still needs to be filled.


Does anyone remember at the beginning of the year where optimism was running rampant? When we had the new and improved “twin towers” Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’neal? We’d finally traded that shoot first malcontent T.J. Ford? Subsequently coming off two winning seasons over the best “non-coach” in the league in Sam Mitchell? Where did it go wrong? Here are 3 key explanations.


1. The Jermaine O’Neal trade


This has nothing to do with the trade, but more with the hype generated by the trade. O’Neal was seen as apart of the new ‘twin towers’ duo with Bosh and was brought in to provide toughness, and defense. However depending on a player who has had TWO micro-fracture surgeries and has missed 38% of his games over a 4 year stretch (2004-2008) doesn’t really inspire much confidence; no matter how many “clean bills of health” the player gets from team doctors. O’Neal actually preformed to my expectations as I had no illusions of a double-double from him this year. But Toronto had no reason to trade for an oft-injured player like O’Neal when there were healthier, better alternatives available like Josh Childress, Travis Outlaw, Corey Maggette.


No Coaching – No Identity


I will be the first to applaud Sam Mitchell for ‘leading’ (I use that word loosely) the Raptors to their first Division Title in history, and I would also be the first to congratulate him on being the longest tenured coach in Franchise history. However Sam Mitchell is not a “X’s and O’s” type of coach and with the type of players he had, they required structure and set plays. Too many times I sat watched professional street ball being played by the Raptors. I honestly can’t remember ever seeing a play being called for anybody, or seeing our Point guard flavor of the month hoist up 36 foot shots with the Shot clock winding down. Kind does make you wonder what they talk about in timeouts doesn’t it? The raptors needed an identity and Mitchell didn’t give them one. I mean how many mismatches did we not take advantage of because we had no set plays? Hard work can translate into wins, but you still need a set plan with room to improvise in order to be an effective coach. Sam I wish you well.


The Franchise Player Lost his Fire


Chris Bosh by most accounts is a likable fellow and a wonderful human being, and truly has embraced the city of Torontounlike past players. With his summer playing for the USA Olympic Squad it wasn’t far fetched to think that Bosh would come back improved and hungry. When the season started he busted out of the gate with streak of dominating games. However upon getting injured and the team losing, it was visible that his fire had become extinguished. Around December 2008 articles on ESPN, and Sports Illustrated started hinting at Bosh wanting to leave Toronto. While Bosh has refuted those stories clearly, his attitude with management and fans so far has left much to be desired.


The Raptors have had some exciting, winning teams in their history. However we’ve never had a philosophy or competent management or ownership. It has been 14 years and a strong philosophy is only now emerging. We’ve got a GM with some history of success and a ownership group apparently committed to a winner; nevertheless the motto must be “In Brian we trust” as Mr. Colangelo is the final decsion maker and has some serious work to do in order to field a winner.