Much like most of my real life dating experiences, my relationship with Raptors GM Brian Colangelo has been filled with some considerable highs and lows. Allow me to explain...
Stage One - The Honeymoon.
June 2006 - Raptors trade Rafael Araujo to the Utah Jazz for Kris Humphries and Robert Whalen.
If Colangelo was looking for a move that would immediately endear himself to every Raptor fan, trading away the rotting corpse of Rafael Araujo was certainly a great way to do it. The man known as "Hoffa" was arguably the worst of a long line of bad decisions during the Rob Babcock era, so the symbolism alone involved in shipping him out of town was hugely beneficial.
Considering that most fans would have been satisfied if Colangelo simply paid to have Araujo killed, the fact that we received a serviceable big man in return (Hump) was an added bonus. Needless to say, Colangelo is definitely one for one at this point, and I would have fully endorsed his run for prime minister of Canada if he had chosen to do so.
June 2006 - Raptors draft Andrea Bargnani with the #1 overall pick in the 2o06 NBA Draft.
We're now in the fifth year of the Andrea Bargnani experience, and the choice to select him as the first overall pick in '06 has been debated at length. He's looked like an all star for stretches, and completely clueless at other times, but if I had to give a definitive judgement on the selection, I'd say it's worked out pretty well (not that definitive at all, I know).
The two names that often get thrown around as better options for the Raptors at the time are LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy. What people forget to mention is that Aldridge and Bosh would have been completely redundant and that Roy was never in play for a top three pick no matter what revisionist historians will tell you now.
Plus take a look at some of the other players selected that year: Adam Morrison (3rd), Shelden Williams (5th), Patrick O'Bryant (9th), Saer Sene (10th) and Hilton Armstrong (12th). Maybe Aldridge is a better player than Bargnani but it could have been so much worse.
July 2006 - Raptors trade Charlie Villanueva to the Milwaukee Bucks for TJ Ford and Cash.
One of the unwritten rules in the NBA is NEVER trade big for small. And while I'm not exactly sure how the NBA looks upon trading big for small with a history of severe spine injuries, I''m willing to guess that it's generally considered a bad idea as well.
But such is the allure of Colangelo at times. He makes moves that are considered outside of the box, and the results are about as mixed as you'd expect. In this particular case—a trade that saw BC move the Raptors' second best player from the prior season for a 5'10" point guard whose entire career was in jeopardy less than a year before—Colangelo managed to strike gold. Ford would go on to quarterback the team's Atlantic Division title season and Charlie V would spend his time in Milwaukee tweeting about video games or some shit (I unfollowed him long ago).
Throw in a band of low-cost, high-value free agent signings (Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon & Jorge Garbajosa) that also played a big role in the division title, and the first stretch of Colangelo's tenure in Toronto was phenomenal. He took a team that was bottom five in the league and turned them into a playoff team with home court advantage in less than 12 months. The Raps would lose to the Nets in the first round of the playoffs, but the general consensus was that this was just a learning experience for a team that was headed for much bigger things in the near future.
All in all, BC took home the Executive of the Year Award in 2007 and if I had a child born anywhere near this time, I would have named him Bryan Colangelo Fulmore. Guaranteed.
Over the next two years however, things would begin to unravel in Toronto. A Calderon-TJ Ford point guard debate would divide and distract the team, the platoon of role players that were so vital in the division winning campaign would descend back to Earth and Colangelo began to make bad move, after bad move, after excruciatingly bad move.
Stage Two - Honeymoon = Over.
July 2007 - Raptors sign Jason Kapono for a 4-year/$24 million dollar contract.
Believe it or not, but giving $6 million annually to a guy who couldn't pass, rebound, defend or score within the paint and didn't have an offer from another team that equaled half of what Toronto gave him, turned out to be a bad move! Weird, I know.
July 2008 - Raptors trade TJ Ford, Roy Hibbert, Maceo Baston and Rasho Nesterovic for Jermaine O'Neal and Nathan Jawai.
Uhh, this is where it starts to get really ugly. As a panic move after getting beat up by the Magic and Dwight Howard in the previous first round of the playoffs, the Raps packaged their best tradeable asset (Ford), the team's starting center from the year before (Nesterovic) and a guy who is quietly becoming one of the better young bigs in basketball (Hibbert) for Jermaine O'Neal, a guy who was making $21 million per year and had missed 120+ games over the previous four seasons. Remember when I mentioned some of Colangelo's outside of the box ideas, and how going with your gut when wheeling and dealing could make you look like a genius at times and a moron at others? Okay, just checking.
In BC's mind, O'Neal was supposed to anchor the middle for the Raps and allow Bosh to play exclusively at the power forward position. He was going to provide leadership in the locker room, especially for CB4, and take the Raps over the hump in the Eastern Conference. It's almost comical now remembering some of the quotes from Colangelo about how the Raptors had to be considered a player in the East now with O'Neal in town.
In reality, O'Neal was way past his prime phyiscally but still had the ego and attitude of one of the best three centers in the world. He took bad shots, growled when he got taken out of the game and was an all around surly guy for the six months he stayed in Toronto. Things got so painful that Colangelo had no choice but to move O'Neal before the trade deadline, which led to this...
February 2009 - Raptors trade Jermaine O'Neal, Jamario Moon and a 2011 First Round pick to the Miami Heat for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks.
If you're keeping track at home, Colangelo has now managed to turn TJ Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, Roy Hibbert, Maceo Baston, Jamario Moon and a first rounder in 2011 into.... a two and a half month Shawn Marion rental and Marcus Banks' monstrosity of a contract sitting on our salary cap. He seriously did this. Google it. I wish I was making it up.
It should come as a surprise to no one that the team was brutal and missed the playoffs altogether. Of course, the one saving grace from this string of deals is that Marion's contract would be coming off the books that summer and would allow the Raps to make a big free agent play. What exactly did Colangelo decide to do with his new found wealth that summer?
July 2009 - Raptors acquire Hedo Turkoglu in a sign and trade and ink him to a 5-year/$55 million dollar contract.
Please god, no.
So now if you're keeping track at home, Colangelo has turned TJ Ford, Rasho Neste... you know what, I'm just going to go have a drink.
It was a miserable stretch as a fan. The Turkoglu signing was an unmitigated disaster, culminating in reports that Turkoglu sat out a game due to illness and then was spotted doing the Dougie in a Toronto club a few hours later.
After one miserable season in Toronto, Turkoglu appeared on a talk show in Turkey and announced that he no longer wanted to be a Raptor. He claimed that his management team had advised Colangelo to search for a trade for him, igniting a mix of anger and elation from fans all over the country.
This put a cap on a depressing three years for the Raps that saw us move from being one of the young and exciting teams in the league to a bottom feeder, with the majority of the blame falling on Colangelo's shoulders. During this period, I stopped being friends with two guys named Bryan (and one named Brian as well, out of principle) and also torched my entire Bryan Adams discography (which I would definately like a mulligan on).
Sadly it gets much worse. I haven't even touched on what may have been Colangelo's biggest blunder of all.
July 2010 - Toronto trades Chris Bosh to the Miami Heat for a 2011 first round pick (Raptors original pick from the JO-Marion deal), the Heat's 2011 first round pick and a $12 million trade exception.
Failing to get anything tangible for Bosh will go down as Colangelo's biggest mistake in Toronto, and for good reason. It appears that everyone in the NBA knew that Bosh was as good as gone when his contract ran out, except of course for Colangelo. I even wrote this article two seasons ago pleading the Raptors to move Bosh while they had the chance instead of getting nothing in return for him.
Instead, we were forced to endure soundbite after soundbite from Colangelo where he talked about re-signing Bosh being his "number one priority" that summer and how he was confident that the Raps would prove to be his best option. Meanwhile, Bosh was googling condo listings in Miami Beach.
So while I expect Bosh to get showered with boos in his return to the T-Dot, maybe it's Colangelo that the fans should direct their venom towards instead. The writing was on the wall the entire time that CB4 would bounce—the team stunk, he yearned to play in a market that would get him American exposure and it was no secret that he wanted to link up with either Lebron or D-Wade.
Instead of moving Bosh for a package of talent and picks (Houston, Detroit and the Lakers were all reported to have made their pitches at one point during the 2009 season), the Raps ended up with a first rounder in 2011 from the Heat (likely somewhere between #21-30) and a trade exception which no one quite understands how it works (including Colangelo I'm pretty sure) in exchange for the best player in franchise history.
Stage 3 - Maybe We Can Work Things Out?
Raptors trade Hedo Turkoglu to the Phoenix Suns for Leandro Barbosa and Dwayne Jones.
Raptors trade Marco Bellinelli to the New Orleans Hornets for Julian Wright.
Raptors trade Jarett Jack, Marcus Banks and David Andersen to the New Orleans Hornets for Peja Stojakovic and Jerryd Bayless.
Maybe the entire Bosh fiasco woke up Colangelo and made him realize that he should start actually watching footage of the players he signs and trades for, or maybe he's just managed to catch lightning in a bottle with his last few moves, but whatever the case may be I've thought BC's last three deals in Toronto have been solid.
Julian Wright's minutes have been sporadic but he's already contributed more in limited duty than Bellinelli did in an entire season in Toronto.
Salvaging Barbosa for Turkoglu's horrendous deal is a borderline miracle for Toronto, considering that he is only on the books for two more seasons (compared to Hedo's four years) and he actually fills a need for the Raptors (bench scoring).
And last week's move of Jack for Bayless and Peja gives the Raps a young asset in Bayless, a big expiring deal in Stojakovic and resolves a point guard issue (Calderon and Jack) that appeared to have been a little more heated than what was let on.
I realize that I may be setting myself up for disapointment by getting reeled back into Colangelo's web, and I wouldn't be completely shocked if I saw the headline "Raptors trade Demar Derozan and a 2012 first round pick for Tracy McGrady" scrolling across the bottom of The Score around the trade deadline this year, but I've gotten more enjoyment out of watching this year's version of the Raptors than I have in a LONG time.
Somehow through all of this mess, we've ended up with a young nucleus, some cap room this summer and a team that competes night in and out, something you couldn't say about a lot more talented Raptors teams. If Colangelo claimed that this was his vision all along, he'd be a liar. But if we can land a lottery pick this June, sign the right free agent (no Turkish players please) this summer and continue to develop Weems, Derozan, Johnson and Ed Davis... We might be looking at the playoffs again in 2011-12.
Oh Bryan, how can I stay mad at you?
Remember to get at me on twitter @brettfulmore and to visit my blog Ball Above the Border.