So your pretty typical Raptor game the Raptors gave a heartfelt effort for three quarters and fell completely apart in the fourth quarter. Along the way Rudy Gay played with a bad back and really didn’t have too. I respect that regardless of how pointless it might be for him to play at this stage. Amir Johnson always a gamer would be injured in this game with knee bruise and would not be able to play the entire game on his bobblehead night. The Hawks clinch a playoff spot with a 107- 88 win.
Dwane Casey talked about his squad playing for pride the rest of the season heading into this one. I think that I heard Jay Triano say the same in the years prior to him. It is a great line to say when hope has left the building for yet another season. I don’t mean to diminish the whole concept of pride and there are guys in the Raptors locker room that have a lot of pride. Amir Johnson who had his bobblehead handed out tonight would be at the top of that list. DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay and others in that room also have it.
Here is the thing though pride can be a double edged sword. Bryan Colangelo has a lot of pride as well and his pride in his pick of Andrea Bargnani has been an anchor on this franchise. He had pride in his re-signing of Jose Calderon as well to a contract that far out weighed his worth. He likely has the same pride in the extension he gave to DeMar DeRozan, the acquisition of Rudy Gay maybe even in signing Linas Kleiza who now collects a roster spot.
All of these idealistic concepts are great in theory. However you need to really believe in this group assembled currently to improve. The facts are if they don’t this franchise is pretty much screwed. There needs to be massive improvement internally or an unprecedented move to spend money for the Raptors to be any kind of legitimate contender.
Here is the thing I have pride as well. People reading this who are fans of this franchise have pride too. Our pride has taken a butt kicking for the better part of 18 years. In that time we have seen few brief moments where we could truly be optimistic and have any true kind of hope for this franchise. So forgive me if the fact this team is playing for pride does not exactly thrill me.
There seems to be a growing acceptance of this is just the fate of being a Raptors fan. That despite whatever colossal blunders are made we should just have faith and hope for things to get better. That guys like Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas will become these great stars that will carry us out of this dark place. I think we have been told this about many others in the past.
The reality of things is MLSE is a company that turns a tremendous profit. They will say that they are putting money back into the team by paying out the contracts they do to guys like Rudy Gay and others as proof of that. They would likely expand and talk about all the money they have put into analytics as proof of that as well. They will say that they are committed to winning as we have heard many times in the past.
At the end of the day if you continue to remain below the tax threshold and just over paying guys within that budget that is nothing more than a recipe of failure. The cold reality of things is to be truly committed to winning it takes spending money beyond that tax threshold and spending it much more smartly in general.
Something this franchise has failed to do and that goes back to even before Bryan Colangelo came to town. I will say this for Glen Grundwald he showed far more accountability than Colangelo ever has. Grundwald’s famous speeches at the end of the season on the floor gave you some sense of caring about what the fans have had to endure.
Colangelo is more of a politician and avoids such things. When you break a promise make another promise and hope that people forget about the one you failed to deliver on. The fact that no one realistically thinks Colangelo will be gone is pretty sad. It has been 5 years of excuses and promises that have not produced a playoff run of any kind. Yet he went out and made a trade for a star level talent in Rudy Gay that has had the worst season of his career and this is enough to secure his future at least in the short term?
If the Raptors have the intention to spend money and go beyond the tax threshold and try to be a legit contender they are doing a pretty good job of keeping that a secret. They have always dangled the carrot of doing so without ever following through. MLSE management stating that when the time is right they will be willing to spend the money required. When exactly will that time be and will I be alive to see it?
It has been 18 years of hoping and getting very little in return for it. Hope is wonderful but blind hope is just sad. Raptors should no longer just assume people have faith in them. I have had so many fans tell me how truly fed up they are with this franchise this season. This is the part where I am supposed to tell them to have faith and that things will get better?
I would like to be able to say something like that but really could I honestly say that without having any belief in it myself? Not if I have any sort of pride in my word or my beliefs.
Here is what I believe. I believe the Raptors would like to win. They may even think they can win to a point. If they are truly serious about winning and being a contender that is just a joke at this point because this is not nearly enough. I believe that as much as they may want to win as long as they are making money at the end of the day they are not truly motivated to win from an organizational standpoint.
I don’t blame the players as much as I blame management. It is easy to blame the players and in some cases it is justified. Still at the end of the day if you are really about winning it is going to take spending money and taking this to another level. Tanking is the other route to go but that requires some luck and really when you are a team with resources the Raptors have not a realistic option. However being a team that is trying to scrape into the playoffs and get a couple home dates and the profits that come with them is not a good option either. Sadly it is one this franchise would gladly except and even sadder one that a lot of fans would be satisfied with.
What might be even sadder is to this point the Raptors have not cashed in on a generation of Canadian stars that have been coming along. Andrew Wiggins is not likely to find his way to Toronto. Still there are so many great kids coming into this league the Raptors need desperately to be a part of this wave of talent.
I have more confidence in Canada winning a medal in the Olympics in Rio than I do in the Raptors future success. They can prove me wrong but there is only really two ways to do that.
1. To have internal improvement beyond what anyone could logically expect and hope for.
2. Finally spend money and build a team that can compete regardless of the price tag that it costs.
Both I would class as long shots at best. What can I hope for at best currently? Raptors playing for pride as a seventh or eighth seed to win a game in playoffs, wow the thrill that would be… not really. My pride has not been beaten down so much that I don’t expect or demand more than that from this franchise. How about yours?