***EDITOR’S NOTE: We received a significant amount of backlash for this post, with angry readers calling us out for not being factually on point (the errant claim that Vince Carter was left out of the Raptors’ 15th Anniversary celebration), for not being thorough in our analysis and for being disingenuous in our motives for posting this piece. For the most part our critics are absolutely correct, this article is not up to our standards. Some of the judgment that went into this post was not great, starting with the misleading headline – we can admit that. And if we are going to make tough claims like the ones put forth in this piece, we need to back them up with a lot more facts and analysis than we did in this post.
A lot of other sites might have just taken the post down and buried it – we’re not going to do that. We are going to man up, admit our mistakes and promise to do better. You, our readers deserve that. Without you, we are nothing, and we will fight to win back anyone we lost with this type of sloppy work. It won’t happen again.
— Patrick Cassidy, Director of Content
Once again, the Toronto Raptors are in rebuilding mode. After two more highly-publicized bad breakups this summer — Chris Bosh leaving in free agency and Hedo Turkoglu forcing a trade — the Raptors are left with no big names or potential All-Stars (at least for 2011) on the roster. Having missed the playoffs again last season with Bosh and Hedo, the team is expected to finish way out of postseason contention this time around.
Andrea Bargnani, the former No. 1 overall draft pick, is the leading returning scorer and identified go-to guy. Jose Calderon, once considered an up-and-coming star point guard in the League, is now known more for his porous defense than his solid passing and shooting. Linas Kleiza, who took a break from the NBA last year to play in Greece, will be one of Toronto’s top scoring options. Leandro Barbosa, former NBA Sixth Man of the Year but seemingly an “old 27,” leads the second unit. The team is also depending on the development of second-year swingman DeMar DeRozan, still-unproven big man Amir Johnson, and rookie forward Ed Davis to bring them back to relevance.
There aren’t too many bright spots if you’re a fan of the Raptors these days. Is the franchise in this position because of the selfishness of its superstars who have come and gone? Or is there something about the Raptors that makes them more of a pit stop for guys like Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Bosh and Hedo and not a realistic long-term option?
As expected, Turkoglu was booed loudly last night when his Phoenix Suns played at Toronto. Turkoglu didn’t deliver on the $53 million contract he signed with the Raptors, getting in trouble for excessive partying in Toronto and looking like a shell of the player who just recently helped the Orlando Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals. One year into his Raptors deal, he was traded.
“People have to realize it’s not always the players,” Turkoglu said in an interview with the Toronto Star. “People just (have) to see what’s really going on and make a judgment after that. I’m not a random guy. Chris Bosh was an All-Star. Other guys, All-Stars, too. You have to ask them what was the reason that they left. Then people will realize … instead of just going after the players. Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, whatever. I know (Bosh), I hope he doesn’t get booed. He gave a lot of good stuff for this organization. I think he deserves to be welcomed in a nice way.”
Turkoglu made similar comments earlier in the summer, vocalizing the “nobody wants to play there” sentiment that many outsiders hold of Toronto as an NBA city.
So is the Toronto Raptors’ management just that bad? Is it something about the city? Have NBA players bought into the misconception that Toronto is a small media market?
The undeniable fact is that the Raptors have a hard time keeping its stars in town. And whether it’s a trade or a free-agent move, the spokespersons for the organization have proven to be bitter. After Bosh signed with the Miami Heat, Toronto GM Bryan Colangelo accused the five-time All-Star of “checking out” on the team last season. Carter, arguably the best player to ever wear a Raptors uniform, was left out of the franchise’s 15-year anniversary celebration. On more than one occasion, management has put spite in front of professionalism.
Turkoglu may be right. Don’t get me wrong, Hedo flat-out just didn’t perform last year, and is passing the buck a little by failing to take account for his role in the breakup, but maybe there is more to the story.
In the end, the fans in Toronto are left in the all-too-familiar position of following a mediocre team. The team has some young talent, but given the track record, what reason do Raps’ fans have to believe guys like DeRozan and Davis will stay with the franchise should they develop into All-Stars?
With not much to cheer about, maybe the Raptors’ faithful should look beyond blaming the players. This scenario has happened far too often in Toronto for it to just be the players’ faults for their bad break ups.