Shakeup needed ... and fast
By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun
The Raptors played yesterday as if the entire team had been traded, taking their hearts with them and leaving behind only empty uniforms.
Too many more games like that and the stands at the Air Canada Centre will be empty, too.
The Raptors were lifeless. Subsequently, the only time the fans weren't lifeless was when they were booing.
Raptors general manager Glen Grunwald needs to make a trade. Immediately. The players currently on his roster are waiting for something to happen. Bags have been packed.
Sometimes circumstances overtake reluctance. This is one of those times. We're at the point where a deal -- even just for a deal's sake -- is required.
Raptors guard Vince Carter refused to attribute his team's putrid effort in an 82-62 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks yesterday to the local heroes being distracted by the trade rumours that have been circulating since Friday.
"Did it bother us (Saturday)?" asked Carter, referring to the Raptors' 81-80 victory in New Jersey against the Nets, who were missing Jason Kidd. "Make up your mind.
"We sucked. Plain and simple, we sucked. I don't think any of those guys (involved in the rumours) said: 'Oh, the hell with it, I'll just go through the motions.' "
But go through the motions they did, setting a franchise record for fewest points scored in a home game. The Raptors are 0-for-4 on the tail end of back-to-back games this season, so losing in that situation is nothing new. However, there was something particularly unsettling about yesterday, suggesting the players not only were tired and lacking in talent, but that they had checked out.
The trade rumours probably were easier for the Raptors to deal with when they were on the road. Playing at the Air Canada Centre yesterday, the uncertainty hit home.
Ironically, the best Raptor was Antonio Davis, whose name has been mentioned most frequently in the hot-and-cold rumours that have Jalen Rose of the Chicago Bulls coming to Toronto, with negotiable baggage thrown in on either side. But if Grunwald can convince the Bulls to take Davis, then he should pull the trigger. It isn't about Davis the player or Davis the man, but about an unwieldy contract and an atmosphere of uneasiness and depression that has begun to permeate the Raptors locker room.
Grunwald yesterday tried to play down the rumours.
"It's part of the business, but it is unfortunate when (rumours) really get blown out of proportion," Grunwald said. "I look at it from the human nature of the players. These are people we're dealing with and their futures are being bandied about by people who are being a little irresponsible."
If "irresponsibile" is the word on Grunwald's lips, he needs look no further than his own club's effort yesterday. Remember, people actually pay to watch the Raptors. For now, anyway.
The Raptors must address this as quickly as possible or risk sabotaging the positive attitudes of their two best players at this point, Carter and Chris Bosh.
The past few days have been eye-openers for the rookie Bosh, who admitted his teammates have been less jovial and talkative than usual. It's tough for a 19-year-old kid to watch his mentors go mental.
"(The rumours) are not tough for me, but I only can speak for myself," Bosh said. "It's easy to say there wasn't any fight. Sometimes you fight out there and nothing happens."
And sometimes you fight out there but the ground is moving beneath your feet.
"Whoever is wearing a Raptors uniform is my teammate," Carter said, "and that's who I worry about."
Based on yesterday's performance, Carter has worries aplenty.
So does Grunwald. He needs to make a trade. Now.