What Raptors need is a planNo deals mean cash for signings
By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun
Raptors fans have a right to be frustrated, but not necessarily or exclusively because the team did not make a trade before the NBA deadline yesterday.
General manager Glen Grunwald already pulled off a blockbuster deal earlier this season, and you can't make a sweeping roster move every time a new weakness is exposed.
Not that the Raptors didn't try to make some moves yesterday -- one rumour suggested they attempted to snatch veteran point guard Kenny Anderson from the Indiana Pacers -- but, ultimately, nothing was consummated.
Supporters of franchises will be patient with short-term struggles if a long-term plan is in place. If the Raptors' plan was obvious, then fans might even live with the club missing the playoffs again, the possibility of which undoubtedly is on the rise.
The question is, do the Raptors have a plan?
"There are cycles in teams, and I don't know if we're at the beginning of a three-year cycle or in the middle of it," Grunwald said yesterday. "But we have the ability to improve our team this summer and hopefully we can do that."
Okay, if the Raptors' plan is to keep the salary-cap space they will accrue because of expiring player contracts at the end of the season and use that cap space to bolster the team, then fine, that's great, do that.
If the club's ownership wants Grunwald -- who is in the final year of his contract -- to handle that off-season project, the board needs to give him his contract extension as soon as possible and set his parameters.
What this organization can't continue to do, however, is give the impression that it is flying by the seat of its pants.
At times the only overriding game plan seems to be, "Let's hope Vince Carter stays healthy and plays better."
Carter, of course, is hurt again, having sprained his left ankle on Wednesday during the Raptors' 86-82 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Two more of the Raptors' key players, Chris Bosh (ankle sprain) and Jalen Rose (fractured finger), are battling injuries, too, so Grunwald was not exactly dealing from a position of strength yesterday.
"Everyone would like us to add Shaquille O'Neal, but that's not going to happen," Grunwald said. "We could have made some bad deals, probably. But we decided to make only good deals, and there were none of those out there."
So the existing, size-challenged, inconsistent Raptors are left to hold down the fort for the rest of this season. As stated earlier, that's not necessarily a bad thing, as long as a realistic, long-term plan has been agreed upon and is understood by everyone from the president to the towel boys.
Given the current state of affairs, we'll really see what Raptors coach Kevin O'Neill is made of during the next couple of weeks. Some observers are fond of the notion that O'Neill is a genius and everyone else in the Raptors organization either is an idiot, a softie, or both. But it's not that simple.
True, the Raptors roster has some gaping holes. And with Carter, Rose and Bosh battling injuries, no one expects the Raptors to be good, or even to win very many games until those guys get their bodies back in order.
But what we should be watching for is attitude, body language, creativity, tenacity.
Can O'Neill keep his club playing hard in difficult circumstances?
Can he make the best of a rough situation?
The Raptors are facing some lofty hurdles and huge issues. A colleague asked recently, "At what point did we all come to expect, and accept, that bad things were going to happen to the Raptors? When did this team lose hope?"
Coincidentally, O'Neill is fond of the expression, "You're either selling wins or you're selling hope."
So what are the Raptors selling these days?