This nice guy now finished

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:37 AM ET

We can change. With the firing of Glen Grunwald as general manager yesterday, the Raptors hope they sent a message of adaptability to two very important segments of the population: Their past and potential ticket-buyers; and the few players on their roster who have discernible value, particularly Vince Carter.

The Carter camp had been prepared to march into the Raptors' offices at season's end and deliver an ultimatum.

If they were in a bad mood, the ultimatum would be, "Trade Vince." If they were in a good mood, the ultimatum would be, "Fix this or trade Vince."

Not that Carter doesn't have blood on his hands from the wounds the club has suffered. And if the new GM, whoever it is, decides of his own accord that trading Carter is in the best interests of the franchise, then that's another matter.

But it remains to be seen if the announcement yesterday -- coming as it did with only eight games remaining in the regular season -- will give the Carter camp reason to pause.

Carter has great personal regard for Grunwald, so this is not about any feud between them. In fact, arguably the most heartwarming moment in franchise history occurred in the summer of 2001 when Carter signed his long-term contract and Grunwald was so overcome with joy at the press conference that he gave Carter an impromptu hug.

But Carter is tired of losing and Peddie understands that.

"I don't want to speculate on what Vince might do," Peddie said yesterday following the announcement that Grunwald is out and Jack McCloskey is the interim GM.

"But Vince wants to win. He's 27. He still has a number of years left, but there's only one champion a year. The new general manager, I have to believe, will see Vince as a key part, not only in how he plays, but to make sure Vince buys in."

Those close to Carter say he has no problem "buying in," as long as there's something worthwhile to buy into.

As for the ticket-buyers, the Raptors got a dollars-and-cents wakeup call in the past couple of weeks.

As usual, the team gave its season-ticket holders an opportunity to buy playoff tickets, the stipulation being that if the club didn't make the post-season, the money either could be refunded or put toward season tickets for next season. It's an annual practice, but according to sources, the return rate this year was abominable, the worst in club history.

Peddie claimed that in past years the Raptors did far better in this regard than other franchises, and now Toronto simply is in line with NBA cities like Miami and Boston.

"But we did get less than in past years," he admitted. "This is going to play out for our fans in the summer. Who do we hire? Who do we draft? Who do we sign as free agents? What trades might we make? (The new GM) is going to have to come in and not only articulate a vision, but enthuse people in that vision. What he says hopefully will help us sell tickets, but there might be some wait-and-see, too."

Peddie said he'll consult with NBA officials to help compile a list of appropriate GM candidates.

"It has to be a basketball guy," Peddie said. "We have enough suits."

Grunwald once was considered the perfect combination of a basketball guy and a suit. And Grunwald was classy to the end this week. After privately being fired on Monday, he didn't chug a bottle of Jack Daniel's and go on a shooting spree. In fact, he delayed the announcement till yesterday because he wanted to be part of a ceremony on Wednesday in which the club's Coach Mac Award was presented to the late Bernie Offstein, a great friend of Toronto basketball.

But ultimately, Grunwald's rise and fall confirmed the old cliche about nice guys finishing last.

"This is a reflection of our organization's commitment to make the hard decisions that are necessary," Peddie said.

Making hard decisions is one thing. The next challenge is making enough right decisions to get the fan base and players like Vince Carter re-energized.


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