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  Thu, April 8, 2004


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Final curtain comes down

By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

This is the end. My only friend, the end.

Those dark words from Jim Morrison of the Doors were applicable at the Air Canada Centre last night as the Raptors officially were eliminated from NBA playoff contention for the second season in a row.

The end of this season really does feel like a friend for anyone associated with the Raptors. People resisted the urge to storm the court and cut down the nets, but no one honestly could find a reason to extend the frustration any further.

"This team isn't far off from being a pretty good club," said beleaguered coach Kevin O'Neill, whose Raptors fell 94-90 to the Indiana Pacers. "But the events of the year have certainly been a testing group of events."

The Raptors (31-47) still have four games to play, but the off-season truly begins today. General manager Glen Grunwald already has been fired and replaced on an interim basis by Jack McCloskey. Next on the agenda will be decisions on what to do with O'Neill, who has one year left on his contract, and whether or not to completely tear down the roster. That process could include the trading of marquee player Vince Carter, whether he asks to be dealt or not.

After the Raptors' victory in Cleveland against the Cavaliers on Tuesday, Carter raised some eyebrows in Canada when he implied the game had been particularly important to him because it was on U.S. cable network TNT. Carter scored 32 points on Tuesday, but had only 15 last night.

Now, those of us who live north of the border wouldn't fault a Canadian playing for the Nashville Predators if he said a game on Hockey Night in Canada was particularly important to him. But in a season that has gone as poorly as this one for the Raptors, citing TNT was not the most politically smart thing for Carter to do. It gave people the opportunity to chortle, "So Vince, if every game were on TNT, would the Raptors be undefeated?"

The Carter question is a puzzling one for the Raptors hierarchy to wrestle with, but O'Neill's status is easier to gauge. If the Raptors make good on president Richard Peddie's pledge to let the new GM decide what to do with O'Neill, the chances are good the new GM will want to bring in his own coach, provided there is ample time to find one.

In a pre-game interview last night, Pacers coach Rick Carlisle did the expected and stuck up for his good friend O'Neill, who coached under Carlisle for two seasons with the Detroit Pistons.However, Carlisle's criticisms of the Toronto organization were surprisingly blunt.

"(If O'Neill gets fired) it would be difficult for a top coach to look at this situation and honestly say it would be attractive after what has transpired here in the past three weeks," Carlisle said, referring to the feud that came to a head between Grunwald and O'Neill, and a controversial newspaper article that detailed O'Neill's alleged failings.

"It's amazing to me the things that have happened here. I'm still dumbfounded by it. This franchise has proven over the past three weeks that it is undeserving of Kevin O'Neill's integrity and convictions in terms of what he stands for as a basketball man. What has gone on here is not his fault and it's not the players' fault."

Somewhat strangely, Carlisle also wasn't shy about commenting on the Raptors' search for a new GM.

"I think everybody knows what needs to happen here and it's up to this ownership, this conglomerate, to be able to make that happen," Carlisle said.

"If (the new GM) is able to run basketball and have true decision-making power, it's an attractive job. If it's going to be a political quagmire, then I don't see anybody worth their salt coming in here."

Well, fortunately for the Raptors, Carlisle is not a member of their selection committee.

But his general theory that the Raptors have a lot of rebuilding to do, in terms of their staff, their personnel and their reputation, is valid.

This is the end. My only friend, the end.

With friends like these, the Raptors don't need any enemies.









Do you like the new-look Raptors heading into the 2013-14 NBA season?
  Yes, new GM made great moves
  No, they will still be a terrible team
  Unsure what to make of it


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