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There's still hope for Raps, really
By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

As my grandfather used to say, even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while.

At times the Raptors have looked like blind squirrels in their search for a new general manager. But if everyone would just take a deep breath, it's worth noting there really is only one significant mistake the Raptors could make, and to be fair, they haven't made it.

They have not made an inappropriate hiring. That means there's still hope, blind or otherwise.

Things have become very quiet in Raptorland, which often is an indication of increased activity behind the scenes. But no matter what's going on, there's no doubt the club has been roasted by both media and fans recently.

First the Raptors had five GM candidates. Then two. Then Julius (Dr. J) Erving said he was interested. Then the short list of two candidates was thrown out. Then it leaked that the Raptors had begun to contact coaches, despite assurances the new GM would get to hire his own coach.

Richard Peddie, the president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., said coaches were called merely as a time-saving exercise. Whether you accept his explanation or not, the impression was that one side of the company didn't know what the other side was doing.

Peddie clearly has become the Raptors' whipping boy since Glen Grunwald was fired as GM on April 1. The fact there's a website promoting the firing of Peddie seems notable until you recall there was a similar site for Grunwald. When a team underachieves, people need to vent.

Peddie has been criticized roundly, the main accusation being he is unqualified to make sports-related decisions. But without getting into a debate about Peddie's credentials, the notion of a CEO not having input on all important organizational matters is naive.

As the head of the company, of course he's going to be involved in the big-picture manoeuvrings. Now, Peddie is an employee, and an orderly retirement is on the horizon. But his successor -- be it an outsider like the overhyped (and overrated?) Paul Beeston or an insider like Tom Anselmi, who is being groomed -- is going to be involved, too.

Expecting Peddie to play a non-role is like expecting Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to have no impact on his government's budget. If you think McGunity is a tax-happy promise-breaker, well, that isn't the point. The people chose McGuinty, so he has a big say. Similarly, the owners at MLSEL chose Peddie, so he has a big say.

The scuttlebutt is that MLSEL chairman of the board Larry Tanenbaum dissuaded Peddie and interim GM Jack McCloskey from hiring one of the early, low-profile GM candidates. True or not, someone on the inside influenced a change in direction. That doesn't make the Raptors smart, but ultimately, they may wind up in a better place.

Imagine someone had said to you six weeks ago that the Raptors' next GM would be one of three men: Highly regarded Detroit Pistons vice-president of basketball operations John Hammond; equally highly regarded Sacramento Kings VP of basketball operations Wayne Cooper; or legendary ex-player Dr. J. What would you have said? Yours truly probably would have said, "Hmmm, that sounds okay."

The Raptors still might end up with one of those guys.

Five or 10 years from now, no one will remember if the Raptors hired their GM on May 1, or June 1, or July 1. No one will remember if they interviewed one guy, or 10, or 20.

We've all seen games in which teams did everything right but blew it at the end. We've also seen games in which teams played poorly but pulled out a win, whether by accident or by design.

This is not meant to excuse the Raptors for their performance in the past month. They've looked goofy.

But they have not made an irreversible mistake. Regardless of the optics, there still are acorns under the tree.









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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