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  Tue, June 29, 2004


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Rolling the dice
Lots of new players in the game but on-court success is a real crapshoot
By STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

Another day, another gamble for the Raptors.

That's what this franchise has come to.

A roll of the dice.

A hope.

An inexpensive prayer.

His name is Sam Mitchell and he will be introduced today as the new coach in town. Yet another Raptors coach, the third in three years.

It should be noted that the Raptors beat out no one for Mitchell's services. He was as available as groceries and almost the same price. Big shoes he doesn't have to fill. This team hasn't had the right coach since Butch Carter lost his mind and his job all at the same time.

And somehow that seems about a hundred years ago.

Now the Rob Babcock era begins in earnest, less than a month on the job as general manager: So many cards shuffled in so little time. And yet so many of the Raptors moves seem like a spin of the roulette wheel, a cross of the fingers, a three-point shot at the buzzer.

Who really knows if they're headed in the right direction?

They have a general manager who has never been a general manager. They have a head coach who has never been a head coach. They have a disenfranchised franchise player whom they must somehow solve.

And they have an unpronounceable first-round draft pick -- what is his name, anyway? -- selected eighth but who was not ranked that highly by anyone else who seemed to matter.

Other than that, all is well.

This is a team crying out for credibility and it's difficult to give it the benefit of the doubt when you don't know who or what to believe in. You can't be sure about Babcock and you can't be sure about Mitchell. There is no track record.

But they ask you to believe. Ask you to be patient. Ask you to have faith. Ask you to trust.

For some reason, the honeymoon phase seems shorter for the Raptors than for any other Toronto franchise.

The public is less trusting. The Blue Jays' J.P. Ricciardi can spin his bafflegab and go nowhere and he remains a Teflon general manager, but had he been a Raptor, he would have been torn to shreds by now.

This team has tripped over itself too many times to get unconditional love. The public cynicism is real.

But at least the Raptors haven't stood still. At least there is a new general manager and a new coach and a vision and there will be new scouts and hopefully some players who care more about winning than they do about themselves.

Maybe Babcock is -- to use that annoying business phrase -- thinking outside the box. Maybe he knows or believes something about Sam Mitchell that nobody has known or believed before. Maybe all Babcock needs is a chance and all the coach needs is a chance and all Rafael Araujo needs is floor time.

Maybe Babcock is that progressive a thinker -- if there's hope, that's where it must come from -- or maybe, this is all the Raptors can get.

Toronto: A basketball home for the candidates who couldn't get elected in other jurisdictions. Babcock was an assistant in Minnesota. Mitchell was an assistant with the expansion Charlotte Bobcats. Wayne Embry was out of work. Alex English was an assistant on a Philadelphia 76ers team which was every bit as dysfunctional as the Raptors.

At least, in this game of cards the Raptors have shuffled their deck.

After the disinterest of Lenny Wilkens and the shrill of Kevin O'Neill, meet Sam Mitchell, the compromise candidate.

Somebody else's leftovers.









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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