If he could start all over again, Rob Babcock wouldn't change a thing he has done in his short time as general manager of the Raptors.
He would still hire Sam Mitchell to coach.
He would still draft Rafael Araujo with the eighth pick in the NBA draft.
He would still throw all that money at Rafer Alston.
"Would I have liked it to be smoother? Absolutely," Babcock said in a wide-ranging interview in yet another tumultuous Raptors season. "Would I like the distractions to go away? Absolutely. Not everything can take care of itself right away. These are growing pains. I knew what I was getting into. It's going to take a while."
He knew what he was getting into to a point. But nobody could have predicted how much of a distraction Vince Carter ("I'm in-I'm out") has become and nobody could have predicted what role Jalen Rose is working in the background and nobody could have predicted the meltdown of the ambitious Alston or that the most entertaining aspect of his team would be the daily tirades of its rookie coach.
"This is still the opportunity of a lifetime for me," reiterated Babcock, six months after being hired to replace Glen Grunwald.
And speaking candidly on the multitude of issues that surround the Raptors, Babcock reacted this way:
- On Alston's weekend meltdown: "He had an immature response. He knows he made a mistake. He didn't handle the situation well and got overwhelmed by it. I understand Rafer. I don't think he had any idea how much responsibility or pressure there would be on him. Rafer is a very emotional, very passionate young man. He's working through this and we're working with him."
- On the hiring of Mitchell and his public rants: "He's exactly what I expected. He's doing everything I expected. Our philosophy is the same and we support each other 100%. He has made his share of mistakes and he'll make more. Like all of us, he's learning on the job."
- On the drafting and early failure of Araujo: "I really believe it's just a matter of time for him. He's not a leaper or a shot blocker but he has quick feet and a better than average ability to run the court. Physically, he can step in and play right now ... You have to wait three years to evaluate these rookies. It's up to him."
- On the constant Vince Carter trade rumours and distractions: "Vince has really made an effort to learn what we're about and try to give full effort. With all the rumours surfacing, he says he doesn't worry about that kind of stuff, but you can see it weighs on him and weighs on the rest of the players. It's not easy for the team. They read the rumours. They're thinking, 'Is he here or is he gone?' It would be really good to be able to put all those things to rest."
- On the stories of internal turmoil on the Raptors: "We've had a couple of really tough road trips. It's like being on vacation with your family, sometimes. You love them, but by the fifth day together you're bouncing off the walls."
In six months on the job, Rob Babcock has yet to make the Raptors better or more responsible or less turbulent. Still, he contends they are making progress that can't yet be measured in the standings.
"My goal is establish our philosophy this year and build from there," he said. "It's not as much about wins and losses as it is about how we're playing the game. If we play the way I think he can, we can fight for a playoff spot."
Just another fight for Babcock. Another in a season of many.