General Mayhem

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

Rob Babcock made no promises when he was hired as general manager of the Raptors and so far you can say he's a man of his word.

He promised next to nothing and has delivered exactly that.

Babcock hired a rookie coach who, among other things, specializes in setting brushfires.

He traded the fraudulent Vince Carter for two draft picks and three players -- one never showed up, one doesn't play at all, and the other wants out, even to New Orleans of all places.

He signed Rafer Alston for six years and 18 mental breakdowns, whichever comes first.

He drafted that deer-in-the-headlights centre, Rafael Araujo, who can't play, is being force-fed in the lineup, and may never be able to play.

In other words, the gloves are off and the honeymoon is over. Alston may want an apology from someone but in this case sorry is, in fact, the most accurate word to describe the scene.

If a restaurant served up this kind of slop it would be out of business almost immediately.

If the government threw money away as recklessly as the Raptors do, we'd bring in Justice John Gomery and insist on an inquiry.

But here are Your Toronto Raptors, with a new general manager, a new coach, a new era (so the ads say) and no reason for optimism. There is Chris Bosh and nothing else to hope for. A terrific kid who won't have any reason to stay here if some kind of structure isn't built around him.

Almost by habit, the Raptors just keep tripping all over themselves. Running from one incident to another. Racing from controversy to controversy.

This isn't a basketball team as much as it has become a 24-hour crisis line. And the leadership supposedly comes from a general manager learning on the job and the coach learning on the job and the fans all the while paying for it.

"The jury is still out (on Babcock and Mitchell)," said Richard Peddie, president of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, who hired Babcock and played a part in the hiring of Mitchell. "I think we have really good people who are working hard and are learning from their mistakes ... I'll help them with it and other people will help them."

Reassuring words those are not. This has become the basketball version of The Apprentice except no one is saying "You're fired!" At least not yet. The Raptors are 12th in the embarrassingly terrible Eastern Conference of the NBA. They are 24th in a league of 30 teams.

Hell, Glen Grunwald and Kevin O'Neill could have done that much and they weren't even speaking to each other.

"I wasn't convinced we could be a playoff team and Rob said as much when he was hired, but I hoped we'd be better than we are," Peddie said. "I'm disappointed in our record. I thought we've shown some signs.

STEPS BACKWARD

"I see a number of good things. Rob has stuck to his vision from the beginning. He hasn't run from issues ... I was really pleased with our initial progress. We've taken some steps forward and some steps backward."

And in the end, a franchise going nowhere in a hurry. The great Raptors Shuffle: One step forward, one step back, cha-cha-ching.

"We've only been at it six months," Peddie said. Somehow, it seems like a whole lot longer than that.


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