Another lost season

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:22 AM ET

At the end of another season of despair, it is impossible to know where to begin.

There are that many stories to forget from a Raptors season in which uncertainty was both a destination and a conclusion. Another season lost, another season wasted.

There is always next year with the Raptors but there is never this year.

And so they start all over again now, with a roster not good enough, with an unathletic team in an athletic league, with free agents certain to disappear, with cap trouble, with a coach who might not be one and with a general manager, whose power, if not decision making, is absolutely suspect.

That is the first, if not last, problem for the Raptors. A year ago, they hired Rob Babcock hoping for a fresh face and a fresh mind to invigorate the franchise. Instead, they got a deer in the headlights.

REAL DILEMMA

Now they have to figure out whether to keep the deer or mount him on a wall somewhere. And the real dilemma for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. is this: If it believes Babcock's first year as general manager is a clear indication of his skills, it has no choice but to fire him. If it believes Babcock is still the guy, it has no choice but to let him carry on without interruption.

Take away the politics and the decision is clear cut one way or the other. But this isn't a determination made without politics. If CEO Richard Peddie admits that hiring Babcock was an error, he is in fact indicting his own hire. If he doesn't admit it, as he demonstrated the other day with the shuffling of ancient Wayne Embry into a new post position, then Peddie, typically, is buying himself more time and selling out the franchise all in the same breath.

Either way, it's not good.

This team. This plan. This organization. You take your pick.

Not since the days of SCTV has anything blown up this good and this often. Only no one was left laughing.

So let us take stock for a moment and try to be encouraging. There is a general manager in charge who has proven nothing but myopia. There is a glib coach in Sam Mitchell, whose team plays defence like Manny Ramirez. There is a point guard who doesn't pass and a hugely overpaid forward who only likes to shoot.

And there is, bless him, Chris Bosh. There has to be something to believe in and he is it. One player to build around. Just not an architect to be found.

Donyell Marshall sat at his locker stall before the final loss of the season trying to put into words what didn't work on the court.

Whenever the question was anything close to contentious, he stopped, paused, paused again, chose his words carefully and then answered. When asked about the lack of on-court chemistry, he eventually said: "It's funny, because we generally like each other but we had difficulty believing in each other."

When asked about a half-season of trade rumours, he said: "I don't think a lot of people were focused on the games."

When asked if the team was headed in the right direction, he said: "We have a lot of work to do."

BEING POLITE

Marshall was being polite if not typically understated. He could have talked about how terribly the Vince Carter situation was handled, how the team got nothing in exchange for Carter, how the non-stop trade rumours upset the team, how the team gave up 100 points or more on 49 occasions which just happens to coincide with the number of games the Raptors lost.

"I continue to look forward," Sam Mitchell said, not wishing to discuss the past or just about anything else within reason. This morning, the autopsy begins in earnest. The prognosis is nothing if not negative.


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