GM has nothing to sell

Raptors GM Rob Babcock (left) has neither wins nor hope to offer Toronto fans at this time in their...

Raptors GM Rob Babcock (left) has neither wins nor hope to offer Toronto fans at this time in their existence. (Toronto Sun File/Ernest Doroszuk)

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

For one year, three months and one day -- precisely the time that Rob Babcock has been general manager of the Raptors -- those of us in the business of asking questions have been trying to get him to answer one.

So finally he does -- and all around him everything blows up real good.

This is the curse of being Babcock at this rather pathetic moment in the history of the Raptors.

Remain wishy-washy, which is his tendency, and people jump on you for being wishy-washy.

HEADLINE SCREAMS

Say nothing and you get accused of knowing nothing.

Finally open up and admit the truth, which he did -- that his team won't win as many games as last season, that it won't make the playoffs and that it hasn't really improved -- and a tabloid headline screams the way a tabloid headline is supposed to scream.

And then the damage controllers and apologists go into high alert in an attempt to put out the fire.

Another truth: This fire has been smouldering almost every day in Babcock's term of employment. Some of that has been his doing. Some of that has been merely circumstantial.

This is the trouble of being a general manager of limited resume and just as little success. As a fan, you want to trust the new general manager. You want to believe in a new face. You want to give him every chance possible to succeed.

That is human nature. Even more so for a sports fan.

But somehow, somewhere, something has to go his way to build some kind of trust with the public. That's the usual way the relationship should work between a general manager and a city.

You make a good deal, a good draft pick, a good decision and you buy yourself a little time and a whole lot of patience from the public. It has to be about belief. Always. It has to be about trust.

And as former Raptors coach Kevin O'Neill used to say, you're either selling wins or you're selling hope, but in this case Babcock is selling neither. And if you're not selling hope when you're losing, what are the fans supposed to believe in?

When Babcock was hired in June 2004, he admitted the team would have to take a step backward before proceeding forward. He said the Raptors were more likely to miss the playoffs than make it.

That was acceptable then.

Should it be acceptable one year and three months later?

The lineup Babcock inherited had Vince Carter starting and Morris Peterson and Donyell Marshall coming off the bench. The starting lineup he has now has Peterson starting for Carter and no Marshall.

Fifteen months after being hired, the Raptors are in worse shape than they were prior to Babcock's arrival.

And what he hasn't built up -- by doing nothing than hiring Sam Mitchell which could be construed of proactive -- is any kind of brownie points, any reason for anyone to believe he is capable.

When he doesn't speak, it isn't comforting. And now when he does, it isn't either.

The Babcock resume contains the drafting of Rafael Araujo, the signing of Rafer Alston, the trading away of Vince Carter. The Babcock resume has Donyell Marshall leaving for free agency, a No. 1 draft pick being used on the only position the Raptors are strong at, a second-round draft pick who chose Europe over Toronto.

Somewhere in all that you search for the plan, you search for progress, you search for something.

Rob Babcock is in a no-win position, partly because his basketball team is years away from contention and partly because he has no idea how to sell himself in a market where sell means everything.

He's damned if he does, damned if he doesn't.

A no-win situation for a team and its general manager that now advertises it expects to win less.


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