Rose takes shot at Babcock

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:02 AM ET

Raptors general manager Rob Babcock set off a firestorm of controversy by predicting that his club may win fewer games this year.

Babcock told the Toronto Sun earlier this week that, because the franchise currently is going through a rebuilding phase, chances are they'll win fewer games than last year. The Raptors missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season last year.

Babcock's outspoken comments resulted in a backlash from fans, the media and now the players.

On the Best Damn Sports Show Period, Raptors veteran Jalen Rose was incredulous that his GM would make such a prediction -- although it must be said that Babcock's statement clearly echoed the thoughts of many basketball insiders who believe that, because of the loss of veteran forward Donyell Marshall to free agency, the Raptors will have a very difficult time matching last year's 33-49 mark. Still, there are those who believe that the second-year GM should not have made such a prediction when the franchise is trying to win back support from its wanning fan base.

"I've never been part of a situation like that -- and I'm sure I've never heard anybody in professional sports make a comment so negative that early in the season," Rose said. "Even bad teams have optimism. You don't want to take away the optimism so early in the season. The Bad News Bears coach wouldn't even tell (his team) that."

Second-year forward Matt Bonner, who signed a two-year deal worth about $4 million US over the summer to remain in Toronto, took Babcock's comments in stride.

"I'm keeping the faith," Bonner said yesterday from the IMG training centre in Florida. "Maybe the experts look at us on paper and see (the inexperience). But I don't think a youth movement is any excuse to write us off.

"If you put it all together, any team can have a surprise season and make the playoffs. That happens pretty much every year. And I think we can make the playoffs."

Bonner added that he wouldn't have signed with the Raptors if he didn't believe that Babcock had the franchise heading in the right direction.

"If you ask me, I believe we should go 82-0 this season," Bonner said with just a hint of laughter. "I'm a competitor. I would like to go 82-0. Realistically that probably won't happen, but last year there wasn't one game that I didn't think we could win heading into the game, and that's not going to change this year."

ENGLISH TO ITALY

Canadian national team star Carl English has signed to play for Virtus Bologna of the Italian league. English, who played in an NBA summer league with the Cleveland Cavaliers, averaged 18.0 points and 5.3 rebounds for Canada at this summer's world championship qualifying tournament.


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