Lay it all on the line

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:08 AM ET

Herbie Kuhn, the Raptors' eardrum-piercing, migraine-inducing P.A. guy who enjoys having his head rubbed by players before games, picked up his microphone seconds after the moribund squad was booed off the Air Canada Centre court on Wednesday night and announced, without any sense of irony, "Fans, don't forget to subscribe to Raptors-NBA TV!"

One media hack on his way to the Raptors locker room to perform yet another editorial lobotomy stared at Kuhn with a look of shock on his face.

Yes, there it was. Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, through one of its trained seals, attempting to shake down the fans for whatever money they had left.

Raptors fans deserve better.

What they deserve, at the very least, is for somebody in the front office, president and CEO Richard Peddie, co-owner Larry Tanenbaum, somebody, to hold a news conference this week and outline exactly what the goal is for this season, for next season and for the season after that. And be realistic. That way, if they set a goal of, say, five wins, people will know not to go to any more games this year.

Raptors faithful have listened to general manager Rob Babcock drone on about the team's so-called plan for more than a year. Now it's time, with the Raptors 1-15 and playing without passion on many nights, to set those goals publicly, lay everything out on the table. And if those goals are not met, heads should roll.

If the goal this season is to win 25 games, which is fair, and the team wins 20, then Babcock and/or head coach Sam Mitchell should be fired -- when the season is over. This corner says Babcock should get the axe first. Even though he did well in drafting Charlie Villanueva, Joey Graham and signing free agent Jose Calderon, the Vince Carter trade and the Rafael Araujo pick will haunt this organization for years.

In Mitchell's defence, the second-year head coach doesn't exactly have a lot of horses to work with.

However, if his team continues to to play uninspired basketball, as it did against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night, then he should be shown the door as well. Part of a coach's job is to motivate and frankly, the only person motivated on Wednesday was the team's mascot, who literally did back flips to keep the fans distracted while the Washington Generals, er, Raptors bumbled on against Memphis.

It's easy to sit back and scream that everyone should be fired now. But 16 games into the season, that won't do any good. One of the earmarks of a successful franchise is stability.

Everyone associated with the Raptors deserves his share of slings and arrows, although Mitchell finds it amusing that he has been slammed for being "too positive" during the current losing streak.

The coach held court yesterday following practice, explaining that, after witnessing profound cases of racism, poverty and a stint in the U.S. military in his younger days, nothing keeps him awake at night anymore. One of his army stories was especially entertaining, until one writer suggested that, at 6-foot-8, he would make an easy target on the battlefield.

"Man, first you get me fired, and now you get me shot," Mitchell said, with a laugh.

Here's an idea for the front office. Make this challenge to Babcock. Even though the slumping Jalen Rose, who wants out of Toronto, virtually is untradable given his contract situation, find a way to trade him and get something good in return.

If Babcock can do that, he deserves a reprieve.

If he can't, it's time to send him packing. And if the team doesn't play hard, Mitchell can go after him.

And then, start the rebuilding process again.

And then, see if St. Louis wants a franchise.


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