Time to go to work

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:03 AM ET

CHICAGO -- A lot of NBA teams employ what are known as capologists -- number crunchers who figure out exactly how much money the team can spend according to the league's salary cap rules.

Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo might consider going in a different direction this summer, and hiring someone with an explosive technology degree.

And then they can blow this team right up.

Colangelo certainly will have his work cut out for him when he begins to rebuild this moribund franchise, which hasn't qualified for the NBA playoffs for four consecutive seasons.

His first order of business will be to -- surprise, surprise -- try to sign all-star forward Chris Bosh to a long-term deal. That, apparently, won't be difficult, as Bosh has dropped many hints that he is willing to dedicate himself long-term to Toronto.

Once that's done, Colangelo has to figure out what he's going to do about the point guard situation. He either could re-sign Mike James, sign and trade James or let James, who will be a free agent this summer, walk away. If he stays, the onus will be on head coach Sam Mitchell to get the veteran guard to pass the ball more.

If James leaves, Colangelo will have to replace him with another quality point guard, as rookie Jose Calderon, while showing flashes of competence this season, clearly needs more seasoning, and a jump shot, before he can start consistently.

Colangelo could go the free-agent route and sign, say, Jason Terry, Speedy Claxton or Bobby Jackson. All but Jackson are younger than James, and all are decent point guards. Terry, 28, averaged 17 points and four assists this season while Claxton, 27, scored 12 points and picked up four assists per game.

Colangelo, who will have a high lottery selection, could grab someone in the draft, but there's nobody out there, with the possible exception of Marcus Williams of UConn, who could step right into the NBA.

The other area that desperately needs addressing is a big man who can take the pressure off Bosh and pull in rebounds. The Raptors finished 29th out of 30 in the NBA in rebounds per game (38.45), and 29th in shots blocked (3.33).

Loren Woods won't likely be back and Rafael Araujo obviously isn't up for the job and so, again, Colangelo will have to go elsewhere.

There's word that Uros Slokar, the team's second-round pick in 2005, who plays for Benetton Treviso, could be ready to play in the NBA. The 6-foot-11 power forward averaged 3.3 rebounds in 12.8 minutes per game in Italy. Slokar is said to be still growing and is a good player defensively.

If Slokar isn't ready, there's the draft -- but again, this year's field isn't strong. There are a couple of intriguing free-agent centres out there, including seven footers Joel Przybilla, who averaged seven rebounds for Portland, and Michael Olowokandi, as well as 6-foot-10 Nazr Mohammed, who averaged 5.2 boards this year.

Addressing the rebound problem would go a long way toward solving the Raptors' No.1 dilemma -- team defence. Toronto gave up a woeful 103.76 points per game this year, dead last in the NBA.

Mitchell has preached defence, but something has to give. Though Bosh, Morris Peterson and Charlie Villanueva, all had breakout seasons, only MoPete brought defence to the table every night.

Colangelo has been hailed as the second coming of Red Auerbach, although he hasn't really done anything yet. To get this team back on track, he'll have to be smart, as a negotiator, on the free-agent front, possibly on the trade front, and in the draft.

Raptors fans have waited four years for some light at the end of the tunnel. It's time to deliver.


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