Colangelo's obsession

Bryan Colangelo shakes hands with Wayne Embry after being named new president and general manager...

Bryan Colangelo shakes hands with Wayne Embry after being named new president and general manager of the Toronto Raptors Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2006. (Toronto Sun/David Lucas)

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:51 AM ET

Bryan Colangelo looks at his watch impatiently.

The interview hasn't even begun and already he's looking like he'd rather be someplace else.

Apparently, there's not a second to waste. Not when you're in the business of repairing a broken franchise. Not when you're in a hurry to draft players and sign players and trade players and evaluate players -- and none of it is going to mean much of anything for a year or three.

"Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and I'm thinking about a deal," the Raptors president, general manager and conscience was saying in the mid-afternoon between beeps of his BlackBerry. And by the look of his eyes, there have been a lot of middle of the nights lately.

"Constantly, you're looking at ways for improving your basketball team. We'll look at everything."

Colangelo still is settling into Toronto life. He hasn't found a home yet, hasn't necessarily settled on a neighbourhood, has found schools for his children, although he won't say which schools or how many children. (For the record, the Phoenix Suns media guide indicates he has a son and a daughter).

He still is learning the city, calling it Spad-eena instead of Spad-ina, not exactly sure where Bathurst meets Eglinton. He is a restaurant guy, but hasn't experienced the steak at House of Chan or Hy's just yet.

All he has time for is basketball. Basketball during the day. Watching his Phoenix Suns -- his father's team now -- at night.

"My eyes are a little tired," Colangelo said. "I'm staying up late watching the West Coast games."

It is late at night, you learn more about Bryan Colangelo from watching the Suns play than anything he is willing to reveal. You learn about his creativity. You learn about his aggressiveness. You learn how he built a contending team in a most unconventional way.

On the Suns roster, there is Leandro Barbosa from Brazil, Raja Bell from the Virgin Islands, Boris Diaw from France, Pat Burke from Ireland, Nikoloz Tskitishvili from Georgia (the country, not the southern state) and a guy named Steve Nash from a place called Canada.

A typical NBA team this isn't.

That is what's most encouraging for Raptors followers. How many small deals turned into big deals for the Suns.

Last year at this time, shooter Joe Johnson made a strange decision. He wanted to play for the Atlanta Hawks instead of the contending Suns. But rather than let him go, the owner of the Suns approved the matching of Johnson's free-agent contract.

Then Colangelo did the Colangelo thing. The obvious thing would have been to match the contract and keep Johnson. Instead, he pulled off a sign-and-trade and sent Johnson, a proven player, for Diaw, an unproven player.

"We tried to get Diaw at the draft (in 2003) and then tried to get him after the draft," Colangelo said. "The owner thought I was crazy when I said we'd do a sign-and-trade."

The better player right now: Diaw.

That's the kind of deal he may have to make with Mike James. He doesn't have a lot of tradeable parts, a lot of assets anyone would be interested in. He likes his core players -- Chris Bosh, Charlie Villaneuva, Morris Peterson, even Joey Graham (hmm) -- but the list is short.

"I was actually looking up the record the past few years," he said, "and I can understand the disappointment and the angst around here. It hasn't been good."

He actually was surprised by the numbers he saw, how many poor seasons there have been in a row.

So why leave a winner for a longtime loser? Why leave a hot spot like Phoenix, where he has lived his whole life, for Canadian winter? Why leave the franchise his father basically built to now have to listen to Richard Peddie?

"I'm not afraid of the challenge," he said. "For a long time, I had things on auto pilot. We were established. We knew how to do things. Here, I have to get in there and churn. It's a new experience. It's a great experience.

"If it's about effort, we're going to make the effort. If we fail, it won't be because of a lack of effort. I can assure you of that."

Colangelo checks his BlackBerry again. "Anything else?" he asks.

There's a meeting to get to. No more time to waste.

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So the New York Knicks are talking about buying out coach Larry Brown. Now, that is rich. Brown has a track record as a winning coach. Our old pal, Isiah Thomas, is about as lame a general manager as there is. That's a mess far worse than anything here.

BARRY, SPRINGER SHOW

Russ Springer is my new hero. He did what all of us were thinking. First, he threw at Barry Bonds. Then, he hit him with a pitch. Then, he was kicked out of the game in Houston and left as a newfound celebrity to a standing ovation.

HEATLEY'S NO HOSSA

All year long we heard how one-sided the Dany Heatley for Marian Hossa deal was in favour of the Senators. It certainly was in Ottawa's favour financially but when push came to shove in the playoffs, it says here the Sens should have stuck with Hossa.


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