Colangelo one proud papa

STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:52 PM ET

Bryan Colangelo talks and instantly you believe.

You believe because he is that commanding, that controlling, that convincing.

You believe because he leaves little doubt as to whose Raptors team this is, whose vision, whose plan for the future.

This is not J.P. Bafflegab. This is not J.F.J. Doubletalk. Colangelo is not just a basketball man -- he's become a metaphor, an adjective. The Maple Leafs need a Colangelo type. With Colangelo power. With Colangelo foresight.

Bryan Colangelo can't wait for tonight. You can see it in his eyes, hear it in his voice. He is that anxious. Anxious to start the NBA season. Anxious to see the Raptors in a game that counts. Anxious to determine if this build-from-within strategy makes the Raptors even more legitimate than they were a year ago.

This is his basketball baby and just how much the baby has grown up may be the question of all questions as another new Raptors season begins. In little more than a year on the job, he inherited a patient, transformed it into his baby, and now has a child walking on its own.

Whether it can run, ride a bike, or drive a car are the next matters to embrace.

"The prevailing feeling (on our staff) is we're so much further ahead than we were at this point last year," said Colangelo, holding court in a corridor of the Air Canada Centre yesterday. "We basically had a team of uncertainty. Nine new faces on the roster. Multiple trades and turnover ... free agent signings. Uncertainty with respect to the coaching picture. People asking: Is Sam (Mitchell) going to be the coach? All that's behind us."

Sam Mitchell and his wardrobe aren't going anywhere.

There aren't doubts about the gamble of a first pick, Andrea Bargnani, making it in the NBA.

The team that never had a real point guard now has two.

Add in the cornerstone Chris Bosh, a touch of Anthony Parker and a bench as deep as the ocean and the mind wanders...

Most seasons with most teams in most leagues begin with optimistic dreams and end in disappointment. So far in Toronto, Colangelo is one-for-one in pulling off stunning campaigns. Some look at last year as pure fluke. Many doubt the veracity of this Raptors team.

"That doesn't bother me," Colangelo said of the prognosticators who have already written off this Raptors season.

"That's something that motivates me, it motivates these guys. No one picked us to make the playoffs last year and we did. No one picked us to win the division and we did.

"I've had teams do well that were predicted to do poorly and I've had teams do poorly that were predicted to do very well."

The Colangelo view of this team is somewhat basic but sound. He saw a team with various parts, getting along, working together, growing, and he didn't want to get in the way of what he calls "chemistry."

He wanted to build on what was, after the first month and before the last one, one of the best teams in the NBA.

"Our mantra was 'Let's keep it together.' Let's stick with the plan. Let's grow from within," he said.

'WE BELIEVE'

"We believe in the team we have.

"We have a deep, young team and we've gotten deeper ... Last year nobody knew what Anthony Parker or Jorge Garbajosa were going to do. Nobody knew that (Jose) Calderon was going to take his game from a fairly unimpressive rookie season to a very impressive second year...We don't have a rookie who's going to hit the rookie wall. Now we have an experienced team with some playoff games under their belt, a team that's been together."

Colangelo doesn't hope to make the playoffs. He talks about being playoff ready come April. He doesn't begin to call this a championship caliber team -- but he does say the Eastern Conference is wide open for possibilities.

"The key is being ready for the playoffs," he said. "I don't necessarily say if we win 46 games (after winning 47) that the season is a failure. I don't say if we win 50 games that it's a success. We're continuing to build toward championship status."

But first, the Philadelphia 76ers tonight. Opening night in the NBA. 'I'm anxious," said Colangelo, forever restless. "I'm always anxious."


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