Changes are afoot for Raptors

Raptors' Will Solomon, left, keeps the ball away from Clippers' Baron Davis during the second half...

Raptors' Will Solomon, left, keeps the ball away from Clippers' Baron Davis during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles on Dec. 22, 2008.(AP Photo/Francis Specker)

FRANK ZICARELLI

, Last Updated: 11:31 AM ET

SACRAMENTO -- Changes are afoot with the Raptors, an underachieving yet overrated team that shoots itself in the foot on most nights.

With the Raptors resuming their Christmas road schedule tonight against the sad-sack Kings, the rumours swirl as the speculation mounts.

Earlier this week, general manager Bryan Colangelo was quick to dismiss talk that he was in a panic mode, a claim made by an anonymous team executive to Sam Smith, one of the most well-connected and well-respected chroniclers of all things related to the hardwood, who shared his views on Bulls.com.

People can question his moves, but Colangelo isn't the kind of person to make rash decisions.

Above everything else, Colangelo is a calculating individual who will do whatever it takes to win.

But he's not alone in an NBA climate that is ripe for change. Teams such as the Kings, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks and Portland Trail Blazers, to name a few, appear poised to make moves.

Whether it's as early as next week, when the Raptors return from their six-game odyssey, or closer to the Feb. 19 trade deadline, there will be roster changes.

A philosophical change also must happen.

Jermaine O'Neal is the only Raptor who plays with an edge and who carries a certain swagger.

He doesn't have the same cachet he had in Indiana because O'Neal no longer has that lift to his game that made him an MVP candidate.

Injuries and the vagaries of aging will do that to a player, but O'Neal will post numbers, providing he isn't settling for perimeter jumpers.

Outside of O'Neal, the Raptors are too nice.

The team lacks that killer instinct that separates good clubs from the bad.

Today's NBA is a cut-throat league and the Raptors are in dire need of a player who always is in attack mode, a player cut from the same cloth as a Ron Artest, a Stephen Jackson or a Paul Pierce, guys with attitudes and baggage who want nothing more than to destroy a foe.

Rebounding is all about attitude, regardless of what some people will have you believe. If you want the ball bad enough, a forceful player will grab it and control it. At the very least, he will put a body on an opponent.

The Raptors aren't physical. Neither are they instinctive.

The Raptors way is to move the ball and heave jumpers. They may begin games by trying to establish an inside presence, but the team's reliance on the jump shot often leads to no shot at winning games.

Good teams play an inside-out game by establishing a low-post presence and drawing double-teams, when more open looks become available for spot-up shooters.

There are flaws and questionable personnel decisions that continue to plague the Raptors.

One trade, no matter how big in scope, won't cure the team.

Sam Mitchell's dismissal was more about philosophy than any won-lost record.

It came at a time when the Raptors were being embarrassed and as such a convenient reason to justify the move was made available, despite what was publicly said.

The time soon will arrive, and some would argue the time already has arrived, when Colangelo has to modify his philosophy and acquire a player with an edge and toughness who plays on the perimeter.

The list of potential suitors will grow, but it all begins with an admission that a change in philosophy is needed.

Without this admission, the Raptors will continue to be this jump-shot happy team that will compete and stay in some games, depending on that night's matchup.

You look up and down the Raptors roster and you notice nice guys who say all the nice things and who will, on occasion, produce nice games.

But we all know where nice guys finish, a fate that awaits the Raptors if meaningful change isn't initiated.

With 2009 fast approaching, there will be new players and talk of a renewal.

But until the Raptors change their culture, nothing meaningful will happen.

That's not panicking. It's merely admitting the truth.


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