Not what he bargained for

STEVE SIMMONS,SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:53 AM ET

Ten games as a Raptor and already Shawn Marion admits the frustration is getting to him.

"I'm pissed off," he said yesterday after lifting weights. "I am. I want to win.

"I don't want to go out there and lose every night. I didn't come here for this. I didn't expect this.

"Right now, we've got no fire. We've got to find that fire. That's what we need. We have a talented team, man. We have to pull together and help each other. We have to decide now if we're going to fold it up or look in the mirror, make a stride, and get on with it."

Tonight is Marion's 11th game as a Raptor. He has been part of two wins, eight losses, and party to a Raptors team that accepts defeat far too comfortably. If anything and everything doesn't scream for change in this most annoying basketball season, it is how easily the Raptors lose, without much fight, without much anger, without offering anything resembling an answer most nights.

They have changed players and changed coaches and, in spite of Jay Triano's view that "we are playing better basketball," there is really no evidence to suggest that.

The trade for Marion was supposed to make a difference. It wasn't supposed to be about an expiring contract. It was about this season. It was about making a run. It was about seeing what Marion can do and where he might fit in come the future.

Before that, the trade for Jermaine O'Neal was supposed to make a difference also. But the trading of one for the other has seen the Raptors lose more often as the pressure on general manager Bryan Colangelo mounts, his previous sound judgment now open to debate and, possibly, ridicule.

A succession of Colangelo moves -- trades, signings, firings -- haven't done a thing to make the Raptors better. In fact, the opposite has occurred.

They didn't win without Marion and are worse with him.

"It's definitely frustrating for all of us," Marion said. "You can't go around blaming. We win or lose as a team.

"We have to stay positive with each other. If everyone wants to be negative, where's that going to get us? If everyone wants to be negative or bring controversy around us, why bother coming around? We're human. We need some encouragement. We need something to feel good about. I know we're not supposed to be need that, but we're all human.

"It's rough now, man. We're fighting the odds. It's that bad time of year. I'm pissed off, yeah, I'm pissed off. None of us are ready to quit."

For whatever reason, the presence of Marion, his 13 points a night, his eight rebounds, has been a blessing for Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh. And, for whatever reason, as Bargnani and Bosh have played better, the Raptors have not.

When asked why the team hasn't been more successful with Marion in the lineup at small forward, Triano paused.

"I don't really have an answer," he said and then he answered. "I feel like we've played better with him."

Two wins, eight losses. The numbers are the numbers -- .200 basketball. That's better than Marion's Miami Heat of a year ago, but among the worst in the NBA this season. The Raptors have a weak schedule the rest of the way, which has to be even more frustrating for their angst-filled followers.

If they were even close to a playoff spot at this time, the next three weeks almost certainly would guide them there.

On the NBA schedule, there is no shortage of late-season gimmes, but most of those earlier gimmes have turned out to be missed short putts for this team.

The Raptors have 14 winnable games of their final 17. That won't put them anywhere but it will provide a good ending to an otherwise lousy season.

Marion says he doesn't think about next year, about his future here, about his expiring contract or the huge pay cut he is certain to face wherever he happens to go.

"I'm just trying to get through this season."

Aren't we all.


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