CHICAGO -- The joke today would be 'break up the Raptors', but sadly for the players and coach Jay Triano, it's now a done deal.
Just when they got on a roll, nine wins in their past 13 games, their NBA season ended last night.
The noteworthy part of this late spurt, which brought their final won-loss tally to 33-49, was it strengthened Jay Triano's case to return as head coach full-time after replacing the 8-9 Sam Mitchell in December.
General manager Bryan Colangelo was at the United Center last night to watch the 109-98 win over the playoff-bound Bulls, but is en route to New York for NBA board of governors meetings and won't get to the coaching question until later this spring.
It's believed Colangelo will rubber-stamp Triano at some point.
"I've got some ideas about things I want to say, but I don't want Bryan hearing it from someone other than me," Triano said. "We'll just play it by ear. There will be a couple of dates we're both in Toronto and we'll talk about which direction we're going to go."
Triano knows how different life would have been for this team had the chemistry been this good at mid-season, but moaning is now pointless.
"It's been the type of basketball we've envisioned a lot earlier than now," he said. "The schedule wasn't favourable as it has been recently and I think they've become a lot more familiar with each other. You know now when Shawn (Marion) is going to cut back-door and Shawn knows when Jose (Calderon's) going to move towards him to get the ball.
"The last little while we've shared the ball well, had a little bit more presence at the defensive end and we're able to get out and run."
Today will be exit meetings at the Air Canada Centre, Triano's first as a head coach, though he knows the drill from his days under Mitchell.
"I used to help put those (off-season reports) together," Triano recalled. "The assistants all chipped in to help guys get better. Different guys have different schedules and we'll have different things we want guys to work on, strengths and basketball skills.
"I plan on visiting the guys and having a bunch of them play in the summer league. We'll be able to keep tabs on them."
Andrea Bargnani, Calderon and Roko Ukic will all be playing for their respective countries at the European championships. Chris Bosh will be getting a long-awaited rest after going from the 2007-08 season into the Olympics and then back to the NBA.
Forward Jake Voskuhl shared the general lament that the team saved its best for too late, but said there were mitigating circumstances.
"Obviously we know we could've done better. But look at all the adversity we went through; a coaching change, all the new players trying to come together. When Jermaine O'Neal was here, it's one kind of basketball and then Shawn comes in it's another."
The Raptors major free agent question surrounds Marion, forward Joey Graham and guard Anthony Parker.
Jose Calderon made both his late-game free throws to finish with an NBA record .981 success rate from the charity stripe. Calvin Murphy's .958 in 1980-81 with Houston was the old mark. Calderon missed just three of 154 free throw attempts all season.
Chris Bosh broke his own franchise record with his 43rd double-double last night, finished the year one of seven NBAers to average a double-double and was one rebound shy of the fourth 20-20 game in franchise history.
Andrea Bargnani missed his second straight game with a sore left heel.
Toronto stunned the Bulls with a 14-point lead after a quarter, their largest lead of the season.