Colangelo has to reconstruct roster, reputation

STEVE SIMMONS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

This has become personal for Bryan Colangelo. You can see it in his eyes, hear it in his voice.

He is fighting for his team, for his own reputation, fighting against the torrent of doubt that now surrounds the Raptors.

The genius tag has worn off in time and his last name is no longer an executive adjective of choice.

NO DUMMY

And Colangelo, no dummy, is well aware of what is being said about his team and his ability to set things straight.

"Does it bother you?" he is asked at his annual state-of-the-Raptors season finale address.

"Yes," he said. "And it should. It drives me. You know, I should have thicker skin after all these years. But, you know, I wouldn't be human, and I wouldn't have the same kind of passion if it didn't bother me.

"You take the good with the bad and the bad with the good and there are moments when you're a genius and moments when you're a goat and you have to look at the historical averages to try to make yourself feel right."

You listen to Colangelo and you want to turn the clock back and you want to believe him. You do. But then you hear him say "we're not too far away" and then repeat it over and over again, and you wonder.

"And I'd love to prove my critics wrong and that includes you guys," he said to a room full of reporters.

"I just ask that you look back at those articles that were written and hold yourself accountable. If you're holding me accountable, hold yourself accountable."

I hold myself accountable for not foreseeing a Raptors collapse, a coach firing and a 33-win season. That's my part of the equation.

I hold him responsible for taking a 50-win team two years ago that he amazingly built in swift fashion and then manoeuvred it through two seasons of diminishing returns, if not victories. Over that time, his large moves included signing Jason Kapono as a free agent (a waste of good money), being impatient with the early season firing of coach Sam Mitchell (8-9 at the time, the Raptors went 25-40 under the soon to be rehired Jay Triano), acquiring Jermaine O'Neal for T.J. Ford and the rest of the Raptors depth (a deal he admits failed) then subsequently dealing O'Neal for Shawn Marion, who may or may not return next season.

The Marion deal could end up as a winner. The rest: A failing grade.

At least Colangelo does take the blame for leaving the Raptors short in the backcourt, not having sufficient backup for injury-prone point guard Jose Calderon.

"That issue falls back to me," Colangelo said.

That will change.

What's worrisome is that he clings to the notion that he still likes this roster. He still wants to build his team around Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani and Calderon. And then in a snarky tone, he added: "I've apparently done a bad job of managing expectations."

His expectation is that this will be a playoff team next year. In the East, that's no great accomplishment. Two years ago, he thought he was knocking on the door of the best teams in the conference. The pressure, now, is to get back there. To make this team real and believable again.

When asked about the pressure yesterday, he claimed it to be no different than the day he arrived on the job. Then, he was expected to build from the ground floor up. That may be where he is now, he just doesn't see it that way.

"I want to do one thing and that's win," he said. "The pressure is there regardless. You guys won't believe this but when you win 50 games you still have pressure, you just have a different kind of pressure.

"I'm not a nice guy when we lose. I'm sure a few people around here will tell you that."

SOMEONE TO STEP UP

What the Raptors could use, on the court, is someone with Colangelo's temperament. Someone whose face contorts when he loses. Someone, in his words, with a little "dog in them."

"It can't be me up here defending the roster all the time," he said. "It has got to be them defending themselves."

But first, it has to be Colangelo, reconstructing both his roster and his reputation. One step at a time.


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