Colangelo still sees promise in lackluster Raps

MIKE GANTER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:43 PM ET

Panic is alive and well in Raptorville — and the team hasn’t even played a single regular-season game yet.

General manager Bryan Colangelo isn’t thrilled either with a 2-4 record two-thirds of the way through the pre-season, but unlike the doom-and-gloom, sky-is-falling crowd convinced Thursday’s shortcomings on the defensive end of a 124-112 loss to Houston are a sure sign of another long season, the architect of this overhauled team points out such early challenges were almost a given when one takes into account the number of new faces and the circumstances which have prevented the full unit from gelling.

Those circumstances would be in Hedo Turkoglu’s spectator status for the first two weeks of the pre-season after an arduous schedule from last year’s playoffs into this summer’s responsibilities to the Turkish national team.

There was also the hamstring strain that kept Chris Bosh off the floor for the first two weeks, the bruised knee that has taken Antoine Wright out of the mix since the pre-season games began, and most recently Reggie Evans foot strain that has him on crutches and out until at least the beginning of the regular season.

In Colangelo’s opinion, all of that combined with nine new faces in the lineup (12 if you go all the way back to last year’s pre-season), made the bumps the Raptors are now going through an inevitability.

“It’s pretty hard to get out to a quick start with nine new faces and two of arguably you’re best players being out,” Colangelo said. “That is certainly a factor.

“Maybe there was a little bit of over excitement initially. We all cautioned that it would take some time and there would be challenges.”

And not that the pessimists are listing them, but Colangelo has seen some good in this pre-season as well.

His prized draft choice, 20-year-old rookie shooting guard DeMar DeRozan has thus far lived up to all expectations. Most impressive has been his response to some tough love from head coach Jay Triano who doesn’t hesitate to pull the high flyer off the floor if he thinks there is some instruction needed after a botched assignment or a poor decision.

“ In order for him to get that (playing) time that we keep talking about, he is going to have to deserve it so I think Jay is laying down some principals now to let him know it won’t be an easy thing or something that is just handed to him,” Colangelo said.

And DeRozan hasn’t disappointed.

“I think the fact that he is receptive to it speaks volumes about who he is character-wise and that was one of the things that attracted us to him,” Colangelo said. “He is a talented basketball player without a doubt, but sometimes talent doesn’t get you there.

"You have to have the right mental approach to the game and to your teammates. I think we are all very pleased with where he is, not just from a physical standpoint, but also from the mental point with which he approaches the game.”

And Colangelo has one more positive on the way that he’s confident will make an impact.

“We haven’t had Antoine Wright at all,” he said. “Nobody has seen him other than us at a couple of days of practise and a few days of informal scrimmaging before. If those days were any indication he will be a factor and contributor to address some of those toughness and perimeter and defensive issues we may have.

"That’s an unknown to the rest of the world but something we are well aware of internally.”


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