TORONTO - For the Raptors, the end arrived late Wednesday night in the season-ending game.
For some, it marked the beginning of the end because heads will now roll.
Whether it’s as early as Thursday, next week, in the ensuing weeks or in the coming months, someone will have to take the fall for a free-falling team that never looked the same from the all-star break.
The entire team, from top to bottom, will now be under review. What is uncovered and what measures are taken to correct this mess will lay the foundation for how the Raps look in the future.
With very little financial wiggle room in a basketball climate where revenues are declining, the Raptors won’t have much to play with in terms of bargaining chips.
The biggest chip is Chris Bosh, the team’s anchor whose final appearance as a Raptor involved that season-ending elbow, an inadvertent blow delivered by Antawn Jamison, in Cleveland last Tuesday, that fractured Bosh’s face.
Bosh has a player option at $17.1 million US he can exercise this summer to become a free agent, a negotiated right he’s expected to trigger.
Unlike Vince Carter, who essentially screwed the club, Bosh is expected to work alongside the Raptors in orchestrating the best possible end game for each party.
In Bosh’s case, that means money and getting to a team that is in a position to win, which automatically precludes Toronto.
If he plays it right and helps the Raptors get the right deal in a sign-and-trade, Bosh will get the $30 million he can potentially forfeit if he walks away and leaves the Raptors with nothing.
The Raptors knew this scenario was likely when they didn’t trade Bosh last summer.
They thought the many moves they made, including the free-agent splash of acquiring Hedo Turkoglu, would convince Bosh to stay.
What the Raptors can get for Bosh is open to debate.
A year ago, it was almost a given that a trade involving Bosh would fetch two solid pieces.
Now, it’s not so sure because so much is unknown.
While MLSE exercised its option on GM Bryan Colangelo for next season, nothing should be taken for granted.
Jay Triano’s time in Toronto may be over.
Triano has survived three coaching purges — Lenny Wilkens, Kevin O’Neill and Sam Mitchell. It’s obvious Triano has an ally at the board level, but his work this season almost cries for yet another coaching change.
Now that the Raptors are officially done, talk has already begun to percolate that Triano had a tough time communicating with his players. He certainly never got them to play defence and his relationship with Turkoglu has been characterized as tenuous.
What the Raptors need is a strong-minded coach who won’t tolerate any b.s.
Depending on who is ultimately calling the shots, the Raptors have to move away from this Euro-centric blueprint to one that is more balanced.
There was friction between the Euro-based element and the U.S. faction, a rift that was temporarily brokered, but it ultimately fractured the locker room.
Even if the Raptors want to trade Turkoglu, who will earn $9.8 million next year, and Jose Calderon ($9 million), teams won’t exactly be lining up for players whose play does not justify their salary.
So many questions, but so few answers.
Andrea Bargnani ($8 million), Turkoglu, Calderon, Reggie Evans ($5 million), Jarrett Jack ($4.8 million), Marcus Banks ($4.7 million), DeMar DeRozan ($2.4 million) and Marco Belinelli ($2.3 million) are under contract for next season.
The Raptors have a club option on Sonny Weems ($850,000), while Amir Johnson, Antoine Wright, Rasho Nesterovic and Patrick O’Bryant are free agents.
The off-season begins on Thursday, a time that promises to usher in dramatic change at virtually all levels.