The buzz phrase Tank Nation has slowly made its way into all things related with the Raptors.
With Chris Bosh as the cornerstone, as the face of the franchise, as the centrepiece, the Raptors made two post-season appearances in his seven-year run in Toronto, winning a combined three playoff games and precisely zero series.
Every conceivable move was made to surround Bosh with pieces to get the Raptors over the hump, every stone got turned and every piece that didn’t work was soon jettisoned, all in the hopes of getting beyond the first round.
In the wake of Bosh’s move to Miami, there’s a feeling that the best way for the Raptors to move forward is by going backward, eschewing short- term gains for long-term results, a direction that promises to be painful, but one that may land some high-level talent via high first-round picks.
General manager Bryan Colangelo has heard the talk, has seen it in print, but refuses to buy into it.
A day after Bosh committed to the Heat, Colangelo finally got to say his piece on a day when the NBA’s free-agent moratorium was lifted, a day when he was as steadfast in his franchise building as he has been at any time during his stint in Hogtown.
“I can’t tank,’’ Colangelo said. “I’m about competing and winning. I don’t plan to lose. That won’t happen as long as I’m here.”
The clock on Colangelo ticks, however. Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment already has exercised its option to retain Colangelo for next season but there are no guarantees beyond that, no signs or any indication as to what direction the franchise has in the event the GM fails in his latest attempt to re-work the Raptors.
Whether Bosh embodied all the qualities necessary to be a franchise player is no longer worth visiting. He’s gone and this space wishes him the best in South Beach.
Chris Bosh is a good guy who made mistakes by getting caught up in the madness that has become this free-agent frenzy, highlighted by LeBron James announcing his intentions in Thursday night’s hour-long self-promotion, aided, we may add, by another self-serving outfit in the form of ESPN.
So few of them
A player of Bosh’s skill is unique in today’s game because there are so few of them. And when a team has one, it’s incumbent on it to surround that piece. Colangelo tried, but failed. He now has no centrepiece and isn’t likely to acquire one any time soon.
Rather than use the word rebuild, Colangelo chooses to use terms such as retooling and re-energizing.
“The evolution of this franchise continues,’’ he said.
But how long should Colangelo continue to oversee a franchise that has missed the playoffs two years in a row?
It’s a question the MLSE board must ask, but from afar it would appear that Colangelo has one season to get this ship headed in the right direction.
During a lengthy gathering with the media on a day Amir Johnson’s free-agent deal became official and when Linas Kleiza officially signed an offer sheet with the Raptors — who appear poised to acquire his much-needed toughness if Denver doesn’t match within seven days — Colangelo defended his strategy.
Even when pressed to revisit the past and asked if there ever was a chance to move Bosh, Colangelo wouldn’t back down.
“There’s a reason, a purpose, a strategy to everything that is done,’’ Colangelo said. “I can’t prepare to lose.
“Some people might say we missed the boat as it relates to this crazy free-agent class. What would have changed if we were a team sitting with maximum cap space?”
In all likelihood, nothing.
Even if the Raptors were loaded with cap space, there’s no guarantee another alleged complement for Bosh could have been acquired. And even if one was, who’s to say that piece would have worked?
Colangelo has tried, has changed systems, players, schemes, coaches, just about everything, but it hasn’t resulted in what fans have been clamouring.
He could have traded Bosh, but he resisted. He wants you to believe him when he says a Bosh trade was not in the best interests of the club.
“At no point was it the best move to trade Chris Bosh,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”
And you believe him because, above everything else, Colangelo wants to win.