Pain before game for Raptors

Toronto Raptors' James Johnson goes up for a slam dunk against the Chicago Bulls.  (REUTERS/Mark...

Toronto Raptors' James Johnson goes up for a slam dunk against the Chicago Bulls. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:24 AM ET

TORONTO - If a deal presents itself that adds a young piece, Bryan Colangelo will, without hesitation, pull the trigger.

If a transaction emerges that provides additional cap flexibility, Colangelo will pounce it.

Deadline day in the NBA arrives at 3 p.m. Thursday, a day that promises to usher in very little meaningful change for the Raptors, whose on-court fortunes continue to drop like opposition jump shots on most nights.

With each loss, the Raptors increase their chances of securing a high pick in the June draft.

And when they win, like they did Wednesday night against a quality team such as Chicago, glimpses of what might be come to light.

Despite Derrick Rose’s brilliance in the fourth quarter, the Raptors were at their absolute best on offence, getting production from their key starters and much-needed life from their bench in winning 118-113.

In the NBA, regardless of how the landscape threatens to look, with or without any type of labour interruption, the best way to improve is through the draft, which can only be done through some luck in how the lottery balls drop and which prospect becomes available.

As he introduced the newest Raptor in James Johnson on Wednesday, Colangelo touched upon a lot of subjects, including today’s trade deadline.

One of the most illuminating topics Colangelo raised was the art of making a move and how he resisted the urge to add a veteran piece that, in all likelihood, would have resulted in more wins, but at the expense of compromising the team’s plan of building through youth.

“We’ve talked about this rebuilding process of bringing in young assets,’’ Colangelo said. “We’ve talked about maintaining cap flexibility that will enable us to be players in free agency.

“There have been deals that would have made us more competitive now, deals early in the season that arguably would have put us in a playoff hunt.”

Similar deals may arise prior to today’s deadline, but under no circumstance will Colangelo panic in appeasing a fan base that grows restless with each defeat.

“There are deals that would have put us in a playoff competitive environment, yet kept us in neutral that would not have allowed us to take the step forward,’’ Colangelo added.

“We’re going to get a high draft pick, we’ve got cap flexibility to take that next jump. There’s some painful steps along the way and we’re experiencing that with our won/loss record.”

In the post Michael Jordan era, the Bulls struggled to the point of embarrassment until the arrival of Rose, who was taken with the first overall pick three years ago.

Rose is a franchise-changing player, a creator who plays the point who can get off his shot any time he wants and who draws attention that allows for so many open looks for his teammates.

More than any player, the Raptors need a point guard who can run an offence, penetrate, draw extra defenders and create.

Jose Calderon did an admirable job matched up against Rose, an MVP candidate and two-time all-star, by distributing the ball and getting his teammates involved, but he needs to be both a facilitator and a scorer, which he is not.

With Deron Williams joining division rival New Jersey, with Rajon Rondo evolving into a perennial all-star and the prospect of Chris Paul perhaps joining the Knicks next summer to play alongside Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, the East is loading up for a rather long run of dominance.

Dominant best described the Raptors on Wednesday as Amir Johnson made all eight of his shots from the field, Andrea Bargnani attacked the rim and earned multiple trips to the line and the Raptors made stops down the stretch.

More nights like this and the future may arrive earlier than expected.

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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