PHILADELPHIA ó The whispers grow louder as the season draws to its merciful end, the beginning to what will assuredly become a rather long off-season.
Four games remaining and there are those who believe itís a foregone conclusion that head coach Jay Triano wonít be back.
There are also those who believe no decision has yet been made on Trianoís fate when so many other pressing issues must be addressed before the franchise is able to properly move forward, with or without Triano.
Trying to separate fact from fiction, gossip from concrete evidence is like trying to figure out Andrea Bargnani, Torontoís enigmatic leading scorer and de facto face of a franchise that may feature its eighth head coach when the teamís 17th season tips off.
Whether itís next week when the regular season ends, sometime before next monthís draft lottery or in June when the NBA conducts its draft, a decision on Trianoís future must be made.
The most logical time line begins the moment the Raptors close out their season next Wednesday at home against the Miami Heat, but anyone who has ever seen how illogical Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment does its business can begin to understand that anything is possible.
All that is known is that once this wretched season is put to bed, the review process will soon begin, the microscope removed to judge Triano and general manager Bryan Colangelo, whose contract expires when the NBA is expected to lock out its players on July 1.
Logically, you think Colangeloís future must first be addressed before Triano, aside from the ownership issue that clouds the franchise.
But thereís a draft, when the potential to acquire a legitimate franchise-changing piece may emerge and trades that can get done involving non-playoff teams for Colangelo to worry about.
But after next Wednesdayís tip, what else is there left for Triano to do except contemplate his fate?
Minority owner Larry Tanenbaum remains a staunch supporter of both Colangelo and Triano.
And so he should be because both are as competitive as they come, passionate and proud, privately seething at the many hard lessons the Raptors have been forced to endure.
The problem has been and will remain the Teachersí Pension Fund until it divests its interests in MLSE.
This bottom-line, faceless entity only sees black and white in a sporting world that is grey.
And none is as grey as the Raptors when you look at all the moving pieces Triano has been given.
If they donít win a single game in the final four, the Raptors will end up with the identical 21-61 record the 1995 expansion team sported.
Back then, Brendan Malone got fired because he wanted to win by playing veterans at the expense of giving minutes to inexperienced players.
Triano has had no choice but to play inexperienced pieces in the absence of so many experienced and accomplished players.
If you donít believe Triano cares about a team that lacks mental toughness and basketball smarts, listen carefully to his words when heís forced to answer questions, refusing to undermine any player.
Even when Julian Wright refused to enter a game in Oakland, Triano bit his tongue.
But as the finish line comes into focus, the future must be weighing on Triano.
He must be worried because nothing has been said or done.
Whatever happens, at least some clarity should be provided for Triano, who has spent eight years with the franchise and shouldnít be left twisting in the wind.